Pence Prepares for the Presidency

Vice President Pence (center right) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (center in wheel chair) help move debris during a visit to an area hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Tex., on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017.

Pence careful not to outshine Trump in Harvey role

The Washington Post Ashley Parker 2 hrs ago
© Eric Gay/AP Vice President Pence (center right) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (center in wheel chair) help move debris during a visit to an area hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Tex., on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. He hugged victims of Hurricane Harvey and comforted those with tears in their eyes. He prayed and posed for photos, at one point blaring his message of support into a bullhorn. And he donned durable blue gloves and cleared brush, working up a sweat as he dragged debris away from a damaged white mobile home.
Put another way, he did what many other presidents have done in the face of disaster. But the blue jeans-clad man who spent Thursday communing with victims of the 1-in-1,000-year flood event in Southeast Texas was Vice President Pence — not President Trump.The images of Pence’s trip to Texas on Thursday offered a striking contrast between Trump — who came under bipartisan criticism for initially failing to seem to empathize with those affected by the devastating storm — and his No. 2, who spent the week performing relief duties. White House officials said the president and the vice president were merely working in tandem to coordinate the federal government’s response to Harvey, magnifying their efforts through complementary skill sets. Trump, after all, visited Texas on Tuesday — though he steered clear of flood areas or victims — and plans another trip to the Gulf Coast on Saturday. Trump also took several moments Wednesday to address “the deeply tragic situation in Texas and Louisiana” before a scheduled speech on taxes in Missouri.
But Harvey put an uncomfortable spotlight yet again on Pence, underscoring the delicate balance the vice president must manage in supporting and complementing the president — while never overshadowing him.
In many ways, Pence’s handling of Harvey — from his visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Monday to the slew of local radio interviews he did — would be routine but for the president he serves, a man whose own instinct for public displays of compassion are often unconventional. During Trump’s visit to southeastern Texas on Tuesday, he managed to place himself squarely in the eye of the storm, at one point convening an impromptu if brief political rally. (“What a crowd! What a turnout!” he enthused).
Pence, said Ron Klain, a chief of staff to both former vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, “is doing normal stuff in an abnormal situation.”
“A lot of this other stuff is kind of de rigueur for a vice president, but when you have the president behaving oddly, as he did the other day in Texas, there is an interesting role for the vice president,” Klain said. “If both the president and the vice president console victims, if both are busy speaking out about the loss, if both are busy doing the things that are normal in this situation, then what the vice president is doing is just additive to the situation. What’s striking here is that what the vice president is doing is in some ways substituting for what the president is doing, and that’s what makes it more in the spotlight.”
White House officials said ­every relief action Pence took this week was part of a methodical, coordinated effort between his and Trump’s teams, with a particular emphasis on communication — one of the most important roles they think the administration can perform during a natural disaster. Trump’s initial Texas trip was intentionally focused on coordinating federal, state and local response, while Pence’s visit two days later offered more latitude to focus on the survivors who are just beginning to rebuild their lives, officials said.
“It is important to over-communicate in a natural disaster to get your message out, and the president deployed the vice president and his whole team to communicate directly to the people in the path of the storm throughout the week,” said Jarrod Agen, Pence’s deputy chief of staff. “That’s leadership and smart management, and that’s what the president provided and directed.”
The president, one senior White House official said, was eager to head to Texas on Tuesday to clearly convey his support for those suffering but was conscious of not wanting to interfere with search-and-rescue efforts or divert resources. His trip on Saturday, the official added, will allow him to personally connect with those affected by the storm.
The two men have been speaking “multiple times” a day, aides to both said, and their teams have been working in lockstep to coordinate the administration’s response. Pence’s speechwriter, for example, checked in with the president’s aides before Pence delivered a speech Wednesday in West Virginia, to better amplify Trump’s message.
“As someone who works closely with both of them, and has witnessed their round-the-clock attention to this crisis, you cannot put a piece of tissue paper between the president and the vice president on their leadership, their management and their messaging of the White House and federal government’s response to Harvey,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. “Their messages are repetitive, not competitive.”
Scrutiny of his role has left Pence’s allies and aides exasperated at times, believing that the media hypes — and over­analyzes — just about everything he does. Early in the administration, Pence weathered a spate of articles about how he seemed to be in the dark on several issues, including a high-profile incident in which former national security adviser Michael Flynn misled the vice president about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Later, news reports said Pence was operating as more of a shadow president with Oval Office aspirations of his own.
Pence can’t, his aides argue, be simultaneously out of the loop and angling for the top job.
“I think the media is looking for a way to drive a wedge between the president and the vice president, and suggest that there are different approaches and different strategies that show division,” said Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs who previously was a longtime Pence aide. “Whereas I think the White House looks at it and says, ‘There are very complementary and different skill sets that each bring, and therefore it is better to utilize both.’ So the strategies are actually intentional and, in my mind, complementary and harmonious.”
Some of the images of Pence dealing with Harvey, however, raised eyebrows, including photos of him over the weekend in the Situation Room flanked by Cabinet officials while Trump video-conferenced into the meeting from Camp David.
Pence’s Twitter account also sent out — and then deleted — a photo of him seated behind a desk making calls to senators whose states were hardest hit. An aide said Pence was uncomfortable with the tweet because he preferred the focus to be on first responders and heroic Texans, not himself.
In Texas on Thursday, Pence — a loyal-almost-to-the-point-of-obsequious soldier — was careful to repeatedly invoke Trump, including during a news conference at the end of his visit. He made clear he was simply bringing tidings of support and gratitude from the president.
Arriving in Rockport, Tex., Pence told the gathered crowd he had called Trump from Air Force Two.
“Just tell them we love Texas,” Pence said Trump told him to convey.
At that, a woman in the crowd returned attention back to where Pence is most comfortable — away from himself and squarely on his boss: “We love Trump!” she cried.

