Can Barack and Putin work it out?
Successful Diplomacy or Nuclear Apocolypse?
The Ukrainian crisis is a very complex affair, dramatic changes are occurring so quickly things could fall apart. In the past few weeks we have witnessed a democratically elected president driven from office and into exile by raging mobs in the street who disagreed with his decision to form closer economic ties with Russia, rather than seizing an opportunity to form closer economic ties with the European Union. A new government of questionable legitimacy has been hastily cobbled together, with the new President, Arseniy Yatseniuk, also holding the office of Chairman of the Parliament, although the Fatherland Party, which he represents, only holds 25% of the seats in the Ukrainian parliament.
This is equivalent to President Obama being overthrown by an armed right-wing mob and somebody from the Tea Party becoming President, Speaker of the House and the Majority leader of the Senate. While the US accepts this arrangement, albeit temporarily until new elections can be held, the Russians do not, they view these developments as an illegal coup engineered in Washington and the European Union, with Andrea Merkle of Germany playing a major role.
The American role in manipulating events that led to the overthrow of the elected president Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, is confirmed in statements made on the phone by Undersecretary of State for Europe,Victoria Nuland, which was tapped by some hacker and put on the internet. Nuland’s conversation with the American ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, leave no doubt that Washington was moving people and parties as if the Ukraine were a chessboard….they were involved in the overthrow of the president up to their teeth. I have attached the transcript of Secretary Nuland’s conversation with Ambassador Pyatt’s conversation to the bottom of this essay, so the reader can see for themselves the extent of American meddling.
Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt
Now the question is whether the country will break up, when the predominately Russian-speaking population in the Crimea region votes on whether to rejoin Great Russia in the upcoming referendum. This is such a volatile issue the country could quickly descend into civil war. In such a scenario the Russians will certainly become militarily involved, and the fact is that an American guided missile ship is steaming by the Crimean Peninsula right now – probably armed with nuclear missiles – right through the shipping lanes where the Russian naval vessels routinely patrol.
This strikes me as an extraordinarily reckless move, and I am surprised that President Obama let his military advisors talk him into it – or maybe he ordered this despite the advice of the Joint Chiefs. In any case, despite the lame explanation that this voyage had been planned before the Ukrainian conflict began, I find the President’s decision to order an American warship into these troubled waters impossible to reconcile with the geo-political realities of this historical moment.
The USS Tuxton Cruising the Black Sea
An American Missile Ship armed with Tomahawks and other weaponry
A Russian Delta Class Nuclear Submarine
Playing A Deadly Game of cat and Mouse on the High Seas
I becomes even more puzzling when we learn that the Tuxton, which is armed with Tomahawk Cruise missiles, is steaming to the Black Sea in order to participate in joint naval exercise with the Romanian and Bulgarian navies. The US government has announced that we will be sending in 12 F-16 fighter planes and 3oo air-force service personnel to Poland, at the request of Polish Minister of Defense Tomaz Simoniak, who is concerned about the Russian takeover of Crimea. And the US sent five F-15 fighter planes to Lithuania last Thursday, because their Minister of Defense was alarmed by “Russian Aggression in the in Ukraine.”
The Pentagon has also announced that these American fighter planes will be patrolling the skies over the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. What we the people desperately need to know is what are their orders, what are the rules of engagement and with whom are they to engage. We need to know the answers to these questions because if these American fighter planses have orders to engage Russian aircraft this is a scenario that could spark a nuclear confrontation! Yet the US cannot avoid these actions because of NATO.
The essential problem with NATO, for the US government, goes back to a decision made a decade ago on May 2, 2004, when the 19 member states of NATO decided to admit seven former members of the Warsaw Pact, including former Soviet Republics which had become independent states after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, whose center of power was Moscow, thirteen years earlier. Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria all joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Many observers thought this was a bad idea at the time – this writer included – and believed that it would come back to haunt us.
Well, we were right. In the euphoria following the collapse of Communism, when talk of a “new world order” based on a unipolar world where all roads led to Washington, and projections for “a new American Century” appeared to be simply acknowledging the obvious, people forgot that nationalism and religious fanaticism have led to more wars than communism ever did. These are the forces that America now struggles to deal with in the Mid-East and in Eastern Europe, with the eye of the storm in Russia, which is well armed with nuclear weapons and whose armies are invincible on Russian soil. Hence bombing Russia or invading her are both out of the question.
Yet the US is committed to an organization whose fundamental objective is mutual defense. And NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer left no doubt when he told the Foreign Ministers assembled for the admission of the former Russian allies: “The accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia demonstrates the principle that freedom is irrepressible. From now on, 26 Allies will be joined in a commitment to defend each others’ security and territorial integrity. This is the strongest, most solemn commitment nations can undertake.”
Herein lies our problem and it is a mess. This commitment means that should any of these former Soviet Republics get in an armed dispute with Russia, the US is bound by NATO protocol to act as if the attack was against America! And yet, as if we are not in enough of a quagmire, there are Republican Senators calling for the Ukraine to be admitted to NATO. It is an invitation to disaster!
