Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On the Beach 2017: The Beckoning Of Nuclear War

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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.



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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 clich├ęs. 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.

The Empire Strikes Back: With Destructive and Dishonest Neocolonialism

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This month sees some significant anniversaries in the struggle against old-style colonialism. The trouble is that colonialism didn’t go away after countries in the developing world formally achieved their independence from Europe’s ‘Great Powers.’
It was replaced by a new form which proved to be more destructive and immeasurably more dishonest than what went before.
At least the British Empire – which at its peak covered almost a quarter of the world’s land surface, acknowledged it was an Empire.
Today’s more shadowy Empire of Globalized Monopoly Finance-Capital does no such thing. Entire countries, such as Yugoslavia, Libya, and Iraq, are destroyed for not toeing the line, while those which continue to defy the neocon/neoliberal elites, such as Venezuela, are under a state of permanent siege.
To add insult to injury this new wave of colonization, carried out to benefit the richest people in the richest countries in the world, is done in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘advancing human rights’ and has the enthusiastic support of many self-styled ‘progressives.’ The hypocrisy of today’s imperialists who lambasted Venezuela’s Maduro for being a ‘dictator’ but who hail the unelected hereditary rulers of Saudi Arabia as they sell them deadly weaponry is truly breathtaking.
Maduro sets up Constituent Assembly in line with constitution he's a villain, Saudis flog and behead democracy activists, business as usual.
In the 1940s and 50s, it all looked very different. Colonialism did seem to be in retreat.
Seventy-five years ago this month, on 8th August 1942, Mahatma Gandhi started the ‘Quit India’ Movement in Bombay.
Seventy years ago on the 14/15th August 1947, India, and the new state of Pakistan, gained their independence from the UK.
While 60 years ago (31 August 1957), The Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia) gained its independence from Britain.
These are important milestones that certainly need to be celebrated.
But the belief of progressives that ‘decolonization’ would mean genuine freedom for the countries that had been colonized has proved wildly optimistic. India and Malaysia may have progressed, but for other nations ‘The Wind of Change’ was just hot air. ‘Independence’ meant obtaining only the outward trappings of national sovereignty: a flag, a national anthem, UN membership and a football team. Economic power continued to reside elsewhere: in the banks and boardrooms of the richer nations.
In his classic 1965 text ‘Neocolonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism’ the great Kwame Nkrumah, then President of Ghana and a staunch advocate of Pan-Africanism, explained how neocolonialism had replaced old-style colonialism.
In the past, it was possible to convert a country upon which a neocolonial regime had been imposed – Egypt in the 19th century is an example – into a colonial territory. Today this process is no longer feasible,” he wrote.
To find the money to build a welfare state at home colonies had to be formally given their independence, but that didn’t mean control had to be surrendered too. The United States used its position as the world’s number one creditor nation after World War II to accelerate this ‘formal’ process of decolonization, but only so that it could move into countries once dominated by the likes of Britain, France, and The Netherlands. Nkrumah cites the example of South Vietnam, where the ‘old’ colonial power was France, but the neo colonial power was the US. In fact, the US can be said to have been the pioneer of neocolonialism. While ‘old-style’ Empire still dominated in the rest of the world, the US used neocolonial techniques to ensure the countries of Latin America subordinated their economies to the interests of US big business. The US financial/corporate elite today targets the leftist Maduro in Venezuela for ‘regime-change,’ back in 1913 the US Ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, was conspiring with General Huerta to topple the leftist Madero.
It was a pattern to be repeated time after time in the next 100 years. The techniques Washington perfected in Latin America (backing coups against democratically elected governments who wanted to maintain national control over their economies, bankrolling the opposition to these governments, and eliminating leaders/politicians who stood for genuine independence) and which we saw deployed in Guatemala in 1954, Brazil in 1964 and Chile in 1973, were used around the world.
A list of governments toppled, directly or indirectly, by the US and its closest allies to achieve economic control would be far too long to include in a single OpEdge, but here are a few examples:
1. Indonesia, 1965/6
The US backed a bloody wave of mass killings by the military which led to the overthrow of the independently-minded Sukarno, the first President of ‘postcolonial’ Indonesia, and had him replaced, by the pro-Western dictator General Suharto.
The US embassy in Jakarta supplied Suharto with a “zap list” of Indonesian Communist party members and crossed off the names when they were killed or captured,” writes John Pilger, who examined the coup in his 2001 film The New Rulers of the World.
The deal was that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard Nixon had called “the richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in southeast Asia.”
