“All acts of healing and love – and the defiance of war is an affirmation of love – allow us to shout out to the vast powers of the universe that, however broken we are, we are not helpless. However we despair we are not without hope, however weak we may feel, we will always, always, always resist.”
Chris Hedges, War is the Greatest Evil
Respectfully, I have been all in for hope for as long as I can remember, but never a devotee. During the chaotic 60s of my shamelessly irresponsible youth, hope was an emotional default. Despite the radicalization of my generation, historic levels of civil unrest, and friends ending up as human remains in US issue body bags, hope was just a coping mechanism to counter undercurrents of dread and the white noise of Lyndon Johnson’s falling dominoes. Most of my draft-age fodder peers could never begin to imagine an end to the killing, but Congressional opposition to the genocide in Southeast Asia caught on and LBJ was driven out of office. Democrats and Republicans alike – Pete McCloskey, Mike Mansfield, Charles Mathias and Mike Gravel and others – challenged the pro-war narrative. Eugene McCarthy primaried LBJ. Bobby Kennedy joined the fray. It turned out my hope was more than a thing with feathers.
In sharp contrast to today’s 118th Congress, lawmakers recognized a regrettable debacle when they saw one.
That was a lifetime ago, when wars ended, for everyone but the survivors.
A half century later, after escaping in one piece, from my own war to end all wars, a flailing American empire is now poised on the brink of direct confrontations with the world’s largest nuclear superpowers. As if a viral pandemic and planetary climate collapse weren’t enough, NATO and the US National Security State are trying to kill us all, including the very last man in Ukraine in America’s latest proxy war. And if the new Ukrainian conscription policy - lowering the draft age to 16 –and reports of a 4-hour life expectancy for new untrained troops in the Donbass are true, that poor grunt bastard’s days are numbered.
But, in a brutally frank, nightmare scenario, so are ours.
With global alliances for the Ukraine conflict set in stone and diplomatic entreaties more unlikely or unthinkable, the possibility of a massive nuclear exchange becomes more thinkable with each new weapon shipped to Zelenskyy forces by the collective West. Still, 100 US tactical nukes in Europe, intractable war power rhetoric, cornered adversaries with nothing to lose and the unfettered hubris of US foreign policy neocons is a recipe for a maelstrom, but barely gets a mention anywhere, from anyone.
An exchange of tactical nuclear devices in Eastern Europe - by accident or design - would result in counterattacks from all sides. We have been warned since Trinity, but while American support for the conflict in Ukraine has flatlined, the escalation ladder of US and NATO weapons continues to, well, escalate. Still, no one with or without agency is talking or, better yet, shouting about it. For uncensored, unbridled antiwar dialogue, alternative media is our last best hope – there’s that word again – against unrelenting war propaganda.
“This threat is largely ignored by politicians and the mainstream media,” writes nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, “who continue to practice psychic numbing as we stumble blindly toward our demise.” For many progressives self-censorship became a safe place. Whoever countered the pro-NATO narrative continue to be labeled alarmists or Kremlin agents at the mere mention of a diplomatic off ramp. (Read: peace).
And JFK’s 1963 warning at American University couldn’t have been more prescient:
“Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy--or of a collective death-wish for the world.”
Incredibly, we would joke about nuclear annihilation in 1965, as we sang singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer’s satirical piece “So Long, Mom, I’m off to Drop the Bomb,” a much-needed musical respite from the psychotrauma of the Cuban Missile Crisis. When the laughter died, this rendition of a Cold War musical deflection had a short shelf life.
Dr. Helen Caldicott would later write:
“Knowing man’s propensity to fight, why in God’s name did the U.S. Government and Soviet Union authorize the brilliant scientists and weapons makers to construct thousands of nuclear weapons during and after the Cold War, culminating in more than 70,000 nuclear weapons during the '70s and '80s?
