Saturday 31st of July 2021

ring of fire...























 As President Biden prepares for the G7 and NATO summits and a meeting with Vladimir Putin, we look at how the United States, Russia and other nuclear-armed nations continue to spend billions on nuclear weapons during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Despite President Biden’s criticisms of the Trump administration’s nuclear policies during his candidacy, his administration is continuing initiatives to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is seeking $43 billion for nuclear weapons in his new budget. This comes as a new report from the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons reveals global spending on nuclear weapons increased during the pandemic, and found the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.6 billion on nuclear weapons in 2020, with the United States alone spending $37 billion. “We’ve been seeing, from year to year, the spending on nuclear weapons has been increasing,” says Alicia Sanders-Zakre, ICAN’s policy and research coordinator. “Despite Biden’s campaign promises of wanting to work for arms control, wanting to work for disarmament, we’re seeing that in reality he’s going full steam ahead with Trump’s legacy nuclear weapons programs and continuing to spend more money on these weapons of mass destruction.”






This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.   

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden has begun his first European trip as president. After meeting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, Biden will take part in the G7 leaders’ meeting in Cornwall, then head to the NATO summit in Brussels. He’ll end his trip in Geneva, where he’ll meet Russian President Vladimir Putin June 16th. On Wednesday, President Biden addressed U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in Britain.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We’re not seeking conflict with Russia. We want a stable, predictable relationship. Our two nations share incredible responsibilities, and among them ensuring strategic stability and upholding arms control agreements. I take that responsibility seriously. But I’ve been clear: The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities.

AMY GOODMAN: The Biden-Putin summit comes just weeks after the Biden administration announced it would not rejoin the Open Skies Treaty, a major international arms control deal signed by the George H.W. Bush administration in 1992. Vladimir Putin then announced Russia would withdraw, as well. As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden criticized Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the treaty. In May 2020, Biden said, “Trump has doubled down on his short-sighted policy of going it alone and abandoning American leadership.”

Biden is also continuing a number of Trump’s initiatives to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In his new budget, President Biden is seeking $43 billion for nuclear weapons, including money to develop a new submarine-launched nuclear cruise missile, which, as a candidate, he described as a “bad idea.”

Meanwhile, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, has just published a report revealing global spending on nuclear weapons increased by $1.4 billion last year despite the pandemic. The report found the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.6 billion on nuclear weapons in 2020 — that amounts to nearly $138,000 every minute. The United States spent by far the most — $37 billion — three times more than the next country, China, which spent $10 billion. Russia was next at $8 billion, followed by the United Kingdom, France, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. ICAN released this short video to accompany its new report.

ICAN VIDEO: $72.6 billion. That’s how much the nine nuclear-armed states spent on nuclear weapons in 2020, taxpayer money during the worst global pandemic in a century financing weapons of mass destruction. Although most countries support a global ban on nuclear weapons, these countries and companies spend billions to keep nuclear weapons in business — $72.6 billion for government agencies and private companies that build nuclear weapons. These companies fund major think tanks that write about nuclear weapons and hire lobbyists to make sure policymakers approve enormous nuclear weapon budgets the next year. This is the nuclear weapon funding cycle, a shadowy interplay between governments, private companies, think tanks and lobbyists, all complicit in today’s massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. It’s time to stop the cycle. It’s time for the ban.

AMY GOODMAN: That little report produced by ICAN.

We’re joined now by Alicia Sanders-Zakre, policy and research coordinator for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its work on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Alicia is the co-author of the new report, “Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending.”

So you have a world where the wealthiest countries cannot find the means to inoculate the world, to get the vaccines necessary for the world to be protected from COVID-19, but are spending billions on nuclear weapons. Talk about how the whole system works. Talk about your report, Alicia.

ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me on and for sharing the report.

You know, last year we did a report just on how much countries spent on nuclear weapons. We did the methodology to provide that estimate, which hasn’t been done very much in the past. And this year we wanted to show more of the big picture. Why is it that nine countries are spending more than $70 billion on their nuclear weapons in the middle of a global pandemic?

