All posts by natyliesb

Paul Robinson: Renewed Azerbaijan/Armenia Conflict a New Threat to Russia’s Delicate Balancing Act with Key Player Turkey

By Professor Paul Robinson, RT, 9/28/20

Azerbaijan has never forgotten its 1990s humiliation at the hands of Armenia. Now stronger than its sworn enemy, and emboldened by Turkish support, Baku’s assertiveness is creating a headache for Moscow.

Russian president Vladimir Putin once complained that communist leader Vladimir Lenin had placed a ‘time bomb’ under Russia. He had in mind the introduction of the federal principle after Lenin’s Bolsheviks took power in 1917. Lenin gave national minorities their own republics within the Soviet Union. In so doing, he created a situation which allowed those republics to secede from the Union once communist power collapsed.

Soviet federalism brought other problems. The communists granted autonomy to the larger nationalities in the form of 15 ‘republics.’ Smaller nationalities also got autonomy, but of a different form – so-called ‘autonomous republics’ and ‘autonomous regions.’ When the union fell apart, fully-fledged republics got independence, but the autonomous republics and regions within them did not.

Unsurprisingly, many of the smaller minorities were not too happy with this somewhat arbitrary outcome, and attempted to secede from the seceding republics. The result was several wars, the first of which took place in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, an Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, after it attempted to secede from Azerbaijan and join with Armenia. The war ended in an Armenian victory. Not only did the Armenians drive the Azeris out of Nagorno-Karabakh, but they also captured a swath of Azeri territory linking Armenia with the breakaway region.

Continue reading here.

Guest Post: Achieving Genuine Peace by Eradicating Imperialism

Today’s guest post is by James Chen. Please feel free to give your thoughts on the article in the comments section below. – Natylie

By James Chen

In the most important speech of his short, but significant life of public service, President John F. Kennedy explained about “the genuine peace”:

“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

I like to point out two not-so-subtle essences of the meaning of genuine peace, which are frequently missed or ignored by some childish political pundits and radical “peace lovers.” First, genuine peace cannot to be achieved by an indiscriminate pacifists’ approach. Secondly, genuine peace should not be obtained through endless Machiavellian shenanigans, such as the adage that my enemy’s enemy is always considered a friend.

The indiscriminate pacifists’ approach can only make more wars necessary. When The League of Nations chose to acquiesce to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, Northern and Eastern China, permission was in fact granted to the Japanese Empire to choose its next target, the Soviet Union or the United States. Again, when Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier signed the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, a disastrous war in Europe was invited. No imperial aggressor has ever been dissuaded or deterred by goodwill alone in human history.

The doctrine of making one’s enemy’s enemy a friend will inevitably lead to wars with our emboldened “allies” who are fundamentally our enemies. Henry Kissinger, who persuaded President Richard Nixon to play the “China card” against the Soviet Union, only found himself, at the last stage of his life, struggling to urge a new cold war with imperial China, which had already infiltrated every fabric of the United States in the past half century. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who devised the “Mujahideen card” for President Jimmy Carter, would always be branded as the prime culprit whose ill-minded scheme ultimately led to the bombing of the World Trade Center and an endless war against Islamic terrorism. Making friends with someone who does not share the same values does not make him a true friend, but a true enemy much harder to deal with, due to the technology, weapons and money that is provided.

In order to understand why 75 years after the end of WWII, we are still far away from realizing the dream of genuine peace which the whole world suffered so much to achieve as 70 million lives were lost, we have to go back to the historical moment when the most deadly confrontation of human beings was about to end. It is well known that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a great vision to achieve world peace which he sought to implement by eradicating the long-standing practice of imperialism and by developing a rapport with the leader of the second most powerful country of the world at that moment. The chance was never better in human history. His abrupt death disrupted this dream as his successor, President Harry S. Truman, did not have Roosevelt’s understanding of the nuances of the international arena or the Soviet Union’s security concerns, much less his diplomatic skills. Most unfortunately for the world, Truman did not have that deep aspiration for genuine peace.

