Derailing The Neocon Train To Armageddon

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The media war drums are again beating with demonization aimed at Iran, the DPRK and especially Russia. We can’t blame this on Trump alone. Our government, under the heavy hand of corporate corruption, has embraced neoliberal economics, debt colonialism and military aggression since Reagan replaced the New Deal with the Raw Deal. Presidents of both parties, including both Bushes, Clinton, Obama, and now Trump have continued on this track which inevitable led to Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama’s Libya disaster and a foreign policy based on regime change, drone terror, arms sales and permanent war – the final product of a marriage of neocon foreign policy and neoliberal economics. The Republic has been replaced by a corporate oligarchy heavily dependent on arms sales and war. It has been a driver of war, refugee creation, mass migration and climate destruction. This can be no other way because these policies are driven by and tied to profits to those empowered by, and dependent upon them.

The ramping up of aggression aimed at Russia over the last two decades and the rekindling of a cold war sans Soviet Union, has lead us to an impending disaster. The U.S. is on an accelerating, out of control train to nuclear war hijacked by myopic neocons trapped in delusional group-think and fundamentalist delusions. Even the fracking and gas pipeline projects which threaten and destabilize our environment and water are not for our benefit but, designed to export fracked gas in order to undercut and destabilize the Russian economy.

A book on our Russia policy by Gilbert Doctorow, historian, political analyst and expert in Russian affairs going back to 1965 recently caught my attention. The book is titled, Does the United States Have a Future?. In it, Doctorow, a conservative, business oriented analyst argues that our policies and sanctions have actually strengthened Russia domestically and hurt the U.S. He points out with good evidence that, due to sanctions, Russia has become economically self sufficient and that it has linked up with China in a strong alliance which threatens to undercut the U.S. dollar as a global currency. Our eastward expansion of NATO, in contradiction to previous agreements, along with our backing of a fascist coup in Ukraine, the increasing presence of weapons — including nuclear weapons, and war games along their border combined with poor communication, has caused Russia to modernize its military. It should be noted that their military armaments have reached parity with our own on about 5% of their national budget. Though it has not been covered in our embedded corporate media, we came exceedingly close to nuclear conflagration several times in 2016 due to our aggressive maneuvers along their border and miscalculated moves in Syria.

Much of the increased aggression toward Russia, in spite of their efforts to work with us as an ally on issues of mutual concern, come from the neocon sector of our State Department and military, the same folks that brought us the Iraq invasion and who now want to attack Iran. Though accusations that Russia somehow stole our election are exaggerated, it is understandable that they would seek to influence them given Hillary Clinton’s hawkish role in expanding NATO and weapons in the region, as well as her penchant for “regime change.” The US has done far more to interfere in elections in Russia and other countries.

Given my concerns, I thought I’d consult an expert on military affairs and foreign policy, someone truly informed on such issues. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005 and helped prepare Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which he has since renounced. He is now a professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary. I asked him the following questions:

Gilbert Doctorow has written on the US misreading of Russia & the drive for a new cold war. Given your experience, what do you see as the reasons for demonizing Russia rather than cooperation on issues of mutual interest over the last decade. Are there divisions on this narrative in official circles?

“It does not take anything but a little empathy (a commodity in extremely short supply if not entirely absent in the arrogance of Washington) and some knowledge of the days surrounding the end of the Cold War to understand why Russia’s policies since Putin became it’s leader—and today—are often antagonistic to Washington’s interests. A browse through one of the latest acquisitions of the George Washington University’s National Security Archives (“Who Promised What to Whom on NATO Expansion?”) will afford the knowledge. In brief, US financiers, bankers, and corporate gurus raped, pillaged and plundered Russia after George Bush left office in 1992, and Bill Clinton decided to expand NATO directly into Moscow’s natural space. George W. Bush and Barak Obama continued the process. This US triumphalism and chest-beating flew directly in the face of prior promises to Russia, but led to more sales to more countries for the US military-industrial complex—particularly with respect to ballistic missile defense—and became intolerable to Moscow, as well they should have been expected to. We need only imagine Russia moving into Chihuahua, Mexico or British Columbia, Canada to get a rough idea of the provocation. In fact, when it looked to Putin as if Georgia would become a NATO member and that country’s president, feeling his new NATO ‘oats’, tried to consolidate Tibilisi’s control over a couple of provinces with lots of Russian speakers, he was pulled up short rather abruptly by Russian military forces, again as any strategist worth his or her salt one would have expected him to have been. With all this nasty, Washington’s-fault background, how else do these grievous US errors get rectified except by doubling down on strategic failure due to ineptitude by creating deeper strategic failure by blaming every misstep on Russia and commencing a new cold war? Hypocrisy, in other words, has become one of the central pillars of US foreign and security policy. Outright lying already was, so today we combine the two faults and are mendaciously hypocritical.