And so we looked at all of the pieces of the puzzle and the flow of money, the cycle of spending on weapons of mass destruction in just one year. And it’s pretty shocking. We saw, after those countries decided to spend $72.6 billion on their nuclear weapons, they gave out billions of dollars, over $27 billion in contracts, to the defense companies that build and maintain these weapons. And then those companies kept spending money to make sure that they kept getting money in years to come. So they spend over $117 million lobbying policymakers to increase spending on defense, and they also spent up to $10 million funding almost all of the major think tanks that research and write about nuclear weapons. So these are all of the actors, all of the players, in this dirty nuclear weapons business that we wanted to highlight and start to hold accountable.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Alicia, you mentioned the companies. Could you name them and tell us how much money they made off these contracts?

ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: Absolutely. So, in the report, we feature all of the more than 20 companies that are currently involved in producing nuclear weapons. So, a lot of these companies have existing contract that they’re still fulfilling on nuclear weapons. But in 2020, 11 of those companies received new or modified contracts to work on existing or new nuclear weapon systems, amounting to a total of more than $27 billion. And there are a number of companies involved — just to name a few, of course, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing. Honeywell International is one not a lot of people might know about. The full list of all those companies and the amounts are in the report, so if you want more details, I’d recommend checking that out.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Alicia, despite the fact that, as you document, the U.S. spent over $37 billion on nuclear arms in the last year, that figure is expected to exponentially increase, according to the Congressional Budget Office, in the coming year because of technological upgrades to the nuclear arsenal in the U.S. Could you talk about what we know about forthcoming increases in nuclear spending here?

ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: Absolutely. So, we’ve been seeing, I mean, from year to year, the spending on nuclear weapons has been increasing. As was mentioned, there was an increase in $1.4 billion on these weapons even in the middle of a global pandemic. And we know that that number is just going to continue to increase because of a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office looking at 10-year nuclear weapons costs, which found that there would be an increase of $140 billion over those 10 years compared to a previous 2019 report. So, you know, despite Biden’s campaign promises of wanting to work for arms control, wanting to work for disarmament, we’re seeing that in reality he’s going full steam ahead with Trump’s legacy nuclear weapons programs and continuing to spend more money on these weapons of mass destruction.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk, Alicia Sanders-Zakre, about the significance — I mean, he’s going to meet with the G7 countries — and what do nuclear weapons have to do with those countries? — and then the NATO summit. And the report you put out ahead of this summit, ICAN is arguing that members of the transatlantic alliance should embrace the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January. So, talk about how these two summits are critical to nuclear weapons and somehow turning the escalation of them around.

ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, speaking of the NATO summit, in particular, we saw President Biden wrote, in an opinion piece to The Washington Post recently, that a real focus of this trip was to promote democratic values and to bring the power of democracy to these meetings. And I think that’s very relevant when it comes to nuclear weapons issues in NATO countries and in Europe, because, as this other report shows, that we just released today, in most countries across the NATO there is overwhelming support for the country to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, when you ask the people what they think. But despite popular opinion, democratic support for this treaty, for banning nuclear weapons, these governments continue to say that they don’t support the treaty, to refuse to join it. And this is a NATO position that’s really not in line with the democratic — their democratic values and democratic ideals. So, I think this is an opportunity for NATO to really reevaluate their stance as a democracy that listens to what the people want on key issues like nuclear weapons.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Alicia, could you talk about the extent to which, if at all, the Biden administration has departed from the Trump administration on nuclear weapons policy?

ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: I think, so far, we really haven’t seen a departure. And this is clear in the recent 2022 budget request, which, as you mentioned in the introduction, keeps and continues to fund Trump’s additional nuclear weapons programs, as well as kind of the programs of record. So we really need to see more action from President Biden.

I think this upcoming meeting with President Putin is an opportunity for both countries to recognize the increasing risk of nuclear weapons, the devastating humanitarian consequences of these weapons, and take real steps and tangible progress towards nuclear disarmament and towards joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: Not only the issue of what would happen if a nuclear weapon was used — and, of course, that would be just devastating — but the fact that the money does not go, for example, to dealing with this global pandemic. I wanted to ask you about the report also naming think tanks which receive funding from nuclear weapons manufacturers. The list includes the Atlantic Council, Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for New American Security, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Hudson Institute and the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Can you talk more about the role of think tanks and these nuclear corporations?

ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: Absolutely. I mean, this is really new, I think shocking, research in that it shows that upwards of 10 — in just one year, the companies that produce and work on nuclear weapons spent upwards of $10 million funding really almost all major think tanks that are writing and researching about nuclear weapons. And, you know, it’s not always possible to know exactly the extent of the influence of this funding, but what’s really concerning is, I think, the depth and how widespread this funding is. It’s not just one think tank; as I said, it’s really most of the think tanks that are doing substantial work on nuclear weapons. And I think it’s a systemic problem in the field that, you know, think tanks should be asking themselves, “How can we actually come together and address the perhaps undue influence of nuclear weapon-producing companies in this field, in this sector?”

AMY GOODMAN: As the Biden administration pours billions into developing new nuclear weapons, nuclear resisters are still going to prison for opposing U.S. nuclear policy. On Wednesday, Mark Colville, a member of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, reported to prison. He was sentenced in April to 21 months in prison, breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base April 4th, 2018, on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King. Colville and six other activists entered the base armed with hammers, crime scene tape, baby bottles containing their own blood, and an indictment charging the U.S. government with crimes against peace. Two other members of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, Martha Hennessy and Carmen Trotta, were recently released from prison. Martha Hennessy is the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement. Your final comments on the role of activism when it comes to nuclear weapons?

ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE: I think it’s absolutely essential. You know, at the end of the day, these are weapons of mass destruction, and they have now been made illegal under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons due to the collaborative work of activists and diplomats and scientists and researchers and people all around the world. And so, it’s really — we really need activism to change the status quo and to finally get rid of these weapons of mass destruction.

AMY GOODMAN: Alicia Sanders-Zakre, we want to thank you so much for being with us, policy and research coordinator for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. And we’ll link to the report, “Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending,” as we continue to cover in the coming days the G7, the NATOsummit, the summit with President Biden and President Putin.

Next up, as President Biden pledges to buy half a billion vaccine doses to give to almost 100 countries in the world, we’ll look at why many Americans are refusing to get vaccinated. We’ll speak with Dr. Syra Madad of NYC Health and Hospitals, the nation’s largest public healthcare system, and why healthcare workers, a number of them, are saying no. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. People in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and particularly in the northeast United States, were able to see a ring of fire in the sky this morning as an annular solar eclipse moved across part of the planet.


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reheating the soufflé...


US and NATO: Manufacturing a new cold war?

The US wants to remain the sole superpower in the world and wants its NATO allies to rally behind unipolarity.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is trying to find its way back to “normalcy” after four years of drama under the fitful leadership of former US President Donald Trump.

This will prove a challenging task. NATO seems to have lost its mojo after Trump deformed its strategic vision and values and cast doubt over its shared destiny, albeit rhetorically.


But the advent of the trans-atlanticist Joe Biden is breathing life and vitality into the pact, as the US president tries to assure European allies of his administration’s seriousness in rebuilding trust and restoring harmony. 

This is not the first time the alliance is recovering after an internal crisis.

In fact, during the past few decades, there has been an eerie perception of some sort of a NATO crisis or another: a “profound crisis”, a “deepening crisis”, a “fundamental crisis”, a “general crisis”, an “unprecedented crisis” and even – a “real crisis”.

But NATO has always recovered.

Even before the end of the Cold War, NATO had its share of rift and discord whether over the Suez crisis, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the presence of authoritarian regimes within its ranks. Still, fear of the Soviet Union during the Cold War helped unite its members regardless of their discord. The greater the threat perception, the deeper the unity.

When the Eastern Bloc collapsed in 1989, the alliance which was created to keep the Soviets out, the Germans down and the Americans in Western Europe, lost its raison d’être. Disagreement within NATO persisted, shifting to enlargement towards the East and the ward and various military deployments in the greater Middle East.

In 2001, 24 hours after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, NATO invoked Article 5, the cornerstone of its collective defence, for the first time in its history. But fighting asymmetrical wars outside its long-defined area of operation, notably in Afghanistan, proved a thankless endeavour and a source of tension.

Over the past 30 years, NATO still managed to keep its unity, going through a number of cosmetic and structural surgeries to restore its vitality. It even almost doubled its membership from 16 to 30 members.

The alliance has repeatedly overcome internal discord through adaptation and compromise. It will do so again on June 14 in Brussels, hoping to enhance its appearance and performance in an ever more competitive world. Biden’s high popularity in Europe in comparison to Trump will certainly help.


NATO will once again rely on the fact that there is more that unites its members than divides them.

That, in my opinion, is first and foremost protecting their common economic and financial interests. With a population of almost a billion people and half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), NATO has decidedly been the military arm of a privileged club of Western capitalist democracies.

