Trump’s worst legacy may be a nuclear World War III
U.S. Air Force/AP

CHICAGO—The Doomsday Clock, since January of this year, has been set at two minutes to midnight. It was set there because the people who manage the clock, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, said that as of the early part of this year there has been a lack of progress on curbing both nuclear weapons and climate change. And the timekeepers of this scary clock said they were also factoring in “information warfare” and the effects of that warfare on the growing nuclear and climate dangers.

The non-profit Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, for the second year in a row, has set the clock to two minutes before Armageddon. This is the closest the clock has ever been to disaster since the early Cold War years. The Bulletin was initiated in 1947 by University of Chicago Scientists who had been working on nuclear technology. Many of the early nuclear scientists, including Albert Einstein, realized the dangers of nuclear war and became ardent supporters of a peace movement they hoped would end the stockpiling of nuclear weapons. The used a clock because midnight on the clock serves symbolically as “the point of annihilation.”

When it was first developed, the clock was set at seven minutes to midnight. The minute hand moved furthest away in 1991 when the clock was 17 minutes to midnight. That happened because the Cold War had ended and many thought the U.S. “victory” over the Soviet Union meant a new era of “Pax Americana.”

That proved to be a false hope, and now, largely because of Donald Trump, the clock is racing again to midnight. The atomic scientists say the cause is Trump’s pushing us closer to nuclear war and, of course, his total commitment to climate denialism.

“Humanity faces two dire and simultaneous existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change. The longer world leaders and citizens thoughtlessly inhabit this abnormal reality, the more likely it is that we will experience the unthinkable,” former California Gov. Jerry Brown said in a press release. Brown is on the group’s board of directors.

The scary reality is that since this year’s Bulletin came out, the Trump administration, on the nuclear annihilation front alone, has made things even worse.

America’s autocratic and despotic president didn’t stop with trashing the Paris Climate agreement early in his administration. He quickly moved to cancel the nuclear arms reduction accord with Iran despite overwhelming evidence that Iran was sticking to the deal. Against a backdrop of an unstable Middle East, including a genocidal war against the people of Yemen being waged by Saudi Arabia with U.S. backing, the region provides an excellent opportunity for the outbreak of nuclear war. Trump’s war hawk national security adviser, John Bolton, brags daily how no options are off the table when it comes to what the U.S. might do to Iran. He has publicly talked about the day he expects to celebrate in Tehran at the U.S. embassy building when the government there is overthrown. (That building is where the U.S. hostages were held during the Carter administration.)

The world breathed a sigh of relief back in the 1980s when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the treaty banning medium-range nuclear missiles. Trump has thrown that agreement into the garbage pail, as well, and boasts that in any nuclear arms race, the U.S. will outdo any and all competitors.

Meanwhile, he is openly calling for the overthrow of the elected government of Venezuela. Russia and China, two countries that support that government, have nuclear weapons. U.S. meddling in Venezuela’s affairs when that country has nuclear-armed allies does not bode well for the positioning of the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock.

Robert Rosner, chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, right, joined by fellow Bulletin member Lawrence Krauss, left, moves the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight during a news conference in Washington, Jan. 25. | Carolyn Kaster / AP

In the early 1950s, the U.S. waged a war against the Korean people that resulted in millions of deaths in that country. That disaster contributed to the clock moving close to midnight in 1953.  Now Trumpian diplomacy, usually based on whether he can line his pockets with plenty of money, seems to be backfiring there too, with North Korea engaging in more missile tests while the U.S. sticks to its policy of deployment of nuclear submarines and weapons throughout the region around that country.

All of this is happening as the U.S. continues maintaining 800 military bases around the world, surrounding countries like Russia, China, and anybody else who has nuclear weapons. Nuclear submarines operate out of—and nuclear weapons can be delivered from—many of these bases in every corner of the globe. It all adds up to a nuclear danger so great that we are probably closer now to the Armageddon Hour than the scientists said we were earlier this year.

We need the Green New Deal in order to save the country and the planet from disaster, but perhaps an even more immediate threat is the danger of nuclear war. We have a president who not only doesn’t care about that danger but actually actively escalates it.

That makes it urgent that the Congress speak out against the growing nuclear threat emanating from Trump’s foreign policy, and from U.S. foreign policy in general. It cannot remain silent when the U.S. plays with regime change in Venezuela or elsewhere or that it keeps quiet when the president cancels arms deals with Russia, Iran, or other nations. If Congress doesn’t step up for peace, issues like impeachment, the Green New Deal, and just about everything else will be irrelevant.

Congress has to step up to its responsibility. It won’t, however, without pressure from the people and their organizations. We must find every way possible to demand an end to interference in the affairs of other countries, an end to regime change in Venezuela and the attacks on Cuba, huge cuts in the military budget, restoration of the nuclear arms reduction deals, and a return of the U.S. into the Paris climate accords. The only way to get the change we need is to organize for it and demand it. Hopefully, we can then start moving that clock back a few minutes.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.