Trump: Much “Fire and Fury,” Signifying Something Vital

 

fat man
Fat Man, the atomic bomb that devastated Nagasaki on August 9, 1945

W.J. Astore

The big story today is Trump’s threat to North Korea about “fire and fury like the world has never seen” in response to any aggression against the U.S. and its allies.  The world witnessed American “fire and fury” in August of 1945 when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated by atomic bombs (indeed, today is the 72nd anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing).  Roughly 250,000 people were killed in those two bombings, and Trump is apparently promising a worst form of fury against North Korea (“like the world has never seen”).

Back in October 2016, I wrote a piece at this site with the title: “On nuclear weapons, Trump is nightmarishly scary,” and that nightmare is beginning to take shape.  As I wrote back then, Trump’s worst attribute is his “sweeping ignorance to the point of recklessness when it comes to matters of national defense, and specifically America’s nuclear arsenal.”  I further wrote that:

Back in March … Trump boasted at a debate that the U.S. military would follow his orders irrespective of their legality.  In this latest debate, he yet again revealed that he has no real knowledge of America’s nuclear capability and how modern and powerful (and scary) it truly is.

Sure, Trump is crude, lewd, and sexist, but those qualities won’t destroy the world as we know it.  Ignorance about nuclear weapons, combined with impetuosity and an avowed affection for he-man wild-card generals like George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur, is a recipe for utter disaster.

A man of Trump’s vanity and impetuosity — a man of raging grievances who lives in his own reality of alternative facts — is hardly a reassuring figure to have at the top of America’s “fire and fury” nuclear arsenal.  Is it all just bluster?  It’s impossible to know, and that’s truly the scary part.

All this fire and fury, even if it remains only bluster, should teach the world a critical lesson: the necessity of nuclear disarmament. Holding millions of people hostage to nuclear terror (as we’ve been doing since the Cold War) has long been immoral, inhumane, and unconscionable.

Instead of making nightmarish threats, a sober and mature U.S. president might actually lead the world in serious efforts to reduce and ultimately to eliminate nuclear weapons. That would be real moral leadership,  That would be real guts.

Trump’s easy boasts of “fire and fury” do signify something vital — the need for global nuclear disarmament, no matter how long it takes.

Update (8/10/17): There’s been a lot of talk, more or less sensible, that Trump’s “fire and fury” rhetoric is just that: rhetoric.  That it will not become reality because North Korean leaders are sensible and rational actors, and that U.S. leaders like Tillerson and Mattis provide a counterbalance to Trump.  Well, maybe.  But escalatory rhetoric can become reality, i.e. it serves to exacerbate tensions that can lead to miscalculation and war.

Think of North Korea’s latest threat to shoot missiles in the direction of Guam.  If that threat is carried out, a U.S. attack on North Korean missile sites is quite likely, and where that would lead is impossible to say.

Reckless rhetoric is not harmless; words can and do box nations as well as people in, often leading to unexpected actions.  Just think of hateful words flung by people in domestic disputes that escalate into something far worse.  Rationality does not always win out.

Update 2 (8/10/17): Trump recently boasted that, during his short presidency, his actions have led to a U.S. nuclear arsenal that is “now far stronger and more powerful” than it was under President Obama.  The truth is that this arsenal hasn’t measurably changed at all.  The Washington Post gives Trump “four Pinocchios” for his latest lie, but surely big lies about nuclear weapons deserve a different rating system.  Should we call it a four megaton lie?  Lie-mageddon?

8 thoughts on “Trump: Much “Fire and Fury,” Signifying Something Vital

  1. Since 1978, Physicians for Social Responsibility ( PSR ) and since 1980, International
    Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War ( IPPNW ) have been working hard to create an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has the Doom’s day clock at “two and a half minutes to midnight”. Wonder if “war cheering” MSM has ever noticed it!
    Unfortunately, supposedly “sober and mature U.S. presidents” continued to bomb Afghanistan and Pakistan, weddings, funerals… and which continues today and USA is complicit in bombing countries in the middle east and Africa…
    For those victims, they are DEAD. It did not matter whether it was a regular bomb ( whatever that is ), or Napalm or depleted uranium or White Phosphorus.
    Are people suddenly waking up to the danger because the missiles will fall on AMERICAN SOIL?? It did not matter if people died “over there”! Only if the warmongers could put themselves in the position of their victims!!
    Sadly, Americans chose an individual to be the occupant of the White House knowing fully well his ” temperament” and “personality”.