The dangers portended by Ukrainian events require the most calm and thoughtful deliberation, exactly the kind of approach that President Obama has been pursuing. Unfortunately, he is not indifferent to the vicissitudes of American domestic politics and this crisis is unfolding just as the Republicans are holding their C-Pac convention.
This is where all those who pretend to the presidency hold forth before the most rabidly right-wing sector of the Party – the so called Republican base – who are rabid Obama-haters. A parade of presidential hopefuls seeking to seduce this crowd and gain their support try to out-do each other in rushing to the far right of the American political continuum.
They all know that the easiest way to get some love from this crowd is to bash President Obama, so we see the President trying to conduct very difficult and dangerous diplomatic relations with Russia while assailed by a constant chorus of ridicule from Republicans Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, to Lindsay Graham and the Alaskan Barbarian Sarah Palin.
There are two themes that run through their attacks on the president. “The Ukraine crisis is the result of Barack Obama’s “weakness” in asserting American military power in promoting US foreign policy objectives in places like Syria and Iran, and this has emboldened America’s adversaries around the world.” And “he is being bullied in the Ukrainian conflict because President Putin knows Obama is a punk.”
These vociferous denunciations of President Obama are accompanied by praise songs for the “toughness and decisiveness” of Putin; one wise media wag has labeled the phenomenon “Putin Love.” None dare call it by its proper name: disloyal opposition bordering on treason! When you consider that far from doing nothing, as the Republicans charge repeatedly, the evidence shows that President is doing far too much in the Ukrainian mess; this baseless criticism exposes the same deep-seated racist attitudes that compelled white American soldiers to permit German Nazi prisoners of war to share bathrooms with them, while the black American soldiers guarding them had to relieve themselves in ditches beside the road!
What Dr. DuBois said of Jack Johnson, the first black Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world, is also true of Barack Obama, the first son of an African father to become President of the most powerful nation in the world. Whites didn’t hate Jack Johnson because of anything he did, because they had done far worse; the source of their hatred is his “unforgivable blackness.” Hence they see in Barack things that are not there, but are projected onto him - by envious, racist whites who become hysterical at the very thought of a black First Family in the White House, an uppity nigger with an African name who is way smarter than they are, running the USA….which they believe is a white man’s job and it just drives them bonkers!
The Republican warmongers hold an Oxymoronic position regarding the President: on the one hand they hate Putin and call him a ruthless dictator – House Speaker John Boehner call the Russian President “a thug” – but they are pissed off because President Obama is not more like him. Sarah Palin, one of the loudest and most mindless voices on the right, denounces Obama as “a tyrant who ignores the constitution and constantly violates the law”, but gushes over Putin: “He rides bare-chested on a horse, wrestles bears and drills for oil….while Obama walks around in Mommy Jeans.” This white trash debutante who nearly became vice-president on the US appears to cream in her jeans when she rhapsodizes about the manly virtues of the Russian President…Putin Love indeed.
Alexander Putin: Tough Guy or…..
The more we hear from these twisted people the more obvious it becomes how lucky we are that Barack Obama and not John McCain became president five years ago. Under a McCain presidency we would be in wars everywhere, and the Alaskan Barbarian would be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. When viewed from the perspective of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, Barack’s wisdom in managing this nation’s foreign affairs has been Solomonic.
He has found and offed Osama bin Laden, something the tough talking Bushmen never managed to do…in fact George Bush gave up trying to find him. The former President said he wasn’t even thinking about him anymore as he waged a war of choice against Sadam Hussein and Osama bin Laden became “Osama been Forgotten.”
Barack has also devastated Al Qaeda’s leadership, successfully wound down two wars the Republicans started that have become by far the longest running wars in our history – over twice as long as World War II – and he has kept us out of other foreign wars that John McCain would have eagerly waded into. And Barack is the only American President to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the Prize even while waging two wars, but they were wars that he inherited from the Bush years and the wise members of the Nobel Prize committee were prescient in their vision of Barack as a peacemaker who would steer American away from the war path. In his acceptance speech President Obama displayed his gift for reconciling contending forces that he has employed in his diplomacy. (See: “Hooray for the Juggler!”)*
Alas, with the Ukrainian crisis we are witnessing the return of all the warmongering cretins from the neo-con cabal hatched in The Project for a New American Century – see “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank” – that pushed a clueless George W Bush into invading Iraq; the same crew that his wiser father George I called “The Crazies” – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, John Bolton, et al.
Once again the Grand Obstructionist Party is sending in the clowns….and they are a murderous bunch with blood and gore on their hands…..much of it innocent blood from the needless slaughter of women and children. And these homicidal jokers are itching to start another war. Just look at that madman John Bolton, Bush’s UN Ambassador, whining about President Obama’s reluctance to intervene in every crisis that arises in the world with armed forces, or that little grinning jackal Bill Kristol, who, from his position as Editor of the influential right-wing Journal The Weekly Standard and Director of the Project for a New American Century, played a major role in convincing Bush to invade Iraq on phony information.
