After anxiously and incessantly angling for a hardcore neoconservative to take the Republican presidential nomination, the Washington Post’s online blogger Jennifer Rubin has made the long journey home. Rebuffed by Republican voters who selected Donald Trump as their candidate, Rubin’s gunpowder breath is now desperately seeking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s ear.
Her message? This damned Iran deal is improving US/Iran relations and that is completely intolerable. “Hillary: Please bomb something over there,” Rubin screeches, in her latest installment of the neocon chronicles.
Why is Rubin so hot and bothered? Well, Secretary of State John Kerry has dared to encourage some business investment in Iran after the nuclear deal has begun paying dividends in more stable relations. Doing business is always preferable to sanctions and blockades because it makes war less likely. Each side has too much to lose when there are economic interests at stake so each side will act with more caution. As when a Chinese incident with a US spy plane led the damaged US plane to land in China, yet both sides realized that economic relations were sufficiently important that the potentially volatile situation needed to be carefully walked back from the brink of conflict.
War kills economic opportunities for the average people on both sides, but it also produces unique financial opportunities for the specially connected. Like the people around Jennifer Rubin.
Rubin is given a little corner of Washington’s “paper of record,” but she is either so ill-formed when it comes to the basic situation in Syria that one wonders why she has such a platform when surely there are plenty of better-informed high school students who could fill the slot… or she is purposely obfuscating from her little perch in which case the Washington Post is a witting party to her deception.
For example she writes this:
This week we have also learned that as many as 100,000 Iranian-backed militia members are fighting in Iraq…
But she does not inform her readers that these Iranian militia members are in fact fighting ISIS in Iraq. In other words, they are helping us defeat our sworn enemy. While Washington is pained to admit it, even John Kerry said not long ago that having so many additional fighters taking on ISIS in Iraq is “helpful” to America’s efforts to defeat ISIS.
Rubin would clearly prefer an ISIS victory to accepting the assistance of an Iran that also views the establishment of an anti-Iranian jihadist Caliphate in its backyard an existential threat.
Again Rubin plays fast and loose with the truth when she writes:
Russia is expanding its alliance with Iran and influence in Syria in unprecedented ways. Russian planes are now taking off directly from Iran to bomb Syrian targets…
What she does not tell us once again is that those Russian planes are bombing ISIS and al-Qaeda (those guys who attacked us on 9/11). Does anyone else wonder why she objects to the Russians bombing ISIS and al-Qaeda? Particularly as the US seems to be letting them get away at every possible opportunity.
What is to be done, in the mind of Rubin?
[R]ather than pleading with Russia, we can make clear that we will be establishing a new policy of direct action against the Assad regime, including establishment of safe havens. Vladimir Putin has had a risk-free policy of aggression up to now; that should change.
So, Rubin would have the US attack a Syrian government that has fought for five years against a foreign, radical jihadist insurgency and directly confront a Russia that has the same enemy in the process.
Who’s side is she on? Ours or the terrorists’?
Evidently we can partner with Stalin to defeat Hitler but we dare not partner with Putin to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda. The neocons are clearly high on their own vapors. Rubin is first in line for neocon bong hits.
The US military has withdrawn from Saudi Arabia its personnel who were coordinating with the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, and sharply reduced the number of staff elsewhere who were assisting in that planning, US officials told Reuters.
Fewer than five US service people are now assigned full-time to the “Joint Combined Planning Cell,” which was established last year to coordinate U.S. support, including air-to-air refueling of coalition jets and limited intelligence-sharing, Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey, a US Navy spokesman in Bahrain, told Reuters.
That is down from a peak of about 45 staff members who were dedicated to the effort full-time in Riyadh and elsewhere, he said.
The June staff withdrawal, which US officials say followed a lull in air strikes in Yemen earlier this year, reduces Washington’s day-to-day involvement in advising a campaign that has come under increasing scrutiny for causing civilian casualties.
A Pentagon statement issued after Reuters disclosed the withdrawal acknowledged that the JCPC, as originally conceived, had been “largely shelved” and that ongoing support was limited, despite renewed fighting this summer.
“The cooperation that we’ve extended to Saudi Arabia since the conflict escalated again is modest and it is not a blank check,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said in a statement.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the reduced staffing was not due to the growing international outcry over civilian casualties in the 16-month civil war that has killed more than 6,500 people in Yemen, about half of them civilians.
But the Pentagon, in some of its strongest language yet, also acknowledged concerns about the conflict, which has brought Yemen close to famine and cost more than $14 billion in damage to infrastructure and economic losses.
“Even as we assist the Saudis regarding their territorial integrity, it does not mean that we will refrain from expressing our concern about the war in Yemen and how it has been waged,” Stump said.
“In our discussions with the Saudi-led coalition, we have pressed the need to minimize civilian casualties.”
Riyadh Plays down Move
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, declined to confirm details about the positioning of US military personnel, but played down such moves.
“The relationship between the kingdom and the US is a strategic one. If true, this move reflects something at a tactical level,” Asseri told Reuters.
“The US may move its assets, but that doesn’t have any impact on the bilateral relationship between the countries.”
Since the campaign began, the US military has conducted an average of two refueling sorties every day and provided limited intelligence support to the coalition. That assistance continues, Reuters cited officials as saying.
A US Senator slammed his country’s administration over bombing civilians in Yemen, warning that Washington’s support for Riyadh’s war would have consequence for US national security.
The Saudis are the ones dropping the bombs, but “there’s an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday.
