Hurtling Toward ‘Fire and Fury’

Exclusive: Under congressional and media pressure to confront U.S. “adversaries,” President Trump alarmed the world with rash rhetoric about inflicting “fire and fury” on North Korea, a frightening prospect, says Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

“Be prepared, there is a small chance that our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III.” – Donald Trump, August 31, 2013

Like some demonic Hollywood director, President Trump keeps finding new ways to make us jump out of our seats, just when we think we’ve seen everything. On Tuesday, he outdid himself by twice pledging to meet any further North Korean threats to the United States “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

North Korean missile launch on March 6, 2017.

His headline-grabbing comments were sufficiently incendiary that White House staffers rushed to reassure reporters (and the public) that the President was just improvising, not speaking from an approved script. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted that the President simply meant to say that “the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack . . . So the American people should sleep well at night.”

People at home and around the world were rattled but not too alarmed, judging by the modest drop in stock prices on U.S. and foreign exchanges. North Korea respondedto Trump’s threat with a threat of its own to vaporize Guam, yet no war broke out. So far, leaders of both countries, like taunting schoolboys, seem content to lob only harsh rhetoric across the ocean, not fully armed missiles.

It’s easy to discount Trump’s bluster, based on his long history of practicing the art of “bullshit.” Maybe he’s just trying to make Chinese leaders nervous about his intentions, so they try a little harder to rein in Pyongyang. Surely he understands by now just how devastating a war with North Korea would be, right?

I’m not so sure. What increasingly keep me up at night are the uncontradicted claims of one of the GOP’s leading foreign policy spokesmen, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, that Trump is ready and willing to launch a preemptive war “if [North Korea tries] to keep developing an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top to hit the [U.S.] homeland.”

North Korea isn’t quite there yet, but some U.S. intelligence officials claim that Pyongyang has already produced a miniature nuclear warhead suitable for delivery by missile, and its accelerated testing of long-range ballistic missiles means that the time is quickly drawing near when Kim Jong Un’s regime will be able to put the United States at risk.

Tough-Guy Senators

Early in Trump’s presidency, the influential Republican senator went to the President with a powerful message. Graham asked Trump, “Do you want on your resumé that during your presidency the North Koreans developed a missile that could hit the American homeland with a nuclear weapon on top of it?” Trump replied, according to Graham, “Absolutely not.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Graham advised President Trump that if all else failed, he must order a military strike. As Graham put it, “It would be terrible but the war would be over here (there), wouldn’t be here. It would be bad for the Korean Peninsula. It would be bad for China. It would be bad for Japan, be bad for South Korea. It would be the end of North Korea. But what it would not do is hit America and the only way it could ever come to America is with a missile.”

Speaking to NBC’s “Today” show this month, Graham reiterated that Trump isn’t bluffing about preparing an all-out strike against North Korea’s nuclear program. “He has told me that. I believe him,” Graham said. “If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong Un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And he has told me that to my face.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain, R-Arizona, was with Graham for the private meeting with Trump in April, and did not dispute his colleague’s description of the conversation. He added only that a preemptive strike would be a “last” option.

Trump has said nothing to call Graham’s account into question, either. Indeed, one of his first tweets of 2017 was a flat-out declaration, “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” Trump’s national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, confirmed just this month that allowing North Korea to acquire functional nuclear-tipped ICBMs would be “intolerable, from the President’s perspective.”

The Trump-Graham doctrine recalls the George W. Bush administration’s justification for preemptive war against Iraq in 2003 — with the key difference that North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction are real, not mythical. Contrary to all evidence, Trump appears to believe that America’s immense nuclear arsenal will be insufficient to deter North Korea from attacking the United States or its allies.

North Korean Fears

North Korean leaders have consistently maintained that they want and need nuclear weapons only to deter a U.S. attack, not to start a war against the world’s only superpower. Most experts on Korea agree. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who actually negotiated with Kim’s predecessor in 2000, asserts that while the risks of inadvertent war are growing, North Korea has no intention of launching a surprise nuclear attack:

A map of the Korean Peninsula showing the 38th Parallel where the DMZ was established in 1953. (Wikipedia)

“I have studied North Korea for several decades and have had serious talks with many of their military and political leaders. . . . They are not crazy, as some people believe. North Korea is a pariah state and nearly alone in the world, but there is logic to the actions of its leadership. Fundamental to that logic is an overriding commitment to keeping their regime in power, to sustain the Kim dynasty. . . . and they understand that if they launch a nuclear attack, their country will be destroyed, and . . . it would end the Kim dynasty.”

Experts also reject the Graham/Trump assumption that preemptive war with North Korea would be merely “bad” but manageable. Pyongyang has thousands of artillery aimed at Seoul, hundreds of rocket launchers, vast stocks of deadly chemical weapons, and as many as 60 nuclear warheads, which could render much of South Korea and Japan uninhabitable and rock the world’s economy.

Defense Secretary James Mattis’s gloomy warning that any conflict with North Korea would be “probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetime,” was almost certainly an understatement. As I have discussed previously, even without functioning ICBMs, Kim’s regime already has the ability to wipe out major U.S. coastal cities simply by floating nuclear bombs into our harbors, hidden in container vessels.

President Trump’s views on preemptive war are rejected not only by the experts, but by the majority of Americans. Fewer than a third of U.S. adults believe the situation in North Korea requires a military response, according to a new CBS poll, and 61 percent are rightfully uneasy about Trump’s ability to handle the situation.

