There’s a season for it–the thinkpieces, the brave suggestions, the crawling out to the edge of the limb and saying, yes, I have the answer, we should force America’s youth to come together and serve in some collective cause.
In spite of the right’s fondness for military service and such pageantry, it’s usually the left or the more accurately, the muddy, authoritarian center that suggest this kind of thing. Progressives worry over wars, but they don’t worry enough over the civilian casualties in other countries, or the blowback in America. Sometimes they become overly concerned, instead about how poor people join the military, and rich, privileged people don’t. Sometimes they even pull up an extra deep argument, dust the dirt off of it, and say, gee, maybe the draft can stop wars! Charlie Rangel spent decades in congress trying to bring back conscription for that very reason.
And then the thought leaders–the columnists who have to waste space in the New York Times or various blogs each week–they need to get in on this brainstorming. America is broken. America is fractured and overly politicised, and we could be on the brink of a God damned civil war. This is dangerous. Also dangerous is the fact that young people aged, say, 18-25, just keep on choosing their own paths in life. Sometimes they get married or do important things that contribute to society’s togetherness. But sometimes they just eat exotic food and become polyamorists or or Instagrammers. We have to do something.
Why not bring back the draft? What was once the weight on the back of every young man–the fear that he would have to kill or be killed for a broadly-defined goal of patriotism, nationalism, service, whether he wanted to or not–is now gone. Youths are not grinding themselves down under nationalist knapsacks nearly as much as they did before, in the days that were good.
Sometimes a writer, politician, thinker, considers bringing back a draft without any kind of spit shine on it. Just, make those damn kids join the military the ways their pappies did, so they stop playing video games! Plus, after 58,000 of those kids died in Vietnam–along with about two million Vietnamese–we stopped the war! The draft works!
Most advocates for this tepidly-argued collectivism, however, take a different tact. They want it to be “national service” instead of mean old conscription. They are happy to offer options and choices, provided that engaging in this service is a necessary part of graduation from high school or college. At best they are the movie theaters who said you were free to defy the Hays Code if you had your own theater, and weren’t run out of town by moralists, and didn’t want to hire any known American actors, etc. At worse, they are mini dictators who, even if they don’t realize it, are simply deeply offended by the fact that American young people are making their own choices and living their own lives. They are central planners not of cities, but of human action and motivation.
Bloomberg View’s Noah Smith is one person who has no self-awareness about how many stock writers from Thomas Friedman to David Brooks, to this guy who wrote a letter, and who used to be a columnist, have already suggested national service as a cure for the nation’s ills, both real and imagined. Yes, as Smith notes, people in South Korea and Israel and other places are made to join the army. There is also what amounts to mandatory reserves training in places like Switzerland. Though all of those coercive policies are bad, certainly it’s a little more of a moral quandary to serve in Israel and be a real, fighting soldier, than it is to be made to do basic training in Switzerland, then come home and go back to your normal life (unless and until Germany invades).
In America, the draft was put to rest in 1973. Men are still made to register with the Selective Service, however. Though the changes of the US bringing back a military draft are not high, thanks to the potential outcry, as well as the technical skills needed for most army recruits in 2017, that registration still hangs over the heads of every young male citizen. Your choices are on loan from the military, it says. You can have your life for now, but if we need it, you will know.
Smith and his ilk are terrified of a polarized nation. At its worst point, yes, screaming cable news divides could transform into real wars. But as scared as we all are of fighting with relatives on Facebook, or being trolled by Twitter Nazis, that kind of unpleasantness is as far from a real conflict as you can get, until it actually isn’t (and it currently is).
Furthermore, Smith happily suggests that his plan would lead to “national unity.” He gives a startlingly shallow nod to the libertarian argument against coercive national service by saying, uh, people could get out of it if they wanted to become high school drop-outs. He doesn’t actually counter the Milton Friedman quote he mentions, which dubs drafted soldiers “slaves.” Smith simply says, well, libertarians might object to this grand scheme, but they are wrong. Best of all, he pays not even a whisper of lip service to the fact that all of human history teaches us that “national unity” can have some deadly side effects.
More paragraphs could be devoted to flipping Smith’s logic over, and then prodding its insides. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have enough to bother with. He has the fact that the country is, it seems, at odds. Occasionally, being at odds leads to violence and even wars. And also young people don’t work that much, and Smith has a chart to prove that. Ergo, national service it is.
This is a bad piece. It’s a weak, lazy spasm towards collectivism to solve the nation’s problems (real, imagined, and exaggerated). The draft and national service are blessedly unpopular. Rangel retired from congress without his pet project of bringing it back ever coming close to fruition.
And yet, Smith’s piece deserves a response if only because it encapsulates a dangerous, monstrously huge idea–that the individual belongs to the state. More particularly, the young individual of a certain age belongs to the state. With all of our concern over being bogged down in wars, or filling our prisons coming into the public sphere, this notion that we have to suffer or struggle in order to grow up remains. Millennials are the worst, right? They’re lazy, and they’re entitled. And yet, they’re rarely the ones demanding that the younger generation be pressed into servitude.
This attitude has killed. It has killed thousands and thousands of people. It is Teddy Roosevelt worrying about a soft nation that had tamed the West. It is the fear that American manhood would atrophy without natives to shoot, so let’s go to the Philippines, to Cuba, anywhere where our young men can grow strong on righteous suffering and contrived acts of bravery. We mustn’t let them turn feminine and soft.
Political polarization is a concern. At its peak, it can destroy a country. But forcible national unity destroys individuals, and has hacked its way across the world in conquest and conflicts for centuries. Placing youth into the mouth of the nation for sacrifice is swapping the potential problem of polarization for the definite one of unification–and that’s a problem much more likely to lead to tyranny and war.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned last week that 20 million people are in danger of starvation because of conflicts and drought.
If you missed this shocking and very important news, then it’s no surprise, as it didn’t receive too many headlines – certainly not in the West. Those have been dominated instead by expressions of faux-outrage from the pro-war political and media Establishment over footage of children in Syria who appeared to have been the victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack, which the US and its allies were very quick to blame, without firm evidence, on Syrian President Bashar Assad.
How do we know that the Establishment concern we saw about child victims of war was insincere? It’s easy. True humanitarians care about all victims equally. The concern of phony humanitarians is only for those who have been killed, or who appear to have been killed, by an ‘Official Enemy’ of the Western elites – like Assad. This ‘outrage’ has to be expressed strongly, and very publicly, in order to build support for the bombing of the ‘Official Enemy’ country, and further the case for regime-change, which helps the arms industry and the 1% get even richer. However, if it’s an ally of the West or Western powers themselves responsible for the atrocities, it’s a very different story. Then it’s a case of: “Don’t mention the war!” Let’s change the subject as quickly as we can! Bellicose ‘liberal interventionists’ become as quiet as church mice.
What made the double standards even more glaring this week is the fact that a large proportion of those facing starvation, as identified by the UNHCR, are in Yemen, which has been bombed by staunch Western ally Saudi Arabia for two years now.
“In Yemen, which is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with almost 19 million people in need of humanitarian help, around 17 million people are food insecure,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said.
The very same countries who are directly responsible for the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis” in 2017 are – surprise, surprise! – the ones who have sought to take the moral high ground over Syria. The same neocons and ‘liberal interventionists’ who screech “Something must be done about Assad!” on social media from 6 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night are quite happy for absolutely nothing to be done to stop the suffering in Yemen.
One man who did try to end the slaughter in the country was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn- a consistent target of the Endless War lobby. Last October Labour put forward a motion in the British Parliament calling for the UK to suspend its support to Saudi Arabia. The resolution failed because over 100 Labour MPs either didn‘t turn up- or abstained. One of them was Corbyn’s deputy Tom Watson. ‘How can Labour ‘humanitarians’ support Saudi Arabia’? asked Stop the War’s Lindsey German.
Last week Watson broke with Corbyn yet again to issue a statement in favour of Trump’s illegal cruise missile strikes on Syria- saying, without any sense of irony, that they were a ‘a response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime.’
When it comes to humanitarian humbug there’s no difference between right-wing Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. Or, in America, between Democrats and Republicans. Vicar’s daughter Theresa May has spent most of the last few days robotically denouncing ‘the Assad regime’-which is battling ISIS and al-Qaeda and protects Syria’s Christian community from religious persecution. Yet just ten days ago the British Prime Minister was defending UK ties to Saudi Arabia on a trip to Riyadh. For all the moral grand-standing by May and Johnson and Trump and Tillerson, the bloodshed and chaos unleashed by the west and its allies in recent decades dwarfs any crimes that could be laid at Assad’s door. In 2015, it was revealed that at least 1.3m people, the vast majority of them Muslims, lost their lives in the US‘s so-called ‘War on Terror’ in just three countries; Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan- between 2001 and the end of 2013.
The Body Count death toll as I pointed out in my earlier OpEdge does not include deaths among the 3m refugees from Iraq subjected to privations, nor those killed in Libya and Yemen. But in spite of the mind-boggling numbers involved the victims of US-led military interventions are ’un-people’ who have been airbrushed out of western history.
Only Muslims killed by ‘Official Enemies’ are mourned- and splashed on the front pages of Establishment-friendly newspapers. When it comes to infanticide, the same grotesque double standards are on display. In a 1996 television interview about the impact of sanctions on Iraq, the US Secretary of State Madeline Albright was asked if the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying. She replied ‘I think this is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it’. Just imagine if Putin or Assad had said such a thing! In an interview with David Edwards of Media Lens, Denis Halliday, the former UN Assistant Secretary General- and the co-ordinator of the UN humanitarian oil for food programme – said that the shortage of food and medical supplies in Iraq was the direct responsibility of Washington and London. ’For the British government to say that the quantities involved for vaccinating kids are going to produce weapons of mass destruction, is just nonsense. That’s why I’ve deliberately used the word ‘genocide’ because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq’, Halliday said.
The genocide which preceded the Iraq war is a taboo subject in the west- like the genocide which came after it. Instead, we’re encouraged to focus solely on the ’heinous crimes’ of our ‘Official Enemies’. They- Assad, Gaddafi, Milosevic- are always ‘butchers’- ‘our’ leaders can never be called that- even if they kill millions more and illegally attack, or threaten to attack, different countries every few years.
