OPINION/ PAUL ATWOOD
I had just turned 15 when the Cuban Missile Crisis suddenly erupted. Like everyone else my age I had been propagandized from early childhood to see the Reds as America’s mortal enemy and to fear their designs to wipe us off the map. So in October of 1962 I was shocked to learn that the Soviets had installed nukes only miles from our shores. It went without saying that we were innocent victims of a deadly plot. How monstrous! But it wasn’t long before I was also frightened, darkly so. The images I had seen as a child of about eight of the desolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came back to me and I suddenly realized that the same fate could befall us. How had this happened?
Thus for the first time in my life I questioned the world view fed to me since I had reached the age of reason only to discover (albeit gradually) that reason and logic were far from operative in our world. It dawned on me then as never before that if the American response to the crisis was a military one then we were finished. Just how perilous the situation was I would only fully appreciate much later but the fear was real enough at the time. Though I had been a newsboy I had never really read newspapers but began devouring every story on the crisis. My neighbors, like my own family, were inner-city working class people who didn’t pay much attention to politics but suddenly there was a palpable tension among adults. In the local A&P supermarket canned goods disappeared from the shelves. While no one in my neighborhood had summer homes in New Hampshire or Maine the newspapers reported an exodus of the well-to-do to the remote countryside. Here was an existential crisis of the first order.
I say these things now in the context of the manufactured hysteria over the widely accepted scenario of Russian “meddling” in our “democracy” and the all but total insistence that Russia is our enemy. All across the corporate media, with Fox News excepted, and mainly from Democratic Party politicians, the drumbeat is insistent that “proof” exists of Russian efforts to undermine our system. I am in no position to know the truth of this but there are plenty of voices challenging the storyline and many of them are former highly placed intelligence operatives. Their various dissents from the official narrative of course get zero traction in the media outlets owned, operated and influenced by that faction of the oligarchy and its retainers who have deep vested interests in permanent preparation and production for war. That means that the vast majority of Americans get a distorted, esentially false view of geo-political issues
The drumbeat is incessant and appears to have won most of the public to the faith that Russia is our mortal enemy again and a dire threat to our security. The lesson all should have learned in the wake of the missile crisis has been deep-sixed so long that few citizens today understand how our deliberately overwrought relations with the Soviets during the Cold War brought us within an eyelash width of nuclear holocaust. As many who were embedded in the national security state during those fraught years, like Daniel Ellsberg and former Defense Secretary William Perry and many others, have admonished us lately we are now in circumstances every bit as perilous as the darkest days of the Cold War. We have utterly forgotten the fact that the intense and growing extreme nationalism that is overtaking the planet is precisely the social virus that promoted two global wars in the last century.
The scenario that the Kremlin is conspiring against us functions effectively to disappear from public awareness facts that our own nation has engaged in numerous interventions, violent or otherwise, against popularly elected governments on far worse terms than what is alleged against Russia, including Russia itself. Given the intense and virulent nationalism of the moment I doubt that many people will be open to an expose of these transgressions that actually go back to the founding of this nation but none of our American Pravdas and Izvestias will allow that in any case. Endless charges of Putin’s “thuggishness” and criminal behavior resound throughout the indoctrination echo chamber but nary a peep about the crimes of the assorted gangsterlike dictators Washington does and has blessed. The sanctimonious hypocrisy emanating from approved talking heads is ever more depressing and presages worse to come.The armed intervention in Russia in 1918 began our adverse and toxic relations with the Soviets. Most Americans are duly ignorant of this event. Russians are not! Had Russian troops ever set foot on American soil kids would be taught that fact on the first day of the first grade. But few ever learn about our own “meddling” in the affairs of any other countries and if there is mention of such intrusion into the sovereignty of others is always claimed to be in the service of “freedom and democracy.”