“If you talk to Yemenis, they will tell you, this is not perceived to be a Saudi bombing campaign. This is perceived to be a US bombing campaign. What’s happening is that we are helping to radicalize the Yemeni population against the United States.” Murphy called that “terrible for us right now.”
A Saudi air strike on Tuesday hit a hospital in Yemen, killing 19 people. The US-supported Saudi air campaign against Yemen began in March 2015.
Rights groups and UN agencies say around 9,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The fighting has intensified since peace talks in Kuwait collapsed earlier this month.
Murphy said the Saudis couldn’t fight the war without US help: “It’s our munitions, sold to the Saudis; it’s our planes that are refueling the Saudi jets; and it’s our intelligence that is helping the Saudis (with) their targeting.”
“We have made a decision to go to war in Yemen against a Houthi rebel army that poses no existential threat to the United States,” Murphy said referring to Ansarullah revolutionaries who are known as Houthis.
“It’s really wild to me that we’re not talking more about this in the United States because of the very high level of US involvement in the civil war and the consequences to US national security.”
Murphy noted that the US Congress has not authorized President Obama to “conduct this operation in Yemen.”
He also noted that the target in Yemen is not al Qaeda, the group mentioned in the 2001 war authorization. He called it “another example of a war being conducted by this administration without prior approval by Congress and therefore by the American public.”
The US-led coalition scrambled planes near the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah, after Syrian SU-24 airplanes dropped bombs “dangerously near” the US Special Forces operators embedded with the Kurdish YPG militia in the area.
Two Syrian Su-24 jets struck Kurdish positions in and near Hasakah, in northeastern Syria, on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.
The strike came close to US Special Forces operators, who were embedded with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprised of the Kurdish YPG and local Arab militias.
By the time the US jets arrived, the Syrian bombers had already departed. No Americans were wounded in the bombing, according to Davis. The Special Forces were ordered to retreat from the area as a precaution.
When the strikes began, the “coalition forces on the ground” tried reaching the Syrian jets on a common radio frequency, but received no response, Davis added. US forces then reached out to the Russian military, using a previously established channel, and the Russians confirmed their aircraft were not involved.
The Americans made it clear that the US would “take whatever action is necessary” to defend the special operators on the ground, Davis said.
The US has increased air patrols in the area, Davis said.
Local media report that the fighting in Hasakah broke out earlier this week between the pro-government National Defense Forces (NDF) militia and the Kurdish forces, with the Syrian Army role limited to 10 airstrikes against the Kurds.
In a statement, the Syrian Army said it “responded appropriately” to the attempt by Kurdish militias to take over the city.
The US-backed SDF was set up in October 2015, as a proxy force against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). The militia recently succeeded in ousting IS from Manbij, a strategic city in northern Syria near the Turkish border.
While the Russian aerospace forces have been invited by the government in Damascus, the presence of US forces in Syria is not authorized under international law.
Joe Scarborough this morning on MSNBC was inveighing against the “ransom” the U.S. supposedly paid to Tehran in return for the release of U.S. prisoners (“hostages”) in Iran. Two other talking heads also used that term “ransom” matter-of-factly to describe what happened while acknowledging that the money had been owed to Iran by the U.S. since the days of the Shah. Just more knee-jerk anti-Iran, anti-nuclear agreement rhetoric.
Then Joe turned to Syria, bemoaning the U.S. “silence” and lack of action to end the carnage, absolutely ignoring the fact that the U.S. has repeatedly tried and failed to recruit and train Syrian allies to fight the regime, is bankrolling rebel groups, and has provided them with arms that have wound up in the hands of al-Nusra and ISIL. He acts as though further U.S. action in Syria (which he imagines the world cries out for, from this last best hope of mankind) would produce better results than it did in Iraq or Libya. It is frightening to see the mainstream media line up with the 51 State Department “dissidents” and Hillary on Syria, while it continues to promote crude anti-Russian and anti-Iranian propaganda.
The representation of Russia as an “existential threat” to the U.S. is preposterous fantasy. Just like the depiction of Iran as a nuclear threat is preposterous, and the notion that Bashar al-Assad’s secular government in Syria is the cause for the emergence of ISIL is sheer delusion.
Russia with 12% the U.S. military budget has military bases in precisely 8 foreign countries: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan (all nations bordering Russia, and former soviet socialist republics) plus Syria and Vietnam. Its only foreign naval facilities are in the latter two countries. The Sevastopol base in Crimea used to be on Ukrainian territory, but Russia has of course annexed the Crimean Peninisula to ensure continued control of the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet.
The U.S. in contrast has over 650 military bases abroad, and five naval bases on the Mediterranean coast alone, in Spain, Italy and Greece. There are 10,000 sailors stationed at NSA Naples. In that same region the Russians have only their resupply station in Tartus, Syria operative by treaty since 1971, typically with a tiny garrison.
The Russian air force base in Latakia, Syria is a modest operation, incapable of supporting those Tupolev-22M3 long-range bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used to bomb ISIL and al-Nusra targets a few days ago in Aleppo and elsewhere. Those took off instead from Sahid Nojeh air base near Hamadan, Iran, causing some Pentagon concern and (false) accusations that the mission somehow violated a UNSC resolution about arming Iran. Moscow is boasting of mission success. (Morning Joe’s upset about that true.)
Russian forces have already done more damage to ISIL, dismissed in January 2014 by President Obama as a minor problem, than the U.S. The U.S. started its bombing of ISIL months before the Russians but Russian strikes have turned the tide of battle in Syria.