Even Russia Fears Trump’s Sanity

The majority of U.S. citizens do not trust President Donald Trump to make wise decisions about nuclear weapons, according to the latest poll by a leading research center.
The Pew Research Center released Tuesday the results of a nationwide survey of people’s views toward Trump’s conduct and handling of his role as president, finding that 58 percent of respondents “don’t like” the way the Republican leader has carried himself in office. The same percentage lack confidence in his ability to wield the world’s second largest nuclear weapons arsenal, especially as Trump garners controversy over his responses to nuclear-armed North Korea’s continued defiance of U.S. attempts to disarm the reclusive, Communist state.
“Majorities say they are not too confident or not at all confident in him on each of these issues (58 percent on nuclear weapons, 59 percent on immigration), including more than four-in-10 who say they are not at all confident in him on these issues,” a report accompanying the survey results read.
In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer nuclear-capable bomber (left) drops a bomb during a South Korea–U.S. joint live-fire drill in South Korea, on July 8. President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” threats to use military force to disarm nuclear-armed North Korea have added to anxieties in the U.S. that the Republican leader’s unpredictable demeanor could lead to disaster. South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images
After initially boosting U.S. military presence to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April, Trump has adopted an increasingly hardline stance against the ninth nuclear weapons power. Evading Trump’s red line on a sixth North Korean nuclear weapons test, Kim instead opted to test his country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in July, and a second one later that month. Arguably even more significant than another nuclear test, the successful ICBM launch put the U.S. within range of North Korea for the first time ever.
In response, Trump threatened “fire and fury” against North Korea and has made deeply disputed claims about the U.S. military’s capabilities. He said he had improved the country’s nuclear arsenal since taking office in January and later that U.S. missiles were “locked and loaded” in preparation to attack North Korea.
Earlier this month, nuclear experts shared pictures of themselves chugging wine in concern over the president’s heated words and the consequences they might have. Trump has previously called for an increase in nuclear arms, reversing a decades-long trend of reducing weapons of mass destruction among the world’s leading powers.
Faith in Trump’s ability to handle decisions in regard to nuclear weapons was divided by ideology. Some 77 percent of Republicans expressed trust in the president, compared to only 11 percent of Democrats. Republicans were less confident in Trump’s nuclear weapons policy than they were in his ability to negotiate favorable trade agreements with other countries (86 percent), make good appointments to the federal courts (83 percent) and make wise decisions about immigration policy (80 percent).
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President Donald Trump said in a February 23 Reuters interview that he wants to ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal is at the “top of the pack,” saying the U.S. has fallen behind in its weapons capacity. Federation of American Scientists/Stockholm International Peace Research Institute/U.S. Department of Energy/U.S. Government Accountability Office/U.S. Department of Defense/U.S. Air Force/Congressional Research Service/Reuters
Trump’s willingness to flex his nuclear muscles and recent testing of the B61-12 high-precision nuclear bombs have also got the world’s foremost nuclear weapons power concerned. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the U.S.’s latest, most accurate nuclear bombs could make Trump more likely to use them.
“The advantage of the new modification of the B61-12, according to U.S. military experts themselves lies in the fact that it will be, as they put it, ‘more ethical’ and ‘more usable,’” Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Nonproliferation and Weapons Control Department, told the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.
“From this we can conclude that the clearing of such bombs for service could objectively lead to lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear arms,” he added. “This, we can imagine, is the main negative impact of the ongoing modernization.”
Most Americans have little or no confidence in Trump in dealing with nuclear weapons, immigration

Expect the Nuclear Fire of Revelation 15

Published: Aug 23, 2017 4:50 p.m. ET
BERLIN (Project Syndicate) — As someone who was born in 1948, the risk of a nuclear World War III was a very real part of my childhood. That threat — or at least the threat of East and West Germany both being completely destroyed — persisted until the end of Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Since then, the risk of nuclear-armed superpowers triggering Armageddon has been substantially reduced, even if it has not disappeared entirely. Today, the bigger danger is that an increasing number of smaller countries ruled by unstable or dictatorial regimes will try to acquire nuclear weapons.

The situation in Asia today has the nuclear attributes of the 20th century and the national-power dynamics of the 19th century. That could prove to be a highly inflammatory cocktail.

By becoming a nuclear power, such regimes can ensure their own survival, promote their local or regional geopolitical interests, and even pursue an expansionist agenda.
In this new environment, the “rationality of deterrence” maintained by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War has eroded. Now, if nuclear proliferation increases, the threshold for using nuclear weapons will likely fall.
As the current situation in North Korea shows, the nuclearization of East Asia or the Persian Gulf could pose a direct threat to world peace.
Consider the recent rhetorical confrontation between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump, in which Trump promised to respond with “fire and fury” to any further North Korean provocations. Clearly, Trump is not relying on the rationality of deterrence, as one would have expected from the leader of the last remaining superpower. Instead, he has given his emotions free rein.

 Of course, Trump didn’t start the escalating crisis on the Korean Peninsula. It has been festering for some time, owing to the North Korean regime’s willingness to pay any price to become a nuclear power, which it sees as a way to ensure its own safety. In addition, the regime is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching the West Coast of the U.S., or farther.

