It was a climate of unquestioned moral righteousness. The enemy was Fascism. The brutalities of Fascism were undisguised by pretense: the concentration camps, the murder of opponents, the tortures by secret police, the burning of books, the total control of information, the roving gangs of thugs in the streets, the designation of “inferior” races deserving extermination, the infallible leader, the mass hysteria, the glorification of war, the invasion of other countries, the bombing of civilians. No literary work of imagination could create a more monstrous evil… But it is precisely that situation—where the enemy is undebatably evil—that produces a righteousness dangerous not only to the enemy but to ourselves, to countless innocent bystanders, and to future generations.
— Howard Zinn, The Bomb (City Lights, 2010), p. 29.
Nuclear War: The Unimaginable and Real Threat
Aware that Ukraine could well become the next Afghanistan, and that we face the chance of a nuclear war and subsequent “nuclear winter” in which 2 billion people are at risk of starvation, voices of peace around the world continue to protest the militarism of irresponsible leaders of the governments of the NATO states, Russia, Japan, and other countries. There is even criticism of U.S. and Canadian support for Nazis in Ukraine. Now, when they should be focused on repairing relations between Russia and Ukraine, as well as between Russia and the NATO states, and thereby increasing the chances of humanity’s decent survival, instead these leaders are focused on “winning” their petty macho fest in Ukraine. For example, on the 6th of March, the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that plans for Poland to send fighter jets to Ukraine have gotten “the green light” from the U.S. Luckily for our species, Biden did not listen to Blinken, and instead listened to the Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin III, a four-star general.
“Could the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalate to nuclear war? It’s unlikely but not impossible. That should terrify us,” writes foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer. “Unlikely but not impossible.” This is a common view today among serious international affairs analysts.
Many U.S. generals have never really been keen on the notion of nuclear war, in fact. “In 1945 the United States had eight five-star admirals and generals. Of the eight, seven are on the record saying the atomic bomb [dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki] was either militarily unnecessary, morally reprehensible, or both.”
Although “GHQ” (the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers) imposed strict censorship on discussions and photographs of the atomic bombs and its victims, the news did eventually spread via word of mouth, underground publications, etc., and people found out about the results of this U.S. experiment on the bodies of Japanese and Koreans. And over the course of the last three-quarters of a century, historians in Japan, the U.S., and other countries, such as Peter Kuznick, have done painstaking research to uncover the fact that one can say, in retrospect, that these two bombings were stupid and barbaric.
Most of us who are aware of the history of the bombings and who campaign for peace would agree with Stephen Bryen that “beyond all the rhetoric, and the sanctions [over the violence in Ukraine], Washington had better clear its head and start to think straight. That’s not happening right now but it is essential for our future security and well-being.”
By this time, our leaders should have learned from humanity’s past mistakes. Theodore A. Postol, a nuclear weapons technology expert and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has asserted that “over the course of several U.S. administrations failing to take into account Russia’s core security concerns… ‘there’s no reflection at all’.” (Author’s italics). We are being led by ignorant, violent, reckless, macho-men.
Our Leaders Are Leading Us toward the Precipice of Global Dystopia
Here in Japan we are told that, for no reason, China could invade Taiwan at any moment, just as Russia invaded Ukraine, and that the best way to create security for ourselves would be for the U.S. and Japan to continue to build military bases on Ryukyu Islands. These are bases that are equipped with all kinds of lethal weapons, soldiers, and Osprey aircraft (for transporting such weapons and troops to places like China). They are building a new base in Henoko (on the main island of Uchinaa/Okinawa), on Miyako Island, and other Ryukyu Islands, all close to Taiwan. These two states are continually militarizing the islands of this region and putting our lives in jeopardy. One can, in fact, see the high mountains of Taiwan from Yonaguni Island (at the southernmost island of the Ryukyu Island chain, where a new base now sits) on a clear day, as the island is only 111 kilometers from Taiwan. In other words, they want us to believe that holding China by the throat with one hand, and a knife in the other, will improve our security.
