WASHINGTON: A disruptive leader disrupts. Large and fast disruptions of the global order rarely portend happier times and that would seem to be the case as the first week of the Trump Administration comes to an end.
“For the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board has moved the hands of the iconic clock 30 seconds closer to midnight,” the organization announced today.
The Scientific Bulletin‘s board issued this clarion call: “It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.” (Their emphasis.)
The Doomsday Clock was a staple of the Cold War and was generally regarded as a useful barometer of global affairs. Since the end of the Cold War, The Bulletin’s science and security board noted that “world leaders have failed to come to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change. Disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons made by Donald Trump, as well as the expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change by both Trump and several of his cabinet appointees, affected the Board’s decision, as did the emergence of strident nationalism worldwide.”
The clock was moved forward 30 seconds instead of a full minute, which dthe statement says, “reflects a simple reality: As this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the US president only a matter of days. Many of his cabinet nominations are not yet confirmed by the Senate or installed in government, and he has had little time to take official action. Just the same, words matter, and President Trump has had plenty to say over the last year.”
The Doomsday scientists are not alone in expressing concerns about the current global state. The Pope, leader of the Catholic Church, issued a clarion call to the faithful, warning that populism could lead to the election of “saviours” like Adolf Hitler.
Al Jazeera did the best job of summarising Pope Francis’s Sunday comments:
“In an hour-long interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, conducted as Donald Trump was being sworn in as US president, the pontiff also condemned the idea of using walls and barbed wire to keep out foreigners, among them refugees and migrants.” The Pope made clear he was warning about Trump, among others. “Hitler did not steal power,” the pope said in the interview. “He was elected by his people and then he destroyed his people.”
The Germans also wanted to protect themselves with “walls and barbed wire so that others cannot take away their identity,” he said. However, the Pope gave Trump time to prove him wrong. “Let’s see. Let’s see what he does and then we will evaluate,” he said.
Meanwhile, the uncertain course of the new Trump administration continued to wend its way, with President Trump saying in an interview with ABC News that he believed torture is effective, while most of the senior leadership of the Republican Party reminded the president that torture is against American law, thanks to the actions of one of the few members to have been tortured, Sen. John McCain.
Trump also said he would leave the decisions about whether to use torture to Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has already told Trump that torture does not work, and to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who told senators he would “absolutely not” use so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. So we are left with the presumption the US won’t torture anyone, but with the threat still hanging over anyone captured by the US.
And then, of course, there was today’s decision by Mexico’s president to cancel his planned Tuesday visit to meet President Trump after he insisted in his ABC interview that Mexico would pay for the wall to separate the two countries. Cost estimates for the wall range up to $15 billion. And, of course, Mexico’s president said his country would not pay for the wall.
However, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May did come to America today to meet with Trump and other officials, hoping the US would fast-track some sort of good bilateral trade deal to help her country cope with its withdrawal from he European Union, known as Brexit. Even May, however, warned Trump against torturing anyone. On her flight to US, she said: “We condemn torture and my view on that won’t change — whether I am talking to you (reporters) or talking to the president.”