Today, the alliance faces two major strategic challenges, rising China and resurging Russia, which pose cyber-, space, and geopolitical threats, including in “the Global South”, where Beijing and to some degree Moscow are expanding.

All other issues that have been raised in public, such as climate change, human security, and development, etc are window dressing. This is not because they are not important – they most certainly are – but rather because they are more G7 than NATO material.

But since the Trump psychological rupture, some Europeans are said to be wary of being overdependent on the US for their security, as they were over the past seven decades.

NATO’s junior members have been especially traumatised by the erratic president’s behaviour, while the more senior continental members, like France and Germany, have been wary but also savvy in their reactions. They are exploiting the American debacle to call for a greater European security autonomy and a more equal partnership with the US.

They have also embraced a more nuanced, less dramatic view of the challenges posed by Russia and China than the Biden administration has. They would rather avoid Cold War rhetoric and emphasise engagement over confrontation with Russia and Beijing.

And they have a point.

Russia, as former President Barack Obama put it, is today no more than “a regional power” whose bellicose actions are an expression of weakness rather than strength.

It is better to contain Russia through political and economic engagement than alienate it through strategic confrontation.

And while rising China presents a whole new geopolitical puzzle, it is no Soviet Union.

Despite its enormous economic power and strategic ambition, it espouses no alternative vision for the world. And since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, Beijing has integrated its economy into the Western-led world economic system and enjoys tremendous windfall from its trade with the West.

The Europeans see China as an economic competitor or at worst, a rival, and are content with a multipolar world. But Washington looks at China through a different lens. It reckons China is determined to become an Asian hegemon and insists on containing its rise before it becomes the world’s leading power. America wants to remain the world’s undisputed superpower.


This means the Biden administration will have to charm and bully its divided but prosperous European partners into getting behind it.

In fact, some of the pressure is already bearing fruit as Europeans are increasingly distancing themselves from China, especially in the technology and investment fields, and the UK has demonstratively deployed an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea.

Practically speaking, NATO will sooner than later try to embrace a new strategic assessment along the lines of its 2010 strategic assessment, but one that contains more emphasis on political cohesion and coordination. The Europeans will demand greater parity and lobby Washington to act less unilaterally as it did under Trump or when the Biden administration decided on withdrawal from Afghanistan with virtually no real consultation until the last minute.

For its part, Washington will continue to insist, as it did over the past decades, that Europe must pay for a greater say in NATO and show greater commitment to their collective security. It may also bring the Asian powers, Japan and South Korea, to the picture under the pretext of “defending democracy” in East Asia.

Easier said than done? Perhaps.


But the greater challenge lies in defining NATO’s new role and mission in light of Washington’s insistence on using the alliance to do what it must to maintain America’s world supremacy, which is certain to lead to a new cold war with China.

Biden wants to use the NATO meeting to rally the alliance behind America before his June 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, knowing all too well that China is watching closely.

Pushing for enlarging the alliance further into Ukraine and Georgia or for extending its force projection, in the future, are sure to provoke both Moscow and Beijing and push them closer together, with grave ramification for world security.

Biden should be careful what he wishes for; it may just come true.


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Message to the kids of today: As you may have discovered, some of the adult in charge are mad and exclusive. And you can do bugger all about this. So enjoy your gentile life as a little bourgeois, in whichever gender you wish (without regrets) and hide under the pillows as soon as your milk bottle is rattled by the bombs... The earth will soon turn into the planet of the apes, but the cockroaches might steal it before that.


Note: you might need to visit should you wish to become electronically invisible... while being environmentally responsible.


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an expresso please...


This could be a hoax and played out by a Doppelganger (look at the shoes)...


US President Joe Biden was seen wandering around a cafe in Cornwall, England, before his wife stepped in and led him away. Conservatives, who have long questioned Biden’s mental acuity, called the video “painful to watch.”  

Video footage posted online on Friday, but largely ignored by the mainstream media, shows Biden wandering slowly onto a cafe terrace. Someone on the terrace, most likely an ITV journalist, asks “How are your meetings going in Cornwall?” Biden then freezes, flashes a thumbs-up, and replies “Very good.”

First Lady Jill Biden then steps in and beckons her husband toward her, before leading him away by the hand as diners laugh out loud.

