Robert Scheer SI Podcast SI: War & Peace Ukraine

Nuclear War with Russia? ‘A Wall of Fire that Encompasses Everything Around Us at the Temperature of the Center of the Sun.’

On this week's "Scheer Intelligence," nuclear weapons specialist Ted Postol joins Robert Scheer to discuss how the Ukraine crisis could lead the world past the point of no return.
Nuclear weapons specialist Ted Postol.
Nuclear weapons specialist Ted Postol. [Photo from Massachusetts Institute of Technology]

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For decades after the Cold War ended, the threat of nuclear war seemed to fade into the global background. Climate change took center stage as the existential crisis of our time, and it seemed for a few brief years that treaties and diplomacy, however flawed, had led nuclear powers to set aside the possibility of using nuclear weapons again. (To date, it is only the U.S. that has detonated nuclear weapons—both in Japan—and it continues to be the country with the largest nuclear arsenal by far.)

Now, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ushers in a daunting new era, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the threat of nuclear war is once again something to keep us all awake at night. Ted Postol, a physicist and nuclear weapons specialist as well as MIT professor emeritus, joins Robert Scheer on this week’s edition of “Scheer Intelligence” to explain just how deadly the current brinkmanship between the U.S. and Russia really is. Having taught at Stanford University and Princeton prior to his time at MIT, Postol was also a science and policy adviser to the chief of naval operations and an analyst at the Office of Technology Assessment. His nuclear weapons expertise led him to critique the U.S. government’s claims about missile defenses, for which he won the Garwin Prize from the Federation of American Scientists in 2016. 

See the full Mr. Fish original here.

Scheer, who wrote “With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War,” met Postol 30 years ago when the two participated in a historic seminar at the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation about the threat of nuclear war. From his expert vantage point, Postol rings all the alarm bells imaginable regarding escalating rhetoric both in the U.S. and Russia regarding nuclear weapons. The MIT professor states in no uncertain terms that, while Russia was in no way justified in its attacks on Ukraine, which both he and Scheer have described as war crimes, it is imperative to consider NATO’s role in the current crisis in order to understand the nuclear threat. Explaining that the U.S. must urgently learn from the past and present if we are to avoid a nuclear war in the short or long term future, Postol laments an unwillingness amongst U.S. political leaders and media to reflect on the country’s actions. 

In a moment that few listeners will be able to forget, the “Scheer Intelligence” host asks the leading expert to lay out what would happen to Americans were Russia to unleash its most destructive weapons.  

“Tell us, what are we talking about here?” Scheer asks his guest, “Are we talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki for every town in America?” 

“We’re talking about a wall of fire that encompasses everything around us at the temperature of the center of the sun,” Postol solemnly warns. 

Listen to the full conversation between Scheer and Postol as they consider Vladimir Putin’s motives for raising the possibility of using Russia’s nuclear arsenal, and how the U.S. in many ways could be its own worst enemy in this terrifying climate.

Credits

Host:

Robert Scheer

Producer:

Joshua Scheer

RS: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, and the intelligence, of course, comes from my guests. In this case, Theodore Postol, Ted Postol, one of our leading experts on nuclear war fighting and the whole threat of nuclear war. Someone I met three decades ago at the Stanford center—I forget the official title—the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation. 

And we had this seminar—I had just written a book about nuclear war fighting, and got invited to it. Condoleezza Rice was a member, then she became a provost at Stanford, and then she became a national security advisor to the first President Bush, and a secretary of state. So it was a high-powered group of top physicists, led by a guy named Sidney Drell, who was adjacent, had access to the highest information. And we were very worried then that they would develop some idea of nuclear war fighting, and you could win, and so forth. And then the nuclear threat dropped off the page with the end of the Soviet Union, and hopefully the end of the Cold War, but it’s back and forth right now. 

And Vladimir Putin has raised the possibility of actually using these weapons, if other means fail. And we’re right in the middle of a discussion—and most of the media and the politicians are ignoring that threat, that danger, and there’s even talk of using smaller nuclear weapons, and there’s a whole question of new technology that can evade it. So I turn to someone that has been a leader, as I said, in this field. Ted, tell us about your background, your work in the Pentagon, your academic work, and how you feel about this moment. Am I being an alarmist?

TP: Ah, no, I don’t think you’re being an alarmist. I think things are extremely dangerous. It’s very hard to know how to quantify this, because there are so many unknowns, but it is easily as dangerous as the Cuban Missile Crisis. And my gut feeling, which is all I can work on, is that it’s far more dangerous. 

But let me just fill you in a little bit on my background, just so your audience has some idea of where my experience comes from. I’m not a normal academic, career type; I only came to academia after I had spent a few years in the Pentagon. And I was working as a science and policy advisor to the chief of naval operations, and during that time I had a very broad level, a broad series of experiences and responsibilities. So, for example, I provided technical and policy advice on the choices, the technical choices we would be making on the Trident II ballistic missile; that missile had not yet gone to sea, this was in the early 1980s; we had the Trident I, but we then were preparing the Navy for the Trident II, and there were many technical trade-offs that we needed to think about. 

During this time I also was deeply involved with the actual nuclear war planning. So I saw and actually worked on solving problems, if you want to call it that, in the nuclear war planning. So I was intimately familiar with the plans, and also concerned with policy implementation of them—which, I should make clear, I never—I thought the whole thing was crazy. But that’s different from my technical responsibilities within the Navy structure. I had a responsibility to make sure that certain things were done as appropriate, given what people were thinking about. I certainly made it clear many times that I did not think that the framework for the planning was very sound, but that’s another discussion.

I also was involved in evaluating strategic anti-submarine warfare capabilities that the Russians might try to use against the United States, and also the kind of capabilities the United States was then using against the Russians. At that time, Russian submarines were very noisy, which is not the case today. And they were so noisy that we could track them at great distances, and we basically had a good, first-order understanding of where many of these submarines were when they were at sea. So this was a tremendous vulnerability that the Russians had at that time, that they no longer have. 

I also worked on missile defenses. In particular, I looked extensively at the Russian missile defense systems, and their air defense systems, which had some features that indicated they were designed for a dual purpose, to try to engage ICBMs. They in fact had no capability; there was no realistic capability. But the intelligence people come up with these ideas that have a near-zero chance of working, and then they blow them up into a threat. But this was a real concern at this time, and entered into the ABM treaty of 1972 in a big way.

I looked at American missile defense systems and the technology we had, and did a lot of work on that, which is what led me to be an outspoken critic of the Strategic Defense Initiative, because it was clear that the technology was not even close to up to the job of doing what people were claiming. So that’s kind of a broad brush of what I was doing. 