The consequences have been quite severe. Not only did the world miss one of the greatest opportunities to advance human civilization with a quantum leap, but also the U.S. took an erroneous path to engage in a prolonged and dangerous cold war with the Soviet Union. At the same time, the British Empire was allowed to survive and continue to play a manipulative role on the world stage. After all, two of the most ambitious and barbaric medieval empires, the Chinese and the Ottoman, were also revived as a result of the Machiavellian game. During the process, the American Republic has been degenerating into an empire, controlled by the deep state of establishment, disguised under the mask of a permanent revolving election door of two-party dictatorship. Today, although the Soviet Union has been dissolved for nearly thirty years, we are probably even farther away from achieving the goal of genuine peace than we were 75 years ago, while world peace is constantly threatened by the ambitions of four contemporary empires: the American, the British, the Chinese, and the Ottoman.

With no intention to write a book-length article, I would only point out here two ominous manifestations of each of the four empires as follows:

The American Empire

  1. The United States government orchestrated a permanent military organization, NATO, only four years after the end of WWII. The military organization was created in 1949 against the Soviet Union as a loophole to by-pass the UN Charter, with a claim to secure a lasting peace in Europe, based on common values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The interesting thing is that it continues to expand nearly thirty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many of its member states are in fact rated as flawed democracies, and four of its member states – Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Turkey – are rated as hybrid regimes by the most recent Democratic Index. The records of NATO breaching the UN Charter – invading and bombing sovereign countries, sponsoring terrorism, and conducting genocides – are numerous.
  2. The military forces of the United States invaded Vietnam and intended to suppress the self-determination of the Vietnamese people in the 1960s-70s, causing millions of deaths in that country. And the ripple effect of that intervention resulted in human catastrophe in surrounding countries, such as Cambodia and Laos.

The British Empire

  1. The United Kingdom persuaded the United States to join the 1953 Iranian coup d’état carried out by the Iranian military, known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup d’état, resulting in the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, in favor of the monarchical rule of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in August of 1953. It is not necessary to list the consequences of the coup in this article.
  2. The United Kingdom was the first country to join the United States in the second Iraq War, which was orchestrated by the neoconservatives of the Bush II administration to expand the American-Anglo dominance of the world, resulting in total destabilization of the region and the spread of Islamic terrorism.

The Chinese Empire

  1.  Ever since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has been continuing its imperial expansion without cessation, epitomized by the annexation of Tibet in 1950 and suppression of the Tibetan rebellion in 1959; invasion of India and occupation of Aksai Chin in 1962; invasion of Vietnam in 1979; continuous aggression against Taiwan – threatening invasion, massacres and annexation, causing multiple Taiwan strait crises in 1954, 1958, 1996, and further; militarizing international waters of the South China Sea by constructing military bases on uninhabitable archipelagos in violation of international law.
  2. Since the normalization of relations between U.S. and China, the Chinese government has been trying to weaken the United States through sabotage, infiltration, spying, subjugation, and coercion. At the same time, it has been influencing and bribing many American politicians, academics, and businesspeople to serve its interests. One of the most pertinent examples of the Chinese interference in the American political and business arena is related to the current Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, a lawyer and investment banker, until recently was a director at Bohai Harvest RST, known as BHR, formed with $1 billion in Chinese government funding shortly after then-Vice President Biden visited China in December 2013, according to the investigative report. BHR co-purchased Henniges Automotive with Chinese military contractor AVIC, which had been identified as a front for China’s military and had been sanctioned before the Obama administration approved the Biden-connected sale.

The ultimate goal of the Chinese government is to replace the United States as the most powerful country on Earth, including their own ideology of exceptionalism.  Their goal is to realize the ambition reflected in their name for their country, “the Central Empire,” which is based on the myth of a single dominant “race” of Han-Chinese.

The Ottoman Empire

  1. Thirty thousand Turkish troops are currently occupying one third of the Republic of Cyprus since 1974, after a bloody invasion. This occupation of a foreign territory of a sovereign state is the only such occupation confirmed and recognized by the UN Security Council, with condemnation and resolutions currently issued on the subject.  This is in addition to other indisputable invasions and occupations perpetrated by the Turkish military forces in other sovereign countries, including Greece, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
  2. The Turkish government continues to conduct genocide against the Kurdish people inside and outside its borders, both physically and culturally for nearly 100 years, sometimes with help from the United States through military and economic aid programs. The Turkish government also continues to deny the Armenian, Assyrian, and Pontic Greek genocides which were the archetypal examples for all the genocides committed in the twentieth century and beyond. Today, it continues efforts to eradicate acknowledgment of those victimized ethnic groups under the pretense of national security concerns, which is supported by typical acquiesce from the United States and the United Kingdom, two so-called western democracies which do not officially recognize the Armenian genocide.

