Donald Trump accelerates likelihood of disaster with North Korea


In an off-the-cuff remark in August, President Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury,” widely interpreted as a euphemism for nuclear war.

Long before he was elected president, the danger of America’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a short-tempered, ignorant vulgarian like Donald Trump was clear. With his finger on the button, the globe might be one childish slight away from nuclear war. Only eight months into his presidency, escalation between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the two most unstable nuclear-powered leaders on earth, is threatening to realize the worst of those fears.

The latest flare-up came early last week, when North Korea detonated its sixth and largest-yet nuclear device. The week before that, Pyongyang launched a non-nuclear missile which flew over northern Japan. It has tested several intercontinental ballistic missiles this year. President Trump did everything he could to escalate the tensions by threatening North Korea with “fire and fury” if they didn’t cease their provocations, and he sent out incendiary tweets including, “Talking is not the answer!” and, “They only understand one thing!”

Trump’s innuendo has suggested a coming military assault on North Korea, but much of his bombastic rhetoric has been undercut by his staff. Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. is “never out of diplomatic solutions,” and Trump’s former strategist, Steve Bannon, said, “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die… I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Little of this is consoling, though. Many South Koreans are actually more afraid of Trump than they are of the Kim regime, whose threats they largely tune out. Trump could still order a strike, either to prove that his threats are not idle or to boost his ratings. And if he chooses a military route, against his own administration’s apparent wishes, he would enjoy broad congressional support from hawks like Lindsey Graham.

Public opinion on North Korea is a hodgepodge of paranoia, contradictions and misinformation. As many as half of Americans apparently support war with North Korea, but less than 20 percent have “a great deal of confidence” in President Trump’s ability to navigate such a situation. Nearly as many Americans now label North Korea a “very serious threat” as they do ISIS. Seventy-seven percent believe North Korea can hit the US mainland with a nuclear weapon, despite extremely uncertain evidence for it.

The extent of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities is still largely unknown, though it’s regularly guessed at in the media by the usual anonymous intelligence sources. But as The Conversation notes, “Even if [Pyongyang] might (and only might) be able to fit a hydrogen bomb onto a missile, it still has to solve other stubborn technical problems, particularly how to design long-range missiles that can re-enter the atmosphere without burning up.”


Kim Jong Un poses with senior officials after the successful detonation of North Korea’s largest-yet nuclear weapon.

All we know for sure is what North Korea has openly displayed, and while that’s plenty bad enough, they haven’t demonstrated an ability to nuke the US mainland. Even if they could, the risk of a direct attack is extremely small – such a move against the US or its allies would be suicide, and everybody involved knows it.

For the last 70 years, the guiding global nuclear philosophy has been deterrence. Small nations seek nuclear weapons to protect themselves from outside attack. Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya were both overthrown by the US after surrendering their non-conventional weapons. Kim Jong Un has plenty of reason to be suspicious. His nuclear weapons are intended as a deterrent against a nation that, to this day, deploys nearly 40,000 troops near the North Korean border.

During the Korean War, the US military slaughtered as much as 20 percent of the North Korean population. Out of that historic atrocity emerged the infamous cult regime of the Kim family, and hatred of the United States has been something of a national religion ever since. Despite some periods of normalization, North Korea’s departure from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003 and a propaganda war carried out by President Obama caused relations to completely disintegrate.

Contrary to Trump’s insistence that talking hasn’t worked, we have hardly talked with North Korea at all in recent years. Pyongyang has, in fact, suggested it may be willing to put its nuclear weapons on the negotiating table, but it wants the US to cease its own hostility and nuclear threat. Such a deal is laughable to the American media and military establishment, so to them, it may as well be as though North Korea never offered anything.

In fact, the media may be the most dangerous element of the whole equation. Trump lives for their praise and adoration, and the surest way he’s found to get it from them is to bomb people. Their poor presentation of the issue is reflected in public opinion. And much of the pundit class is already salivating for war: Last week, the New York Post printed the genocidal line, “Better a million dead North Koreans than a thousand dead Americans.”

Soberer analysts, for now, seem to think that the threat of war is low. North Korea’s nuclear weapons are doing for them exactly what they were intended to do: keeping the US at bay. But Trump is hot-tempered, unpredictable, and hates being told what to do. He has displayed stunning ignorance on some of the basics of nuclear weapons. If he continues on his course of belligerent antagonism, Pyongyang will likely only accelerate its nuclear program.

It is a difficult, and perhaps impossible, situation. The only solution any moral person can accept, however, is a non-nuclear one. For once, Steve Bannon is right: they got us. Even a conventional military strike would likely lead to millions dead in North Korea, South Korea, and perhaps even into Japan, China, Russia, and elsewhere. A nuclear first strike would be the greatest war crime in history – and possibly the last.

Hopefully, we never have to learn the extent of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. But we do know what ours are, and they’re sufficient to wipe human civilization from every corner of the globe. And North Korea, for all its bluster, has not invaded another country in over 60 years. Not only does the US routinely attack other sovereign nations, we are the only country in history to actually use an atomic bomb against an enemy.

Every single nuclear warhead on earth, no matter whose hands it’s in, is potentially cataclysmic. If either Washington or Pyongyang commit a real act of war, the world will be in grave peril. We need a cool head to de-escalate with North Korea, someone who is willing to make reasonable concessions, and right now we don’t have it. There’s a good reason South Koreans are more anxious about the madman overseas than the madman to their north.