Back to the UNHCR warning. In South Sudan, 100,00 people face starvation- and a further 1m are on the brink of famine. In northern Nigeria seven million people ‘are now struggling with food insecurity and need help’. The situation is perilous in Somalia too. Getting food supplies to these unfortunate people ought to be the number one priority for genuine humanitarians. But what was the top of the agenda for last week’s G7 meeting? How to get Russia to end its support for Assad!
This is the neocon agenda of the warmongering elites and not of those who really care about humanity. Next time you come across a ‘humanitarian’ saying that toppling Assad and ‘dealing’ with Putin is the most pressing issue, ask them why it’s more important than saving 20 million people close to starvation. They won’t have a satisfactory answer.
If there is anyone to blame for the election of Donald Trump, it is not the Russians – it is the Democratic Party and its allies in the MSM.
It does not take a Trump supporter or a registered Republican to recognize that the Democrats’ hysterical allegations of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign to influence the election has no merit and are nothing but petty, ideological over-reactions to their humiliating losses throughout the country in the 2016 election.
And it does not take a trained psychologist to see that the Democrat/MSM campaign to destroy a democratically elected President have perpetuated the anti-Russian effort as a coping mechanism to avoid the painful truth that they have suffered a publicly embarrassing loss of power and status. After 8 years of pretending that Barack Obama was a perpetual political gift they could ride to victory, the reality is too damned excruciating to admit that their own betrayals to peace, health care, the economy and jobs have brought them down.
The challenge for the Democrats is to suck it up and behave like mature professionals who deserve to be elected. Currently, they chose to remain in the wilderness of confused cognitive entanglement; unable to stretch beyond their narrow view of themselves as morally and intellectually superior. Instead, unable to do any independent thinking, they encourage the party’s rank-and-file to remain in the unproductive throes of an unhinged emotional breakdown that seeks to threaten the constitutional stability of the country.
While Wikileaks can take credit for revealing the DNC’s links with the MSM as now indisputable (a job well done by Operation Mockingbird), the joint Democrat/MSM attacks on the Trump – Russia have inadvertently revealed the potent politicization of the FBI, CIA and NSA as well as the morally bankrupt nature of the Democratic party.
Even the assertion of “no evidence” from multiple intel agencies has not stopped the delusional Democrats from going hog-wild insane; daring to suggest that unproven allegations of electoral interference should be considered as an ‘act of war‘. Having sold their souls to the war machine during Obama’s terms in office, Congressional Dems have now linked arms with the appalling former Bush VP Dick Cheney and Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-Az).
An impeccable example of Democratic neurosis that has identified a conclusion lacking evidence, long time apologist for Israel Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca), ranking minority of the House Intel Committee, has set himself up as a moral arbiter of wildly unsubstantiated charges like “notwithstanding an abundance of evidence that Russia hacked our political institutions,” and more recently “there’s more than circumstantial evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.” Schiff has consistently failed to provide one iota of proof supporting his accusations while the MSM takes his fabrications as fact.
In an intensely partisan dispute that is about political control rather than national security, Schiff has demanded that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Ca) Chair of the House Intel Committee, recuse himself from the Committee investigation citing an inability to conduct an impartial hearing.
In a memorable December 8th interview on FoxNews with Tucker Carlson (which is ‘unavailable’ on YouTube), Schiff met with push-back from Carlson who is perhaps the only iconoclast interviewer on all of commercial TV. Carlson makes a game out of systematically peeling back the layers of any well established, status quo argument, frequently leaving his guest in knots or otherwise looking ridiculous. He is a joy to watch as he ripped the mask off the pompous Schiff.
In a typical response from an inquisitor who has lost control of the narrative, here are a few choice excerpts as Schiff escalates the witch hunt but cannot substantiate his claims as he seeks diversion by accusing Carlson of ‘carrying water for the Kremlin’:
Carlson: “I get it, I get it… Nobody’s for hacking. Let me just make one clear point. You don’t know that Vladimir Putin was behind those hacks?”
Schiff: “Well, we do know this…”
Carlson: “but you don’t know that so let’s not pretend you do…”
Schiff: “Well, let’s not ignore what the Director of National Security and the Secretary of Homeland Security said publicly which is that these hacks were of such seriousness that they could not have taken place without approval of the highest levels of the Kremlin.”
Carlson: “That’s speculation. What is speculation… is it a statement of fact”
Schiff: “it is not speculation. It is a statement of the intelligence community’s best assessment. Because there’s a political reason to do it… this is what the intelligence professionals are saying.”
Carlson: “Ok … I remember vividly the massive stockpiles of wmd in Iraq which the intelligence community assured us were there and they weren’t so pardon my skepticism.”
Carlson: “I’ve been following this. I get it. There’s been lots of hacking, at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA Director’s personal email was hacked, we think in some cases by Russia. I don’t remember you holding a press conference and saying, hey, Obama Administration, your cyber security is pathetic. In this letter to the President, you don’t mention the fact that American cyber security is inadequate and that the Administration is partly responsible for allowing these hacks to happen. Why don’t you mention that?”
Schiff: “You haven’t been watching the opening hearings of the…”
Carlson: “I have…”
Sciff: “I don’t think you have because if you had, you would see me pressing the Administration on the failures to protect our data …”
Carlson: “Then why not mention it in this letter?”
Schiff: “Because this letter was about Russian meddling and if you don’t think that’s significant that a power that is an adversary of ours is bombing civilians in Syria right now, that’s invading its neighbor’s and also interfering in our political process as well as our allies… if you don’t think that’s serious, it’s hard for me to imagine that you’re of the same party as Ronald Reagan.”
Carlson: “What were the means they used?
Schiff “… the means they used were hacking into democratic institutions and the leaking of documents designed in the primary process to sow division between Clinton and Sanders camps something we saw actually took place as a result of that because of that and then in general election to attempt to discredit secretary of State Clinton in a way to harm her and would help Donald Trump”
Carlson: “How did they do that?”
Schiff: “Well it was pretty obvious, wasn’t it? …. they hacked, they released documents that were…”
Carlson: “… that were real..”
Schiff: “Oh yes they were real and they were ones that were damaging to Secretary Clinton.”
Carlson: “But they don’t know that the Putin government and neither do you. You don’t know that Putin was behind those hacks. I think it’s irresponsible for you to say that and you don’t know.”
Schiff: “You know what is irresponsible Tucker, is that you make that claim without looking at the evidence and more importantly have not seen the Russians…. “
Carlson: “You can’t say that you know the Putin government did that.”
Schiff: “… and more importantly for the president elect today to say that he doesn’t know whether the Russians…”
Carlson: “You’re dodging. You’re on the Intel Committee. Let me just ask you one final question. Can you look right into the camera and say that you know for a fact that the government of Vladimir Putin was behind the hacks of John Podesta emails. “
Schiff: “Absolutely. The government of Vladimir Putin was behind the hack of our institution, not only in the US but also in Europe”
Carlson: “ … of John Podesta’s email… you know that you’re dodging. You can’t say it. Look and say that they hacked Podesta’s email.”
Schiff: “I think Ronald Reagan would be rolling in his grave that you are carrying water for the Kremlin”
Carlson: “I am not carrying water for the Kremlin. Look, you are a sitting member of Congress on the [House Intelligence Committee] and you can’t say they hacked…”
Schiff “You’re going to have to move your show to RT – Russian television because this is perfectly…”
Carlson: “You know what? That’s so beneath your office because it’s so dumb, and you are being duplicitous. I’m asking you did they hack [John] Podesta’s emails and you can’t say it.”
Schiff: “You should not resort to personal insults like that Tucker.”
Carlson: “You just said I was carrying water for Putin. That’s pretty hilarious.”
Schiff: “When you essentially are an apologist for the Kremlin, that’s what you do.”
Carlson: “One last time Congressman. Look into the camera and say they hacked John Podesta’s emails. We know for a fact that the Russians hacked John Podesta’s emails. You can’t and you know you can’t and you are hiding behind weasel words.”
Schiff: “I’m not going to be specific….”
Carlson: “… because you don’t know it, that’s why. Done. You don’t know it and you’re alleging it without any evidence.”
Schiff: “You’re ignoring the evidence because you don’t care because the fact that it helped the Republican candidate is all you need to know.”
Carlson: “That totally false. I just think that if you’re going to make a serious allegation against an actual country with an actual government you ought to know what you’re talking about and you don’t.”
Schiff: “… ought to accept Republicans on intel committee if you.”
Carlson: “… if you could say it, you would have but you didn’t. I got to go. I’m taking cash from Putin, on RT.”
Schiff: “If you’re willing to be in denial because it suits a Republican president….”
Carlson: “You can blather on all you want. I gave you a chance to state it clearly and you couldn’t. I need to take a call from Vladimir Putin so I need to put you on hold for one second.”
Meanwhile, as the Dems/MSM continue to waste time and energy on inane investigations of Russian collusion, the Russians have recently opened an office in Beijing to phase-in a gold backed standard of trade while the Chinese have opened a new central bank office in Moscow that will allow the Russians to issue federal loan bonds in the yuan – thereby decreasing their dependence on the dollar-based trade.
And if there is going to be an investigation of interference in US elections, let it include Israel.
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
An appeal landed in my mailbox yesterday from I suppose the editors of Mother Jones or their marketing machine in conjunction with an outfit called Citizens United. The letter blares across the page something that can only be of interest to people suffering from a bizarre sense of priority, abysmal ignorance or clinical stupidity:
Donald Trump just SLANDERED President Obama!
The implication is that we should urgently do something about this. Aux armes! Further, in what we must accept as a compelling supporting rationale for action, the authors of the appeal, proving they do come from Lalaland, offer this laughable argument:
… Donald Trump is wrong!!! President Obama has always been on our side. He’s been fighting to overturn Citizens United since Day One.
With equal breathless dishonesty, the letter has the audacity to talk about defending “Obama’s legacy”, a supposedly sterling body of work apparently about to be wrecked by the horrid Trumpinator.
By the standards of silliness this marks a new low; by the standards of left thinking, such as it is practiced in the US, it confirms the irrelevancy of this “new”, thoroughly bourgeois identity politics “left” to the problems really threatening humanity. By the standards of honesty, well, it does not qualify in that category, but let’s just say it is yet another contorted effort at bashing Trump. Which would be alright—considering the man offers any serious critic a multitude of valid grounds on which to oppose him— if these guardians of political correctness and truth also looked homeward for many of the curses besetting the nation.