Biden’s demeanor and apparent confusion raised eyebrows online, particularly among American conservatives, who have claimed since last year’s campaign that Biden was showing signs of cognitive decline. Video footage of Biden’s verbal gaffes and blunders since becoming president – like forgetting the names of his own officials and losing his train of thought at his single solo press conference – have only lent weight to their claims.

“This is really painful to watch,” conservative journalist Kyle Becker tweeted.


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Don't worry, kids, should Biden sit on the nuke button, there is a great chance that his large cavernous arsehole will prevent his bottom cheeks to touch it, avoiding to launch an attack on the rest of the living world... We will have to worry a bit more, when getting older, the guy will start wearing adult-reinforced nappies, like the ones you're wearing now...


Read from top.



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In 2020, the world’s nuclear powers have decreased the overall number of nuclear weapons in their possession, but more of them than a year ago are now ready to be fired at short notice, according to a report.

At the start of the year, there were around 13,080 nuclear weapons stockpiled by nine nations – the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea – which is down from 13,400 a year prior, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported on Monday. Yet, at the same time, the number of nukes deployed with operational forces – that is, mounted on missiles or stored where they can be quickly prepared for use – has increased by about 105, reaching 3,825.


Russia and the US, the two nations holding most of the world’s nuclear weapons, were predominantly responsible for both changes, SIPRI said. Both have continued to reduce their respective arsenals by retiring outdated warheads, but also prepared for action, adding some 50 weapons each.


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once upon a time...


By Danny Sjursen — a retired US Army officer, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy (CIP), contributing editor at, and director of the new Eisenhower Media Network (EMN)



Once upon a time, the United States of America – the world’s self-styled "beacon of democracy" – nearly nuked China’s then 600 millions worth of innocents. This, before Beijing even had any A-Bombs of its own. Well, that much we’ve known, in broad strokes – though, I fear, without the requisite resultant soul-searching – since historian Gordon Chang’s 1988 journal article (which I was assigned in graduate school en-route to West Point’s faculty): "JFK, China, and the Bomb." 

Chang’s peer-reviewed scholarly submission made waves – at least in academia – by disclosing the rather profound fact that the Kennedy administration apparently seriously considered colluding with even the Soviets to, per a later erudite authorial follow-up, "Strangle the Baby in the Cradle.” In other words, to coerce China into abandoning its nascent nuclear program – and if necessary destroy it (even with hydrogen bombs) – before Beijing could produce a viable weapon.

That was circa 1961-64. Ultimately, the Chinese did test their first bomb in October of the latter year. And you know what? Nothing much happened – little changed, America endured, the world didn’t end. If only those poor souls – and their no longer truly communist descendants – knew they came so close to being needlessly sacrificed, or never existing, on the altar of U.S. strategic absurdity.

Well, what’s done is done, right? Wrong(!), says 90-year old national treasure activist, scholar, writer, and "patriotic whistleblower” – of Pentagon Papers fame – Mr. Daniel Ellsberg. On the contrary, he recently disclosed an apparently still-classified document, indicating that six years before Beijing’s first bomb test, in response to Communist shelling of islands controlled by Taiwan in 1958, the US drew up plans to carry out nuclear strikes on mainland China. 

Parts of that obscene story have been known since the DOD declassified selected portions of the analytical study of the crisis back in 1975, but the government kept-censored certain sections demonstrating that US military leaders had pressed for first-use nuclear strikes on China – despite predicting that the Soviets would likely retaliate in kind. In other words, senior generals and admirals were willing to accept the deaths of millions of people – including Americans – by slaughtering countless citizens of a non-nuclear nation, in defense of a non-essential, non-treaty ally.

Surely that’s grotesque – but why reveal it now? Well, Ellsberg apparently copied the top secret study about the Taiwan Strait crisis at the same time – some 50 years ago – as he did the Pentagon Papers, but is only now highlighting it amid rising "New Cold War" tensions between the United States and China over islands in the South China Sea and notably, once again, Taiwan. With both Uncle Joe and The Donald seemingly trying to "out-hawk” each other on China in the recent election – and with tit-for-tat rhetorical and military show-of-force exercises now the order of the day in both Beijing and Biden’s Washington – Ellsberg is apparently hoping against hope that a radical act of risk-accepting courage could cool heads even just a tad.