RS: By the way, just a footnote on the Strategic Defense Initiative, known colloquially as Star Wars. And one time when I was with you at this arms control seminar I ran into Edward Teller, the father of the H-bomb, who was the big proponent of Star Wars missile defense—the idea that you could shoot down enemy missiles, and then some people thought that would be destabilizing, because you could then do nuclear war fighting, which is a concern now with the hypersonic weapons that the Russians seem to have developed. 

But nonetheless, I happened to be on an airplane going from L.A. up to San Jose to our seminar, and Edward Teller was on the plane. And after we got off the plane he said, what are you doing up here? And I said, I’m going to the seminar that Sid Drell has. He says, well, make sure Sid tells you about the great results we had with the cottage test. Which was the biggest secret at that time, and he claimed they had gotten lazy, and they really had the means to make this weapon. And when I got up there, Sid Drell, who did have access to everything and was adjacent, turned white, took me outside the building and said, you know, what is Teller doing? He’s not supposed to be talking about any of this, I’m not going to talk about it, it’s a crime. And so I just remember that moment. And then they found out that in fact the test was flawed, and they hadn’t got the results. 

But President Reagan sort of believed that. Then I had the opportunity to interview, many years later, Ronald Reagan when he was running for president. And we discussed the question of nuclear war fighting, and he still entertained ideas about that. But nonetheless, when he met with Gorbachev in this historic moment, they both looked at each other, talked and said—as he had said a number of times, he wanted to get rid of these weapons. And they actually started this process. 

So take us back. How did we go from that moment of optimism about the end of the Cold War, and where we are now? And also, you haven’t answered the question: how alarming is the current situation? So it’s a two-pronged question. How did we get here from the Gorbachev-Reagan meeting at Reykjavík, and how concerning is the current moment, where actually Vladimir Putin has said, reminded the West he has this huge nuclear arsenal?

TP: Well, I think Gorbachev and Reagan were serious. But the people who saw themselves as expert policy people—people like Richard Pearl, who was a big figure at the time—they saw Gorbachev and Reagan as naïve. Which, incidentally, I do not agree with; I think they were actually right on the mark, and the naïve people were the so-called experts. I lived in that community of experts, and I heard so many things that if you were dealing with things in an intellectually clear and well-informed way, you would immediately recognize as total nonsense. Just one individual repeating nonsense from another. 

And unfortunately, most of what people believe—even people who are quite well educated—is just unchecked. You know, only if you’re a real expert—and these people were not, in spite of the fact they viewed themselves that way—do you understand something about the reality of what these weapons are about. And so basically, to use a term that gets overused a lot, I think the deep state in both Russia and the United States—more the United States than Russia, at least as far as I can see—the deep state in the United States mostly, basically undermined the ideas and objectives of Ronald Reagan. And of course Gorbachev was facing a similar problem in Russia. 

So there’s these giant institutions inside both countries. They’re filled with people who, at one level, honestly believe these bad ideas, or think they are right; and because they think they are right, and they convince themselves that it’s in the best interest of the country, what’s really going on, it’s in their best interest as professionals but they mix up their best interest with the interest of the country. They, these people take steps to blunt the directives of the president, and basically the system just moves on without any real modification, independent of this remarkable and actually extraordinarily insightful judgment of these two men. 

So it was the system that defeated them. And I honestly, I’m not a sociologist, so it’s very hard for me to understand this in broader terms, but I honestly believe that these organizations are so big and so filled with people, some of whom—many of whom honestly believe the wrong things, but they’re honest about it, and many people who know that what they’re doing is wrong, which makes them dishonest, but see it in their best interest. These gigantic organizations are extraordinarily hard to change, which is one of the reasons why this extraordinary proposal—which could have saved us from the current situation—never got anywhere. 

And now, we’re in a situation where the firepower available to the United States against Russia—when I say firepower, in this case I’m talking about the peculiar ability to place nuclear warheads close enough to Russian ICBM hardened silos, hardened ICBMs, close enough to destroy those ICBMs. That requires a hundred-meter accuracy or something in that range, to be able to do that. Now, the nuclear weapon that they’re using to provide, that has this hundred-meter accuracy or better, would destroy an urban area three or four or five miles in radius. So if it’s five miles, it’s like a 75-mile-square area. So this weapon that they want to deliver to a hundred meters precision would destroy 75 square miles of an urban area. So when they talk about war fighting, they’re talking about this one very specialized feature of the weapon: the ability to use it against the very hard underground structure. 

We now have the ability, because of a modernization program that’s gone on over the last 10 years, to destroy all of Russia’s ICBM, land-based ICBMs—maybe a thousand, half of their warheads, a thousand of them or so, with 20 percent of the warheads we have available to us. So that means 80% of the warheads we have available are available for other purposes. Those warheads, many of them which would have been used to try to destroy these silo-based ICBMs and command centers and things like that, are now free to be used for other things. Those other things could be—who knows what they’re being used for, because you can’t even find targets. But of course now that we can increase the number of targets that we want to attack, for example, in China, and it just goes on and on and on. 

And right now I would say there are many more weapons than you can find legitimate targets for, whatever that means. And so we have this tremendous firepower. The Russians are aware of our strenuous efforts to build this tremendously increased firepower over the last 10 years. So imagine you are a Russian military officer. Your job is to provide a nuclear response should Russia be attacked; that’s your job, that’s what your profession is. And you study the American effort, and you say my god, these Americans are planning to fight and win a nuclear war against us. 

Now, I know—the Russian might say to himself—I know that there’s no fighting and winning a nuclear war, because both countries will be destroyed. But the Americans look like they don’t understand this, or are acting like they don’t understand it, or are acting like they want an option to try to do this. Well, I have to be prepared to respond, because if they really believe this, then I’d better show them that it would be a very bad idea to try, and that what will happen will be the end of both countries and actually all of Europe and the Northern Hemisphere, immediately. And god knows what else would follow. 

But, so that’s one thing; so the finger is closer to the button in Russia because of these American activities which the military officers—who do not want to see this happen. Anyone who thinks that these people are crazy just doesn’t understand their culture. They do not want to see this happen. Their job is to be prepared to provide this service to their country, if you want to call it a service. 

So you have them on a higher state of alert, and it turns out that their early-warning system is much less capable than ours. They don’t have the broad early-warning capabilities that we have, and they cannot tell they’re under attack until it’s too late. If you look at the timelines they have for political leaders to make decisions that then are carried out by the military, the timeline is too short. The military leaders would be dead if the Americans attacked like they would expect them to. 

So the only thing the Russians can do—not that they’re crazy, or not that they’re trying to be, you know, suicidal or homicidal—the only thing they can do to stave off American enthusiasm about attacking them is to make preparations for an automated response. A doomsday kind of weapon, although that’s not, I doubt that’s exactly the way they think of it. But a doomsday kind of response, which basically occurs if the leadership is killed in the early phase of an American nuclear attack. 

