Opinion Original Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence: Sins of Silence

The media's treatment of the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage is reminiscent of a time in the 60s when disaster could have been avoided with responsible reporting.
Ceremony marking the start of construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline’s underwater section, 2010. Kremlin.ru, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost

In early April 1961, New York Times correspondent Tad Szulc filed a story from Miami in which he reported that the CIA was training Cuban exiles for an invasion of Castro’s new republic. Szulc was a well-seasoned correspondent by then, and in his file from Florida, he nailed it: The piece laid out all the details of the Bay of Pigs operation, down to the date of the planned landing on a remote Cuban beach.

The Times ran the piece on April 7, 1961, but not before Turner Catledge, the managing editor at the time, gutted Szulc’s detailed reporting, the date of the operation, and all mention of the CIA. The Times’s headline, “Anti-Castro Units Trained to Fight at Florida Bases,” was a classic case of the paper’s resort to the passive voice: No, the once-but-no-longer newspaper of record would not tell readers who was doing the training.

There had been by then numerous accounts of anti–Communist Cubans and their plans to invade the island, most of these from Guatemala, none indicating an American hand in these doings. Catledge’s cuts turned Szulc’s into another of them. America barely blinked when the piece was published.

Szulc reported that the operation would take place on April 18. He was off by a day: The CIA–directed invasion was on April 17. It was, of course, the calamity we now read about in the history books.

A short time later, President Kennedy gathered leading newspaper editors to the White House for a kind of post-mortem. He was by that time locked in a furious fight with the CIA and its director, the diabolic Allen Dulles. At one point Kennedy turned to Catledge with this: “Maybe if you had printed more about the operation, you would have saved us from a colossal mistake.”

I have thought a lot recently about the Tad Szulc piece and Kennedy’s reproach to Turner Catledge for removing its incisors. Keeping Americans in the dark as the Cold War proceeded was key to the national-security state’s ability to operate without concern for civilian oversight or political interference. This, the sin of silence, was among the press’s gravest transgressions of many during the Cold War decades, in my book. (And I have just finished one taking up this topic).

Now this same silence descends upon us once again. Here I will provide a 30–second intermission so readers can once more consider Kennedy’s remark to Turner Catledge: If the press had done its job a disaster could have been prevented.

On September 26, four explosions sabotaged the Nord Stream I and II gas pipelines running from ports in Russia to terminals along Germany’s Baltic Sea coast. President Vladimir Putin now makes oblique references to the use of nuclear weapons in response to the proxy war the U.S. and NATO wage against the Russian Federation by way of the Kyiv regime.

In how many ways are these developments frightening? Let us count them. In how many ways does our media’s silence enable them? Let us count these, too.

Alert readers will recall the long story of Washington’s opposition to the Nord Stream II pipeline. This came to the surface as it neared completion during the Trump administration. The immediate intent, as many reports indicated at the time, was to deprive Russia of Europe’s large market for natural gas and secure this market for vastly more expensive American LNG. The larger objective was to disrupt the growing economic interdependence of Europe and Russia, so blocking the natural drift toward a unified Eurasian landmass with Europe as its westernmost flank.

On February 7, two and a half weeks before Russia launched its intervention in Ukraine, President Biden told a news conference at the White House, “If Russia invades, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream II.” An ABC News reporter asked in response, “But how will you do that, exactly, since the project is in Germany’s control?” Biden stumbled briefly before replying, “I promise you, we will be able to do that.”

We cannot yet claim any certainty as to who is responsible for the four undersea explosions near Bornholm, a Danish island hard by Germany’s Baltic Sea coast. Let us not forget this. But we have a motive, a beneficiary, and a very considerable gathering of persuasive circumstantial evidence indicating that the operation, which required sophisticated undersea technology and involved devices with the explosive power of 1,100 pounds of dynamite, was the work of the U.S. in apparent collaboration with Denmark, if not also Germany.

