All posts by John V. Walsh

Paternalistic Non-interventionism

The summer of 2019 has seen a series of events in Hong Kong beginning with two massive demonstrations that called for the withdrawal of the Extradition Bill to Macao, Taiwan and Mainland China. The demonstrations were peaceful and the bill was quickly “suspended” and labeled “dead” by the Hong Kong government and then withdrawn by summer’s end, meeting the demand of the demonstrations.

But that was not the end of the matter. Over the summer and to this day smaller demonstrations, of hundreds or at most a few thousand, broke out, mainly taking the form of marauding with Molotov cocktails and attacks on police stations, subway stations, police themselves and even on bystanders. Another four demands were added to the original demand to bury the extradition bill. Some, not the majority, called for the secession of Hong Kong from China of which it is legally a part.

But these events did not simply evolve internally in Hong Kong and the rest of China. Although internal forces were at work, the US government had a hand in these events.1 Unfortunately, this readily accessible material has barely been mentioned, if mentioned at all, in the US mainstream media. The most recent and in some ways most blatant examples of interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong takes the form of the bipartisan “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (HKHRD Act)” (H.R. 3289 and S. 1838, an identical bill in the Senate). On September 15 H.R. 3289 was passed in the House by a voice vote. By threat of sanctions and other economic and political measures, the HKHRD Act seeks to determine which laws the Chinese city of Hong Kong will legislate and which not. This is clearly interventionism on the part of the U.S. How would the US react to such threats from another country? How would the U.S. react if China informed us that it was going to put sanctions in place against the U.S. if we would did not change our laws that result in mass incarceration which is clearly racist in character?

Sadly, most peace activists in the US and the West have been silent on the US role in the Hong Kong riots. Or they have gone so far as to echo the narrative of events in Hong Kong put about by Pence, Pompeo, Pelosi and their ilk. For contrast, consider the situation in Venezuela where the US government, its proxies and the same chorus of politicians call for sanctions and other interventions. The peace community in general is clear on its opposition to US intervention of any sort in Venezuela whether from the machinations of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or sanctions or attacks on Venezuela’s financial system or actual armed intervention. Why the difference between Venezuela and Hong Kong?

In both Hong Kong and Venezuela, the interventionists tell us that human rights are at stake and an alleged “tyranny,” the Maduro government in one case and the Carrie Lam/Xi Jinping governments in the other, must be fought. So that cannot be the difference in the attitude of progressives to the two cases. Wherein lies the difference?

Here is the difference. Hong Kong is a part of China which presents a real challenge to US global hegemony and a force in the world which may balance the unrestrained power of the US Empire. With the world’s largest economy in PPP-GDP terms since November 2014, now roughly 125% that of the US and growing 2-3 times faster even at its “slowed” rate, China will inevitably have great military and soft power since the latter grow out of economic power. China also serves as an economic anchor for the developing world, an anchor that provides a viable alternative to the economic and financial hegemony of the US Empire. China opens the possibility of a multipolar world where no single nation can dictate to the entire world.

In contrast Venezuela is no threat to US hegemony. It instills no fear in the imperial Elite; if Venezuela maintains its independence, the Empire can roll on pretty much as before. As a consequence, a stance against US intervention in Venezuela will not meet with intense opposition from the US imperial Elite and its minions. Non-intervention in the case of Venezuela is the proper course and should be supported and praised. But such opposition can fall within the ambit of a loyal imperial “opposition,” that is, a harmless opposition if it is not accompanied by nonintervention in cases like that of China’s city of Hong Kong.

“US Hands Off Venezuela” is principled if it is accompanied by “US Hands Off Hong Kong.” By itself “US Hands Off Venezuela” can be seen as a kind of token anti-Empire stance. Such tokenism treats Venezuela not as a part of a powerful worldwide struggle against US hegemony but as a harmless effort which the loyal imperial opposition deigns to help. In short it is Paternalistic Non-interventionism, and DemocracyNow! is one good example of Paternalistic Non-interventionism. The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity or the newsletter PopularResistance.org are good examples of principled non-interventionism.

One evidence of the difference between the two is that those who refuse to call for US Hands Off Hong Kong are also partisans for Russiagate, for US intervention in Syria and for US interference in Ukraine. (Or at the least they are silent on these issues.) Russia like China is a serious hindrance to the US drive for world hegemony and so the Paternalistic Non-interventionists cease to be non-interventionists when it comes to Syria, a state protected by Russia, or Ukraine, a country with which Russia must have good relations to live in peace.

Interventionism of the sort practiced by the NED in Hong Kong and the rest of China puts us on a road where antagonisms mount and ever sharper forms of conflict emerge with a major power rivaling the US. In short it puts us on a path to war since China is a full-fledged nuclear power now with a fully developed nuclear triad, that war could easily carry us to Armageddon.

At this moment “U.S. Hands Off Hong Kong” is the cutting edge of Principled Non-interventionism. Those who fail to take that stance, like the crew at DemocracyNow!, among many others, are at best Paternalistic Non-interventionists. They should make no claim to being antiwar or anti-Empire. They are not.

  1. And abundant evidence for that has been provided here, here, here, here< and here.

‘Hands Off Hong Kong’ – the Cry That Seldom Is Heard

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Through the summer the world has watched as protests shook Hong Kong. As early as April they began as peaceful demonstrations which peaked in early June, with hundreds of thousands, in protest of an extradition bill. That bill would have allowed Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, to return criminals to Taiwan, mainland China or Macau for crimes committed there – after approval by multiple layers of the Hong Kong judiciary. In the wake of those enormous nonviolent demonstrations, Carrie Lam, CEO of Hong Kong, “suspended” consideration of the extradition bill, a face-saving ploy. To make sure she was understood, she declared it “dead.” The large rallies, an undeniable expression of the peaceful will of a large segment of the Hong Kong population had won an impressive victory. The unpopular extradition bill was slain.

But that was not the end of the story. A smaller segment continued the protests. (The Hong Kong police at one point estimated 4,000 hard core protesters.) pressed on with other demands, beginning with a demand that the bill be “withdrawn,” not simply “suspended.” To this writer death by “suspension” is every bit as terminal as death by “withdrawal.” As this piece is sent to press, news comes that Corrie Lam has now formally withdrawn the bill.

As the summer passed, two iconic photos presented us with two human faces that captured two crucial features of the ongoing protests; they were not shown widely in the West.

First, Fu Guohao, a reporter for the Chinese mainland newspaper, Global Times, was attacked, bound and beaten by protesters during their takeover of the Hong Kong International Airport. When police and rescuers tried to free him, the protesters blocked them and also attempted to block the ambulance that eventually bore him off to the hospital. The photos and videos of this ugly sequence were seen by netizens across the globe even though given scant attention in Western media. Where were the stalwart defenders of the press in the US as this happened? As one example, DemocracyNow! (DN!) was completely silent as was the rest of the US mainstream media.

Fu’s beating came after many weeks when the protesters threw up barriers to stop traffic; blocked closure of subway doors, in defiance of commuters and police, to shut down mass transit; sacked and vandalized the HK legislature building; assaulted bystanders who disagreed with them; attacked the police with Molotov cocktails; and stormed and defaced police stations. Fu’s ordeal and all these actions shown in photos on Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, a paper leaning to the side of protesters, gave the lie to the image of these “democracy activists” as young Ghandis of East Asia. (The South China Morning Post is based in Hong Kong and its readership is concentrated there so it has to have some reasonable fidelity in reporting events; otherwise it loses credibility – and circulation. Similarly, much as the New York Times abhorred Occupy Wall Street, it could not fail to report on it.)

Which brings us to the second photo, much more important to US citizens, that of a “Political Counselor” at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong who in August was pictured meeting with, Joshua Long and Nathan Law, at a hotel there. The official was formerly a State Dept functionary in the Middle East – in Jerusalem, Riyadh, Beirut, Baghdad and Doha, certainly not an area lacking in imperial intrigues and regime change ops. That photo graphically contradicted the contention that there is no US “black hand,” as China calls it, in the Hong Kong riots. In fact, here the “black hand” was caught red-handed, leading Chen Weihua, a very perceptive China Daily columnist, to tweet the picture with the comment: “This is very very embarrassing. … a US diplomat in Hong Kong, was caught meeting HK protest leaders. It would be hard to imagine the US reaction if a Chinese diplomat were meeting leaders of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter or Never Trump protesters.”

And that photo with the protest leaders is just a snap shot of the ample evidence of the hand of the US government and its subsidiaries in the Hong Kong events. Perhaps the best documentation of the US “black hand” is to be found in Dan Cohen’s superb article of August 17 in The Greyzone entitled, “Behind a made-for-TV Hong Kong protest narrative, Washington is backing nativism and mob violence.” The article by Cohen deserves careful reading; it leaves little doubt that there is a very deep involvement of the US in the Hong Kong riots. Of special interest is the detailed role and funding, amounting to over $1.3 million, in Hong Kong alone in recent years, of the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), ever on the prowl for new regime change opportunities. Perhaps most important, the leaders of the “leaderless” protests have met with major US political figures such as John Bolton, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Senator Marco Rubio, Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, Nancy Pelosi and others, all of whom have heartily endorsed their efforts. This is not to deny that the protests were home grown at the outset in response to what was widely perceived as a legitimate grievance. But it would be equally absurd to deny that the US is fishing in troubled Hong Kong waters to advance its anti-China crusade and regime change ambitions.