In the U.S. and other countries, people are told that only Big Brother knows best, that only he can keep us, the ignorant masses, safe from overseas villains. Unfortunately, for those who tell this tall tale, the U.S. has been threatening Russians, ever since the end of the Second World War, at a point in time right after the Soviet Union had lost millions of people fighting against Nazis. There was a time when “Official U.S. war plans, approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Dwight Eisenhower, stated that, if so much as a single Soviet tank division crossed into allied territory, the United States would respond with nukes.” Such was our government’s posture then toward our former ally the Soviet Union. And our message to Russians even now is essentially that they “better watch out.” After years of steady success with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), NATO’s official nuclear policy is “flexible response,” which allows the alliance to be “the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, including in reply to an attack with conventional weapons.”
It surely has not been lost on Russians that former president Barack Obama, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, set aside $1 trillion of our tax dollars for nukes, to be spent over a span of 30 years, nor has it been lost on many Japanese that he did not apologize on our behalf when he visited Hiroshima. Some have even noticed that he actually clapped while watching footage of a mushroom cloud during that trip.
Biden has gone “full steam ahead” with increasing our reliance on nuclear weapons, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Trump and Obama. Yet, back in early December, Republican Senator Roger Wicker, perhaps feeling that Biden was not spooking Russians enough, made things extra clear with his words, “Military action could mean that we stand off with our ships in the black sea and we rain destruction on Russia capability, it could mean that,” and added, “We don’t rule out first-use nuclear action, we don’t think it will happen but there are certain things in negotiations, if you are going to be tough, that you don’t take off the table.” It is this toxic masculinity, this being “tough,” that could get us all killed.
Since our nukes were equipped in recent years with new super fuses that can destroy a large portion of Russia’s nukes even in their silos, Russia has been put into a situation where they must “use ‘em or lose ‘em” in the event that they are threatened with an imminent nuclear attack from the U.S. Unlike in the past, U.S. nuclear warheads now have “hard target kill capability.” This means it is possible to destroy “Russian and Chinese nuclear-tipped missiles and command posts in hardened silos or mountain sanctuaries, or to obliterate hardened military command and storage bunkers in North Korea, also considered a potential US nuclear target.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, a lone voice of sanity in the U.S. Congress, said she was moved by the Ukrainians, as well as by the Russians who are standing up for peace and said, “We must avoid the knee-jerk calls to make this conflict worse.”
Unlike established politicians in many other countries, very few in the U.S. have the foresight of Rep. Omar. U.S. politicians lack understanding of what happens in wars, and especially of the suffering produced by wars. Their sons are not foot soldiers, they are ignorant of U.S.-Russia relations, they do not know U.S. history, and they have the attitude of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” with respect to what Americans long ago did to the Japanese and Koreans in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Thus we cannot rest easy, trusting that our lives are in good hands. They are not going to go out of their way to avoid unnecessary killing in Ukraine, whether of Ukrainians or Russians. As Bob Dylan’s song goes, “I’ve learned to hate Russians, all through my whole life. If another war comes, it’s them we must fight. To hate them and fear them, to run and to hide. You never ask questions, when God’s on your side.” (Starts at 4:00 in “With God on Our Side.” Such is our mentality in the U.S. after a half century of Cold War indoctrination, years of Roman Empire-like exaggeration of national security threats, two decades of the “war on terror,” and Russiagate.
Now, turning to their leaders, on the “enemy” side: “Asked if Putin would use nuclear weapons, Mr [Leonid] Volkov [the former chief of staff for jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny] replied: “As he is crazy enough, we can expect unfortunately everything’.”
A Putin ally has specifically warned us of nuclear dystopia: “Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council who also previously served as the country’s president and prime minister, wrote in a post on Russian social networking site VK.com that Russia has been ‘the target of the same mediocre and primitive game’ since the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘This means that Russia must be humiliated, limited, shaken, divided and destroyed’… if Americans succeed in that objective, ‘here is the result: the largest nuclear power with an unstable political regime, weak leadership, a collapsed economy and the maximum number of nuclear warheads aimed at targets in the US and Europe’.” Hearing such words, some macho Americans will say as they always do that it is “time to get tough.” This is what happens when our foreign policies are decided by tough men like Biden and Putin.