Numerous reports detailing this evidence, all of them carried in independent media, indicate that the U.S. Navy was active in the area of the explosions shortly before they occurred. This fleet reportedly included the U.S.S. Kearsarge, which carries unmanned submarines capable of planting undersea explosives. Satellite tracking indicates the presence, shortly before the explosions, of U.S. military helicopters over the zones where the devices detonated.  Diana Johnstone, the distinguished Europeanist, published an excellent report in Consortium News, among the best I have read. In it she cites Jens Berger, a German journalist who publishes at Nachdenkseiten, “Analytic pages,” roughly:

It seems completely impossible that a state actor could carry out a major naval operation in the middle of this densely monitored area without being noticed by the countless active and passive sensors of the littoral states; certainly not directly off the island of Bornholm, where Danes, Swedes, and Germans have a rendezvous in monitoring surface and undersea activities.

There is more of this stuff available to anyone who looks for it. I await, and I hope readers join me in this, solid confirmation of all of it.

I have read not one word in any of the corporate media even raising the possibility that the U.S. military or intelligence agencies or both may be behind the Baltic Sea operation. After decades reading and working for these media, I count their shocking neglect of this story as halfway to evidence in itself—silence by design. When Jeffrey Sachs, the economist and commentator, suggested in a Bloomberg interview Monday that the pipeline sabotage “was a U.S. action—perhaps U.S. and Poland,” his interviewers frantically cut him off, changing the subject to… the inflation outlook.

We are back in the zone of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear-power station. We read for weeks the Russians were shelling it even as their troops occupied it. Now we read that the Russians probably sabotaged a pipeline in which they invested, along with the Europeans, roughly $11 billion, and from which they expected to derive many more billions in foreign exchange earnings. Chances for a negotiated settlement were also sabotaged, as was the rising chorus of voices in Germany and elsewhere calling for Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II to be reopened and opened respectively.

The Ukraine conflict has just spread to Europe, as John Helmer, the longtime Moscow correspondent, asserted the other day. The Americans seem determined to stop at no risk or any amount of destruction as they press their campaign against Russia: There is no limit, we are now on notice, and the Europeans leadership seems to have no intention of imposing one. All frightening.

And just as frightening is the abhorrent silence of mainstream media as they shield these realities from the public’s view. Their cultivation of ignorance among their readers and viewers, wickedly effective as it is, seems to me yet more enabling of the dangerous conduct of our national security state than it was in Turner Catledge’s day.

Toto, let there be no doubt, we are not in Kansas anymore.  

Among the more regrettable things said in the back-and-forth between Washington and Moscow in the matter of nuclear weapons was Putin’s remark in a speech September 30: “The U.S. set a precedent.” He delivered the line almost as a shrug during the ceremony marking the reintegration of four regions of Ukraine back into the Russian Federation. It left me momentarily speechless.

I was for a long time among those who dismissed the danger of either side resorting to nuclear weapons, my argument being no one in Washington or Moscow is that crazy. I stand self-corrected. There is what looks a lot like craziness everywhere.

As Maria Zakharova, the appealingly sharp-tongued spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, pointed out the other day, Washington and London alike have made repeated threats, veiled and unveiled, to sanction the use of nukes. As the Kyiv regime’s leading sponsors, they have stood by silently as Ukrainian forces shell the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station. If this isn’t nuclear terrorism, Zakharova asks, what is? “Radiation doesn’t care where it comes from.”

We now read—the new theme of late—that, no, Moscow will not turn to its nuclear arsenal after all because the costs would outweigh the benefits. This thinking derives from game theorists at the Pentagon and in the intelligence apparatus who “game out” the Kremlin’s alternatives. The mainstream dailies love to cite these people.

I never thought I would quote Madeleine Albright in any circumstance, but there is a special place in hell for game theorists so far as I am concerned. They cannot measure the first damn thing about the complexities of human motivation.