That said, where is the US peace movement on the question of Hong Kong?

Let us be clear. One can sympathize with the demand of many citizens of Hong Kong to end the extradition bill or even the other four demands: an inquiry into police handling of their protests; the retraction of a government characterization of the demonstrations as riots; an amnesty for arrested protesters; and universal suffrage. (The first three all grow out of violence of the protests, be it noted.) But that is the business of the citizens of Hong Kong and all the rest of China. It is not the business of the US government. Peace activists in the US should be hard at work documenting and denouncing the US government’s meddling in Hong Kong, which could set us on the road to war with China, potentially a nuclear war. And that is a mission for which we in the US are uniquely suited since, at least in theory, we have some control over our government.

So, we should expect to hear the cry, “US Government, Hands Off Hong Kong”? Sadly, with a few principled exceptions it is nowhere to be heard on either the left or right.

Let’s take DemocracyNow! (DN!) as one example, a prominent one on the “progressive” end of the spectrum. From April through August 28, there have been 25 brief accounts (“headlines” as DN! calls them, each amounting to a few paragraphs) of the events in Hong Kong and 4 features, longer supposedly analytic pieces, on the same topic. Transcripts of the four features are hereherehere and here. There is not a single mention of possible US involvement or the meetings of the various leaders of the protest movement with Pompeo, Bolton, Pence, or the “Political Counselor” of the US Hong Kong consulate.

And this silence on US meddling is true not only of most progressive commentators but also most conservatives.

On the Left when someone cries “Democracy,” many forget all their pro-peace sentiment. And similarly on the Right when someone cries “Communism,” anti-interventionism too often goes down the tubes. Forgotten is John Quincy Adams’s 1823 dictum, endlessly quoted but little honored, “We do not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Where does this lapse on the part of activists come from? Is it a deep-seated loyalty to Empire, the result of endless indoctrination? Is it US Exceptionalism, ingrained to the point of unconsciousness? Or is it at bottom a question of who the paymasters are?

On both sides anti-interventionism takes an especially hard hit when it comes to major competitors of the US, powers that could actually stand in the way of US global hegemony, like Russia or China. In fact on its August 12 program, DN! managed a story taking a swipe at Russia right next to the one on Hong Kong – and DN! was in the forefront of advancing the now debunked and disgraced Russiagate Conspiracy Theory. In contrast, the anti-interventionist movement is front and center when it comes to weaker nations, for example Venezuela – and quite properly so. But when one puts this advocacy for weaker nations together with the New Cold War stance on China and Russia, one must ask what is going on here. Does it betoken a sort of imperial paternalism on the part of DN and like-minded outlets? It certainly gains DN!, and others like it, considerable credibility among anti-interventionists which can help win them to a position in favor of DN!’s New Cold War stance. And the masters of Empire certainly understand how valuable such credibility can be at crucial moments when support for their adventures is needed from every quarter.

Fortunately, there are a handful of exceptions to this New Cold War attitude. For example, on the left Popular Resistance has provided a view of the events in Hong Kong and a superb interview with K.J. Noh that go beyond the line of the State Department, the mainstream media and DN! And on the libertarian Right there is the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and the work of its Executive Director Dan McAdams.

We would all do well to follow the example of these organizations in rejecting a New Cold War mentality which is extremely dangerous, perhaps fatally so. A good beginning for us in the US is to demand of our government, “Hands Off Hong Kong.”

Reprinted with permission from Unz Review.

Hands off Hong Kong: The Cry Seldom Heard

South China Morning Post

Through the summer the world has watched as protests shook Hong Kong. As early as April they began as peaceful demonstrations which peaked in early June, with hundreds of thousands, in protest of an extradition bill. That bill would have allowed Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, to return criminals to Taiwan, mainland China or Macau for crimes committed there – after approval by multiple layers of the Hong Kong judiciary. In the wake of those enormous nonviolent demonstrations, Carrie Lam, CEO of Hong Kong, “suspended” consideration of the extradition bill, a face-saving ploy. To make sure she was understood, she declared it “dead.” The large rallies, an undeniable expression of the peaceful will of a large segment of the Hong Kong population had won an impressive victory. The unpopular extradition bill was slain.

But that was not the end of the story. A smaller segment continued the protests. (The Hong Kong police at one point estimated 4,000 hard core protesters.) pressed on with other demands, beginning with a demand that the bill be “withdrawn,” not simply “suspended.” To this writer death by “suspension” is every bit as terminal as death by “withdrawal.” As this piece is sent to press, news comes that Corrie Lam has now formally withdrawn the bill.

As the summer passed, two iconic photos presented us with two human faces that captured two crucial features of the ongoing protests; they were not shown widely in the West.

First, Fu Guohao, a reporter for the Chinese mainland newspaper, Global Times, was attacked, bound and beaten by protesters during their takeover of the Hong Kong International Airport. When police and rescuers tried to free him, the protesters blocked them and also attempted to block the ambulance that eventually bore him off to the hospital. The photos and videos of this ugly sequence were seen by netizens across the globe even though given scant attention in Western media. Where were the stalwart defenders of the press in the US as this happened? As one example, DemocracyNow! (DN!) was completely silent as was the rest of the U.S. corporate media.

Fu’s beating came after many weeks when the protesters threw up barriers to stop traffic; blocked closure of subway doors, in defiance of commuters and police, to shut down mass transit; sacked and vandalized the HK legislature building; assaulted bystanders who disagreed with them; attacked the police with Molotov cocktails; and stormed and defaced police stations. Fu’s ordeal and all these actions shown in photos on Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, a paper leaning to the side of protesters, gave the lie to the image of these “democracy activists” as young Ghandis of East Asia. (The South China Morning Post is based in Hong Kong and its readership is concentrated there so it has to have some reasonable fidelity in reporting events; otherwise it loses credibility – and circulation. Similarly, much as the New York Times abhorred Occupy Wall Street, it could not fail to report on it.)

Which brings us to the second photo, much more important to U.S. citizens, that of a “Political Counselor” at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong who in August was pictured meeting with, Joshua Long and Nathan Law, at a hotel there. The official was formerly a State Dept functionary in the Middle East – in Jerusalem, Riyadh, Beirut, Baghdad and Doha, certainly not an area lacking in imperial intrigues and regime change ops. That photo graphically contradicted the contention that there is no US “black hand,” as China calls it, in the Hong Kong riots. In fact, here the “black hand” was caught red-handed, leading Chen Weihua, a very perceptive China Daily columnist, to tweet the picture with the comment: “This is very very embarrassing. … a US diplomat in Hong Kong, was caught meeting HK protest leaders. It would be hard to imagine the US reaction if a Chinese diplomat were meeting leaders of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter or Never Trump protesters.”

And that photo with the protest leaders is just a snap shot of the ample evidence of the hand of the U.S. government and its subsidiaries in the Hong Kong events. Perhaps the best documentation of the U.S. “black hand” is to be found in Dan Cohen’s superb article of August 17 in The Greyzone entitled, “Behind a made-for-TV Hong Kong protest narrative, Washington is backing nativism and mob violence.” The article by Cohen deserves careful reading; it leaves little doubt that there is a very deep involvement of the US in the Hong Kong riots. Of special interest is the detailed role and funding, amounting to over $1.3 million, in Hong Kong alone in recent years, of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED), ever on the prowl for new regime change opportunities. Perhaps most important, the leaders of the “leaderless” protests have met with major US political figures such as John Bolton, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Senator Marco Rubio, Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, Nancy Pelosi and others, all of whom have heartily endorsed their efforts. This is not to deny that the protests were home grown at the outset in response to what was widely perceived as a legitimate grievance. But it would be equally absurd to deny that the U.S. is fishing in troubled Hong Kong waters to advance its anti-China crusade and regime change ambitions.

That said, where is the U.S. peace movement on the question of Hong Kong?

Let us be clear. One can sympathize with the demand of many citizens of Hong Kong to end the extradition bill or even the other four demands: an inquiry into police handling of their protests; the retraction of a government characterization of the demonstrations as riots; an amnesty for arrested protesters; and universal suffrage. (The first three all grow out of violence of the protests, be it noted.) But that is the business of the citizens of Hong Kong and all the rest of China. It is not the business of the U.S. government. Peace activists in the US should be hard at work documenting and denouncing the US government’s meddling in Hong Kong, which could set us on the road to war with China, potentially a nuclear war. And that is a mission for which we in the U.S. are uniquely suited since, at least in theory, we have some control over our government.

