Trump Moves the Doomsday Clock Closer to Midnight
By Harry Petrequin
For decades, the global scientific community has warned of the two greatest risks to humanity's survival: nuclear war and climate change. Recently, they have cited how the Trump administration has accelerated both risks.
The "Doomsday Clock" was created by the Academy of Atomic Scientists during the Cold War to warn of the likelihood of a nuclear war. In late January, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the hands of this clock to two and a half minutes before midnight, the closest they have been since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963. Notably, it was the first time these hands were moved on the basis of statements made by one man: Donald Trump.
Trump's cavalier remarks, "What good are nuclear weapons if you can't use them?" his proclamations about bolstering the number of nuclear weapons thereby reversing decades of American policy, allowing current allies to develop their own nuclear arms, and other bellicose declarations have set off alarm bells around the world.
In the wake of these pronouncements the Mayor of Hiroshima invited President Trump to come tour the museum in that city which commemorates the first use of nuclear weapons. The missiles for which Trump now has the launch codes carry multiple hydrogen bomb warheads with hundreds of times the explosive power of that first atomic bomb. There are 450 of these on a "Hair-Trigger Alert Status," meaning they can be launched within seven minutes.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and who in 1991 signed the START treaty with the United States sharply reducing the number of nuclear weapons, stated that we are now closer to a nuclear war than we ever were during the Cold War. Vladimir Putin, Russia's current Premier, does not think the Cold War ever ended, and in his quest to restore Russia to the world status the former Soviet Union once enjoyed, cites the United States as the principal obstacle in this endeavor.
Gorbachev calls for an immediate convening of the United Nations Security Council at which all those nations possessing nuclear weapons, particularly the United States and Russia with over 90% of the nuclear weapons stockpile, would agree that these weapons would never be employed.
The second greatest risk to humanity, climate change, has likewise been intensified by the Trump administration. With Trump having declared climate change a "Chinese hoax," climate change denial became a requisite qualification for all those considered for cabinet or advisory positions. The very word, "Climate," was scrubbed from the White House website. Trump's liaison team requested the names of all federal employees who had participated in any of the international conferences dealing with climate change, obviously, the preliminary step in purging all departments and agencies of such personnel; fortunately, these requests were not honored.
Likewise, there has been a gag order on all agencies and departments having activities relevant to the climate. Any document with mention of the climate must be submitted to Trump's designated personnel for prior review and probable modification before release to the public.
The previous Secretary of State, John Kerry, considered as his greatest achievement his role in convincing 196 nations to sign the Paris Accord, the most comprehensive international agreement yet produced to address climate change. His successor, Rex Tillerson, as the CEO of ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil corporation, spent hundreds of millions of dollars financing campaigns and institutions to undermine the scientific proof that pollutants created by use of fossil fuels intensified the rate of climate change. Ironically, it was the scientists at ExxonMobil in 1981 who noted the damaging effects of fossil fuel emissions on Earth's atmosphere. Recently Tillerson signed an agreement with Putin giving ExxonMobil drilling rights in the Russian portion of the Arctic Ocean.
Trump now has a compliant legislature and a complacent judiciary. With 85% of the media controlled by six giant corporations, traditional channels for expression of concern are denied the public. It appears the only route to follow is that just pioneered by women from around the world who united in protest of Trump's misogynist statements and treatment of them. That should serve as a model for the populace here and elsewhere to unite in protest of the Trump administration's leading humanity down the road to annihilation.
Such action is now a moral imperative for this generation if we are to have a positive response to that inevitable question our children and grandchildren will ask us, "You knew they were destroying our planet; what did you do to stop them?"
Harry J. Petrequin, Jr. is a retired Foreign Service Officer, US State Dept. Former Faculty Member, National War College. Served as Deck Officer, US Coast Guard (1951-53), including on a Destroyer Escort in the Korean Theater of Operations, and also aboard a Cutter in Vietnam (1971). Now resides in Black Mountain, NC.