David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen
More from David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen
There was a lot of news coverage about words spoken by the top US nuclear commander at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday.
Gen. John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command which oversees America’s nuclear weapons, said he would not follow an “illegal order from the president if he was ordered to launch a nuclear attack.
“I provide advice to the President,” Hyten said. “He’ll tell me what to do, and if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m gonna say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ Guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”
But there are ways around the system. Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer and co-founder of the Global Zero group that advocates eliminating nuclear weapons, told the Associated Press the Strategic Command chief might, in effect, be bypassed by the president.
A president can transmit his nuclear attack order directly to a Pentagon war room, Blair said. From there it would go to the men and women who would turn the launch keys.
Then there is another scenario. What happens if Trump’s order to launch a nuclear missile attack is not illegal but just plain reckless?
The U.S. military followed the Bush administration orders to invade Iraq in 2003, with the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t of course. The “intelligence” that Saddam Hussein had WMDs was fabricated. The invasion was launched.
And 14 years later, the U.S. is still fighting in Iraq. Iraq’s society is in ruins.
A nuclear attack, of course, would be on a whole different level of destructiveness.
(With files from Associated Press)