Now here he is again, while the nation is still recovering from that criminal folly, recklessly calling for ratcheting up tensions with the Russians by “humiliating Putin.” These neo-con clowns never learn; they are stuck on stupid.
A tough talkin mouse
Dirty Dick Cheney
However this little poot-butt provocateur, Wee Willie Kristol, who like Dirty Dick Cheney has never spent a day in the military, does not seem to understand that provoking a military conflict in the Ukraine is a very different class of event from invading Iraq, because within such a conflict lies the seeds of our own destruction; which was never a possibility in the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Vietnam.
Yet any military conflict with Russia could devolve into nuclear war; a prognosis that has been greeted with disbelief, even ridicule, by some really smart and thoughtful people. They are certain that the mostly straight white males who monopolize the instruments of power are rational actors, and supreme egotists, committed to self-preservation. Therefore any mention of the possiblilty of a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia over the Ukraine is prima facie “absurd.”
It is fairly certain that no rational person would make a decision to destroy modern civilization. I even had a wag with a PhD in political science tell me as much in this very language as he dismissed my concerns, and I must confess that on the face of it he appears to be right. Yet the leading nations are well-armed with nuclear weapons and nuclear war remains an option, despite their awareness of the fact that all mankind has achieved during our history on earth would evaporate in a flash. And those who survive would be struggling to sustain life on a radioactive planet with Stone Age technology. This could be our fate an hour from now if the US and Russia had a nuclear exchange.
Such an event is, in fact, unthinkable. Until you begin to consider that the mere possession of nuclear weapons is evidence of a collective madness among our leaders, who are prepared to perpetrate a massive crime against humanity, a catastrophe of biblical proportions, for their deployment would be worse than the sum total of all the atrocities man has committed against man in the history of the world. An attack with nuclear weapons would instantaneously achieve mass murder on a scale that would make the Nazi holocaust look like a minor event.
Yet the most advanced civilizations in the world are awash in these weapons and cannot find a way to rid mankind of this horror! This means that all of these “rational actors” in whom my friend has placed his confidence are ready and willing to slaughter millions of innocent civilians; all they need is the right scenario to develop on a computer screen and they will launch. And since I have been in the room with the people who are assigned this task during a stint in Strategic Air Command at the height of the Cold War, right on the cusp of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I have no doubt that they will do it.
I would have done it! That’s the way we were trained and I, like everybody else in Central Security Control, would have been convinced that I was serving the best interests of my country. Yet I would not have raped a woman, mugged anybody and robbed them of their coin, and would readily give the elderly or handicapped my seat on the bus…in fact I was something of a Good Samaritan in everyday life…but I would have pushed the button and launched a nuclear attack on Russia upon command. This is what the philosopher Hanna Arendt meant by “The banality of evil.”
The real danger here is not that a group of men will sit quietly around a table ensconced underneath a mountain somewhere and decide to launch a nuclear attack, even though I believe the only reason they won’t is not moral restraint but the MAD doctrine: Mutual Assured Destruction, because I know men are indeed capable of such evil. The clear and present danger that confronts us is that it could all happen by accident.
In the event of a serious miscommunication where a computer says the other side has launched an attack ,there is so little time to retaliate by those who believe that their nation is under attack they would have to launch immediately. This is why fomenting hostility and mistrust between the US and Russia is akin to playing Russian roulette with the whole world.
Hence all the talk from Republicans about building anti-missile systems on the doorstep of Russia in places like Poland, and recruiting Poland, Georgia and Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, is a doomsday scenario. The people who advocate this madness often talk as if the rest of us are fools.
For instance Lindsay Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina, often talks this way. A smart man, albeit unprincipled, this former Air Force lawyer is openly calling on President Obama to invite former Republics that were a part of the Soviet Union until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 – and they became independent nations – to join NATO. We are left to speculate as to what the senator’s motives are, but he talks like a man who is intoxicated on the opiate of “American Exceptionalism,” terrified by a Tea Party threat to “primary” him, and seduced by the limelight that follows actors on the stage of national politics.
Professor Stephen Cohen – the Director of Russian Studies Centers at Princeton and Columbia Universities –is convinced that should the US pursue this course it will lead to nuclear catastrophe. Dr. Cohen – whom I regard as a cut above former functionaries in the US foreign policy establishment like Madeline Albright, Ziebnew Brzezinski, and Hilary Clinton – argues that if the US put troops in Poland, which has now joined NATO, the Russians will militarily occupy the Ukraine and they will be prepared to defend their position at all cost, including nuclear holocaust!
