'Negotiate, Don't Escalate': Demands for Peace as Nuclear Threat Looms
"If there was ever a time to resist, it's now."
Following the "terrifying" exchange of threats between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a coalition of anti-war groups held an emergency rally outside of the White House Wednesday night to commemorate the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki and "take a stand against the use of nuclear weapons."
"Over the last 24 hours the situation with North Korea has erupted into a full-blown crisis."
"Over the last 24 hours the situation with North Korea has erupted into a full-blown crisis," the coalition declared. "Right now two inexperienced egomaniacs are facing off with nuclear weapons. Experts are calling this the Cuban Missile Crisis of our time. The prospect of nuclear war is closer than ever."
In addition to the rally at the White House, groups also demonstrated outside of Trump Tower in New York City.
The anti-war group CODEPINK, which held an overnight vigil, expressed a simple message: "negotiate, don't escalate."
CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin detailed one potential diplomatic option—which would include freezing joint U.S.-South Korean war games on the peninsula in exchange for a freeze of North Korean nuclear weapons and long-range missile tests—in a speech during the rally:
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) August 9, 2017
High-ranking officials within the Trump administration have been scrambling since Tuesday evening to contain the fallout that resulted from Trump's remarks, which were reportedly improvised.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, John Mecklin, editor-in-chief of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists—the organization that created the "Doomsday Clock"—denounced Trump's remarks as "about the stupidest and most dangerous statement I have ever heard an American president make."
Given Trump's "bluster" and unpredictability, mass action against escalation and for diplomacy is more necessary than ever, anti-war groups argued on Wednesday.
"The public must come to grips with the gravity of this crisis," said Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero. "We've got two nuclear-armed megalomaniacs facing off and no reason to expect cooler heads will prevail. When Trump promises 'fire and fury,' remember he has unfettered authority to make good on that threat. The nuclear briefcase follows him everywhere...Every diplomatic effort must be made to avoid any scenario that risks the use of nuclear weapons."
As Common Dreams reported, lawmakers and activists responded to Trump's "fire and fury" threats against North Korea by reiterating calls for the president to be stripped of his authority to launch a nuclear first strike. In May, 500,000 people signed a petition calling on Congress to adopt the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, a bill introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
Notably, while the proposed legislation would specifically limit presidential authority regarding a nuclear first strike, others have pointed out that no president can start a war without congressional authorization.
In addition to legislative and diplomatic efforts, groups urged mobilization and civil disobedience in the face of escalation that could have "horrific and far-reaching" consequences.
"If there was ever a time to resist, it's now," concluded Win Without War.