By Robert Burns and Richard Lardner | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A retired Air Force general told the Senate on Tuesday that an order from President Donald Trump or any of his successors to launch nuclear weapons can be refused by the top officer at U.S. Strategic Command if that order is determined to be illegal.

During testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, retired Gen. Robert Kehler said the U.S. armed forces are obligated to follow legal orders, not illegal ones. Kehler, who served as the head of Strategic Command from January 2011 to November 2013, said the legal principles of military necessity, distinction and proportionality also apply to decisions about nuclear weapons use. The command would control nuclear forces in a war.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the committee’s top ranking Democrat, asked Kehler if that means Strategic Command can deny the president’s order if it fails the test of proportionality and legality.

“Yes,” Kehler responded, adding such a situation would lead to a “very difficult conversation.” It might prompt a president to put a new general in charge to carry out his order, said Brian McKeon, a former acting undersecretary of defense for policy during the Obama administration, who testified alongside Kehler.

The hearing comes as the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea remains a serious concern. Trump’s taunting tweets aimed at Pyongyang have sparked concerns primarily among congressional Democrats that he may be inciting a war with North Korea.

“Let me pull back the cover for a minute from this hearing,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a consistently vocal critic of Trump. “We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is quixotic, that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests.”
But if a president’s order to fire nuclear weapons, even pre-emptively, is determined to be sound and legal, there’s no one who can stop him.

Not the Congress. Not his secretary of defense. And by design, not the military officers who would be duty-bound to execute the order.

As Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer and a co-founder of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, has put it: “The protocol for ordering the use of nuclear weapons endows every president with civilization-ending power.” Trump, he wrote in a Washington Post commentary last summer, “has …read more

Source:: East Bay – National & World

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Retired general: Nuclear launch order can be refused

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