Since Romania and Bulgaria, who were formerly Russia’s allies in the now disloved Warsaw Pact, have also joined NATO, should the US gain control of the Ukraine they would have succeeded in bringing their forward military position to Russia’s front door. The Russians will resist this advance and any conflict between Russia and one of these new NATO countries would immediately become a military confrontation between the US and Russia. It is in the nature and letter of the agreement.
This is a plausible scenario of how a nuclear war could begin, because when there are military tensions between nuclear armed nations they put their nuclear forces on Alert. And once this happens the possibilities for an accidental nuclear conflagration greatly increases. That’s why we need careful diplomacy in times like these and any suggestion of introducing military forces into the equation, such as conducting military maneuvers in the area, deploying American forces on Polish soil, or promoting any military activity in Crimea is destabilizing.
The Crimean Peninsula
Is it worth risking war with Russia
Never has this nation needed the calm deliberative style of President Obama more than now. His choice of quiet diplomacy over saber-rattling and caustic rhetoric calms the situation and gives everybody time to think. If John McCain were president just now the world would be in a state of nuclear terror as the destruction of our planet hung in the balance. Rejecting this old whacko warmonger in favor of the humanist visionary Barack Obama was the American electorate’s finest hour!
One of the greatest dangers of the American Exceptionalist doctrine is that it encourages national chauvinism and prevents Americans from recognizing the just claims and interests of other nations; they view the world with blinders on, like a draft horse pulling a wagon in city traffic that you want to look in only one direction. Alas, while this may be a good thing for draft horses it is suicidal in international politics where nuclear weapons are involved.
In order to understand how Putin would view the Ukraine entering NATO, one need only recall the US response when the Russians deployed missiles in Cuba. The US government under President Kennedy was prepared to start a nuclear war over it. When Kennedy ordered the US Navy to blockade Cuba and challenge a nuclear armed Russian fleet on the high seas, the world came so close to destruction the Cuban Missile Crisis –as it has become known in history – had a lasting effect on Robert McNamara, the American Secretary of Defense at the time.
Before coming into government Robert McNamara was a hot shot corporate Titan, a former Air Force captain who was computer savvy – which was unique in the early 1960’s – McNamara was president of the Ford Motor Company, but after he left government he spent the rest of his life promoting peaceful development among the world’s poorest countries by employing the resources of the World Bank, which he headed.
Later in life he produced a documentary film titled “The Fog of War” in which he recounts how close they came to destroying the world during the Cuban Crisis. He even traveled to Russia and Cuba and talked to his counterparts on the other side. The question he most wanted them to answer was “would you really have launched your nuclear weapons?” The fact that they said yes, as did he, shook him to the core, this question hounded him to his dying day is: “how could a group of rational, intelligent, sane, men even consider such a crime against the earth?
I believe the answer lies in our basic instinct for survival and the strong impulse to protect home and family. The US government felt Americans could not live with the threat of Russian nuclear weapons just 90 miles away on the Island of Cuba because it threatened our national existence. Hence no measure was too extreme to prevent it….even gambling with the fate of the earth. That’s how the Russians feel about American incursions into their spheres of influence: and there is every reason to believe they will use any means necessary to prevent Americans from gaining military hegemony on their door step.
This is why President Obama must remain steady as she goes in steering the American ship of state through these troubled waters, and he must pay the Republican clowns screaming on the sidelines no mind. First of all their criticisms of his foreign policy, like their claims that he is a lawless dictator who has usurped the Constitutional powers of the government, are all a damned lie! These jackanapes –who chatter on ad nauseum spouting putrid nonsense like drunken magpies – foam at the mouth as they denounce the president’s “weakness” and “indecisiveness” in refusing to “do something” about the Russian transgressions. This, like all of the criticism in their narrative of the Obama residency is a balantant lie!
They conveniently forget – and some are so ignorant of US history they never knew – that the Russians invaded several Eastern European nations while Republican Presidents occupied the Oval Office –and these were actual invasions, not like this little walkabout in the Crimea, where nobody will even admit they are Russian soldiers. There was the 1956 invasion of Hungary under Eisenhower – a Five Star general who only a decade earlier had led the victory over Nazi Germany as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. But he refused to intervene despite many calls to do so. Ike weighted the costs – a possible nuclear war with Russia – against the nebulous benefits, and decided to chill out despite the shrill cries for intervention on the right.
Ike Maintained his Cool
When the Warsaw Pact forces – a group of five Eastern European countries led by the Soviet Union – invaded Czechoslovakia during the presidential elections of 1968, Richard Nixon did nothing to intervene in the situation after he won by a landslide. Nixon, who had been Ike’s vice-president when the Soviets invaded Hungary, was no stranger to Russian invasions and was enraged by the Czech affair, but made no attempt to intervene in the situation because he knew that the Soviets had gained parity in nuclear weapons with the US.