Now, when you do that, you have to make provisions for, like, if you lose communications under certain conditions, if this happens or that happens, and so on. Well, that’s a complicated system, where errors in that system can occur that could then lead to a devolution of launch authority, resulting in massive launches that were unauthorized. And basically the American modernization, and Russia’s unfortunate inability to improve their early-warning system, has resulted in a situation where everything is potentially a lot more dangerous, because an accident could much more easily occur. And this is both a social, political and technical problem. 

RS: You’re talking about the modernization of the last 10 years. So that includes Barack Obama.

TP: Oh, definitely. Definitely. 

RS: Yeah. So we can’t blame all this—and it doesn’t include—well, it does include Trump, but he didn’t initiate it. So we have a situation where somebody who got elected saying he was frightened of nuclear weapons and did not want to expand their power, has in fact presided over that. And there’s bipartisan support for it. And in turn, this makes sense, then, if Putin’s bragging about his hypersonic weapons—of which they claim they already used one or two in the Ukraine—which can also deliver nuclear weapons. And that’s a way of sort of—and remember the press conference, where he talked about it sort of trumping the American modernization, right? Yeah, so talk about that.

TP: Well, I think a lot of this race that contributes to it being so dangerous is the need, the perceived need by national leaders to show first that they’re tough, and to show second that they’re innovative—that they have so many ways, new ways to destroy the other that, you know, don’t mess with me; it’s that kind of thing. So the hypersonic vehicles that China and Russia are touting, they’re meaningless. Both these countries—the United States has no ability to intercept anything they fly at us. No ability. I’ve looked at this in great detail, I have written articles on this. They simply—the current systems have no chance of working under the best of conditions. And they don’t work under the best of conditions. 

So people talk about a hypersonic vehicle that can evade defenses—well, a normal ballistic missile system that supposedly, the statement implies that somehow normal ballistic missile systems can be intercepted. But, you know, if you have hundreds of decoys, where you have no chance of understanding which is a decoy and which is a warhead coming at you, for every warhead that you see, you’re not going to intercept anything. 

That’s assuming your interceptors work. And we know that the interceptors don’t work. In other words, the interceptors—the technology demands and reliability of the interceptors, even when they are tested under choreographed, idealized conditions, is very low. So you do anything at all to disrupt them, they won’t intercept anything, not even the decoys. Because even when there are no decoys, they can’t reliably intercept a target. So now, when you have hundreds of decoys per warhead, and jamming systems and spoofing systems, and—there’s no chance these will do anything. And so to all of a sudden suggest that a hypersonic vehicle somehow changes the game is silly. But it’s not silly if you’re looking for fear, if you’re trying to create fear, you know, in your adversary’s mind with regard to your determination and your ability to respond. 

So it’s not an accident that this gigantic robot submarine that the Russians were showing us in, it must have been as early as 2010, I’d have to look at my notes, but the submarine—it looks like a giant torpedo, it’s about seven feet in diameter. So it’s a very large, giant torpedo. And it’s got a nuclear power plant in it, and it could carry a warhead, a nuclear warhead of a hundred megatons. A hundred megatons. And it could swim into the harbor of a big city, or up a river, and detonate, and it could destroy an area of 40 miles radius. Forty miles. If it’s 40 miles radius, it’s like four or five thousand square miles destroyed by one weapon.

RS: So as opposed to the planes that went into the World Trade Center, there would be no New York. 

TP: There’d be no New York State. No New Jersey. There’d be no—well, half of Long Island would be taken. So this is—this is a fantastically destructive weapon. And we know they can build it, because they built a weapon that was similar and detonated it in 1957. That’s a long time ago. So it’s not an accident that this weapon was advertised by Putin. What he was saying—what he was trying to do, in my view, is he is worried than an American president would be misinformed enough—and I think there have been some pretty misinformed presidents, including Ronald Reagan during the Star Wars episode—to believe that we could do things that were just ridiculous. 

So he’s afraid of the misinformed American president doing something that gets everybody killed. He’s not worried about us getting ourselves killed, but he is worried about Russia. So what he wants to do is make it clear to anybody—to a child on a bicycle—that you cannot win. They will destroy the United States in response, no matter what your defenses can or cannot do. We have no defenses against an underwater device that can cross the Atlantic, nuclear-powered, and the Pacific, and go into our harbors and destroy the entire coast of the United States. Where, you know, a very high percentage of our population and industry live. That they could do with this weapon alone. And they have it, and they’re advertising it. 

RS: So let me ask you, because the New York Times, which is part of what I now consider the giddy media—you know, sort of cheering on the effective use of troops now against the Russians, and we’re going to turn the Ukraine into another surrogate battlefield, as we have done in other countries around the world. They had a whole takeout the other day on smaller weapons. You know, two percent of the yield of Hiroshima, and so forth—nuclear weapons, that can be usable. And that relates also to the question of NATO expansion—that smaller-range weapons can be used that have this power, if you can place them closer to a nation, as we feared in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

So I’d like to sort of wrap this up by relating this to NATO expansion. Because after all, one of the things that Reagan and Gorbachev were talking about was the end of this kind of Cold War military confrontation. And one would have thought the beginning of the end for an alliance like NATO, as well as its Soviet equivalent. And so why don’t you bring us up to speed on that? Because for Putin, that seems to be really the issue here, the NATO expansion. 

TP: Yeah, well, let me just take a second to comment on the New York Times article, which was written by a normally pretty good science journalist, Bill Broad. Ah, one of the disturbing things about that article is Broad talks about weapons that are probably four or five kilotons in yield, from his description. Now, a four- or five-kiloton nuclear weapon is going to destroy 70% of the area that was destroyed at Hiroshima. Now, if you consider that minor, OK; I guess it’s your judgment. But I don’t consider that a minor, small weapon that anybody would ignore. So there’s a question of scale and reality that’s missing from this kind of article, and that’s troubling to me. 

But the question of NATO is a question of history and responsible leadership. And what has happened—first of all, I want to be very clear: there is no excuse for what Putin has done. And he has made a tremendous mistake, even if you’re cold hearted and you’re just thinking in terms of his strategic objectives. It’s just horrifying, what has happened here. However, there is a lot of guilt to go around. And the conditions that have led to this confrontation were produced by NATO. And I think that people who are concerned about avoiding this kind of thing in the future should not simply think of arms control—which I agree with; I think we should be doing arms control. But they should also be thinking about our political conduct. 

So for example, in 2008 NATO announced, over the objections of two important NATO members, Germany and France—Germany and France objected to this—in 2008, NATO put out this Pollyannaish statement that they would welcome Georgia and Ukraine to join at some future time. Of course, neither of these countries were even close to qualifying for entry into NATO, because they have internal domestic problems that disqualify them, and they have internal corruption problems that disqualify them. Maybe they would solve those problems, but they were certainly a decade or decades away from ever being even a possible qualifying candidate. 

