On The Beach 2017. The Beckoning Of Nuclear War.

| Educate!

Above Photo: From johnpilger.com

The US submarine captain says, “We’ve all got to die one day, some sooner and some later. The trouble always has been that you’re never ready, because you don’t know when it’s coming. Well, now we do know and there’s nothing to be done about it.”

He says he will be dead by September. It will take about a week to die, though no one can be sure. Animals live the longest.

The war was over in a month. The United States, Russia and China were the protagonists. It is not clear if it was started by accident or mistake. There was no victor. The northern hemisphere is contaminated and lifeless now.

A curtain of radioactivity is moving south towards Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and South America. By September, the last cities, towns and villages will succumb. As in the north, most buildings will remain untouched, some illuminated by the last flickers of electric light.

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

These lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men appear at the beginning of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach, which left me close to tears. The endorsements on the cover said the same.

Published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War when too many writers were silent or cowed, it is a masterpiece. At first the language suggests a genteel relic; yet nothing I have read on nuclear war is as unyielding in its warning. No book is more urgent.

Some readers will remember the black and white Hollywood film starring Gregory Peck as the US Navy commander who takes his submarine to Australia to await the silent, formless spectre descending on the last of the living world.

I read On the Beach for the first time the other day, finishing it as the US Congress passed a law to wage economic war on Russia, the world’s second most lethal nuclear power.  There was no justification for this insane vote, except the promise of plunder.

The “sanctions” are aimed at Europe, too, mainly Germany, which depends on Russian natural gas and on European companies that do legitimate business with Russia. In what passed for debate on Capitol Hill, the more garrulous senators left no doubt that the embargo was designed to force Europe to import expensive American gas.

Their main aim seems to be war – real war. No provocation as extreme can suggest anything else. They seem to crave it, even though Americans have little idea what war is. The Civil War of 1861-5 was the last on their mainland. War is what the United States does to others.

The only nation to have used nuclear weapons against human beings, they have since destroyed scores of governments, many of them democracies, and laid to waste whole societies – the million deaths in Iraq were a fraction of the carnage in Indo-China, which President Reagan called “a noble cause” and President Obama revised as the tragedy of an “exceptional people”He was not referring to the Vietnamese.

Filming last year at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, I overheard a National Parks Service guide lecturing a school party of young teenagers. “Listen up,” he said. “We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom.”

At a stroke, the truth was inverted. No freedom was defended. Freedom was destroyed. A peasant country was invaded and millions of its people were killed, maimed, dispossessed, poisoned; 60,000 of the invaders took their own lives. Listen up, indeed.

A lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts are removed. History is excised and replaced by what Time magazine calls “an eternal present”. Harold Pinter described this as “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

Those who call themselves liberals or tendentiously “the left” are eager participants in this manipulation, and its brainwashing, which today revert to one name: Trump.

Trump is mad, a fascist, a dupe of Russia. He is also a gift for “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics”, wrote Luciana Bohne memorably. The obsession with Trump the man – not Trump as a symptom and caricature of an enduring system – beckons great danger for all of us.

While they pursue their fossilised anti-Russia agendas, narcissistic media such as the Washington Post, the BBC and the Guardian suppress the essence of the most important political story of our time as they warmonger on a scale I cannot remember in my lifetime.

On 3 August, in contrast to the acreage the Guardian has given to drivel that the Russians conspired with Trump (reminiscent of the far-right smearing of John Kennedy as a “Soviet agent”), the paper buried, on page 16, news that the President of the United States was forced to sign a Congressional bill declaring economic war on Russia. Unlike every other Trump signing, this was conducted in virtual secrecy and attached with a caveat from Trump himself that it was “clearly unconstitutional”.

A coup against the man in the White House is under way. This is not because he is an odious human being, but because he has consistently made clear he does not want war with Russia.

This glimpse of sanity, or simple pragmatism, is anathema to the “national security” managers who guard a system based on war, surveillance, armaments, threats and extreme capitalism. Martin Luther King called them “the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today”.

They have encircled Russia and China with missiles and a nuclear arsenal. They have used neo-Nazis to instal an unstable, aggressive regime on Russia’s “borderland” – the way through which Hitler invaded, causing the deaths of 27 million people.  Their goal is to dismember the modern Russian Federation.

In response, “partnership” is a word used incessantly by Vladimir Putin – anything, it seems, that might halt an evangelical drive to war in the United States. Incredulity in Russia may have now turned to fear and perhaps a certain resolution. The Russians almost certainly have war-gamed nuclear counter strikes. Air-raid drills are not uncommon. Their history tells them to get ready.

The threat is simultaneous. Russia is first, China is next. The US has just completed a huge military exercise with Australia known as Talisman Sabre. They rehearsed a blockade of the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, through which pass China’s economic lifelines.

The admiral commanding the US Pacific fleet said that, “if required”, he would nuke China. That he would say such a thing publicly in the current perfidious atmosphere begins to make fact of Nevil Shute’s fiction.

None of this is considered news. No connection is made as the bloodfest of Passchendaele a century ago is remembered. Honest reporting is no longer welcome in much of the media. Windbags, known as pundits, dominate: editors are infotainment or party line managers. Where there was once sub-editing, there is the liberation of axe-grinding clichés. Those journalists who do not comply are defenestrated.

The urgency has plenty of precedents. In my film, The Coming War on China, John Bordne, a member of a US Air Force missile combat crew based in Okinawa, Japan, describes how in 1962 – during the Cuban missile crisis – he and his colleagues were “told to launch all the missiles” from their silos.

