Americans are Complacent When it Comes to the Dangers of Nuclear War


In a recent post, I mentioned the Congressional debate over authorizing and funding the use of “low-yield” or usable nukes, which has many worried that the threshold for the utilization of nuclear weapons would be significantly lowered. On June 11th, the Pentagon released its new policy doctrine on war fighting. As noted, the U.S. has had a difficult time achieving anything resembling military victory in its numerous wars after 9/11 against much less technologically advanced adversaries, so now it appears that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are considering the use of nuclear weapons.

Experts and observers are worried that this is another attempt to get the idea of using nuclear weapons accepted in conflicts where nuclear weapons have not been used first by the opponent – indeed the opponent may not even possess them. According to The Guardian the doctrine was inspired by the theories of Cold War ideologist Herman Kahn, who is believed to have been the inspiration for the iconic Dr. Strangelove character:

The document, entitled Nuclear Operations, was published on 11 June, and was the first such doctrine paper for 14 years. Arms control experts say it marks a shift in US military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war – which they believe is a highly dangerous mindset.

“Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” the joint chiefs’ document says. “Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”

At the start of a chapter on nuclear planning and targeting, the document quotes a cold war theorist, Herman Kahn, as saying: “My guess is that nuclear weapons will be used sometime in the next hundred years, but that their use is much more likely to be small and limited than widespread and unconstrained.”

Within a week, the document was removed from the Pentagon’s website, but not before it was downloaded and copied by Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), which has made the document available on its website (linked to above under “Nuclear Operations.”)

As Common Dreams added in its reporting on the Pentagon document, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute just released a report pointing out the dangers of the new arms race – estimated at a cost of trillions of dollars – between the world’s nuclear superpowers:

FAS’s publication of the Pentagon document comes just days after the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released a report (pdf) on the state of military armaments and weaponry across the world. SIPRI found that “despite an overall decrease in the number of nuclear warheads in 2018, all nuclear weapon-possessing states continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals,” making nuclear conflict more likely than the year before. 

Earlier this week, a joint poll by YouGov and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists revealed that 1 in 3 Americans would support a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea if the U.S. discovered that the country had developed a nuclear missile capable of reaching the continental U.S. One could view this as positive that 2/3’s of Americans would not support such an atrocity, but the fact that 1 out of every 3 of my fellow Americans – 1 out of 3 of my neighbors, fellow bus passengers or co-workers – would support it is chilling, especially when the polling found that a significant number would support such a strike even if it killed up to a million North Korean civilians. In reality, it would likely kill many more outside of North Korea if you factor in the effects of nuclear winter, which doesn’t require a lot of nukes to trigger.

The significance of this is brought home to me all the more since I’m at the point in my book where I’m researching the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in depth. During that time, average Americans had more of a consciousness of the dangers of nuclear weapons. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan was within most adults’ living memory and the fact that an arsenal of much more powerful atomic weapons was in the possession of the two superpower rivals was known and discussed in the news and stories about its dangers were regularly seen in popular culture (the novel and film On The Beach and episodes of The Twilight Zone, for example).

But we don’t seem to have that consciousness – and the fear and disgust that should go along with it – anymore. This, despite the fact that those dangers have not gone away. Both the U.S. and Russia still have over 1,700 nuclear weapons combined on hair trigger alert. With so much antipathy, rancor and distrust having been recklessly stoked by the political class and much of the media toward Russia over relatively minor (and/or false) issues in the big picture – yes, they are minor in the big picture of a nuclear holocaust – don’t give a lot of reason for optimism if a radar error, renegade launch or some escalation spins out of control.

We survived the Cuban Missile Crisis because Kennedy and Khrushchev both had the courage and were allowed the political maneuvering (whatever previous mistakes they both made that led to the confrontation) to hold back their respective hardliners who encouraged escalation. Eyewitness accounts also reveal that both Kennedy and Khrushchev felt visceral fear in the face of what they might unleash. But a remarkably large part of the reason we survived also had to do with dumb luck as historians (and two of the foremost experts on the Cuban Missile Crisis) James Blight and Janet Lang make clear in their 2018 book, Dark Beyond Darkness: The Cuban Missile Crisis as History, Warning and Catalyst.

