Next Contestant, Iran

Meet America’s Permanent War Formula

When it comes to starting wars, we don’t even bother to change the script anymore

by Matt Taibbi

Rolling Stone (June 20 2019)

The crude oil tanker Front Altair on fire in the Gulf of Oman, 13 June 2019.

Here we go again. Iran has not only shot down an American spy drone over the Strait of Hormuz, but refuses to feel bad about it.

Iran’s General Hossein Salami – one assumes this is a real person – said of the drone downing, “We are completely ready for the war. Today’s incident is a clear sign of this accurate message.”

We all know what this means. This aggression will not stand, man.

Depending on who’s doing the counting, the United States has attempted to overthrow foreign governments roughly 72 times since World War Two. The script is often the same, and the Iran drama is following it. Go back through history and you’ll often see these elements:


In August of 1964, Lyndon Johnson told the American people that North Vietnamese, in an “outrage”, fired at the USS Maddox and two destroyers in “open aggression on the high seas”. Explaining that “our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting”, LBJ assured us that “firmness in the right is indispensable today for peace”.

We now know there was no second torpedo attack by the North Vietnamese. Cables suggested the US was returning fire because an “overeager sonarman … was hearing ship’s own propeller beat”.

A year later, Johnson himself would say, “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there”.

The Iranian “aggression” case is another murky high-seas drama. It was reported that recent damage to a pair of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman bore “a striking resemblance” to the signature of “devices in Iran’s arsenal”. The initial New York Times story about the damage to tankers in May suggested a link to photos taken of missiles loaded into small boats by “Iranian paramilitary forces”.

In neither of these news stories was it mentioned that the tankers in question weren’t American (of the four hit so far, one was Norwegian, one Japanese, and two Saudi). Still, the United States released black-and-white images purporting to show Iranian Revolutionary Guards trying to remove an unexploded mine from the hull of the Japanese ship, that is, to hide the evidence.

Sometimes the “aggression” is more real than in others (Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait is a little different from a “sketchy” late-night firefight in Panama), but the result is usually the same. It somehow never strikes Americans as odd, however, that the “aggression” takes place in or around a faraway country with no ability to attack the territorial United States.

The American military is always portrayed as being in a defensive posture, even when it’s many thousands of miles from home, on or even inside the border of another sovereign state. Would we consider ourselves aggressors if we shot down an Iranian drone in Cape Cod Bay? We’ve become so used to these stories, they no longer strike us as odd.


In early May, anonymous American officials said there were “multiple threat streams” from Iran and US forces might be in danger in Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, and other places. This triggered a decision to deploy a carrier group and other forces to the Middle East.

It goes without saying that we’ve seen this one before, most infamously in the case of the Iraq invasion, a caper Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton had a hand in. In the second Iraq war, there were intelligence leaks of everything from mysterious uranium purchases to meetings between Iraqis and 9/11 bombers.

We also, of course, saw this in the first Gulf War, when President Bush told us Iraq had massed an “enormous war machine” on the Saudi Arabian border, in preparation for further incursions. Subsequently, we found out the “enormous war machine” reports were much exaggerated, and the Saudis were probably never in danger.

There were air strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2014 after the US gathered “information on specific, concrete plotting” by the Khorasan terrorist group, and Reagan in 1983 even went on TV to tell America that the airport in Grenada could be used by Soviet long-range bombers and that Cubans there had enough ammo there to supply “thousands of terrorists”.

Some Democrats, in this case, are saying people like Bolton (who’s wanted war with Iran since his first mustache) and Mike Pompeo are trying to “twist the Intel” to make it seem like Iran is bent for war. Connecticut’s Chris Murphy tweeted, “that’s not what the intel says”. Such complaints from the opposing party are not unusual:


This has been a running theme with both parties since 2001 especially when the United States passed the Authorization for Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF). When Republicans are in power, Democrats complain they haven’t been consulted about the use of force, as they did following an increased troop deployment to Iraq in 2007 (Joe Biden even said this was an impeachable offense).

Republicans were shocked, shocked that the Obama administration attacked Libya without congressional approval back in 2011, and again when Obama bombed Syria in 2013, and again when Obama bombed Syria in 2016 (Republicans also criticized Obama for asking for congressional permission in a 2014 bombing campaign). The tables turned again in 2017 when people like Nancy Pelosi said Donald Trump’s decision to bomb Syria “needs oversight”, and in 2018, when congressional Democrats criticized Trump again for bombing Syria without their permission.

Now, with Iran, multiple Democrats are doing the same dance, arguing the AUMF couldn’t apply to a conflict with that country. In a lot of these cases, lawmakers in question aren’t actually opposing military action, they’re just saying the president should ask them before they do it. The transparently political nature of these protestations makes it difficult to sort out when members of Congress genuinely have reservations about imminent military conflict (as they actually might in the Iran case).


This is often true! Sometimes, however, it isn’t. The pretext for the invasion of Iraq was a supposed violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution requiring disarmament. You might remember Colin Powell saying Iraq was in “material breach”.

Iran has just announced that ten days from now, it will be in breach of international agreements on its permitted levels of enriched uranium. Added to the intelligence about the tanker “attacks” and warnings of “multiple threat streams”, the political justification for invasion will be there. Precedent suggests Trump could just use the AUMF again to attack Iran because, why not? We’ve been doing that all over the Middle East for nearly two decades.

The “violation of international law” argument would probably carry more weight if it weren’t also true that basically every American military action in the last half-century has been considered illegal under international law by someone. This is a conclusion that’s been reached about the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Nato bombing of Kosovo, the entire US drone assassination program, the coalition bombing of Libya, and other campaigns.

Trump’s decision to exit the Obama-era nuclear deal may have led to increased belligerence by the Iranians, or it may not have. Did we send spy drones toward Iran to be shot down because we no longer have the access we might have had under the Obama deal, or because we’ve been spying on Iran with drones anyway, for a while now (Iran even built a “copy” of an RQ-170 Sentinel drone that crashed in Iranian territory in 2011)?

The bizarre consolation in all of this is that Trump himself doesn’t appear thrilled with the idea of going to war with Iran. When Iran shot down the drone, Trump said it was “hard to believe it was intentional” and might have been done by someone who was “loose and stupid”, despite the aforementioned General Salami saying Iran was “ready for war” after it happened. This is an area where we actually want to encourage the all-hat-no-cattle side of our president.

The seeming ambivalence of Trump, while the likes of Bolton and Mike Pompeo burn through the same old invasion-pretext script, presents a powerful case that this is just how the American state operates, irrespective of who sits in the White House.

What we end up calling “aggression” abroad is often more like resistance to our plans to control a region. Sometimes the “aggressor” is genuinely behaving badly, and sometimes not, but for decades we’ve been lightning-quick to opt for military solutions to almost any crisis, for increasingly obvious reasons.