So, we should expect to hear the cry, “US Government, Hands Off Hong Kong”? Sadly, with a few principled exceptions it is nowhere to be heard on either the left or right.

Let’s take DemocracyNow! (DN!) as one example, a prominent one on the “progressive” end of the spectrum. From April through August 28, there have been 25 brief accounts (“headlines” as DN! calls them, each amounting to a few paragraphs) of the events in Hong Kong and 4 features, longer supposedly analytic pieces, on the same topic. Transcripts of the four features are here, here, here and here. There is not a single mention of possible US involvement or the meetings of the various leaders of the protest movement with Pompeo, Bolton, Pence, or the “Political Counselor” of the US Hong Kong consulate.

And this silence on US meddling is true not only of most progressive commentators but also most conservatives.

On the Left when someone cries “Democracy,” many forget all their pro-peace sentiment. And similarly on the Right when someone cries “Communism,” anti-interventionism too often goes down the tubes. Forgotten is John Quincy Adams’s 1823 dictum, endlessly quoted but little honored, “We do not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Where does this lapse on the part of activists come from? Is it a deep-seated loyalty to Empire, the result of endless indoctrination? Is it U.S. Exceptionalism, ingrained to the point of unconsciousness? Or is it at bottom a question of who the paymasters are?

On both sides anti-interventionism takes an especially hard hit when it comes to major competitors of the US, powers that could actually stand in the way of US global hegemony, like Russia or China. In fact on its August 12 program, DN! managed a story taking a swipe at Russia right next to the one on Hong Kong – and DN! was in the forefront of advancing the now debunked and disgraced Russiagate Conspiracy Theory. In contrast, the anti-interventionist movement is front and center when it comes to weaker nations, for example Venezuela – and quite properly so. But when one puts this advocacy for weaker nations together with the New Cold War stance on China and Russia, one must ask what is going on here. Does it betoken a sort of imperial paternalism on the part of DN and like-minded outlets? It certainly gains DN!, and others like it, considerable credibility among anti-interventionists which can help win them to a position in favor of DN!’s New Cold War stance. And the masters of Empire certainly understand how valuable such credibility can be at crucial moments when support for their adventures is needed from every quarter.

Fortunately, there are a handful of exceptions to this New Cold War attitude. For example, on the left Popular Resistance has provided a view of the events in Hong Kong and a superb interview with K.J. Noh that go beyond the line of the State Department, the mainstream media and DN! And on the libertarian Right there is the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and the work of its Executive Director Dan McAdams.

We would all do well to follow the example of these organizations in rejecting a New Cold War mentality which is extremely dangerous, perhaps fatally so. A good beginning for us in the U.S. is to demand of our government, “Hands Off Hong Kong.”

The Best Guide for the Perplexed Progressive in 2020 is 2016

The current round of presidential debates is packed with plans, programs, promises, claims and counter-claims. The question, as always, is which candidates are we to believe. The closer we get to an election, unscrupulous candidates tailor what they say to what the voters want to hear. The problem is separating the flimflam pols from the honest ones.

Even more problematical, how are we to distinguish the politician who is comfortable with the loftiest words but lacks the courage to fight for them? Ideas are a dime a dozen, and the best ones in the political realm are simple. They do not require an Isaac Newton to formulate them, let alone recognize them. A child who can say, “The Emperor has no clothes,” will do just fine as long as the kid has the courage to say it. Testicular or ovarian fortitude, as the case may be, is essential

In 2020 as progressives look at the Democratic Party candidates, how are these questions to be answered? For 2020 there is a simple answer. Just look at 2016.

2016 was widely recognized as the year of “populism,” more adequately described as the year of revolt against the political Establishment – in both Parties. The Democratic Primary in 2016 was a battle of progressive forces against the Democratic Establishment, and the battle lines were clearly drawn. Those lines remain much the same as we approach 2020.

On the Progressive or Populist side were those who opposed the endless wars in the Middle East, and on the Establishment side those who supported those long and bloody wars.  On the Progressive Side were those who supported badly needed domestic reforms, most notably Medicare for All, which after all is a reform of almost 20% of the entire economy and a reform that has to do with life itself. In contrast on the Establishment side were those who supported ObamaCare, a device for leaving our health care to the tender mercies of the Insurance behemoths with its ever increasing premiums and ever decreasing coverage.

In 2016 the pundits gave progressives little chance of success. Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in, we were all assured by a horde of “reliable sources.” And given the control that the Clintonites exercised over the Democratic Party apparatus, there was little prospect of a successful rebellion and every chance of having one’s career badly damaged by opposing Party elite. Summer soldiers and duplicitous candidates were not interested in challenging the Establishment.

In 2016 Bernie Sanders was the only politician who was willing to take on the Establishment. Although not technically a Democrat, he caucused with them and worked with them. And he was a lifelong, reliable and ardent advocate for Medicare for All and a consistent opponent of the endless wars. For these things he was prepared to do battle against overwhelming odds on the chance that he might prevail and because from his grass roots contacts he sensed that a rebellion was brewing.

In 2016 only one among the current crop of candidates followed Bernie, supported him and joined him on the campaign trail – Tulsi Gabbard. At the time she was a two term Congresswoman and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), a career building position, from which she would have to resign in order to support one of the candidates. Moreover, reports said she bridled at the internal bias of the DNC in favor of Hillary. To express her displeasure with the DNC and to support Bernie, she had to defy the Clinton Establishment, which might even have terminated her political career. But she was a foe of the endless wars, partly based on her own experience as a National Guard member who had been deployed to Iraq in a medical unit and saw the ravages of war first hand. So she joined Bernie, introducing him at many of his rallies and strengthening his antiwar message.

Bernie and Tulsi proved themselves in the defining battle of 2016. They let us know unequivocally where they stand. And Bernie might well have won the nomination were he not cheated out of it by the Establishment which continues to control the levers of power in the Democratic Party to this day.

In 2016 these two stood in stark contrast to the other 2020 Democratic candidates. Let us take one example of these others, Elizabeth Warren, a darling of the corporate media which often refers to her as ideologically aligned to Bernie Sanders. Perhaps she is so aligned at times – at least in words; she is after all in favor of Medicare for All, although she hastens to add that she is “open to other approaches.” That qualifier is balm to the ears of the Insurance behemoths. Translation: she has already surrendered before the battle has begun.

In 2016 a critical primary for Bernie was Massachusetts where Senator Warren wields considerable influence. Clinton defeated Sanders there by a mere 1.5% whereas she had lost to Obama there by 15% in 2008. Wikipedia said of the primary:

Following the primary, Elizabeth Warren, the state’s senior US senator, was widely criticized by Sanders supporters online for her refusal to endorse him prior to the primary. Supporters of Bernie Sanders have argued that an endorsement from Warren, whose political positions were similar to that of Sanders’s, and who was a frequent critic of Hillary Clinton in the past, could have handed Massachusetts to him.

One must conclude that either Warren does not genuinely share the views of Sanders or she is loath to buck the Establishment and fight for those views. In either event she, and the others who failed to back Bernie in 2016, are not made of the stuff that can win Medicare for All, bring an end to the regime change wars and illegal sanctions of the last four or more administrations, begin serious negotiations to end the existential nuclear peril, and address the many other problems facing us and all of humanity.

So, if you are a progressive looking at the crowded Democratic field in 2020, there is no need to be perplexed. The answer to your dilemma lies right before your eyes in the record of 2016. The two who stood up then and fought for the kind of changes you desire were Bernie and Tulsi. They walked the walk when the road was not an easy one.

High Fives to Jimmy Dore for Laughing Russiagaters out of the Room

Jimmy Dore is a comic who has taken on Russiagate, a deadly serious matter.  He is one of those brave souls who count themselves as progressives but dared to call into question Russiagate.

There are those who will tell you that Trump is a despicable human; and so if Russiagate tarnished Trump, the argument goes, what did it matter whether it was true.  (The proposition that Trump is more monstrous than his predecessors, Obama, W or the Clintons is highly dubious to say the least – but that is a different topic.). There is, however, a very good reason why it does matter whether the charges making up Russiagate are true; for opposing Trump over his tax policies or stance on health care is quite a different matter from labeling him a Manchurian Candidate who colluded with Vlad Putin in 2016.  Russiagate put a US President in a position where he was unable to negotiate crucial issues with the other nuclear superpower.  To do so invited charges of being a Putin puppet, as evidenced by the howls that went up from the Establishment and most progressives over the Helsinki Summit.

What if the tensions between the US and Russia were to spin out of control in hot spots like Syria, where troops from the two nuclear superpowers pass within a whisker of one another, or Ukraine or even Venezuela?  To extract us from such a predicament, Putin and Trump would need to make concessions to one another, as Kennedy and Krushchev did successfully in the Cuban Missile Crisis.  But with the cloud of Russiagate hanging over his head Trump could make no such concession without being labelled a treasonous Putin puppet.  So Russiagate took away from Trump the ability to negotiate his way out of an existential threat should one emerge.  As such it should have been based on the highest levels of evidence.  In fact, it was not based on any hard evidence at all – there was none for the central charge of collusion.  And the Mueller investigation finally admitted this.  Given this, those who knowingly concocted Russiagate owe us all a great apology, for they committed the most serious of crimes by creating a situation that potentially threatened the existence of the American and Russian peoples – and perhaps all of humanity.