One is struck simultaneously with Russia’s relative weakness vis-a-vis the hyperpower, and its creativity in reacting belatedly (just since September 2015) to the U.S.-orchestrated destruction of the Middle East.
Moscow is well aware that pro-Hillary forces in the State Department are rallying in favor of short-term, Libya-like regime change in Syria. But everybody knows there will be no UN fig leaf this time, as there was in 2011. Russia, (and as looks likely, China also) active in the Syrian skies will not accept a “no-fly zone” unilaterally proclaimed by the Exceptional Nation, restricting a sovereign government’s right to deploy aircraft in its own air space.
Moscow has basically carved out a coalition against regime change in Syria, united in abhorrence of ISIL and al-Nusra (now Fateh al-Sham) but pledged to the defense of the existing secular Syrian state and specifically to support for its professional, mostly Sunni and Sunni-led army. The pro-Assad forces now include the Syrian Arab Army and assorted militia, Lebanese Hizbollah fighters, Iraqi Shiite militia fighters, Russia, and Iran. India has repeatedly offered support for the government, and China has just vowed to provide aid and military training.
The Kill Assad Now Coalition on the other hand consists of the Hillary wing of the U.S. State Department, absolute monarchs of Gulf nations where Sharia is the law, and some NATO allies including Turkey. They want to prioritize the destruction of the Assad regime over the destruction of terror groups in Syria. But Turkey’s president Erdogan is reconsidering his foreign relations generally. After the recent coup attempt in which he believes the U.S. was complicit he has met with Putin in Moscow and mended relations strained by the Turkish shooting down of a Russian fighter plane over Syria last November.
Turkey’s foreign minister has intimated that a normalization of relations with Syria is also in the cards. Especially if Turkey shifts (perhaps in return for Russian help in preventing the establishment of a Syrian Kurdistan), it might become well nigh impossible for Hillary to bomb Assad out of power.
Unless of course she wanted to show how strong she is and start World War III. That could be even worse than a Trump presidency, arguably, don’t you think?
We’ve all heard the sophism by now: those on the left who refuse to cast a ballot for H.R. Clinton this November need to “check their privilege,” for it is this privilege that precludes the specter of President Trump from keeping them awake at night. In other words, since the Never Hillary camp is mostly white (like every other voting bloc in the US), they need not worry about being persecuted by the nativism and bigotry enabling Donald Trump’s success.
“A Trump presidency,” writes Quiana Fulton for the Inquisitr, “will likely have no impact on white folks’ lives, but for minorities, well, we don’t have the luxury of being ‘Bernie or Bust’ supporters. Our lives are in peril this election cycle.”
Elsewhere, Melissa Hillman puts it into interrogative form: “How privileged do you need to be to imagine that it’s a good idea to risk the actual lives of vulnerable Americans because you ‘hate’ Clinton so much that you vow to stay home if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination?”
And writing for Pajiba, Dustin Rowles asserts that “this whole Bernie or Bust movement is the self-serving, entitled bullshit of people who won’t have to worry about a Trump election because they’re not black, or Muslim, or a woman.”
The game of moral blackmail is a dubious one, but when in Rome….
One notes that the forgoing authors all fail to mention, or perhaps acknowledge, how convenient it is not to have to fear being maimed or killed by shrapnel from an American-made bomb; a privilege all of us, irrespective of gender, race or religion, share equally. Moreover, I’m not aware of an American citizen whose home is liable to be bulldozed to the ground by an occupying army so as to make room for more colonial settlements.
It’s a matter of truncated empathy, it would seem, or else plain racism. A world exists beyond the United States, and other human beings inhabit it. Millions of them—mostly brown people; Muslims—are currently living with and dying from the grisly consequences of American military aggression, of which the moral blackmailers’ favored candidate is very fond. Millions more live and die under the yoke of Zionist brutality, of which the moral blackmailers’ favored candidate is perhaps even fonder.
Not everyone is indifferent to the suffering endured by those unfortunate enough to be born into a region the American Empire saw fit to mutilate. It hardly needs to be said that those of us who aren’t cannot in good conscience bring ourselves to vote for a candidate who counts among her personal mentors a notorious war criminal, and who promises to invite Israel’s prime minister to the White House in her first month in office.
Privilege has precisely nothing to do with it; anyone who says otherwise is either intellectually dishonest or intellectually challenged.
One inevitably wonders whether those With Her who demand that we “check our privilege” have ever bothered to consider the extent of their own, particularly in relation to the people who actually have none at all. If they’ve indeed done so, they evidently don’t want us to know, preferring to come across as moral hypocrites.
At least 25 people, including two children, have been killed in the latest Saudi military airstrikes against residential neighborhoods in Yemen.
Saudi fighter jets struck a vehicle on Tuesday morning as it was traveling along a road in the Abs district of the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah, leaving five people dead, Arabic-language Yemen al-Yawm television reported.
A clergyman, identified as Sheikh Matroud Saleh al-Soufi, was reportedly among the deceased.
The airstrike came less than a day after a Saudi airstrike hit a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the same Yemeni district, killing at least 25 people.
The medical charity said another 20 people were also injured in the attack.
MSF spokeswoman Malak Shaher said the Geneva-based international humanitarian-aid organization has had a team at the Abs public hospital since 2015.
Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement strongly condemned the aerial attack, saying it was carried out in flagrant violation of a ceasefire agreement, which took hold at midnight on April 10.