The politicians running the United States often owe their careers to military contractors. Their children typically don’t fight in wars. The mayhem, death, and environmental catastrophe that result from modern war never occur in their home states. It long ago became too easy to make this decision, and we’re on the brink of making it again. At least with Iraq, we pretended to argue.

Iran isn’t Iraq, Serbia, Panama, or an airstrip in Grenada. This country has real military strike-back capabilities that the backwater states we’re used to invading simply do not, meaning war would present a far heightened danger not only to our troops but to civilians in the region. All our recent wars have been stupid, but this one would be really stupid. Just once, could we not do this? Does the script always have to end the same way?

(c) Copyright 2018 Rolling Stone, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC.

What Russia Rightfully Remembers, America Forgets

by Scott Ritter (June 26 2019)

From left, first lady Melania Trump, President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and first lady Brigitte Macron during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. (Alex Brandon / AP)

On June 6, President Trump commemorated the 75th Anniversary of Operation Overlord, popularly known as D-Day, when approximately 160,000 US, British, Canadian, and Free French soldiers landed in and around the beaches of Normandy, France. Speaking at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, where the remains of 9,388 American fighting men, most of whom perished on D-Day, are interned, Trump promoted the mythology of American omniscience that was born on the beaches of Normandy. “These men ran through the fires of hell, moved by a force no weapon could destroy”, Trump declared.



The fierce patriotism of a free, proud, and sovereign people. They battled not for control and domination, but for liberty, democracy, and self-rule. Those who fought here won a future for our nation. They won the survival of our civilization.


For Americans, D-Day stands out among all others when it comes to celebrating the Second World War. Immortalized in books, a movie starring John Wayne, and in the HBO series titled “Band of Brothers”, the landings at Normandy represent to most Americans the turning point in the war against Hitler’s Germany, the moment when the American Army (together with the British, Canadian, and Free French) established a foothold in occupied France that eventually led to the defeat of Germany’s army.

What Trump overlooked in his presentation was the reality that the liberation of Europe began long before the D-Day landings. And the burden had almost exclusively been born by the Soviets.

In his defense, Trump is not alone in promoting an America-centric version of history; his speech was simply the latest in a series of historically flawed remarks delivered by a succession of American presidents ever since they began giving speeches at Normandy in commemoration of D-Day. President George W Bush’s address on the sixtieth anniversary of the D-Day landings was typical of the genre, maximizing American glory while ignoring that of the Soviets. “Americans wanted to fight and win and go home”, Bush said. “And our GIs had a saying: ‘The only way home is through Berlin’. That road to VE-Day was hard and long and traveled by weary and valiant men. And history will always record where that road began. It began here, with the first footprints on the beaches of Normandy.”

But Bush was wrong; the road to Berlin had its origins at the approaches to Moscow, where the Soviet army turned back German invaders in December 1941. It was paved at Stalingrad in 1942 with the blood and flesh of 500,000 dead Soviet soldiers, who had killed more than 850,000 Nazi soldiers and their allies; and it was furthered in the bloody fields of Kursk, in 1943, where at the cost of more than 250,000 dead and 6,000 tanks destroyed, the Soviet army defeated the last major German offensive on the Eastern front, killing 110,000 Germans and destroying more than 1,200 irreplaceable tanks (the total number of US and British tanks lost in Europe from D-Day until VE-Day numbered around 11,500; the total number of tanks lost by the Soviet Union while fighting Germany was more than 85,000, while the Russians destroyed more than 40,000 German tanks from June 1941 to November 1944). By the time the US, British, Canadian, and Free French forces came ashore at Normandy, the Germans had already lost the war.

That didn’t mean there wasn’t some serious fighting left to do. “The Nazis still had about fifty divisions”, Bush noted, “and more than 800,000 soldiers in France alone. D-Day plus one, and D-Day plus two and many months of fierce fighting lay ahead, from Arnhem to Hurtgen Forest to the Bulge.”

The road to Berlin described by Bush was one where the Soviets simply did not factor into the equation. “The nations that liberated a conquered Europe would stand together for the freedom of all of Europe”, Bush said. “The nations that battled across the continent would become trusted partners in the cause of peace. And our great alliance of freedom is strong, and it is still needed today.” The “trusted partners” Bush referred to was Nato, and the “cause of peace” contained first the Soviet Union, and later Russia.

It was as if the road to Berlin had ended with Americans capturing the Nazi capitol, compelling Adolf Hitler to commit suicide, and thereby ending the 1,000-year Reich. But that honor fell to the Soviets, who, in a two-week campaign, lost more than 81,000 killed and a quarter of a million men wounded seizing Berlin from fanatical Nazi defenders.

President Obama continued the tradition of minimizing the Soviet role in the Second World War. “Here”, Obama said, speaking on the beaches of Normandy in 2014, the seventieth anniversary of D-Day, “we don’t just commemorate victory, as proud of that victory as we are. We don’t just honor sacrifice, as grateful as the world is. We come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril. We come to tell the story of the men and women who did it so that it remains seared into the memory of a future world.”

According to Obama’s “story”, “it was here, on these shores, that the tide was turned in that common struggle for freedom … Omaha, Normandy – this was democracy’s beachhead. And our victory in that war decided not just a century, but shaped the security and well-being of all posterity. We worked to turn old adversaries into new allies. We built new prosperity. We stood once more with the people of this continent through a long twilight struggle until finally, a wall tumbled down, and an Iron Curtain, too.”

Obama’s was a stilted, inaccurate version of history. Before the Soviet Union became “an old adversary”, it was a new ally – a fact ignored by the American president. And the implication that the American journey that began on the beaches in Normandy on June 6 1941, didn’t come to an end until the Soviet Union collapsed is, simply put, ignorant.

On June 22 1941, the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany. Some 3.8 million Axis soldiers, backed by more than 6,000 armored vehicles and 4,000 aircraft, launched a surprise attack along a continuous front that ran from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. Known as Operation Barbarossa, the German offensive decimated the defending Soviet forces, breaking through the front lines and driving deep into Soviet territory, initiating a conflict that would last nearly four years. During that time, more than 26 million Soviet citizens would die, including 8.6 million soldiers of the Red Army (these are conservative numbers – some estimates, drawing upon classified information, hint that the actual number of total deaths might exceed forty million, including more than nineteen million military deaths).

The traumatic impact of what became known as the Great Patriotic War cannot be overstated. The complete devastation of entire regions at the hands of the invading Germans is something Americans never have experienced, and as such can never comprehend. Every year following the end of the Great Patriotic War, on June 22, the people of the Soviet Union – and later, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the citizens of Russia and the other former Soviet republics – observed the Day of Remembrance and Sorrow, during which time all entertainment programming is banned from television and radio.