The absurdity of Russiagate and the absence of evidence for it was evident from the start.  But very few on the progressive side broke with the mainstream media and the Democratic Party political herd to say so.  That carried the risk of being shunned in progressive circles.  Or as one brave Russiagate dissident said under his breath, “I don’t have much social life any longer.”  That fact, in itself, is a sad commentary on what is called “progressivism” in the U.S.

Nevertheless, a handful of Russiagate debunkers emerged on the left, including Robert Parry and others at Consortium News, Aaron Maté now at The Nation, Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept, Michael Tracey, Stephen F. Cohen of EastWestAccord.com, Ray McGovern of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone, Craig Murray and others. They deserve enormous credit for poring over the detritus that the media dumped on us 24/7 for over two years and refuting it, one noxious bit at a time.

A standout among these dissidents is Jimmy Dore, a nightclub comic with a YouTube show run out of his garage in Pasadena. Dore took on Russiagate just as he took on the Dem Establishment and backed Bernie in 2016, and as he now offers high praise for Tulsi Gabbard, the peace candidate for 2020.  Jimmy Dore made the exposure of Russiagate fun.

Dore enjoys raising a simple question in the wake of the Mueller report:  How did a “jagoff comedian,” as he calls himself, who claims on occasion to smoke marijuana when he gets out of bed in the morning, get Russiagate right when grads of the Columbia School of Journalism and pundits like Rhodes Scholar Rachel Maddow and David Corn got it so wrong?

Dore has the answer, taking Maddow as an example who earns $30,000 for every single show.  For that and the celebrity career that goes with it, she lies – simple as that.   Dore even allows that he might be willing to lie at $30,000 an hour. But, he laments, the invitation has not been forthcoming.  And what is true of Maddow and the other Cable “News” talking heads is just as true of the upscale propagandists who dump their extrusions into gilded receptacles like the NYT, WaPo, New Yorker, NPR.  In contrast to be a Jimmy Dore or any of the other truth tellers requires a considerable dose of courage, because swimming against the mainstream can be a career terminator as Chris Hedges once of the NYT and a number of others can testify.

One of Dore’s approaches is especially powerful.  He provides a quote from the mainstream media, an establishment journalist or a faux progressive, reads it and then tears it apart.  Dore likes to play down his intellect – a good comic shtick – but the precision of his takedowns tells another story.  The takedown is followed by invective that is as accurate as it is impassioned.  Dore’s invective for which he has considerable talent would turn Jeremiah green with envy. In this task he is usually aided by his fellow comic, the insightful Ron Placone and Dore’s wife Stefane Zamorano, who styles herself The Miserable Liberal.

It is very satisfying to watch Dore in action – and funny.  In fact, at the gym I watch Jimmy on my iPad to save me from looking up at the omnipresent fake news on CNN.  My cardiac health, as well as my mental health, over the past two years has depended on his show.  If Dore were a physician, he could bill me.

You can best appreciate the Jimmy Dore show by going to YouTube and watching an episode.  I recommend this one, “Mueller Report Drops! Aaron Maté Explains.”  Here Maté also names the names of the fake progressives who caved to the Establishment narrative and some of the heroes who did not.  Dore expresses his usual sympathy for Mate’ for having to live among journalists most of whom compromise themselves whereas Dore gets to dwell among comics.

For a dose of truth, sanity and fun – catch the Jimmy Dore Show.  Russiagate is behind us but Dore already has the bogus basis for war on Venezuela and Iran clearly in his sites – along with the 2020 election and its rich veins of hypocrisy to mine.

Dismantling the Doomsday Machines

From a technical point of view, he (Stanley Kubrick) anticipated many things. … Since that time, little has changed, honestly.  The only difference is that modern weapons systems have become more sophisticated, more complex.  But this idea of a retaliatory strike and the inability to manage these systems, yes, all of these things are relevant today.  It (controlling the systems) will become even more difficult and more dangerous.  (Emphasis, jw)

Vladimir Putin commenting on the film, Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, in an interview with Oliver Stone, May 11, 2016.  Putin had not seen the movie and did not know of it before Stone showed it to him.

The Doomsday Machine, the title of Daniel Ellsberg’s superb book is not simply an imaginary contraption from a movie masterpiece. A Doomsday Machine uncannily like the one described in Dr. Strangelove exists right now.  In fact, there are two such machines, one in US hands and one in Russia’s.  The US seeks to hide its version, but Ellsberg has revealed that it has existed since the 1950s.  Russia has quietly admitted that it has one, named it formally, “Perimetr,” and also tagged it with a frighteningly apt nickname “Dead Hand.” Because the US and Russia are the only nations with Doomsday Machines to date we shall restrict this discussion to them.

The Doomsday Machine was published just a little more than a year ago, but its terrifying message has failed to provoke action.  And Daniel Ellsberg is a man who knows whereof he speaks; the subtitle of the book is “Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” which is how Ellsberg spent the early part of his career.  What follows on this first anniversary of the book’s publication is a brief restatement of the main argument of the book and then a summary of Ellsberg’s plan of action.  (Not included are memoirs and personal experiences of this remarkable, very intelligent and moral man, which are found in the book and which I recommend to flesh out the line of thought presented herein.)  Ellsberg’s plan is to be considered a stop gap measure to remove the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over our heads and allow time to move to total abolition of nuclear weapons, a much more arduous task.  Hopefully this essay will serve as a reminder of Ellsberg’s warnings and as a call to act on them.

How Do the Doomsday Machines Work?  Two components:

What is the essence of a “Doomsday Machine”?  The first component is a mechanism of launching nuclear weapons that is on hair trigger alert and not always in the hands of the Presidents of Russia or the US.  The fact well concealed from the US public is that the US President or those in the line of Constitutional succession are not the only ones with a finger on the nuclear button, and the same is true in Russia.  The second component of a Doomsday Machine is a weapon of such destructive force that it can kill billions in the immediate aftermath of an attack and then the entire human race and perhaps all animal life on earth.

The Launch Mechanism – Command and Control

Russia and the US each have a First Strike capability, that is the ability to strike the other with great force, destroy the other’s cities and industrial and military base – and knock out the other’s nuclear deterrentThe essence of a First Strike capacity is this ability to wipe out the deterrent of the other side or weaken it sufficiently that the remaining force could be intercepted for the most part.  How can a targeted nation prevent the use of a First Strike?  It must convince the adversary that such a strike is futile and will not destroy the deterrent of the targeted nation.  The attacker must understand that he will not escape retribution, because the nuclear force of the targeted nation, its nuclear deterrent, will survive.

Launch on Warning – Hair Trigger Alert

The first measure to prevent the loss of deterrence in the event of a First Strike is to put the nuclear force on Launch on Warning or Hair Trigger Alert status.  Most of us have heard about this, but we ought to quake in our boots every time the thought of it crosses our minds.  Since the time to respond to a First Strike is only tens of minutes for an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) attack, which takes about 30 minutes to travel between the US and Russia, and even less time for a short or intermediate range missile, a targeted country must have its nuclear force loaded onto delivery vehicles and capable of being launched on warning of a nuclear attack. The weapons must be ready to go and launched before the country is struck.  This is called “Launch on Warning” and the weapons are sometimes said to be on “Hair Trigger Alert.”  (There is some imprecision to the terminology surrounding nuclear weapons, partly due the obfuscation used by the US in negotiations.  Steven Starr gives an account of this imprecision and a brief glossary here.  I will use terms that are easily understood and common sensical.  And I will define them when necessary.)

Nuclear warheads that are loaded onto delivery vehicles are said to be “deployed,” and there were roughly 1600 such warheads loaded onto long range delivery vehicles, each, in Russian and U.S. hands in 2018.  They are ready to be launched in minutes.  (There are several thousand more warheads in reserve on each side but not “deployed.”)  It is easy to see the danger inherent in this situation.  The decision to launch must be made in minutes to prevent destruction of the nuclear deterrent and it would be hard to decide with certainty whether the warning of an attack was genuine or due to a technical malfunction.  In fact, the signal that an attack is coming is always likely to be ambiguous.  Even if the attack is real, the attacker will seek to hide it and so even then the signal will be ambiguous.  Thus, even an ambiguous warning caused due to a technical malfunction must always be treated with seriousness and a decision to respond made within minutes.

That a decision of such moment must be made so quickly, under the gun if you will, is a disaster waiting to happen.  A mistake is bound to occur with the passage of sufficient time.  And it nearly did during the Cuban Missile crisis and again in 1983 when the Soviets detected an attack coming from the United States.  According to established protocol the warning was sufficient for the Soviet officer in charge to inform the leadership that a nuclear attack on the U.S. should be ordered.  But that officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Petrov, refused to follow protocol and instead interpreted the warning of an attack as a false alarm, which it was.  So, a launch of Soviet weapons did not occur.  In Russia, Stefan Petrov who died recently is hailed as “the man who saved the world.”  This is the nuclear powder keg on which we all sit.