Understanding the pathophysiology of this four-empire disease of the world, I would like to jump directly into the solution of it. The principles we should bear in mind are:

  1. The government of the United States should lower the threshold for organizing a new party that is free of control by the military-industrial complex, banks, oil companies, etc.
  2. Our government should start to break down the few media-conglomerates and social media companies to allow truly free discussion by American citizens;
  3. Our government should change the direction of our foreign policy towards respecting true democracy, self-determination, and sovereignty;
  4. Our government should stop supporting theocracies disguised as democracies;
  5. Our government should make allies by shared values, not necessarily short-term interests;
  6. Our government should start to dissolve, or at least reform, all the permanent military organizations which the United States is currently participating in;
  7. Our government should avoid playing into the hands of globalist fascism, which advocates forming a single global government with etiology of neo-liberalism;
  8. Our government should seek foreign policy advice from outside of establishment think tanks, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, etc.

To be more specific, we should start to move in the following five directions without hesitation:

  1. Disengage from any relationships with the Chinese and Ottoman empires;
  2. Form true alliances against the Chinese and Ottoman empires;
  3. Sever the so-called US-UK special relationship and encourage the dissolution of the British Empire;
  4. Consolidate cooperation with Australia, EU, Japan and India;
  5. Rebuild trust with Russia.

I have no doubt that this approach is the only approach that can not only serve the founding principles of this country, but also can deliver genuine peace to the world by the end of the twenty-first century.

James J. Chen has had a life-long interest in history, politics, and the humanities. He has begun writing on these topics, with a particular emphasis on the the U.S.’s role in the evolution of the modern world.  He lives and practices medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area. His website address is: https://jamesjchen.wixsite.com/save-the-country.

What is it Really Like in Russia? Video of a New Housing Development in the Yekaterinburg Area

Note: I’m finishing up a project this week and an in-depth article should be published in the near future. Hence, the fewer posts.

In the meantime, below is a video of a new housing project that has been built in Yekaterinburg in the Urals area of Russia. With our media constantly characterizing Russia as simply a corrupt and dour hell-hole, it is important to see examples of what life is really like throughout the country.

I found this one particularly interesting since I plan to return to Russia in 2021 and Yekaterinburg is on my list of cities to visit.

What Putin Said About the Situation in Belarus in His Recent Interview with Rossiya TV

Vladimir Putin answered questions from VGTRK journalist and anchor of Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) programme Sergei Brilyov.

In a recent interview with Rossiya TV, Vladimir Putin discussed several issues, including the current state of the Russian economy and the Covid pandemic. However, I have excerpted below the portion dealing with what is presently happening in Belarus. – Natylie

Sergei Brilyov: Mr President, it is not only the purely economic things that affect the economy (for example, the oil prices returned to $46 as we predicted) but also political factors. Belarus is, certainly, a political factor.

Vladimir Putin: Of course.

Sergei Brilyov: We have seen numerous reports on your telephone conversations with European leaders. But these reports are usually just scanty press releases from the Kremlin Press Service. In fact, you have not yet publicly shared your view of the situation in detail. What do you think of the developments in Belarus?

Vladimir Putin: You know, I think that we have shown much more restraint and neutrality with respect to the events in Belarus than many other countries, both European and American ones, such as the United States.

In my opinion, we have indeed been covering the developments in Belarus quite objectively, from every angle, showing both sides. We believe that it is up to the Belarusian society and people themselves to deal with this. Although, certainly, we care about what is happening there.

This nation is very close to us and perhaps is the closest, both in terms of ethnic proximity, the language, the culture, the spiritual as well as other aspects. We have dozens or probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of direct family ties with Belarus and close industrial cooperation. Suffice it to say that, for example, Belarusian products account for more than 90 percent of the total agricultural imports on the Russian market.

Sergei Brilyov: You mean the Belarusian products imported to our country?

Vladimir Putin: Belarusian exports. If we look at other industries – for example, agricultural equipment manufacturing – the figures are similar. Therefore, of course, we care about what is happening there. But it is still up to the Belarusians to deal with this situation.

We most certainly hope that all the parties will have enough common sense to reach a solution in a peaceful way, without running to extremes. Of course, if the people take to the streets, it cannot be ignored. Everybody must listen to them and respond. By the way, the President of Belarus said that he is willing to consider conducting a constitutional reform, adopting a new Constitution, holding new parliamentary and presidential elections based on the new Constitution. But the effective Constitution must not be breached. Did you note that the Constitutional Court of Belarus issued a ruling, according to which it is absolutely unacceptable to establish supra-constitutional bodies which are not envisaged by the country’s basic law and which are trying to take over power. It is hard to disagree with this ruling.