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  2. During his campaign Trump also questioned why have nuclear weapons if you don’t use them. So, between North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China he preparing the use of nukes.

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  3. I do not often watch FOX, CNN, or MSNBC but some of the “Experts” they trot out seem filled with genuine regret that we cannot simply bomb North Korea with impunity, like we do elsewhere in the world. Millions of lives would be at stake given a miscalculation. These are Asian lives though so American Exceptionalism would discount their value, although the pundits and experts are quick to point out the potential for American Casualties in Korea.

    Some of these expert pundits are geographically challenged as China and Russia both border North Korea. Any American military demonstration could be construed as an attack.

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  4. From the Asia Desk:

    One of the two proverbial shoes just dropped.

    BREAKING: China says it will defend North Korea in event of US invasion, by Alexander Mercouris, The Durand (8/12/2017).

    Subheading:

    “Editorial in Chinese official newspaper Global Times sets out China’s red lines: China will intervene in event of US invasion of North Korea to prevent regime change there.”

    Key passage:

    “China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

    On a recent Russia Today “Crosstalk” program one of the commentators, Mark Sleboda, said that he thought Russia and China had made a big mistake in going along with additional U.N. sanctions on North Korea, because the U.S. will just regard that cooperation as a sign of weakness and will then push at the boundaries of all-out-war even harder. I agreed with Mr Sleboda’s reasoning. Sure enough, the U.S. President and his freak-show representative at the U.N., Nikki Haley, did just that, shooting off their mouths and posturing like savage, sneering snowflakes. So China had to step in and essentially guarantee the North Korean regime against stepped-up military provocations by the U.S., most specifically the hurried deployment of THAAD missile systems which China considers an unacceptable threat. For its part, the hapless South Korean administration seems to have been shoved out of the way by its belligerent U.S. “ally” and appears powerless to calm the situation. Somebody just stepped in and did that for everybody. China’s national interest in 1950 remains China’s national interest in 2017, only this time, China has far more economic and military leverage than it did back during the early stages of the so-called “cold” war, which saw the deaths of millions of Koreans and 38,000 U.S. servicemen. Not exactly “cold” from their point of view.

    Now, for the other shoe, Russia. I suspect that this move by China has Russia’s full support and that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not have to say much to make that perfectly clear. Russia and China have effectively given up on the U.S. as an insane asylum run by incompetent maniacs, no matter which of the two major right-wing factions winds up in the White House.

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    1. Interesting, Mike. It makes me think, just a little, of August 1914. Of course, the circumstances are all different, the specifics even more so, yet the threat of miscalculation, driven in part by fevered rhetoric, provides a degree of commonality that is frightening.

      WW1 started over the assassination of an archduke; why not a war started over the radioactive threats of a posturing tweeter-in-chief?

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      1. Another interesting article from the estimable Pepe Escobar, the Roving Eye for Asia Times Online and other publications. This time he his observatons come to us courtesy of Sputnik International: Is North Korea Showing the Emperor is Naked?

        As backdrop to the ongoing secret negotiations between South Korea and Beijing (and probably with Russia, as well), we should keep in mind what Koreans think of Senator Lindsey Graham’s writing them off as “collateral damage” should the demented Donald Trump decide to sacrifice another few million of “those yellow people” for his own (and Senator Graham’s) political popularity at home in the Washington, D.S. swamp. Asians certainly remember “Better Dead than Red” — meaning “better a dead Asian than a ‘Red’ American worker cutting into corporate profits” — that the Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians have experienced in the past. Asian people from many lands understand the lurid likes of Trump and Graham, and know that they perfectly represent the amoral, soulless psychopaths that now infest the U.S. government at all levels.

        Look for some very unexpected and long-overdue reasessments by those whom the U.S. has overlooked and abused for so long. As former President Richard Nixon learned to his sorrow: “Be careful whom you kick on the way up because you will meet the same people on the way down.”

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