In effect, the big media organizations are going silent on the very real danger—as real as it has been in 60 years—of nuclear annihilation as this now faces us. Why would this be?

My answer is not too complicated. We are being slowly acclimated to the proximity of nuclear peril so that Washington can pursue its wanton aggression against “Vladimir Putin’s Russia”—I have always loved this phrase, as if it is a separate country somewhere—without causing alarm or disruptive dissent.

Once again, the media’s dreadful success in administering this calmative to the general population is nearly beyond belief.It is strange, or maybe not at all, how often comparisons with the Kennedy administration’s predicaments on the Cuban question prove useful to our understanding of what is going on around us. Glenn Greenwald went straight to this point in an appearance on Tucker Carlson recently:

There’s almost a sense that has been purposely cultivated to believe that the use of nuclear weapons really isn’t a realistic possibility… But we came very close on at least two or three occasions,… including in the Cuban missile crisis, because the U.S. felt that the Russian presence over the border in Cuba was so threatening we were going to have a nuclear war over it. That’s how Russia sees what is happening in Ukraine right across their border. It is madness to assume that what is for Russia an existential war, if they actually start losing it or NATO starts escalating,… that the chances of Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons is zero. This is a dangerous illusion that I think a lot of people are operating with.

An illusion born of silence, I would merely add. An eerie, enervating silence as frightening as all else that besets a world tumbling into dangerous disorder.  

Cara Marianna provided research for this column.


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Patrick Lawrence
Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a media critic, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon siteHis Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored without explanation.

42 comments

      1. The planet will do fine and re-equilibrate itself over a few hundred years. It’s humans who have screwed themselves along with the majority of current species.

      2. A good point; but it would be made all the more certain if more thought like Elizabeth, who thinks the largest single emission of methane in human history, trashing the atmosphere and marine life, is a positive thing.

  1. The pipeline is an instrument of Russian blackmail.

    It should never have been built. It should never have been opened.

    It is a dream conjured when Russia still had a chance of becoming a democratic part of Europe, a dream murdered and buried by Russian Oligarchs and Putin.

    Good Riddance!

    1. What nonsense – would you PLEASE allow Europeans to do what THEY THINK IS RIGHT????? Now of course it is too late and as the only country that profits from this move is the US you also know who did it!!! (I still remember former Ambassador Grenell and his threats to Germany about the pipeline …)

    2. All pipelines are instruments of extortion, blackmail, profiteering and climate disruption.

      1. @ Tony

        Maybe.

        But no other pipeline building country try to conquer its neighbours when they refuse to follow its demands or threaten them with nuclear weapons.

    3. Approximately 57.8 percent of United States crude oil imports come from Canada (Saudi Arabia is a distant fourth on the list). Canada is number one on the list. How come there’s no blizzard of propaganda from the US Lamestream Media about the US becoming a vassal state of Canada?

  2. We all know this–all of it. It cannot be any more reiterated than Lawrence’s article. Yet, there is no concerted concern for this mother of all catastrophes. It’s like riding a rollercoaster with the knowledge that the track ahead of us is out.

  3. And you can hardly believe, the German government was so slavish to allow the digital system of German rails to be transferred “to the cloud”, controlled by Amazon and Microsoft:
    https://www.dbsystel.de/dbsystel-en/Digital-Stories-en/Rapid-cloud-migration-a-preliminary-assessment-6174954
    And there´possibly another False Flag on German railways:
    https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/rail-northern-germany-standstill-due-technical-issue-2022-10-08/

    1. Everybody has been blinded by the convenience of tech without analyzing the danger of a privately owned system and not completely understanding that privacy has been sacrificed. Tech has spawned a whole new brand of criminal. I know this as I’m trying to get through identity theft.

    2. Germany seems to have less autonomy and independence from the US government than does the state of Florida. Events have proven that it is still very much a country under occupation, but most people think they are free.