So why would you do this? So we did it anyway. And instantly—I want to underscore, instantly—Putin said, these countries, Georgia and Ukraine, are a red line for Russia. It’s a red line: that’s the words he chose. They are on our border, they are traditionally parts of what the Soviet Union was, and they are culturally close to us, and we will not tolerate these countries becoming part of a hostile alliance against us. And all this nonsense about NATO not being a hostile alliance against—all you have to do is read NATO’s statements and records, and what they’re up to, and why they’re planning and what their planning is for. It’s ridiculous to claim that NATO is not a hostile alliance against Russia. 

So Putin sees them that way, and he sees Georgia and Ukraine as fundamental security dangers to Russia if they were to become part of this hostile alliance, what they call the “near abroad.” So this occurs in April of 2008. By August of 2008, Russia and Georgia are at war, and Russia wrecks Georgia. Well, that should give you a message. The details of that are complex, and I could talk about them, but it wasn’t Russia that started that; it was Saakashvili, the leader of Georgia, who was emboldened to think that NATO would support him. So the statements made by NATO took this guy—who frankly I think was unstable to begin with, actually is now in jail in Georgia for corruption—and they emboldened him to attack Russian peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the Russians responded. 

And incidentally, I’m not trying to suggest the Russians were totally innocent. But let’s be clear: Georgia started it. And Georgia was encouraged by NATO, and Russia wrecked Georgia in response. So now what do you have? It’s 2022, or 2021, the end of that, and you have all this encouragement of Ukraine to join a hostile military alliance against Russia. Now, Georgia should have been a lesson that the Russians are serious. But there’s no learning behavior in NATO that I can see. Look at this guy Stoltenberg—when he starts talking, you just want to hold your head and cry. And so what does NATO do—and the United States, of course, leading NATO—is we start talking about Ukraine becoming a NATO member when of course they don’t qualify for the longest time. So we just get the Russians crazier and crazier over this misperceived threat from Ukraine, because Ukraine is not a threat to them. 

But what matters is, you know, diplomacy; rhetoric matters. What you say matters in diplomacy; that’s why you do diplomacy, you’re trying to increase communication in a way that avoids conflict, which is exactly the opposite of what happened here. And now you could have said, we would like to see Ukraine become a modern, independent, prosperous country like Finland; Finland is on Russia’s border, Finland is a member of the EU, Finland also trades heavily with Russia—and Finland is not a member of NATO. It’s not a member of a hostile alliance against Russia. Finland does very well. And instead of talking about a neutral power and working to bring the standards of living in the Ukraine up, and help it develop a modern democracy, we put these people in harm’s way. We put these people in harm’s way. And Stoltenberg, he’s going to root for Ukraine until the last Ukrainian is murdered by these Russian forces.

RS: You should give his position. He’s the head of—

TP: He’s the head of NATO, he’s the deputy general of NATO. So where is the diplomacy here? Again, I do not want to look like I’m blaming the West exclusively for this, because it is not the exclusive—I mean, it was an incredible blunder, even if you’re just thinking in cold, strategic terms, for Putin to go ahead and invade Ukraine. No question about it. And I do not want in any way to look like an apologist for Putin. But you know, it’s important that you look at what you did. Whenever I make a mistake, the first question I ask myself is, could I have done this differently? You don’t see any evidence of learning behavior from these people, who have now participated in a big way in creating a crisis that is going to be extremely difficult to extricate us from, and could result in World War III, which could be the end of the world we know. And unless people start thinking about—instead of using the word “diplomacy,” but not showing any indication that you understand it or that you’re committed to it, we’re going to blunder into World War III, if not here, somewhere else. 

RS: OK, but I want to wrap this up with that, because that’s how I met you. We were at an arms control seminar; I think it was very prestigious, I was grateful to have been invited to participate. And it was the most frightening experience of my life up to that point, and I’d actually been in some war zones; I’d been in Vietnam a number of times as a journalist, I’d been in the Mideast during the end of the Six-Day War, I’d been in the Soviet Union. I’d been in a lot of different situations. But when I sat at that seminar, it was the same as sitting at the seminars that Ed Teller had at Livermore, or that they had at Los Alamos. It was all about nuclear war fighting. That’s why I wrote the book, I wrote the With Enough Shovels book, because they were talking about it as if it could just happen. 

And at that seminar we had top people, including people who had been in the higher rank of the military advising, and discussing what this means, World War III. And it doesn’t matter whether it happens by accident, miscalculation—but there’s almost no sense in the media—and William Broad, the guy who wrote that article in the New York Times, he wrote up our discussions then, and that alarm, and he shared it. It now seems to be absent. So tell us. What are we talking about here? We’re not talking about another Iraq; we’re not talking about another Vietnam. We’re talking about, what, Hiroshima and Nagasaki for every town in America?

TP: We’re talking about a wall of fire that encompasses everything around us at the temperature of the center of the sun. That will literally turn us to less than ash, if this thing gets going. I can’t emphasize how powerful these weapons are. When they detonate, they’re actually four or five times hotter than the center of the sun, which is 20 million degrees Kelvin. They’re 100 million degrees Kelvin at the center of these weapons. 

They are—there is no way to imagine, as a human being, the scale of—the scale is so off anything that human beings have tools to imagine, that it’s impossible to—you know, I can send, I’ve written articles repeatedly about the consequences of nuclear weapons on cities, for example. And this is a danger that is literally as primal as one can get. It starts at the center of our own sun in terms of consequences. 

If this gets going, it’s going to be as if each side could reach into the very center of our sun, heat it up, and bring it down to the surface of the Earth in specialized, in areas of their interest, and literally turn those places into less than ash. This is really dangerous. This is something beyond anything that human beings have been able to imagine. And I don’t know how to emphasize how dangerous this is.

RS: Well, that’s the part I don’t get, now. Because you know, you’re almost considered a Putin apologist if you dare bring up this danger. And it’s ironic, because we finally have grown to be concerned about climate change, global warming; we’re finally starting to do something about it, and that involved cooperation throughout the world. And now you have a danger, certainly much greater in the short run—I mean, yeah, it couldn’t be any greater—that has been unleashed, and it’s not being seriously discussed. You know, it’s just not. 

And it’s odd, because we discussed it at the height of the Cold War. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, we certainly discussed what would happen, the harm. I mean, you know, President Kennedy was quite clear about the danger of the moment. So was McNamara; he’s written about it, talked about it. In fact, McNamara, who was our secretary of defense during the Vietnam War, spent the last years of his life regretting the Vietnam War and talking about the real danger of nuclear weapons. Maybe that’s something to think about. What has happened to our consciousness about this?

TP: Well, I think that’s almost a question for a sociologist. 