Sergei Brilyov: I looked at what they are writing about Belarus abroad, and often it is not about ideology but simply about facts. A lot of foreign articles about the events in Belarus are accompanied by an explanation what Belarus is and where it is located. This is because as distinct from Russian citizens, many people there know little about it. And, of course, in Russia we remember the events not only after the election but also before it, in part, about the 33 guests at the Byelorusochka hotel and the Russian citizens that were detained.

Mr President, who do you think got into whose trap?

Vladimir Putin: Well, now it is obvious. This was an operation by secret services. The people you mentioned were used without their knowledge in order to move them to Belarus. They received perfectly legal assignments. They were told that they must go to third countries, to Latin America and the Middle East, for absolutely legal work. But in fact they were dragged off to Belarus and presented as a potential attack force in order to destabilise the situation during the election campaign. This had nothing to do with reality.

Let me repeat that these people were going to work in a third country. They were simply lured there, dragged across the border. By the way, our border guards did not let them out and they could not move in anywhere. But de facto they were brought in on fake documents.

Sergei Brilyov: Ukrainian secret services?

Vladimir Putin: This was an operation of Ukrainian secret services in cooperation with their US colleagues. Now this is known for sure. Some participants in this event or observers, well-informed people do not even conceal this now.

Sergei Brilyov: Mr President, I think I have been lucky in my career as a journalist. I had three detailed interviews with Alexander Lukashenko but you know him much better, of course. In this context, I would like to quote what Mr Lukashenko said after one of his telephone conversations with you.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.

Sergei Brilyov: He said that when it comes to the military component, we have a treaty with the Russian Federation in the framework of the Union State and the CSTO, that is, a Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and these aspects seem to be covered by that Treaty. Somewhat earlier he said you agreed to provide assistance to Minsk at his first request.

What is meant by “these aspects”?

Vladimir Putin: There is no need to hush up anything.

Indeed, the Union Treaty, that is, the Treaty on the Union State, and the Collective Security Treaty (CSTO) include articles saying that all member states of these organisations, including the Union State, which consists of two states only – Russia and Belarus, are obliged to help each other protect their sovereignty, external borders and stability. This is exactly what it says.

In this connection, we have certain obligations towards Belarus, and this is how Mr Lukashenko has formulated his question. He said that he would like us to provide assistance to him if this should become necessary. I replied that Russia would honour all its obligations.

Mr Lukashenko has asked me to create a reserve group of law enforcement personnel, and I have done this. But we have also agreed that this group would not be used unless the situation becomes uncontrollable, when extremist elements – I would like to say this once again – when the extremist elements, using political slogans as a cover, overstep the mark and start plundering the country, burning vehicles, houses, banks, trying to seize administration buildings, and so on.

During our conversation with Mr Lukashenko, we came to the conclusion that now it is not necessary, and I hope that it will never be necessary to use this reserve, which is why we are not using it.

I would like to say once again that we proceed from the belief that all the current problems in Belarus will be settled peacefully, and if any violations are permitted by either side – the state authorities and the law enforcement personnel, or the protesters – if they exceed the framework of the law, the law will respond to this accordingly. The law must be equal for everyone. But speaking objectively, I believe that the Belarusian law enforcement agencies are exercising commendable self-control despite everything. Just take a look at what is happening in some other countries.

Sergei Brilyov: Yes, but the first two days were awful for many people.

Vladimir Putin: You know what I think about this. Was it not awful when people died in some European countries nearly every day?

Sergei Brilyov: This is why Lukashenko rejected Macron’s mediation, offering instead to help him deal with the yellow vest protests.

Vladimir Putin: Is it not awful when a defenceless person is shot in the back and there are his three children in his car?

Sergei Brilyov: Yes, it is awful.

Vladimir Putin: Have those who are putting the blame on Belarus and the Belarusian authorities, President Lukashenko, have these people condemned these acts? I have not heard anything about this. Why such discrimination?

This makes me think that the issue is not the current events in Belarus, but that some forces would like to see something different happening there. They would like to influence these processes and to bring about the solutions that would suit their political interests.

