Could Trump’s threat to “totally destroy North Korea” launch a war crime?

What more needs to be said, by anyone, about potential, world-wide Trump disruption?


Does Trump’s over-the-top UN threat to “totally destroy North Korea” smack of conspiracy to commit a war crime, if not genocide? If  “destroy” was not menacing enough, then “totally” makes it clear the target is now an entire country. What about the 25 million living, breathing (underfed) North Koreans with nothing to do with nukes?

Note, Trump’s zero nuance bluster was not strictly confined to the main event, North Korea’s nuclear capacity, nor its missiles, armed forces or military posts. Is not the message from Trump’s incendiary rhetoric the demand that North Korea unilaterally abandon its nuclear development or face national annihilation?

Consider: this was a carefully-vetted, formal speech to the world.  And yet Trump imagines some absolute (even pre-emptive) U.S. right to “totally” destroy an entire country? By what authority, moral or legal? Worse still, Trump’s war-mongering was not clearly wired to self-defense, leaving obscure what constitutes a direct attack on us or allies.  Trump is revving up “hard power” rhetoric –and massive militarism – because another pugnacious leader fires off practice missiles and bellows with Trump-like belligerence.

You’d think Trump, a shoe-in to win Olympic gold for laughably indefensible misdirection, would admire another blowhard who matches his trashy braggadocio. So our “lying ‘carnage’ man” faces off against their “rocket man.” When has American Exceptionalism looked more reckless to multitudes across the global court of opinion? Trump claims to honor national sovereignty while missing the contradiction: obvious North Korea bluffs don’t justify threatening the existence of another nation. If the total destruction threats are simply typical Trump overstatement, who then appears the weakling in this shootout of loudmouths?

Carnage looms

Any such “total” assaults would surely trigger massive corollary damage in South Korea or Japan. The collective, rational mind – and western morality – boggles. The unspeakable by definition comes with equally dire, unknowable, unintended consequences beyond any belligerent’s control. Following along, Trump harshly dissed the Iran nuclear agreement and continued to talk Yankee-driven regime change in Venezuela! This is a mindset, not a random tactical projection.

Whether such aggressive saber-rattling is merely unhinged, whether imprudently bellicose or not, whether good or bad military policy, the world now has clear evidence that should disqualify this illegitimate president, especially one commanding unmatched  firepower. Will U.S. House members add this infamy to mounting evidence of obstruction of justice and Russian campaign collusion? We can only hope Trump’s latest, international criminal conspiracy, which violates our own laws plus international agreements, drums up impeachment talk. Manifest unfitness in our history never arrived with so much public proof.

War crimes? Genocide?

For the record, war crimes, per widespread definitions (here from Wikipedia), are “committed against an enemy, prisoners of war, or subjects in wartime that violate international agreements or, as in the case of genocide, are offenses against humanity.”  Further, war crimes in legal terms are “acts that violate the international laws, treaties, customs, and practices governing military conflict between belligerent states or parties.”

Genocide is the “the crime of destroying or conspiring to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” In 1988, the United States passed the Genocide Implementation Act, specifying a new federal offense “that prohibits the commission of acts with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group; and to provide adequate penalties for such acts.” Do penalties fit intentions (as in a conspiracy) or only after the fact calamities?

Historical precedents: the Nazi Holocaust murder of 12 million non-combatants, but also 1) estimated 90 million deaths caused by European invasions against Native American tribes from violence and disease; 2) the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks during and after World War I; 3) the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge (Cambodia) in the late 1970’s; 4) the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians during the Vietnam War; 5) the 1990’s deaths from “ethnic cleansing” of 20,000 Christian Orthodox Serbs, Muslims, and Roman Catholic Croats; 6) and 1990’s killing of one million Rwandan civilians during Hutu and Tutsi warfare. Plus, estimates of civilian Iraqis killed thanks to U.S. warfare there – over one million men, women and children.

Words associated with genocide: annihilation, bloodbath, butchery, carnage, decimation, extermination, liquidation, mass destruction, mass execution, mass extermination, mass murder, mass slaying, slaughter, wholesale murder.

“Carnage,” again. What more needs to be said, by anyone, about potential, world-wide Trump disruption?


If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.

Previous articleIf you don’t have good health care, neither should your rep
Next articleHow to reverse inequality in 4 not-so-easy steps
For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.