The fact that these liberal champions refuse to recognize the horrid, smoothly hypocritical track record of the Democrats (their darling Obama and the abjectly corrupt Clintons, in particular), and their favorite party’s drive to war, in lockstep with their new pals, the CIA and the resilient Neocon vermin, a posture which now almost guarantees some sort of nuclear confrontation with Russia or China in the near horizon (with unthinkable consequences for this planet as we know it lest we quickly correct course), says all you need to know about the degeneracy of the so-called left in the United States and in the West, in general.
The traditional “left” in the US (always basically a bunch of centrist liberals since the radical left was reduced to ashes by unrelenting campaigns of anticommunism endorsed by the very same liberals) is so wanting these days in essential morality that now even voices that just a few years ago would have been categorized as unqualifiedly on the Right—and therefore by the left’s own reckoning “on the wrong side of history”, are about the only ones saying and doing things that are desperately needed.
Like opposing imperialist wars, for example. Do you see any of the legendary voices on the mainstream “left” uttering a single word of opposition to the dishonest campaign to demonize Russia? Instead, they are busily criminalizing any kind of contact with Russian diplomats or politicians that could lead to a de-escalation of tensions. So, nope. They are not there. Quite the opposite. Which leaves us as I say with the likes of Ron and Rand Paul and other libertarians, or the new French right champion, ultranationalist Marine Le Pen (already in the CIA crosshairs), doing wittingly or unwittingly what the left should be doing.
Incidentally, Le Pen’s banishment from polite society is predicated on her opposition to the EU’s slavish attachment to Washington’s push to war with Russia, and her impatience with NATO. I suppose that were France’s WW2 iconic hero Gen. Charles de Gaulle alive, he too would be promptly consigned to the netherworld of political undesirables since, as a recalcitrant nationalist and one suspicious of Anglo-American intrigues and treacheries, he held almost exactly the same views as Le Pen. This all by itself shows how much the world has changed.
The question arises: Has humanity —with the help of the lying, escapist mainstream media — really forgotten how to use its imagination? Sure, capitalism with its endless economic-insecurity distractions and malignantly convoluted superficial politics does consume a great deal of a person’s psychic space. This certainly stunts the imagination, especially in a culture that boasts a long history of proud anti-intellectualism. But still.
Not too long ago, when some sanity and probity still held sway and when the collapse of liberaloid values was not yet total, most people in these formations clearly understood that the first and foremost duty of a progressive was to avoid wars at all costs, particularly a terminal, horrid war between the nuclear superpowers. This was and is the ultimate sin, the ultimate obscenity. Besides being the most elementary proof of common sense. Avoiding the Doomsday scenario was seen as imperative. People openly pushing for such confrontational policies would have lost much if not all political traction and even the presstitutes would have filed some demurring comment. Some on the liberal left might have even risen to denounce such dangerous warmongering.
This was the basic consensus for generations, ever since atomic weapons came to occupy center stage in world politics.
Even the ever supremacist, devious, and savagely capitalist United States agreed with its nemesis, the Soviet Union, to lower the threat of an Armageddon by signing treaties of weapons parity and reduction in nuclear arsenals, thereby at least assuring a balance of terror: the aptly labeled Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), a concept promulgated and observed even by reactionaries like Ronald Reagan. Apparently it worked.
The importance of this glimmer of sanity in the engulfing madness cannot be overestimated. But the dark forces never give up and in the intervening years the Anglo-American establishment quietly retired the MAD principle, reinstating the far more dangerous and de-stabilzing “first strike” principle. Meanwhile, nuclear weapons have become even more potent, and there’s now almost open acknowledgement by the Pentagon that DU (depleted uranium) munitions, warheads and other forms of “tactical nukes” are standard choices for field commanders. The Middle East, of course, has been the testing lab, with Iraq, Syria and other victim nations subjected to what many suspect is an international crime of truly horrifying and unprecedented dimensions.
The problem with the development and use of tactical nuclear weapons in the modern battlefield (besides the abject cowardly criminality involved in using such weapons against weaker nations) is that when used by a superpower on another superpower’s troops or “prime assets”, things can get rapidly out of control. A shooting war is no moment for cool heads to prevail, especially in utterly brainwashed and self-righteous chauvinist nations like America, where the public has been systematically denied access to truth in these essential matters. In America, for most people, the first realization that a war had begun would be a huge flash and thunder and then—well nothing. Utter pulverization. In other words, for most Americans the final war and their own death sentences would come as total surprise.
In Russia at least the public is well aware of where the world stands, and some, many I hazard, perfectly understand the context and support their leaders’ struggles to maintain the peace. That said, if attacked by the US and the rest of the NATO mafia, Russia will not back down. It will respond with devastating efficiency. After all, last time Russia was attacked it lost 27 million lives, the equivalent in those days of the whole population of New York, California and Texas combined. This is something the American mind, still obsessed with less than 3,000 casualties on 9/11, can’t begin to wrap its jingoist mind around. So there will not be a repetition of Barbarossa no matter how much the despicable, overwhelmingly Zionist US Neocons push and huff to make it happen. Prominent, highly respectable Russians residing in the US, filed a letter of warning to the American people. The media naturally chose to ignore the document entirely.
The Russians’ warning packed a sobering sentence. It should be obligatory reading:
If there is going to be a war with Russia, then the United States will most certainly be destroyed, and most of us will end up dead. (1)
The dream of nuclear supremacy, the longed for “pre-emptive strike”, the ability to deal Russia a disabling blow, with a “tolerable” level of retaliation, say only 50 to 75 million dead in the US, is talked about seriously in high military policy precincts. The submerged crime that such a war would be provoked and waged to secure not US national security but decisive advantage for its ruling class of billionaires and associated cliques of privileged rulers around the world, is never discussed. How could it? This truly insane posture has also been official Pentagon policy since at least 2006 when some people began to believe the US had attained nuclear supremacy over Russia and China. A paper filed in 2006 by two analysts with Foreign Affairs, a blue-ribbon establishment think tank, summed up the situation rather nicely:
For almost half a century, the world’s most powerful nuclear states have been locked in a military stalemate known as mutual assured destruction (MAD). By the early 1960s, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union had grown so large and sophisticated that neither country could entirely destroy the other’s retaliatory force by launching first, even with a surprise attack. Starting a nuclear war was therefore tantamount to committing suicide.
During the Cold War, many scholars and policy analysts believed that MAD made the world relatively stable and peaceful because it induced great caution in international politics, discouraged the use of nuclear threats to resolve disputes, and generally restrained the superpowers’ behavior. (Revealingly, the last intense nuclear standoff, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, occurred at the dawn of the era of MAD.) Because of the nuclear stalemate, the optimists argued, the era of intentional great-power wars had ended. Critics of MAD, however, argued that it prevented not great-power war but the rolling back of the power and influence of a dangerously expansionist and totalitarian Soviet Union. From that perspective, MAD prolonged the life of an evil empire.
This debate may now seem like ancient history, but it is actually more relevant than ever — because the age of MAD is nearing an end. Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States’ nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia’s arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China’s nuclear forces. Unless Washington’s policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China — and the rest of the world — will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come.
One’s views on the implications of this change will depend on one’s theoretical perspective. Hawks, who believe that the United States is a benevolent force in the world, will welcome the new nuclear era because they trust that U.S. dominance in both conventional and nuclear weapons will help deter aggression by other countries. For example, as U.S. nuclear primacy grows, China’s leaders may act more cautiously on issues such as Taiwan, realizing that their vulnerable nuclear forces will not deter U.S. intervention — and that Chinese nuclear threats could invite a U.S. strike on Beijing’s arsenal. But doves, who oppose using nuclear threats to coerce other states and fear an emboldened and unconstrained United States, will worry. Nuclear primacy might lure Washington into more aggressive behavior, they argue, especially when combined with U.S. dominance in so many other dimensions of national power.
Finally, a third group — owls, who worry about the possibility of inadvertent conflict — will fret that U.S. nuclear primacy could prompt other nuclear powers to adopt strategic postures, such as by giving control of nuclear weapons to lower-level commanders, that would make an unauthorized nuclear strike more likely — thereby creating what strategic theorists call “crisis instability.”
Goes without saying that enormous, obscene sums are being dedicated by the US to achieve this “nuclear supremacy”, all, as previously stated, under an almost complete news blackout about the subject. Problem is, the Russians and the Chinese are not exactly pikers, and Russia’s nothing short of astonishing rebirth as a first class world power, its Phoenix-like re-emergence from the Western-inspired Yeltsin putrefaction, has created new realities to factor in. Western leadership, of course, we see from their actions, continues to ignore them. And yet, as even some Western news sources have indicated, the Russian nuclear defence/deterrent force is something that should compel attention and respect. Ponder:
Russia Unveils RS-28 Sarmat ‘Satan 2’ Nuclear Missile
Russia has declassified the first image of its new thermonuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile.
The RS-28 Sarmat could carry a payload capable of wiping out a landmass “the size of Texas or France,” according to a report by the Kremlin-aligned Sputnik news agency.
Known colloquially as “Satan 2,” the missile will replace the RS-36M — which was dubbed “Satan” by NATO after entering service in the 1970s.
Satan 2 missile: Good bye to all that. Just one can wipe out all of Texas or France. An image of an RS-28 Sarmat missile. Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau.
Robert Kelley, a former nuclear weapons expert at the U.S. Department of Energy, said the new missile was likely an upgrade of electronics — rather than explosive power or range.
“The range of the missiles will be about the same, the explosive destructive power will be about the same [but] the reliability, flexibility and confidence [in the warheads’ ability to hit their targets] will go way up,” said Kelley, who is now a now a distinguished associate fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
He added: “Your iPhone can do thousands of more things today than in the 1970s when these systems were first deployed. Many of the clunky electronic circuits of that era no longer exist and no one knows how to make them anymore.”
According to Russian media, the missile’s first stage engine PDU-99 was tested in August, while a hypersonic warhead was reportedly tested in April.
The new version of the Sarmat is expected to enter service late in 2017.