This would be a major security challenge for any U.S. administration.
Ultimately, there are no good options for responding to the North Korean threat. A U.S.-led pre-emptive war on the Korean Peninsula, for example, could lead to a direct confrontation with China and the destruction of South Korea, and would have unforeseeable implications for Japan. And, because the China-South Korea-Japan triangle has become the new power center of the 21st century global economy, no country would be spared from the economic fallout.
Even if the U.S. continues to allude to the possibility of war, American military leaders know that the use of military force is not really a viable option, given its prohibitively high costs and risks.
When North Korea achieves nuclear-power status, the American security guarantee will no longer be airtight. A North Korea with nuclear weapons and the means to use them would add pressure on South Korea and Japan to develop their own nuclear capacity, which they could easily do. But that is the last thing that China wants.
The situation in Asia today has the nuclear attributes of the 20th century and the national-power dynamics of the 19th century. That could prove to be a highly inflammatory cocktail. And at the same time, the international system is becoming increasingly unstable, with political structures, institutions, and alliances around the world being upended or called into question.
Much will depend on what happens in the U.S. under Trump’s wayward presidency.
The investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia ahead of the 2016 presidential election, and the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have shown the administration to be unstable and ineffective. And agenda items such as tax cuts, the Mexican border wall, and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement — to say nothing of Trump’s own emotional outbursts — are fueling America’s radical right.
Instability within the U.S. is cause for global concern. If the U.S. can no longer be counted on to ensure world peace and stability, then no country can. We will be left with a leadership vacuum, and nowhere is this more dangerous than with respect to nuclear proliferation.
Another nuclear danger looms this fall. If the U.S. Congress imposes new sanctions on Iran, the nuclear agreement between that country and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany) could fail. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani publicly announced just last week that Iran could abandon the deal “within hours” in response to new sanctions.
In light of the North Korea crisis, it would be the height of irresponsibility to trigger a gratuitous nuclear crisis — and possibly a war — in the Middle East. And a return by the U.S. to a strategy of regime change in Iran would likely be self-defeating, because it would strengthen the country’s hardliners.
All of this would be taking place in a region that is already riven by crises and wars. And, because Russia, China, and the Europeans would stick to the nuclear deal, the U.S. would find itself alone and at odds with even its closest allies.
Today’s nuclear threats demand exactly the opposite of “fire and fury.” What is needed is level-headedness, rationality, and patient diplomacy that is not based on dangerous and fanciful threats of force. If the last superpower abandons these virtues, the world — all of us — will have to confront the consequences.
This article was published with permission of Project Syndicate The New Nuclear Danger

Joschka Fischer was German foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998-2005. Fischer entered electoral politics after participating in the anti-establishment protests of the 1960s and 1970s, and played a key role in founding Germany’s Green Party, which he led for almost two decades.

Trump and the Nuclear Button: A Scary Proposition

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Ex-intelligence chief: Trump’s access to nuclear codes is ‘pretty damn scary’ | US news

Julian Borger

Donald Trump’s access to the nuclear codes is “pretty damn scary”, a former US intelligence chief has said, calling Trump’s rally in Arizona on Tuesday night “disturbing”.

James Clapper, director of national intelligence (DNI) for seven years under Barack Obama, questioned the US president’s “fitness to be in this office” after his demagogic performance in Phoenix, and expressed anxiety about Trump’s power to launch nuclear weapons without consulting Congress or any other official.
Once a president has verified his identity with a code kept constantly on his person or nearby, the military chain of command has no power to block his launch orders.

“Having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, the access to the nuclear codes,” Clapper told CNN, pointing to the current stand-off with North Korea.
If “in a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there’s actually very little to stop him. The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”
Clapper did not mention Richard Nixon, who was involved in a tense stand-off with North Korea in 1969, after the regime shot down a US spy plane. Nixon is reported to have gotten drunk and ordered a tactical nuclear strike, which was only averted by his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.
Nixon’s biographers Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan quoted a top CIA official, George Carver, as saying: “The joint chiefs were alerted and asked to recommend targets, but Kissinger got on the phone to them. They agreed not to do anything until Nixon sobered up in the morning.”
Clapper joined a growing chorus of alarm over Trump’s erratic behaviour. The Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, Bob Corker, said last week that Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful”.
On Capitol Hill, a Democratic congressman and senator have introduced a bill that would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.
In the wake of the Phoenix speech and Clapper’s remarks, one of the bill’s authors, the congressman Ted Lieu, tweeted “Freaked out yet?” and called Congress to support the bill.
Peter Westmacott, a former UK ambassador to Washington, said on Twitter that the rally showed “shades of 1933 Germany”.
Clapper, who stood down as DNI in January, pointed out that he had served the US under every US president from John Kennedy to Barack Obama, having joined the Air Force in 1963.
“I don’t know when I’ve listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing,” he said. “Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing.
“How much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?” Clapper asked. He expressed hope that other Republicans would join Corker and “reach the point where enough is enough”.
Trump is reported to have fallen out with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, whom he is said to have berated in a foul-mouthed telephone call for failing to protect the president from the investigation into his campaign’s relationship with the Kremlin during the election campaign. The growing investigation, led by the former FBI chief Robert Mueller, is often cited privately by White House officials as driving Trump’s wilder angry outbursts.
Bruce Blair, a former missile launch officer, warned last week about the president’s untrammeled power to start a nuclear war. He voiced concern over Trump’s threats against North Korea, vowing the country would never be allowed to field a missile capable of striking the US mainland and declaring that “fire and fury like the world has never seen” would befall Pyongyang if it continued to threaten the US.

“Nuking another country just because it seeks to acquire nuclear weapons enjoys virtually zero support from US nuclear troops,” Blair wrote in a Washington Post commentary. “Yet Trump indulges in issuing such threats, and he has unchecked authority to order a preventive nuclear strike against any nation he wants with a single verbal direction to the Pentagon war room.”
Blair is now a research scholar in Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security and a founder of Global Zero, a movement calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
“ Under the current nuclear strike protocol, [Trump] can consult any and all – or none – of his national security advisers, and no one can legally countermand his order,” he wrote.
“If he gave the green light using his nuclear codes, a launch order the length of a tweet would be transmitted and carried out within a few minutes. I could fire my missiles 60 seconds after receiving an order. There would be no recalling missiles fired from silos and submarines.”