Furthermore, given American actions in invading Cuba after the Revolution led by Fidel Castro turned in a socialist direction, Nixon, a very bright but morally deformed man, must have recognized that the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to overthrow the Dubcek government, which was moving away from the Russian communist model, mirrored US actions in Cuba, although they would never admit this obvious parallel. So he sought the friendship of China, breaking an American policy of ignoring mainland, or “Red China,” that had prevailed since the triumph of the Communist Revolution led by Mao Tse Tung, and promoted the absurd fiction that “the real China” was the off shore island of Taiwan.
The strategy of exploiting serious ideological difference between the two communist titans, China and Russia, by cozying up to China, led to an American rapprochement with China and Detente with Russia. This artful foreign policy was possible because Nixon was advised by Henry Kissinger, whereas George Bush was advised by people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their Guru, the neo-con warmonger Paul Wolfowitz and his PNAC cabal.
In 2008 the Russian army invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and Bush, already burdened with two wars that he started, did nothing! And although Senator John McCain is demanding an investigation of the CIA to find out why they didn’t predict a situation that erupted at rapid speed, a question whose answer does not require a costly congressional investigation; the answer is obvious to any reasonably informed person looking objectively upon the situation rather than through a veil of bias.
The fact is that there is nothing unusual about the CIA getting caught off guard: they got caught off guard in each of the full scale Russian Invasions under three Republican presidents. Thus all of this self-righteous posturing and demonstrations of outrage from people like John McCain, that smug Howdy Doody looking charlatan that sits in the governor’s mansion in Louisiana, that fat dumb dope fiend Rush Limbaugh and that evil hysterical anorexic witch Gun Boat Annie Coulter are pure bullshit, as the Princeton Philosopher Harry G. Franks describes bullshit arguments in his book ”Bullshit”.
Consider the account of Daniel Fata – the assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy from September 2005 to September 2008, which was most of George Bush’s second term. He recalls in an interview with Professor Stephen Benedict Dyson, a Professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, that when the Russian Army invaded Georgia ““We were scrambling for information during these critical initial hours. My desk officer, who had great personal ties at the highest levels in Tbilisi, had the most usable real time information via texts from his friends in Georgia.” And he went on to observe “Putin was never punished by the international community.” Notice he said nothing about the Bush Administration punishing Putin…it appears to have never entered their minds!
Bush evidently decided that he had gotten in enough trouble listening to Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their neo-con crew. In view of the history of Republican presidential inaction in the face of actual Russian invasions…..why are these chattering clowns so hard on President Obama, who has not even been confronted with a “Russian invasion?” At worse, thus far, the president is dealing with a pooty-pop police action. And as I have shown: Barack has already done far too much!
To treat the Crimean situation as some major aggression by the Russians that threatens US interests, and therefore requires our intervention, is surely some species of madness. This peculiar madness is magnified when you reflect upon the fact that American officials travelled to the Ukraine and openly encouraged the insurgents to overthrow the pro-Russian President
Yet given the level of routine obfuscation and outright lying, the massive and systematic disinformation campaign being conducted by the right-wing media complex, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of their listeners are pugnacious airheads whose understanding of political reality is akin to the man who couldn’t tell his rectum from a hole in the ground, you have an untutored impassioned mob who can be manipulated into believing anything. Hence the Republican politicians who are hurling slanders at the President that have not a trace of truth, but plays big with their audience, could just be playing politics.
If that is true, and given the intellectual shallowness and situational ethics that inform the actions of many Republican politicians in could well be true – then they are even more dangerous than the true believers. Intelligent people who hold sincere beliefs can be persuaded to change their view, but a soulless, ignorant, charlatan has nothing there. They’ve got a hole in their soul, and thus could demagogue a grave issue of national security for partisan political advantage.
These are people for whom only money and power are sacred; so even now they are trying their best to tie the conflict in the Ukraine to the refusal of President Obama to sign the Canadian pipeline deal. Aside from confusing the foreign policy debate, their constant chatter, scripted lines repeated ad nauseum, paid for by plutocrats and beamed into the skulls of the vast untutored working class – and that includes many white collar “professionals” – shamelessly plays on their fears in order to panic them into voting reactionaries into political office who despise them and constantly injure their interests.
President Obama is in a tight predicament. He is bound by an attitude of fear and suspicion toward Russia that has long been cultivated in this country. The ignorance of Americans regarding Russia is abominable, hence they are prepared to believe the worst. When coupled with the sense of American Exceptionalism that almost all Americans in their smug self-righteousness believe in, it makes sense to them when the Republican clowns cry out about President Obama’s weakness in the face of Russian aggression.
Since they know nothing of American history, they really believe that Putin would never have committed such a criminal act of aggression if that “lily livered; mommy jean wearing; secret agent for Al Queda; European socialist communist low down dirty half-breed mongrel nigger” had not “duped the American people and wormed his way into the White House”.
Yet even if we discounted all the other madness in this description of our fabulous President, arguably the best ever, and simply accepted that they believe Barack could deceive the Secret Service, the FBI, the National Immigration Service, the National Security agency et al, even believed that Donald Trump’s alleged private investigators could detect such fraud, is frightening testimony of the epidemic of irrational thinking among millions of Americans who come out aggressively and vote!