That alone would be worth the effort. Yet there’s more continued relevance, and further reasons, to release this analysis of otherwise ancient history at this particular moment. Because the fact is that most past is prologue, and sometimes isn’t even past. Ultimately, what Ellsberg disclosed documents madness – the pervasive madness of American policymakers, and perhaps power more generally. And if we’re to survive as a species, that’s always a subject worth studying.

Relevance#1: Reminding Us of Past Policy Madness

The first thing the document reveals, which should by now be undeniably obvious – yet somehow isn’t – is that America’s leaders weren’t, and aren’t, inherently more rational or humane than most others. That may still shock plenty of uncritical, surface-level, pageantry patriots here in the "Land of the Free" – but it’s demonstrably true by most basic philosophical and policy track record merits. 

That those oh-so-venerated "Great Generation" leaders, who reached the very pinnacle of America’s adulated military hierarchy, would even considercalling for the incineration of millions of Chinese children – despite predicting (correctly or not) a Soviet nuclear retaliation certain to wipe out thousands of their own forward-based troops, and perhaps millions of stateside American civilians – starkly evinces senior US leaders’ capacity for callous cruelty and cowboy-like foolhardiness. 

Which is further proof that, as critical historians have long argued, often as not, Washington was the provocative party and madcap-wildcard in the Cold War. It often still is. Not that the United States is on all levels the worst empire in history. Even Ellsberg admits it is not. However, he has recently pointed outthat America does "have one peculiarity: We invented the Doomsday Machine as a tool of our influence." And, as the document he just released shows, America’s immensely popular military leaders were often wildly cavalier with their advice on just how the president should wield that almost godlike power. Thankfully, Ike – like a later Kennedy – ultimately balked.

It’s a good thing too, since of course, as with the later Kennedy-era wolf-crying Chicken Littles, the risk-ending-the-world enthusiasts among Eisenhower’s civilian – and especially military – advisers proved another set of stunning alarmists. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, though typically remembered for his United Nations shoe-banging theatrics, proved rather rational regarding the whole Taiwan Strait imbroglio. He’d already sensed a impending split in the never monolithic – except in delusional American eyes – communist camp, was increasingly alarmed by Mao Zedong’s supposedly supercilious view of nuclear war, and within in year responded by ending Moscow’s technical assistance to Beijing’s nuclear program. 

Here was another close call for civilian catastrophe – not that key figures in the ride-to-victory on claims of a non-existent "missile gap" [with the Soviets], Kennedy administration took any heed from that 1958 mass-murder near-miss.

Relevance#2: Exposing America’s Past&Present Madcaps

That’s the second reason Ellsberg’s release of the classified portions of the Taiwan crisis study is timely and ever-exigent. Since the Second World War, and off-the-rails-especially since the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War "show” and the 9/11 attacks, a fetishistic myth has developed of the military man as moral beacon and sober strategic realist in a world of ethical and civil competence decay. That’s what all the humbug about the supposedly Trump-restraining, only "adults-in-the-room” generals, carelessly bandied about by the establishment’s faux liberals was about. Yet what history shows, and what not just Ellsberg’s documents reveal – but both JFK and Ike eventually knew – is that the notion of savior generals is not just misplaced myth but delusionally dangerous. Perhaps that’s why it was precisely the sections of the top secret study revealing the attitudes of senior military officers towards nuclear options in the Taiwan Strait that the the government kept censored. Even a cursory read reveals why.

Take the document’s depiction of top Air Force commander for the Pacific, General Laurence S. Kuter’s recommendations back in 1958. This character wanted delegated authorization for a first-use nuclear attack on mainland China at the onset of any conflict – bold talk for an officer who flew scant combat missions in all of World War II and was regarded by peers and superiors alike as mainly "staff material." Now, he was willing to accept a proposed plan to kickoff the war by – at least initially – only nuking Chinese airfields, so as to assuage skeptics of, you know, mass (foreign) murder and mass (domestic) death inside the Eisenhower administration. 

Not that Kuter had any respect for such "doves," stating at one meeting only that "There would be merit in a proposal from the military to limit the war geographically [to just air bases], if that proposal would forestall some misguided humanitarian’s intention to limit a war to obsolete iron bombs and hot lead." Damn those rascally peaceniks who’ve proven indisputably right in opposing incinerating countless civilian millions every single time, am I right? 