Nuclear Weapons are a Part of Prophecy (Revelation 15)

How Christianity has dealt with nuclear weapons

The world’s most popular faith offers conflicting responses to the spectre of atomic power
And the best answer is that right from the beginning of the nuclear age, Christians have found themselves on both sides, often in rather dramatic ways. This month’s war of words over North Korea have brought reminders of that paradox.  Soon after President Donald Trump issued his threat of “fire and fury”, a theological battle broke out through the medium of America’s leading newspapers. Robert Jefress, one of Mr Trump’s favourite pastors, stated that God had given the president authority to “take out” North Korea’s leader. Elaborating in an interview with the Washington Post, he said worldly leaders had been endowed with “full power to use whatever means necessary, including war, to stop evil.”
The Dallas-based preacher didn’t explicitly urge Mr Trump to tee up his nuclear weapons but he heartily endorsed a presidential stance which did make that threat. An Episcopal priest, Steven Paulikas, shot back with an op-ed in the New York Times which described the Texan’s theology as “shockingly misinformed and dangerous”.As Mr Paulikas argued, Saint Paul’s injunction to respect earthly powers was not meant to be a carte blanche to use violence; rather it referred to practical matters like taxation. “A wiser spiritual adviser than Jefress would counsel the president that there is no conceivable argument to be found in Christian scriptures for threatening death and suffering on a huge scale,” the Anglican added.
When the nuclear era dawned, Christians were “on both sides” in a more literal sense. The American aircraft which obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki were crewed by Christian servicemen and counseled and blessed by Christian military chaplains. And Nagasaki, as it happened, was the main bastion of Japanese Christianity, a tradition which had survived harsh persecution between 1600 and 1850.  Its Urakami cathedral was an early mega-church with 12,000 members, and it provided the bombers with a landmark that could be identified at 31,000  feet.  It has been estimated that 8,500 of those faithful died as a direct or indirect result of the bomb. Worshippers attending Thursday morning confessions were annihilated instantly by the fireball which exploded 500 metres above the house of prayer.
Then there were those who changed sides. Father George Zabelka, the Catholic chaplain of the American air force group which delivered the bombs, underwent a conversion to pacifism after the full results of the explosions became clear. He travelled to Nagasaki on the 50th anniversary of the bomb and made a tearful plea for forgiveness.
William Downey, the airmen’s Lutheran pastor, experienced a similar change of heart. In the Roman Catholic world’s intellectual stratosphere, meanwhile, there was a more gradual sea-change. After centuries of elaborating a just-war doctrine, a succession of popes and their brainiest advisers came to the conclusion that nuclear weapons had changed the ethical calculus over war.  As early as 1954, Pope Pius XII seemed to foresee a time when the “evil consequences of adopting this method of warfare” would “pass entirely beyond the control of man.”
A recurring theme of Christian reflections about the first nuclear explosions is the idea their murderous flashes form a grotesque counterpoint to the Transfiguration: the moment when Jesus of Nazareth is said to have appeared to three of his disciples in a blinding flash of light, giving them a new understanding of his divinity. The Transfiguration is celebrated by most Christians on August 6th, the anniversary of Hiroshima; Russians and some other Orthodox Christians marked the feast yesterday, the old-calendar date.
According to an essay by Nicholas Sooy, a young American Orthodox Christian scholar, both the Transfiguration and Hiroshima are remembered as moments when “there was a great cloud, and the light radiated forth brighter than the sun” and “there was a thunderous sound as if the heavens had opened..” But the first incident is presented as one of reassurance and inspiration, while the second one delivered a message of apocalyptic fear, one that disfigured the world through the ongoing effects of radiation.
Mr Sooy is a leader of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, an anti-violence fraternity whose founders belong to the Russian Orthodox parish in Amsterdam.
But plenty of other voices can be heard in the world of Russian Christianity.  One of Russia’s nuclear bureaucrats has noted with approval that by organising conferences and stimulating debate in a patriotic spirit, the country’s national church had helped to preserve the nuclear arsenal and concentrate minds on the need for a strategic deterrent; this had been an important counterweight to the sloppy pacifism which maintained that Russia had no enemies.
Russian clergy are regularly seen blessing nuclear arms; they would defend that practice by saying the point of such blessings is to pray that the weapons will not be used. In other words, that the rockets will stay in their silos and do their job.
The one thing organised Christianity doesn’t seem to offer is a clear, unanimous answer to the dilemmas of a nuclear age. But its cacophony of voices does throw those dilemmas into even sharper relief.

This is the process Trump will use to authorize a nuclear strike

https://i0.wp.com/15130-presscdn-0-89.pagely.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/trump-use-nukes.jpgThis is the process the US uses to authorize a nuclear strike
The United States nuclear arsenal can go from standby to missile launch in about five minutes, according to Bruce Blair a former Minuteman launch control officer.
The U.S. Strategic Command uses a strict protocol to authorize a launch.
Launching the U.S. arsenal requires eight steps, according to Blair, a research scholar at Princeton University’s program on science and global security and founder of nonproliferation advocacy group Global Zero.
The video above explains the protocols, but basically the president first talks to advisors such as the Omaha-based four-star general at the helm of the U.S. Strategic Command. The president’s conclusion is then carried out through a series of codes and encrypted messages that travel through the Pentagon to the land- or sea-based launch sites, where control officers simultaneously turn their security keys to initiate the launch.
Tensions between North Korea and the United States reached new heights on Aug. 8, when President Donald Trump warned the rogue regime it faced “fire and fury” if it made any more threats. North Korea responded by saying it planned to test fire missiles in the waters off the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. This week, Pyongyang toned down its rhetoric, saying it would wait to assess “the foolish and stupid conduct” of the United States.
North Korea test-fired a missile on July 28, despite pressure from China to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Following the launch, defense experts confirmed North Korea has the capability to reach more than half the continental U.S. with a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile.
U.S. intelligence believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has up to 60 nuclear weapons, though some independent experts say the total is smaller. By comparison, the U.S. has around 6,800 nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists, with about 1,800 actively deployed at land bases and submarines.
Five states in the continental U.S. are home to missile launch sites: Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming, according to the Congressional Research Service. The Eighth Air Force operates five nuclear-capable bomber wings out of bases in Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Texas. There also are 14 active Ohio-class submarines, with four of the nuclear-armed ships on designated “hard alert” patrols at any time.

