Published in Consortium News 14 June 2006
As the U.S. and NATO mount provocative military maneuvers on Russia’s border, the West is oblivious to how these threatening gestures ratchet up prospects of thermonuclear war that could extinguish civilization, says Gilbert Doctorow.
By Gilbert Doctorow
In his eulogy to Mohammed Ali at the Louisville memorial service, Rabbi Michael Lerner reminded us all of the distinguishing feature of “The Greatest,” that from the start of his career he spoke Truth to Power and paid the price when he was stripped of his heavyweight title for five years.
In that spirit, and in the presence of eminent national leaders, Rabbi Lerner listed major issues that concern Liberal Progressives, adding one issue that is often overlooked. He said that attempts to subjugate peoples and rule the world have been made over the last 10,000 years and they have never worked. In what follows, I will try to expand on that very important observation and how it bears on our own and broader humanity’s prospects for survival now.
One of the very sad consequences of the monopoly control of mainstream print and electronic media, as well as of the two houses of Congress by the ideologists of Neoconservatism and Liberal Interventionism is that the broad American public, including instinctively skeptical Progressives, is clueless about the level of risk of all-out nuclear war that we are inviting by our current and projected policies of global domination. America’s seemingly irresistible force is coming up against indomitable resistance from Russia and China and the result is an escalating confrontation that we have not seen since the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
I had a personal awakening to the reality of the false sense of security that pervades American society some 18 months ago when I participated in a Peace Day event organized at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where the keynote speaker was Noam Chomsky and where a number of other leading personalities in the nationwide antiwar movement also held forth.
The auditorium, which accommodated the opening, plenary session, was filled by perhaps 350 activists, many of them gray-headed veterans from the 1960s Vietnam War resistance, but also a representative sampling of students from the Greater Boston area. When we broke up for workshops, perhaps 250 chose the then very fashionable issue of the Islamic State, whose exploits had filled our newspapers with beheadings and bloody terror taking place in distant lands. My own workshop was on the red-hot civil war then raging in Donbass, in southeastern Ukraine, which was becoming a proxy war between Russia and the U.S. It drew a total of five auditors.
And the workshop on nuclear dangers, which I looked in on when my session closed, had perhaps 10 auditors. The organizers were busy presenting slides showing what could happen in a European city like Rotterdam if “bad guys” managed to detonate a dirty radioactive bomb in the city center. A better scenario for substituting phony threats for real ones could not have been written by Pentagon strategists.
The thought that we might find ourselves in a nuclear exchange with Russia did not cross the minds of organizers or auditors alike. And yet to my understanding, the level of risk of war coming out of the Great Power stand-off in Ukraine, and of it — accidentally or otherwise — spinning out of control and going nuclear was vastly greater than anything that could ever befall us from the advance of radical Islamists in the Middle East.
My point is not to ridicule the very earnest and well-intentioned anti-war campaigners whose ranks I joined that day. It is to demonstrate how and why the highly tendentious reporting of what the U.S. is doing in the world and what others are doing to us, combined with selective news blackouts by major media, has left even activists unaware of real threats to the peace and to our very survival that American foreign policy has created over the past 20 years. And those threats are likely to grow in the future if the public does not awaken from its slumber and demand to be informed by experts with countervailing views.
Ignoring War and Peace
We are living through a situation unparalleled in our history as a nation where the issues of war and peace are not being debated in public, at least not in any serious way.
Moreover, the risk of accidental war has moved quickly beyond where it was just 18 months ago. Now we are entering upon implementation of very provocative U.S.-directed military expansion of NATO activities at the borders of Russia. The ongoing war games — code-named Anaconda-16 in Poland numbering 31,000 troops, 17,000 of them Americans — are rehearsing a NATO seizure and occupation of Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave, just a few miles away.
President Vladimir Putin’s remark at the start of the exercises was that any move into Russian territory would elicit a nuclear response that would not be limited to the European theater but would be directed at the mainland United States. These were clear words, but I greatly doubt that many Americans heard them (or if they did, it was in the mainstream media’s context of the demonized Putin’s “reckless” rhetoric).
The NATO Summit planned for July 6-8 in Warsaw will confirm plans to greatly expand the presence of NATO troops and heavy equipment in bases being built in Poland as well as in the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In response to this unanticipated threat to its national security, Russia is now moving a large part of its armed forces from the center of the country to the Leningrad Oblast, bordering on Estonia. The distances separating Russian and NATO forces will be miniscule.
In this sense, we are now two minutes to midnight on the nuclear catastrophe clock. But the American people seem unaware of this potential threat to the survival of human civilization. The only political commentary is more belligerent talk directed at Putin and vows to confront “Russian aggression.”
What can we do about this dire situation? First, we can write to the editors of our major national daily newspapers and complain about the wholly one-sided view of international affairs that they are feeding us day by day. We should politely demand that they open their op-ed pages to responsible experts and non-experts who challenge our present foreign and defense policies as being aggressive and provocative.
The same letters should be sent to the producers of news programming and panel discussions at CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and other leading electronic media who have systematically black-balled all those who do not agree with the Washington Narrative ever since the start of the Information Wars with Russia in 2007.
Secondly, we should write to our Congressmen and women demanding that Congressional hearings on foreign relations and relations with Russia and China in particular must cease to be phony exercises at which only those who support the U.S. government’s present policies or call for still more drastic poking the Russians in the eye get invited to testify.
Hearings which bring in as well those who believe as I do that we are presently on course for Armageddon should get C-SPAN coverage and give the American public a chance to judge for itself from authoritative and credible sources and not only from “alternative media” that can easily be dismissed by the establishment.
These recommended actions will not by themselves turn back the minute hand on the Clock, but they may stop its progression and give us a very much needed time out to fix policies that are wrongheaded and extremely dangerous.
Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator and Board Member of The American Committee for East West Accord Ltd. His most recent book, Does Russia Have a Future?was published in August 2015.