As the number of survivors of the Great Patriotic War diminish, the Russian government, in an effort to keep the memory of those who fought and died alive and relevant to modern times, established the honorary title of City of Military Glory to honor the “courage, steadfast spirit and mass heroism” shown by the defenders of cities so designated “in the struggle for the freedom and independence of their Fatherland”. In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin, following a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kremlin, gave a speech noting his designation of five Russian cities as Cities of Military Glory.

“June 22 is a special date for Russia and for our people”, Putin said.



On this day, 74 years ago, the Nazis attacked our country in the most devious fashion and the Great Patriotic War began. The Soviet people went through the greatest trials, defended their native soil at the cost of huge sacrifices and privations, achieved an unconditional victory and vanquished a powerful enemy, thanks to their unity and unprecedented love for their homeland.


Putin continued:



Our sacred duty is to remain true to these great values of patriotism, preserve the memory of our fathers’ and grandfathers’ feat, and honor the veterans. The conferral of the title of City of Military Glory has become not just a tradition but also a symbol of our devotion to the generation of victors. Today, this title is being conferred on the towns of Grozny, Feodosia, Petrozavodsk, Staraya Russa, and Gatchina. The defenders of these cities made a tremendous contribution to bringing closer the victory over Nazism.

I think that for everyone in these towns this is a welcome event and also a very significant one, because this lofty title does not only help to preserve the historical memory, but, just as importantly, is also an expression of the genetic connection we feel with those whom we honor as heroes.

What kind of echoes does this produce in the hearts and souls of ordinary people today? If here, on this soil, my forebears were heroes, this means that I too carry a piece of all that is my treasure and pride. This is what the link between generations is all about.


Putin’s speech was patriotic. It celebrated past military glory. It honored the dead. But there was no talk about the need to link the sacrifices of the past to the need to defend current Russian policy priorities. For Putin and the Russian people, the memories of the sacrifices incurred during the Great Patriotic War are too deeply seared into their collective psyche – their very genes, to paraphrase Putin – to allow them to be cheapened by the present.

Whether you love Putin or hate him, one thing is for certain: His speech was the epitome of how one honors their dead.

Given the sad state of affairs between the United States and Russia today, it is hard to imagine that during the Second World War the two nations were part of a “Grand Alliance” that included Great Britain (France and China were brought in at the conclusion of the war). But the reality is that the United States and the Soviet Union, while confronting the same enemy in the form of Nazi Germany, fought two different wars. In its fight against Nazi Germany and Italy, the United States lost 183,588 killed in action or missing, 560,240 wounded and 108,621 prisoners of war. In the first six months of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union lost 802,191 killed, 1,336,147 wounded and 2,835,482 prisoners of war.

No American took time out on June 22 to commemorate the German invasion of the Soviet Union, and with it the initiation of a conflict that made the D-Day landings possible through the sacrifice of tens of millions of dead Soviet soldiers and civilians. Nor did any American take time out on the day after, June 23, and give thanks to the people of Russia and the former Soviet Republics for securing our victory at Normandy.

And why should they? For decades, Americans have been spoon-fed a version of history that placed American sacrifice, as considerable as it was, above all else. But let there be no doubt that if it wasn’t for what transpired on June 23 1944, the story of the great American victory that “saved civilization” would be much different in the telling, written in the blood of tens of thousands of soldiers whose lives would have been lost if not for the courage and sacrifice of their forgotten, unacknowledged Soviet allies.

While the landing at Normandy had gone well, the advance inland was a different matter. By June 23 1941 – a mere seventeen days after the D-Day landings – the US and UK forces were stuck in ferocious fighting with German troops dug in behind thick hedgerows that made movement of men and armored vehicles virtually impossible. The port of Cherbourg was still in German hands, which meant that desperately needed supplies were not getting to the troops doing the fighting and dying. Any serious reinforcement of the German position in France would have made the allied beachhead tenuous.

But there wouldn’t be any German troops moving into France, for the simple reason that they were all tied down fighting a life-or-death struggle on the Eastern front, trying to cope with a massive Soviet offensive known as Operation Bagration. The details of the fighting are irrelevant, but it made anything taking place in France pale by comparison. By the time Operation Bagration ground to a halt, in mid-August 1944, some 400,000 German soldiers from Army Group Center – the most highly trained, experienced men in the German army – were either dead, wounded, or taken prisoner, and some 1,350 tanks destroyed. The Soviet offensive tore a gigantic hole in the German lines that had to be filled with troops and material that otherwise would have been available to contain the Normandy landings. The cost of this victory, however, was staggering – 180,000 Soviet dead and 590,00 wounded, matching in a span of two months the total casualties suffered by the US in the entire European theater of operations, including North Africa, from 1942 to 1945.

Shortly after Operation Bagration ground to a halt outside the gates of Warsaw, Operation Overlord officially came to an end. Denied reinforcements, the Germans were unable to contain the allied buildup at Normandy, and when the breakout from the beachhead began in earnest, in late July, the German forces were routed. Overall, the Germans lost some 240,000 men killed or wounded during Operation Overlord, while the combined allied casualties were around 210,000 men killed and wounded. But it could have been worse – much worse.

Operation Bagration saved D-Day, but you won’t hear any American presidents acknowledging that fact. Nor will any Americans pause and give thanks for the sacrifice of so many Soviet lives in the cause of defeating Nazi Germany. Let there be no doubt that the United States played an instrumental role in the defeat of Hitler – we were the arsenal of democracy, and our lend-lease support to the Soviet Union was critical in the success of the Soviet army.

But the simple fact is that we never faced the German A-team – those men had perished long ago on the Eastern front, fighting the Soviets. The German army we faced was an amalgam of old men, young boys, unmotivated foreigners (including thousands of captured Russian and Poles), and worn-out, wounded survivors of the fighting in the east. We beat the Germans, but because of the pressure brought to bear on Germany by the Soviet Union, the outcome in Western Europe was never in doubt.

Why does this matter? Because facts matter. History matters. The hubris and arrogance derived from our one-sided, exaggerated and highly inaccurate version of the Second World War, where American forces liberated Europe with the assistance of their North Atlantic allies, carries over to this day. It feeds a narrative that gives credence to the fictitious omnipotence of Nato and the total disregard for any Russian perspective regarding the future of a continent the Soviets liberated through the blood and sacrifice of tens of millions of their citizens. While we Americans continue to celebrate a version of events that is highly fictionalized, the Russians commemorate a reality anchored in fact. Given the current geopolitical trajectory in Europe, where the framework of security and prosperity the United States and its North Atlantic allies built in the aftermath of their “grand victory” against Nazi Germany teeters on the brink of collapse, there will come a time when fiction-based arrogance will clash with fact-based realism. If history tells us anything, those who more accurately remember the lessons of the past will fare far better than those who, by their ignorance, are condemned to repeat their mistakes.


