Donald Trump's veiled threat to use nuclear weapons against North Korea is not only horrifying, but also illegal. It warrants his removal from office.
On New Year's Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asserted, "The entire area of the US mainland is within our nuclear strike range. The United States can never start a war against me and our country," adding, "The United States should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table." Kim clarified that he would not use those weapons except in response to aggression.
Not to be outdone by Kim, Trump tweeted in response, "I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"
The president's cavalier threat to start a nuclear holocaust cannot be dismissed as the rant of an immature bully. Trump controls a powerful nuclear arsenal. In fact, a few days after Trump's nuclear button tweet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it would sponsor a public meeting to cover "planning and preparation efforts" in the event of a nuclear attack.Trump's Tweet Is Illegal
Trump's tweet violates several laws. Threatening to use nuclear weapons runs afoul of the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of or threat to use military force except in self-defense or when approved by the Security Council. North Korea has not mounted an armed attack on the United States nor is such an attack imminent. And the UN Security Council has not given the US its blessing to attack North Korea. Trump's tweet also constitutes a threat to commit genocide and a crime against humanity.
The ominous tweet follows Trump's promise last summer that North Korean threats would be "met with fire and fury," a phrase that found its way into the title of Michael Wolff's explosive new book. Trump also told the UN General Assembly he would "totally destroy North Korea."
"Nuclear war is not a game," said Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, in a statement. "We are flirting with unacceptably high risks that carry catastrophic consequences for the country and the world. No one can afford to not take Trump's threats seriously -- least of all the North Koreans, who could be provoked into striking first in order to preempt what they perceive as an imminent attack."
Lawmakers are echoing the concerns of advocates like Johnson.
"A nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula would be a catastrophe, leading to the deaths of potentially millions of people, including American service members and families stationed there," Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) stated.
Indeed, "even a conventional war between the US and [North Korea] could kill more than 1 million people; a nuclear exchange, therefore might result in tens of millions of casualties," The Intercept reported.
Jeffrey Lewis, an expert in nuclear policy at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told HuffPost that after a nuclear strike, "there would be survivors for days trying to make their way out of the rubble and back home, dying of radiation poisoning."
Markey said that Trump's tweet "borders on presidential malpractice," adding, "We cannot let this war of words result in an actual war."
Eliot A. Cohen, assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the George W. Bush administration, was alarmed by Trump's nuclear button tweet.
Some of those surrounding Trump are indeed laughing: Consider the disturbing comments of Michael Flynn Jr., son of Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Flynn Jr. thought Trump's tweet was "just awesome." Flynn Jr. tweeted, "This is why Trump was elected. A no bulls#t leader not afraid to stand up for his country." Cohen tweeted, "Spoken like a petulant ten year old," adding, "But one with nuclear weapons -- for real -- at his disposal. How responsible people around him, or supporting him, can dismiss this or laugh it off is beyond me."