(Source: NBC News)
That means that just two of these “Satans” could wipe out the whole US Eastern Seaboard for the next 50,000 years. What do you call a leadership that consciously and recklessly plays with such diabolical weapons of mass destruction? That constantly taunts and provokes the population of a nuclear-armed nation that wishes no conflict with anyone but which has suffered terribly in recent wars?
Silence and misdirection
The whore media will not talk about these things—things that really matter— because the US ruling class thinks that it can win a nuclear clash with Russia, and that the sooner this is resolved, the better. The thousands of prostituted “strategic analysts” crawling all over the so-called “defence establishment” of the West, the people who furnish the MIC with its excuses and raison d’etre, believe this posture is “rational”, well, their careers and livelihoods depend on that.
The current situation means that a huge war can now occur by choice—following Washington’s unquenchable desire for hegemony— or by a concatenation of absurd grotesque increments, as the Great War of 1914 demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. This folly which buried a whole generation and destroyed 40 million lives, as documented by historians such as Barbara Tuchman, showed that humanity can indeed bumble its way, inch by inch, into a horrid conflagration. And politicians in 1914 Europe, multiple defects aside, were towering statesmen when compared to the sociopathic dwarves, cowards, and drooling fools running the show these days on both sides of the Atlantic.
This is the backdrop against which we measure the ludicrous sense of priority exhibited by the editors of Mother Jones, their cohorts in the rest of the liberal media, and their millions of low-info, desperately confused followers, as they feed off of these inflammatory messages about Trumpian sins.
MJ wants Trump’s scalp for daring to imply that the saintly Obama wiretapped his phones. But, is Trump so far from the truth in this case? Apparently, to the alarm of his innumerable critics, all zealous guardians of the warmongering imperial status quo, this is a broken clock that manages to tell the right time more than twice a day. Too often for their comfort. Accordingly, and quite possibly dishonestly given the IQ prevailing in this segment, this crowd remains tediously and recklessly fixated on the admittedly ugly idiosyncrasies defining Trump and his regime as if the US had never seen a repulsive chief of state before, well, not so overtly, that is. More than that, they are tilting at windmills. Donald Trump for all his bluster caved in to the Deep State with the firing of Michael Flynn, and these days, stylistic questions aside, he is simply more of the same criminality at the helm of the empire and no longer represents a real neofascist threat, as continually proclaimed.
The only real and credible neofascist threat to the people of the United States and the world at large can now emanate exclusively from the unified councils of the US ruling plutocracy, acting through their favorite tool, the mendacious duopoly, and the power ministries (CIA, FBI, NSA, Pentagon agencies, etc.) operating with the usual support of the whore media (including so-called alternative media such as Mother Jones, which provide a “left” imprimatur to these undemocratic proceedings). In other words, the US will go into full overt fascist mode when the deep state deems it necessary and not a moment sooner, Trump or no Trump in the equation.
Glen Ford, for one, refuses to be swept into the anti-Trumpian frenzy on the basis of stupid or fabricated reasons. Declares the editor of Black Agenda Report, dismissing the charge that Trump is in this case offering just one more of his famous “alternative facts”:
The ruling class/War Party/corporate media campaign for regime change in Washington has moments of pure silliness, with grown men claiming that U.S. presidents don’t have the power to wiretap people. Someone should have informed Dr. Martin Luther King. But, if self-described “progressives” can believe that the CIA is a benign, democratic institution, they can believe anything. “The destabilization of the U.S. bourgeois state is a project, not of the Kremlin, but of multinational and finance capital headquartered in the U.S.” (Corporate Media Counting Cadence to Fascism, BAR )
Facile observers like to compare Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, but those two, despite their criminality, perhaps insanity in the former, at least had the ability in their prime to thread coherent thoughts and even weave a complete ideology. Hitler and Mussolini took pride in writing their own speeches, in an age without teleprompters. They both read voraciously, and even wrote books, without the aid of a corral of ghost writers, not to mention professional spin doctors. Hitler, no chicken hawk, fought with valor in WW1 and entertained dreams of artistic distinction. That Mein Kampf, besides its ugly message, is basically unreadable due to pervasive incoherence and shall we say, “philosophical overreach”, is nonetheless an accomplishment that the Donald could only dream of. What’s more, both Mussolini and der Fuhrer faced at the beginning of their careers a real left, something that Trump has never seen in his entire minuscule tenure. Because a real left has not existed in the United Sates for generations.
Still, by shilling for the Democrats and the imperialist Duopoly, Mother Jones, along with the rest of the bankrupt “liberal intelligentsia”, has become a joke, even if millions of low-info liberals, sold on the largely manufactured anti-Trump hysteria, continue to cheer.
As said many times on these pages and articulated by numerous authors, this is NOT to excuse, defend or endorse Trump, except in those moments when the man, regrettably in a rather incompetent and opportunistic fashion, happened to make noises toward peace and non-intervention in the world. Such worthy ideas —perhaps the difference between life and death for this planet, or at the very least untold suffering for many millions of human beings around the globe—have now been betrayed by Trump himself, or abandoned or neutralized in large part as a result of the machinations of the deep state and their allies in what used to be the left in America.
Should we now kneel and pray on the altar of St. Obama?
Patrice Greanville is founding editor of The Greanville Post.
Image from popularresistance.org
The ongoing clashes between the factions that make up the US political elite keep getting more and more absurd. And annoyingly, as no particular fan of Donald Trump, I keep finding myself in the position of having to fight his corner.
In this instance it is about wire-tapping. Donald Trump tweeted out that the Obama’s previous administration had pulled a Watergate and had his office phones monitored during the election. As yet there is no proof, something everyone from CNN to the Guardian to The NYT were very eager to point out.
In fact, every single MSM source that covered this story mentioned the lack of evidence in the headline:
Somebody get these guys a thesaurus.
Whilst simultaneously quoting the other side of the story, without feeling the need to be quite so thoroughly honest:
Don’t worry everyone… Obama denied it. So that settles that.
And honestly, yes, there is (as yet) no proof. There may not be any proof, ever. It’s a possibility that Trump simply made it up. Politicians make things up all the time. I doubt one word in fifty spoken in Washington DC has any kind of basis in fact.
There is, indeed, no proof. However, there is quite a large piece of evidence, one that the media seem to have neglected to mention.
This is where we need to have a quick reality check, because it seems our friends in the media have forgotten:
The Obama administration spied. A lot.
They spied on American civilians, foreign nationals, domestic political figures, and international heads of state. They monitored our internet histories and our phone calls and read our e-mails. None of this is disputed. Obama did one of his hokey phony apologies about it. He almost certainly used the word “folks”.
This was famously reported exclusively in the Guardian just 4 years ago. They stood by their serious journalism back then… right up until GCHQ told them to smash their hard drives with a sledgehammer. Edward Snowden (perhaps you remember him?) is currently hiding-out in Russia for telling us all about it. Luke Harding, a Guardian star reporter, wrote a not-very-good book about it. It seems odd they’ve all forgotten.
The refutation of Trump’s claim, offered by former Obama admin. officials went roughly as follows:
No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you. https://t.co/lEVscjkzSw
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) March 4, 2017
There was also this statement from an Obama spokesperson.
The argument being that Barack Obama can’t have ordered a wire-tap on Donald Trump… because it would exceed his legal authority. Now, I’m all for living in a world where the US Government, and all the elected and unelected officials there-in, act only according to their legal authority. It would be a nice world…a lot of people would still be alive that, currently, are not.
But time has shown, hundreds (if not thousands) of times over the past few decades, that legality is not an obstacle to an American political establishment driven to protect their financial interests and military empire.
Torture camps, extraordinary renditions, drone executions, funding of terrorist groups, targeting of civilians, use of cluster munitions, use of chemical weapons, use of depleted uranium, terrorist attacks, mass surveillance and all out wars of conquest are all very, very illegal. That has never been a problem.
To suppose that adding illegal wire taps on presidential candidates to this list is a line they would not cross is naive to the point of insanity.
It is inherently ridiculous to openly acknowledge the existence of a massive (illegal) surveillance network, and not assume that bombastic, populist political opponents would be at the top the target list.
In summary: of course the Obama administration spied on Donald Trump. They spied on everybody.
It’s very important we don’t let them shove that fact down the memory-hole.
And the devil is spelled T-R-U-M-P
Last Monday The Washington Post featured an op-ed by one Edward Price entitled “I didn’t think I’d ever leave the CIA. But because of Trump, I quit.” I must admit that it was refreshing at first to read something in The Post that did not rush to blame BOTH Trump and Vladimir Putin for everything going wrong in the world but, not to worry, evil Russia was indeed cited a bit farther along in the narrative.
Edward “Ned” Price is a likely lad. He has a nice intense look, clean cut, neat tie, good credentials with a degree in international relations from an unidentified college. He decided on a CIA career fifteen years ago and “work[ed] proudly for Republican and Democratic presidents…” Perhaps not temperamentally cut out to be an operations officer or spy, he claims that “as an analyst…[he] became an expert in terrorist groups and traveled the world to help deter and disrupt attacks.”
Price reports that he was quite happy in his work, because both the Bush and Obama administrations “took the CIA’s input seriously.” He was seconded to the White House in 2014 and pats himself on the back for “having [his] analysis presented to the president and seeing it shape events.”
But that was before the wheels came off the car. Per Price, “I watched in disbelief when, during the third presidential debate, Trump casually cast doubt on the high-confidence conclusion of our 17 intelligence agencies, released that month, that Russia was behind the hacking and release of election-related emails.”
Price was also unhappy with Trump’s admittedly odd speech combined with photo op to the CIA staff on his first full day in office but was particularly peeved over the reorganization of the Nation Security Council (NSC), which excluded the CIA director and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), but included Stephen Bannon, “who cut his teeth as a media champion of white nationalism.” Even though Price was wrong about the DNI and the White House quickly reversed course on including CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the duplicative DNI position might be eliminated, for Price the message was “It [the White House] has little need for intelligence professionals who, in speaking truth to power, might challenge the ‘America first’ orthodoxy that sees Russia as an ally and Australia as a punching bag.”
Towards the end of his apologia, Edward Price noted that his decision had “nothing to do with politics,” before observing how he served “under President George W. Bush, some of whose policies I also found troubling, and I took part in programs that the Obama administration criticized and ended.”