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MMT Carbon Initiative – A Modest Proposal

by J D Alt (June 18 2019)

With great interest, I’ve been reading about the “Terraton Initiative” – a program designed to enlist farmers to sequester one trillion tons of carbon in their soil using innovative and “regenerative” planting techniques. The initiative was recently rolled out by Indigo AG {1} – a young and rising Boston company recently named by CNBC as “the world’s most innovative company”. Indigo AG’s mark has been the establishment of a sophisticated platform enabling grain-farmers across the country (and around the world) to differentiate the quality-characteristics of their harvest (for example organic, non-GMO, heirloom varietal, et cetera and connect directly with buyers seeking those quality-characteristics. What got my attention was the fact that Indigo AG, with its recently announced “Terraton Initiative”, is now proposing to help farmers deploy strategies to maximize carbon sequestration in their fields – and then pay the farmers $15 for each ton of carbon they sequester. (Current agribusiness farming techniques, promoted by Archers Daniels Midland and Monsanto – now Bayer – add four billion tons of greenhouse gas to the earth’s atmosphere each year.)

To put this in perspective, one trillion tons of CO2 is what human civilization has pumped into the earth’s atmosphere over the past 250 years. Indigo AG is proposing to take it all back – and sequester it in the world’s 3.6 billion acres of agricultural soils. End of global warming – end of the threat of climate change! (Of course, it wouldn’t be that simple since many of the changes are “baked into” the foreseeable future by mechanisms already set in motion; nevertheless, pushing atmospheric carbon counts back toward pre-industrial levels would obviously be a considerable step in the right direction.)

There is, of course, another perspective: At $15 per ton, achieving the goal of the “Terraton Initiative” will require paying farmers $15 trillion for their services. Indigo AG says it has already lined up a group of “buyers” who will get the ball rolling by purchasing (from Indigo AG) “carbon credits” which they can then use to offset their own carbon footprints – and even claim their products are carbon negative. Presumably, Indigo AG is making a profit in this transaction; if they’re paying farmers $15 per ton they might be selling a credit to that ton for, say, $17. So, to achieve their goal, they’d have to sell $17 trillion worth of carbon credits.

The only way this sounds long-term plausible is if the entire consumer world got on board with the idea of buying only carbon-zero – or carbon-negative – agricultural-based products. Which is unlikely – especially within the ten-year time frame scientists are telling us we are up against to make a significant move to limit atmospheric carbon build-up. Nevertheless, what Indigo AG is undertaking is intriguing (and highly laudatory) for several reasons:

1. The initiative is clearly part of a rational, large-scale climate-change solution that is founded on current and reasonably projected technological capabilities. One North Carolina farmer who has already been experimenting with existing “regenerative” techniques has sequestered 1.5 tons/acre in his fields. If that efficiency were doubled, the 3.6 billion acres of cultivated land, worldwide, would be capable of sequestering 10.8 billion tons of carbon per year through agricultural practices alone.

2. The initiative is not top-down, but a genuine, diverse, bottom-up endeavor. It will “employ” thousands of individuals and small businesses in creative efforts to develop and deploy agricultural carbon-sequestration strategies and techniques. The initiative includes additional monetary awards for innovative ideas that can be used by others to increase the efficiency of their sequestration efforts. It puts the true “initiative” – and the financial rewards – squarely in the hands of people on the ground.

3. No one is coerced to do anything. The only enforcement is a measuring regime to document actual sequestration levels achieved. The motivation to participate is wholly “market-driven”. The same North Carolina farmer who’s sequestering 1.5 tons/acre on his 1000 acres will earn an extra $22,000/year “for doing”, he notes, “what I’m already doing”. Others would likely be motivated to start “doing” the same thing – and earn the premium, as well, on what they’re already growing and selling.

4. There are profound collateral benefits to the initiative. The “regenerative” farming techniques will replenish the fertility and water-holding capabilities of the world’s top-soil – capabilities which have been virtually destroyed by the intense chemical fertilizer-insecticide regimes promoted, and insisted upon, by the major agribusiness suppliers. One can imagine the ghost of Masanobu Fukuoka (One Straw Revolution) {2} – who resolutely demonstrated that “regenerative” farming techniques can, in fact, outproduce chemical-intense methodologies – rising in celebration!

The ubiquitous “only one problem” …

The stickler, of course, is: Where is the $17 trillion going to come from to pay the sequesters? It seems reasonable to presume that Indigo AG’s carbon-credit “buyers” will, at some point, fall short of that number. The “profit motive”, in other words, will soon fail to motivate the creation of the necessary dollars by the Federal Reserve banking system. This seems – by definitiona perfect application for the principles of Modern Monetary Theory: The federal government, in other words, would instigate the creation of the dollars necessary to pay for the carbon sequestration efforts.

To be quite specific, the payments for the sequestered carbon would not come from tax collections. Nor would the payments come from money “borrowed” from the private sector. The payments would be made by the appropriation of new dollars created by the Federal Reserve (Fed) for the purpose of funding the Treasury’s payments to the participating sequesters. The necessary deposits would be made to the Treasury’s spending account by the process of trading future Reserves (that is, treasury bonds) for existing Reserves – and then trading the future Reserves for new Reserves created by the Fed. (The same process, it should be noted, by which the Treasury has been getting its “deficit” spending money for a long, long time.)

But why limit what I’m now thinking of as the “MMT Carbon Initiative” to only agricultural carbon-sequestration in support of Indigo AG’s admirable efforts? Why not propose that the federal government will buy sequestered carbon – or its equivalent – from anybody?

For example, a kilowatt of electricity produced by a solar panel can be calculated to be equivalent to 1000 pounds of sequestered carbon (carbon that would have been emitted to produce the same electricity with fossil fuels). Families and businesses that install solar panels, therefore, would earn their share of the $15 per ton payments.

Importantly, there are many less obvious endeavors that would also be motivated (and financially assisted) by the sequestration payments. Two examples: The Salk Institute {3} for Biological Studies in San Diego is developing plant species and hybrids with enhanced capability for storing carbon in their roots. Their success could be financed by the market established by farmers looking for plant varietals that enable them to increase their carbon sequestration payments.

The Marin Carbon Project {4} is a group located in the San Francisco Bay Area that seeks to enhance carbon sequestration not just in cultivated soils, but in unoccupied rangeland and forest soils, by the large-scale recycling of organic waste – including food waste – into compost. When dumped into landfills, organic waste emits methane (a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) into the atmosphere. When it is recycled into compost – and the compost is spread on soils whose capacity to absorb carbon has been severely depleted – the project has determined the revitalized soil can sequester up to one ton of CO2 per acre. Right now, this group is a non-profit sponsored by charitable fund-raising. The MMT Carbon Initiative could go a long way to help them expand their efforts.

How does the MMT Carbon Initiative differ from a carbon tax – or cap-and-trade system?

A carbon tax sets a price that emitters must pay for each ton of CO2 emissions they create. This cost-of-doing business is passed on to consumers who would, presumably, gravitate to products least affected by the tax (that is, with lower prices) – creating an incentive for businesses to switch fuels or adopt new technologies to lower their emissions. This would create a virtuous cycle that would, through a decentralized, market-based process, reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. All good if you can politically get business to swallow a new tax that intentionally disrupts their existing business models.