Washington sent a small but nevertheless serious force to Russia intended to undermine the Bolshevik Revolution and restore a government of which it approved. That foray had nothing to do with democracy but with the fear in American banking and corporate circles that the Bolshies were serious about replacing capitalism with socialism in a huge area of the globe. The fact that Soviets actually established no such socially benevolent system is irrelevant. The U.S. political and economic oligarchy undertook to “meddle” in Russian affairs not because its principals cared about Soviet citizens and their “freedoms” but because the success of the new system would then close much of Europe to American investment and profit. Having entered World War I to ensure that Germany did not dominate the Central European markets and then largely exclude American access to them, (and to ensure that Britain, France and Russia paid their debts to American banks and the U.S. Treasury), Washington and Wall Street then were faced with much of Eurasia closed to American investment on American terms in an even more complete way when the communists won power in Russia.
Much the same dilemma faced the oligarchs, especially those in the Democratic Party, when Nazi Germany sought to dominate Europe again and gain the lebensraum it desired in Eastern Europe. American officials saw the “nightmare of a closed world” in the already beset world of the Great Depression. So when Germany invaded the USSR in 1941 just prior to American entry into WWII, Franklin Roosevelt entered into an unofficial alliance with Stalin. Otherwise the Nazis might have kept half of Europe while the Reds controlled the other half. Harry Truman, then a U.S senator, opined that if the U.S. saw the Nazis winning it should help them or vice versa. So the “alliance” with the USSR was merely a marriage of convenience. Divorce would follow rapidly after 1945.
Once Hitler and the top Nazis were gone American elites had to devise a plan to deal with the Soviet Union. One measure that never ever gets notice is that the U.S. and its new intelligence agencies immediately exempted key Nazis from prosecution for war crimes and recruited them to aid in overthrowing Soviet rule. This measure in itself demolished the myth of the U.S. as “arsenal of democracy.” The roster included major rocket scientists and Nazi intelligence officials. One of the first forays involved Ukraine wherein Ukrainians who had aided the Nazis in their invasion of Russia were parachuted back into their country to overthrow the Reds. The current tumult over Ukraine is nothing new. The attempted coup was ridiculous and absurd and failed miserably but it demonstrates how early the US began to ramp up its anti-Soviet resolves and also explains to a great degree why the Soviets came to view the U.S. as a mortal enemy. But seeing our “adversaries” from their own perspectives is an impermissible intellectual or moral pursuit.
The Russians had endured centuries of invasion from the West; three times within the previous century and a half. They justifiably wanted Germany de-industrialized and dis-armed. Interestingly Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury, also called for the “pastoralization” of Germany but then he was Jewish and many Jews felt similarly. Wall Street wanted Germany reindustrialized on its terms and subject to new international agencies like the IMF and World Bank so as to expand the frontier of American style capitalism and investment. The American post-war design for the reconstruction of Europe revolved around Germany as the fulcrum for the extension of American style capitalism over much of Europe, whereas for the Soviets security from further invasion was paramount. As the Berlin crisis of 1948 began to playout Washington overtly dispatched numerous B-29 Superfortresses to British bases, the very plane that had dropped the infernal weapons that had vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The message was clear. By 1949 it was also certain that the U.S. was ready to re-arm Germany and foster the anti-Soviet NATO Pact based on the claim that the Red Army was poised to invade and takeover Western Europe- a false, mendacious proposition.
Seen from the Soviet perspective NATO represented that which they most feared- another hostile and bellicose force on their doorstep. The Soviets meanwhile had been ramping up their own nuclear program because they knew that Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not been incinerated because that was the only way finally to defeat Japan but to force rapid Japanese surrender before the Reds could invade Japan itself and therefore divide Nippon between the two giant powers just as Germany had been. In other words the world’s first atomic bombings were a deep communiqué from Washington to Moscow. The NATO alliance from the perception of the USSR then appeared worse a threat than Germany had been. The Americans had nukes and had demonstrated they could be as ruthless as any other great power in history. The result? The Soviet A-Bomb and the creep toward Armageddon!
In no time at all the U.S. completely encircled the USSR from Norway to the Aleutians with numerous bases in which nuclear capable aircraft, and later missiles, were stationed at the ready. Anyone who read Fail-Safe or On the Beachor viewed Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb during those worst Cold War years should understand that many citizens came to realize the insanity of the situation and made the political waves that led to the first arms limitations talks… all but forgotten today as our nation’s elites deliberately embark upon the new Cold War.