Therefore, I would like to say once again that the general situation [in Belarus] is improving, by and large. And I hope that all the problems – and there are indeed problems, because otherwise the people would not have taken to the streets – that all these problems will be settled peacefully within the framework of the Constitution and the law.

Sergei Brilyov: Thank you, Mr President.

Read the full interview here.

Gordon Hahn – Belarus: The Slavic Knot Tightens

By Gordon Hahn, August 23, 2020

As previously thought, Aleksandr Lukashenko’s harsh rule in Belarus is likely finished (www.facebook.com/gordon.hahn1/posts/10223340676086689). A few scattered thoughts on the dynamics taking shape around the Belarus crisis; one that threatens both the ‘stability’ and peace of Europe, Eurasia, and the world.

BELARUS

1. The situation is likely to deteriorate slowly over time.

2. Aleksandr Lukashenko is an unsteady element, who is likely to become more desperate and trigger-happy the longer the protests persist. His overreactions will provoke greater resistance. In this way, Belarus 2020 is not necessarily Russia 2021 or 2024. Putin is a careful, balancing, soft authoritarian. Where Putin nudges and prods with incentives and disincentives, Lukashenko shoves and batters to intimidate.

3. The regime thus far has split only on the edges, with the state bureaucracy and security forces still remaining loyal. However, Lukashenko’s popular support base is slowly disintegrating, as the protests by factory workers and others indicate. Over time, regime unity is also likely to deteriorate.

4. Lukashenko is using a ‘besIeged fortress’ strategy now to reinforce his support base in state and society, warning of possible intervention by NATO forces. His defense minister has raised the specter of a NATO ‘humanitarian intervention’ model in order to conduct an air campaign against Minsk as Washington and Brussels did in Serbia (www.rbc.ru/politics/23/08/2020/5f41b8479a79471b497ceef8?from=from_main_3&fbclid=IwAR2bppfrQ3XQEkXuakn6zh5xlszi6xTV4QH9EAFKy06XD0KYChEzo-mmkpE). The Serbian campaign, NATO expansion, and color revolution policies have had a profound effect on the politics of several pro-Russian Slavic and post-Soviet states in addition to those of Russia herself. The threat of NATO expansion and humanitarian interventions can be something in which some politicians and opinion makers sincerely believe and/or a bogey man deployed to create a rally around the flag effect and to discredit domestic opposition.

5. The risk of violence on the part of the opposition, which would likely spark a ruthless and bloody crackdown far greater than that which we have seen hitherto, grows the longer the protests continue. Some leaders will become frustrated with peaceful demonstrations, and Belarusian nationalists – while fewer in proportion than in Ukraine or Russia – will be increasingly inclined to turn to violence. In this case, the Maidan example is unfortunately germane.

RUSSIA

1. Putin is cautious in general. In this crisis he will be exceedingly so. At this point, he appears to be hedging his bets, making no threatening sounds towards the West and maintaining some separation from Lukashenko’s listing ship.

Continue reading here.

From the Vault – “FAIL-SAFE”: How a Classic Cold War Novel & Film Still Resonates Today

Given the major (positive) feedback I received from my recent post about the power of story to move people where facts and argumentation alone cannot, I have decided to re-post this review I did a few years back of the novel Fail-Safe about an attempt to avert a nuclear holocaust. The novel was also made into a movie in 1964 – the same year as Dr. Strangelove. However, Dr. Strangelove was released just a bit earlier and so got all the attention. Below is a scene from the movie in which Walter Mathau’s character, Walter Groteschele – loosely based on the real military strategist Albert Wohlstetter – tries to argue that a limited nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, and the millions of deaths it would entail could theoretically be justified.

I don’t know what the President is doing, but whatever it is he’d better be right. Khrushchev isn’t going to sit around forever and watch those planes move in on Moscow. The whole thing rests on the President’s ability to persuade Khrushchev it was an accident. If he doesn’t, then we’re going to have all-out, 100 per cent, slam-bang, hell-bent war. That’s right, isn’t it, General?

-Congressman Raskob, “Fail-Safe,” page 206

For those who are familiar with the story of Fail-Safe due to the 1964 film directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda in an unforgettable performance as a U.S. president who finds himself in a nuclear crisis with the Soviet Union, the book is much like the film but delves deeper into the central themes as well as some of the main characters’ psyches and background.