In a cap-and-trade system, the government sets an emissions cap and issues “emission allowances” to meet that cap. Businesses must acquire and hold allowances for every ton of CO2 they emit. Companies buy and sell the allowances, establishing a price per ton of CO2 emitted. The net result, presumably, is that businesses are motivated to develop strategies and technologies to reduce their emissions – and are paid to do that by selling their unneeded allowances to other companies which must continue to emit more than their allowance. This has always seemed to me a round-about and complicated way to create the appearance that markets are magically undertaking the mitigation of climate change.

The MMT carbon initiative seems superior to either a tax or a cap-and-trade system, on at least two accounts:

1. It doesn’t disrupt anybody’s existing business plan. Instead (as illustrated by the examples cited above) it underwrites and incentivizes a lot of new and expanded business plans across a wide spectrum of economic endeavors.

2. It incentivizes, right from the start, a great many people (for example, farmers) to take specific, concrete actions (“regenerative” planting and harvesting techniques) which will result directly in the immediate sequestration of carbon from the earth’s atmosphere. No waiting around for complicated cap and trade market-structures to be negotiated.

Will the MMT Carbon Initiative generate run-away inflation?

At first blush (which is usually how far economic pundits go on the topic), it would seem that adding $17 trillion to the world economy (by paying people newly created dollars to sequester carbon) is – almost by definition – going to create runaway inflation. Right? How could it not? One day, everyone is buying stuff with X number of dollars, the next day they’re buying the same stuff with X+17 trillion dollars – so how is the price of everything in the world not going to explode off the charts requiring people to carry money around in wheelbarrows to buy a loaf of bread? Man the barricades against MMT! Prepare for America’s descent into the realms of Venezuelan chaos!

But please put these visceral ideological juices aside, and give some thoughtful, rational (and, above all) self-interested consideration of what is really going to unfold with the MMT Carbon Initiative I’ve just outlined:

Dollars are not going to be “dumped” into people’s bank accounts. They’ll be deposited incrementally – and only in exchange for the accomplishment of real, useful tasks. And it’s the real tasks – and the outcomes they achieve – that are the most important things. We’re trying to confront, here, an existential threat to human society. So what if one of the residual effects of accomplishing that goal is that a can of Coca-Cola ends up costing $2 instead of $1? When I was a kid, a bottle of soda only cost ten cents! And, in the process of getting from ten cents to $1, I’ve never once carried money around in a wheelbarrow. In other words, so long as prices rise incrementally – reflecting the incremental expansion of human endeavors and accomplishments – inflation doesn’t matter. And the MMT Carbon Initiative embodies the very idea of the incremental expansion of useful human endeavors.

Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground

The final argument I’ll make for the MMT Carbon Initiative is that it is potentially a passive (that is, non-regulatory) strategy for keeping fossil fuels in the ground. To have a profound effect, the initiative doesn’t need to accomplish this – but it is enticing to play with back-of-envelop calculations that suggest it plausibly could accomplish it. And there probably wouldn’t be a bigger game-changer in the race against global warming than significantly limiting – for a period of, say, ten years – the extraction and refinement of fossil fuels.

My back-of-envelope calculations are based on the presumption that oil and gas companies want to figure out a profitable way to transition to alternative fuels and energy systems. The MMT Carbon Initiative – paying anyone $15 per ton for sequestered carbon – could get their attention (and participation). Here are the calculations (using quick, google-search numbers):

* A barrel of crude oil = 0.5 tons of carbon emissions. Leaving a barrel of crude oil in the ground, therefore, would earn $7.50 from the MMT Carbon Initiative.

* Average cost to extract a barrel of crude oil from the earth = $25 per barrel.

* Average cost to refine that barrel of crude oil into burnable fossil-fuel = $3 per barrel, for a total cost of $28/barrel extracted and refined.

* Assuming an average net profit of twenty percent, oil and gas industry earns $5.60 per barrel of crude it extracts and refines.

* Therefore, if the crude oil were left in the ground, under the MMT Carbon Initiative, the oil and gas industry would earn the same $5.60 per barrel profit plus a nearly $2 per barrel premium!

* If the $2 premium (from the MMT Carbon Initiative) were applied to research and development, $127 billion/year would flow into the development and deployment of zero-carbon energy systems.

* Over ten years, this would amount to a $1.2 trillion investment in zero-carbon energy solutions by the oil and gas industry – an investment which, hopefully, would secure a transition to a zero-carbon business model for the energy sector.

* There would, therefore, be virtually zero need to recommence the extraction of fossil-fuels after the ten-year research and development effort. The entire world-economy would now be operating on a new business model – and, according to the IPCC’s latest reports, just in time.

It should be noted that the MMT Carbon Initiative, itself, for the same reason just illustrated, could be given a ten-year time limit. Ideally, at the end of that “decade of sequestration”, not only would the world be operating on a zero-carbon energy model, but atmospheric carbon would be re-established near pre-industrial levels. An astonishing collateral benefit would be the transformation of world agribusiness into a “regenerative” process that builds topsoil, conserves water, and produces healthier food.

Perhaps, a decade hence, the experience of accomplishing all this will have brought us together around the realization that we can, as a collective society, use a modern understanding of money to accomplish things we didn’t think possible. At that point perhaps we could genuinely – and with an effort equal to what we’d just undertaken – focus on saving the other species on the planet that we’ve put gravely in danger.






You Are Being Trolled

by Dmitry Orlov

Information Clearing House (June 25 2019)

In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people [1], by posting inflammatory [2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers …

The world is on the brink of war, again. And again. And, yes, yet again. And then it’s not on the brink of war anymore… but wait, there’s more! Of course, there’s more, there always is. US aircraft carrier battle groups are steaming toward North Korea … or not. They are steaming about aimlessly, nowhere near North Korea, but in a very threatening manner. Then Trump and Kim Jong Un meet, get on great, sign a piece of paper that means nothing, and part friends. Now the aircraft carriers are steaming about far less menacingly. Then Trump and Un meet again, to sign some other meaningless piece of paper, but then John Bolton shoots his mouth off, and the deal is off. But Trump and Un continue to exchange love letters, so the bromance isn’t dead. In any case, war between the US and North Korea is not just unwinnable but unthinkable: South Korea’s capitol is within striking range of North Korean artillery and all US military bases in the region are within range of North Korean rockets. War with North Korea is definitely off. Executive summary: nothing happens. So, what was that all about?