The Soviet system was dysfunctional and fell apart of its own internal “contradictions,” not to forget Zbigniew Brezezinski’s plot to give the Soviets “their own Vietnam War” in Afghanistan. The Soviet Premiere Gorbachev bravely tried to foster a new and peaceful relationship with the U.S. and the first Bush Administration actually promised not to expand NATO eastward, a promise long since broken and the principal reason the Russians re-annexed Crimea. Then Washington meddled in Russia’s first elections after the dissolution of the USSR to ensure that the clownish Boris Yeltsin was elected and persuaded him to allow western investment to flow into the former USSR wherein a new capitalist .oligarchy developed with ties, interests and dependencies upon western banks and hedge funds. This wiped away any remaining social welfare programs of the Soviet-era and reduced many Soviet citizens to dire penury while enriching the favored. It is tragic that Gorbachev is held in such low esteem in Russia today since his ideas, had they been brought to fruition, might have made for a far more peaceful world today but key interests in the U.S. had longstanding ideas about how to make Russia dependent on western finance.
It was the rise of that newly capitalist Russian oligarchy, indebted and at the mercy of Harvard economists and western investors, which fostered a deep Russian nationalist response and brought Vladimir Putin to power. There seems little doubt but that a majority of Russians support him, western charges of vote fraud notwithstanding. While he dominates an authoritarian state he is no Stalin as the western media insists. The real problem for the west is that the Russian state now controls Russian capitalism (whereas in the U.S. the capitalists control the state) and the result is that capitalist Russia competes with American capitalism on unequal terms and is far too friendly with China which, as a capitalist nation, is really more of a threat to American global economic and political objectives than the commies ever were.
In 1959 the Soviets shot down a U-2 spyplane flying in violation of international law over the USSR. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, had been ordered and trained to die with his aircraft rather than enable the Reds to capture it and him. He didn’t and the Soviet Premiere, Nikita Kruschev informed the world of the U.S. dereliction. Not believing Kruschev, President Dwight Eisenhower claimed the Soviet claim was spurious. And then the commies produced the pilot and the plane for all the world to witness, thereby demonstrating Ike’s lie. But of course when the U.S. lies about its foreign policies and affairs, and it does so regularly, that is defined as striking a blow for freedom whereas whenever the Reds perjured themselves this was evidence of evil. This longstanding double standard is everywhere evident and in play today as the new Cold War ratchets up.
Today the newly enlarged NATO sits squarely on Russian borders. Since the original Bush I promise not to expand the alliance eastward 11 new members have been recruited, mostly former Soviet republics or eastern European statelets once under Soviet domination: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. All plus the original members are armed to the teeth, overwhelmingly with weapons produced by American companies that have vested profits at stake and no interest in peace breaking out. NATO forces, including American troops sit squarely on Russia’s doorstep claiming that they are keeping the Russian bear at bay though no evidence exists that the Russians were intent on invading or re-occupying former territories of the USSR like Latvia or Lithuania or Georgia. But they do have legitimate concerns about the safety of ethnic Russians living in the territories of the former USSR. Obviously the Russians perceive NATO forces, including American troops, as an ominous threat. Can Americans foreign imagine armies possessed of the most advanced weapon systems sitting on our borders? Yet most citizens accept this utterly chilling state of affairs as if nature itself had nurtured it.
The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed in 1972 by President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premiere Brezhnev was unilaterally abrogated in 2001 by Bush II. Such missiles have now been placed in Poland and the Czech Republic and Ukraine has announced that it wishes to accept ABMs on its territory, and enter NATO.
The Russian re-annexation of Crimea is condemned widely in Congress and the media as proof positive of Russia’s expansionary intent. Matters are hardly so simple…or simple-minded.
The Crimean Peninsula was annexed originally from Turkey in the 18th Century and remained as part of Russia until 1954 when the Soviets turned it over to Ukraine partly to cement ties between the Russian and Ukrainian Socialist Republics. At that time no one in the USSR envisioned a breakup of the union. When the USSR collapsed and Ukraine became an independent nation the question of whether Ukrainian control of Crimea had been constitutional under the old communist regime surfaced. There was even a movement in the mid-1990s to re-annex it to Russia. But it was not until 2014 that matters heated up between Russia and Ukraine, and then with the U.S.
