Behind the Madness of Trump’s Threats of “Fire and Fury” in Korea

August 10, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


Donald Trump’s threat to attack North Korea with “fire and fury and ... power the likes of which this world has never seen before” put the world in the crosshairs of nuclear war. As we wrote immediately after these threats, “This is another level of brutality, bellicosity and insanity even for Trump. The danger we face cannot be overstated: this fascist president has now potentially put the very future of humanity in question.”

Trump’s threat poured gasoline on a conflict that has already brought almost unimaginable suffering and death to the Korean Peninsula. In the Korean War, 1950-1952, the U.S. carpet bombed North Korea, destroying every building over two stories high, and massacred three to five million people, some 30 percent of the people in that country. After the war was fought to a stalemate, the U.S.-installed puppet regime in South Korea imposed brutal fascist repression for decades. And the U.S. has never recognized the North Korean regime as legitimate, and has armed the South Korean regime with cutting-edge missiles and a huge army geared to invade the North. The U.S. has over 20,000 U.S. troops stationed on the border of North and South Korea.

Trump’s incendiary threat came on top of vicious UN sanctions aimed at imposing widespread hardship and crippling the regime (see sidebar). And it came after threats by U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on August 5 that the U.S. might launch a “preventative war” against North Korea. By “preventative” McMaster literally means that the U.S. would strike first—launching an unprovoked war, which would be a violation of every basic tenet of international law. Plus, the U.S. and South Korea are conducting extremely provocative “war games” simulating a war with North Korea.

Who Is Threatening Whom? And Why...

The North Korean regime is not socialist or revolutionary, it is exploitative and repressive. But it is a problem for the rulers of the U.S. empire, who face a world of crises and challenges from many quarters. North Korea’s rulers have defied U.S. threats, and 15 years after George Bush put that regime on the “Axis of Evil” list (with Iraq and Iran), the North Korean regime is still intact. The U.S. ruling class sees this as unacceptable, especially as the position of U.S. imperialism as the world’s sole superpower is being challenged by forces ranging from fundamentalist Islamic Jihad, to regional powers flexing their muscles as they perceive weakness in the U.S. empire, to rising rivals like Russia and China (with whom North Korea is aligned).

All this is unacceptable to the U.S. ruling class as a whole, and every administration has tried to weaken, isolate, and oust the North Korean regime. But Trump, as a fascist, cannot accept any other power that directly challenges U.S. power. A Trump surrogate told Fox News, “He’s saying don’t test America and don’t test Donald J. Trump... We are not just the superpower. We were a superpower, we are now a hyperpower. Nobody in the world, especially not North Korea, comes close to challenging our military capabilities.”

North Korea has repeatedly made clear, and even U.S. ruling class experts generally acknowledge, that its nuclear program is not aimed at a first strike (which wouldn’t make sense, given its very limited capacity compared to the thousands of nukes the U.S. has). As we wrote recently, “If North Korea is not going to launch a ‘first strike,’ then why does it pose such a ‘threat’ and why are its actions ‘dangerous’ or “‘provocative’? The only logical answer is that the development of nuclear weapons and missiles could serve precisely as a deterrent, and render North Korea less vulnerable to bullying, and possible aggressive military actions, by the U.S. and its allies. So, in reality, the Trump/Pence regime, now at the helm of U.S. imperialism, is threatening and taking actions that could lead to a major—possibly nuclear—war, because an adversary is doing things that might make it less vulnerable to bullying and aggression by these imperialists!!

Nuclear weapons are inherently weapons of mass destruction, which no one should have. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, a blueprint for a society aimed at ending all exploitation and oppression, insists that the new revolutionary society will not possess and will not use the nuclear weapons, and will lead a struggle around the world to bar them completely. But the completely outrageous position of the U.S. imperialists is that they should have enough nukes to destroy the world ten times over, but if any country they don’t like tries to even acquire them, then the U.S. is permitted to threaten and perhaps carry out a nuclear attack on them.

The Madness Behind the Madness

An outright U.S. military attack on North Korea would kill many people in that country and almost certainly result in a counter-attack by the regime that would kill tens of thousands of people in South Korea right away (and very possibly thousands of U.S. troops stationed there as well). Further, the possibility of a nuclear response from North Korea would be horrific in its own right, but it might also set in motion a dynamic that could draw in China or Russia and spiral to the point of a larger nuclear war that puts the very future of humanity in question. For that reason, mainstream U.S. ruling class military doctrine has been to attempt to use crippling sanctions, economic and diplomatic isolation, sabotage, and constant military threats to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear program—going to the brink of, but not crossing the line of all-out war. The concern of the U.S. rulers has not been the fate of humanity, but the danger that an attack on North Korea could trigger extreme and unpredictable consequences for their system.

With his bellicose threat, Trump tossed a grenade into that. However conscious or unconscious Trump himself is of what his threat represents, there is a logic to the madness. This is the monster who repeatedly asked a foreign affairs expert: If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them? In the eyes of the Trumpite fascists, making America “great again” means—as Trump declared repeatedly during the campaign—having “our” enemies fear us.

The logic of that logic leads to the madness of pushing humanity to the brink of a horrific war that could spiral into unimaginable death and destruction, either through conscious decision, accident, or unexpected chains of events.


This Nightmare Must Be Stopped—by the People

The tremendous uncertainties involved in a U.S. attack on or war with North Korea, with the possibility things could spiral way out of control of the U.S., has provoked debate and conflict within the ruling class, and even among Trump’s inner circle. The New York Times reported that Steve Bannon—Trump’s chief strategist and a hardcore fascist—is arguing the real challenge to the U.S. is China, and that too much focus is being put on the clash with North Korea. But for all the criticisms and demurrals from the Democrats, and reservations on the part of some of the key players in the regime, there is right now no force within the ruling class that is going to stop Trump. Democrats, and possibly some Republicans who have serious reservations about the risks Trump is taking, have more fear of where the upheaval involved in stopping Trump might lead than they do of the path he’s headed down. And, absent a major upsurge of protest and resistance from the people, the U.S. ruling class as a whole will almost certainly put aside any differences to close ranks and rally around Trump in any conflict with Korea.  

On the other hand, should there be a powerful upsurge from below, demanding that in the interests of humanity this nuclear roulette STOP and the WHOLE REGIME BE DRIVEN OUT, then that upsurge could interact with contradictions and conflicts in the ruling class in ways that create opportunities to actually drive out the regime.

People must act to stop this regime now! By exposing and protesting moves to war. And most importantly, coming together around the call from Refuse Fascism, starting November 4: In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America! This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must GO.

Beyond that, the whole system that spawned this fascist regime needs to be overthrown at the soonest possible time. And from many perspectives, there is a need to break out of starting from the interests of the “USA” in any shape or form.

As Bob Avakian puts it in BAsics:

The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.
   —BAsics 3:8


Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.