There is inevitably some concluding drivel about intelligence professionals who deliver “the fruits of their labor-sometimes at the risk of life or limb…” being “accorded due deference” by the White house, an amusing commentary from a careerist who clearly spent his time behind a desk.
There are a few things one might say about Price. First of all, his “nothing to do with politics” is pure balderdash. He found Bush policies “troubling” while the clearly more admirable Obama “criticized and ended” the nasty bits. Yes, Bush authorized the use of torture and renditions initially after 9/11 but they were de facto suspended in his second term. And while Bush presented the American people with Iraq, Obama gifted us with Libya and Syria while continuing Afghanistan. And Price was at CIA while the organization was surreptitiously monitoring the Senate Intelligence Committees investigation into its torture program. He was willing to continue working for the Agency after the spying and the war crimes that it was trying to hide were revealed but suddenly found Jesus or a backbone or a conscience (select whichever one applies) only when Trump was elected.
Ned appears to forget that it was Bush who demurred at killing civilians en masse using drones and Obama who has embraced and expanded the practice. Obama also initiated the assassination of U.S. citizens overseas without due process and used the State Secrets Privilege more than all his predecessors combined to block any judicial challenge to his actions. Apparently, Price considered all that to be just fine since it was a liberal Democrat at the controls. And, by the way, Price is on record as having contributed $5,000 to the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. He is a registered Democrat in the District of Columbia. His characterization of Steve Bannon as a “white nationalist” and mention of the “Russian hack” come straight out of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s playbook and the more recent Democratic Party narrative to explain why it lost the election.
And there’s more. Price’s rapid rise through the Agency ranks came after his assignment to the Obama White House where he worked for deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and became an administration spokesman on the NSC. That means he was not exactly a highly principled intelligence briefer “speaking truth to power,” which is itself a bullshit feel good expression as the CIA has a long history of trimming facts to please the audience, most particularly the president. Price should do a little background reading on what former leading Agency analysts Robert Gates, John McLaughlin, Michael Morell and John Brennan dissimulated about to make the client in the White House happy.
Ned Price was apparently renowned as a White House apologist working to sell a product to a possibly skeptical audience. He was reportedly a highly regarded spin-meister for administration policies, working a well-cultivated group of media contacts that would replay his analysis and attribute it to “a senior White House official.” The analysis would bounce back and forth until it was picked up and validated by appearance in the mainstream media. That used to be called by some “information management” while others would regard it as propaganda.
And then there are the errors in fact and interpretation that Price provides to make his case against Trump. The alleged “conclusion” regarding Russian hacking of the election was really based on the input of the only two intelligence agencies that have the capability to analyze and trace the origin of a hack – the NSA and the FBI. The FBI had to be pressured into agreeing with the conclusions of the report Price cites and the NSA supported them only with “moderate” confidence, meaning that it recognized that the evidence linking the hack to Russia just wasn’t there. Many former intelligence officers and some in the media have questioned the validity of the report and have demanded to see at least some of the evidence to support its conclusions, which, to this date, has not been produced.
Price’s account of the Trump reorganization of the National Security Council also is incorrect. The reorganization states “The Director of National Intelligence… will attend where issues pertaining to [his] responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” So the DNI was included and Price fails to recognize that after the DNI position was created under George W. Bush he or she was to be the intelligence referent and the CIA Director no longer filled that role and was excluded. That practice continued under Obama, which Price ignores even though he worked on the NSC, and he also does not note that the CIA and FBI Directors often have, in fact, joined in on the NSC “Principals” meetings as a courtesy. If the office of DNI is eliminated in the current reorganization, the head of CIA will step up and assume those responsibilities in the new structure, so the intelligence community is not in any sense being pushed out.
Price aside, I don’t know how many, if any, CIA officers have resigned recently either for ethical reasons or out of dislike for Trump. But if some have, I would hope they had better rationalizations for doing so than were produced in the op-ed, which is reduced to anti-Russian sentiment, dismay at government reorganization and longing for the good old days when a liberal Democrat who was able to lie very convincingly was running the show. I would have preferred an Edward Price op-ed explaining how he had resigned over a real issue, like the bipartisan unrelenting pressure on Iran that could easily lead to war, or the continuing practice of drone assassinations and special ops killings, like the recent raid in Yemen in which 15 women and children, including an eight year old, died. Still, even lacking that, I get it. Ned Price just doesn’t like Trump very much.
Only a few months ago, interventionists were demanding a militant response by Washington to what George Soros branded “a humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions” — the killing of “hundreds of people” by Russian and Syrian government bombing of rebel-held neighborhoods in the city of Aleppo.
Leon Wieseltier, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former New Republic editor, was denouncing the Obama administration as “a bystander to the greatest atrocity of our time,” asserting that its failure to “act against evil in Aleppo” was like tolerating “the evil in Auschwitz.”
How strange, then, that so many of the same “humanitarian” voices have been so quiet of late about the continued killing of many more innocent people in Yemen, where tens of thousands of civilians have died and 12 million people face famine. More than a thousand children die each week from preventable diseases related to malnutrition and systematic attacks on the country’s food infrastructure by a Saudi-led military coalition, which aims to impose a regime friendly to Riyadh over the whole country.
“The U.S. silence has been deafening,” said Philippe Bolopion, deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch, last summer. “This blatant double standard deeply undermines U.S. efforts to address human rights violations whether in Syria or elsewhere in the world.”
Official acquiescence — or worse — from Washington and other major capitals is encouraging the relentless killing of Yemen’s civilians by warplanes from Saudi Arabia and its allies. Last week, their bombs struck a funeral gathering north of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, killing nine women and a child and injuring several dozen more people.
A day earlier, officials reported a deadly “double-tap” airstrike, first targeting women at a funeral in Sanaa, then aimed at medical responders who rushed in to save the wounded. A United Nations panel of experts condemned a similar double-tap attack by Saudi coalition forces in October, which killed or wounded hundreds of civilians, as a violation of international law.
The Tragedy of Mokha
On Feb. 12, an air strike on the Red Sea port city of Mokha killed all six members of a family headed by the director of a maternal and childhood center. Coalition ground forces had launched an attack on Mokha two weeks earlier.
Xinhua news agency reported, “the battles have since intensified and trapped thousands of civilian residents in the city, as well as hampered the humanitarian operation to import vital food and fuel supplies . . . The Geneva-based UN human rights office said that it received extremely worrying reports suggesting civilians and civilian objects have been targeted over the past two weeks in the southwestern port city . . . Reports received by UN also show that more than 200 houses have been either partially damaged or completely destroyed by air strikes in the past two weeks.”
The U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator further reported that “scores of civilians” had been killed or wounded by the bombing and shelling of Mokha, and that residents were stranded without water or other basic life-supporting services.
That could be Aleppo, minus only the tear-jerking photos of dead and wounded children on American television. However, unlike Syria, Yemen’s rebels don’t have well-financed public relations offices in Western capitals. They pay no lip service to the United States, democracy, or international human rights. Their foe Saudi Arabia is a friend of Washington, not a long-time adversary. In consequence, few American pundits summon any moral outrage at the Saudi-led coalition, despite findings by a United National Panel of Experts that many of its airstrikes violate international law and, in some cases, represent “war crimes.”
Aiding and Abetting
The United States hasn’t simply turned a blind eye to such crimes; it has aided them by selling Saudi Arabia the warplanes it flies and the munitions it drops on Yemeni civilians. It has also siphoned 54 million pounds of jet fuel from U.S. tanker planes to refuel coalition aircraft on bombing runs. The pace of U.S. refueling operations has reportedly increased sharply in the last year.
The Obama administration initially supported the Saudi coalition in order to buy Riyadh’s reluctant support for the Iran nuclear deal. Over time, Saudi Arabia joined with anti-Iran hawks to portray Yemen’s rebels as pawns of Tehran to justify continued support for the war. Most experts — including U.S. intelligence officials — insist to the contrary that the rebels are a genuinely indigenous force that enjoys limited Iranian support at best.
As I have documented previously, all of the fighting in Yemen has damaged U.S. interests by creating anarchy conducive to the growth of Al Qaeda extremists. They have planned or inspired major acts of terrorism against the West, including an attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger plane in 2009 and a deadly attack on the Parisian newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. The Saudis tolerate them as Sunni allies against the rebels, in the name of curbing Iran.
Though the Obama administration is gone, the Trump administration is flush with ideologues who are eager to take a stand against Tehran through Yemen and look tough on “terrorism.” Within days of taking office, President Trump approved a commando raid targeting an alleged Al Qaeda compound in central Yemen that went awry, killing an estimated 10 women and children. The administration has also diverted a U.S. destroyer to patrol Yemen’s coast.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to his credit, has cited “the urgent need for the unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen,” according to a department spokesman. But no amount of humanitarian aid will save Yemen’s tormented people from the bombs made in America and dropped from U.S.-made warplanes, with little protest from Washington’s so-called “humanitarian interventionists.”
Fleeing to Canada is no longer an option
Liberals are supposed to be antiwar, right? I went to college in the 1960s, when students nationwide were rising up in opposition to the Vietnam War. I was a Young Republican back then and supported the war through sheer ignorance and dislike of the sanctimoniousness of the protesters, some of whom were surely making their way to Canada to live in exile on daddy’s money while I was on a bus going to Fort Leonard Wood for basic combat training. I can’t even claim that I had some grudging respect for the antiwar crowd because I didn’t, but I did believe that at least some of them who were not being motivated by being personally afraid of getting hurt were actually sincere in their opposition to the awful things that were happening in Southeast Asia.
As I look around now, however, I see something quite different. The lefties I knew in college are now part of the Establishment and generally speaking are retired limousine liberals. And they now call themselves progressives, of course, because it sounds more educated and sends a better message, implying as it does that troglodytic conservatives are anti-progress. But they also have done a flip on the issue of war and peace. In its most recent incarnation some of this might be attributed to a desperate desire to relate to the Hillary Clinton campaign with its bellicosity towards Russia, Syria and Iran, but I suspect that the inclination to identify enemies goes much deeper than that, back as far as the Bill Clinton Administration with its sanctions on Iraq and the Balkan adventure, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the creation of a terror-narco state in the heart of Europe. And more recently we have seen the Obama meddling in Libya, Yemen and Syria in so called humanitarian interventions which have turned out to be largely fraudulent. Yes, under the Obama Dems it was “responsibility to protect time” (r2p) and all the world trembled as the drones were let loose.