RS: You have too much confidence in sociologists. Pretend that you are one. [Laughter]

TP: I didn’t say I had confidence in them. There are good ones. [Laughs] I worked with a very good one—

RS: C. Wright Mills was a great one, and he wrote a book called [The Causes of] World War Three. You know, and he warned us about this, yes.

TP: Well, you know, it requires education, and incidentally, my grave concern is I know some of these characters who worked for Obama, and who now work for Biden. And I’m sorry to say it—I know it will be considered arrogant to say this—but they are ignorant. Let me be very clear: this is not an accidental statement on my part. They are outright ignorant. And they’re a bunch of—you know, they trained at these elite schools; they don’t know anything, but they think they know things; and—

RS: I should point out, by the way, that you were at Stanford and you are now—I mean, you spent that last part of your life at MIT, which is certainly an elite school. So they didn’t get the benefit of a good education, even though—

TP: I have taught at Stanford; I have taught at MIT; I have taught at Princeton, OK. And at Harvard. So I know what a lot of these people are, because they are very privileged—this is of course a generalization; there are certainly some extremely intelligent and thoughtful people among these. But a great bulk of these people are just completely in love with themselves; they are convinced that they know a lot more than they do; they will not listen, they’re not interested in learning—I mean, you try to present facts to them, they sort of walk away from you laughing. You know, like some—it’s like watching Law and Order on television when they have something about privileged children who get away with things in colleges or something. 

And they are not experts. And it’s not a problem—it’s no problem at all that they are not experts. The problem is that they’re not interested in learning. So, you know, I had this character, a guy named Colin Kahl, he’s the deputy assistant secretary now for policy at the Pentagon. He doesn’t know anything. He was at Stanford, they made him a co-director of the center there. Rude beyond belief. And you know, he tells me at one point, I’m trying to discuss something with him—discuss something—he turns around and he says, I’ve got a job, I’ve got a real job, I don’t have time for this. This is a guy who’s at the Department of Defense, top levels now, possibly advising Biden. 

This is the danger. And if we look at the Obama administration, we saw similar dangers. There’s a very interesting Atlantic Monthly article written by a guy named Ben Rhodes. Rhodes was the national security advisor for communications in the White House, and he wrote a totally fraudulent, supposedly government intelligence report that was released to the public about the nerve agent attack that occurred in Damascus in August of 2013. 

And it’s very interesting; I would suggest your readers go read that Atlantic Monthly article. Because in his attempt to show everybody what a smart guy he is, he’s revealing that his main objective with Obama, with the president, was to get him to make a decision which would have been a disaster for the United States, but he didn’t know it. But to attack Syria, before the public outrage from the misinformation people had about that nerve agent attack died down. In other words, he didn’t want the public outrage to die down before he forced or tricked or got Obama to make a momentous decision that would have been a disaster for the United States. A total disaster. 

So he’s bragging about that in this article. That’s a real window that people ought to use to look into the mindset of an individual who basically, through privilege and accident, became a national security advisor with no real knowledge of what’s going on in the intelligence system. 

So we’re in a dangerous situation. We have a lot of—I’m sorry, because I’m so disturbed by this—we have a bunch of punks, you know, 30-year-old punks who come from privileged backgrounds, claiming they’re experts in policy when they actually do not have the basic knowledge. And they’re advising presidents. And this is not a good professional system. we need to do something about it. 

RS: Oh boy. Well, that’s a good place to end it. Because when I met you, I encountered a fellow, TK Jones, in the Pentagon, who seemed very smart; there were others over at the labs and everything else, who were convinced that you could survive a nuclear war, you could do nuclear war fighting. And the title of my book was With Enough Shovels—you just dig a hole in the ground, put some doors on top of it, put some dirt on top of the doors, and you can survive it. And this was part of our whole nuclear defense fighting strategy and Star Wars. 

Now I am afraid, and picking up on your point, that we’re in a situation where people are—you know, this does not mean you don’t care about what happens to people in wartime and try to combat it and stop it and what have you. It’s all the more reason to do that, and I agree with your condemnation of Putin’s invasion. But the point is, to put the nuclear issue off to the side as if it doesn’t exist—we’re clearly—and it’s not just Putin. I mean, we’ve had people on the U.S. side, I think—I don’t know, Madeline Albright at one point, or even Hillary Clinton talked about why do we build these weapons if you can never use them. 

And you know, and now, we don’t even talk about it. You know—yeah, bring it on, bring it on, we’re not going to be intimidated—and intimidation is another way of saying, well, maybe we should think about diplomacy, or maybe we should think about alternatives. So I’m going to let you have the last word here, and then we’ll wrap it up. 

TP: Well, I don’t know what they were thinking when they made the statements you quoted.

RS: I’m not sure which one made the statement—

TP: That’s OK, but let me say that the reason these weapons can’t be used is if we use them, we will all die. It’s that simple. And I can explain in much more detail why what I just said is correct. So if they ask the question again, why can’t we use these weapons, the simple answer is: if we do, we are all dead.

RS: Well, I’m going to—as the editor of this discussion, I’m going to ask you to take a minute or two to tell us why. Because people have forgotten.

TP: Well, when a nuclear weapon is used, no one will know what happened and what is next. When the—think of the World Trade Center situation, when we were not attacked with a nuclear weapon; our communications and sensing systems were all up and running and fine. And the planes, two planes hit the World Trade Center, and we had no idea what was going on. The president was taken forcefully to, I think it was Alabama initially, and flown to several locations far from Washington, because we didn’t know if there was a nuclear weapon going to go off in Washington. 

Condi Rice and Dick Cheney were hiding in the basement of the Pentagon when, in my judgment, since they were in leadership roles, they should have been talking to the country and trying to calm people, but they were instead hiding in the basement. Thank goodness for the leadership of Joe Biden, who was then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was out on the steps of the Capitol—actually risking his life without knowing, because the Capitol was one of the targets—and trying to assure people that the country is still up and running, and that the government is working and will be taking care of their defense. 

Now, that happened when no damage to the country occurred, really; I mean, it’s horrifying damage in those locations, but everything was up and running. All the communications systems and sensing systems were working, and we had no idea what was going on. Now, a nuclear weapon goes off on the battlefield. Nobody knows what that means. Was it a single weapon? Is it going to be followed in minutes or in hours by multiple, additional weapons? Is the adversary who you just attacked going to follow with single or multiple weapons immediately or in days? Are they going to try to attack the nuclear weapons sites you have, where you might be trying to deliver additional weapons if you choose to? 