In November 1967 the greatest prize was handed out at a remarkable three-day conference sponsored by the Time-Life Corporation in Geneva. Led by David Rockefeller, all the corporate giants were represented: the major oil companies and banks, General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British American Tobacco, Siemens, US Steel and many others. Across the table sat Suharto’s US-trained economists who agreed to the corporate takeover of their country, sector by sector,” Pilger wrote.
The human cost of Indonesia’s neocolonial ‘regime-change’ was huge with between 500,000 and 3 million people killed. In 2016, an international panel of judges held that the US (and the UK and Australia) had been complicit in genocide.
2. Iran, 1953
The toppling of the democratically elected nationalist Mohammad Mossadegh and his replacement by the more compliant Shah was another US/UK joint op. The ‘crime’ of Mossadegh was wanting to nationalize his country’s oil industry and use the revenues to fight poverty and disease. So the neocolonialists decided he had to go. A campaign of destabilization- similar to that waged against Venezuela at present- was started.
CIA and SIS propaganda assets were to conduct an increasingly intensified effort through the press, handbills and the Tehran clergy in a campaign designed to weaken the Mossadeq government in any way possible,” admitted Donald N. Wilber, a key planner of the so-called TPAJAX project.
In 2013, declassified documents revealed:
The military coup that overthrew Mossadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”
Worth remembering when we hear politicians in neocolonialist countries feign outrage over unproven ‘Russian interference’ in their political processes.
3. Yugoslavia, 1999/2000
Balkanization is the major instrument of neocolonialism and will be found wherever neocolonialism is practiced,” wrote Kwame Nkrumah.
The socialist leader of F.R. Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, was demonized in the 1990s by the Western elites not because he wanted to break his country upm but because he wanted it to stay together.
Having survived an illegal 78-day ‘humanitarian’ bombing campaign by NATO against his country in 1999, Slobo saw the ‘regime-change’ op to oust him intensify. Millions of dollars poured illegally into the country from the US to opposition groups and anti-government activists, such as the Otpor! Organization. Milosevic was toppled in a Western-sponsored ‘Bulldozer Revolution’ in October 2000 and Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who four years earlier had said the death of half a million Iraqi children due to sanctions was a price worth paying, celebrated.
George Kenney, a former Yugoslav desk officer of the State Department, revealed why it all took place.
In post-Cold War Europe no place remained for a large independent-minded socialist state that resisted globalization.”
In 2012, the New York Times reported how leading members of the US administration which had dismantled Yugoslavia were returning to the Balkans as ‘entrepreneurs’ to bid for privatized assets.
Why is it so difficult for some to grasp in 2017 what was obvious in 1982? Solidarity.
Now the neocolonialist neocon regime changers have moved on to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Like Milosevic, and many others before him who got in the way of ‘The New Rulers of the World,’ the democratically elected Nicolas Maduro is labeled a ‘dictator.’ As in the case of Milosevic, it’s self-styled ‘progressives’ who are at the forefront of the elites’ campaign to demonize Venezuela and its leadership- demanding that public figures in the West who had expressed support for ‘Chavism’ issue denunciations.
The Constituent Assembly elections explained: "Venezuela Elections: Resurgent Chavismo and Unrecognised Democracy" http://www.investigaction.net/en/venezuela-elections-resurgent-chavismo-and-unrecognised-democracy/ 
All these US "Leftist" critiques of Venezuela that dismiss US interference, ascribe outcomes of economic warfare to "government failure."
In the fierce critiques of the Venezuelan government that have been pouring out in the Western media these past few days, there’s no mention of the unrelenting external campaign to destabilize the country and sabotage its economy. Nor of the millions of dollars that have poured into the coffers of the opposition and anti-government activists from the US.
Imagine if the Venezuelan government had been bankrolling anti-government protestors in America. But when the neocolonialists do it in other countries, it’s fine.
Kwame Nkrumah called neocolonialism ‘the worst form of imperialism,’and he was right.
For those who practice it, it means power without responsibility, and for those who suffer from it, it means power without responsibility.”
And what happened to Nkrumah, I hear you ask? Just a few months after his book was published, the father of modern Ghana was deposed in a coup. The ‘National Liberation Council’ which overthrew him swiftly restructured Ghana’s economy, under the supervision of the IMF and World Bank, for the benefit of Western capital.
The West denied involvement, but years later John Stockwell, a CIA officer in Africa revealed:
the CIA station in Ghana played a major role in the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah in 1966.”
Venezuela has lots of oil, a socialist govt & is a strong supporter of Syria. I can't think why neocons are so keen for a 'regime change'...
Today, the neocolonialists want us to support their ‘progressive’ crusade for ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ in oil-rich Venezuela. If Kwame Nkrumah were still around, he’d be urging us to see the bigger picture.