Last Friday I started to read an op-ed in The Washington Post by David Ignatius that blew me away. It began “President Trump confronts complicated problems as the investigation widens into Russia’s attack on our political system.” It then proceeded to lay out the case for an “aggressive Russia” in the terms that have been repeated ad nauseam in the mainstream media. And it was, of course, lacking in any evidence, as if the opinions of coopted journalists and the highly politicized senior officials in the intelligence community should be regarded as sacrosanct. These are, not coincidentally, the same people who have reportedly recently been working together to undercut the White House by leaking and then reporting highly sensitive transcripts of phone calls with Russian officials.
Ignatius is well plugged into the national security community and inclined to be hawkish but he is also a typical Post politically correct progressive on most issues. So here was your typical liberal asserting something in a dangerous fashion that has not been demonstrated and might be completely untrue. Russia is attacking “our political system!” And The Post is not alone in accepting that Russia is trying to subvert and ultimately overthrow our republic. Reporting from The New York Times and on television news makes the same assumption whenever they discuss Russia, leading to what some critics have described as mounting American ‘hysteria’ relating to anything coming out of Moscow.
Rachel Maddow is another favorite of mine when it comes to talking real humanitarian feel good stuff out one side of her mouth while beating the drum for war from the other side. In a bravura performance on January 26th she roundly chastised Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. Rachel, who freaked out completely when Donald Trump was elected, is now keen to demonstrate that Trump has been corrupted by Russia and is now controlled out of the Kremlin. She described Trump’s lord and master Putin as an “intense little man” who murders his opponents before going into the whole “Trump stole the election with the aid of Moscow” saga, supporting sanctions on Russia and multiple investigations to get to the bottom of “Putin’s attacks on our democracy.” Per Maddow, Russia is the heart of darkness and, by way of Trump, has succeeded in exercising control over key elements in the new administration.
Unfortunately, people in the media like Ignatius and Maddow are not alone. Their willingness to sell a specific political line that carries with it a risk of nuclear war as fact, even when they know it is not, has been part of the fear-mongering engaged in by Democratic Party loyalists and many others on the left. Their intention is to “get Trump” whatever it takes, which opens the door to some truly dangerous maneuvering that could have awful consequences if the drumbeat and military buildup against Russia continues, leading Putin to decide that his country is being threatened and backed into a corner. Moscow has indicated that it would not hesitate use nuclear weapons if it is being confronted militarily and facing defeat.
The current wave of Russophobia is much more dangerous than the random depiction of foreigners in negative terms that has long bedeviled a certain type of American know-nothing politics. Apart from the progressive antipathy towards Putin personally, there is a virulent strain of anti-Russian sentiment among some self-styled conservatives in congress, best exemplified by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Graham has recently said “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.”
It is my belief that many in the National Security State have convinced themselves that Russia is indeed a major threat against the United States and not because it is a nuclear armed power that can strike the U.S. That appreciation, should, if anything constitute a good reason to work hard to maintain cordial relations rather than not, but it is seemingly ignored by everyone but Donald Trump.
No, the new brand of Russophobia derives from the belief that Moscow is “interfering” in places like Syria and Ukraine. Plus, it is a friend of Iran. That perception derives from the consensus view among liberals and conservatives alike that the U.S. sphere of influence encompasses the entire globe as well as the particularly progressive conceit that Washington should serve to “protect” anyone threatened at any time by anyone else, which provides a convenient pretext for military interventions that are euphemistically described as “peace missions.”
There might be a certain cynicism in many who hate Russia as having a powerful enemy also keeps the cash flowing from the treasury into the pockets of the beneficiaries of the military industrial congressional complex, but my real fear is that, having been brainwashed for the past ten years, many government officials are actually sincere in their loathing of Moscow and all its works. Recent opinion polls suggest that that kind of thinking is popular among Americans, but it actually makes no sense. Though involvement by Moscow in the Middle East and Eastern Europe is undeniable, calling it a threat against U.S. vital interests is more than a bit of a stretch as Russia’s actual ability to make trouble is limited. It has exactly one overseas military facility, in Syria, while the U.S. has more than 800, and its economy and military budget are tiny compared to that of the United States. In fact, it is Washington that is most guilty of intervening globally and destabilizing entire regions, not Moscow, and when Donald Trump said in an interview that when it came to killing the U.S. was not so innocent it was a gross understatement.
Ironically, pursuing a reset with Russia is one of the things that Trump actually gets right but the new left won’t give him a break because they reflexively hate him for not embracing the usual progressive bromides that they believe are supposed to go with being antiwar. Other Moscow trashing comes from the John McCain camp which demonizes Russia because warmongers always need an enemy and McCain has never found a war he couldn’t support. It would be a tragedy for the United States if both the left and enough of the right were to join forces to limit Trump’s options on dealing with Moscow, thereby enabling an escalating conflict that could have tragic consequences for all parties.
As Democrats compete to become the new War Party – pushing for a dangerous confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia – some constituents are objecting, as Mike Madden did in a letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Dear Senator Klobuchar, I write with concern over statements you have made recently regarding Russia. These statements have been made both at home and abroad, and they involve two issues; the alleged Russian hack of the presidential election and Russia’s actions in the aftermath of the February 22, 2014 coup in Kiev.
U.S. intelligence services allege that President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign to denigrate Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump. The campaign is purported to include the production of fake news, cyber-trolling, and propaganda from Russian state-owned media. It is also alleged that Russia hacked the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, subsequently providing the emails to WikiLeaks.
Despite calls from many quarters, the intelligence services have not provided the public with any proof. Instead, Americans are expected to blindly trust these services with a long history of failure. Additionally, the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, have both been known to lie to the public and to Congress, Mr. Clapper doing so under oath.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange maintains the emails did not come from Russia (or any other state actor) and his organization has an unblemished record of revealing accurate information in the public interest that would otherwise remain hidden. While responsible journalists continue to use the word ‘alleged’ to describe the accusations, Republicans with an ax to grind against Russia, and Democrats wishing to distract from their own failings in the campaign, refer to them as fact. Indeed, on the ‘Amy in the News’ page of your own website, Jordain Carney of The Hill refers to the Russian meddling as “alleged”.
A congressional commission to investigate the alleged Russian hacking is not necessary. Even if all the allegations are true, they are altogether common occurrences, and they certainly don’t rise to the level of “an act of aggression”, “an existential threat to our way of life”, or “an attack on the American people” as various Democratic officials have characterized them. Republican Senator John McCain went full monty and called the alleged meddling “an act of war”.
Joining War Hawks
It is of concern that you would join Senator McCain and the equally belligerent Senator Lindsey Graham on a tour of Russian provocation through the Baltics, Ukraine, Georgia, and Montenegro. The announcement of your trip (December 28, 2016) on the ‘News Releases’ page of your website renewed the unproven claim of “Russian interference in our recent election”. It also claimed that the countries you were visiting were facing “Russian aggression” and that “Russia illegally annexed Crimea”.
It is unfortunate that these claims have become truisms by sheer repetition rather than careful examination of the facts. Russia has not invaded eastern Ukraine. There are no regular units of the Russian military in the breakaway provinces, nor has Russia launched any air strikes from its territory. It has sent weapons and other provisions to the Ukrainian forces seeking autonomy from Kiev, and there are most certainly Russian volunteers operating in Ukraine.
However regrettable, it must be remembered that the unrest was precipitated by the February 22, 2014 overthrow of the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych which, speaking of meddling, was assisted by U.S. State Department, other American government agencies, and one Senator John McCain. The subsequent military and paramilitary operations launched by the coup government against the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk were described by President Putin as “uncontrolled crime” spreading into the south and east of the country. In American parlance, both the interim coup government in Kiev and the current government of President Petro Poroshenko have engaged in “killing their own people”.
Ignoring the Details
If Russia’s actions are to be considered “aggression” or an “invasion”, one must find a whole new word to describe what the United States did to Iraq in 2003. If, like your colleague Senator McCain, you hold the annexation of Crimea to be illegal under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, I urge a closer look.
On February 21, 2014, an agreement brokered by the European Union was signed between President Yanukovych and the leaders of three major opposition parties. The agreement contained terms for a cessation of violence, immediate power sharing, and new elections. Smelling blood in the water, the opposition in Maidan Square did not withdraw from the streets or surrender their illegal weapons as agreed, but instead went on the offensive. Yanukovych, under threat to his life, fled Kiev along with many others in his Party of Regions.
Nor did the opposition party leaders honor the agreement. The next day, they moved to impeach Yanukovych, however they failed to meet several requirements of the Ukrainian Constitution. They failed to indict the president, conduct an investigation, and have that investigation certified by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. Instead, they moved directly to a vote on impeachment and, even on that count, they failed to obtain the required three-fourths majority vote. So, even though the Budapest Memorandum did offer assurances of Ukrainian security and territorial integrity in exchange for surrender of Soviet-era nuclear weapons on its soil, the sovereign government of Ukraine had fallen in a violent unconstitutional putsch.
Yanukovych remained its legitimate president-in-exile and he, along with the prime minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, requested Russian intervention on the peninsula to provide security and protect the human rights of ethnic Russians threatened by the new coup government and neo-Nazi elements within it.
One can now see how real that threat was by looking to eastern Ukraine where the Ukrainian military and neo-Nazi paramilitaries such as the Azov Battallion, have moved with force against the defenders of the Donbass region whose people seek autonomy from a government in Kiev that they do not recognize. Approximately 10,000 people have died in the Donbass War, whereas only six people were killed during the period of annexation (February 23-March19, 2014) in Crimea.
While the Donbass War drags on, Crimea remains stable today. The popular referendum conducted on March 16, 2014 lent legitimacy to the subsequent annexation. Official results claimed 82% turnout with 96% of voters favoring reunification with Russia. Independent polling conducted in the early weeks of March 2014 found 70-77% of all Crimeans favored reunification. Six years prior to the crisis in 2008, a poll found that 63% favored reunification. Even though many ethnic Ukranians and Tatars boycotted the election, rejoining Russia was clearly the will of the majority of Crimean people.