Everyone has no knowledge of what the other is doing. It’s like playing chess on a board where you can only see one piece that you’re moving at a time, and you cannot see your own pieces, which are not just where you thought they were, but are moving themselves, because they have their own independent moves. And you can’t see your adversary’s weapons, and you can’t see your own, and your adversary is making moves where they can’t see their own weapons, and they can’t see yours. And everybody is in a total melee, and these weapons start getting used, and before you know it, it escalates into thousands of weapons being used, from a few tens of hundreds of weapons. It’s just inevitable. It’s like the catastrophe of 2008–09; if you look at the instabilities that exist, it’s inevitable that the catastrophe will not be stoppable. So that is why you really ought to be very afraid that nuclear weapons will be used at a low level. 

RS: And you of course made the point also that in the name of defense, we modernize, and so do our adversaries, or other powers that have them, in order not to be vulnerable to the modernization of your opponent. And in the case of Russia, they know that we could take out a large part of their force, so therefore you have a use-them-or-lose-them mentality; you don’t have a very good early-warning system, probably not as effective as you had at other times. And you have automatic responses. 

And I remember interviewing people at our own weapons labs, in the Pentagon, and in Russia, in Moscow, in the old Soviet Union. And you and I were actually at arms control conferences with people who came from the old Soviet leadership, and from the U.S. And there’s no question that if these weapons go off, whatever their tonnage, that opens—there is no turning back. That is what we have lost sight of. An accidental firing under the circumstances today—forget about a calculator, if you think of—you know, I was in Chernobyl a year after that explosion, and there was terror even then. And that was a plant designed to be supposedly safe. If you have one weapon go off now, in a fraught, worldwide situation now, there’s no turning back. It’s the end of humanity. Why don’t we just say it? It’s the end of humanity. 

TP: I mean, it’s simply—the argument about using small nuclear weapons is equivalent to saying, if I only create a small spark in this room that’s filled with gasoline vapors, it won’t be a problem. It’s, you know—that, I think, is not a bad analogy. It’s physics rather than social, but it’s basically the situation. You can’t have a small spark in a room that’s filled with gasoline fumes. It’s not going to be a good outcome.

RS: Well, that’s a good point on which to end there. Thank you for giving me this time and giving our listeners this time. And I hope the alarm that we’ve expressed is misguided, but unfortunately I think back on your lifetime of work on these issues, ever since I first met you back in the 1980s, and unfortunately it’s only become more ominous, more frightening. But I think we’re also lulled into a false sense of security.

So that’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence I want to thank Christopher Ho and the staff at KCRW for posting these podcasts. Joshua Scheer, our executive producer, for putting it all together. Natasha Hakimi Zapata for doing the introduction. Lucy Berbeo for doing the transcription. And the JWK Foundation in memory of a really courageous journalist, Jean Stein, for helping fund these podcasts. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. 

31 comments

  1. “Men will not look at things as they really are but as they wish them to be; and are ruined by It”. Machiavelli

    It’s become my unfortunate realisation after five years of writing, that the most inflexible and indeed intransigent of groups who will just not consider the *evidenced* and *precedented* possibilities outside of their prism, ego and imagination – are the academics.

    I wrote this *prior* to Putin’s venture into Ukraine…

    ‘Both Conservatives and Labour Party figures in UK, their US ‘Atlantic Bridge’ counterparts in the Republican GOP and Democrat DNC and their fascist puppets globally – most notably within the Anglosphere ‘Five Eyes’ media-intelligence apparatus – are all cornered. And the only way ‘The Party’ -including Putin- can dig their way out of their own hole and get away with what they’ve already done and what they intended to do – is by starting a major war. Regardless of pretext Tory militarisation of Brexit coup Britain is inevitable.’

    ‘A Global Britain ‘Black Swan’ Event by ‘Unthinkable’ Theatre (Checkmate)’ (2021) https://wp.me/p94Aj4-2UF

    Johnny McNeill
    #GaslightingGilligan (© 2017) 
    Twitter: @GasGilligan (*free download*)

  2. Oh, the naivete. He says, quote: “So it was the system that defeated them. And I honestly, I’m not a sociologist, so it’s very hard for me to understand this in broader terms, but I honestly believe that these organizations are so big and so filled with people, some of whom—many of whom honestly believe the wrong things, but they’re honest about it, and many people who know that what they’re doing is wrong, which makes them dishonest, but see it in their best interest.”

    This is sociopathy, and much of that comes through the gift of DNA, birth, upbringing and the ability of especially those in a capitalist society to make bargain after bargain with a shout out to Faust. The Eichmann Effect, and all the elements of bandwagon and brainwashing, vis-a-vis so many other elements of propaganda.

    Until you have a society that bows to the rocket men/women, bows to the TNT teams, bows to worse living but better profits through cheistry.

    Sociopathy. The best and the brightest are also racists, pure and simple. Elites who think they are many cuts above the philosophers, poets, musicians and those who want to seek healing for people, planet, economy, earth systems.

    I have to say this dude is a dud in many ways, and I believe he knows that.

  3. A very long discussion. It is the wrong discussion. Consider how this emergency happened. NATO refused to talk to the Russians about their security concerns. The US engineered a coup d’etat removing a democratically elected Ukrainian leader which caused a civil war. This eventually led to the invasion which to my mind could have been easily avoided. Instead the West is brandishing swords; everybody wants to fight Putin who is the enemy du jour. NATO is mobilizing troops. Everyone is committed to this zero sum game. What should be done and done immediately is to force the Ukrainian leader to deal with the Russians. Instead the West is encouraging him to fight on. The longer this thing drags on the worse it becomes. Consider the wheat fields.

  4. Thank you. This was probably the single most important article I have ever read regarding nuclear war triggering.
    You ask why would we continue to make these weapons if we also know that we can never use them. The answer is simple: it is due to the fear inherent in a society that has both the technology to produce these weapons of mass destruction, combined with a society that is fractured politically along nationalist/ sectarian fault lines based ultimately upon the global capitalist system of which every single nation is an integral part, be it so-called free-market America or state-controlled nations such as China. We are ALL part of the global capitalist system. We must overcome our divisions and transform to a global socialist system without national borders and without money in the system that merely diverts disproportionate slices of global wealth to tiny minorities of the population who in turn use this wealth to control the rest of us by dividing us politically, socially, geographically and economically. The global military industrial complex is totally out of control, and total human annihilation should not be a possible outcome of their machinations.
    Thank you again for a very honest article.

  5. These crazy bastards are going to get us all killed if they keep forcing Putin into a corner where he sees no other way to get their attention that we are posing a threat to Russias existence as a sovereign power,and we would do the same.

    1. Sean Hannity was asking Tulsi Gabbard the other day if she would object to our just launching a few thousand cruise missiles into Ukraine, and if so then why?

      This dr strangelove person is to more than a few, the creme de la creme (aka dregs) of the airwaves, that would lead us down the primrose path to armageddon. With such enlightened souls, how can America lose?