Then there was the military’s very top leader, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Nathan F. Twining. The Ellsberg document paraphrases this madman as saying that if bombings the air bases – and, given the nature of nuclear payloads, thus killing who knows how many nearby Chinese civilians – didn’t force Beijing to back off Taiwan, there’d be "no alternative but to conduct nuclear strikes deep into China as far north as Shanghai." Got that? No alternative, no alternative at all – real creative sort, America’s top military man at the time!

Sometimes such nuclear-possessed generals and admirals have proven not just strategically obtuse and deranged, but potentially insubordinate madcaps. As he recounted in The Doomsday Machine, during his many fact-finding trips across the Pacific Ellsberg surveyed top US commanders in Asia about their likely response to receiving a theoretical presidential order to direct their bombers only at the Soviet Union in a bilateral war. Even he was shocked by the responses, in which the senior military men’s (mostly Naval) branch-, and Pacific theater-parochialism led them to not only be horrified by the "out of the question" prospect of not simultaneously nuking China’s cities as a matter of course in the event of a strike on the Soviets – but to not-so-subtly hint that they’d likely assume the order an (obviously "insane") mistake, and consider doing so anyway.

Lest Ellsberg seem alarmist in his assessments of these military men, or in his motives for releasing the 62-year old classified document now, recall that after working on nuclear command and control war plans – traveling around the Pacific and meeting with real-life Air Force strategic bomber commanders – he later left the Pentagon during one workday to see the black comedy, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. As he rather chilling described in his 2017 bookThe Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, he and his colleague Harry Rowen – later Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under Dick Cheney – left the theater in a daze, "both agreeing that what we had just seen was, essentially, a documentary." 

No doubt, Ellsberg had met his fair share of Strangelovian sorts – Generals Jack D. Ripper- and Buck Turgidson-types – up close and personal in his Pacific and Pentagon travels, but here’s the thing: he’s hardly convinced there are adults minding the store any better today. Describing the parallels between Trump-Biden and Ike-Kennedy-era Sino-saber-rattling over the Taiwan Strait, Ellsberg discomfiting concludes: "I do not believe the participants were more stupid or thoughtless than those in between or in the current cabinet." 

In other words, even "polite" liberals and fallible mid-level policy-managers might well gamble on, or blunder away, the survival of the species over – a more strategically inessential "prize" than most – distant little Taiwan…what with humans being (oft-irrationally) human and all.

Relevance#3: Challenging New Cold War Madness

That minor matter, the potentially existential risks of the current escalatory China-rhetoric and actions – about which we "democratic" citizens get no say – explains Ellsberg’s urgency, the timing of the release. A big part of the problem is that more than 60 years after the crisis described in the document, Taiwan’s status vis-à-vis it’s relationship with mainland China – and whether Washington would, could, or should defend it (perhaps with nuclear weapons) – remains strategically ambiguous. Nor, somehow, is that thermonuclear mass-murder option completely unthinkable even today. As the respected Cold War historian Odd Arne Westad argued, in reacting to Ellsberg’s release, if China invaded Taiwan now "it would put tremendous pressure on US policymakers, in the case of such a confrontation, to think about how they might deploy nuclear weapons." Look, he’s probably right – but that’s crazy talk.

Westad referred to the reality that such possibilities are likely being considered by Pentagon contingency planners, as "sobering;" Ellsberg called such 1958-reminiscent high-level discussions "shallow" and "reckless." Only it’s even worse than all that, since – although one rarely hears this elephant in the war room enunciated – American political and military leaders are ultimately raising the stakes, and risking the apocalyptic, over primacy in a Sea named after China and a Strait that’s the proximity-equivalent of the Florida Man Straits between Key West and Cuba. 

In other words, it’s quite clear who’s really sailing on whose aquatic turf, and therefore who’s got more of a vital interest in securing it. Think that’s not an exceptionally perilous path to wade with a now well-[nuclear]-armed, economic powerhouse with over a billion citizens? Just imagine how Washington might respond if Beijing sailed one its two aircraft carriers (the US Navy, naturally, has eleven) clear past the revelers on Duval Street in Key West – as the US Navy essentially did just last month, through the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea. Odds are it wouldn’t end well.

It turned out, in 1958, that the United States could safely suffer a communist China – just as it turned out, after 1964, that it could live with – just as we have for decades now – a nuclear-armed China. Imagine that. No doubt, we’d all be better off if all these thermonuclear suicide machines went the way of the dinosaur before our entire species does – but there’s no sense in risking all that unnecessarily.