The story explores not only the ideological foundation of the Cold War conflict of 1945 to 1989 and its contribution to creating the immediate crisis but also the related political, psychological and technological foundations. On the political level, the question is implied throughout: why do ideological differences in how to organize one’s society have to mean confrontation that puts all of humanity at risk as opposed to a “live and let live” approach? As the US president and Soviet premier (openly referred to as Khrushchev) attempt to deal with the crisis, it is clear that a psychological spiral of long-standing mutual distrust and perceived escalations have made the situation worse, creating circumstances that compound the crisis as it is learned that an understandably suspicious Soviet military leadership has already jammed radio communications on the US nuclear bombers that are on their way to attack Moscow as the result of a mistaken “go” order. The jamming has prevented the US leadership from communicating the error and an abort-mission order to the pilots.

This poisoned atmosphere of distrust leads directly to the horrendous decisions made to resolve the crisis later on.

On the technological side, it is brought out that the US nuclear bombers were given the erroneous “go” order to proceed to Moscow on an attack mission as the result of procedures that were supposedly infallible or as close to it as possible — hence, the term “Fail-Safe”. In the midst of the crisis, one of the foremost engineers of the system, who works for a private contractor, is forced to acknowledge that the more complex a system is, the more error-prone it is:

The fact of the matter is that the machines move so fast, are capable of such subtle mistakes, are so intricate, that in a real war situation a man might not have the time to know whether a machine was in error or was not telling the truth. (page 187)

Furthermore, the political and financial climate in Washington disincentivizes acknowledging potential errors and weaknesses in the system:

Those of us who manufacture the gear, who had some notion of what it was being used for — we never told anyone that it was infallible. But somewhere in Washington they had to say it was perfect, that it couldn’t make a mistake. General, there is no such thing as a perfect system and they should have told you that… Look, for years there has been a fellow named Fred Ikle, who has been working with the Rand Corporation and the Air Force on how to reduce war by accident. He has found flaw after flaw in the system, at just the same time that the newspapers were saying it was perfect. Kendrew over in England has talked about accidental war for years — loud and clear. So have dozens of others. Most of us, the best of us on the civilian side, we knew that a perfect system is impossible. The mistake was that no one told the public and Congress. (page 207)

Thus, technology — typically viewed without question as a convenient solution to excess labor or time-consuming tasks — becomes instead a short-cut that ensnares its subjects.

What is remarkable about Fail-Safe isn’t just its thought-provoking look at a topic of profound importance, but its ability to draw the reader in emotionally through complex and compelling characters who must grapple with the concrete decisions — large and small — that will contribute to the ultimate climax as the story unfolds.

The president, in terms of age, temperament and background, is clearly modeled on then-president John F. Kennedy. The reader gets to know the president through his translator, Peter Buck. Buck, who was discovered years before to have an uncanny talent for picking up the Russian language, along with its nuances and dialects, has been coasting through his job at the White House while going to law school at night as his services were understood only to be needed in the event of a crisis. Needless to say, it takes several seconds for it to sink into Buck when he gets the call on the special red phone in his drawer and is instructed by the president to meet him at the entrance to the underground bunker beneath the White House ASAP.

Then there is Walter Groteschele, a nihilistic professor who advocates the most hard-line positions imaginable in theoretical discussions of potential nuclear war, including first-strike actions, rattling off figures on what would constitute an acceptable number of deaths (in the millions) from the ensuing conflagration to still be considered a victory:

In one way, the public way, he was a respectable high priest of civic death. This dialogue he had raised from a secretive conversation to a respectable art. It was a game at which he was exquisite. Almost by his own single-mindedness and wit he had introduced to a whole society the idea that a calm and dispassionate and logical discussion of collective death was an entertainment. By refinements and logical innovation he had made municipal death a form of style and a way of life. (page 125)

The president has allowed Groteschele to be present and offer his opinions at his teleconferences with his national-security team during the crisis.

And there is General Warren Black, a reflective warrior tormented by a recurring nightmare of brutality in which the perpetrator’s identity is elusive, who worries about the implications of conflict in the age of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), and is also an old college friend of the president. He is ultimately (and ironically) tasked with an unimaginable responsibility.

Perhaps the most disturbing difference between 1962 — when Fail-Safe was first published, with the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh on everyone’s mind — and today is that a book like this could be an instant bestseller, with the film version released two years later in competition with Dr. Strangelove. Unlike Dr. StrangeloveFail-Safe makes a serious and unflinching examination of the insanity of confrontation between two nuclear superpowers, with the psychological, ideological and technological factors that can still converge in Armageddon more easily than many care to realize.