    2. Agreed.
      Is the West really this stupid, or are we playing a pointless game of brinkmanship? Unfortunately, I believe it to be the latter whereby POTUS is being advised by arrogant ‘30-year old punks’ at the State Department to quote the author.

      1. @Paul Azzario
        Not “stupid,” crazy. Dr. Strangeloves and General Rippers in high positions on both sides make this an incredibly dangerous situation. This is what happens when humans have prioritized and obsessed on all the wrong things: we end up with a bunch of psychopaths running the planet. No sane person would threaten anyone with use of nuclear weapons (Putin), and no sane person would take any more than maybe a one-in-a-trillion chance of nuclear war (Biden, the U.S. and NATO).

  6. This is an excellent reminder by an eminent scholar on the dangers of nuclear weapons. A few things to also remember.
    When Putin made the comment about the West not interfering with his operation and implied potential nuclear response if they did so, this is because he had moved considerable defensive forces from the north into the south for his invasion. Thus, a large border area was left mostly indefensible and Putin’s warning was for the West to not take advantage of this vulnerability.
    When Dr Postal was listing the many dangers poised by NATO to Russia that, while genuine, did not justify military action, he did not mention the 60,000 to 100,000 Ukrainian troops massed on the line-of-control in the Donbas. These forces were very likely to invade and since there were considerable NAZIs incorporated in those forces, a likely genocide would occur.
    I believe it was the presence of this danger by Ukraine as well as the assorted threats by NATO that precipitated Putin’s invasion. One has to wonder what any leader would do faced with the same exigencies.

    1. To be REALLY honest with oneself….. it was NATO’s hunger pains for Crimea and the really, juicy thought it harbored of the Black Sea as an exclusively NATO lake that started this last (and possibly humanity’s final) debacle off on the wrong foot.

      This ‘rules-based international order’ is a strange business. If we’d instead gone by the Ten Commandments, specifically the one about ‘thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s naval base’, we’d have done a lot better.

      1. @The best laid plans ……
        In Ancient Egyptian mythology/religion, coveting was considered the greatest sin. People were supposed to be grateful for what they had and to rejoice in that, and were admonished against coveting what others had. This of course was very ironic, considering that Ancient Egypt was the dominant empire of the time, even though it paled compared to later and much larger empires. Not saying that I agree that coveting things is the greatest sin, but it certainly creates major problems, and at least some people have recognized that for thousands of years.

  7. Duck and cover, kids! Yes, it’s that time again when our caretakers are going to pull out the ultimate weapon to trigger fear and obedience for their protection rackets. The school bell’s ringing alarm that final solutions of all sorts are now on the table. Disciplined populations are being lined up by any means necessary to march into the new abnormal’s Great Reset. And so many students, already well educated and infantilized, are in lockstep.

    1. When one is ignorant and naive …refusing to ever learn he/she will equate and justify all actions according to their limited ability to understand them….not every action is explained away so easily especially when it portends the real possibility …as in this case….of nuclear war…
      Well…hate to not affect you in any way….but just believing something isn’t going to happen….because you lack the minute perception that would tell you otherwise….doesn’t alter that this time…..a clear possibility….exists

      1. Of course the possibility exists, especially since the actuality already has occurred, twice. And there’s been numerous near repeats, and any number of psychopaths who would like to see that. But that doesn’t change the use of the threat as a means by which ruling powers hold us hostage and lead us to take sides in cold and hot wars, at whatever scale, that are finally waged against every one of us who would live free from fears that serve their death agenda. And right now that agenda is the Great Reset, a world war upon humanity already underway before this latest strategy in Ukraine.

      2. My word, the psychologists on this thread. Whew. Arm chair everything.

        Here, read these letters from Moscoites. Very informative.

        https://dissidentvoice.org/2022/03/economic-tectonic-shifts-letters-from-russia/

        Opening: “Thank you for your message and concern. My wife and I are passing through a difficult phase in our lives. After our second vaccination in December, we, for some reason or other, went through a period of being sick, myself in a light form while my wife gave me a scare. Anyway, that is behind us. Barbara, I thought that in my late years, being 80 years old now, we would settle down and I would take good care of my wife, go for long walks in the forest-parks of Moscow. Fate, however, had other plans for us, and here we are in the midst of another war and sanctions surrounded by nations led by clowns, comedians, lunatics, and obsessed madmen. Allow me to give you my opinion on a number of issues.”

  8. Humanity is likely to be completely fucked before the Ukraine crisis is done. We must ask how was such a precarious situation able to take place, so that we can avoid it in the future if we make it through this one.

  9. Brilliant.

    The point about the types who advise government (privileged, arrogant and ignorant), is spot on. As an environmental scientists of 25 years experience I am astounded at the lack of expertise of advisers in the U.K. government in policy space. Professional bureaucrats who move from post to post, mostly with some sort of politics, economics and philosophy degree. One of the main characters has a degree in music and he is a senior adviser. I say senior, they are all in their 30s and the only way they can afford to live in London at that wage level is if the bank of mummy and daddy was supporting them. They all come from the ‘prestigious’ universities of course.

  10. Given our leaders, their arrogance, incompetence and greed along with their apparent inability to understand the basic concept that actions have consequences, how can nuclear war not be on the table. When I call our leaders madmen and psychopaths I believe many think I’m being overly dramatic. I wish I was….

    1. I don’t think you are over dramatic. These MFer’s seem to be hell bent on ending life as we know it.

  11. Poem – Caitlin Johnston’s

    When the nukes start flying,

    when we see the mushroom cloud growing on the horizon,

    when reality comes crashing down in the most overt way possible,

    when the realization slowly dawns that this really is the end,

    none of our old stuff will matter anymore.

    It will not matter if you are American, Russian or Chinese.

    It will not matter if your skin is darker or lighter.

    It will not matter if you feel like a man or a woman or both or neither.

    It will not matter if your politics are left, right or center.

    It will not matter who you voted for.

    All that will matter, in that final moment,
    is that it is ending.

    We will behold that final moment
    standing alongside progressives and conservatives,
    racists and radlibs,
    socialists and soldiers,
    communists and cops,
    and all our irreconcilable differences
    will suddenly dissolve into nothing.

    Against the suddenly visible backdrop of total annihilation,

    the existence of any human anywhere is a miracle,
    and the existence of life on this planet is a priceless gift.

    We won’t even care whose fault it was,
    whether it was deliberate or accidental,
    or whether it was the result of some malfunction, miscommunication, or misunderstanding.

    All we will care about is that it is ending.

    And in that final moment we will hug our loved ones tight,
    whether we are Christian or atheist,
    Jew or Arab,
    Indian or Pakistani,
    anti-vaxxer or Antifa.

    And in that final moment we will say,
    in our heart of hearts,
    with our innermost voices,
    “Oh, I see it now!