The real reason Trump banned trans people from the military

Transgender airman: ‘I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military’

After his commander-in-chief’s tweeted declaration, Logan Ireland, a trans member of the military, said, “I’d like to see them try to kick me out of my military.”

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump dictated a new policy for the US military: transgender people will not be allowed to serve. Reaction was swift, emphatic and hotly divided. Many citizens, celebrities and service members were dismayed and expressed support for trans troops. But on the far right, especially at outlets like Breitbart, the ban was enthusiastically applauded. While the ban seemed arbitrary and capricious, the divisive reaction to it may have been precisely the point. Continue reading

The Trump/Bannon Plan: Create more terrorists


In a recent Associated Press interview, President Trump said he was 10-0 in predicting terror attacks.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump campaigned to become a war criminal. He protested the Geneva Conventions, vowed to “bomb the shit” out of the Middle East, and insisted the US had to kill the family members of terrorists. Though he’s reneged on plenty of promises so far, he has stuck to these frighteningly well. But this is far from a legitimate strategy to fight terrorism. In fact, Trump’s presidency is sure to create more of it. Continue reading

Media reinforces Donald Trump’s most dangerous behavior

Mosul shelling

Iraqi citizens gaze at the devastation in Mosul, where Trump-authorized airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians.

For the first several weeks of his presidency, it looked as though mainstream media might hold Donald Trump at least partially accountable for his actions. Stories regularly aired that were critical of Trump’s brutal budget and discussed his pathological lying. All of it prompted Trump to label the media the “opposition party.” Then, late last week, Trump fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase. His fireworks show earned Trump bipartisan media and political praise.

Even before Trump launched the attack, Hillary Clinton called for it. Both the Democratic Senate and House Minority Leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, praised the attack, as did prominent Republican critics of Trump like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Liberal CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria declared Trump “became president of the United States” with the attack while NBC host Brian Williams described the bombing as “beautiful.” FAIR found that of 47 editorials published in major papers, only one was critical. Continue reading

Donald Trump is making bad foreign policy worse


In the first international crisis of his presidency, Trump is failing as spectacularly as anyone might have guessed.

As many as 70 Syrian men, women and children were killed this week by what is believed to be sarin gas, and another 100 were seriously injured. The atrocity played out on news networks and social media feeds around the world. President Trump seized the opportunity to demonstrate just what kind of a leader he is and will continue to be – by blaming former President Obama. Continue reading

Mountains and molehills: what to take seriously in the Trump/Russia saga


Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a prominent Trump campaign surrogate when he met with a top Russian diplomat.

Americans are divided over just what to make of President Donald Trump’s connection to the Russian government. Most of them favor a special prosecutor to look into the matter, and the political establishment is certain it’s a massive story. But until more facts are revealed, it’s impossible to know just how deep the arrangement goes. Knowing which angles of the story are mountains and which are molehills is difficult. Continue reading

No, Donald, the ‘real story’ isn’t why there are leaks, it’s what they reveal


During Trump rallies, Flynn, right, would lead the crowd in “Lock her up” chants. After 24 days in office Flynn has resigned over a likely violation of the Logan Act.

The biggest scandal this week in the Trump Administration is the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and hard-right conspiracy theorist who had no business in the position in the first place. Flynn was forced to resign when it became known that he communicated with his Russian counterpart prior to Trump’s inauguration and lied about what was discussed. After Flynn’s resignation Trump tweeted, “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Continue reading

Donald Trump channels Noam Chomsky (sort of)


In a pre-Superbowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, President Trump defended Vladimir Putin’s kills.

A statement President Donald Trump made to Bill O’Reilly during a pre-Superbowl interview landed Trump in more trouble than usual. In defending Russian dictator Vladimir Putin from O’Reilly’s allegation that he’s a killer, Trump said, “You think our country’s so innocent? Take a look at what we’ve done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the War in Iraq from the beginning… a lot of people were killed, so, a lot of killers around, believe me.”

Establishment politicians and media fretted over Trump’s frank assessment of American foreign policy, but for once he’s not wrong. In fact, Trump went much further than most politicians usually do in his remarks, venturing into territory usually reserved for the likes of Noam Chomsky. His equation of the Iraq War with Putin’s murders suggests the Iraq War was not merely an honest mistake made with good intentions, but a crime. Continue reading

Trump’s true agenda crystallizes, and it’s oil imperialism


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Donald Trump is less than five weeks away from being inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. His cabinet picks offer Americans an ominous preview of what they can expect for the next four years. Corporate America will run roughshod over workers and consumers as Trump obliterates the line between big business and government. But it’s his Secretary of State pick, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, which bodes most ominously for both the environment and international relations. Continue reading

Hillary Clinton, WikiLeaks, and the new Cold War


Hillary Clinton supports Syrian insurgents, many of whom are linked to known terror groups, over the Russian-backed Bashar al-Assad regime.

As leaked audio of Donald Trump bragging about his history of sexual assault became the biggest story of the 2016 election, WikiLeaks released another trove of Hillary Clinton documents. They include portions of transcripts from her mysterious speeches to big banks, as well as emails from campaign chair and longtime ally John Podesta. While much of the content is illuminating, little of it is outside the scope of the dirty politics the Clintons have long been known to play. Continue reading