Also on Tuesday, Saudi jets pounded residential buildings in Bani al-Harith district north of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, leaving two women and two children dead.
Some 17 people were also injured in the Saudi airstrikes against Bani al-Harith.
Sixteen other Yemeni civilians were killed in attacks on a village near the capital, where some nine others were also wounded.
International concerns are rising over the intensification of the Saudi war on Yemen ever since United Nations (UN)-brokered peace talks in Kuwait between representatives of the former government and the Houthi Ansarullah movement failed to make a breakthrough and were suspended on August 6.
Yemen has been under Saudi military strikes since late March 2015. The war was launched in a bid to undermine the Ansarullah movement and to reinstate Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who has stepped down as Yemen’s president but is now seeking to grab power by force.
America the inexorable
I had the misfortune of watching a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. For those who are not familiar with the show, it is an HBO weekly one hour long feeding frenzy consisting of a series of rapid fire overwhelmingly progressive half-truths cheered relentlessly by a select audience that is constantly engaged in hooting and jeering while giving the pollice verso to any designated victim who finds himself targeted by a smug Maher. The episode I saw was filmed on July 29th, shortly after the conclusion of the Democratic convention. Guests included Matt Welch of Reason magazine, Alex Wagner of The Atlantic, Professor Cornel West and former Congressman from Massachusetts gay activist Barney Franks. The episode can be seen on HBO on demand for those who have that service and bits of it are also available on YouTube.
Openly expressed hatred of Donald Trump by a mainstream media that has de facto become part of the Hillary Clinton campaign is one of the more interesting aspects of the current electoral cycle. One might therefore have expected that the Real Time ridiculing of Trump would be a constant, driven mostly by Maher himself but also picked up on with some alacrity by the others. Even though I knew in advance that the show would be blood sport targeting Trump, I had tuned into the program because I have a great deal of respect for Cornel West who, to me, maintains some of the best traditions of the old and now nearly dead type of liberalism that was such a powerful force in America in the 1950s and 1960s. West is genuinely anti-war and pro-people and not afraid to stick by his guns when confronted by the powerful, metaphorically speaking. He recently went to bat for the Palestinians while serving on the Democratic platform committee and on the Maher program dared to mention the repression taking place on the West Bank, which produced a stone faced response from the progressive-except-for-Israel Maher.
To his credit West, when asked his opinion of Hillary Clinton, opined that she had vast experience in government but is completely lacking in integrity, an assessment that was poorly received by Maher, who had spent the early part of the show eulogizing the Democratic candidate. So to hear what else West had to say I put up with Franks’ blathering and Maher’s invective as well as the occasional interjections by Welch and Wagner, who played secondary roles in the proceedings.
Inured to hearing a load of old codswallop I was nevertheless really blown away by Barney and Maher’s launch into an explanation of something that had occurred at the Democratic National Convention. For those who have not seen it, the July 28th prime time speech by Hillary national security adviser General John Allen is positively Strangelovean, pledging to rid the world of “evil” and declaring that “America is great because America is good.” Reportedly intended to bolster the Dems national security credentials and possibly to welcome into the fold disenchanted neocons, it is as red blooded, American-exceptionalism-laden a presentation as anyone is likely to witness anywhere, replete with a backdrop consisting of a stage full of American flags. It is available online and is highly recommended to anyone who doubts that Hillary and her entourage are as nutty as fruitcakes in their own way, more than eager to assume the mantle of American global military dominance without any hesitation or reservations.
When Welch and Wagner expressed surprise at the Democrats embracing such a chauvinistic display, Franks explained emphatically though somewhat oddly that the speech by Allen and the rhythmic chanting of U-S-A U-S-A by the audience that accompanied it were all due to Donald Trump, who has embraced that vicious thug and “one of the worst men in the world” Vladimir Putin. The highly charged nationalistic Democratic crowd reaction was per Franks both a warning about Trump and a direct challenge to Putin to keep his hands off those wonderful little democracies springing up everywhere in Eastern Europe. Trump’s “encouragement” of Putin, per Franks, has made the United States complicit in Putin’s “brutality” and the Democrats were responding to that challenge.
When Cornel West attempted to object to the militarism implicit in the Allen speech and interject the failed project represented by Libya into the discussion Maher and Franks made sure that everyone understood that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was also a “horrible dictator” and thug who fully deserved to be overthrown and subsequently killed by having a bayonet inserted in his anus. If Hillary Clinton had been present she might have added with a laugh, “We came, we saw, he died.”
So this is what passes for progressive thought on war and peace as seen by the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton, Barney Franks and Bill Maher. I would prefer to describe it as Democratic Party Derangement Syndrome. And, of course, there is a back story to it all that Maher chose to avoid. The chanting of U-S-A was apparently organized by Hillary’s team on the Democratic National Committee, which clearly connived at rigging the nomination process in favor of Clinton before focusing on marginalizing and silencing Bernie Sanders’ supporters at the convention. That the “Bernies” would stage a significant and disruptive demonstration on the convention floor was particularly feared. There were white noise speakers placed inside the hall to make incomprehensible unauthorized chanting while Bernie supporters had their signs taken away from them before entering the venue. It has also been reported that many Bernie delegates coming back to the convention hall on the second day found that their seats had disappeared, being replaced by blocked off reserved seating where no one was actually allowed to sit.