    I see how easy it is to stand together!
    I see how small our differences are compared to this great commonality!
    I see where we went wrong,
    and how very easy it would be to fix it!”

    And in that final moment we will say,
    “We see it now!

    We see the mistakes we made,
    and made and made and kept on making!

    We understand our fundamental error!
    Just give us one do-over and we can correct it immediately!

    Could we have a do-over please?

    Could we have a do-over please?”

    In that final moment,
    we will ask,

    “Could we have a do-over please?”

  12. The author writes:
    “while Russia was in no way justified in its attacks on Ukraine, which both he and Scheer have described as war crimes”

    I know this is the political correct stance to take, but to actually state it and believe it, then leads one to the inescapable reality that all recent US presidents are war criminals. Shall we list off over these last twenty five years of US warmongering our USA war crimes? Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and a handful of other conflicts the mainstream presstitutes have not bothered to cover or report.

    If USA had been engaged in endless wars and war crimes…and we have, then the Russian Federation is likely to view everything we do as an existential threat to their nation and sovereignty. Why? Because USA has engaged in pre-emptive and destructive wars for the last 25 years. Actually, since the end of WWII.

    Please, don’t ever call someone else a war criminal without being honest that we, the USA and our neocon warmongers are not equally or in a greater degree war criminals.

  13. War crimes, war crimes….. one man’s war crime is another man’s R2P operation. Works both ways, folks. Besides, what exactly were 8 years of indiscriminate (some say purposeful) shelling, rocketing and slaughter of civilians in the Donbass other than a warm-up war crimes exercise by our now better trained and equipped and pretty swell, patriotic hero allies of Ukraine that are burning their nazi rune tattoos off their skins in Mariupol and barbecuing their DoD sponsored biolabs as we speak? And that’s just our recent doings around the world, so please let’s not sully ourselves with the de rigueur war crimes chimes and move on to the serious case at hand. If we’re all about to go up in a ball of fire, let’s at least go to meet our makers in honesty.

    Besides, whenever I see fellow Americans wagging the war crimes finger, I either want to break out laughing or bite their finger off, depending on my mood of the day.

    BTW: It was Albright who uttered ‘what’s the use of having weapons if we can’t use them?’. Whether it was before or shortly after Shambouillet, I don’t recall. It was Trump though who asked someone or other “why is it exactly that we can’t use tactical nukes?”. Maybe it was after Bolton urged him to use them. I guess at least credit Trump for asking.

    Such is our world as it churns.

  14. @JustAMaverick
    You’re not being overly dramatic. The world is run by a bunch of psychopaths, and we’ll all be very lucky if they don’t start a nuclear war over the Russia/Ukraine situation.

  15. the problem: they attend educational institutions to ‘get their ticket punched’ – they party down and network up – jump start their careers – they’re philistines – attend more sports events and parties than they do seminars – they’re ruining everything

  16. Hiroyuki Hamada
    @HiroyukiHamada

    The fact that the idea of denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine is openly mocked by the west when nazification and militarization of Ukraine by the west have been very clear says a lot about the fascist tendency of the west

  17. This week Lowkey is joined by Asa Winstanley, an investigative journalist living in London, who writes about Palestine and the Middle East. He hails from the south of Wales and has been visiting Palestine since 2004. He writes for the groundbreaking Palestinian news site The Electronic Intifada, where he is an associate editor, and also writes a weekly column for the Middle East Monitor.

    Following the NATO Bucharest Summit in 2008, several conclusions were reached and published in a joint statement of those attending. One read: “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agree today that these countries will become members of NATO.”

    At the time, the Russian government made absolutely clear that Ukraine becoming part of NATO was an existential threat to Russia’s security. In 2003, the Ukraine NATO Civic League was founded with the aim of gradually integrating the state into the military alliance. Across the decade-and-a-half since, the U.S. has pushed further and further, steering Ukraine to the point of no return.

    Today, Russia has NATO missile systems pointed at it from Poland and Romania. If missiles were to be placed in Ukraine aimed at Russia, they would be only 500 km from Moscow. Asa Winstanley makes the point that, were someone to suggest an equivalent arrangement by Russia with Mexico against the United States, the U.S. would likewise respond with force. The economic side of this war has seen Russia cancel from the global economy and effectively separated from Europe. The closing of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a major victory for U.S. liquid natural gas producers, who can now take over the market for gas in Europe overnight.

    Since 2019, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has integrated Neo-Nazis into the Ukrainian state to serve as a bulwark against Russia. We now have the clear situation of NATO arming and training Nazi organizations. But this is not an aberration of history. NATO and the United States have embraced Nazis many times before. Lowkey and Winstanley delve into the sordid story of these strange bedfellows. “This is a big unspoken part of our history,” Winstanley said.

    https://youtu.be/fwVZ8k5bvnU

  18. At The Rate We’re Going, the Jokes on Us.
    The very idea of civilization is derivative of “our understanding of those qualities of mind that are apparently unique to humans and that must enter into our cultural achievements in an intimate, if still quite obscure manner (such as; in the American instance, the socialization of violence).” (The Chomsky Reader pgs. 140-41)
    Freedom, in this context, is the emancipation and supposed elevation of a ‘human nature’ from that of a purely instinctive ‘animal nature’, by way of language. When the overall culture has been socialized to aggression; where it has become ingrained as ‘second nature’; where reactions to ‘others’ are taken without insight – thoughtlessly, all claims of ‘freedom’ ring hollow – are not genuine. Hence the abounding rampant paranoiacs running amok in American culture, especially in the present era.
    “Know thyself”! I think, therefore, I have an elevated neurological faculty for introspection, yet without a deeper conscious awareness, can we ever truly know ourselves. Is it even within ‘homo-Sapiens’ nature’ to do so? Apparently, Descartes took it as a given, but unfortunately humanity has not lived up to his philosophical expectations.
    Do the so-called ‘lower’ animal species not have “insights” simply because they have no “formal grammatical structures”? Are they neurologically incapable of insight? Is raw animal instinct, not in some unknown manner, interconnected with insight?
    Citing http://www.teachervision.com, reptiles date back around 320 million years. Interestingly, over a geologic time scale, reptiles such as crocodilians and turtles have not changed very much in their appearance or habits.
    In the infinitesimally short time that man has been around, in his present form, can we say he has evolved any more so than reptiles? Doesn’t bode well, at the rate this particular mammalian species is going.
    By premeditatedly attempting to curtail linguistic expression in humans, in any manner, the innate nature of human mind is thus being stifled, and thereby coercively, stunted, hence suppressing potentials for further ‘civilizing’ progress.
    Is this not the malign intent behind the unfolding authoritative totalitarian systems; to thwart a more conscious and critical progress towards a broader, more universal development?
    Are they attempting it, because they are instinctively pre-programmed?

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