Look, I’m going to be frank. Donald Trump could end civilization as we know it, and fast. This is not hyperbole. With the U.S. nuclear arsenal at his beck and call, he has that power and more.
During the Cold War, nuclear weapons were put on “hair-trigger alert.” And that is where they remain. The “nuclear football” follows Donald Trump wherever he goes. If he decides to launch, for any reason at all, there is no one with authority to refuse.
In the past several decades, on multiple occasions, the world was diverted from nuclear war by lower-level personnel who decided not to turn the key. There is the technical possibility that if Donald Trump ordered a launch, one of just a few people down the chain-of-command could stand down. But don’t count on this for very long. These personnel are specifically chosen and trained for their ability to follow orders of higher officials.
We rely on a miracle for anyone to refuse Trump’s order. We cannot rely on this miracle.
The problem is US
If any nation initiated a nuclear apocalypse, it would almost surely be the United States. The main man in charge of nuclear weapons is Donald Trump—the wild card, who lacks empathy, compassion, and the foresight to see, or even care about, the consequences of his decisions.
This sociopathic, hysterical, and incredibly spiteful man is able to order a nuclear launch, for whatever reason he decides, and whenever he feels like it.
That’s not a good combination. Technically, the United States (and Russia) have pledged to use nuclear weapons “only in defense.” But as many know, the United States has become very good at using its military under the claim of “defense”—of U.S. “freedoms” and “national interests”—when actually, it is going on the offensive. In fact, this is its modern modus operandi.
Regarding the current standoff between the U.S. and North Korea: Donald Trump has spontaneously threatened nuclear attack, on multiple occasions, precisely under the rationale and rhetoric of “preventive” military action. He has done this without so much a shrug or second thought. He’s done it through public speeches and over Twitter.
What happens if the United States attacks North Korea? If the United States attacks first—either conventionally or with nuclear weapons—we will immediately be at war with China. Their government has made this clear. This would legitimately be World War Three, which is the war before World War Four (to be fought with sticks and stones).
Nuclear missiles flying at North Korea could also be mistaken by China or Russia as an attack on themselves. If a horde of bombers, ICBMs, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles is flying in your direction, it’s not easy to sit back and watch them land short. It could trigger nuclear defense systems, sparking a nuclear counter-attack.
Then there’s a comment a few months ago from a U.S. admiral—commander of the pacific fleet—who said that he would “nuke China next week” if only Trump ordered it. The Chinese were terrified at this revelation. We should also be terrified. The doomsday clock, used by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to symbolize the present threat to global human existence, is two minutes to midnight.
Apocalypse is easy
In its two most recent annual announcements on the Clock, the Science and Security Board warned: “The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.” In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent.
The United States and Russia have ~7000 nuclear weapons each. China has ~300, and North Korea is estimated between ~20-30. While you wouldn’t know if you read the U.S. news, North Korea has a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons. They will not attack the U.S. first. And though U.S. officials play ignorant in public, they know this.
There is zero incentive for North Korea to attack first. Even if they really were a “rogue” state, and wanted to shoot up the United States and the world (like the U.S. news purports), the NK government knows that attacking first—conventionally, or with weapons of mass destruction—would bring quick annihilation in return.
They are not suicidal. Their nuclear arsenal exists purely as a defensive countermeasure against U.S. invasion.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t attack first. It means the U.S. only needs to claim it’s attacking “preemptively,” in “self-defense,” because we were “threatened” by their nuclear weapons program. That is exactly what would happen if the U.S. attacked first.
We cannot allow one nuclear device to be used—much less any amount numbering in the tens or hundreds. One report reads that,
Even a regional war of 100 nuclear detonations would produce 5 teragrams of black soot (that’s 5,000,000,000 kg!) that would rise up to Earth’s stratosphere and block sunlight. This would produce a sudden drop in global temperatures that could last longer than 25 years and temporarily destroy much of the Earth’s protective ozone layer. This could also cause as much as an 80% increase in UV radiation on Earth’s surface and destroy both land and sea-based ecosystems, potentially leading to global nuclear famine.
That’s right, less than 1% of existing nuclear weapons threaten at least half the world population with a terrible, gruesome death. The ones remaining will face a barbaric, post-apocalyptic hellscape.
We could stop it
Don’t think it can’t happen. Trump is at the helm, and tensions are high. The process to use nuclear weapons is designed to be quick and precise. And if it did happen, absolutely everyone left alive would regret that they didn’t do something to stop it. Every single person would know that we fucked up, and now we have to live (or just as likely, die) with the consequences.
We didn’t take action. WHY? It would be the greatest regret we ever felt.
The minimum action that we could all take right now is to press our elected representatives to pass bill HR669. We must call our representatives, at a minimum, and make it clear that there is no excuse not to take this action. Bill HR669 removes the authority of the president to launch a nuclear weapon on their own decision. It is not a final measure: If the bill is passed, nukes can still be launched via Congressional vote. But HR669 would buy us a lot of time and safety.
The movement to pass HR669 should be no less important than the one that blocked Republicans’ efforts to strip healthcare, or the mass defiance of the international travel ban. There should be, at minimum, the same amount of people contacting their representatives about HR669.
And I am not saying this is the only action we could take to stop nuclear war; I am saying it is the minimum of what anyone could do, right now—and what everyone should be doing right now.
Finally, nukes should not exist; the only safe path forward, like Noam Chomsky has said, is to get rid of them. Some have argued that the nuclear weapons age has led to great global peace, but this terrible argument should be buried far in the ground. There is a gun cocked and loaded on everyone’s head, and at least one person holding all the guns is trigger-happy. We can’t count on it to stay this way forever. There must be a global effort to disarm from nuclear weapons.
(For a more detailed plan on the process to disarm, and why we must do so, see project Global Zero.)
The vast majority of nations have called for a ban on nuclear weapons. The United States is not one of them. This must change, and fast. We cannot use nukes as a geopolitical tool, with human civilization as a bartering chip.
The issue of HR669 and full nuclear disarmament cannot be off our radar. Yeah, it’s a scary thought. The outcome of nuclear war would be unthinkable. It becomes easy to ignore—and that’s why we’ve ignored it. This is precisely why it should be at the forefront of our activism, right now.
We live at the heart of the empire, and our actions can affect our own government. It is the duty of U.S. citizens—a major responsibility to people around the world—and an absolute urgency to prevent nuclear attacks and nuclear war. All high-profile politicians, pundits, activists, and progressive media in the U.S. should be on alert right now, raising this issue at full steam, and directing their followers to take action. This must become a mass movement. Immediately.
I don’t know what else to say, except it can happen. We can stop it.
Don’t regret it.
- Call your representative and be passionate about enacting HR669.
- Share this article on social media.
- Use the #HR669 hashtag on social media.
- Build an anti-nuke and anti-war movement NOW.