No one should be breathing any easier with today’s tally of over 13,000 warheads distributed among the nine nuclear armed states - United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. One targeting miscalculation or false flag provocation could result in a global crossette of destruction lasting an hour, give or take, eventually eradicating billions with the survivors envying the dead, as JFK would often quote Nikita Khrushchev.
In 1972, the satirical gloves came off with Randy Newman’s Political Science (Drop the Big One), composed at a time when the Soviet Union was more of an enigma than the US Empire is now. No one could have imagined its portent, but many Americans familiar with this country's reckless foreign policy knew the stakes back then, as now, and wish they had a say. None of us remember voting for a US proxy war anywhere. If there was ever a time for dialogue, vision, questioning authority, resistance, it’s right now, before there’s no one fucking left to regret it.
Comments by Readers
Randy PettyFeb 15, 2023
Should I conclude from this article that Putin is entitled to not just Ukraine but perhaps Poland and the Baltic states and that we shouldn’t be supporting Ukraine at all?
David DonohueFeb 15, 2023
The first form of resistance is to refuse authoritarians. However flawed and overcome our democratic system is, it is an important bulwark against the gangsters that have been so steadily overcoming self-ruled populations that they were able to place one of their agents in our executive branch. Sadly, this is a war we are already in, and horrific as it already is, it will only get worse if we fold. The authoritarians know this, and are waiting for their results. Let’s not assist them.
Randy PettyFeb 15, 2023
Well said David… there are things more important than one more day in this life.
Ray KamadaFeb 15, 2023
In 4th grade Gabriel liked to put smaller me in a headlock til one day, it really hurt. So, I wrestled free and punched his face, giving him a shiner. Given my prior weeks of being a wimp, it was more like escape than a proud moment, but at least he never spoke to nor dealt with me again.
Threatened with the missiles of October, and again over east Berlin, Kennedy stood firm. Instead, it was Khruschev, the butcher of Ukraine, who blinked. And this was a full quarter century before “nuclear winter” and “mutually assured destruction” were well understood.
But what I learned in 4th grade was that bullies are masters at escalating threats, until their own well-being is really at stake.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is a proxy war in defense of democracies worldwide and the global commons that they represent. So, unlike Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, or even Korea, it’s one that we cannot afford to lose.
David A. SwansonFeb 15, 2023
This piece makes me think of growing up in Kennewick downstream from Hanford and a piece a classmate once wrote about a common friend who never left:
Under the pale violet blue glow Cerenkov Effect emanating from the thirteen foot deep cooling and shielding pool, Jim recalled the idle late spring days in his high school geometry class - long before he found himself operating the robot manipulators in the 110 foot long canyon-like PUREX building, expertly welding highly potent cesium extracts into metal storage capsules behind the three foot leaded windows of Hanford’s B Processing Plant – when Sue, seated at the desk in front of him, traced the asymptote of his libido as she again nodded off under the spell of the x coordinate tending to infinity.
Carol FollettFeb 15, 2023
This is well written and referenced, Gene. I remember those days that led to the long wall of names of unrealised potential, of once physically and spiritually wholesome young men shattered and wrecked, and absent from our future. We lived on without them, without even knowing what we missed! We also lived with the horrific knowledge that our soldiers dropped napalm on children and slaughtered civilians.
Like David, Randy, and Ray I am disgusted by Putin’s violent, autocratic bullying and abhor his actions. I cannot express the sorrow I feel to see the destruction of homes, towns, utilities - knowing the resources used to create them, the labor and finances, and, most importantly, the lives and dreams of the people who built them, worked in them, and tried to have a future there- in ruins!!!
How did we get here? How did we end up with a horrible dictator threatening the well being of the planet…again? “We” who is that? I did not do business with him. I did not trade in stocks, buy what he sells, nor in any way to my knowledge did anyone I know profit from his existence. I do not know anyone with millions. However, I remember reading that the investment firm of Sullivan and Cromwell made money in Germany even as WWII began (fully knowing about the brutality and antisemitism). Most of the people murdered in that war were not part of that scheme, nor were they aware of it as they fought and died.