It is not really reassuring to know that a “small number of [nuclear] bombs are reportedly kept under U.S. Air Force guard at six airbases in five European countries, ready to be delivered by respective national fighter planes,” and that we have nuclear missiles on submarines prowling the sea near Russia. It is not necessarily comforting that within striking range of Russia, there are missiles that could kill millions of people over there within days of the start of a nuclear war. The “nuclear weapons should have been removed from Turkey long ago. Now, whether they’re taken out or kept in, they are going to play some kind of role in the escalating tensions.” Those words were written in 2019. Could it be possible that the presence of nukes in several European countries did worry many Russians and actually increased the chances of war in Ukraine? Could it be true that “there are any number of scenarios in which Russian military doctrine foresees the use of nuclear weapons as a rational move, wars on its border being only one such example”?
The state of U.S. political culture and education is shameful. “60 percent of Americans would approve of killing 2 million Iranian civilians [with our nukes] to prevent an invasion of Iran that might kill 20,000 U.S. soldiers.” One single man, respected and selected by a small number of Democratic Party elites, a man named Joe Biden, has the authority to initiate nuclear strikes at any time on Russia.
Political scientist John Mearsheimer has argued for years that “the U.S., in pushing to expand NATO eastward and establishing friendly relations with Ukraine, has increased the likelihood of war between nuclear-armed powers and laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive position toward Ukraine.”
“By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” This quote has been ascribed to Adolf Hitler. A similar sentiment was expressed by Bob Marley as you “think you’re in heaven, but you’re living in hell.”
Help Needed: War Resisters
Unlike the government leaders in the rich and powerful countries, and unlike the millions whose eyes are glued to TV and computer screens, some people are fully awake and aware, and are doing what they can to stop the war in Ukraine and build world peace. The activism and writings of Howard Zinn taught us there are always such people who stand up for social justice even in the darkest of times. The anti-nuclear weapons movement of the postwar period, extending from people like Peggy Duff and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) all the way to the anti-nuke protests of the 1980s, when tens of millions of Japanese signed antinuclear petitions, achieved significant victories, especially in terms of preventing the spread, testing, and use of nuclear weapons. The existence of various kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including new techniques of mass killing such as AI-controlled and cyber weapons, and new weapons made possible by nanotechnology, is making it more and more obvious that our choice is between ending the institution of war, or ending ourselves. In Japan, the elderly who know all about war, like the hibakusha, as well as the young, who know very little beyond what they learned from the mass media and their school textbooks, are beginning to take a stand. It is a beginning, and we have a long way to go to re-build the movement. All hands on deck!
Of course, we have to pressure our government officials to end this war. And if they do not start listening to our demands very soon, then we will have to kick them out of office, and replace them with leaders who do listen, and do respond. Every day of inaction brings us closer to the brink of global destruction, closer to the edge of the cliff towards which they have been pushing us all. Here are three of the tasks that our movement must take on:
(1) We have to raise public awareness of the dire need for peace.
(2) We need lots of people out on the streets and other visible places who are committed to tenaciously working on the project of increasing the costs of state violence. Right now, it is easy to start wars, while starting peace is difficult; we need to turn that around. The anti-nuke and peace movements of the past “brought about political pressure to end nuclear testing and stop the spread of the Bomb by mobilizing protesters—ranging from tens of thousands to even millions at its peak—that took to the streets in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.” (Naturally, Japan also once had a large anti-nuclear weapons movement, as documented by Lawrence Wittner).
(3) CodePink brought us speeches from Abby Martin, Lee Camp, and Chris Hedges the other day that emphasized the importance of protecting freedom of expression, thereby joining other dissidents who warned earlier about censorship, such as Dissident Voice writer Rick Sterling. Not only advocates of global death and destruction have the right to speak but also advocates of life, the “greatest gift of all.” “We are the world, we are the children,” who have the right to not be nuked. Some elite extremists in government will soon start spouting lies, claiming that peace advocates are dangerous, that we are aiding and abetting our nations’ enemies in Russia, etc. The very word “peace” could become taboo. They want to silence and censor, and prevent our rational, humanitarian voices from being heard.
With millions of people now craving vengeance against Russia, and even against disempowered and disadvantaged Russians, let us build a global movement, people who refuse to take up weapons, who actively make it difficult for others to take up weapons, and who know that war is never the answer.
The post Don’t Let Them Get Us All Killed
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