Top US general says would resist ‘illegal’ order of nuclear strikes from Trump

US nuclear commander said on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons

world Updated: Nov 19, 2017 23:45 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US Nuclear commander,John Hyten,Air Force General John Hyten
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the incoming commander of the United States Strategic Command, speaks to reporters following a change of command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue.(AP File Photo)

A top US general in charge of the country’s strategic command that overseas the nuclear arsenal has said he would disobey any illegal order from President Donald Trump to launch a nuclear weapon.

“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Air Force General John Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario, addressing widespread concern about a mercurial president specially amid an escalating war of words against North Korea, another unpredictable entity.

“We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?,” he told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada.

“If it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I‘m going to say, ‘Mr President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up (with) options.”.

“If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life,” Hyten said, according to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

On the legality of such a strike, Hyten said he would turn to US laws of armed conflict that draw upon ancient laws such as the Book of Manu of the Hindus and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War from China, to lay down four basic principles: military necessity, distinction, proportionality, and unnecessary suffering/humanity.

There have been mounting concerns about President Trump’s ability to take informed and considered action regarding the firing of a nuclear weapon, with the prospects of an exchange becoming increasingly real given North Korean belligerence.

Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if attacked, and has indulged in a spiraling war of words with Kim Jong-un, calling him “short and fat”.

US Senate held a public hearing earlier this week titled “Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons” that was said to be the first time in 40 years that a president’s nuclear power authority was questioned and debated.

“We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear strike that is wildly out of step with US interests,” said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who, along with other lawmakers, is exploring ways to prevent the president from launching a first-strike without permission from Congress.

First Published: Nov 19, 2017 11:11 IST