What to do with bullies? What to do with greedsters? I do not know. I just know that I want children, all children, everyone’s children to grow up happily and enjoy their lives, all of their very precious, one time only lives. That is our responsibility as adults. As Gene has pointed out, we do not have much time to get it right.
Dianne FosterFeb 15, 2023
You know the horrors of war, and I appreciate your taking time to write about it. The organization to which I devoted my time in the 1980’s, Physicians for Social Responsibility, won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts at arms agreement, which have all been shattered by the following Presidencies. Most notably, Trump pulled us out of the most effective one, the INR, and now the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have reset the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight, closer than any time since it’s establishment in 1947 by Albert Einstein. We must come to a peace agreement soon in Ukraine, and at least stop interfering when Zelensky and Putin have come together on an accord, as they did in April, when the Pentagon sent that slimo Boris Johnson to Kiev to put the kaibosh on it. (FYI- Zelensky is Russian-speaking, didn’t learn Ukrainian until adulthood). He was elected with at 72% majority vote by Ukrainians on a peace platform, but his hands have been tied by the war industry making billions in profit, as well as the U.S. goal of “weakening Russia”, if we have to kill all Ukrainians to do so. The fact that the 2014 U.S.-backed regime in Kiev killed 14,000 Russian-speaking residents in the Donbass, while Putin stood by and did nothing, (other than take back Crimea), was completely ignored by mainstream media, including National Pentagon Radio. We need another showing of the movie “The Day After”, as most people don’t have the nuclear threat on their radars. Even Ronald Reagon, upon seeing that movie, said, “a nuclear war cannot be won, and should never be fought.” We need millions of people taking to the streets and propelling the White House to act. There will ba a mass rally in D.C. on February 19th, ““Rage Against the War Machine”, which I will attend virtually at 10 AM Pacific time. and February 24th, “Day of Action Against Nukes”, with call for diplomacy. We need to act, and soon!
Pearl FollettFeb 16, 2023
Good to hear from you gene.
Gene MarxFeb 16, 2023
There’s a lot to unpack in this thread.
First, Russia, with an economy comparable to Italy’s, expansion, anywhere, much less “Poland or the Balkan States”, is not sustainable, and while we’re at it, pure pro-war narrative propaganda. But Ukraine is prominent to the Russian Federation, not only for historical and cultural reasons, but because it is linked to the expansion of NATO, and a blatant attempt - becoming more clear at the time of the 2014 Maidan coup, of which Dianne Foster has written extensively about on NWC - that the US and the collective West wished to turn Ukraine into a forward base for NATO. Against the backdrop of Russian history, that was simply intolerable.
Whatever anyone might think of Putin, when he described the integration of NATO as an existential threat to Russia, he wasn’t exaggerating. Less than 300 miles means less than 6 minutes for a nuclear-armed ballistic missile launched from Ukraine to reach Moscow.
The US would not have tolerated such a threat to Washington, DC for 5 minutes. Now the US/NATO alliance and the Russian Federation - oddily enough, no true democracies or head-locking bullies on either side - are engaged in an existential game of nuclear chicken that continues to threaten the world, one that Biden could end with a phone call. Incredibly, there are even EU, NATO, and US government officials who believe a nuclear war is winnable. Even Reagan and Gorbachev knew better.
In my opinion, a diplomatic solution that includes a ceasefire is not a submission to authoritarianism but a win-win for civilization and the survival of the our biosphere, which I alluded to in my piece.
Gene MarxFeb 16, 2023
Carol FollettFeb 17, 2023
Decent people rightfully want to put and end to puffed up Putin’s sickening power. It is now taking billions of our taxpayer funds to support the fight against this mafioso, emperor like meglamaniac. How did he grow to be this problem for little you and me? Let us look at the 411 companies from the United States are still doing business with Russia - Caterpillar is one of them- do you hold stocks with any of these companies? If so, you are supping with the devil.
