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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/30/19

There's One Way to Stop Trump From Acting on Nuclear Threats

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From Truthdig

Will Iran's president meet with Trump?
Will Iran's president meet with Trump?
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On July 22, during a meeting at the White House with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Trump alluded to military plans in which the U.S. could "win the war" in Afghanistan in a matter of days. "I could win that war in a week, I just don't want to kill 10 million people," Trump said. "Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth."

Trump did not explicitly say what weapons would be used to achieve this outcome. However, his comments implicitly invoked the use of nuclear weapons, the only military resource in the U.S. arsenal capable of killing that many people in such a short time. While it is highly unlikely President Trump reviewed any such plans regarding Afghanistan (he has been known to lie on occasion), the fact that he chose to mention a scenario that invoked a massive U.S. nuclear strike sent a signal to Afghanistan's neighbor, Iran, that when it comes to resolving the ongoing crisis over Iran's nuclear program, all options were, indeed, on the table.

Americans have become accustomed to presidents capable of rationally managing the awesome power of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, dating back to President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For two weeks in October 1962, the world was on the verge of global nuclear annihilation. President Kennedy was under pressure from the Pentagon to use military force to prevent the Soviet Union from installing nuclear-armed medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles on the island that would threaten much of the southern and eastern United States. Nuclear war was ultimately averted; Kennedy disregarded the advice of the military chiefs, opting instead to rely upon diplomacy.

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One of the factors that weighed on Kennedy was the consequences of a nuclear conflict. In July 1961, Kennedy had been briefed for the first time on the U.S. nuclear war plan. After hearing an estimated 48 to 71 million people in the U.S. would be "killed outright," with another 67 million in Russia and 76 million in China likewise perishing, Kennedy said to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, "And we call ourselves the human race." That moral rejection of nuclear mass murder became the standard that had guided successive presidents when it came to nuclear conflict.

Until Donald Trump.

Trump's casual reference to murdering 10 million Afghans wasn't the first time he had threatened to use nuclear weapons in a precipitous fashion. In August 2017, while responding to statements made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump declared that "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before."

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On Nov. 14, 2017, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee did something it hadn't done in 41 years -- addressed the authority to use nuclear weapons. In convening that hearing, the Republican chairman, Sen. Bob Corker, observed, "Making the decision to go to war of any sort is a heavy responsibility for our nation's elected leaders, and the decision to use nuclear weapons is the most consequential of all." His Democratic counterpart, Sen. Ben Cardin, added in his opening remarks, "Given today's challenges, we need to revisit this question on whether a single individual should have the sole and unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack under all circumstances, including the right to use it as a first strike."

But the event that prompted the U.S. Senate to convene such a rare hearing wasn't casual curiosity about U.S. nuclear launch authority, but rather the words of President Trump regarding North Korea. Cardin noted in his opening remarks that, in reference to Trump's statement, "many interpret that to mean that the president is actively considering the use of nuclear weapons in order to deal with the threat of North Korea. That is frightening."

Robert Kehler, the former commander of the U.S. Strategic Command and a retired Air Force general, told the committee, "The decision to employ nuclear weapons is a political decision requiring an explicit order from the president." However, Kehler said, "the law of war governs the use of U.S. nuclear weapons. Nuclear options and orders are no different in this regard than any other weapon," adding that "the legal principles of military necessity, distinction and proportionality also apply to nuclear plans, operations and decisions."

Under questioning from Cardin, Kehler was given a scenario in which the president, after consulting with his advisers, is told that "under the guidelines on proportionality and necessity, that this is not appropriate for use of a nuclear first-strike. Is there action that can be taken by those advisers if the president overrules that decision and says, no, we are going with a nuclear attack?"

Kehler responded that such a scenario presented a "very interesting constitutional situation" because, as a military officer, he would "be obligated to follow legal orders but not obligated to follow illegal orders."

"If there is an illegal order presented to the military, the military is obligated to refuse to follow it. Now the question is just the one that you described. It is the process leading to that determination and how you arrive at that. I would concede to you that that would be a very difficult process and a very difficult conversation. But in the scenario that you are painting here, I would also argue that there is time for that kind of a deliberate conversation on these matters."

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Gen. John Hyten, the current commander of Strategic Command and Trump's nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expanded on Kehler's points a day after that 2017 Senate hearing. In comments made at the Halifax International Security Forum, Hyten said: "I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do. And if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm going to say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' And guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options, with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."

Except that it is, in fact, very complicated.

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Scott Ritter served as a former Marine Corps officer from 1984 until 1991, and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books, including "Iraq Confidential" (Nation Books, 2005) and "Target Iran" (more...)
 

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3 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments


Mohammad Ala

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(Member since Oct 1, 2007), 9 fans, 20 articles, 27 quicklinks, 829 comments
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This article does not offer anything and its author has used wrong terminology.

The Gulf War? What is that?

Which Gulf? There are several Gulfs in the world. Some Western people should return to school to learn world history.

The Gulf Arab States? Who invented this term? They should go back to school to learn world history. There is no such term. What a non-sense!

It is the role of USA Senate and Congress... This statement was used in several paragraphs.

The USA Senate and Congress members are controlled by lobby and interest groups. Check out the campaign contributions and correlate that with the voting records.

Unfortunately some Western allies in the Persian Gulf are in the range of millions of short range missiles. Some of these countries can be wiped out with no efforts or expenses at all.

Iran has been a member of NPT and IAEA before it was forced to accept illegal P5 + 1 agreement. This Joint Agreement was and is illegal and forces a member country to accept fewer rights.

Correct term of economic terrorism has been used in this article to force some countries to accept illegal terms.

Rule of force has replaced the rule of law and the majority of UN representatives have no backbone to vote independently and freely.

Western countries have never respected international laws and orders. They simply ignore them. Western countries of UK/USA/France and Russia think and act as if they are above the law.

Iran has over 4,000,000 refugees who escaped Western aggressions in the region. Any war will affect them.

Iranians are not afraid of war(s). When UK/USA countries ordered the crazy Saddam to attack Iran and supported him by arms and illegal poison gas, Iranians did not surrender.

Iran is powerful today because of illegal sanctions and economic terrorism.

Countries of UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia will be destroyed if not wiped out in no time if Iran is attacked. This will bring down the world economy and destroy Western assets in the Persian Gulf. Any attack on Iran will have no winner(s).

Submitted on Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 at 12:23:15 AM

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Charles Homer

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Here is an article that explains why Washington's anti-Iran narrative is a complete falsehood:


click here


As is typical of Washington's shenanigans, there is far more to this story than is reported in the mainstream media.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 at 11:24:46 AM

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Daniel Geery

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I encourage anyone not familiar with Scott Ritter to read his terse bio click here, though it could be expanded greatly. Had the U.S. listened to him we would not have gone to war against Iraq.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 at 5:34:01 PM

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