Blight and Lang have calculated that if the crisis were run 100 times with the same conditions, 95 times it would end in nuclear war.

With the U.S. now having unilaterally abrogated 2 of the 3 nuclear arms control treaties governing the U.S. and Russia’s arsenals and chest-thumping its own nuclear posture, it is demanding that Russia destroy its 9M729 missile, which U.S./NATO claims is in violation of the INF Treaty. Needless to say, Russia is not going to do any such thing – especially after Washington has already withdrawn from said treaty and has placed Aegis nuclear installations in Eastern Europe that can be easily modified as offensive nuclear weapons. Russia is warning of the dangers of another potential crisis reminiscent of the standoff near the shores of Cuba in 1962 if the U.S. doesn’t dump the hubris that has consumed its political class since the 1990’s and has led to this moment.

That hubris is reflected in our actions against Iran, North Korea, and Russia – tearing up critical agreements, issuing dictums, offering nothing in return, and not getting a constructive resolution. Of course, a resolution wouldn’t be desired by the military-industrial-complex or the irrational ideologues who have influence in Washington. There do appear to be people willing to beg trouble on a nuclear war and simply don’t care about the consequences. People addicted to the greed and power associated with the pursuit of such things are like all addicts in that they don’t care about anything accept feeding their addiction. I can’t think of a better explanation for the pathology of these people.

I encourage everyone to read here what Cuban leader Fidel Castro was thinking during the Missile Crisis in 1962, a perspective that isn’t often given much attention – a dangerous omission. It might provide a window into what the leaders of Iran, North Korea and even Russia might be thinking after enduring constant threats and provocations by the most powerful country in the world that’s armed with a large nuclear arsenal.

The potential consequences of Washington’s inflammatory actions against other nations and its inability to engage in cognitive empathy are not benign.

Ukrainian Investigative Journalist Dies from Beating After Being Comatose for Weeks, Western Media Silent; Chris Hedges Interviews Matt Taibbi on the Degeneration of American Media


On the morning of June 20th, I received an OSCE email alert announcing the death of Ukrainian investigative reporter Vadim Komarov, who was beaten unconscious on May 4th and had been in a coma until succumbing last week. According to the OSCE:

VIENNA, 20 June 2019 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, expressed his deep sorrow following the death of journalist and blogger Vadim Komarov, who died last night in the hospital. He had been in a coma since suffering a violent attack on 4 May in Cherkasy, Ukraine.

“I am deeply shocked by the death of Vadim Komarov, who was brutally attacked last month in Cherkasy and suffered from serious head injuries,” Désir said. “Vadim Komarov was a well-known media professional who reported about issues of public importance for many years, including by exposing corruption and uncovering abuses of power.”

As a journalist myself, I’m sensitive to crimes and repressions committed against fellow reporters wherever they may be. As the day wore on, however, I began to wonder why I didn’t hear any mention of this from any of the multiple news outlets I follow. Around 9:00 pm, I decided to do a search for any articles covering the death of Komarov. I placed the terms “Vadim Komarov death” into both a regular Google search engine and a Google News search engine. I also tried the alternative spelling of his first name “Vadym” in the searches. The only western media coverage of this I found was an article by RFE/RL. Nothing else from either the establishment media or the alternative media.

I think we all know that if this had been a journalist beaten to death in Russia, the news would be all over The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc. , along with oped’s on how it’s just more evidence of how horrible, illiberal and undemocratic Putin’s Russia is compared to the virtuous west, comprised of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Britain and non-Russian Europe.

Some might suggest that it would only be fair because Russia is such a dangerous place for journalists. Everyone knows that reporters are dropping like flies in Russia and rarely from natural causes.