When Allen got well into his speech and his message became clear, Bernie supporters began to chant “No More War.” The technicians running the light and sound for the event immediately followed their instructions and killed the lights and microphones in the area where the chanting was coming from so that the media present around the floor would be unable to film the disruption. Meanwhile Clinton’s team converged and surrounded the Bernie supporters, holding up previously distributed USA signs to block the protesters from camera view while themselves chanting “U-S-A” to drown the dissidents out. By some accounts, Hillary’s people in the hall were supplemented by an organized group of counter-demonstrators who were in this case responding to instructions on what to do if anyone attempted to disrupt the proceedings. If all of that is true it was a shameful episode, reminiscent of what was done to Ron Paul at the 2012 Republican Convention in Charlotte.
And there is also a bit of a back story on retired Marine Corps General John Allen. Allen, one recalls, became mired in the same security investigation regarding the mishandling of classified information that brought down philandering CIA Director and former General David Petraeus. And, ironically, Allen’s own path to an early retirement was the result of an email problem, curiously reminiscent of the issues that have plagued the woman he has so enthusiastically endorsed for President of the United States of America.
Allen reportedly became heavily involved with someone else’s wife, in this case Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. Kelley, an “honorary ambassador” to U.S. Central Command, hosted numerous parties at her waterside mansion for the CENTCOM and U.S. Special Operations Command senior officers, including both Allen and Petraeus. While subsequently serving in Afghanistan as commander in chief, Allen’s many hundreds of “inappropriate emails” to Kelley cost him both his job and his expected nomination to become the commander of U.S. military forces in Europe (EUCOM).
The investigation of Allen’s email contact with Kelley did not result in any formal charges by the military but he was forced to resign his commission in February 2013. Obama subsequently rewarded the feckless Allen with an appointment as Special President Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant in 2014, a position he held until October 2015. He was largely unsuccessful in that role, witnessing on his watch the conquest of much of Syria and Iraq by ISIS. He now has a sinecure position at the Brookings Institution in its Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, and apparently came to Hillary’s attention when he rounded up a group of military retreads who were willing to support her for president.
Bill Maher’s Real Time is certainly real, but it is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with the American media. It has plenty of one-liner joking, laughter and mugging for the camera but is astonishingly light on content and heavy on pretense. In the episode I watched, it largely consisted of saying Donald Trump followed by either a laugh line or an expression of disgust. Serious discussion regarding what Trump is saying about out of control immigration, endless wars in the Middle East and why a reset of relations with Russia is imperative appear to be of no interest.
The Donald Trump candidacy might well be regarded as a joke by many of the punditry but Hillary Clinton is arguably worse in that while The Donald has undeniably said terrible things she has actually been the driving force behind some horrific policies, most notably regarding Libya and Syria. And then there is her persistent dishonesty and readiness to lie to conceal her mendacity. She continues to dissimulate about her emails, saying in a recent interview that “Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails.” That is a lie from top to bottom and one has to wonder why Real Time with Bill Maher doesn’t seem interested in giving a little equal time to that story if only as a brief respite from his incessant pillorying of Donald Trump.
Several years ago, my articles advocating a large hike in the minimum wage caught the attention of James Galbraith, the prominent liberal economist, and we became a little friendly. As president of Economists for Peace and Security, he invited me to speak on those issues at his DC conference in late 2013. And after the presentations, he arranged a meeting with a friend of his, prominent in DC political circles, at which the two of us could present my minimum wage proposals.
While we were waiting for the taxi to take us to that meeting, I heard him quietly discussing a few other matters with a friend standing next to him. Phrases such as “attacking Russia,” “a nuclear first strike,” and “Kennedy and the Joint Chiefs” came to my ears. I can’t recall the exact words, but the conversation stuck in my mind both at the time and on my later flight home that evening, and although I hadn’t mentioned anything, I wondered what remarkable historical facts he had been discussing. His father, the legendary economist John Kenneth Galbraith, had spent decades as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals and was a very influential figure in the Kennedy Administration, so I assumed that he was not merely engaging in casual speculation.
Finally, a week or two later, my curiosity got the better of me, and I dropped him a note, gingerly raising the topic I’d accidentally overheard. I suggested that if he possessed any private information regarding so astonishing a possibility—that the Kennedy Administration might have considered a nuclear first strike against the USSR—perhaps he had a duty to bring the facts to public awareness lest they be lost to history.
He replied that he’d indeed found persuasive evidence that the US military had carefully planned a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, and agreed about the historical importance. But he’d already published an article laying out the case. Twenty years earlier. In The American Prospect, a very respectable though liberal-leaning magazine. So I located a copy on the Internet:
- Did the U.S. Military Plan a Nuclear First Strike for 1963?
Heather A. Purcell and James K. Galbraith, The American Prospect, Fall 1994
I quickly read the article and was stunned. The central document was a Top Secret/Eyes Only summary memo of a July 1961 National Security Council meeting written by Howard Burris, the military aide to then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson, which was afterward deposited in the Johnson Archives and eventually declassified. The discussion focused on the effectiveness of a planned nuclear first strike, suggesting that 1963 would be the optimal date since America’s relative advantage in intercontinental nuclear missiles would be greatest at that point. Galbraith’s student, Heather A. Purcell, had discovered the memo and co-authored the article with him, and as they pointed out, this meeting was held soon after the US military had discovered that the Soviet missile forces were far weaker than previously had been realized, leading to the plans for the proposed attack and also proving that the first strike under discussion could only have been an American one.
This history was quite different from the deterrent-based framework of American nuclear-war strategy that I had always absorbed from reading my textbooks and newspapers.