Now it’s about Venezuela. Its democratically elected leader is declared to be a usurper and a suitable replacement is found by the name of Random Guy-doh. American vassal states around the world are bullied into granting him diplomatic recognition as Venezuela’s president even though he’s just a random guy in an apartment in Caracas. Some trucks get torched on a bridge between Columbia and Venezuela. They were carrying humanitarian goods such as spools of wire. There is talk of military intervention, but it’s just talk. The Bank of England confiscates Venezuela’s gold, the US freezes Venezuela’s oil company’s bank accounts in the US and hands them off to a bunch of shady Venezuelans who steal it. That part makes sense; the rest of it? Meh! In any case, a US military incursion into Venezuela is not within the realm of possibility: Venezuela has Russian air defense systems which make it a no-fly zone for the US air force; also, fighting guerrilla action in Venezuelan selva is not something the US military is capable of. Executive summary: nothing happens, again.

Now it’s about Iran. Trump pulls out of the carefully negotiated international deal with Iran and says he wants to negotiate another one. If you notice, that’s a truly idiotic move, along the lines of “I am never paying you back, so lend me more money”. If a country is not honoring the deals it has already signed, why bother to negotiate any more deals with it? (That’s a rhetorical question.) Iran announces that since the US isn’t honoring the deal, Iran won’t either. A bunch of oil tankers get damaged and the US tries to blame Iran for it, but nobody believes the US. And so a couple more oil tankers get damaged and the US tries to blame Iran for it again, but nobody believes the US again. And so the US flies a drone into Iranian airspace shadowed by a reconnaissance plane with an international crew on board, hoping that Iran makes a mistake and shoots down the reconnaissance plane. But Iran shoots down the drone and it falls in the shallows, in Iran’s territorial waters, rather than in international waters 100 feet deep, which is what the US claims to have happened, but nobody believes it. Iran swiftly fishes out and proudly displays the wreckage of the no longer top secret drone. The Americans spin a tale about wanting to attack Iran but calling the attack off at the last minute. Oil prices go up a bit. The US oil patch is producing flat out but hemorrhaging red ink like crazy. It needs higher oil prices in order to avoid a huge wave of bankruptcies. That part makes sense; the rest of it? Meh again! In any case, a military attack against Iran is unthinkable: Iran has the ability to close the Strait of Hormuz to all shipping, cutting off a third of all of the world’s oil exports and blowing up the global economy, US included. Executive summary: nothing happens, yet again.

There are various other non-events in other parts of the world. Nato ships steam about the Black and Baltic seas, where they are pretty much sitting-ducks in case hostilities with Russia turn kinetic. So, what that tells us is that hostilities will not turn kinetic because those ships are expensive and there is no money to replace them. There are also Nato exercises in the Baltics, which are right on Russia’s border. They practice invading and slaughtering civilians in quaint medieval villages staffed with Russian-speaking extras pretending to be peasants eager to surrender. (Technically, that should be categorized as a fantasy game rather than a training exercise.) The Russians remain unimpressed. They want nothing to do with the Baltics, which used to be transit states for Russian exports but now they aren’t needed for anything at all (except as a Nato stomping ground). In any case, talking about waging war against Russia with a straight face is something that only extremely stupid people are capable of doing. Executive summary: nothing happens.

Do you notice the refrain? (I am sure you do.) What’s going on is that a has-been country, which can’t stop squandering what little resources it has left on a useless but ridiculously bloated military-industrial complex, is trying to generate activity in order to justify continued lavish defense spending. All sorts of experts and pundits play along, claiming that the threat of this or that war is very real and that therefore we should all be paying attention to what’s happening. But what’s happening is that you are being trolled.

There being nothing better for it to do, the US is trying very hard to troll the whole world, but more and more the world is either refusing to be trolled or trolling the US right back.

* When the US threatens to cut off access to the US financial system, the world works on circumventing it.

* When the US imposes tariffs and sanctions, the world responds by reworking its trading relationships to exclude the US.

* When the US threatens countries with military intervention, the world responds by constructing new alliances and making security arrangements that isolate the US.

But most importantly, the world simply waits. The US is now running a budget deficit that is over a trillion dollars a year and taking on debt at about the same rate as it was during the height of the previous financial collapse. What do you think will happen when the next financial collapse hits? (According to a lot of authoritative voices, it should hit either this year or the next.) Meanwhile, I hope that you enjoy being trolled because I am sure there will be more trolling from the US, just, you know, to keep busy, I guess.


Dmitry Orlov was born in Leningrad and immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. He is the author of Reinventing Collapse (2008), Hold Your Applause! (2014) and Absolutely Positive (2012), and publishes weekly at the phenomenally popular blog .

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Why Indian-Turkish Embrace of Russia’s S-400 …

… is So Important for Global Affairs

by Matthew Ehret

The Strategic Culture Foundation (June 26 2019)

Zero Hedge (June 27 2019)

India and Turkey’s recent embrace of Russia’s advanced S-400 defense system represents a major turning point in the international battle now underway between two opposing paradigms of global affairs.

Both nations are standing up to immense pressure by an Anglo American empire which has been working desperately since 2007 to build a vast military infrastructure around Russia under the utopian doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” (aka: the belief that a nuclear war can be won with a first strike monopoly). This missile shield began to target China and Russia’s South Pacific flank in 2011 when Obama unveiled the military branch of the anti-Chinese “Pivot to Asia”.

The S400 Solution to Full Spectrum Dominance

However if nations like India, and Turkey who were meant to be participants of the encirclement of Russia and China were to adopt next generation defensive radar/missile systems like Russia’s S400, then the entire formula for unipolar dominance breaks down. Already, China has adopted the S400 as of 2015 which features short to long range supersonic interception of missiles, aircraft, and bombs at altitudes of 38 kilometers and at distances of 400 kilometers. Other nations which have expressed interest in the S400 include Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Vietnam.

The rise of the S400 and the new security architecture which comes with it has come to be known as “Full Spectrum Defense” and is one of the most important transformations of the world order. When considered in tandem with the globally extended Belt and Road Initiative [BRI] (which is tightly integrated with the Eurasian Economic Union [EEU] and Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO]), represents the greatest hope for mankind currently available.

Some particularly nutty personalities within Nato and the Military Industrial Complex would sadly rather burn in hell than serve in heaven and still adhere to the outdated script written in the early days of 2007 when the drum beat for war with Iran pounded at a feverish pitch. These figures, represented by the likes of US Defense Secretary Patrick O’Shanahan, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton are convinced that a nuclear war with Russia and China is still somehow winnable … if only “renegade” nations like Turkey and India would get back into line and follow the script!

Up until Russia’s entry into a beleaguered Syria in September 2015, it appeared that these neocon utopians may have had a winning hand. The Anglo-American alliance appeared to many to be the only game in town. With no serious opposition to the military might of Nato combined with the economic might of the City of London-Wall Street banking system, what else could any middle power like Turkey or India do but “go along to get along”?