Decapitation and Delegation – Unknowns have their finger on “the button”

The second measure to prevent loss of deterrence is Delegation.  This is not widely known or understood.  One aspect of a First Strike would be an attempt to knock out known command centers so that a retaliatory strike could not be ordered.  This is known as Decapitation.  The antidote to Decapitation is Delegation, that is others besides the Presidents and their immediate successors are authorized to press “the button.”  It works this way.  These “others” are located in secret command centers far from Washington or the Strategic Air Command Base in Colorado, both of which will be targeted in a Decapitation strike.  If these secret centers find themselves cut off from communication with Washington or Moscow, then the assumption is made that a decapitating nuclear strike has occurred.  In that event these “others” removed from the centers of power are authorized to the press the nuclear button!!  (One can see why the Russians call their system of delegation, Perimetr.) These others are not elected officials and, in fact, we do not know who they are! What Ellsberg discovered is that some of these “others,” military men, were concerned that they too could be hit in a decapitating strike.  So they had delegated authority to still others!!  In fact, no one, perhaps not even the President and his circle of advisors, knows who can send off the nuclear weapons. Is it possible that one of them might be like the fictional General Jack D. Ripper, the psychotic and delusional man who gives the launch order in Dr. Strangelove – or a similar individual lusting after the Rapture?

It does not take much imagination to see the multiple ways in which things could go wrong; a launch due to a false alarm of attack and a lack of time to make a thoughtful check and decision; a failure of communication that puts the perimeter out of touch with the center although no decapitation has, in fact, occurred; or a mad man or woman or a crazed ideologue who becomes one of the Delegated.  A terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon on Moscow or Washington could also mimic a Decapitating attack and set in motion the fast Delegation to the delegatee.  The appropriateness of the term “Dead Hand” for this arrangement is striking.

It is true that so far as we know the probability of a mistake or a rogue element gaining control of nuclear weapons is small.  (But the fact is we do not know what the situation is – it is hidden from us and perhaps even from elected officials.)  The weapons are protected from rogue use by safety locks called Permissive Action Links (PALs) but these are not perfect, and they must be capable of activation by someone in the “perimeter” in the event of Delegation. And they are no protection against a false alarm of an attack.  Despite how low the probability of an error might be, the dice are thrown every moment of every day, and with the passage of time, inevitably something will go wrong.

In summary, First Strike Capability is the source of the problem.  It leads to Launch on Warning and Delegation by a targeted nation.  The U.S. pioneered and maintains a First Strike Capability and refuses to adopt a “No First Strike” policy.  Another response to a first strike capability is that the targeted nation will build up the numbers in its nuclear force so that some will always survive an attack.  That is precisely what happened in the first Cold War until it reached insane levels as shown graphically here.

The Nuclear Weapon: The First Strike Arsenal

Obliteration of Russia and the U.S.  The second component of a Doomsday Machine is the weapon itself.  What is the destructive power of the ensemble of nuclear weapons as used in a First Strike?  I know of no such quantitative estimates released by the Pentagon for the present day.  They are badly needed.  But in 1961 when Ellsberg was among those working on nuclear war fighting strategy for the Kennedy administration, he asked for an estimate from the Pentagon of the deaths due to a First Strike as the generals and their civilian war planners had mapped it out at the time.  To his surprise the estimate came back at once – the Pentagon had made it and kept it hidden.  Launching of the nuclear weapons planned for use in a First Strike by the U.S. would result in the deaths of 1.2 billion from explosions, radiation and fire.  That number was the number of deaths and did not include injuries.  And it was only the result of US weapons; it did not include deaths from a response from the Soviet side if they managed one.  1.2 billion people was the toll at a time when the population of the earth was about 3 billion!  (Note that this toll does NOT include the effects of nuclear winter which was unknown at that time.  More on that below.) And, of course, such deaths would be concentrated in the targeted countries which in these times would be the US and Russia.  Ellsberg was stunned to learn that the Pentagon would coolly make plans for such a gargantuan and immediate genocide.  And so should we all be.  What kind of mindset, what kind of ethics, what kind of morality has allowed for such a thing!

Nuclear Winter and the Destruction of Humanity.  But the damage does not stop there.  This is the surprise that the Pentagon did not understand at the time.  The ash from the fires of burning cities would be cast up into the stratosphere so high that it would not be rained out.  There it would remain for at least a decade, blocking enough sunlight that no crops would grow for ten years.  That is sufficient to cause total starvation and wipe out the entire human race with only a handful at most able to survive.  This is Nuclear Winter.  It is eerily reminiscent of Kubrick’s Doomsday Machine which resulted in a cloud of radioactivity circling the earth and wiping out all life.  Nuclear Winter was first understood in the 1980s, but at that time careful assessment of the existing computer models seemed to indicate that it was not likely and so many “stopped worrying.”  Now with the interest in Global Warming, new and better computer models have been developed.  When the results of a nuclear first strike are put into these models, Nuclear Winter again makes its appearance as Brian Toon, Alan Robock and others have shown.  The TED talks of Toon and of Robock describing their findings are worth watching; they are brief and well-illustrated.  We are confronted with a genocide of all or nearly all humanity, an “Omnicide.”

The launch of the 1600 “deployed” warheads of either the US or Russia is sufficient to give us nuclear winter.  So we in the US have put in place a weapon system on hair trigger alert commanded by we know not whom which can kill virtually all Americans – along with most everyone else on the planet.  We have on hair trigger alert a weapon which is, in fact, suicidal.  Use the weapon and we lose our very existence.  We should also be clear that even if we prescind from the effects of nuclear winter, the nuclear attacks would be concentrated on Russia and the US.  So most of us would be consumed.  Thus MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) is replaced with SAD (Self-Assured Destruction).

Disarming the Doomsday Machine

What is Ellsberg’s plan to disarm the Doomsday Machines?  He does not suggest total abolition of nuclear weapons, a worthy and ultimate goal, as a first step.  He suggests intermediate steps, which can be accomplished much more quickly and remove the present danger.

From what was said above, it is clear that the Doomsday Machine with its massive nuclear force, Launch On Warning and system of Delegation all grows out of a need to protect from a First Strike.  The solution to the problem does not demand giving up all nukes or even a deterrent which many are loathe to do.  And that is not hard to understand when we compare the fate of Kim Jong-un to that of Muammar Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein.  Nor is it difficult to understand in the U.S. given the current intense Russophobia, or in Russia given the alarm caused by NATO’s drive to the East.  This is one reason that total abolition of nuclear weapons or even abolition of a nuclear deterrent will be quite difficult.  However, dismantling the Doomsday Machines, the immediate danger to humanity, does not demand giving up nuclear deterrence.

Abandoning First Strike Policy and Capacity.  Dismantling the Doomsday Machine with its Hair Trigger Alert and Delegation does mean abandoning a First Strike policy and capacity.  And right now, only two countries have such First Strike capacity and only one, the U.S., refuses to take the right to use it “off the table” even when not under attack.  What does the elimination of First Strike Capacity mean in practice; how can it be achieved?  This turns out to involve two basic steps for the US.

Dismantling the Minuteman III. First, the land-based ICBMs, the Minuteman III, must be entirely dismantled, not refurbished as is currently being undertaken at enormous cost.  These missiles, the land-based part of the Strategic Triad, are highly accurate but fixed in place, “sitting ducks”; they are only good for a First Strike, for they will be destroyed in a successful First Strike by an adversary.  Former Secretary of Defense William Perry and James E. Cartwright, formerly head of the Strategic Air Command and Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have both called for dismantling the Minuteman III.  We would thereby also save a lot of money.

Reducing the SLBM Force.  The second step in dismantling the First Strike capacity is to reduce the Trident Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) force to the level where it cannot destroy the entire Russian land-based missile force.  With these two measures in place the US would no longer have a First Strike Capability, and so Launch on Warning and Delegation upon apparent Decapitation would both be unnecessary.  It is that simple.

Of course, the Russians would also need to take similar measures that take into account the specifics of its arsenal.  And that is where negotiations, treaties and verification come in.  That in turn cannot take place in the current atmosphere of Russiagate and Russophobia, which is why both are existential threats and must be surmounted.  We must talk despite our differences, real or perceived.

However, were the US and Russia to abandon their First Strike capacity, a reasonable deterrent could be preserved.  Such a deterrent should be far below the threshold for a nuclear winter.  When Herbert York, one of the original nuclear war planners and strategists, was asked how many nuclear weapons it would take to guarantee deterrence, he suggested somewhere between one and one hundred, closer to one, perhaps ten.  Of course, such a small number demands giving up on a missile defense system which has been a will-o’-the-wisp since the 1950s. But would a leader of any nation, even one equipped with an Anti-Ballistic Missile system, when confronted with 100 nuclear warheads facing him or her, be willing to risk ten getting through and demolishing 10 cities?