Obviously no nuclear attack took place, so the plans must have been changed at some point or discarded, and there were various indications that President Kennedy had had important doubts from the very beginning. But the argument made was that at the time, the first strike proposal was taken very seriously by America’s top political and military leadership. Once we accept that idea, other historical puzzles more easily fall into place.
Consider, for example, the massive campaign of “civil defense” that America launched immediately thereafter, leading to the construction of large numbers of fallout shelters throughout the country, including the backyard suburban ones which generated some famous ironic images. Although I’m hardly an expert on nuclear war, the motivation had never made much sense to me, since in most cases the supplies would only have been sufficient to last a few weeks or so, while the deadly radioactive fallout from numerous Soviet thermonuclear strikes on our urban centers would have been long-lasting. But an American first strike changes this picture. A successful U.S. attack would have ensured that few if any bombs fell on American soil, with the shelters intended merely to provide a couple of weeks of useful protection until the global radioactive dust-clouds resulting from the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union had dissipated, and these anyway would have only reached America in highly attenuated form.
Furthermore, we must reassess the background to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, certainly one of the most important and dangerous events of that era. If Soviet military analysts had reached conclusions similar to those of their American counterparts, it is hardly surprising that their political leaders would have taken the considerable risk of deploying nuclear warheads on intermediate range missiles close to American cities, thereby greatly multiplying their deterrent capability immediately prior to their point of greatest strategic vulnerability. And there was also the real possibility that their intelligence agents might have somehow gotten hints of the American plans for an actual nuclear first strike. The traditional view presented in the American media has always been that an unprovoked American attack was simply unimaginable, any Soviet paranoia notwithstanding, but if such an attack was not only imagined but actually planned, then our Cold War narrative must be significantly modified. Indeed, perhaps important aspects of the superpower confrontations of that era should be completely inverted.
Could such a momentous historical discovery have been so totally ignored by our mainstream journalists and historians that I’d never heard of it during the previous twenty years? Gossipy rumors of an additional JFK infidelity might periodically make the headlines, but why was there no discussion of serious plans to launch a non-defensive global thermonuclear war likely to kill many millions?
I have limited expertise in either analyzing nuclear warfare strategy or interpreting national security documents, so I could easily be making an error in evaluating the strength of the case. But in a later issue of TAP, William Burr and David Alan Rosenberg, scholars proficient in exactly those areas, published a lengthy rebuttal to the article, followed by a rejoinder from Galbraith and Purcell. And in my own opinion, the Burr/Rosenberg critique was quite unpersuasive.
- Correspondence: Nuclear Scare
William Burr, David Alan Rosenberg, James K. Galbraith, Heather A. Purcell, The American Prospect, Spring 1995
In their arguments, they emphasized that the key document was found in the Vice Presidential archives, while the National Archives and those of President Kennedy himself are usually a far better source of important material. But perhaps that’s exactly the point. The authenticity of the Burris document was never disputed, and Burr/Rosenberg cite absolutely no contradictory archival material, implying that the documentary evidence was not available to them. So the materials dealing with such an extraordinarily explosive proposal had either elsewhere not been declassified or might even have been removed from the main archives, with only the less direct Burris summary memo in a secondary location surviving the purge and later being declassified, perhaps because its treatment of the subject was much less explicit.
Meanwhile, a careful reading of the Burris memo seems to strongly support the Galbraith/Purcell interpretation, namely that in July 1961 President Kennedy and his top national security officials discussed cold-blooded plans for a full nuclear attack against the Soviet Union in roughly two years’ time, when the relative imbalance of strategic forces would be at its maximum. The proposal seemed quite concrete, rather than merely being one of the numerous hypotheticals endlessly produced by all military organizations.
In a later footnote, Galbraith even mentioned that he subsequently had his interpretation personally confirmed by Kennedy’s former National Security Advisor: “When once I asked the late Walt Rostow if he knew anything about the National Security Council meeting of July 20, 1961 (at which these plans were presented), he responded with no hesitation: `Do you mean the one where they wanted to blow up the world?’”
Once I accepted the reasonable likelihood of the analysis, I was shocked at how little attention the remarkable article had received. When I simply Googled the names of the authors “Galbraith Heather Purcell” I mostly discovered very brief mentions scattered here and there, generally in specialized books or in articles written by Galbraith himself, and found absolutely nothing in the major media. Possibly one of the most important revisions to our entire history of the Cold War—with huge implications for the Cuban Missile Crisis—seems to have never achieved any significant public awareness.
And there is also a sequel on this same topic. In 2001 military affairs writer Fred Kaplan published a major article in The Atlantic with the explicit title “JFK’s First-Strike Plan.” Drawing on a wealth of newly declassified archival documents, he similarly described how the Kennedy Administration had prepared plans for a nuclear first strike against the Soviets. His analysis was somewhat different, suggesting that Kennedy himself had generally approved the proposal, but that the attack was intended as an option to be used during a hypothetical future military confrontation rather than being aimed for a particular scheduled date.
- JFK’s First-Strike Plan
Fred Kaplan, The Atlantic, October 2001
The government plans unearthed by Kaplan are clearly referring to the same strategy discussed in the Burris memo, but since Kaplan provides none of the documents themselves, it is difficult to determine whether or not the evidence is consistent with the somewhat different Galbraith/Purcell interpretation. It is also decidedly odd that Kaplan’s long article gives no indication that he was even aware of that previous theory or its differing conclusions, containing not a single sentence mentioning or dismissing it. I find it very difficult to believe that a specialist such as Kaplan remained totally unaware of the earlier American Prospect analysis, but perhaps this might possibly be explained given the near-total media blackout. Prior to the establishment of the Internet or even in its early days, important information ignored by the media might easily vanish almost without a trace.