Turkey’s Second Chance at Life

Turkey was quick to get burned by its decision to reject the Russia/China-led new paradigm when it was first offered an entry position to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in 2011 where it then signed on as a “Dialogue Partner” (one step below observer status). Just as ink was drying on the 2011 Turkey-EEU Memorandum of Understanding, several other nations were preparing to join the Russia-led initiative including Ukraine, Armenia, Moldova, Mongolia, and Kyrgyzstan (the latter being now a full member). The onslaught on Libya followed by the attempt to duplicate that disaster in Syria put an end to Turkey’s decision to join the EEU at that time. A Nazi-driven coup launched in November 2013 ended Ukraine’s membership prospects as well.

Turkey was given a simple ultimatum: Go along with the anti-Russia/anti-China war plan for Full Spectrum Dominance as a loyal member of Nato and certain rewards will be guaranteed.

Turkey was to be granted full entry into the “prestigious” alliance of the European Union which its membership in Nato was always premised upon. Some of the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire would be recovered as managerial status would be granted Turkey over vast swaths of the Middle East now liberated from pesky Arab nationalist leaders. Signing over to this policy was supposed to be easy. All Erdogan had to do was provide covert support for the spread of the ISIS in Syria and keep an aggressive posture towards Russia. Anglo-American and Saudi Intelligence would do all of the heavy lifting.

Not so.

With Russia’s intrepid entry into Syria in September 2019, everything changed. Within two months, Turkey was horrified to find itself in the cross hairs of a nuclear war between Nato and Russia after it shot down a Russian fighter jet killing its pilot and lied to the British (who then chaired the UN Security Council) that Russia invaded Turkey’s sovereign airspace. The tension caused by this military confrontation not only brought the world extremely close to a nuclear war, but resulted in a sobering slap of reality for Erdogen who began his long road towards repentance by writing a public letter of apology for Russia on June 27 2016. This letter was too much for certain war-mongers in the west.

By July 15 2016 the time had come for Erdogan’s punishment.

Anglo-American networks controlling the Turkish Deep State activated every asset at their disposal within the military and government bureaucracy to overthrow Erdogan and everyone loyal to him. The form of this operation was shaped by the vast networks of CIA-asset Fethullah Gulen, a strange billionaire cult leader of “Hizmet” based out of the USA whose followers and money had penetrated deeply through every branch of Turkey’s public and private sectors. During this coup attempt, Turkish fighter jets fired on their own parliament building, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Hulusi Akar was kidnapped by his own security detail, and thousands of military personnel took to the streets leaving 241 dead and 2194 injured. Due to last minute intelligence provided by sources which many believe to be tied to Russia, Erdogan escaped his fate and regained control in time to purge the leading Gulen zombies from government.

Since that time, Turkey has found its original deal with the devil much less attractive than it had been in 2013.

The Collapse of the West and the Rise of a New Paradigm

Abraham Lincoln once said “a house divided cannot long stand” and no political body is more divided these days than the European Union. Every day, EU member states are seen fighting amongst themselves and against the technocratic sociopaths in Brussels who can do little more than ragefully sanction “climate and fiscal offenders” for trying to defend their own populations from unemployment, austerity, and speculative finance run amok. This breakdown has driven forward-thinking EU nations to prepare their escape from the Titanic and by joining the only viable game in town: China and the New Silk Road. Most recently, Italy joined the New Silk Road with an memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in April 2019 and Greece joined the 17+1 pro-BRI Central and Eastern European nations weeks later. The Eurasian Economic Union, which has unified closely with the New Silk Road is currently welcoming new members with open arms with Uzbekistan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, and even Syria expressing clear intentions to join in the near term future. Both the SCO and EEU which are integral parts of this new paradigm are open for all to join – including Turkey.

With the re-election of Narendra Modi in May 2019 and the positive meetings between Modi, Xi Jinping, and Putin during the SCO summit of June 13-14, the tension being artificially created across Asia appears to finally be receding. Pakistan and India (now full members of the SCO) have infinite points of mutual interest to work with the Belt and Road Initiative and with the peaceful integration of North Korea into a cooperative economic plan with China and South Korea, the US-Asia Pivot (which justified itself entirely because North Korea was so dangerous) has collapsed.

The battle between nationalist forces in America versus Deep State/Nato-ideologues is a fight which is hardly won, but which will be shaped in large part by Trump’s bilateral meetings between Modi, Erdogan, Xi, and Putin on June 27-28 G20 Summit in Japan (if they are not sabotaged).


Matthew J L Ehret is a journalist, lecturer and founder of the Canadian Patriot Review.

(c) 2010~2019 | Strategic Culture Foundation | Republishing is welcomed with reference to Strategic Culture online journal

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

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As We Face Armageddon …

… the Western World is Leaderless

by Paul Craig Roberts (June 22 2019)

Please contribute to the success of the June quarterly appeal by donating to this website.

According to news reports, the validity of which cannot be ascertained by the general public, a crazed US government came within ten minutes of igniting a general conflagation in the Middle East, the consequences of which could have been catastrophic for all.

The moronic warmongers in high office – Bolton, Pompeo, and Pence – and their Israel Lobby masters are determined, and they have not abandoned their campaign for war with Iran. Of course, the liars say that Iran will just accept its punishment for defending its territory and there will be no war. But this is not what Iran says. I believe Iran.

Some of the tiny percentage of people in the Western World who are still capable of thought regret that Trump called off the insane plan. They think the consequences would have been the destruction of the Saudi and Israeli governments – two of the most evil in history – and the cut-off of oil to the US and Europe, with the resulting depression causing the overthrow of the Western warmonger governments. They believe that catastrophic American defeat is the only way peace can be restored to the world.

In other words, it is not clear whether Trump calling off the attack saved us or doomed us. The Israel Lobby and their neoconservative agents have not been taught a lesson. Trump has not fired Bolton and Pompeo for almost igniting a conflagation, and he has not dressed down his moronic vice president. So, it can all happen again.

And likely will. The lesson that Bolton and Israel have learned is that the fake news about an Iranian attack on a Japanese freighter, denied by the Japanese, was not sufficient to lock Trump into “saving face” by attacking Iran. So be prepared for a larger orchestrated provocation. Bolton and Israel know that the Western presstitutes will lie for them. Watch for a provocation that allows Trump no alternative to an attack.

Washington’s use of fake news and false flag attacks to launch military attacks goes back a long way. In the 21st century we have had a concentrated dose – Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Iranian nukes, Russian invasions, Maduro starving his own people, the endless lies about Gaddafi. Yes, I know there are more. I am writing an article, not an encyclopedia.

Washington has grown accustomed to attacking countries on false pretenses and getting away with it. Therefore, there is nothing to discourage the Israel Lobby and its Washington puppets from continuing to set-up Iran for an attack. Success breeds incaution. The attack on Iraq was stage-managed by a credible US Secretary of State before the UN. The attack on Libya was stage-managed by a UN resolution that a deceived Russia and China failed to block. In situations such as these, Washington arranged a green light for its war crimes. However, Washington has failed to stage-manage a green light for an attack on Iran. Moreover, Iran is a more powerful military force than Iraq and Libya, and the extent of the depth of Russian and Chinese support for Iran is unknown to Washington.

