The Trump administration is making war preparations in earnest, and nobody seems to be batting an eye.
This weekend, President Trump quietly put the nation’s B-52 bomber squad — which is used to carry nuclear weapons — back on 24-hour alert, which hasn’t been done since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. With the new order, America’s nuclear warheads can be quickly and easily deployed from the bombers, which will be camped out on presumably near the Korean Peninsula.
The order putting B-52 bombers on alert comes on the heels of a scantily reported executive order issued Friday evening amending former President George W. Bush’s executive order calling a national emergency in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. In Trump’s amended version, the national emergency declaration was invoked in order to remove the 25-officer cap on the number of retired officers who can be called back into active duty for any branch of the U.S. military at a moment’s notice. While the reason is ostensibly to address the pilot shortage in the U.S. air force, USA Today noted that the order can be universally applied to all branches of the military:
President Trump became the third president to renew the post-9/11 state of national emergency, which allows the president to call up the national guard, hire and fire officers and delay retirements.
Those extraordinary powers were supposed to be temporary. But even after 16 years, there’s been no congressional oversight of the emergency.
New Hampshire state representative Tim Smith (D-Manchester) pointed out in a Facebook post that the order could be used to call as many as six sitting Democratic members of the U.S. Senate back into active duty (and many more Democrats in the House of Representatives), forcing them to resign from their positions and prompt a special election in their respective states and districts.
This could feasibly allow Republicans to widen their majority and pass legislation without hindrance from their opposition. While there are also veterans serving in both the U.S. House and Senate who are Republicans, Trump, as commander-in-chief, would have final say in which former officers are called back into active duty service and which will remain civilians.
“Go ahead, call me a conspiracy nut. Tell me that a move like that is “beyond even Trump”, and remember you said so a few months from now,” Rep. Smith wrote.
Of course, it’s also important to mention that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether or not President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian intelligence operatives to win the 2016 election, and whether or not the president obstructed justice in firing former FBI Director James Comey is continuing to develop. Last month, Mueller’s team told Paul Manafort — who chaired Trump’s campaign through the Republican National Convention — to expect an indictment following the FBI’s no-knock raid on Manafort’s home in August.
Beyond Mueller’s investigations of Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Vanity Fair reported in September that Mueller’s investigation is zeroing in on the president himself, seeking documents relating to Trump’s firing of Comey and the official White House meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Lavrov immediately after Comey was fired.
As Grit Post previously reported, war can substantially improve a president’s approval rating. George W. Bush saw his poll numbers skyrocket following the initial bombing of Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and again following the initial bombing and invasion of Baghdad in March of 2003. President Trump’s current approval rating of 35 percent is just one point above his all-time polling low of 34 percent, according to Gallup.
The low numbers are likely due to the president’s handling of hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, where approximately 80 percent of the territory’s residents are still without power. Just nine months into the Trump presidency, 60 percent of Americans now say he will already be remembered as either one of the worst presidents in American history or below average compared to past administrations, according to a new national Marist poll.
Given Trump’s worsening image problems, the executive order allowing for the recall of retired military officers and subsequent order putting B-52 bombers back on 24-hour alert status could conceivably be seen as a means of preparation for war — not to avenge America from any recent terrorist attack, but to simply shift the public’s eye away from his flagging presidency.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.