Trump and World War III (Revelation 15)

https://i1.wp.com/www.activistpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/nuclear_arms_race.pngHow Trump helped trigger a new arms race in the Middle East

Jonathan Manthorpe Published Wednesday, August 16th, 2017
Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, warned on Tuesday his country will abandon the 2015 multinational Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) limiting Iran’s nuclear development program if the U.S. imposes any more sanctions.
The implication is that Iran would resume enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.
Rouhani’s threat came a day after Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, passed a largely symbolic sanctions bill against the U.S. — and authorized a far more potent additional $US800 million for its expeditionary forces in the Middle East, the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Some of the money will go to Iran’s already sophisticated ballistic missile program.
The extra money for Iran’s Quds Force and its proxy allies in the wars in Syria and Yemen is a direct response to Saudi Arabia’s flexing of its regional muscles. There has been a notable increase in Riyadh’s assertion of its regional power and authority since May, when President Trump, on his first foreign tour, gave a speech clearly siding with Saudi Arabia and denigrating Iran.
“For decades,” Trump said, “Iran has fuelled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.”
Saudi Arabia — whose foreign and military establishments appear to be in the hands of the young and excitable heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — has taken Trump’s speech as permission to pursue a power play against Iran. That goes well beyond pursuing an air war in neighbouring Yemen against Huthyi rebels backed by Iran, and supporting rebels fighting Iranian ally President Bashar Assad in Syria.
Immediately after Trump’s departure, Riyadh marshalled its allies in the Persian Gulf to isolate the Gulf state of Qatar, which Saudi Arabia accuses of funding terrorism and maintaining a treacherous relationship with Iran.
Gulf states Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates are showing signs of nervousness that they too could be the targets of direct action by Riyadh if their loyalty comes under question.
At the same time, the Riyadh authorities are striking out against minority Shia Muslims in eastern Saudi Arabia. Iran is the heartland of the Shia faction of Islam, and Riyadh has long suspected Tehran of using the minority in Saudi Arabia to foment dissent.
This campaign has tipped Canada into the Middle East caldron. Photographs are circulating that appear to show Riyadh’s forces using Canadian-supplied General Dynamics light armoured vehicles (LAVs) and combat scout cars made by the Ontario company, Terradyne Armored Vehicles, against the Shia minority.
The evidence is bolstering political and public opposition in Canada to the pending $15 billion deal for London, Onatrio-based General Dynamics to sell its latest version of the LAV to Saudi Arabia.

So Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is investigating the latest claims against Riyadh. Government policy bans the export of arms to countries with a “persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.”
Saudi Arabia’s atrocious civil rights record is such that Ottawa should not need physical evidence of Canadian combat vehicles being used to crush minorities in order to decide selling weapons to the Riyadh regime is not a good idea. But there are a lot of Canadian jobs on the line.
At the moment, however, Canada is playing a small role in the booming Middle East arms race springing from the Tehran-Riyadh contest for power. The latest figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show that all Middle eastern states, and Persian Gulf states in particular, have leapt up the rankings of arms buyers in the last year or so.
Tiny oil-and-gas-rich Qatar has tripled its weapons purchases since 2012 and is now the world’s third largest arms buyer.
Iran can now be expected to use Trump’s repeated claim that the 2015 JCPOA agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program is a “disaster” as justification for abandoning the deal. In this, Trump is ignoring the stated position of the other parties involved — Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the United Nations — that Iran is holding to the deal.
While most international sanctions against Tehran are being lifted, Iran has not seen the expected economic benefits of complying with the program because the Trump regime continues to sanction both Iran and those that do business with the country.
Trump’s attitude has created a highly unusual unity in Iran between political hardliners and reformers on one hand, and the public on the other. That it was President Rouhani, widely seen as a reformer, who threatened on Tuesday to resume the nuclear program illustrates this effect.
There has always been a suspicion in Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Co-operation Council allies — the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain — that Iran might renege on the JCPOA deal, which came into force in January last year. And even if Tehran stuck to the agreement, Riyadh fears Iran will build nuclear weapons after the deal runs its course in 10 to 15 years’ time.
This has added to the conviction among international observers that Saudi Arabia is seeking its own nuclear weapons capability.
It has long been rumoured that Pakistan has agreed to supply Riyadh with nuclear weapons in return for Saudi financing of Islamabad’s nuclear arms program in the 1990s. However, in a recent report the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security says it has uncovered evidence that Pakistan will not supply Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons.
Instead, Islamabad will assist in other ways, such as supplying equipment, materials and know-how for Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning “civilian” nuclear program. Saudi Arabia might also be allowed to work on sensitive nuclear technologies in Pakistan, away from the watchful eyes of international inspectors.
Riyadh has announced it plans to build 16 nuclear reactors in the next few years. And Riyadh has a stock of ballistic missiles it bought from China a few years ago that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The world must hope that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the president’s point man on the Middle East, has pursued his self-education on the region beyond his recent conclusion that the problems there are “difficult.”
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

The End Draws Near (Revelation 15)