Even with such a pronounced predilection for bad foreign and security policy, there are holdouts, i.e., those who see a new cold war with Russia as stupid and counterproductive. For a time it seemed President Trump, for whatever reason, was one such holdout. There are a few others and with better credentials and more surety of purpose and motivation — very few. The bandwagon of support for demonizing Russia begun and continued by supporters of Hillary Clinton—and Clinton herself—has not helped in that regard. I suspect that a substantial majority of the American people, just as they believed Saddam Hussein had WMD, believes Putin is the devil.”

What have been the actual effects of our electoral accusations (Russia-gate), economic sanctions, military posturing and aggression on Russia and on our own domestic politics, global relations and standing?

“First, in Putin we are up against a chess master. For proof, we need only look at the results of his moves in Georgia, the Crimea, Ukraine in general—and probably soon and specifically Odessa, which is more important to the Russian na–vy than Sebastopol, if the line of communication (LOC) along the Dnieper is threatened—brilliantly in Syria, and probably very soon in Mitrovica, the northernmost province in Kosovo, and perhaps the Baltic states. Putin looks for gaps and bad moves, flows into them so long as he can maintain interior lines to our exterior ones, widens and deepens until he’s got the pawn, or knight, or even bishop (Syria, for example), and simply backs up if he meets with significant resistance (as in part in Ukraine). Second, US electoral accusations—particularly by intelligence professionals-turned-politicians-and-TV commentators, such as James Clapper and John Brennan—and US economic sanctions are an attempt to convince the American people that Putin is a devil and that we are taking our own pieces on the chess board. Of course we are not, other than one or two pawns. Military posturing on such extensive exterior lines or, as in Syria, illegally, doesn’t take any important pieces either. As with most such ill-conceived and poorly played moves, the US suffers globally as its allies and friends tend to see through the mendacious hypocrisy and blame the US. That said, those allies who still cling to some idea of a US-provided security umbrella—like the UK at one end of the world and Japan at the other—are concerned that, if the US is right in the least about Putin, then it is dangerous for them if the US is losing so many pieces and so frequently. Meanwhile, the challenges both Moscow and Washington confront mutually go largely unaddressed, challenges such as climate change, global terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons, and the urgent need to develop protocols, standards, and laws for new phenomena like cyber war. Without cooperation, such challenges will only grow in complexity and difficulty.

How is this connected to our economic dependence on defense spending, our drive for fossil fuel hegemony, and has it been as Doctorow and others suggest, a driving force in the new Russia-China BRICS alliance? What are the risks for our economy and to the standing of the international dollar?

“Last first. The Chinese are making a slow but inexorable run on the dollar. One of the primary methods they are using is trade in oil and gas. Offering alternatives to the dollar in this manner got Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi an early grave. But Washington and its allies can’t take on China directly; so eventually the Chinese efforts, increasingly successful, will draw real blood. Standing behind the more than twenty trillion dollars of US debt, billions of dollars in quantitative easing, and every single piece of currency is only the US military and oil traded in dollars (I am not even certain any longer how to evaluate the so-called US asset base because the infrastructure that is its foundation is largely an anachronism, falling apart, and at least twenty years behind countries such as Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and much of China.) Take away the military and oil—and both are fading faster than many in the national security elite realize—and one must at least become concerned. Military supremacy only exists as it is buttressed by a sound economy. Fossil fuel supremacy only makes sense if fossil fuels can continue to be burned, (they can’t if we want to survive) and, if such fuels are being replaced swiftly by renewables. Undergirding these realities is the market reality that fracking for oil and gas only makes economic sense if the price for these commodities remains fairly high; and OPEC and Russia will likely continue their efforts to keep the price below the point where fracking is profitable. This concentrated economic effort, combined with a shift into oil and gas marketed without the dollar, present a daunting picture for the US in future, if not right now.