But what experts and most Americans think doesn’t really matter. The U.S. military is undoubtedly ready to carry out an order from its commander-in-chief to attack North Korea. It holds massive training exercises every year for just such an eventuality. And the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, answered unequivocally “yes” when asked whether he would follow an order by President Trump to launch a nuclear attack against China, a vastly more dangerous foe than North Korea.

So how, under these circumstances, do I get any sleep at all? Deep down, I suspect that Trump is too gutless to start an unnecessary war that will kill millions of people. I also have faith that South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer, will refuse to cooperate with a preemptive attack, making it difficult for U.S. forces to go it alone. I hope and pray that I’m right.

Jonathan Marshall is a regular contributor to Consortiumnews.com.

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General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries In Five Years


NEO/Duff: Washington Behind the Mirror

By Gordon Duff and New Eastern Outlook, Moscow

Russia thinks it is working with President Trump in Syria and is making progress in pushing NATO off its borders, or so one might gather from reading news available in late July of 2017. What Russia doesn’t know, and few in the US do either, is that the Pentagon, in particular, an extremist cabal, have been given a free hand.

Thus, when Secretary of State Tillerson threatens to resign, his deals, his efforts, continually undermined, he and the public think it involves President Trump and his family and the barrage of fantasy tweets that deluge the public from what many believe to be a president suffering from flight of ideas and lack of focus.

The real question might be not if but why Trump gave the Pentagon a free hand, why he trusts generals or who might be behind advising or controlling him. Nothing in Trump’s background should lend itself to militarism or trust in Pentagon knuckle draggers and “behind kissers.” No organization has fared more poorly than the Pentagon, losing war after war, losing trillions of dollars, broken weapons, tarnished reputations.

For every move toward improved relations in a world that can be defined as it was during the Cold War as “East v. West,” there are two moves toward conflict and confrontation.

As the fateful summer of 2017 wanes, the geopolitical rulebook has been tossed into the flames, perhaps forever. What is most dangerous is that few understand the power dynamics as well. Even more serious is that some of those working in the dark are potential adversaries, nuclear adversaries, and by this we are talking of Russia and China.

To begin with, we will outline the major fly in the ointment in regards to the rapprochement, real or imagined, between President Trump and Russia. The background for this, if given in any detail is both exhausting and wrought with fiction and artifice as well. Let us review.

Washington, whatever that is, now generally seen as a veritable sewer of bought and paid for political hacks subservient to special interest, think tanks that do everything but think and a press coined “phony” by Trump. The press is key here for a variety of reasons.

You see, the world analyzes US policy through the “fake news.” It has always been “fake,” or seemingly has for decades. With few quality journalists and most press outlets controlled by powerful corporate interests, the pin Trump stuck into the “fake news” balloon, exposing what has been going on for many years as “what it is,” made up lies and garbage, opened a door.

In stepped more lies and garbage, this time more fake than the other, with chaos theory and psychological warfare organizations drowning in capabilities from the overfunded phony war on terror and too much time on their hands now lending their useless talents toward disinforming the general public.

The result has been a divided US where “alternative facts” fabricated for a vulnerable demographic now competes with the “mainstream” now termed, and I believe rightly so, “fake news” to support different versions of a fictional narrative that resembles reality only in the most rarified and oblique manner.

So, in Washington, Russia seems to have rigged an American election and a new and unsettling executive branch, maybe working for Russia or someone, as no information from any source can be trusted, is now being investigated by groups long in the employ of special interests, many of which are clearly at odds with the welfare of the United States.

America has left itself open to dictatorship. It long since gave up its ability to govern itself, perhaps it was the central bank, the Federal Reserve in 1913 or more recent erosions of individual power such as the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2005. Whatever milestone one chooses, the remains of democratic institutions in the US are now difficult to find.

What we are left with is what increasingly seems to be factions, mistakenly defined as “right” or “far right” jockeying for control over America’s military, and with that, control over the planet itself.

You see, whoever controls the American military controls the world, unless a power bloc appears that can challenge, well, challenge what? If the Pentagon controls America’s military and the Pentagon is controlled by a cabal of religious extremists as many claim or corporate lackeys as most believe, then where does the world stand?

Then again, if Trump and his own Republican congress are at war over impeachment, and I assure you, little else is discussed in Washington, two sides of the same coin, servants of different masters, has all oversite of the newfound military power over American policy disappeared?

To this, we reluctantly say “yes.”

Thus, while “deconfliction” zones are discussed and planned in Syria or the CIA announces that it is dismantling its miniscule public “aid to terrorism” program, the Pentagon is planning the occupation and dismemberment of Iraq, preparing for war on Iran, on China, on Korea and on even Russia as well.

If congress continues to vilify Russia, seen by many as slavish adherence to Cold War dogma, what is the mindset in the Pentagon? Does anyone know?

Why is no one admitting that the Pentagon now sets policy? Does anyone know how this process works? Few are aware that when Trump chose his transition team, he sent a retired general named Jerry Boykin into the Pentagon with full authority to make any changes. We are told Boykin built a duplicate command structure than now sets US foreign policy, based on Christian prophesy and “end times” theology, forms of religious extremism that make ISIS and the Taliban seem mild in comparison.

Thus, when the State Department feels left out, isolated by a White House clearly operating beyond its grasp, how has a Pentagon equally out of control added to the chaos?

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2017/07/26/washington-behind-the-mirror/

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