Apocalypse now? The Doomsday Clock keeps ticking
Christopher Borrellu
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published bimonthly out of Hyde Park since 1945, tends to scare the living hell out of people. It was co-founded by Eugene Rabinowitch, a biophysicist who worked on the development of the atomic bomb at the University of Chicago. Contributing writers have included Oppenheimer and Einstein; in the 1960s, Stanley Kubrick, inspired by a Bulletin piece about accidental nuclear war, made “Dr. Strangelove.” Still, the journal’s true legacy was cemented 70 years ago this summer, when its editors came up with an ingenious and unsettling metaphor to convey the existential threat that nuclear weapons pose to life on Earth. It created a Doomsday Clock and put it on its June 1947 cover, the hands poised at seven minutes to midnight.
Midnight being the end of the world.
Clocks grab attention, clocks have urgency. So like an apocalyptic version of Oprah’s O magazine, the Bulletin has put a Doomsday Clock on many covers since. In 1991, at the end of the Cold War, the hands fell to 17 minutes before midnight. But recently, as Donald Trump entered the White House, the hands leapt to two-and-a-half minutes before midnight, the closest the Doomsday Clock has been to Armageddon since 1953.
Anyway, how’s your summer going?
Partying like it’s the end of the world?
Understandable. As you make your way to “Turn Back the Clock” at the Museum of Science and Industry, a new exhibit on the cultural and political legacy of the Doomsday Clock, you pass beneath a banner that notes, indeed, mankind may be nearing last call. Still, the exhibit, which runs through early 2018, is a thoughtful boogeyman, lurking between a Mold-A-Rama machine and the third-floor elevators. It is certainly the most compelling museum exhibit in Chicago this summer centered around a bimonthly academic journal. To spend time there, to watch tourists, locals and kids approach, is a portrait in how uneasy, confused and disconnected we have become about Doomsday.
Just after the museum opens on a weekday morning, a young woman and small girl enter. The woman leans down, points to the images of the Doomsday Clock on the display and carefully explains: “This is about how close we are to nuclear annihilation.”
The girl, who has alligators on her shirt and dogs on her skirt and large eyeglasses and wears her hair in a ponytail and an intelligent, inquisitive face, asks: “What is that?”
“It means,” the woman says, halting, “all the bombs drop and everyone dies.”
The girl says nothing.
The woman, seeing where this is headed, leans down as if to collect the inevitable tears in a bucket and quickly adds, “But don’t worry about that, OK? It won’t happen. Relax.”
Some visitors, as they approach the exhibit, notice the amount of reading involved, then make a swift beeline for the vintage World War II Spitfire and Stuka nearby. Others eyeball the images of mushroom clouds and breeze through with their heads down, as if sidestepping a Greenpeace activist on Michigan Avenue. But many stop, shudder, shake their heads, mention North Korea being crazy and starting a fight, or Trump being crazy and starting a fight, or the world being crazy. Some can’t turn away.
Kimberley Hamilton-Ross of South Holland, a school speech-language pathologist, lingers. She’s hooked to every chunk of text, every letter from Gorbachev, every letter from Reagan. She listens to Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech, picks through the interactive timeline. She had not planned to dive so deep. “I’m on a staycation,” she explains. “But this is fascinating. My husband watches a lot of History Channel, so I was curious. I think we’re moving closer to midnight. That’s how I honestly feel. This is important information, you have to keep yourself on top of information now. This stuff? It really, really affects us. I don’t see how you can’t be interested. The leader of North Korea seems to be crazy as a fox. And Trump, he’s crazy like a fox. I don’t know what that guy’s about. I’m going to be 60 in three weeks. I’d like it not to be my last birthday.”
An hour later, she’s still there.
Strollers zoom past her. Summer camp groups ebb and flow.
A man approaches a map of the world that shows which countries have nukes and which agreed to the 2016 Paris climate accord — since 2007, the Clock’s movement has reflected existential threats to mankind beyond nuclear war — and pulls Cheerios from a plastic bag and reads and chews. An elderly couple stare at a small model of Chicago Pile 1, the nuclear reactor where in 1942 the U. of C. conducted the first controlled nuclear chain reaction a short walk from the museum itself. A couple in their 20s flip through a video timeline of relevant cultural and historic moments, the Soviets invade Afghanistan, Atari releases the Cold War classic “Missile Command,” Pakistan gets nuclear weapons, Seth Rogan makes “The Interview,” in which North Korea once again threatens Armageddon.
“That (expletive) was funny,” the man says.
“That (expletive) was stupid,” the woman says.
They walk on.
Nearby, a father and his teenage daughter read about recent movements to the Doomsday Clock. “In 2010, the clock actually moved back a minute,” the father says.
“Why?” the daughter asks.
“Obama,” the father says.
“Thanks, Obama,” the daughter says flatly.
“No,” the father says. “You want it to go backwards.”
“Oh!” the daughter says. “Thanks, Obama!”
They laugh and continue reading.
Regardless of how much time a visitor spends at “Turn Back the Clock,” many stop at two civic-engagement stations where people are encouraged to use small yellow discs to vote on several broadly related questions, such as: Will climate change affect life? Can speaking up affect policy? Patricia Ward, the museum’s director of science exhibitions, said, “We strove to infuse a sense of agency, the idea that people have a voice and it can be expressed a number of ways. We have the ingenuity to create breakthroughs, and that we’ve kept the world from annihilation shows we have the agency to manage them.”
This voting tally, however, should not be confused with actual opinions. Children swarm the stations and, in historic Chicago fashion, shamelessly stuff the ballots. On the other hand, notes Rachel Bronson, executive director of the Bulletin, which proposed the show a few years ago, younger people have been some of its best audiences. (“Adults will do two things: They say, ‘Oh, I remember that.’ Or they ask, ‘Are we still talking about this?’”)
Specifically, teenagers love Lyndon B. Johnson.
The exhibit’s unofficial focal point is a simple video monitor showing “Daisy Girl” on a loop, the former president’s infamously disturbing 1964 election commercial. A child counts as she picks the petals from a daisy, until her voice is replaced with a man’s voice, counting down. When he reaches zero, there is a white flash and a nuclear cloud, then Johnson’s Texan croak:
“These are the stakes.”
Three boys stop and watch, note its creepiness, then walk off doing the finest LBJ: “These are the stakes! These are the stakes!” A young girl stops and watches transfixed, head jutted forward, body curled back, her eyes wide, as if being dragged into the grainy black-and-white “Night of the Living Dead”-esque palette; when the ad restarts, she shoots it with her iPhone and leaves. A group of teenagers come through just as the countdown begins. They stop and watch silently. When the mushroom cloud rises, they move on without a word or a shiver or even a change in their bored expressions, the Cold War reduced to a suspense vehicle.
Two middle-aged women stop.
“I remember this,” one of the women says. They watch until the end, then the woman adds, “Do they really have to put this out here when the kids are on school break — really?”
Hamilton-Ross, a few feet away, is still reading the wall text.
“Ostrich,” she says, referring to the woman. “Some people are ostriches. Some people do not want to know the truth — their head’s always in the sand. But it’s her history, and her future.”
cborrelli@chicagotribune.com

