What is the National Security Council and How Does it Work?; U.S. to Send 1,000 More Troops to Poland; Putin Finally Makes Public Comment on Ukraine’s New President

We’ve all heard of the National Security Council, but how many people actually know much about it? All I’ve ever really known is that it is an executive body comprised of individuals who perform some kind of advisory function to the U.S. president, mostly on foreign policy matters. But what exactly do they do? How many people are on it? Is there a public record one can look up to find out who sits on this council at any given time and what their background is?

The council was created by the 1947 National Security Act signed by Harry Truman, which he did against the advice of his Secretary of State George Marshall who thought it gave too much unaccountable power to the organs of the national security state that it was creating, particularly the CIA.

Its members include relevant cabinet heads and deputies (e.g. Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, National Director of Intelligence, National Security Adviser, etc.), but there’s much more to the National Security Council than meets the eye as Daniel Bessner’s book review of John Gans’ White House Warriors for The New Republic outlines. Bessner describes the crucial yet opaque role of the council as conveyed by former insider Gans as follows:

Compared to its better-known counterparts, the National Security Council remains something of a mystery. Headquartered in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House and a block away from the Council on Foreign Relations, the NSC bridges the gap between the intellectuals and decision-makers of the foreign policy establishment. The council, in short, is a core institution of the “military-intellectual complex,” the network of organizations that since the late-1940s have provided government officials with the ideas they rely on to make foreign policy. If the military-industrial complex builds the weapons of American empire, the military-intellectual complex develops the concepts that determine where such weapons are actually used.

Ultimately, it is a story that underlines the problems with centralizing power in a White House controlled by an unaccountable cohort of “the best and the brightest” whose records suggest they are anything but.    

The historical justification for the creation of the National Security Council (NSC), the CIA and the formal Department of Defense in 1947 is that FDR had overseen WWII in an ad hoc fashion that was seen as inefficient and with blurred lines of jurisdiction. With the new Cold War having emerged against the Soviet Union, it was considered especially important to organize and consolidate foreign policy power within the executive branch. Of course, there were other motivations involved in creating these unaccountable institutions than just smoothing out the kinks in administration.

According to Bessner’s review, the NSC didn’t get much attention from the president until the Korean War. It was then that Truman started parlaying the NSC to a larger and more centralized role. Many successive presidents would further this trend, paving the way for the “imperial presidency” that we have today, with the NSC as one of its most powerful tools.

Read the full review here.

After a recent meeting between Trump and the Polish president, it was agreed that Washington would send 1,000 more logistical troops to the Eastern European country, bringing the total to around 5,000. Although the Polish government has made it clear that it wants to host even more, including a tank division. Reportedly, Poland also agreed to buy 32 of Lockheed Martin’s white elephant F-35 fighter jets. Military exercises in Poland place NATO troops within shouting distance of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad – one of those dubious ideas that the “best and brightest” in Washington keep pushing.

At the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin finally provided some public comments on Ukraine’s newly elected president, expressing caution with respect to Zelensky’s total lack of experience in public office. In response to the question about Zelensky during a panel discussion, Putin gave a very interesting description of the skills needed to be an effective leader, particularly in the foreign policy arena. Watch the 3-1/2 minute video below. By the way, I always encourage people who ask me about Putin to watch or read his interviews directly as much as possible in order to avoid the misinformation often provided by American establishment media and politicians who have their own agenda.

The campaign to help fund the publication of my forthcoming book “The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations” is ongoing. Thank you to Gideon Anthony for his $100 donation.

We still have a ways to go to reach the goal. All donations, large or small, are greatly appreciated in helping me get this book out to the world.  Thank you.


Putin: US Not Responding to Requests for Nuclear Negotiations; House Seeks to Ban Low-Yield Nukes; US Soldiers Break Silence on Trauma of Atomic Testing in New Documentary; Status of Funding Campaign for Book

Russian President Vladimir Putin; Democracy Now!