Barak Obama’s actions and pronouncements regarding the Ukrainian situation are formulated with an eye toward domestic politics. After all, he is not only a politician but a great one….perhaps the greatest of all times. In fact I have argued this very point elsewhere see: “The GOAT: Greatest of All Times” on this blog. And the first step in being a successful politician is to recognize that politics is the art of the possible! Barack not only recognizes this, he understands how to win elections.
The fact that fact a young black guy who looks like he might be hanging out on the basketball, courts in Chicago waiting for a pick-up game, and is married to a big fine chocolate, brilliant, sassy soul sister who can dance her ass off and will bust a move anywhere, getting himself elected president twice, is driving a lot of these white boys like Donald Trump – who was born to the purple but can’t get elected to the villager dogcatcher’s post in Washington – clear out of their minds!
So the Republican propaganda machine, disguised as news sources, make up lies about him and broadcast them on a non-stop loop, right into the fickle brains of Dumb Dora and Joe Six Pack. And they have done it so well that millions of Americans – most white but some black leftist too – actually believe it. And that is part of my evidence for his greatness: with all of their researchers they cannot come up with an authentic complaint against Obama. Yet perception is reality in the eyes of the beholder. Hence President Obama must pay homage to the prevailing American myth….because it is firmly rooted in the Master Narrative of American civilization.
Hence we see President Obama, a brilliant man who must recognize that Russia has a legitimate right to their Sphere of Influence, and that Putin is doing nothing that the US has not done –and far worse – all over the world! Yet he must pay lip service to the American Exceptionalists vision or be labeled a traitor and hung if they had their druthers. And he knows that none of his major policy objectives can be realized so long as Republicans control the House of Representatives, and should they take the senate in the elections this year he will spend the rest of his second term mainly casting vetoes, Barack must pay attention to domestic politics. All of these factors figure strongly in the presidents public posture toward Russia.
As important as these other issues are, they are picayune matters compared to a military conflict with Russia. This is as serious as it gets. Things on the ground in the Ukraine are changing so fast the President must focus on the fundamental issues involved here and correctly decide where American interests truly lie. Considering that he has ordered an American guided missile ship into waters off the coast of Crimea, one wonders if he is becoming confused on this issue. Hilary Clinton, his recently retired Secretary of State is obviously confused by the Ukrainian affair because she is talking like a babbling idiot…. spouting dangerous and misleading nonsense comparing Putin to Hitler and muttering about the similarity to the Munich Conference?
This kind of crazy talk invites comparison of President Obama to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. I am expecting to hear cries of “appeasement” from the Republicans any day now. Although she has tried to equivocate on here statement, saying she was not implying an exact comparison, Hilary comes across as either a fool or an opportunist. Conversations about Hitler and Munich conferences from the middle of the last century is not the conversation we should be having now….for it confuses far more than it clarifies and provides fuel for the verbal arsonists in right-wing media.
All of this is a distraction. The thing that should remain uppermost in President Obama’s mind and that of all American political leaders is whatever happens in the Ukraine it is not worth one ounce of American blood, nor the profligate squandering of American treasure. President Obama should also be aware that many thoughtful Americans, this writer included, resent the fact that the Republicans who control the House of Representatives quickly voted a billion dollars in emergency aid to the Ukraine, while denying benefits to American workers suffering long term unemployment, and kills every program President Obama proposes to help desperate Americans and rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Yet above and beyond all everything else, no matter what, the President must constantly think about avoiding any action that could make the Russians nervous about their national security, because they will surely put more nuclear weapons on alert….alas some are already on alert. For most people these weapons are like something out of science fiction like the transformers firing laser beams, that explains why most are going merrily about their business totally unaware that 40 minutes from now our world go up in radioactive flames. They are like sheep quietly going to slaughter; for if they had any idea what a nuclear war means they would out in the streets demanding that President Obama call off the proposed naval exercise involving the US and Romanian forces in the Black Sea.
Ignorance about the world is dangerous in any case, but ignorance about the nuclear forces of the US and Russia could prove fatal. Both nations have triple threat strike forces that consists of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Long range bombers, and naval forces composed of nuclear submarines and missile ships that fire from surface platforms. The IBMs can be launched from silos on land or beneath the sea; they go up out of the earth’s atmosphere and return to earth to hit their targets. They also have MIRVED warheads – Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles – which means that a single missile carry up to eight separate warheads capable of being programmed to strike different targets.
In order to gain some understanding of the scale of destruction a single missile can wreak consider the following facts. The atomic bombs dropped on Japanese cities had an explosive power equivalent to 20, 000 tons of high explosive TNT, plus the intense heat from the nuclear reaction and the radioactive fallout. The nuclear warheads carried by the MIRVED missiles are 5 megatons each, which amounts to 45 million tons of TNT per missile! And we have thousands of them ready to launch at a moment’s notice….and so do the Russians. And since this is a neutron hydrogen bomb, the radiation is immeasurably more intense.