But there is a deep problem here.  The US at least has not built its nuclear forces with the simple object of deterrence.  It has had the policy of being able to strike first and destroy or sufficiently degrade the Russian force so that there would be no retaliation.  Ellsberg establishes that definitively based on his own experience in his days as a nuclear war planner.  But this is also a will-o’-the-wisp.  With Launch on Warning and Delegation both sides would be destroyed.  So, this path must be abandoned.  However, it is a path that has been trod for a long time. It has acquired many adherents and become embedded in the thinking of our “strategic war planners.”  It will be hard to abandon this way of thinking which is what will make the simple steps outlined above politically difficult although technically and logistically quite simple.  Moreover, in the mind of the public there is no clear distinction between First Strike and simple deterrence.  And many favor a nuclear deterrent.  So the movement for total abolition of nuclear weapons has a long way to go to reach its destination.

An additional measure – Eliminating launch on warning, aka “hair trigger alert,” that is, “De-alerting.”  An additional measure has also been proposed.  All nuclear warheads should be removed from deployed status by Russia and the US.  (The oft-used term for this is “De-alerting.”). That is, the warheads should be removed from their delivery vehicles and stored in a way that would take days or even weeks to deploy – that is to remount.    This has been proposed by the Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction which says of itself:

As world leaders descended on the United Nations in New York for the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, the Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction — led by former U.S. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James E. Cartwright and comprised of international military experts — issued a bold call for ending the Cold War-era practice of keeping nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

The Commission’s extensive report calls for (1) an urgent agreement between the United States and Russia to immediately eliminate “launch-on-warning” from their operational strategy, and to initiate a phased stand down of their high-alert strategic forces….; and (2) a longer-term global agreement requiring all nuclear weapons countries to refrain from putting their nuclear weapons on high alert.

Urgent action is needed, according to the Commission, because of heightened tensions between the United States and Russia, ongoing geopolitical and territorial disputes involving other nuclear countries that could escalate, and an emerging global trend toward placing nuclear weapons on high alert.

The proposal, backed by more than 75 former senior political officials, national security experts and top military commanders, makes the case that a multinational de-alerting agreement could greatly mitigate the many risks of nuclear weapons use, including from computer error, cyber launch, accidental detonations, unauthorized “insider” launch, false warning of enemy attack, and rushed nuclear decision-making.

The full report is here.

Such an arrangement must be solidly negotiated and verifiable.  It would seem that the US President could do this by executive order and at little cost.  For submarines the nuclear warheads would be stored on shore in a way that makes it impossible to reload for the period of delay that is negotiated.  This arrangement means that no decisions about nuclear warfare need be taken at a moment’s notice, no launch on warning is possible or even relevant any longer and the possibility of Decapitation and the consequent necessity of Delegation disappear.  And when either nuclear state feels existentially threatened by conventional forces, its first response need not be to fire a nuclear weapon. Its first response could be to deploy its warheads (that is, reload the launch vehicles) while it negotiates over the threat.  That along with Ellsberg’s suggestions would greatly stabilize the world and lessen to almost zero the probability of nuclear war based on misjudgment or accident.   From there the work on ever greater levels of reduction leading eventually to total abolition of nuclear weapons could go forward.

The Work Ahead to Win Support for Dismantling the Doomsday Machines

To be able to get Congress or the Executive to move toward these changes, a number of things will be necessary.  First is information.  As a very basic example, Ellsberg learned in 1961 that a US First Strike at that time would produce 1.2 billion deaths as an immediate result of Nuclear War, excluding any effects of nuclear winter and excluding a Soviet response.  We deserve to know what those numbers are now.  Here, Ellsberg argues, both public pressure and the work of whistle blowers will be needed.  As another example, we need to know from the Pentagon and the National Academy of Sciences whether the result of a US First Strike of the magnitude now on hair trigger alert would lead to nuclear winter – as it seems almost certain it would.

But far more than that would be needed.  There must be some form of pressure to wake up the politicians and force them to dismantle the Doomsday Machines.  But this is missing.  In part with the end of the First Cold War, many thought that the danger had disappeared.  Clearly it has not. A movement to abolish the Doomsday Machine is a threat to the Military Industrial Complex and so the MIC and its media acolytes would prefer silence or opposition to such efforts.  It may be that the generations which lived through the first Cold War and went through its terrors, from “duck and cover” drills to mushroom cloud nightmares, to the Cuban Missile Crisis may have a special role to play.  Their psyches have been most affected by nuclear horrors and they may be the best ones to convince succeeding generations of the dangers.  But the strategy and tactics for such an effort have yet to be outlined.  It is a task that lies before us.

The first step to sanity is to eliminate launch on warning and the second step would be to rid ourselves and the Russians of a First Strike policy and capacity and negotiate a stable deterrent, small enough that it does not threaten nuclear winter.  That is something that the nuclear powers and the broad public can easily accept despite the opposition of a small number of nuclear war fighters.  Here the idea of negotiations is not to make the other side more vulnerable but to give the “adversary” and oneself a small, stable nuclear deterrent. Such a win-win approach to negotiations is, in fact, necessary for survival while we take the more difficult road to total nuclear abolition.

Total abolition should be the ultimate goal because no human hand should be allowed to wield species-destroying power.  But it seems that an intermediate goal is not only needed to give us the breathing space to get to zero nuclear weapons.  An intermediate and readily achievable goal can call attention to the problem and motivate large numbers of people.  The Nuclear Freeze movement of the 1980s is a very successful example of this sort of effort; it played a big role in making the Reagan-Gorbachev accords possible.  The effort to kill the Doomsday Machines might well be called something like Step Away From Doomsday or simply Step Away.  The time may be ripe for such an effort.  Getting to zero will require a breakthrough in the way countries deal with one another, especially nuclear armed countries!  Let us give ourselves the breathing space to accomplish that.

• This article originally appeared on Antiwar.com

Woodward: “No Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion, I Searched Hard For Two Years”

Bob Woodward’s book Fury has been a sensation in many respects.  But one aspect has barely been mentioned.  After two years of exhaustive research for his book, Woodward says that he has found no evidence of collusion between Putin’s government and Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016.  Zilch, nada, zero.  And Woodward strained very hard looking for it.

This largely ignored blockbuster admission came in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt reported by Real Clear Politics here, where a recording of the full interview can also be found.   Real Clear Politics reports the text of the exchange thus:

“In an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Friday, Bob Woodward said that in his two years of investigating for his new book, Fear, he found no evidence of collusion or espionage between Trump and Russia. Woodward said he looked for it ‘hard’ and yet turned up nothing.

“’Did you, Bob Woodward, hear anything in your research in your interviews that sounded like espionage or collusion?’ Hugh Hewitt asked Woodward.

“’I did not, and of course, I looked for it, looked for it hard,’ Woodward answered. ‘And so you know, there we are. …..’ (Emphasis, jw)

“’But you’ve seen no collusion?’ Hewitt asked again to confirm.

“’I have not,’ Woodward affirmed.

“Hewitt would once again ask Woodward about collusion at the conclusion of the interview.

“’Very last question, Bob Woodward, I just want to confirm, at the end of two years of writing this book, this intensive effort, you saw no effort, you, personally, had no evidence of collusion or espionage by the president presented to you?’ Hewitt asked.

“’That is correct,’ Woodward said.”

The attitude in the mass media with respect to the work that Woodward has done on Fury borders on a sort of deification.  He is considered careful, exhaustive and reliable.  He is considered to have sources throughout the government that provide the best information possible.  So it is said, over and over.  Thus, his word on this issue should be worth its weight in gold.  Unfortunately, this failure to uncover collusion barely gets covered.

Perhaps the need to emphasize the importance of this issue needs to be emphasized more. The issue of collusion is of great importance, because it hangs over the head of the Presidency, unresolved after two years.  Why is this of great importance?  It should not need to be said, but the issue of collusion involves the two nuclear superpowers, each of which has 1550 nuclear weapons on hair trigger alert ready to go at a moment’s notice and capable of reaching one another within minutes.  It is an issue that can affect our very survival.

As Daniel Ellsberg informs us in his book, The Doomsday Machine, this situation is fraught with the chance of miscalculation or accident, which would immediately engulf us in nuclear holocaust leading to the death of billions and possibly of all humanity.  This issue of collusion and its embodiment in the Mueller investigation in a dispute often called Russiagate has prevented the Presidents of Russia and the US from meeting sufficiently long to deal with this nuclear danger.  And as Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian History at Princeton University, has often pointed out, this prevents our President from making concessions on some issues to get movement on others.  Anything less than a tough guy approach, the approach of an Über-hawk, is treated by an hysterical press with suspicion and denunciation.