Russian President Putin warned this past week of the potentially dangerous consequences if Washington and Moscow do not negotiate an extension to the New Start Treaty, which limits the total number of deployed warheads, missiles and bombers in both countries. It expires at the end of 2021. Democracy Now! reported a quote from Putin on the matter:

President Vladimir Putin: “No one has spoken with us. No formal process of talks is taking place. And it will all end in 2022.”

As discussed in my last blog post, the head of the DIA last month publicly accused Russia of conducting low-yield nuclear weapons tests in violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. No evidence was provided to substantiate the allegation and representatives of a watchdog group subsequently refuted the accusation.

The accusations seem designed to provide justification for the U.S. to work on its own low-yield usable nuke. In related news, a revised version of the defense policy bill was introduced at the beginning of June that would prevent funding of such a nuke. Antiwar.com reported the following details:

A new version of the defense policy bill was introduced today in the House Armed Services Committee, and looks to stop all development of low-yield nuclear warheads, while severely limiting development of a new ballistic missile.

The Pentagon has been interested in the development of low-yield nuclear weapons for some time, and President Trump has also been interested in developing nuclear arms which would be practical to use as tactical, not strategic, arms.

The usability factor is why the developments are so controversial. Many are concerned that these developments would greatly lower the threshold for a US nuclear strike, and in the long run might make attacks involving nuclear weapons more commonplace worldwide.

The bill would also ban the system known as Conventional Prompt Global Strike Weapon, which would allow the U.S. to strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

The Atlantic recently reviewed a new documentary in which veterans of the atomic bomb tests during the Cold War era break their long government-decreed silence on the trauma and illness their experiences caused. The film is called “The Atomic Soldiers” and is directed by Morgan Knibbe.

From 1946 to 1992, the U.S. government conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests, during which unwitting troops were exposed to vast amounts of ionizing radiation. For protection, they wore utility jackets, helmets, and gas masks. They were told to cover their face with their arms.

After the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.

In Knibbe’s film, some of these atomic veterans break the forced silence to tell their story for the very first time. They describe how the blast knocked them to the ground; how they could see the bones and blood vessels in their hands, like viewing an X-ray. They recount the terror in their officers’ faces and the tears and panic that followed the blasts. They talk about how they’ve been haunted—by nightmares, PTSD, and various health afflictions, including cancer. Knibbe’s spare filmmaking approach foregrounds details and emotion. There’s no need for archival footage; the story is writ large in the faces of the veterans, who struggle to find the right words to express the horror of what they saw during the tests and what they struggled with in the decades after.

Knibbe discusses how he got interested in the topic and how he came to make the film, including seeking out veterans to interview. There were several disturbing discoveries along the way, including the fact that the soldiers were apparently used as guinea pigs to find out the psychological and physical effects of atomic weaponry on humans, but he describes what struck him as the most shocking:

What appalled Knibbe the most was how the U.S. government failed the veterans. “Until this day, a lot of what has happened—and the radiation-related diseases the veterans have contracted and passed on to the generations after them—is still being covered up,” Knibbe said. “The veterans are consistently denied compensation.”

Watch this devastating 23-minute film here.

The campaign to help fund the publication of my forthcoming book “The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations” is ongoing. Thank you to Bob Spies for his $100 donation.

We still have a ways to go to reach the goal. All donations, large or small, are greatly appreciated in helping me get this book out to the world.  Thank you.