The Ecological Consequences of the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)


NORTH KOREA, DONALD TRUMP AND NUCLEAR BOMBS: HOW EVEN A MINOR WAR WOULD BE AN ECOLOGICAL DISASTER FOR EARTH
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
President Donald Trump’s vow to hit North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” is an unveiled threat to unleash America’s most potent weapons of mass destruction onto the Korean Peninsula. According to many defense analysts, the risk of nuclear confrontation over Europe and the Indian subcontinent also has increased in recent years.
In a more hopeful turn of events, 122 countries voted in June to adopt the United Nations Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons in New York. The “ban treaty” will make nuclear weapons illegal for ratifying countries, and many see it as an opportunity to kick-start a renewed effort toward multilateral disarmament. Supporters of the treaty argue that even a limited, regional nuclear war would produce a catastrophic and global humanitarian crisis.
Equally, other analysts suggest that the reality is not as severe as is often depicted. In March of this year, Matthias Eken, a researcher of attitudes toward nuclear weapons, wrote in The Conversation that their destructive power “has been vastly exaggerated” and that one should avoid overusing “doomsday scenarios and apocalyptic language.”
Eken argued that nuclear weapons are not as powerful as they are often described, on the basis that a nine-megaton thermonuclear warhead dropped over the state of Arkansas would destroy only 0.2 percent of the state’s surface area. He also observed that more than 2,000 nuclear detonations have been made on the planet without having ended human civilization, and argued that if we want to mitigate the risk posed by nuclear weapons, we must not exaggerate those risks.
Eken’s approach toward nuclear weapons stands in contrast to the more dramatic rhetoric of global humanitarian catastrophe and existential threats to humanity. So what is the basis for the latter?
The greatest concern derives from relatively new research that has modeled the indirect effects of nuclear detonations on the environment and climate. The most-studied scenario is a limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, involving 100 Hiroshima-sized warheads (small by modern standards) detonated mostly over urban areas. Many analysts suggest that this is a plausible scenario in the event of an all-out war between the two states, whose combined arsenals amount to more than 220 nuclear warheads.
In tats event, an estimated 20 million people could die within a week from the direct effects of the explosions, fires and local radiation. That alone is catastrophic—more deaths than in the entirety of World War I.
But nuclear explosions are also extremely likely to ignite fires over a large area, which coalesce and inject great volumes of soot and debris into the stratosphere. In the India-Pakistan scenario, up to 6.5 million tons of soot could be thrown into the upper atmosphere, blocking the sun and causing a significant drop in average surface temperature and precipitation across the globe, with effects that could last for more than a decade.
That ecological disruption would, in turn, badly affect global food production. According to one study, maize production in the U.S. (the world’s largest producer) would decline by an average of 12 percent over 10 years in our given scenario. In China, middle-season rice would fall by 17 percent over a decade; maize by 16 percent; and winter wheat by 31 percent. With total world grain reserves amounting to less than 100 days of global consumption, such effects would place an estimated 2 billion people at risk of famine.
Although a nuclear conflict involving North Korea and the U.S. would be smaller, given Pyongyang’s limited arsenal, many people would still die, and ecological damage would severely affect global public health for years. Additionally, any nuclear conflict between the U.S. and North Korea is likely to increase the risk of nuclear confrontation involving other states and other regions of the world.
It Gets Worse
A large-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would be far worse. Most Russian and U.S. weapons are 10 to 50 times stronger than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima. In a war involving the use of the two nations’ strategic nuclear weapons (those intended to be used away from battlefield, aimed at infrastructure or cities), some 150m tons of soot could be lofted into the upper atmosphere. That would reduce global temperatures by 8 degrees Celsius—the “nuclear winter” scenario. Under such conditions, food production would stop, and the vast majority of the human race would likely starve.
Eken suggests that a limited regional nuclear conflict and an all-out war between the U.S. and Russia are both unlikely. He may be right. However, both scenarios are possible, even if we can’t reliably quantify the risk. Continued adversarial rhetoric from both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un about the use of nuclear weapons is not making this possibility any less likely.
What we can say is that the doctrine of nuclear deterrence represents a high-risk gamble. Nuclear weapons do not keep us safe from acts of terrorism, nor can they be used to fight sea-level rise, extreme weather, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss or antimicrobial resistance.
This is why so many medical and public health organizations have been campaigning to make nuclear weapons illegal. Regardless of how many need to be exploded to cause a catastrophe or produce an existential threat to humanity, and regardless of the risk of it happening, the adage that “prevention is the best cure” remains the case when it comes to these abhorrent and dangerous weapons.
Research papers and discussions on the public health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons will be part of the Health Through Peace 2017 conference at the University of York in September.
David McCoy is professor of global public health at Queen Mary University of London.