President Putin, characterizing the situation in Ukraine as a revolution, claimed that Russia had no agreements with the new state and therefore no obligations under the Budapest Memorandum. He also cited Chapter I: Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, which calls for respect for the principle of self-determination of peoples. The 1975 Helsinki Accords, which affirmed post-World War II borders, also allowed for the change of national boundaries by peaceful internal means.
The Kosovo Precedent
It is also useful to consider parallel occurrences in Kosovo. In 1998 ethnic cleansing by Serbian troops and paramilitaries led to a NATO intervention without U.N. authorization. There is little question that the move was illegal, but legitimacy was claimed due to the urgent humanitarian need. Ten years later, Kosovo would declare independence from Serbia and the disputed matter would end up before the International Court of Justice. In 2009 the United States provided the Court with a statement on Kosovo that read in part: “Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law.”
The United States should accept the Russian annexation of Crimea both as a pragmatic matter, and one of principle. In 1990, during negotiations for the re-unification of Germany, the United States promised that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO. That promise has now been broken three times and eleven new nations have been added to the alliance. Ukraine has also entered in partnership with NATO, and at various times, full membership has been discussed. Russia has consistently expressed its disapproval. According to your website, an objective of your trip was “to reinforce support for NATO”. If this weren’t provocative enough, your three-senator delegation went to a front-line military outpost in Shirokino, Ukraine to incite an escalation to the Donbass War. Senator Graham told the assembled soldiers “Your fight is our fight, 2017 will be the year of offense”. The leader of your delegation, Senator McCain, said “I am convinced you will win and we will do everything we can to provide you with what you need to win”.
After the speeches were given, you are seen in a video of the New Year’s Eve event accepting what appears to be a gift from one of the uniformed soldiers. With all of the furor over former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s resignation, and possible violation of the Logan Act, for discussing alleviation of sanctions with a Russian ambassador, this appears to be a far more serious offense. Not only did your delegation advocate for a foreign policy that was not aligned with that of acting President Obama, it was also contrary to President-elect Trump’s approach to the region. And the results of your advocacy have the potential to be far more deadly than the mere alleviation of sanctions.
Sincerely, Mike Madden St. Paul, Minnesota
There are currently three major flash points in the world, where a false step could rapidly lead to escalation and a major war from which human civilization would be the main loser. Those flashpoints are the Middle East, the South China Sea and Ukraine/Crimea. In each of them Australia has made major missteps, invariably at the request of the Americans, and where Australia’s national interest is either non-existent or the opposite of the actions that have been taken.
The recent upsurge in fighting in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, collectively referred to as Donbass, where Ukrainian forces have vastly increased the artillery barrage of civilian areas has sharpened the likelihood of a more serious war breaking out. In these circumstances the responsibility of the media to accurately report what is happening and why is high. Yet, as is so often the case, we are treated to a non-stop barrage of misinformation and outright propaganda.
The reincorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation in March 2014 is invariably portrayed as the result of an “invasion” and “annexation” and that peace can only be restored with Crimea’s return to Ukraine.
This is not only a rewriting of history; it also ignores the crucial historical background of that region of the world and how that is relevant to the present day. A brief history is in order, if only because it is not something that the mainstream media will ever state, as wedded as they are to a narrative whose sole purpose is the demonization of Russia and of President Putin.
Ukraine itself has only had its modern borders since 1945. Prior to that time part had come under the sway of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and another part had been incorporated into Tsarist Russia in 1667. Following the peasant revolt of 1768/69 there was a partitioning between the Austrian empire and the Russian empire. It has therefore to a greater or lesser extent been a part of the Russian empire for more than 300 years. To give that some perspective, it is a longer period than either the United States or Australia has been a nation state.
Following the Ukrainian War of Independence from 1917-1921 it was absorbed into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics where it remained until the break up of the USSR in 1991.
Crimea has had a similarly chequered history. Prior to the Crimean War 1853-56 when Australian troops fought with the British and the Turks against Russia, Crimea had been part of the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great defeated the Ottomans in 1783 and thereafter Crimea was part of Russia. That war was fought on Crimean soil. Prior to the Ottomans, Crimea had for the previous 2000 years been variously parts of the Greek, Roman, Mongol and other empires. Then as now it occupied a strategic position on the Black Sea. The Crimean War had as a primary target the Russian naval base at Sevastopol. Which is further evidence that nothing really changes.
After the Russian Revolution Crimea became an autonomous Republic within the USSR and stayed there until 1954. In that year, following a resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR it was transferred to Ukraine.
There are various theories as to why the transfer was made, one popular version being that it was a symbolic gesture marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming part of the Tsardom of Russia. The actual reasons do not matter so much as two other factors that were operative.
The first was that as an integral part of the USSR it did not make a great deal of political difference as to which State Crimea was nominally attached. The second factor was that neither the Russian people nor the Crimeans were consulted about the decision.
There things remained until February 2014 when a coup was mounted against the lawful government of Ukraine. The Australian media refuse to acknowledge that it was a coup, and that the coup was organized and paid for ($5 billion dollars) by the Americans, as the chief organizer, then Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland freely acknowledged to a congressional committee.
The Crimeans, as indeed also the residents of the Donbass region, were extremely unhappy with the takeover in Kiev of a frankly fascist government. The people of eastern Ukraine, including Crimea, are overwhelmingly ethnic Russian, speak the Russian language as their first language, intermarry with Russians across the border, and culturally identify with Russia.
A referendum was hastily organized and held on 16 March 2014. The result was that there was an 83% turnout, and 96.77% of those who voted were in favour of being readmitted to the Russian Federation. That result was condemned by the US and Australia, among other nations. The main objections stated were that the vote was held after Russian troops had “invaded” Crimea, and that the Crimeans had no right to hold such a referendum.
In one form or another those objections have been repeated by the western media ever since. An added claim is that the “annexation” of Crimea is further evidence of “Russian aggression” in general and that of Mr Putin in particular.
The facts are rather different. First, let us look at the “invasion” claim. There were already 25,000 Russian troops in Crimea. They were there pursuant to a treaty with the Ukrainian government, mainly associated with the very important Russian naval base at Sevastopol. It will be recalled that that naval base was a major target of the British and allied forces in the Crimean War more than 150 years earlier.
There was absolutely no evidence that the presence of Russian troops prevented the free exercise of the vote by Crimeans in the referendum, except indirectly in that their presence certainly deterred Ukraine from military intervention.
Independent polls conducted after the referendum, for example by the German Gfk polling organisation showed that 82% of those polled supported the referendum result and only 4% opposed it. Other, including American, polling organisations, obtained similar results.
The second major claim is that the referendum was “unlawful” and as such not recognised by the western powers. This is a classic example of western hypocrisy. Western governments are perfectly willing to accept independence referenda when it suits their geopolitical purposes to do so. There are a number of recent examples.
In April 1993 Eritrea held a referendum to establish its independence from Ethiopia. Only Eritreans were able to vote. It passed overwhelmingly. There was no objection from the US or Australia.
On 17 February 2008 Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. There was no referendum. Not only did the US not object, they bombed Serbia to encourage the government to accept the result. Australia protested neither the declaration of independence nor the illegal bombing.
The International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence on 23 July 2010. The Court noted that previous declarations of independence being declared invalid had to be seen in their specific context. Importantly, the Court noted as a general principle that there was an absence of a general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence under international law.
The important factual difference in Crimea’s case is the long history of the peninsula as a part of Russia; its ethnic and linguistic ties to Russia; and that there was a referendum with the overwhelming majority of citizens voting to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia.
In September 2014 the people of Scotland voted in a referendum of whether or not they would remain a part of the United Kingdom or become a separate sovereign nation. In that case the referendum was narrowly lost although a mooted second referendum following the Brexit vote in the UK may well have a different result.
Again, neither the US nor Australia claimed that the Scots were not entitled to have a referendum, nor that they would refuse to recognise the result.
The final point to be made in this context is that in 1970 the United Nations General Assembly passed by acclamation (i.e. without dissent from either Australia or the United States) a Declaration on Principles of International Law .
In the section of the Resolution regarding “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” was the following passage:
By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every State has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.
What the Crimeans have done is no more nor less than they are entitled to in accordance with this Declaration. It is Australia, the United States and others that condemn Crimea and the Russians who are in breach of their legal and moral obligations.
A further illustration of western hypocrisy over Crimea and the Donbass is the total silence over the ongoing military assault against the civilian population of Donbass. The Minsk 2 Accords, initiated by France and Germany, and agreed to by Russia and Ukraine, contained a number of provisions designed to recognise the legitimate aspirations of the people of Donbass.
The Minsk 2 Accord provided, inter alia, for a ceasefire; a pullback of Ukrainian troops; for the Ukrainian Rada to pass specific laws relating to the governance of Donbass; and to amend the Ukrainian constitution to incorporate decentralization as a key component.
All of these provisions have been ignored and violated. Instead of condemning the Ukrainian violations and failure to carry out its obligations, the US and its allies have continued to blame Russia. Immediately after the US election, Senators McCain and Graham travelled to Kiev and urged Ukraine to keep fighting, promising American support.
There is no evidence that they did so with the support of then President –elect Trump and their authority to do so is unclear. The immediate result of the US Senator’s visit was an upsurge in the bombardment of villages and towns in the Donbass region.
There is an equally stunning silence from the Australian authorities. They seem incapable of understanding history, incapable of recognizing the efforts made by the Russians to create an economic arrangement that would benefit Ukraine through open association with both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union; and of recognizing the grave potential for war posed by the reckless expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.
Instead of recognizing the historical and geopolitical realities, including that Ukraine is now a failed state ruled by neo-fascists, they continue to parrot the tired cliché that the Russians are to blame.
Upon such fatal ignorance are wars often started.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law.
In the anti-Russian frenzy sweeping American politics and media, Democrats, liberals and mainstream pundits are calling for an investigative body that could become a new kind of House Un-American Activities Committee to hunt down Americans who have communicated with Russians.
The proposed commission would have broad subpoena powers to investigate alleged connections between Trump’s supporters and the Russian government with the apparent goal of asking if they now have or have ever talked to a Russian who might have some tie to the Kremlin or its intelligence agencies.
Such an admission apparently would be prima facie evidence of disloyalty, a guilt-by-association “crime” on par with Sen. Joe McCarthy’s Cold War pursuit of “communists” who supposedly had infiltrated the U.S. government, the film industry and other American institutions.
