Who Will Put an End to Donald Trump’s Warmongering? ⋆ Epeak . Independent news and blogs

In this mad Presidency, there have been many mad days, but Friday may
have been the maddest yet. It began in the morning, with Donald Trump
issuing yet another war
on Twitter. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and
loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” Trump wrote. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” Later in the day, during
a photo op at the President’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, a
reporter asked Trump what his tweet meant. “Well, I think it is pretty
obvious,” he replied. “We are looking at that very carefully, and I hope
they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what
I said is what I mean. Those words are very, very easy to understand.”
The reporter asked if any progress was being made on the diplomatic
front. Trump wouldn’t be drawn out, but he did say, “We’ll either be
very, very successful quickly, or we’re going to be very, very
successful in a different way, quickly.”

In the wake of Trump’s declaration, on Tuesday, that North Korea faced
“fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continued to
threaten the United States, Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, and
James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, having been making efforts to
clarify that what matters are North Korea’s actions, not its words. On
Friday, Trump undid those efforts. “This man will not get away with what
he is doing, believe me,” he said, referring
to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. “And if he utters one threat, in the form
of an overt threat—which, by the way, he has been uttering for years,
and his family has been uttering for years—or if he does anything with
respect to Guam, or any place else that’s an American territory or an
American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”

Trump wasn’t done. After a meeting with Tillerson; Nikki Haley, the
Ambassador to the United Nations; and H. R. McMaster, the
national-security adviser, he
took more questions from the press. Once again, he stressed the dire
consequences that North Korea would suffer if anything happened to Guam.
He also insisted that he and Tillerson were “totally on the same page.”
Tillerson, standing beside the President and playing the good soldier,
nodded in agreement and said it would take “a combined message” to
achieve a favorable solution. One reporter asked Trump what he could say
to Americans who are on edge after all the threatening talk. “Nobody
loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump,” he replied,
referring to himself in the third person.

He appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself, and why not? The eyes of
the world were upon him, and nobody had asked him about the Russian
investigation. To the Narcissist-in-Chief, that is a twofer. Moreover,
he had an adversary in his sights, and nothing makes him happier than
that. When he was asked about a statement on North Korean state
television that referred to the United States as “no more than a lump
that we can beat to a jelly anytime,” Trump replied, “Let me hear others
saying it, because when you say that I don’t know what you are referring
to, and who is making the statement. But let me hear Kim Jong-un say it,
O.K.? He’s not saying it. He hasn’t been saying much for the last three

It is now clear that Trump has decided to turn a nuclear-weapons crisis
that could conceivably lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of
people into a personal feud of the sort he has carried out with Jeb
Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, John McCain, Megyn Kelly, Hillary Clinton,
and countless others. And Trump had some more warmongering left in him.
A reporter asked about the U.S. reaction to the situation in Venezuela,
where the regime of Nicolás Maduro is cracking down on opponents and
redrafting the constitution to give itself more power. Rather than
letting Tillerson or Haley, who was also standing alongside him, field
this question, Trump said, “We have many options for Venezuela. And by
the way, I am not going to rule out a military option. . . . We are all
over the world, and we have troops all over the world in places that are
very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are
suffering, and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela,
including a possible military option if necessary.”

If you haven’t seen the looks on the faces of Tillerson and Haley, the
country’s two top diplomats, as Trump made this statement, you simply
have to watch the video. Somehow, they had steeled themselves to look
supportive as Trump further ratcheted up his rhetoric toward Kim and
North Korea. But nothing, surely, could have prepared them for their
boss suggesting that he might be looking for a second military
adventure, this one in Latin America.

So what did it all add up to? Some observers said it was just Trump
being Trump. “Increasingly I think the equilibrium we’re all headed
towards is everyone inside the US gov and outside just ignoring what POTUS says,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted.

It would be very comforting if we could all ignore Trump and treat his
Presidency the same way he seems to treat it: as a personal odyssey or a
reality-television show. Unfortunately, however, he is the
Commander-in-Chief of the largest, most deadly military machine that the
world has ever seen—it has close to two thousand deployed nuclear
warheads—and many of the checks and balances that constrain him in other
areas of government don’t apply to starting a war.

Appearing on CNN after Trump’s press conference, Leon Panetta, who has
more experience in the top echelons of the U.S. government than
practically anybody else in Washington, injected a much-needed dose of
reality into the situation. “I understand that this is a President who
comes out of the development industry in New York City, comes out of
reality TV. I think he kind of prides himself that talking is kind of
his business, and talking is the way he appeals to his base, and he’s
been able to win election to President because of his ability to talk,”
Panetta said.
“But when you are President of the United States, and when you are
Commander-in-Chief, this is not reality TV. This is a situation where
you can’t just talk down to everybody in the world and expect that
somehow you can bully them to do what you think is right. These are
leaders in these countries. They worry about their countries, they worry
about what is going to happen. And they take the President of the United
States literally.”

We should never lose sight of the fact that Trump, before he entered the
White House, had never held any position of public responsibility.
Panetta, who went to Washington in 1977 as a Democratic congressman from
California, has served as the Defense Secretary, the head of the C.I.A.,
the White House chief of staff, and the director of the Office of
Management and Budget. “Words count,” he went on. “And I just think that
the President needs to understand, and the people around the President
need to make clear, that when we are facing the kind of crisis that we
are facing now, this is not a time for loose talk. It is a time for
serious strategizing as to what steps we have to take in order to make
sure we find a peaceful solution, and not wind up in a nuclear war.”

There are some serious and responsible people around Trump. They include
McMaster, Tillerson, Mattis, and John Kelly, the new White House chief
of staff. But the evidence of this week strongly suggests that Trump is
beyond being educated or managed or controlled. He is truly a rogue

In a better political world, the senior members of Trump’s Cabinet would
be talking to each other and taking legal advice this weekend about the
25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a President who is
unable or unfit to carry out his duties—which in the modern day include
the awesome responsibility of deciding whether to use nuclear weapons.
“The president alone has the authority to launch nuclear weapons, the
only restraint being the advice of senior advisers who might be present
at the time of crisis, and Donald Trump has shown repeated contempt for
informed and wise counsel,” Gordon Humphrey, a Republican former senator
for New Hampshire, wrote this week in a letter to his current congressional representatives. “He
is sick of mind, impetuous, arrogant, belligerent and dangerous.”

Since Trump’s Cabinet is highly unlikely to heed Humphrey’s warning, the
responsibility to restrain Trump falls on Congress. Under the War Powers
Act of 1973, it is Congress, not the President, who holds the power to
declare war. If Washington were functioning properly, the House and
Senate would have been recalled from their summer recesses this week to
discuss and debate Trump’s repeated threats. So far, though, the leaders
of both parties have remained ominously quiet as Trump’s rhetoric has
intensified. Indeed, about the only reaction has come in the form of a letter signed by sixty-four liberal House Democrats, led by Michigan’s John Conyers, condemning Trump’s “fire and fury” threat.

As many commentators, myself included, have pointed out before, Trump’s
Presidency represents an unprecedented challenge to the American system
of government. Up until this point, some parts of the system—the courts,
the federal civil service, the media, and other institutions of civil
society—have withstood the challenge pretty well. But it was always
likely that the biggest test would come in the area of national
security, where the institutional constraints on the President are less
effective. Now, it looks like the moment of truth is upon us, and so far
the response has been alarmingly weak. Unless that changes, Trump might
well drag the country into a catastrophic war.

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