  4. It is definitely by design. This war has been created & is being pushed by same soulless corporation (in reality, with so much X-ownership of stock, there’s only 1) that owns the major media outlets is generating massive profits profits from it. Not 1 penny of the billions of $s our government is “loaning” to Ukraine is going there – NOT 1 PENNY. It’s all going to the soulless corporation that manufactures implements of war. Anybody want to give odds on the likelihood of any of it getting paid back?

    As for nuclear annihilation, it neither realizes or cares that it only exists in the collective mind of humanity & will cease to exist when we do. It is a body (coming from the Latin word for body, ‘corpus’) without a soul & no mind of its own. As a body without a soul, it’s uniquely susceptible to influence & control by Lucifer & his minions, both human & demonic. All true followers of the Abrahamic faiths know that Lucifer seeks the utter destruction of humanity, although most don’t really understand why.

    1. Warmongers care nothing for Ukraine. They are more interested in selling munitions and armor plating made from depleted uranium. Mild exposure causes kidney cancer, and habitual exposure causes grotesque birth defects (lots more).
      The Russians use it too, so a double dose to you Ukrainians- cheers! What I allege has been proven in Iraq. So how could they care any less about Ukrainian fetuses and future Ukrainian generations… poor folk already dosed by nuclear plant accidents?
      Put away the Blue and White rags, no one cares really!

  5. Putting is no saint.Biden is no.angel.However Putin.is trying to.protect his borders.from the US.backed Fascists.murderers despite the peace offers M agreements made at Minsk.Biden and his.cohorts or flunked are only interested in profits from.weapons sales and weakening the economic power of Russia.The alleged Doomsday Clock is moving.quickly so we all.should.get ready to.cover and duck.The way I see it is that.this war loving Government under which.the people have no.say actually thinks that they can survive Nukes going.off.

    1. As if a nuclear conflaguration would not be a giant Jubilee of debt amnesty.
      No more car payments, student loans, mortgages, payday loans, old gambling debts or social obligations to reciprocate gifts… all gone, negated.

  6. Putin did not make “an oblique reference to the use of nuclear weapons”. He specifically said he was referring to new weapons that have not been used before. This spin on his words, which serves the interests of those in the west who drive this war, is being made by the corporate media constantly. Patrick Lawrence, who has been one of the most articulate voices on these subjects, should not be falling into this polemical trap. I might have forwarded a link to this article to others, as I have done with his previous writings, but not this time. It’s a sad phenomenon, this repetition of lies to the point where even the best among us forget, however momentarily, to think critically.

    1. Like if Putin has copyright on F-bombs.
      As I suspected with Covid, it is likely a weaponized virus that failed to destroy China and backfired on Trump. The USA has a history of disrupting competing agriculture with germ warfare, even in peacetime.

      1. Do you really think the CIA would have informed Trump about a bioweapon to be released in China? Probably Pompeo, and surely Bloody Gina and ‘Ambassador’ Bolton, but I seriously doubt that Trump was in the loop about what our oxymoronic Intelligence Agencies were up to. Even with Biden, who is pure Establishment and thus much more powerful, there are some things that are outside of his purview in “the need to know” realm of the CIA.

    2. Pete.
      Your comment registered. We have a very complex sitch here. I take my responsibility to think this through best I can and address it very shortly in commentaries to come.
      Best.
      P.L.

  7. When the unspeakable becomes a conversation piece, the unthinkable enters the realm where of possibility. I no longer put it past the US and the UK to push us over the brink.

    Besides, the Anglo-American axis has always been willing to use nuclear weapons – from Churchill wanting to drop atom bombs on 15 cities in the USSR after WW-2, to the positioning of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula during the Korean war when North Korea was being bombed “back to the Stone Age” in the words of Curtis Lemay.

    The Nuremberg trials only tried war criminals on the losing side. Our own war criminals continue to thrive and be celebrated while people who try to expose the truth like Assange are in prison.