Unlike half a century ago, we are now bombarded with a popular culture that often seeks to normalize torture, never-ending warfare and militarization of society, rather than provide a space for thoughtful reflection or questioning of these phenomena in its story-telling. It is difficult to imagine Hollywood coming out with a film like Fail-Safe today or a show like the original Twilight Zone, tackling similar issues every week in a thoughtful way that didn’t rely on gratuitous sex and violence to titillate and attract viewers.

As for the subject matter of Fail-Safe, in reading it today, one can’t help but feel this all sounds too eerily familiar to today’s renewed tensions between Washington and Moscow and the escalations in Eastern Europe with all they could portend. Both nations still have a ridiculous number of nuclear weapons, with many on hair-trigger alert and fewer lines of communication open as during the original Cold War.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Many rejoiced when the Cold War ended and hoped for a more cooperative approach to international relations and a peace dividend at home. Indeed it sometimes feels as though the fates of the US and Russia are bound together in a strange never-ending dance of fear, fascination, competition and contempt. Whether that fate is inevitable or is being intentionally driven by ideological madmen, drunk on power and messianic visions, holding the fate of humanity in their hands is a matter I have discussed in other articles.

But, unlike articles, which attempt to marshal facts and logic, story-telling is what tends to move people. Our need and capacity for story-telling is perhaps one of the most essential aspects of being human. A film, book or other work of story-telling art for a contemporary mass audience that can convey, like Fail-Safe, on such a visceral level, what is at stake in terms of the continuing dangers of geo-politics in the nuclear age is desperately needed.

Caitlin Johnstone: On Bombs and Bombings

By Caitlin Johnstone, August 18, 2020

For a full week now the Israeli army has been bombing Gaza, a population that is about to run out of fuel for its only power plant due to a years-long Israeli program of deliberate siege warfare.

Yesterday [August 17th] the US ordered an airstrike on Syrian forces, killing one, when they refused to let the illegal occupying force past a checkpoint in northern Syria.

In both cases an arm of the US-centralized empire used wildly disproportionate force against people who stood against a hostile occupation of their own country. In both cases the more powerful and violent occupiers claimed they were acting in “self-defense”. In both cases dropping explosives from the sky upon human beings barely made the news.

Bombs should not exist. Explosives designed to blow fire and shrapnel through human bodies should not be a thing. In a sane world, there wouldn’t be bombs, and if some mentally unbalanced person ever made and used one it would be a major international news story.

Instead, bombs are cranked out like iPhones at enormous profit, and nearly all bombings are ignored. Many bombs are being dropped per day by the US and its allies, with a massive civilian death toll, and almost none of those bombings receive any international attention. The only time they do is generally when a bombing occurs that was not authorized by the US-centralized empire.

This is one of those absolutely freakish things about our society that has become normalized through careful narrative management, and we really shouldn’t allow it to be. The fact that explosives designed to rip apart human anatomy are dropped from the sky many times per day for no other reason than to exert control over foreign countries should horrify us all.

An interesting social experiment when you talk to someone might be to tell them solemnly, “There’s been a bombing.” Then when they say “What?? Where??”, tell them “The Middle East mostly. Our government and its allies drop many bombs there per day in order to keep a resource-rich geostrategic region balkanized and controllable.”

Then watch their reaction.

You will probably notice a marked change in demeanor as the person learns that what you meant is different from what they thought you meant. They will likely act as though you’d tricked them in some way. But you didn’t. You just called a thing the thing that it is, and let their assumptions do the rest.

When someone gravely tells you “There’s been a bombing,” what they almost always mean is that there has been a suspected terrorist attack in a western, majority-white nation. They don’t mean the kind of bombing that kills exponentially more people and does exponentially more damage than terrorism in western nations. They don’t mean the kind of terrorism that our government enacts and approves of.

There’s a lot of pushback nowadays against the racism and prejudices that are woven throughout the fabric of our society, and rightly so. But what doesn’t get nearly enough attention in this discourse is the fact that while some manifestations of bigotry may have been successfully scaled back somewhat in our own countries, it was in a sense merely exported overseas.

The violence that is being inflicted overseas in our name by the US-centralized empire is more horrific than any manifestation of racism we’re ever likely to encounter at home. It is more horrific than the pre-integration American South. It is more horrific than even slavery itself. Yet even the more conscious among us fail to give this relentless onslaught of violence a proportionate degree of recognition and condemnation, even while the consent for it is largely born of the unexamined bigoted notion that violence against people in developing and non-western countries does not matter.

