Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff; Pub: Henry Holt and Company, New York, New York, 2018, 324 pages. Price: $18.00 Hbk; $13.09 Pbk; $14.00 Amazon Kindle.
The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg; Pub: Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK, 2017, 432 pages. Price: $18.89 Hbk; $9.20 Amazon Kindle.
Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury takes its title from one of Donald Trump’s most infamous Twitter outbursts. On August 8th, 2017 — between the anniversaries of the US nuclear holocausts of Hiroshima (August 6th) and Nagasaki (August 9th) —Trump tweeted, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Trump’s promise to counter mere verbal threats by murdering millions of people with nuclear bombs suggested to many observers that the President is, at best, monumentally careless with his tweets.
At worst, he may be stark, raving mad — as 27 mental health professionals wrote in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. One of the authors, Bandy Lee, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, briefed Democratic lawmakers last month on the president’s mental state. Though professional psychological and psychiatric associations have discouraged such diagnoses-at-a-distance, 70,000 self-described mental health professionals have signed a Change.org petition entitled “Trump is mentally ill and must be removed.” Indeed, one does not need to be a psychiatric professional to see signs of sociopathy, narcissism, and emotional and intellectual instability in Trump’s demeanor, words, and actions.
From a Muslim perspective, the psychiatric diagnoses ring true. Trump is an extreme embodiment of bad adab. His self-centered arrogance seems to rival that of Pharaoh, the Qur’anic villain who follows the egomaniacal path of Satan.
On January 2nd, Trump inaugurated 2018 by once again taunting Kim Jong un, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is much [a] bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Some tried to laugh it off, pointing out that Trump’s unintentional Freudian joke sounded like a line from the nuclear black comedy Dr. Strangelove. Others countered that having a deranged buffoon like Trump in command of the world’s biggest military machine may be a joke on the world, but not a terribly funny one, since the eventual punchline could be tragic beyond measure.
How did we reach this point? Wolff’s Fire and Fury offers one answer: Trump’s run for president was a publicity stunt designed to bolster his brand and enhance his riches and fame. Nobody, least of all Trump himself or his family or advisors, ever expected him to win, or thought he would be capable of governing if he did (Trump, being a quintessential narcissist, quickly changed his mind on election night when he saw that he had won; but nobody else did).
Wolff’s account mainly follows Steve Bannon’s viewpoint, according to which it was Bannon, backed by huge cash infusions from the billionaire Mercer family, who put Trump in office. Bannon’s project was, and still is, to turn America in the direction of right-wing nationalism, in the manner of a Pat Buchanan on steroids. Bannon initially saw Trump as a useful idiot. But as Trump’s presidency underwent slow-motion implosion during its first year, with Bannon’s America-first project taking a back seat to the internationalist Zionist bankster machinations of former Goldman Sachs honcho Steven Mnuchin and Kissinger-Netanyahu protégé Jared Kushner, Bannon jumped ship, told all to Wolff, and broke decisively with Trump.
All this gossip about America’s unlikely, absurd, and quite possibly deranged President is as gripping and entertaining (at least until the novelty wears off) as it is horrifying. But in the end, it is not Wolff’s book that we need to read to understand our predicament. Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine is far more edifying, and in the long run, more important.
Ellsberg is a former nuclear war planner for the RAND Corporation who risked life in prison by leaking the Pentagon Papers in hopes of stopping America’s genocidal assault on Vietnam. The Doomsday Machine makes a strong case that the problem is not that we have a madman president. The real dilemma, according to Ellsberg, is much worse than that: we have a nuclear war system in place which is, for all practical purposes, in the hands of omnicidal lunatics — and has been for more than 70 years.
It isn’t that the individuals who run America’s nuclear war system are all as crazy and ignorant as Trump. As individuals, most of them are quite sane, not to mention highly intelligent, like the young Dan Ellsberg when he worked for RAND. Ellsberg opens The Doomsday Machine with a quote from Nietzsche, “Madness in individuals is something rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.” The nuclear command and control systems of our epoch illustrate the point to perfection.
As Ellsberg makes clear, it is only through the grace of Allah (swt) that all human life and all large animal life on earth, or virtually all of it, has not yet been extinguished by these nuclear madmen. For the nuclear war fighting plans and scenarios of the US, and presumably Russia as well, seemingly guarantee that such a thing will happen, probably sooner rather than later.
Two key points emerge from Ellsberg’s book. First, the chances of a major nuclear war between the superpowers are shockingly high. Repeatedly, such a war has been narrowly and improbably averted. If a professional oddsmaker were fully informed about the issue, he would probably conclude that the chances of a full-scale nuclear war breaking out are about 5%/year or 50/50 per decade (or per two decades if the oddsmaker dons rose-colored glasses). That means that during the 70-year nuclear superpower standoff, we have flipped the coin three to five times, and gotten lucky every time. In other words, we just played Russian roulette, holding a gun to the head of the world, with five bullets in the chamber (actually the odds are worse than that, but you get the drift). Absent continual miraculous divine intervention, we are eventually going to get the malhamah that Shaykh Imran Hosein and others claim is foretold in scripture. Or, paraphrasing Ibsen, “If a gun is on the mantle in the first act, it must go off in the third.”
The second key point is that the looming malhamah, as Imran Hosein says, is likely to kill all or nearly all of the world’s population. Ellsberg points out that even today, many decades after the discovery of the planet-killing “nuclear winter” that would follow even a relatively small nuclear war between superpowers, nuclear war planners continue to work toward “limited” nuclear wars under the delusional assumption that “only” tens or hundreds of millions of people would die, rather than the full seven billion (plus or minus a few miserable cannibalistic survivors). For the truth, according to climate scientists, is that even an improbably minuscule nuclear exchange of 100 small nuclear bombs (and no big ones) would put enough smoke into the atmosphere to block incoming sunlight planet-wide for more than a decade, plunging the earth into “nuclear winter” and completely ending agriculture. The result would be that all of earth’s population, except perhaps for a few warrior cannibals, would die of starvation.
The Qur’an tells us “…if anyone kills a human being — unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth — it shall be as though he had killed all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (5:32). Allah (swt) thus emphasizes the importance of protecting human life, showing the immense consequences of even one unjust killing. And yet the nuclear war planners calmly plot the murder of the whole of mankind, all the while deluding themselves into thinking they are behaving acceptably by imagining that they are “only” plotting the murder of tens or hundreds of millions.
The upshot is that, yes, Trump may be an ignorant, unstable, narcissistic nutjob. But the menace of Trump pales in comparison to that of the criminally-insane nuclear command and control system, which is built and maintained by thousands of individually sane people, and tolerated by 300 million seemingly normal Americans.
Dr. Kevin Barrett is a US-based journalist, commentator, and radio broadcaster. He hosts the TruthJihad radio program as well as manages the VeteransToday website.