    1. Absolutely true, unfortunately also after 2nd WW Germany was NOT sufficiently de-nazified!!! What happens in our ‘so called democracies’ is an outrage …

    2. Operation Paperclip…many war criminals from the losing side also made their way into the America and USSR. Europe lost WW2, fascists won. Just look at the development from 50’a to now and tell me fascists didn’t win 😅.

  8. Russia has terminated US hegemony; the EU suffers most—the coerced Budapest memo discarded. while angloshere EU decay Russia thrives. ukraine will either cease to exist or be entirely denazified in 6 months

  9. There will be a very violent response considering the intensity of the provocations increasing now with the Crimean bridge very severely damaged and these 50 thousand mercenaries and UAF lives sacrificed for advancing at all costs beyond these bordering squared kilometres at what is now Russia. Has the “corporate or mainstream” media ever told the truth to its public and analyzed the crucial and important facts? I haven t seen it neither read it nor observed such honesty in my lifetime. The beauty of Fall distracts us from the sadness of Madness in full executive power all over the world. Thank you Mr Lawrence for your touching concern about the level of lies in the Western World.

    1. I heard Gonzalo Lira say NATO is trying to provoke a Pearl Harbour response from Russia, but Russia is not falling for it. The West wants a public excuse to more fully and openly get into the fight.

      The Russians do not need to take the bait. They are winning – slowly but surely grinding the Ukrainian forces and their NATO sponsors down, temporarily trading “cow pastures” in exchange for heavy Ukrainian casualties, estimated to be around 15,000 KIA and another 25,000 wounded in just the past month.

      Our own lying press will never give us the true picture. If we were to believe them, Russia ran out of ammo, missiles, and everything else in March and Putin died of cancer in April.

    2. Vous êtes toujours le bienvenu, Eric. Nous avons ici aussi un très bel automne, connu sous le nom d’été indien, “Indian summer,” en ce moment.
      En avant!
      P.L.

      1. Patrick, je marcherai sous les étoiles d’un ciel scintillant sous votre firmament au-dessus du Grand Canyon à la fin du magnifique mois d’octobre…si la Providence nous protège d’une pluie d’étoiles vengeresses, tristes satellites des fous furieux en pure démence à la tête de nos Nations égarées de confort et d’indifférence (et croulant sous les dettes et les tracas artificieux…que l’Homme naturel de Jean-Jacques Rousseau n’avait jadis pas connu- selon la belle utopie du Second discours sur les Fondements de l’Inégalité parmi les Hommes!). Rêvons de nous rencontrer un jour!

  10. Patrick:

    From reports by Larry C Johnson, Andrei Martyanov, Col Douglas Macgregor, Scott Ritter, NATO cannot field a competent conventional army against Russia. It is Russia that can set the pace of their war with Ukraine, as evidenced by taking the time and resources to do a referendum in four provinces.
    Like others have alluded, the West is hyperventilating about nuclear war to justify its own use of “tactical” nuclear weapons, or a quasi-nuclear bomb that could be made by damaging the Zaporizhzhia power plant.

    It has been noted that Russia’s diplomatic efforts in gaining support worldwide by Sergey Lavrov and his team have been more than successful: this has been noted in observations about Saudi Arabia cutting its oil production, snubbing the US. See, for example Larry C Johnson on Crosstalk:
    https://www.rt.com/shows/crosstalk/564156-ukraine-russia-no-negotiations/
    Can you imagine the world reaction (that is the majority outside the West) if the US were to launch tactical (Hiroshima level) nuclear weapons? I suspect the world would react with horror, however the US media tried to spin the event.

    1. That’s something that came to mind when I heard talk about the “underperforming” Russian army. The Russians don’t seem to be in any hurry, but perhaps the Dems are. If the House flips (very likely), Biden will find himself being impeached first thing in January. That will complicate US war plans, such as they are.