If Israel succeeds in having its Washington puppet attack Iran, Israel and its neoconservative agents will not welcome failure of their objective. They will fight against failure with more dangerous moves. I can easily imagine the fanatics having Trump “save face” by destroying the world and issuing some kind of ultimatums to Russia and China or resorting to the use of nuclear weapons against Iran.

The insouciant American – indeed, Western – people are kept unaware by design. It is the function of the presstitutes to control the explanations given to the people. The US Congress is bought and paid for by the Israel Lobby, as are most important politicians in the UK and Europe. What I am telling you is that it is very easy for fanatics to produce Armageddon.

Stephen Cohen and I, and a few surviving others, lived through the twentieth century Cold War. In recent years we both have reported on numerous occasions that the threat of nuclear war today is far higher than during the Cold War. One reason is that during the Cold War US and Soviet leaders worked to defuse tensions and to build trust. In contrast, since the Clinton regime the US has worked consistently to build tensions. Both Cohen and I have listed on many occasions the tension-building activities pursued by all post-Reagan/George H W Bush administrations.

The Russians no longer trust Washington, and neither do the Chinese. Washington has lied to, and about, Russia so often in the 21st century that Russian trust of Washington is exhausted. No matter how earnestly the Russian government wants to trust Washington, it dare not do so.

Therefore, it takes very little miscalculation for the morons in Washington to cause a threat-ending response from Russia as Washington has convinced the Russian government that the US intends to destroy them.

The orchestration of Russiagate by the Democratic Party, military/security complex, and their media whores has, as Stephen Cohen has emphasized, forced President Trump in an act of self-preservation to adopt the neoconservative attitude toward Russia and other “non-compliant” governments. This attitude is dangerous enough in the best of times. It is extremely dangerous after trust has been destroyed by years of lies and false accusations.

Perhaps there is someone in the Trump administration who has the intelligence to understand the dangerous situation and who has Trump’s confidence. But I do not know who that person is.

We have to face the fact that as we face Armageddon the Western World is leaderless.

Copyright (c) 2016 All rights reserved.

Washington’s Dr Strangeloves

Is plunging Russia into darkness really a good idea?

by Stephen F Cohen

The Nation (June 19 2019)

Protesters wave their signs in front of the White House in July of 2018. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Occasionally, a revelatory, and profoundly alarming, article passes almost unnoticed, even when published on the front page of The New York Times. Such was the case with reporting by David E Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, bearing the Strangelovian title “US Buries Digital Land Mines to Menace Russia’s Power Grid”, which appeared in the print edition on June 16. The article contained two revelations.

First, according to Sanger and Perlroth, with my ellipses duly noted, “The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid … Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue …” The operation “carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow”. Though under way at least since 2012, “now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense … with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before”. At this point, the Times reporters add an Orwellian touch. The head of the US Cyber Command characterizes the assault on Russia’s grid, which affects everything from the country’s water supply, medical services, and transportation to control over its nuclear weapons, as “the need to ‘defend forward’ “, because “they don’t fear us”.

Nowhere do Sanger and Perlroth seem alarmed by the implicit risks of this “defend forward” attack on the infrastructure of the other nuclear superpower. Indeed, they wonder “whether it would be possible to plunge Russia into darkness”. And toward the end, they quote an American lawyer and former Obama official, whose expertise on the matter is unclear, to assure readers sanguinely, “We might have to risk taking some broken bones of our own from a counter response. … Sometimes you have to take a bloody nose to not take a bullet in the head down the road”. The “broken bones”, “bloody nose”, and “bullet” are, of course, metaphorical references to the potential consequences of nuclear war.

The second revelation comes midway in the Times story: “[President] Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place ‘implants’ … inside the Russian grid” because “he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials”. (Indeed, Trump issued an angry tweet when he saw the Times report, though leaving unclear which part of it most aroused his anger.)

What is the significance of this story, apart from what it tells us about the graver dangers of the new US-Russian Cold War, which now includes, we are informed, a uniquely fraught “digital Cold War”? Not so long ago, mainstream liberal Democrats, and the Times itself, would have been outraged by revelations that defense and intelligence officials were making such existential policy behind the back of a president. No longer, it seems. There have been no liberal, Democratic, or for the most part any other, mainstream protests, but instead a lawyerly apologia  justifying the intelligence-defense operation without the president’s knowledge.

The political significance, however, seems clear enough. The leak to the Times and the paper’s publication of the article come in the run-up to a scheduled meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in Japan on June 28–29. Both leaders had recently expressed hope for improved US-Russian relations. On May 4, Trump again tweeted his longstanding aspiration for a “good/great relationship with Russia”; and this month Putin lamented that relations “are getting worse and worse” but hoped that he and Trump could move their countries beyond “the games played by intelligence services”.

As I have often emphasized, the long historical struggle for American-Russian (Soviet and post-Soviet) detente, or broad cooperation, has featured many acts of attempted sabotage on both sides, though most often by US intelligence and defense agencies. Readers may recall the Eisenhower-Khrushchev summit meeting that was to take place in Paris in 1960, but which was aborted by the Soviet shoot-down of a US spy plane over the Soviet Union, an intrusive flight apparently not authorized by President Eisenhower. And more recently, the 2016 plan by then-President Obama and Putin for US-Russian cooperation in Syria, which was aborted by a Department of Defense attack on Russian-backed Syrian troops.

Now the sabotaging of detente appears be happening again. As the Times article makes clear, Washington’s war party, or perhaps zealous Cold War party, referred to euphemistically by Sanger and Perlroth as “advocates of the more aggressive strategy”, is on the move. Certainly, Trump has been repeatedly thwarted in his previous detente attempts, primarily by discredited Russiagate allegations that continue to be promoted by the war party even though they still lack any evidential basis. (It may also be recalled that his previous summit meeting with Putin was widely and shamefully assailed as “treason” by influential segments of the US political-media establishment.)

Detente with Russia has always been a fiercely opposed, crisis-ridden policy pursuit, but one manifestly in the interests of the United States and the world. No American president can achieve it without substantial bipartisan support at home, which Trump manifestly lacks. What kind of catastrophe will it take – in Ukraine, the Baltic region, Syria, or somewhere on Russia’s electric grid – to shock US Democrats and others out of what has been called, not unreasonably, their Trump Derangement Syndrome, particularly in the realm of American national security? Meanwhile, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has recently reset its Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight.


This commentary is based on Stephen F Cohen’s most recent weekly discussion with the host of The John Batchelor Show. Now in their sixth year, previous installments are at


Stephen F Cohen is a professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. A Nation contributing editor, his new book War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate (2019) is available in paperback and in an ebook edition.