On the other hand, the Maidan “revolution” of 2014 represented a natural rejection of backward Russia and Ukraine’s desire to be unequivocally part of the west whose democratic values it embraced. The fact that Washington may have facilitated a violent ouster of the already democratically-elected government was to be overlooked with a nod and wink on behalf of a greater good.

If so, then how do we square the facts, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists that, since 2014, Ukraine has had an increase in the murder of journalists, now totaling 8 (including Komarov) and Russia has had only 2 in that same period?

While we should certainly care about reporters being murdered, especially because of their work, anywhere, how do we justify the total radio silence on the brutal murder of a journalist in our beloved post-Maidan Ukraine and the utter conniption fit that western media would be having if the same thing happened to a journalist in Russia?

Speaking of media bias and malpractice, below is a video of award-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges interviewing (in 2-parts) Matt Taibbi about his forthcoming book on how the media – particularly TV and cable news – has adopted the professional wrestling model of feeding the target audience’s simplistic worldview of who is a goodie and who is a baddie, selling a warped entertainment product designed to reinforce your anger rather than informing you.

Russia Says it Has Thwarted US Cyberattacks on its Infrastructure; Putin Pleads with Global Media at SPIEF to Cover Disintegration of Nuclear Agreements and the Possible Consequences; Facebook Hires Brazen Ultra-Right Nationalist as New Public Policy Manager for Ukraine While Washington Sends $250 Million More in Lethal Aid to Kiev

On the heels of last week’s NYT report that the U.S. Cyber Command had carried out cyber attacks within Russia’s domestic infrastructure, Reuters has reported unnamed representatives of the Russian government as stating that the cyber attacks were recognized and thwarted:

The disclosure was made on Russia’s RIA and TASS news agencies days after the New York Times cited unnamed government sources as saying that the United States had inserted potentially disruptive computer code into Russia’s power grid as part of a more aggressive deployment of its cyber tools….

….“We see and note such attempts,” the Russian security source was quoted as saying in response to the report. “However, we manage to neutralize these actions.”

….Foreign intelligence services have stepped up cyber attacks against Russia in recent years and are targeting mainly transport, banking and energy infrastructure, the source told TASS and RIA.

Russia has the engineering and technical savvy to do this as teams from Russia have won the top prize in the IBM- sponsored ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest 6 times in the last 8 years. Here’s a description from 2018 of what contenders are tasked with achieving to win the competition:

ACM ICPC is the premier global programming competition conducted by and for the world’s universities….In the competition, teams of three students tackle eight or more complex, real-world problems. The students are given a problem statement, and must create a solution within a looming five-hour time limit. The team that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts in the least cumulative time is declared the winner. This year’s World Finals saw 140 teams competing. Now in its 42nd year, ICPC has gathered more than 320,000 students from around the world to compete since its inception.

It seems that several times over the past few years, as U.S.-Russia relations have continued to deteriorate in potentially dangerous ways, Putin has attempted to use whatever bully pulpit he may have at public appearances in front of western and international media to plead for a recognition and discussion of what these conditions may portend. Below is an 8-10 minute video of a meeting Putin had at the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum with representatives of the global media. The video also includes a quote some of you may remember from a few years ago when Putin was expressing his frustration with and warning about reckless escalations by the west and how dangerous they could be – “I don’t know how to get through to you.” My only quibble with what Putin says here is his claim that war has existed throughout humanity. Anthropological studies prove that organized war has only been in the human record for the past 10,000 – 13,000 years, coinciding with agricultural settlement and its attendant complex, hierarchical social structure. In any event, it’s a good video, but you do have to sit through an ad for a new documentary channel at the beginning that runs about a minute.

Speaking of the role of media, whose the worst person Facebook could find to serve as their new public policy manager for Ukraine? Well, Kateryna Kruk, who has publicly and unashamedly cheered on ultra-nationalist groups who espouse white supremacy and anti-Russian views would be a good contender. And, guess what? That’s who Facebook just hired for the job. Ben Norton of the Grayzone Project recently wrote an in-depth report on it.