Take the recent and very brief Summit between Trump and Putin in Helsinki as an example.  Condemnation was everywhere in the media and the follow-up Summit has been postponed until next year, probably out of concern for how the press would treat it leading up to the midterms. This has happened even though it does not quite make sense.  Polling showed that a majority of the American people approved of the Helsinki Summit and also of the planned follow-up.  Over 60% desire improved relationship with Russia, sometimes called Détente 2.0. And yet there was virtually no support voiced for this Summit from the US Peace Community, CodePink being a prominent exception.

So let us take note.  Woodward has added his voice to those who have been unable to find any evidence of collusion with Russia.  After two years of finding nothing and given the danger that the crippling of US-Russia relation poses to our survival, is it not time to say “Enough”?

Woodward has now added his voice to many, many others.  They have worked hard for years and have found no evidence for collusion.  Enough of Partisanship and hysteria.  For the sake of our survival, Enough.

• Author’s Note:  Thanks to Jean Bricmont, author of Humanitarian Imperialism, for calling the Hewitt-Woodward interview to my attention.

Medicare for All: Let 50 Flowers Bloom.

It has long been clear that health care in America is a disaster, an overpriced and underperforming bureaucratic behemoth.  It has also been clear that the answer is Medicare for All, aka Single Payer Health Care, a tried and proven solution to the problems of health care in modern, developed societies.  It is also true that a majority of Americans favor such a system.

But alas, we have no such system here in the US.  How to get it is one of the pressing political and humanitarian questions of the day.  The Purple World: Healing the Harm in American Health Care, a new book by Dr. Joseph Jarvis, suggests some interesting answers.

Much of this book deals with Dr. Jarvis’s years as one of the two leading public health officials in Nevada.  This part is engaging, enlightening and a bit scary at one or two points as Jarvis relates his struggles to ensure proper public health standards.  For example, a convention center restaurant wanted to cover up a case of food poisoning that disabled hundreds of conventioneers.  Or proper protections were not being enforced in Nevada’s brothels, leaving both employees and customers at risk.  At one point the brothel employers let Jarvis know that they were well aware of where he and his family lived!  It read like a scene out of The Godfather.  The brave Dr. Jarvis was not stopped.   Many of these tales are very revealing about the practice of medicine and public health and they make for spell-binding reading.

But the main interest of this book is a discussion of how to get Single Payer, and the book opens some interesting new angles on this effort.

Single Payer is Attractive to Conservatives as well as Progressives

For starters, too many seem to think that Single Payer only has appeal for liberals, progressives and Leftists.  Dr. Jarvis is living testimony that such is not the case.  He is a political conservative and a devout Mormon; and in this book, we find him pressing the case for Single Payer with great passion.  And he has done so tirelessly for decades in op-eds, lectures, interviews and even twice running for the Utah legislature.

The lesson is that the movement for Single Payer must be broadened to appeal to those who share Dr. Jarvis’s conservatism.  Single Payer must not be perceived as a wholly owned progressive enterprise.  That means uncoupling the crusade for Single Payer from other programs that Left leaning activists advocate.  There is no reason that Trump populists cannot embrace Single Payer every bit as much as Bernie Sanders populists.

And for this Dr. Jarvis sees hope in the 2016 election. He feels that the 2106 election created:

what felt like the most significant change in governance during my lifetime…..The American electorate became less reliably red or blue (in other words, it became more purple), and therefore much more unpredictable, more irascible and more demanding of its government.  (Emphasis, JW.)

From this comes the book’s title The Purple World. In both Democratic and Republican primaries, voters showed their independence and admirable irascibility by turning from the Elite Party leaders to the upstart populists, Trump and Sanders.

With voters more willing to think for themselves rather than act according to Party establishment diktat, the question must be asked how Single Payer can be made attractive to conservatives.  As I noted above, one way is to decouple it from other progressive issues.  It must not be seen as simply another plank of a Left-wing platform.  Opposition to coal mining or to gun rights, as examples, should not be made a prerequisite for Single Payer advocacy or a condition for working hand in hand with progressives in the Single Payer movement.  And meetings of Single Payer activists, should not drift into such areas which are guaranteed to make conservatives feel unwelcome.

In other words the crusade for Medicare for All must be made into a solid single-issue effort that spans parties and ideologies.  In this regard Single Payer activism has much to learn from the struggles for legalized abortion or gay rights or equality for women which grew to span Parties and ideologies.  And it might take a cue from Ralph Nader’s book Unstoppable which advocates just such Right-Left alliances.

A Single State Approach to Single Payer.  The Tenth Amendment Option

The central approach Jarvis advocates to appeal to conservatives is proceeding state by state.  This involves an appeal to the conservative distrust of the federal government and to the conservative commitment to the Tenth Amendment, which states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

With this appeal in mind Jarvis suggests that in the new populist post-2016 environment we turn to winning Single Payer one state at a time.  In sum, a Purple World, Tenth Amendment approach to Single Payer.

But why not simply go the federal route?  The answer is that our Congress is in thrall to the Insurance Company Giants who are in control of most health care in the US and therefore make a bundle from it.  The Insurance Behemoths have been especially powerful in Washington, virtually writing the ObamaCare legislation which codifies and extends the control of the Insurers over the health care system.  There is no doubt that the Insurers also have great influence over State politicians.  But, in general, the more local the government, the greater control the people have over it.  And most importantly States have the ability to enact laws by referendum, so Jarvis’s irascible voters can bypass the politicians entirely.  Still even in the arena of the referendum, there will be a battle between truth and money – and it will not be an easy battle for the truth.

One problem with the Purple World, Tenth Amendment state by state approach is that it too requires an act of Congress.  Congress needs to provide enabling legislation to exempt states from various federal rules and regulations that preclude a Single Payer system.

It is here that the Tenth Amendment approach becomes valuable for it would have appeal to many principled conservatives in Congress.  They might then join an increasing number of liberal Congresspersons to enact such a bill.  And such a measure could enjoy the support of both conservative and progressive/liberal populists at the grassroots level.  With such a law in effect each state could attempt to win single-payer. This would be the Purple World in action.

Such enabling legislation or something very close to it was proposed in the past by former Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington.  And McDermott’s successor, Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal has submitted such legislation again.  Perhaps even more interesting, as Jarvis informs us, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah stated in a TV debate in his election bid in 2011 that each state should be allowed to fashion its own policy for health-system reform, even if it meant the state would create a single payer system.  That statement came in answer to a question posed by Dr. Jarvis who lives in Utah.

The existence of such a bill in Congress would also open the door for votes coming from both Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans able to side with it in a way that is compatible with their Tenth Amendment outlook.  And this would also satisfy another prescription of Jarvis: voters must ruthlessly hold politicians to their promises.  The very existence of such a bill in Congress provides a way to put each member of Congress on record as a co-sponsor – or not.  The irascible populist voter can demand that both conservatives and progressives back such a bill -or give their vote to an opponent of either party who will back such a bill – both by co-sponsorship and by vote.  All of a sudden Democrats must compete with conservative Republicans for the populist voter demanding Single Payer.  There would no longer be a single Party monopoly on Single Payer.

Dr. Jarvis fleshes out this proposal by sketching the outlines of such a Single-Payer bill for his state of Utah.  It merits examination, for as usual there are demons lurking in the details and these demons must be routed.

Let 50 Flowers Bloom

There is now a debate among Single-Payer advocates about which path to take, the national path or the state path.  Some suggest that only the federal path is possible and that state-based approaches would distract attention and divert energy from the national project.  But it is equally true that the two approaches can be complementary, stirring up general interest at all levels.  Two wise and very knowledgeable members of Physicians for a National Health Program suggested to this reviewer that both approaches be pursued since it is impossible to tell where a breakthrough will occur.

The single-state approach would follow in the footsteps of the proven, successful single-province approach in Canada.  There single-payer was first instituted in the Province of Saskatchewan in a mighty and bruising struggle.  But it then spread like wildfire to all the provinces.  Perhaps California or Washington – or Utah – could be the Saskatchewan of the US.  Let 50 flowers bloom!

Progressive Democrats Hate Trump More Than War or Nuclear Annihilation

It is rare that we praise Donald Trump, but meeting with both Kim Jung Un and Vladimir Putin was the right thing to do. If our goal is to build peace, then calm talks, rather than threats and military escalation, are always the better path to take.

— CodePink Statement, June 17, 2018 (Emphasis in the original.)

Thus read CodePink’s remarkable and courageous statement in the wake of the Helsinki Summit.  To link the word “praise” with President Trump is to invite ostracism in progressive circles – even when nuclear Armageddon is the issue.  But CodePink succumbed neither to Trump Derangement Syndrome nor to the related disorder Russophobia.

Does CodePink’s statement portend the dissipation of these twin maladies?  Unfortunately not.  CodePink appears to remain the exception, not the rule.

To understand this, let’s turn to an “Open Letter” in The Nation on July 11, just before the Helsinki Summit, signed by a variety of individuals and appearing under the names of five organizations: RootsAction, Just Foreign Policy, World Beyond War, Progressive Democrats of America and Peace Action –  a cross section of the progressive peace movement.  Let’s note at the outset that some of the Letter’s signatories have done admirable work in combatting Russophobia.

