NOTE: All the words in blue are quotes from other sources. Sorry, I've lost track of where I read what.
The International Crisis Group, which typically warns about instability abroad, wrote in a memo this week that “the extraordinary powers of the U.S. presidency, from the ability to call up armed forces to quell civil unrest to the unfettered power to launch nuclear weapons, rest with a president who fomented an act of insurrection against the legislative branch of his own government.”
When did YOU start worrying about Trump using the nuclear option? I started ... oh, about the time I realized he had won the presidency on Election Night in 2016.
I think a lot of people felt the same. I rarely spoke about it. It seemed so farfetched. But now here we are with FOUR DAYS TO GO, and many are more than a tad concerned our enraged and unstable President might go on a bombing binge in the short time he has left to do such a thing.
Nancy Pelosi, deeply concerned about that possibility, talked with Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to ask what could be done to prevent Trump pushing The Button. Milley said that the Constitution requires that an order from the President to the armed forces must be obeyed. In other words, if the President chooses to incinerate the world, so be it.
I must confess that I did not find that at all comforting. But Milley is not in the chain of command. He is the chief MILITARY ADVISOR to the President, but he would not be involved in carrying out that order. That made me feel a little more hopeful. Then I wondered, who IS in the chain of command?
U.S. Strategic Command chief Adm. Charles Richard is in the chain of command. He said on January 5 he agrees with the American system that allows civilian control of the military, when asked if he would follow a Trump order to strike Iran in his final days.
“I get asked this question a lot,” he said on a Zoom media call hosted by the Defense Writer’s Group. “Bottom line, look, I will follow any legal order that I am given. I will not follow any illegal orders,” he said.
Certainly, I am glad many are asking Richard question. But how does he decide if an order is legal or illegal? He didn't say. That was on January 5. He might be thinking more seriously about this issue since January 6.
Then I read:
In the final days of Nixon’s presidency when he was drinking heavily, then-Defense Secretary James Schlesinger ordered military commanders to check with him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing a nuclear launch order, Schlesinger revealed years after the fact.
I was so relieved to know that, in a similar very extreme situation, the Secretary of Defense was ready to step in to prevent a catastrophe.
Representatives Lieu, Carbajal and Panetta also liked this idea and wrote a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, asking him to intervene in a similar way if necessary, in case Trump decides life isn't worth living and he'd like to take Iran or NewYork City or Georgia with him. Thank you, Congressmen, for taking the time to write that letter! So very few write actual letters nowadays.
This is the last paragraph of their letter to Miller:
"In the coming days, as Trump’s options for remaining in the White House all but disappear, there is a real danger that the President could turn to military action at home or abroad. We are well aware that in ordinary times, your role is to execute the President’s orders. Unfortunately, we do not live in ordinary times. We believe that critical moments, like that we face today, require us to think of every possible avenue to avert disaster. We therefore ask you to implement additional measures to ensure adequate checks are placed on the President’s nuclear authority at the earliest possible opportunity."
But then, it's doubtful if Miller WOULD intervene as Schlesinger did. In fact, Trump seems to have chosen him precisely BECAUSE he's inexperienced and presumably malleable!
AND when I explored this subject further on the websites of anti-nuclear organizations, like Global Zero and Ploughshares Fund, I learned that Schlesinger might have wanted to have power over Nixon but he had absolutely no authority. Presidents have sole authority to order a nuclear strike. They don't need the agreement or support of anyone else. Military commanders can -- they are even supposed to -- disobey "illegal" orders, but then we come back to the question of what is legal and who decides that!
“There are no checks or balances, no way for Congress or any government official to intervene, and the presumption of legality for such an order is overwhelming,” Derek Johnson, CEO of Global Zero, said in a statement after the Capitol riots.
Trump's Finger on the Nuclear Button is a very interesting interview with Former Secretary of Defense William Perry and Tom Collina, Policy Director of Ploughshares. It helped me understand the history of this issue.
The nuclear missile response system is DESIGNED to happen incredibly fast and without consultation. WHY? It was set up during the Cold War, when this was the imagined scenario:
The Soviet Union is sending hundreds of nuclear missiles toward us. Many of their missiles are aimed at our nuclear silos (because they know where they are) so that the U.S. will not be able to respond in kind. SO the President has only minutes to use those missiles before they will be destroyed. This will not prevent our country from being devastated but at least it will assure that the Soviet Union goes down with us.
This is why the President cannot wait to think a while or consult with anyone. He MUST be able to act within minutes on his own -- not to save US, but to destroy our enemy.
And on the Soviet side, the same plan existed. If they found out WE were sending missiles to take out THEIR missiles (because we know where they are), they would use their own missiles immediately to take US out.
This is what is called Mutual Assured Destruction, aka M.A.D. Presumably this created a balance that kept the superpowers from incinerating each other. Yes, Bloggelinis, this is what the Patriarchy thinks of when it thinks of balance.
Obviously, M.A.D. is, as its acronym suggests, a totally insane idea. And if it ever did make sense, it doesn't make any sense now.
WHY IT NO LONGER MAKES ANY SENSE AT ALL
FOR THE PRESIDENT TO HAVE
SOLE AND UNQUESTIONED POWER
OVER THE NUCLEAR FOOTBALL:
ONE: The Cold War has been over for 30 years! The Soviet Union no longer exists, and neither does the scenario that requires Mutual Assured Destruction. I mean, come on! Putin, Russia's leader, is Trump's BUDDY!
TWO: The only time the missiles were ALMOST deployed were FALSE ALARMS! And now, with all the hacking going on, we can only look forward to more and more false alarms. And a false alarm, not caught soon enough, would cause an attack.
THREE: NOBODY can destroy all OUR missiles, because we now have nuclear submarines skulking around underwater all over the world. So there! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Enemy, whoever you are!
Needless to say, the real solution is to get rid of ALL nuclear weapons.
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREVENT
TRUMP FROM USING A NUCLEAR WEAPON
IN THE NEXT FOUR DAYS?
Former Secretary of Defense Perry feels that there is far less danger of Trump going nuclear precisely BECAUSE there has been so much public discussion about it. So everything that Pelosi and everyone else has done to expose the issue has made us safer, according to him. That being said, if Trump DOES make the attempt, then we are dependent on someone along the chain of command simply refusing to do what he has sworn to do, which is follow orders.
ONCE TRUMP IS GONE, WHAT CAN WE DO
SO THAT WE WILL NEVER FIND OURSELVES
IN THIS POSITION AGAIN?
ONE: Congress must pass a law saying there will be NO FIRST USE of nuclear weapons by the United States. Senator Warren has already submitted such a bill and we must urge her to submit it to the newly Democratic Senate.
TWO: Congress must pass a law demanding SHARED AUTHORITY TO LAUNCH a missile. That is, both Congress and the President would have to agree to it.
These are two things that must happen in the first two years of Biden's Presidency, when he has both houses of Congress on his side.
Then, if we end up with another crazy or drunken President who decides to blow up the world, the Football-carrying assistant can say, "I'm sorry, Mr. President. First of all, just in case you haven't noticed, nobody has attacked us with nuclear weapons. Second of all, even if they had, you've got to talk to Congress about it first. So I ain't giving you the Football! Stop it! Get your hands off!"
As former Secretary Perry said in the Ploughshares interview, "If you’re about to take an action to end our civilization, there’s no need to rush into it."
So Bloggelinis, please contact Senator Warren and ask her to submit her bill outlawing a first strike with nuclear weapons as soon as possible! And if you start worrying in the next four days, just calm yourself by sending calming thoughts to Trump -- "May Trump be peaceful." I just tried it. It felt good. Terry