Kateryna Kruk, who has served as Facebook’s first public policy manager for Ukraine since late May, was an active participant in Ukraine’s 2014 US-backed coup, in which far-right ultra-nationalists violently ousted a democratically elected government accused by the West of getting too close to Russia and replaced it with a pro-NATO one.

During the coup, Kruk volunteered with the fascistic Svoboda party, and defended the extreme-right group from criticism. She is a nationalist hardliner who compares Russian President Vladimir Putin to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, reduces all pro-Russian forces in Ukraine to “terrorists,” and opposes any kind of negotiations with Moscow.

Read the full article here.

Meanwhile, Washington just sent $250 million worth of more deadly weaponry to the Kiev government, including sniper rifles and electronic warfare tools, bringing the total “aid” delivered to the coup government since 2014 to a total value of $1.5 billion.

More Escalations and Accusations Against Russia Follow Putin’s Public Admission that U.S.-Russia Relations are Deteriorating “by the Hour”

Tehran Times

A matter of days after Putin admitted in an interview with Mir TV that U.S.-Russia relations were deteriorating by the hour, the DIA came out and reiterated its already debunked accusation of a couple of weeks ago that Russia is testing low-yield nuclear weapons.

Additionally, this past Saturday, the NYT reported that the U.S. government has recently escalated cyber intrusions into the Russian power grid:

WASHINGTON — The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.

According to the article, the Pentagon’s U.S. Cyber Command had been granted significant new leeway by both the president and Congress in 2018, supposedly in preparation for possible election interference from Russia in the mid-term elections.

….The administration declined to describe specific actions it was taking under the new authorities, which were granted separately by the White House and Congress last year to United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world….

….But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow….

….Mr. Trump issued new authorities to Cyber Command last summer, in a still-classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13, giving General Nakasone far more leeway to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval….

But the action inside the Russian electric grid appears to have been conducted under little-noticed new legal authorities, slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer. The measure approved the routine conduct of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace, to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.”

Under the law, those actions can now be authorized by the defense secretary without special presidential approval.

It’s interesting that under the (now mostly debunked, unsubstantiated, or grossly exaggerated) hysterical election-interference-by-Russia claims since 2016, some powerful organs of the national security state have gotten even more power to potentially cause all sorts of mischief that could get us into a serious confrontation with the world’s other nuclear superpower. What has been the consequence of these increased powers that the national security state wants to flex?

“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” one senior intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity but declining to discuss any specific classified programs. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”

The critical question — impossible to know without access to the classified details of the operation — is how deep into the Russian grid the United States has bored. Only then will it be clear whether it would be possible to plunge Russia into darkness or cripple its military — a question that may not be answerable until the code is activated.

Furthermore, members of the national security state have acknowledged that they have been reticent in providing details to President Trump of these activities since they fear that he’ll decide to somehow block, modify or mitigate them.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

According to the constitution, however, the president would have the right to use his judgment to do this on behalf of national security goals like leveraging potential diplomatic negotiations. Am I wrong to conclude that the military and intelligence agencies are supposed to ultimately be subservient to the commander in chief and not the other way around? Even if you don’t happen to like a particular commander in chief?

The NYT article continued,

Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.

Is this wise? Where is the debate on this within the media or among presidential candidates about the possible dangers of such escalations between the world’s two nuclear superpowers? Where is the demand for diplomacy? Is Putin standing in the way? According to reports on the Helsinki meeting, Putin proposed an agreement where both countries would promise not to interfere with each other’s domestic elections or infrastructure. Trump – whom we were constantly told is Putin’s bitch – ultimately demurred.

Who benefits from this continual consolidation of powers among the un-elected and unaccountable organs of the national security state, which will no doubt remain in place after Trump leaves and a president more acceptable to the liberal meritocracy camp occupies the White House? How do average Americans possibly benefit from the national security state’s continual game of chicken with Russia?

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. 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 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.