I can still remember the day I first found out about all this. It was in an orientation class for those of us with Top Secret security clearances when I arrived on the Strategic Air Command base in Glasgow Montana, up on the DEW line – Distance Early Warning – out in the Great Plains near the Canadian Border, where I would be stationed. At the time SAC was the center of the US nuclear strike force and from where we were the giant B-52 Strato-Bombers, which flew at supersonic speeds at very high altitudes, could be over Moscow in less than an hour. After showing us the official SAC films on the atomic bombing of Japan, an unspeakably horrible event, the colonel conducting the class said, “Or this is nothing…those bombs are like firecrackers compared to the ordinance we have on this base.”
After seeing the giant radioactive fireball rise up over Japanese cities, and heard the tales of poisonous black rain and the nuclear night that followed the atomic flash upon detonation, creating such intense heat people who saw it eyeballs melted and people were bursting into flames everywhere. And all this was from the little 20,000 tons of TNT bomb; the instructor pointed out that we had bombs of 100 million ton capacity! I thought it was madness, and I have never changed my views on the matter of nuclear weapons. As I have said previously, I consider the mere possession of them to be a crime against humanity.
However the bombers, while still active, are third in destructive capacity in the tripartite US nuclear war machine. There are the missiles I described, and then there are the nuclear submarines, marvelous frightening instruments of mass destruction, one of which has more firepower than all of the ordinance exploded in World War II, including the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. And we have about a dozen of them prowling under the world’s ocean seas.
Should a nuclear exchange begin there will be two chain reactions: the atomic one and a human one. For once it starts the computers will take overs and both sides will empty their arsenals in order to make sure the other side will not survive….the computers are programmed to see to that. It is such an unspeakable horror, the destruction of all life on our planet, it is no wonder people don’t want to think about it, but I’m just keepin it real! It is no exaggeration to say that those who do survive for a while will envy the dead. This is the possibility we are playing with as I write.
The way things are developing in terms of the rapid deterioration of US/Russian relations over the crisis in the Ukraine is frightening to those who pay attention to the possibility of blundering into an accidental nuclear war. As I said early on in this essay I was prompted to write it because of an exchange I had with a friend who smugly assured me that a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia couldn’t happen. However I take my cue from the people who understand this problem best: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist. Their views regarding the danger of an outbreak of nuclear war – which is to say its probability – is succinctly expressed by the position of the hands on the Doomsday Clock.
This clock was created in 1947 by the scientists from the Manhattan Project, the guys who invented the atomic bombs that were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki only two years earlier, the only time atomic weapons have been used in human history. Over the last 67 years the hands on the clock have been moved 18 times by the scientists affiliated with the Bulletin, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates, an astonishing number for any organization. The scientists move the hands on the Doomsday Clock based on their assessment of how close human beings have come to self-annihilation.
At present the hands on the clock stands at five minutes to mid-night! And, despite so major changes in US/Russian relations, the nuclear arsenals possessed by these nations remain the most dangerous threat to continued human existence. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist sums it up thusly:
“Today, the mind-numbing possibility of nuclear annihilation as a result of a deliberate attack on the other by the United States or Russia seems a thing of the past, yet the potential for an accidental, unauthorized, or inadvertent nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia remains, with both countries anachronistically maintaining more than 800 warheads on high alert, ready to launch within tens of minutes”.
That’s why President Obama had better move with the greatest caution in his policy choices regarding the Ukraine. He must maintain his fabled cool as – “No Drama Obama” – pay the hysterical hawks on the Republican right no mind and make keeping the peace his first priority. Because as we know from former Defense Secretary Bob McNamara: things get confusing in the fog of war. And before you know what happened we could be the late….great….planet earth.
It could come to this!
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 8, 2014
****** Transcript from hacked phone conversation between Undersecretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland for and the US Ambassador as they secretly minipulate the political events in Ukraine.
An apparently bugged phone conversation in which a senior US diplomat disparages the EU over the Ukraine crisis has been posted online. The alleged conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, appeared on YouTube on Thursday. It is not clearly when the alleged conversation took place.
Here is a transcript, with analysis by BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus:
Warning: This transcript contains swearing.
Voice thought to be Nuland’s: What do you think?
- Jonathan Marcus: At the outset it should be clear that this is a fragment of what may well be a larger phone conversation. But the US has not denied its veracity and has been quick to point a finger at the Russian authorities for being behind its interception and leak.
Voice thought to be Pyatt’s: I think we’re in play. The Klitschko [Vitaly Klitschko, one of three main opposition leaders] piece is obviously the complicated electron here. Especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister and you’ve seen some of my notes on the troubles in the marriage right now so we’re trying to get a read really fast on where he is on this stuff. But I think your argument to him, which you’ll need to make, I think that’s the next phone call you want to set up, is exactly the one you made to Yats [Arseniy Yatseniuk, another opposition leader]. And I’m glad you sort of put him on the spot on where he fits in this scenario. And I’m very glad that he said what he said in response.