Like many other forms of bigotry, this one has been engineered and promulgated by powerful people who benefit from it. If the mainstream news media were what it purports to be, namely an institution dedicated to creating an informed populace about what’s truthfully going on in the world, we would see the bombings in foreign nations given the same type of coverage that a bombing in Paris or London receives.

This would immediately bring consciousness to the unconscious bigotry that those in the US-centralized empire hold against people in low and middle income countries, which is exactly why the plutocrat-owned media do not report on it in this way. The US-centralized empire is held together by endless violence, and the plutocrats who run it have built their kingdoms upon the status quo of that empire.

When people set out to learn what’s really going on in their world they often start cramming their heads with history and geopolitics facts and figures, which is of course fine and good. But a bigger part of getting a clear image of what’s happening in the world is simply turning your gaze upon things you already kind of knew were happening, but couldn’t quite bring yourself to look at.

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my books Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

The Power of Story to Change Hearts and Minds Where Facts & Logic Cannot

Some of you may remember the April 2015 Munk debate – a -semi annual debate that takes place in Toronto with an audience of approximately 3000 on a topic of current public interest. That particular year the debate question was whether the West should engage with Russia or not. Author Anne Applebaum and Russian chess champion and Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov argued for eschewing engagement to punish Putin and the Russian government for its supposed sins. Professor Stephen F. Cohen and Russian journalist Vladimir Posner argued for engagement.

Unfortunately, the audience was swayed by Applebaum and Kasparov and voted for non-engagement. The result of this always bothered me. How is it that an anti-Russia propagandist like Applebaum and a Neocon apologist like Kasparov can beat out one of the best Russia Studies academics in the U.S. and a renowned Russian journalist? In a rational world, Cohen and Posner should have been able to mop the floor with the likes of Applebaum and Kasparov without even breaking a sweat. What happened?

As a life-long lover of literature and someone who has tried my own hand at writing fiction (I have two trunk novels), I have a theory as to why this happened.

There are a small percentage of people, often scholarly types or journalists, who are swayed by and believe in the power of rational argument and the recitation of facts and figures to change people’s minds on any given issue. But the truth is – that is not actually how most people’s minds are changed. Humans evolved as storytellers, from hieroglyphics on caves to oral tradition and the written word, all cultures across time have told stories. Storytelling is how we have imparted ethical guidelines as well as practical information needed for survival.

In the Ted Talk below, author and writing coach Lisa Cron discusses the history and science behind the power of narrative and why it can transform people’s views where logical argument alone cannot. She gives an excellent example of how literature changed far more minds on a critical issue of 20th century American political import than any logical argument. Hint: most of you have read the novel and/or seen the movie. She also cautions people to be aware of the narratives they are being fed by the larger culture and whether those narratives are desirable or harmful.

Getting back to the Munk debate, I think that Applebaum and Kasparov understood the art of storytelling – albeit in a manipulative fashion. Their narrative of Russia and the context of U.S.-Russia relations in the post-Soviet era is very distorted but they managed to spin a compelling story: Kasparov with his framing of himself as an innocent every man up against a big bad bully named Putin and Applebaum with her framing of the noble west who has run out of patience with the incorrigible troublemaker who must be made to answer for his dangerous shenanigans. There is a recognizable protagonist and a recognizable antagonist in their story as well as a call to action.

Cohen and Posner, on the other hand, relied on the presentation of facts and logic. But they hadn’t figured out a compelling counter-narrative or story in which to place those facts. Consequently, the audience went with a story they understood. It was also a story they easily recognized because they had already been primed with lots of propaganda from the media they consume to do so.

I tend to think that academics and journalists who speak the truth about Russia and foreign affairs – while they serve a very important purpose – are not going to be able to turn the ship around on their own. They are going to have to find people in the arts – novelists, filmmakers, musicians, playwrights – to partner with to change hearts and minds through the power of narrative.

Breaking: Kamala Harris is Biden’s VP Pick – Be Prepared for a Hillary Clinton Foreign Policy

It has just been announced that Kamala Harris has been chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate. This will likely portend a continuation of the Neocon/Hyper-interventionist foreign policy we’ve been seeing for decades, along with hostility toward Russia. Below is a video Kim Iversen did back last November detailing how Kamala Harris is a proxy for Hillary Clinton on foreign policy.