Operating parallel to McCarthy’s Red Scare hearings was the House Un-American Activities Committee (or HUAC), a standing congressional panel from 1945-1975 when it was best known for investigating alleged communist subversion and propaganda. One of its top achievements was the blacklisting of the “Hollywood Ten” whose careers in the movie industry were damaged or destroyed.
Although the Cold War has long been over – and Russia has often cooperated with the U.S. government, especially on national security issues such as supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan – Democrats and liberals seem ready to force Americans to again prove their loyalty if they engaged in conversations with Russians.
Or perhaps these “witnesses” can be entrapped into perjury charges if their recollections of conversations with Russians don’t match up with transcripts of their intercepted communications, a tactic similar to ones used by Sen. McCarthy and HUAC to trip up and imprison targets over such secondary charges.
Ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has already encountered such a predicament because he couldn’t recall all the details of a phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on Dec. 29, 2016, after Flynn took the call while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
When Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department decided to gin up a legal premise to go after Flynn, they cited the Logan Act, a law enacted in 1799 to prohibit private citizens from negotiating with foreign adversaries but never used to convict anyone. The law also is of dubious constitutionality and was surely never intended to apply to a president-elect’s advisers.
However, based on that flimsy pretext, FBI agents – with a transcript of the electronic intercept of the Kislyak-Flynn phone call in hand – tested Flynn’s memory of the conversation and found his recollections incomplete. Gotcha – lying to the FBI!
Under mounting media and political pressure, President Trump fired Flynn, apparently hoping that tossing Flynn overboard to the circling sharks would somehow calm the sharks down. Instead, blood in the water added to the frenzy.
Some prominent Democrats and liberals have compared Trump-connected contacts with Russians to President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal or President Reagan’s Iran-Contra Affair, an issue that I know a great deal about having helped expose it as a reporter for The Associated Press in the 1980s.
The key difference is that Iran-Contra was an unconstitutional effort by the Reagan administration to finance an illegal war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in defiance of a congressional ban. The Trump-connected communications with Russians – to the degree they have occurred – appear to have been aimed at preventing a new and dangerous Cold War that could lead to a nuclear holocaust.
In other words, Iran-Contra was about enabling a paramilitary force to continue its brutal marauding inside a country that was no threat to the United States while the current “scandal” is about people trying to avoid hostilities between two nuclear superpowers, an existential threat that many mainstream and liberal pundits don’t want to recognize.
Indeed, there is a troubling denial-ism about the risks of an accidental or intentional war with Russia as the U.S. media and much of Official Washington’s establishment have lots of fun demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin and jabbing the Russians by shoving NATO troops up to their borders and deploying anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe. For some crazy reason, the Russians feel threatened.
This Russia-bashing and Russia-baiting have been accompanied by false narratives presented in the major U.S. newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, to justify increased tensions.
For instance, the Post’s senior foreign affairs writer Karen DeYoung on Friday described the civil war in Ukraine this way: “That conflict began when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014, then backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in what has become a grinding war, despite a deal to end it, called the Minsk agreement, negotiated with Putin by the leaders of France and Germany.”
But DeYoung’s synopsis is simply not true. The crisis began in the fall of 2013 when Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of what he regarded as a costly and unacceptable association agreement with the European Union, a move which prompted protests by Ukrainians in Kiev’s Maidan square.
The Obama administration’s State Department, U.S. neocon politicians such as Sen. John McCain, and various U.S.-backed “non-governmental organizations” then stoked those protests against Yanukovych, which grew violent as trained ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi street fighters poured in from western Ukraine.
In early 2014, a coup to overthrow the democratically elected Yanukovych took shape under the guidance of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who were caught in a phone call in late January or early February 2014 conspiring to impose new leadership inside Ukraine.
Nuland disparaged a less extreme strategy favored by European diplomats with the pithy remark: “Fuck the E.U.” and went on to declare “Yats is the guy,” favoring Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the new leader. Nuland then pondered how to “glue this thing” while Pyatt ruminated about how to “midwife this thing.”
On Feb. 20, 2014, a mysterious sniper apparently firing from a building controlled by the ultranationalist Right Sektor killed both police and protesters, setting off a day of violence that left about 70 people dead including more than a dozen police.
The next day, three European governments struck a deal with Yanukovych in which he agreed to early elections and accepted reduced powers. But that political settlement wasn’t enough for the U.S.-backed militants who stormed government buildings on Feb. 22, forcing Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives.
Instead of standing by the Feb. 21 agreement, which the European nations had “guaranteed,” Nuland pushed for and got U.S. allies to accept the new post-coup regime as “legitimate,” with Yatsenyuk becoming prime minister and several top government posts given to the ultranationalists and neo-Nazis.
In the ensuing days, the right-wing violence spread beyond Kiev, prompting Crimea’s legislature to propose secession from Ukraine and readmission to Russia, whose relationship to the peninsula dated back to Catherine the Great.
Crimea scheduled a referendum that was opposed by the new regime in Kiev. Russian troops did not “invade” Crimea because some 20,000 were already stationed there as part of a basing agreement at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. The Russians did provide security for the referendum but there was no evidence of intimidation as the citizens of Crimea voted by 96 percent to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a move that Putin and the Russian duma accepted.
Eastern Ukrainians tried to follow Crimea’s lead with their own referendum, but Putin and Russia rejected their appeals to secede. However, when the Kiev regime launched an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” against the so-called Donbass region – spearheaded by ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi militias – Russia provided military assistance so these ethnic Russians would not be annihilated.
Karen DeYoung also framed the Minsk agreement as if it were imposed on Putin when he was one of its principal proponents and architects, winning its approval in early 2015 at a time when the Ukrainian military was facing battlefield reversals.
But Assistant Secretary Nuland, working with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and the Ukrainian parliament, sabotaged the agreement by requiring the Donbass rebels to first surrender which they were unwilling to do, having no faith in the sincerity of the Kiev regime to live up to its commitment to grant limited autonomy to the Donbass.
In other words, Kiev inserted a poison pill to prevent a peaceful resolution, but the Western media and governments always blame the Minsk failure on Putin.
If Karen DeYoung wanted to boil all this history down to one paragraph, it might go: “The Ukraine conflict began when U.S. officials supported the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, prompting Crimea to rejoin Russia and causing ethnic Russians in the east to rise up against the U.S.-backed coup regime in Kiev, which then sought to crush the rebellion. The Kiev regime later torpedoed a peace deal that had been hammered out by Russian, Ukrainian and European negotiators in Minsk.”
But such a summary would not have the desired propaganda effect on the American people. It would not present the U.S.-backed side as the “white hats” and the pro-Russia side as the “black hats.”
The simple truth is that the story of Ukraine is far more complex and multi-sided than The Washington Post, The New York Times and most mainstream U.S. news outlets want to admit. They simply start the clock at the point of Crimea’s rejection of the post-coup regime and distort those facts to present the situation simply as a “Russian invasion.”
A Whipped-Up Hysteria
The major media’s distortion is so egregious that you could call it a lie, but it is a lie that has proved very useful in whipping up the current anti-Russian hysteria that is sweeping Official Washington and that has given birth to a New Cold War, now accompanied by a New McCarthyism that deems anyone who doesn’t accept the “groupthink” a “Russian apologist” or a “Moscow stooge.”
Since last November’s election, this New McCarthyism has merged with hatred toward Donald Trump, especially after the outgoing Obama administration lodged unproven accusations that Russia undercut Hillary Clinton’s campaign by hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and those of her campaign chairman John Podesta – and slipped that information to WikiLeaks.
Those emails showed how the DNC undercut the rival campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders and revealed the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street banks as well as pay-to-play aspects of the Clinton Foundation, information that Clinton wanted to keep from the voters.
But no one thought the emails were a major factor in the Clinton-Trump race; indeed, Clinton blamed her stunning defeat on FBI Director James Comey’s last-minute decision to reopen and then re-close his investigation into security concerns about her use of a private email server as Secretary of State.
But the script on how Clinton lost was flipped during the Trump transition as President Obama’s intelligence agencies floated the Russia-hacked-the-election scenario although presenting no public evidence to support the claims. WikiLeaks representatives also denied getting the material from Russia, suggesting instead that it was leaked by two different American insiders.
A Ministry of Truth
Still, during the post-election period, the anti-Russian hysteria continued to build. In November, The Washington Post highlighted claims by an anonymous group called PropOrNot accusing some 200 Web sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other major independent media outlets, of disseminating Russian “propaganda.”
The New York Times joined in the frenzy by calling for leading technology companies to marginalize Web sites that are deemed to be publishing “fake news,” a vague term that was applied not just to intentionally false stories but to information that questioned official narratives, no matter how dubious those narratives were. The New McCarthyism was morphing into a New Orwellianism.
The movement toward a Ministry of Truth gained further momentum in December when Congress passed and President Obama signed a military authorization bill that included a new $160 million bureaucracy to identify and counter alleged “Russian propaganda.”
The anger of Democrats and liberals toward President Trump in his first month has added more fuel to the Russia-bashing with some Democrats and liberals seeing it as a possible route toward neutralizing or impeaching Trump. Thus, the calls for a full-scale investigation with subpoena power to demand documents and compel testimony.
While the idea of getting to the full truth has a superficial appeal, it also carries dangers of launching a witch hunt that would drag American citizens before inquisitors asking about any contacts – no matter how innocuous – with Russians.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, HUAC also claimed that all it wanted was the truth about whether some Americans were allied with or sympathetic to Moscow. Sen. Joe McCarthy offered a similar rationale when he was trying to root out “disloyal” Americans with the question, “are you now or have you ever been a communist?”
That Democrats and liberals who hold the McCarthy era in understandable disdain would now seek to rekindle something similar reeks of rank opportunism and gross hypocrisy – doing whatever it takes to “get Trump” and build an activist movement that can revive the Democratic Party’s flagging political hopes.
But this particular opportunism and hypocrisy also carries with it the prospect of blindly ramping up tensions with Russia, diverting more taxpayer money into the Military-Industrial Complex and conceivably sparking – whether planned or unplanned – a nuclear Armageddon that could eliminate life on the planet. Perhaps this anti-Trump strategy should be rethought.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.