Jonathan Marcus: The US says that it is working with all sides in the crisis to reach a peaceful solution, noting that “ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future”. However this transcript suggests that the US has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals. Russian spokesmen have insisted that the US is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs – no more than Moscow, the cynic might say – but Washington clearly has its own game-plan. The clear purpose in leaking this conversation is to embarrass Washington and for audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message to portray the US as interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.
Nuland: Good. I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea.
Pyatt: Yeah. I guess… in terms of him not going into the government, just let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok [Oleh Tyahnybok, the other opposition leader] and his guys and I’m sure that’s part of what [President Viktor] Yanukovych is calculating on all this.
Ukraine unrest: Timeline
21 November 2013: Protests start after Ukraine announces it will not sign a deal aimed at strengthening ties with the EU
17 December: Russia agrees to buy $15bn of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of gas it sells to the country
16 January 2014: Parliament passes law restricting the right to protest
22 January: Two protesters die from bullet wounds during clashes with police in Kiev; protests spread across many cities
25 January: President Yanukovych offers seniorjobs to the opposition, including that of prime minister, but these are rejected
28 January: Parliament votes to annul protest law and President Yanukovych accepts resignation of PM and cabinet
29 January: Parliament passes amnesty law for detained protesters, under the condition occupied buildings are vacated
Nuland: [Breaks in] I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the… what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in… he’s going to be at that level working for Yatseniuk, it’s just not going to work.
Pyatt: Yeah, no, I think that’s right. OK. Good. Do you want us to set up a call with him as the next step?
Nuland: My understanding from that call – but you tell me – was that the big three were going into their own meeting and that Yats was going to offer in that context a… three-plus-one conversation or three-plus-two with you. Is that not how you understood it?
Pyatt: No. I think… I mean that’s what he proposed but I think, just knowing the dynamic that’s been with them where Klitschko has been the top dog, he’s going to take a while to show up for whatever meeting they’ve got and he’s probably talking to his guys at this point, so I think you reaching out directly to him helps with the personality management among the three and it gives you also a chance to move fast on all this stuff and put us behind it before they all sit down and he explains why he doesn’t like it.
Nuland: OK, good. I’m happy. Why don’t you reach out to him and see if he wants to talk before or after.
Pyatt: OK, will do. Thanks.
Nuland: OK… one more wrinkle for you Geoff. [A click can be heard] I can’t remember if I told you this, or if I only told Washington this, that when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?
- Jonathan Marcus: An intriguing insight into the foreign policy process with work going on at a number of levels: Various officials attempting to marshal the Ukrainian opposition; efforts to get the UN to play an active role in bolstering a deal; and (as you can see below) the big guns waiting in the wings – US Vice-President Joe Biden clearly being lined up to give private words of encouragement at the appropriate moment.
Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.
Nuland: OK. He’s now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.
Jonathan Marcus: Not for the first time in an international crisis, the US expresses frustration at the EU’s efforts. Washington and Brussels have not been completely in step during the Ukraine crisis. The EU is divided and to some extent hesitant about picking a fight with Moscow. It certainly cannot win a short-term battle for Ukraine’s affections with Moscow – it just does not have the cash inducements available. The EU has sought to play a longer game; banking on its attraction over time. But the US clearly is determined to take a much more activist role.
Pyatt: No, exactly. And I think we’ve got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, that the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it. And again the fact that this is out there right now, I’m still trying to figure out in my mind why Yanukovych (garbled) that. In the meantime there’s a Party of Regions faction meeting going on right now and I’m sure there’s a lively argument going on in that group at this point. But anyway we could land jelly side up on this one if we move fast. So let me work on Klitschko and if you can just keep… we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. The other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych but we probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.
Nuland: So on that piece Geoff, when I wrote the note [US vice-president's national security adviser Jake] Sullivan’s come back to me VFR [direct to me], saying you need [US Vice-President Joe] Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an atta-boy and to get the deets [details] to stick. So Biden’s willing.
Pyatt: OK. Great. Thanks.
Jonathan Marcus: Overall this is a damaging episode between Washington and Moscow. Nobody really emerges with any credit. The US is clearly much more involved in trying to broker a deal in Ukraine than it publicly lets on. There is some embarrassment too for the Americans given the ease with which their communications were hacked. But is the interception and leaking of communications really the way Russia wants to conduct its foreign policy ? Goodness – after Wikileaks, Edward Snowden and the like could the Russian government be joining the radical apostles of open government? I doubt it. Though given some of the comments from Vladimir Putin’s adviser on Ukraine Sergei Glazyev – for example his interview with the Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper the other day – you don’t need your own listening station to be clear about Russia’s intentions. Russia he said “must interfere in Ukraine” and the authorities there should use force against the demonstrators.