US leaders were so scared President Donald Trump would launch a war against China earlier this year that they changed the nuclear launch code protocol, it was revealed today. General Mark Milley altered the system and then phoned a top general at the People’s Liberation Army to assure him that China need not fear an attack.
The shocking events happened in the chaotic few days following the riots and break-in at the US Capitol on January 6, according to a Washington Post report today.
How it started: On January 8, while there was continuing uproar around the country, and Trump was insisting he would remain President for the following term, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called General Milley with an urgent question.
“What precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or from accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike?” she asked, adding: “He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. … He’s crazy and what he did yesterday is further evidence of his craziness.”
“I agree with you on everything,” Milley replied.
Milley then changed the weapons protocol so that Trump could not launch a military strike or nuclear attack without his approval. The officer instructed those in charge of the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s war room, not to take orders from anyone without his involvement.
“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” he said, looking each officer in the eye and asked them to confirm that they would follow his instructions.
Satisfied that Trump could not launch an attack, Milley then phoned General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army. The US officer knew his Chinese counterpart well, having phoned him nine weeks earlier, also to warn him that the United States was not about to start a war with China: “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years,” he said. “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
On this occasion, January 8, Milley again assured the Chinese general that America was not about to attack, despite the fact that the country appeared to be in chaos, with thousands of troops on the streets of Washington DC.
“We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes,” he told the Chinese army leader.
The revelations are contained in Peril, a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, previewed in the Washington Post today.
A furious Donald Trump this morning replied, saying: “For the record, I never even thought of attacking China,” and demanding that Milley be fired for “treason”.
Link: A detailed CNN review of the revelations in the book is here.
Image at the top by Gage Skidmore; CC licence