Dick ConoboyFeb 17, 2023
I must say that I have to agree with Gene, Dianne and Carol. Talks should be dramatically and repeatedly emphasized as the only way out of this morass. The risks of not doing so are too great. But that doesn’t occur to the “West” as the Munich Security Conference opens today (17 Feb) with Russia excluded although…
“The MSC has had a tradition going back decades of inviting senior leaders from states hostile, or ambivalent, towards the west, but this year has taken the unusual decision to exclude any representatives from Iran or Russia. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has responded to his exclusion by setting a Moscow foreign policy goal of ending the diplomatic monopoly of the west.”
But the “West” will stiffen its militaristic back and forge on as did the Emperor without clothes. The winners in any case will not be Ukraine or Russia but the arms merchants going in and the corporations salivating over reconstruction on the way out. And the IMF and the EU (Zelinksky wants to join) will certainly get its mitts on the country if Ukraine “wins”. EU will send in the technocrats who will support huge reconstruction loans from the IMF and then force austerity on the Ukrainians when the nation’s treasures are sold off to the highest bidder to repay those punishing debts. My warning to the Ukrainians is BOHICA.
And let’s not forget that the schoolyard bully did not have nukes.
Carol FollettFeb 17, 2023
Yes, talk is important, Dick. But where is the public conversation in our own country about what our businesses have been as well as are currently doing funding monsters? Where is our conversation about pulling the financial rug out from beneath demons? I am very much afraid that conversation is not happening because the roots of this weed reach here too.
Dick ConoboyFeb 18, 2023
Yours is a legitimate point that I did not get to but should have. We don’t have these national conversations that go against the numbing narrartive of both parties and also the blathersphere of the infotainment channels. That is why we don’t see Noam Chomsky on CNN or Michael Hudson on MSNBC or Cornel West on Foxnooze. What we do get is video of a scrum of reporters chasing Santos down the halls of an office building or reportage on the hidden message of Sinema’s yellow dress at the SOTU address. And just why did Harris’ husband kiss Biden’t wife on the lips. Inquiring people want to know. No?
Carol FollettFeb 18, 2023
Yes, we have silly distractions and serious distractions, like women having to fight for their rights over their bodies, again, or trying to reign in dangerous and thoughtless private militias as they are in Oregon.
Those of us living paycheck to paycheck do not think about the money behind all the power brokers. I at any rate, know little about stocks, mergers, mega global “business” and how they manoeuver behind the scenes. I certainly have no influence in a board room. I have one vote, very small purchase power “voting,” and my little voice to share these thoughts with my fellow folks who are deeply impacted by what these invisible people do.
Gene MarxFeb 19, 2023
There are enough distractions going around - some silly, some not so silly, some blatantly obvious. Our Defense Department’s recent “successful” two-week campaign of shooting down Chinese “spy” balloons - UFOs and alien invaders! at first - ginning up fearful, propagandized Americans on a 25/7 corporate news cycle, only to get caught red-handed in one instance when an F-22 and a $438,000 missile or two or more was used to do it over Alaska. A $12 GPS-equipped hobby balloon was the military’s undoing. Just wait though, the MIC, the one that has provided, so far, over $100 billion to a never-ending proxy-war when we still have families suffering medical bankruptcies or sleeping under overpasses or on our streets, after losing their homes, after freezing or going hungry this winter. The Military-industrial-CONGRESSIONAL-complex doesn’t give a crap about Ukrainians or Russians or Germans…or Americans for that matter.
And now we’re on the brink of a nuclear confrontation. It’s time we stop chipping away at each other - it’s not just a MAGA, woke, or political ideological issue - and engage with everyone, from all sides, shout about it.
Watch the live stream of the Rage Against the War in DC. They’re doing just that.
Carol FollettFeb 20, 2023
After listening to some of the speakers, Gene, although I agree in principle, my callout to us is to eliminate rhetoric and think of a new solution to the old problem that the rich will always be with us