Babylon the Great Prepares for a Nuclear Attack


As Trump And North Korea Hurl Threats, Hawaii Prepares For A Nuclear Attack
State officials wanted to roll out a response plan before tensions escalated. Then the threats began.
By Carla Herreria
HONOLULU ― Months before President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury,” before North Korea claimed to be planning a mid-August attack on Guam and well before Trump tweeted that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” to strike, officials in Hawaii began organizing guidelines for civilians in case of a nuclear attack on the islands.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has been preparing for possible threats from North Korea since January while trying to avoid causing undue anxiety among residents. But as the state began rolling out its response plan, North Korea successfully test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July with ranges within reach of Hawaii. Then a very public exchange of threats and one-upmanship began between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Of all the worst things that can happen is to stoop to the level of North Korea [with] threats of destruction and nuclear weapons,” Carl Baker, director of programs at the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies, told HuffPost.
Though most experts are certain that the risk of a North Korean attack on Hawaii, let alone anywhere in the U.S., is still very low, Baker said the president’s “rhetoric isn’t doing anybody any good.”
“Most people are dismissive [of North Korea’s threats] and understand that this isn’t a problem,” said Baker, a retired Air Force officer who served as an intelligence analyst for U.S. Forces Korea. “But when you ratchet up the rhetoric like that and you get the bombast from both sides, it just makes everyone more uncertain.”
Hawaii is one of the first states to begin preparing for a nuclear strike from North Korea. Gov. David Ige requested the attack response plan from the state’s Department of Defense in December after military officials briefed him on North Korea’s potential threats to Hawaii.
It’s only a matter of time that North Korea will be able to strike Hawaii with any kind of accuracy,” Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, a spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, told HuffPost.
“We want to get ahead of” the threat, Anthony added. “To us, it made much more sense to try to get a public information campaign out there before [North Korea] had a series of successful ICBM tests.”
If a missile were to be launched at the islands, officials say, the state would have approximately 20 minutes to respond. The U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii would identify the launch within five minutes, giving the islands’ 1.4 million residents a mere 15 minutes to take shelter.
This scenario is what the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is preparing residents for with a public information campaign, a revised set of nuclear response guidelines and the restoration of statewide attack warning sirens that had been turned off after the thawing of the Cold War in the late 1980s. Ideally, all this would’ve rolled out without stirring up fears ― a just-in-case plan.
Then things between North Korea and the U.S. escalated in a very public way.
“When we started this process, North Korea was zero for five in terms of ICBM missile tests,” Anthony told HuffPost, referring to the five failed ICBM tests. “About a week after we rolled out the public information campaign [on the state’s nuclear response guidelines], North Korea had successfully tested the second ICBM.”
Anthony said that Trump’s increasingly intense exchanges of threats with North Korea aren’t disturbing the state’s plans to prepare residents and visitors for an attack.
“We’re not concerning ourselves with any rhetoric coming out of North Korea or Washington,” Anthony said. “We’ve got our plans, and we’re working on our plans on our particular time table.”
North Korea has made major advancements in the country’s weapon program, which now includes ICBMs and miniaturized warheads that are potentially within range of Hawaii, as well as the mainland’s West Coast and Denver. But most experts believe that there is no real threat to U.S. soil, especially since it remains unclear if Pyongyang has developed the accuracy to deliver a long-range missile to its intended target.
An attack on Hawaii also wouldn’t be a smart move for North Korea ― and they know that, according to Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu who focuses on North Korea.
“An actual strike against Hawaii doesn’t make sense because it wouldn’t help North Korea win a war,” Roy told HuffPost. It “would result in immediate and massive U.S. retaliation, probably the complete destruction of Pyongyang, and would seal not only the defeat of North Korea but its erasure as a political entity.”
And leaders in North Korea aren’t suicidal, Roy added.
However, it appears that Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, would disagree.
Harris, who could not be reached for an interview, told Congress in April that Kim is “clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today” and requested that the government consider installing interceptors on Hawaii, which the state does not yet have, and a defensive radar.
Asked about the state’s readiness in the event of an attack, a Pacific Command official told HuffPost in a statement, “We always maintain a high state of readiness and have the capabilities to counter any threat, to include those from North Korea.”
The Missile Defense Agency currently has 37 interceptor missiles in Alaska and California that the agency claims would protect Hawaii from a North Korean ICBM.
As Trump’s threats to North Korea appear to be intensifying with every new statement, officials in Hawaii are calling for a de-escalation.
The president tweeted Friday that U.S. “military solutions are now fully in placed, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” later telling reporters that if Kim “utters one threat … he’ll regret it.”
In a statement sent to HuffPost, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) called for “steady American leadership” in order to de-escalate the tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
“Bluster and saber-rattling will only exacerbate an already difficult situation,” Hirono said.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) criticized Trump’s exchanges with North Korea in a series of tweets this week, calling the president’s statements “unwise in tone, substance,” and urging Americans to listen to the Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea commanders instead.
Responding to reports that Trump improvised his North Korea remarks, Schatz said, “Am I supposed to be reassured?”
Amid all this war talk, some in Hawaii want to remind the president who he is endangering when threatening North Korea with nuclear war.
Trump’s rhetoric puts Hawaii and even more Guam … on the front line,” DeSoto Brown, Honolulu Bishop Museum historian, told HuffPost, likening the situation to Hawaii’s positioning during World War II.
“The situation is again beyond our capacity to control it,” DeSoto said of a possible nuclear threat.
“It’s just as it was in 1941 because of our geographic location and because of … the country we are a part of,” he added, referring to the attack on Pearl Harbor. “There’s nothing we can really do about it except either ignore it or try to think seriously about what would we do.”