The population of Ukraine is approximately 40% Russian mainly in the eastern areas bordering Russia where the population identifies with Russia. The western population is largely ethnically and linguistically Ukrainian. In 2014 the elected government of pro-Russian Victor Yanukovych was overthrown by violence in which the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was involved. Pro-Western Ukrainians expressed a desire to join NATO and Washington under Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the street violence that led to Yanukovych’s ouster from power. U.S. Senator John McCain spoke publicly in the main square of Ukraine’s capital Kiev in favor of Yanukovych’s overthrow, while lionizing the neo-fascist goons who stoked violence in the streets while Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland worked behind the scenes to install a new president approved by the Obama Administration. The U.S. contributed $5 Billion to the efforts of western Ukrainians to replace the pro-Russian government.
Does it require exceptional intelligence to understand that Russia’s Vladimir Putin saw this as a coup d’etat aimed at Russian security interests? Yanukovych was replaced by the pro-western [puppet] president who began lobbying for Ukraine’s admission to NATO. This was the primary reason Russia re-annexed Crimea [with verwhelming Crimean support]. For more than two centuries the Russian Fleet had been based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on the Black and Azov Seas, the only southern access Russia has to the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. For this vital naval base to fall into the hand of anti-Russian forces and therefore pass to NATO control was absolutely intolerable. And so under the circumstances the inevitable occurred. Russia re-occupied Crimea with the full approval of its overwhelmingly Russian population. Yes this violated international law —such as it is these days, having been mostly destroyed by the US and its allies—but the U.S. has violated international law many times with the resulting deaths literally of millions. Think Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen. Where in all the media or Congress are these ever admitted as the foul crimes they were and are? The Russian occupation of Crimea was virtually bloodless. However, the Russian actions also inspired a revolt of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, primarily in the Donbass region. Russian troops and local militias are still involved in a shooting war with the western oriented Ukrainian government. None of this will be resolved soon as the hysterical howls and wails from the retinue of servants of the permanent war economy and the Military Industrial Congressional Intelligence Media Complex signify.
I personally hold Donald Trump in contempt for many of the obvious reasons. Given everything he has supported since appearing on the political scene he seems the least-likely president to seek genuine rapprochement either with North Korea or Russia. Yet he is also ramping up conflict with Iran and supports the criminal war by Saudi Arabia against Yemen, the poorest and perhaps most ravaged nation on the planet. Still I cannot but support his attempt to find some way to reduce and stop the growing tensions with Russia and so should every sane American and demand key actions for a more peaceful world before events run out of control. Trump’s emphasis on reducing the threat of nuclear war and of shrinking the military spending that is bankrupting the U.S. by seeking some solid non-hostile relationship with Russia is astonishingly the sanest argument to come out of Washington, perhaps ever. Sanity exists in Russia too. I would fervently hope too that we can perceive that a growing antagonism toward China bodes ill as well.
But we must beware! The Hawks and the vultures are circling.
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Parting shot—a word from the editors
The Best Definition of Donald Trump We Have Found
In his zeal to prove to his antagonists in the War Party that he is as bloodthirsty as their champion, Hillary Clinton, and more manly than Barack Obama, Trump seems to have gone “play-crazy” — acting like an unpredictable maniac in order to terrorize the Russians into forcing some kind of dramatic concessions from their Syrian allies, or risk Armageddon.However, the “play-crazy” gambit can only work when the leader is, in real life, a disciplined and intelligent actor, who knows precisely what actual boundaries must not be crossed. That ain’t Donald Trump — a pitifully shallow and ill-disciplined man, emotionally handicapped by obscene privilege and cognitively crippled by white American chauvinism. By pushing Trump into a corner and demanding that he display his most bellicose self, or be ceaselessly mocked as a “puppet” and minion of Russia, a lesser power, the War Party and its media and clandestine services have created a perfect storm of mayhem that may consume us all.— Glen Ford, Editor in Chief, Black Agenda Report