Kaplan’s long article seems to have suffered that similar fate. Aside from a few mentions in some of Kaplan’s own later pieces, I found virtually no references at all in the last 15 years when I casually Googled it. Admittedly, the timing could not have been worse, with the article appearing in the October 2001 edition of the magazine, released in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, but the silence is still troubling.
The unfortunate fact is that when a massively important story is reported only once, with virtually no follow-up, the impact may be minimal. Only a small slice of the public encounters that initial account, and the lack of any repetition would eventually lead even those individuals to forget it, or perhaps even vaguely assume that the subsequent silence implied that the claims had been mistaken or later debunked. Every standard historical narrative of the 1960s that continues to exclude mention of serious plans for an American nuclear first strike constitutes a tacit denial of that important reality, implicitly suggesting that the evidence does not exist or had been discredited. As a consequence, I doubt whether more than a sliver of those seemingly informed Americans who carefully read the NYT and WSJ each morning are aware of these important historical facts, and perhaps the same is even true of the journalists who write for those esteemed publications. Only repetition and continuing coverage gradually incorporates a story into our framework of the past.
It is easy to imagine how things might have gone differently. Suppose, for example, that similarly solid evidence of plans for a devastating and unprovoked nuclear attack on the Soviet Union had been found in the archival records of the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan. Is there not a far greater likelihood that the story would have been heavily covered and then endlessly repeated in our media outlets, until it had become fully embedded in our standard histories and was known to every informed citizen?
In some respects, these discussions of events from over a half-century ago have little relevance for us today: the individuals involved are now all merely names in our history books and the world is a very different place. So although the sharp differences between the Galbraith/Purcell analysis and that of Kaplan might engage academic specialists, the practical differences would today be minimal.
But what has enormous significance is the media silence itself. If our media failed to report these shocking new facts about the early 1960s, how much can we rely upon it for coverage of present-day events of enormous importance, given the vastly more immediate pressures and political interests which are surely brought to bear? If our mainstream histories of what happened fifty years ago are highly unreliable, what does that suggest about the stories we read each morning concerning the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine or the South China Sea or the Middle East?
Consider a particularly troubling thought-experiment. Suppose that the proposed nuclear attack on Russia had actually gone ahead, resulting in millions or tens of millions dead from the bombs and worldwide radioactive fallout, perhaps even including a million or more American casualties if the first strike had failed to entirely eliminate all retaliatory capability. Under such a dire scenario, is it not likely that every American media organ would have been immediately enlisted to sanitize and justify the terrible events, with virtually no dissent allowed? Surely John F. Kennedy would have been enshrined as our most heroic wartime president—greater than Lincoln and FDR combined—the leader who boldly saved the West from an imminent Soviet attack, a catastrophic nuclear Pearl Harbor. How could our government ever admit the truth? Even decades later, this patriotic historical narrative, uniformly endorsed by newspapers, books, films, and television, would have become almost unassailable. Only the most marginal and anti-social individuals would dare to suggest that the facts might actually have been otherwise, and they would be widely regarded as eccentric or even mentally ill for doing so. After all, how would the general public know anything different? As I always tell people, the media creates reality.
I am grateful that the world escaped this terrible nuclear disaster. But I find it disturbing that I spent decades religiously reading The New York Times every morning, but only discovered this crucial element of the Cold War by overhearing a conversation while waiting for a taxi.
For Further Reading:
In December 2001, the Bush administration issued its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), asserting the preemptive right to unilaterally declare and wage future wars using first strike nuclear weapons. It remains US policy.
Obama campaigned against militarism, promising all US combat troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq if elected. They’re still there and in lots more places deployed during his tenure.
His 2010 National Security Strategy reflected old wine in new bottles – dressed up language, no substantive change, same old dirty business as usual – including pledged first-strike use of nuclear weapons against any adversary, nuclear armed or not.
Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy followed the same pattern, including what the late Gore Vidal called assuring “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”
Obama stressed it at the time, saying “(w)e will lead through strength… by example… with capable partners, (using) all instruments of US power.”
Adding he’d “(s)triv(e) for a world without nuclear weapons,” he approved a $1 trillion program to upgrade America’s arsenal over the next 30 years – likely meaning double or triple this amount before completed along with probably using these weapons to wage war preemptively against one or more adversaries.
Throughout his tenure, Obama has been the most belligerent US president in history, bombing seven countries posing no threat to America, replacing sovereign democratic states with despotic US client ones, engaging in ruthless practices to undermine others – notably challenging Russia and China confrontationally.
On August 12, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about an Obama “ ’No First Use’ protocol for nuclear weapons” running into flack from some cabinet officials and allies in Europe and Asia.
The report reads like an administration plant to burnish Obama’s deplorable image. After seven-and-a-half years of naked aggression against multiple nonthreatening states, along with a first-strike nuclear posture, can anyone believe he suddenly became less warrior-like.
His scheme seems like a thinly veiled attempt to soften his deplorable legacy. Opposition from John Kerry, War Secretary Ashton Carter and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz gives him a convenient out to leave policy unchanged.