  11. Oakland Pete
    October 9, 2022 at 9:34 am

    A good point; but it would be made all the more certain if more thought like Elizabeth, who thinks the largest single emission of methane in human history, trashing the atmosphere and marine life, is a positive thing.
    IN CASE THIS WAS MEANT FOR ME: I never said that using fossil fuels is a wonderful thing – WHAT DID the oil companies do for the last 50 years???? One thing is for sure: we NOW still NEED fossil fuels, everything else is an illusion! (Another toxic matter of course is: too many people on this planet – nobody wants to get near this, right???)

  12. The latest exchange between Ukraine and Russia tell you all you need to know about that war.

    In a response to the targeting of a Russian strategic asset – the primary supply line of Russian forces in Crimea and the occupied Ukrainian territories in Southern Ukraine – Russia bombed some buildings in Kiev, killing scores of non-combatant, innocent civilians.

  13. That’s the version of events you read and believe. I’m suspicious of the sources. At any rate, Russia has bombed critical infrastructure itself, such as military command posts and electrical stations. The indiscriminate shelling or bombing of civilian areas that should always be condemned was done for eight years against the Donbass; but somehow that was excused by the west. I don’t know how many civilians will die as a result of the sabotage of the Nordstream pipelines, which caused the largest single discharge of methane in all of human history, trashing the atmosphere and marine life. You seem selective on which crimes to condemn. Perhaps less of a knee jerk reaction to events would serve your perspective better.

    1. “Russia has bombed critical infrastructure itself”??

      what “critical infrastructure”??

      ” The indiscriminate shelling or bombing of civilian areas … was done for eight years” by both sides!

      Speaking of “knee jerk reaction to events”, and despite left-ish, Neo Progressive noise like the one above, parroting Russian propaganda hum drum concerning “the sabotage of the Nordstream pipelines”, is nothing but…

      “How has Russia restricted supplies?

      Russia has been reducing gas supplies through Nord Stream 1 for a number of months.

      In June, it cut deliveries through the pipeline by 75% – from 170m cubic metres of gas a day to roughly 40m cubic metres.

      In July, Russia shut it down for 10 days, citing the need for maintenance. When it reopened, the flow was halved to 20m cubic metres a day.

      In late August, it shut down Nord Stream 1 entirely, blaming problems with equipment.

      The pipeline has not been open since then.”

      Considering the EU was about to counter the Russian price gauging of its gas by introducing a cap legislation on it, the Russians might have decided that the propaganda value of sabotaging the pipeline and blaming it on the US is priceless…

      1. DGA: Germany took the initiative on reducing import of gas, apparently as a result of U.S. pressure. Regardless of whether that is true (motives in these situations are always subject to speculation, which doesn’t seems to deter your certainty), your scenario of Russia spending billions of dollars on that pipeline and then destroying it for propaganda purposes might sound “priceless” to you; but it makes no sense to others.

        The Kerch bridge was used for both civilian and military traffic, and the attack killed three civilians. Russia responded with attacks on electrical infrastructure, acknowledged by both sides, which I know killed civilians as well. This is war, and its common outcome is innocents killed to serve the interests of the guilty. When there is no military use for the target, and the purpose is simply intimidation of civilians, that guilt rises to another level.

        Only one side has a stated intention of “cleansing” of civilian populations, erasing their culture, and declaring them to be a lesser ethnicity. That is the side that openly traces their history and its symbology to those practices we all know of. The other side memorializes their defeat of the government, its military, and the ideology that drove that. Which sides could those be? What is that ideology? The others on this site know those answers, but you seem to have convinced yourself otherwise.

  14. much more likely is a nato dirty or “tactical” nuke. what do they care if more ukrainians die. then they would go all in on russia and tear it apart.

    hopefully, world leaders are quietly calling the white house, letting them know that they know who exactly any first nuke provocation would come from, and to stop now.

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