Julian Assange’s Health Seriously Deteriorating; 75% of Congress Wants to Kill More Syrians to Pressure Russia, Iran & Hezbollah; US Accuses Russia of Conducting Low-Level Nuke Tests

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 05, 2016: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Julian Assange’s health has rapidly deteriorated since his imprisonment at the infamous Belmarsh in the UK. Reports indicate that he has lost a significant amount of weight in recent weeks and was unable to converse with his attorney before a scheduled hearing over a week ago. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, visited Assange recently, along with two medical specialists on torture. His conclusion is that Assange exhibits many of the hallmark signs of having suffered from prolonged psychological torture and that he should be released immediately. Below is an interview with Melzer on Democracy Now!:


In other news, almost 400 members of Congress, from both chambers and both parties, have signed a letter to President Trump demanding that the U.S. escalate the war in Syria, which is winding down, in order to pressure perceived U.S. adversaries Russia and Iran. Ben Norton at the Grayzone Project reports the following:

Top Democratic Party leaders have joined hawkish Republicans in a bipartisan demand that the far-right president “address threats in Syria” and “demonstrate American leadership in resolving the prolonged conflict.”

They hope to do this through more US intervention, implementing a three-pronged “Syria strategy”: one, “augment our support” for Israel and maintain its “qualitative military edge”; two, “increase pressure on Iran and Russia”; and, three, “increase pressure on Hezbollah.”

While the letter stops short of openly requesting more American troops inside Syria, it clearly states that the US should take more aggressive actions. It also expressly calls on the Trump White House to punish Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah with crippling sanctions.

Among the signatories are 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker. (The full list follows at the bottom of this [original] article.)

The letter was notably not signed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, both 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who are running left-wing, anti-war campaigns.

The Congressional call does not even feign concern for the humanitarian situation of Syrians, or make any pretense of supporting the “Syrian people.” Rather, it is entirely framed within a chauvinistic perspective of expanding American power, protecting Israel, and weakening “US adversaries.”

Read the full article here.

On May 29th Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told an audience at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC that the U.S. suspects that Russia is not abiding by its treaty obligations on low-yield nuclear tests. RFE/RL reported:

Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said in a speech on May 29 that Russia could be doing tests that go “beyond what is believed necessary, beyond zero yield.”

The problem, he said, was that Russia “has not been willing to affirm” they are adhering to the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

“The United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard,” said Ashley, who is director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department’s main in-house intelligence organization.

“Zero-yield” refers to a nuclear test where there is no explosive chain reaction of the sort caused by an atomic bomb nuclear warhead.

Asked specifically whether U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was conducting such tests in violation of the treaty, Ashley said, “They’ve not affirmed the language of zero yield.”

Interestingly, the treaty in question – the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996 – was never even ratified by the U.S., so it takes some crust for the U.S. to say anything about it. But such hypocrisy and double standards is par for the course these days.

The UK Guardian is reporting that the head of the nuclear organization tasked with overseeing the treaty that is allegedly being violated by Russia said their investigation does not support U.S. claims:

Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), said the agency had already investigated the claim made on Wednesday by the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt Gen Robert Ashley, that Russia had “probably” violated the moratorium on tests of any yield….

….Zerbo said the agency had conducted a test of its global network of sensors on Wednesday to estimate what size of nuclear blast it would be able to detect at Novaya Zemlya.

The test found that its monitoring system would have picked up a blast of 3.1 on the Richter scale, which would be roughly equivalent, in that area, to a nuclear detonation of 100 tons – tiny in comparison to the yield of most nuclear warheads, which are normally measured in thousands of tons. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively….

….“If now we talk about a hundred tons that is detectable in that zone, it means that we’re going pretty low,” Zerbo told the Guardian in a telephone interview from Seoul. “If you go that low, what value added does it bring to a country with nuclear weapons? That’s a question that one should ask. And that could lead to a clear answer immediately.

Russian officials did not waste any time reiterating that any such violation would have been detected by global monitoring systems. Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com quoted a Russian parliamentarian:

There is a global system that would immediately detect a nuclear test, which led Russian MP Vladimir Shamanov to mock the US military for “failing professionalism” as he noted that nuclear tests cannot be carried out secretly.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. dismissed the allegations as a further attack on the global system of arms control that had been built up over decades:

“The U.S. allegations… look like a well-planned and directed attack not only and not so much on Russia as on the arms control regime, and on the entire architecture for strategic stability,” Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador, was quoted as saying by Vesti TV.