The title of the Open Letter is “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security.”  “Secure Elections” comes first, a device for once again reminding us of the discredited conspiracy theory of “collusion” in 2016.  The opening sentence reads: “Many Americans remain deeply concerned about reports of Russian interference with the 2016 election.” And fully half the Open Letter deals with this issue.

This, the first half of the Open Letter, has drawn fire in an essay by Truthdig’s Robert Scheer “When Resistance Becomes Capitulation.”  Scheer finds the letter “an inadequate response to the jingoistic blather of the Democratic Party, and of course the GOP leadership.”

Writes Scheer:

But how can the signers of The Nation statement in good conscience issue a warning about this turn of events that omits any reference to the overwhelming intrusive power of the greatest empire the world has ever experienced—our own.

Only late in the second half of the Letter (in the final sentence of the penultimate paragraph) is mention at long last made of the danger of nuclear holocaust, certainly the most important issue facing Russia and the US – and the world.  This unseemly postponement reflects the strategy of the embittered Democratic Party Elite, to wit, draw attention away from the urgency of the Summit to the question of electoral interference.

Most astonishingly there is no mention of the Helsinki Summit even though the then imminent Summit clearly occasioned the Letter.  Absence of mention precludes so much as a smidgen of support.  And the Open Letter came at a time when an all-out effort was being made to stop the Summit and when support for it was badly needed.

It is clear why the Open Letter not take a stand clearly in favor of the Summit.  The Summit was Trump’s work.   This is Trump Derangement Syndrome and partisan hackery at its worst.  It demonstrates that one of the greatest challenges to the peace movement is to get beyond this malady and make an objective assessment of the individual policies of Trump.  Opposition to some policies should not mean an opposition to all.

It is not too late for the signatories of the Open Letter to act.  The battle over Helsinki rages on.  A good first step would be for The Nation to put out a document forthwith supporting the Summit.  It may help generate needed support among Democrats and others for the unfolding process of Detente.

Finally let’s consider the relative severity of the two disorders, Trump Derangement Syndrome and Russophobia.  The latter manifests itself primarily in what is now known as Russiagate.  Debunking Russiagate and the ravings of the mainstream media thereon has become standard fare in a handful of progressive outlets. And that is to the good.  But the more stubborn, mulish, unyielding obstacle to Détente with Russia is Trump Derangement Syndrome, because it stands in the way of supporting whatever moves our President makes for “getting along” with Russia, no matter their merit.  Critiques of Trump Derangement Syndrome are sorely lacking on the Left – and badly needed.

Unfortunately, The Nation’s Open Letter is too heavily influenced by the sentiments of those who put hatred of Trump – and Putin – above hatred of major war, desire for Detente or fear of nuclear holocaust.  Who are they?  Given the interest of the Democratic Party Establishment in nourishing Trump Derangement Syndrome and Russophobia, it is not hard to imagine their identity when it comes to influencing progressives.  Let’s not allow them to impose on us a mindset that precludes peace and Détente among the major powers.

The Rocky Road to Helsinki

This is written July 14, two days before the Helsinki summit between Presidents Trump and Putin, and everything is on schedule in very predictable fashion – according to script.

In the US, Rod Rosenstein has released “indictments” of 12 Russians who are accused of “hacking” Democratic National Committee servers other Democratic Party associated computers.  These mysterious hackers are allegedly associated with the Russian government, for which there is not a shred of evidence.  Right on cue, Schumer, Pelosi and other leading Democrats called on Trump to cancel his meeting with Putin.  How lucky for them that these indictments came down precisely at this moment.  It does not take a genius to understand that Rosenstein could have withheld them for a week so as not to undermine the President as he pursues Détente 2.0.

Likewise the discredited Skripal case has been thrust into the headlines again in good time for the summit.  Even Greece, normally very friendly with Russia, expelled a few diplomats several days back due to the resurrection of l’affaire Skripal, thus jeopardizing an upcoming visit by Russian FM Lavrov.

Finally, Trump attended the NATO meetings to assure the “allies” that Putin of the taiga that they so fear would not frighten him.  He even promised to hold fast to “obsolete” NATO if the Europeans provided more Euros for the Cold War behemoth now lumbering about from Afghanistan to Libya and beyond tearing up the place and killing innocents far and wide.  In this way did Trump armor himself against the hawks.

And, of course, the pundits have been shrieking at the top of their lungs that Trump is disrupting the Cold War order.  The air is thick with such emanations as Russian expert Stephen F. Cohen reminds us thus:

As a rule, American presidents have departed for summits with bipartisan support and well-wishes. Trump’s upcoming meeting with Russian President Putin, in Helsinki on July 16, is profoundly different in two respects. US-Russian relations have rarely, if ever, been more dangerous. And never before has a president’s departure—in Trump’s case, first for a NATO summit and then the one with Putin—been accompanied by allegations that he is disloyal to the United States and thus cannot be trusted, defamations once issued only by extremist fringe elements in American politics. Now, however, we are told this daily by mainstream publications, broadcasts, and “think tanks.” According to a representative of the Clintons’ Center for American Progress, “Trump is going to sell out America and its allies.” The New York Times and The Washington Post also feature “experts”—they are chosen accordingly—who “worry” and “fear”that Trump and Putin “will get along.” The Times of London, a bastion of Russophobic Cold War advocacy, captures the mainstream perspective in a single headline: “Fears Grow Over Prospect of Trump ‘Peace Deal’ with Putin.

An anti-“peace” Washington establishment is, of course, what still-unproven Russiagate allegations have wrought, as summed up by a New Yorkmagazine writer who advises us that the Trump-Putin summit may well be “less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler.””

The roots and ramifications of this hysteria are explored by CJ Hopkins in the fashion they richly deserve in his essay “Hardcore Hitler on Hitler in Helsinki” here.  And on it goes.

Amidst all this perfervid consternation Trump is enjoying a few rounds of golf in Scotland.  He has also declared that Putin is a “competitor” but not an “enemy,” a distinction the politically anencephalic Cold War set cannot grasp.   But Trump continues to insist that it is a “good thing not a bad thing” for the US “to get along with Russia” – and China and North Korea and others. So Trump continues to stick with this motif from the 2016 campaign even though it eats up a lot of political capital and exposes him to the barrage of hysterical attacks outlined above.  That is a sound sign that his declared intent is genuine.

The Russiagate witch hunt makes it nearly impossible for Trump to make concessions to Russia in return for concessions to us.  Absent that, there is no way forward, no deals, no Détente 2.0.  So the witch hunters are willing to risk nuclear confrontation to preserve the old Cold World Order or to indulge a blanket hatred for all things Trump.  Such monsters do not deserve the time of day, let alone a vote, no matter whether they call themselves conservatives or liberals – and more of them seem to bear the liberal label these days.

This summit will present far more difficult political problems than did the Singapore meeting with Kim Jong-un.  In Singapore all the interested parties wanted denuclearization of the Korean peninsula – Kim, Moon, the people of Korea, Trump, Xi and Putin, and even Abe.  So to begin this deal was a no-brainer, and it is quite astonishing in retrospect that the previous administration failed to do so.

But the Summit poses great problems, because of the political pressures brought to bear on Putin and Trump.  Each leader has hawks in his country opposing Détente 2.0.  Trump’s are headquartered in the “Think” Tanks, the Dem Party Elite, the Main Stream Media, the Military Industrial Congressional Complex and the punditry associated with them all.  Just as important is Israel which does not want peace with Iran, an ally of Russia.  And unfortunately the space between the ears of virtually every US politician, with the exception of a few libertarians, is Israeli occupied territory, and its US Amen Corner stands careful watch over this prized conquest.  The issue of Iran is therefore the Achilles heel of the struggle for Détente 2.0.

But in the midst of all the commotion let us not forget the stakes. According to the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute, the US and Russia each have about 6500 – 7000 nuclear warheads with over 1600 on each side “deployed,” that is placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.  These are ready to go at a moment’s notice and cause suffering of a sort never before seen in human history, with the death of billions and perhaps the end of all human life, as Daniel Ellsberg informs us in chilling detail in The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.  The carpings of our hawks are as nothing compared to the opportunity to move out from under this nuclear cloud.

If this essay serves any purpose, it is to call more attention to the dangerous atmosphere being created by our media, the Dem pols and our “opinion shapers” in the lead up to the summit.  A plan of action is in order.  Complain like hell to every media outlet guilty of this disgraceful behavior.  It only takes an email and the lords of the media, ever concerned about their bottom line, count them.  Same with our hawkish pols.

And afterwards if the Summit does not take us in the direction of peace, complain like hell to the White House.  But if the outcome of the Summit inches us away from Armageddon and toward Detente, as did the Singapore summit, have at the naysayers – they are standing in the way of our survival.  And likewise praise to the skies a positive outcome.  It is this attitude that the press is trying to prevent.  Let them not instill in the populace a hatred of Trump that is stronger than the hatred of war.

• First published at Anti-war.com