Nuclear armed, the missiles were aimed at both China and Russia. A junior officer questioned this, and the order was eventually rescinded – but only after they were issued with service revolvers and ordered to shoot at others in a missile crew if they did not “stand down”.

At the height of the Cold War, the anti-communist hysteria in the United States was such that US officials who were on official business in China were accused of treason and sacked. In 1957 – the year Shute wrote On the Beach – no official in the State Department could speak the language of the world’s most populous nation. Mandarin speakers were purged under strictures now echoed in the Congressional bill that has just passed, aimed at Russia.

The bill was bipartisan. There is no fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. The terms “left” and “right” are meaningless. Most of America’s modern wars were started not by conservatives, but by liberal Democrats.

When Obama left office, he presided over a record seven wars, including America’s longest war and an unprecedented campaign of extrajudicial killings – murder – by drones.

In his last year, according to a Council on Foreign Relations study, Obama, the “reluctant liberal warrior”, dropped 26,171 bombs – three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.  Having pledged to help “rid the world” of nuclear weapons, the Nobel Peace Laureate built more nuclear warheads than any president since the Cold War.

Trump is a wimp by comparison. It was Obama – with his secretary of state Hillary Clinton at his side – who destroyed Libya as a modern state and launched the human stampede to Europe. At home, immigration groups knew him as the “deporter-in-chief”.

One of Obama’s last acts as president was to sign a bill that handed a record $618billion to the Pentagon, reflecting the soaring ascendancy of fascist militarism in the governance of the United States. Trump has endorsed this.

Buried in the detail was the establishment of a “Center for Information Analysis and Response”. This is a ministry of truth. It is tasked with providing an “official narrative of facts” that will prepare us for the real possibility of nuclear war – if we allow it.

  • Lili-Ann Berg

    John Pilger is the ultimate voice of absolute truth in a world where truth has become a dirty word. I read this article with a trembling heart and a throat constricted with fear because I knew there was no escape from its horrifying veracity. Fear for the billions of lives at risk from the “evangelical” insanity emanating from Washington.
    (I read “On the Beach” when it was first published and I was still living in Sweden. I have often wondered if it was the powerful effect it had on me that made me emigrate to Australia in 1970, a subconscious attempt to prolong my chances of survival. Who knows.)

  • DHFabian

    I’m just a few years younger than Mr. Pilger (in my 60s), and have grown up and lived my life keenly aware of the potential for catastrophic nuclear war. When I was young, I held the idealistic hope that a new, wiser generation would ban all nuclear weapons. I thought human progress was inevitable, and even though people/nations strongly disagree, we would develop the maturity to deal with it, preventing our own self-destruction.

    This era has a surrealistic feel to it — more like a book of fiction. Years of work went into splitting us apart by class and race. We’re now under the rule of two right wing parties working together to bring about our annihilation. (How can that be put in terms that sound less dramatic?) 2017 has been defined by the hard work of setting the stage for a final war. Republicans work hard to build support for a war against China (via Korea at the moment) while Democrats work equally hard to build support for a war against Russia. This has brought Russia and China — two nuclear super-powers — together, working out their years of conflict of view of a potential world threat, the US.

    We can look back and see how the stage has been getting built for decades, and now it’s ready. Now what?

  • Lili-Ann Berg

    When will Americans wake up from their seemingly endless insouciance? Do they realize that starting a nuclear war with two other superpowers is akin to mass suicide – or are they too stupid to understand that they too will die a horrible death together with all their friends and relatives, their children and grandchildren, not to mention the rest of humanity and all life on earth? There will be no exceptions, no pearly gates, no encore, just total annihilation. The end.
    The fact that there are so very few comments to this article speaks for itself. .

  • mwildfire

    Lately, I find myself wondering. DH asks, “How can I put this in less dramatic terms?” But we’re talking about the apparent determination of our “leaders” to bring about human extinction–I note, BOTH through the vigorous effort to start a nuclear war, and through inaction and blocking of actions leading to potentially averting catastrophic climate change. It almost seems as though the destruction of humanity were the goal. Those silly films in which it turns out that the destructive leaders are really reptilian aliens wearing human suits–ridiculous, but…And then I’ve wondered if maybe most of the nukes in their silos aren’t really fakes, the point being MAD–to pretend to have this awesome destructive power so as to deter attack (and of course, to secure millions of dollars). All in all, it’s getting to where I think the writers of the Earth/human psychodrama need to be sacked in favor of better writers less inclined to unbelievable story lines.

  • Lili-Ann Berg

    It’s very unclear who you are actually pointing a finger at? Perhaps this is intentional vagueness on your part? Who exactly are to be sacked? And who do you suggest should take their place? I’m interested to hear some names here.

  • mwildfire

    I was being facetious, sort of–suggesting that the news today, the situation, is so absurd that we must be living in a simulated universe (which some physicists claim to see evidence of) in which case whoever is writing the reality show we’re living in in getting way out in the woods of non-credible story line…obviously I can’t you give you names since they likely aren’t human, I don’t know who they are and in fact this whole notion is wishful thinking, I don’t want to believe in the world that I find myself in, in which some kind of lunatics and sociopaths seem to be in charge and somehow it isn’t possible for the rest of us to wrest control from them, largely because most people don’t much care, unless you threaten their paycheck. Threatening their children’s survival isn’t reason enough for them to look up from their phones.

  • Lili-Ann Berg

    I misunderstood your post, thinking you were alluding to actual writers of articles like Pilger’s. Sorry about my curtness, sometimes I’m a bit slow to detect sarcasm or humour in American English, being trained in Australian colloquialism. Need to lighten up a bit I think.