According to the Journal, “opposition from critical cabinet members and US allies reduces the likelihood of (any) change. (It’s) unlikely in his remaining months, given the controversy it would stir in the midst of a presidential election…”
Maybe an asterisk in his legacy will say he tried even though throughout his tenure, he “t(ook) (no) concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons” as he pledged in an April 2009 Prague speech.
Along with Henry Kissinger and Israeli war criminal leaders, no one less deserved Nobel Peace Prize recognition than Obama – a leader committed to waging endless wars with all weapons in America’s arsenal as necessary, including nuclear, chemical and biological ones.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
A lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. claims that United States aid to Israel is illegal under a law passed in the 1970s that prohibits aid to nuclear powers that don’t sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The lawsuit was filed by Grant Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy (IRMEP).
The lawsuit comes as the Obama administration is pushing to finalize a ten-year memorandum of understanding which will reportedly boost aid to Israel to $4 billion per year.
Such aid violates longstanding bans on foreign aid to non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) with nuclear weapons programs, the lawsuit alleges.
Since the bans went into effect, U.S. foreign aid to Israel is estimated to be $234 billion.
Smith says that during investigations into the illegal diversion of weapons-grade uranium from U.S. contractor NUMEC to Israel in the mid-1970s, Senators Stuart Symington and John Glenn amended the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to ban any aid to clandestine nuclear powers that were not NPT signatories.
Symington said at the time that “if you wish to take the dangerous and costly steps necessary to achieve a nuclear weapons option, you cannot expect the United States to help underwrite that effort indirectly or directly.”
Smith says that both the Symington and Glenn amendments have since been watered down and now apply only to nuclear transfers after 1985.
Smith says that the Obama administration follows precedents established since the Ford administration by ignoring internal agency and public domain information that should trigger Symington and Glenn cutoffs and waiver provisions governing foreign aid.
In 2012 the Department of Energy under U.S. State Department authority passed a secret gag law called “Guidance on Release of Information relating to the Potential for an Israeli Nuclear Capability.”
Smith says that measure promotes a “nuclear ambiguity” policy toward Israel.
The primary purpose of the gag law is to unlawfully subvert Symington and Glenn arms export controls, the lawsuit alleges.
In 2008, former President Jimmy Carter told reporters that Israel has “more than 150 nuclear weapons.”
In reporting President Carter’s remarks, the BBC also reported that “most experts estimate that Israel has between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, largely based on information leaked to the Sunday Times newspaper in the 1990s by Mordechai Vanunu, a former worker at the country’s Dimona nuclear reactor.”
Smith says that the administration has three legal avenues to deal with a nuclear Israel under the Symington and Glenn amendments – either cut off foreign assistance, change the Symington and Glenn amendments to exempt Israel, or just grant a waiver.
Such Symington and Glenn waivers have already been granted to two other countries in a similar position – Pakistan and India, Smith said.
“But if you are Israel, and you don’t want an arms race in the Middle East, then you pretend it’s unknown that you have the weapons,” Smith said.
Saudi intelligence officers have been training at least 7,000 anti-Syria fighters in Jordan’s territories and plan to dispatch them to the war-hit country via its Southern borders to distract the army from the war in Aleppo, Arab media disclosed.
“Over 7,000 men have been trained in a Saudi-established military camp in Jordan near the border with Syria’s Dara’a province, and now they are ready to be dispatched to join other terrorists’ battle against the Syrian government and army,” the Lebanese al-Manar reported.
“There are several British and western military trainers and advisors in the Saudi-established camp. The western officers are to accompany the fighters in their war against the Syrian government,” the paper said.
Jordan hosts a large refugee camp near the border with Syria.
Other sources also disclosed that the US officers have been involved in the training of terrorists in Jordan to fight against Syrian government.
War analysts believe that the move is aimed at diversion to distract the army and its allies from the war in Aleppo in the North where pro-government troops have started a massive offensive to take back the country’s second largest city from the terrorists.
Meanwhile, earlier today, armed opposition groups in Southern Syria declared that thousands of militants are ready to reconcile with the Damascus government.
A provincial council affiliated to the militant groups in a statement admitted that 25,000 militants are looking for reconciliation with the Syrian government forces in Southern Syria, al-Mayadeen TV channel reported on Saturday.
The statement by the ‘Council for Men of Knowledge in the Levant’ has accused the terrorist commanders of being willing to compromise with the Syrian army of treason. It has given the militant commanders in Southern Syria three days to withdraw from al-Mouk Operations Room (which operates under the Saudi, Qatari, the US and Jordanian spy agencies), the television added.
The Al-Mouk Operations Room has been accused of corruption, similar reports in a number of other Arab media have cited the financial corruption of the Operations Room members as a main cause of the militants complaint and their decision to surrender to the Syrian army.
Early in August, around 1,000 rebels laid down their arms and turned themselves in to the Syrian officials in the province of Dara’a amid the terrorist groups’ threats against those who surrender to the government.
In February, the Syrian Army dispatched more soldiers to the country’s Southern provinces to be deployed at the border with Jordan to defend the country against the possible aggression of the Saudi Army.
“A large convoy of reinforcements from the Syrian capital of Damascus arrived to the 5th Armored Division headquarters of the Syrian army in the town of Izra in the Northern part of Dara’a province and the Eastern part of Sheikh Meskeen,” the sources said.
“The Saudi Army has been conducting a number of military drills in the Kingdom of Jordan in recent weeks, raising the alert level of a possible war in the Dara’a province,” the sources said, adding, “So far, nothing has come of these Saudi military drills and it is very unlikely that they will attempt to enter Syria.”