As for the debilitating effect of what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, that has surpassed I feel even his worst expectations. For example, we have members of Congress who are nothing more than wholly-owned subsidiaries of that complex, voting for every weapon system that comes down the pike. US support for the Saudi/UAE coalition waging the brutal war in Yemen is a current case in point. There is no congressional—and thus constitutional—approval for that military support and, in fact, it violates the provisions of Title 50, US Code, Chapter 33, Sections 1541-48, or the War Powers Act. So it is an illegal war. But the guided bombs and other munitions being expended in more than 15,000 airstrikes makes Raytheon and other military contractors a lot of money. Someone once said that when war is so profitable, we shall have more of it. That someone was right.”

How do our Pacific Pivot and aggression toward Russia relate to policies in the middle-east, ie Saudi-Arabia, Iran and Israel, and what are the implications for our real security regarding war — including nuclear war?

“If we assess lining up the Indian Navy for maritime exercises and changing the USN’s focus from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, combined with putting a few troops in Australia, and an aircraft carrier added occasionally, a ‘shift to the Pacific,’ I have yet to see any substantial reciprocal moves by any Pacific power concerned about this shift. We can’t count Chinese moves in the South China Sea because they were ongoing before the pivot and proceed apace today. And PM Abe in Tokyo seems to be contemplating his own military moves, to include possible nuclear weapons for Japan, because he sees inadequate US attention to his region. The one positive aspect of President Trump’s otherwise inexplicable and unwise bellicosity toward the DPRK, is that it seems to have given PM Abe a shot in the arm. He is the one leader, regional or global, who seems to support fully President Trump’s posture toward the Korean Peninsula. As for the region which seems to have Washington fixated at the moment—Israel and southwest Asia/the Middle East—there is nothing there that threatens US national security, other than some elements of al-Qa’ida that, despite their danger, can be managed with a minimum of military power and a maximum of diplomatic and economic power. Yet Washington is transfixed. Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict no doubt added a degree or two to that fixation, though it shouldn’t have, Russia has been there for decades. Mohammad bin Salman’s meteoric rise to power in Saudi Arabia and Trump’s almost sycophantic ‘sword dance’ diplomacy, seems to have sealed the principal regional deal—that deal being the plan featuring Israel and Saudi Arabia defeating Iran, even if it takes 100,000 dead American soldiers and Marines to do so. As I’ve said, this war is not in the US interest and its implications for US security are potentially severe. We confront a country whose nuclear weapons program has been stopped by diplomacy, about to be the target for war nonetheless. We’ll just have to wait to see if we really are so utterly inept. We would be traveling the same road we traveled in 2003 to Iraq and Saddam Hussein, led basically by the same neocons—from John Hanna to John Bolton—with a few relatively new faces, on the national scene, such as the arch-neocon at the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Can a country be that blind? From the looks of things today, apparently it can.”

If one doubts the insanity of group-think among Pentagon and National security insiders, I would advise reading the revealing new book The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame. In it, he describes in detail official plans to destroy nearly every major city in Europe and Asia and the hair-trigger reality and close calls that almost wiped us out. Ellsberg states that he is happy that Trump had shown a deferential stance toward Russia saying “Why is he that way? I don’t know. Probably, I think, because they’ve got blackmail on him.” This was before, as reported recently by AP, the Trump administration approved a plan to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, a move that deepens America’s involvement in the military conflict, further straining relations with Russia. The continuing focus and mounting antagonism on Russia is harming us internationally and may well result not only in our isolation and economic ruin but in our obliteration. As those in the know confirm, it is more than unwise.

For lack of deeper analysis of how and why we got here, Democrats continue to push the shaky, blame everything on Russia meme further pushing our foreign policy in dangerous and self-defeating directions with a President willing to use Nuclear Weapons. It is likely, at this rate, given the insanity at the top of our government, the lack of an independent press or trust, much less communication with Russia – and their very real and justifiable fear and mistrust of us — that we may not survive the coming year as a country or as a species. It is time for to seize our future from the maw of idiotic disaster and to demand sane economic priorities and a foreign policy based on peaceful cooperation and international law. The train to Armageddon is picking up speed. It is up to us to see beyond the warmongering propaganda, to challenge and derail it in the press and in the streets.

  • Bob Beal

    Ellsberg?: “Probably, I think, because they’ve got blackmail on him.”

  • Bob Beal

    CIA’s Iran hit man:

    CIA’s New ‘Iran Mission Center’ Created For Regime Change
    by Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance–Jan. 9, 2018
    “In June 2017 the administration created the Iran Mission Center to escalate U.S. actions in Iran.”
    “Pompeo put veteran intelligence officer, Michael D’Andrea, who recently oversaw the agency’s program of lethal drone strikes, in charge of the center.”