Relevance#4: Defying the Government’s Policy Madness

My 99-year old beloved, if sometime-off-putting grandmother – who sincerely believed that the Beatles growing their hair long and the astronauts "fooling around up there [in space]" augured America’s hell-in-a-hand basket decline – died this past January. At the end her mind was pretty much prostrated by Alzheimer’s, but well into her nonagenarian years, Mary (née Maria Lompado) stayed surprisingly sharp. Still, without implying a shred of ageism (I hope), it’s hard to imagine her or many 90-year olds – or for that matter any-year-olds – deciding to single-handedly take on the US Government (again!) and risk spending the remainder of her life in prison. Only that’s exactly what Daniel Ellsberg is daring the Justice Department to do.

In a very real sense, besides hoping to temper today’s needless escalatory tensions with China, Ellsberg’s other goal in timing the classified document’s release is to challenge – expose even – Washington’s war on whistleblowers and general climate of dissenting speech-suppression. And, really, who better to do it?

The thing is, Ellsberg hasn’t just taken a chance of criminal indictment by releasing what he accurately assesses to be critical revelations: he wants to become a defendant in a test case challenging the Justice Department’s increased use of the Espionage Act to prosecute officials who leak information – even crucial revelations that are clearly in the public interest. That’s no small thing, and perhaps – though let’s hope he has Old Testament-level longevity – one last courageous challenge to government overreach and indecency, in a life dedicated to as much.

Daniel Ellsberg is essentially poking government prosecutors to indict, in order to test the limits and expose the abuses and inconsistencies of an archaic Espionage Act that should’ve been ditched more than a century ago – if for only for the taint of it’s authoritarian World War I liberty-squelchinglegacy. He’s ready – hoping even – to take such a case straight up the chain to the Supreme Court.

Though the move’s no doubt a risky one, Ellsberg’s is a bold and maybe brilliant pickle pitched the Washington’s way. The US government, especially helmed by the self-pronounced "ethics are back" Biden, could find itself trapped in a lose-lose situation against this legendary elder activist (whom, no doubt, many inside the administration grew up admiring). Think on it. Either:

A) The Justice Department decides not to indict – thereby delivering proof positive of the politicized, uneven, and oft-arbitrary nature of prosecutions under the abusive and overreaching Espionage Act. Plus, that could set a problematic precedent for future proceedings against the next public-interest leakers in line. And Lord knows the powerful don’t want to lose that cudgel from their speech-curtailing toolbox.


B) They do charge – demonstrating for all to see the government’s core capacity for cruelty when it comes to press and speech-suppression, in a sure to be public airing of its undemocratic dirty laundry. That’d require making a martyr of an American activist legend, and mean the Justice Department willfully placing itself on inverted trial in the court of public opinion.

That’s hardly an optimal set of available options, though no doubt the government has stupidly selected the heaviest hammer plenty times before.

Finally, Ellsberg lists Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden as number one and two, respectively, among his "Top 5 Whistleblowers," and no doubt his decision to dare the government to indict him, and risk dying in prison, is partly directed at their – and probably also Julian Assange’s – public vindication, and clearing a safer path for future Mannings and Snowdens to reveal vital truths that speak loudly to power. Ellsberg’s right about that much: America, and Americans, could sure use more of these sorts in this age of endless war.

When it comes to today’s unnecessary, unhinged, unwinnable, and (should be) unthinkable, American-escalated "New Cold War" with China, the Albert Einstein epigraph quote for Ellsberg’s book, The Doomsday Machine, is uncomfortably fitting: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." 

The "Father of Modern Physics" – who himself influenced the start of the Manhattan Project (to develop the first atomic bomb during World War II) – wrote those words 75 years ago, yet to listen to supposedly serious politicians, or read many establishment think tank "thinkers," it’s painfully apparent that powerful people’s "modes of thinking" still haven’t much changed. 

So unless, Ellsberg’s brave and high-risk Hail Mary moves the needle more than usual – or plenty of true patriots get to doing more of the same en masse – it seems Americans, and rest of the un-consulted global citizenry, are sure to keep drifting towards catastrophe. Maybe even riding delusion to extinction. Ellsberg’s been arguing the same for several decades now, and although a recent profiler in The Nation wrote that "happiness isn’t a state of mind that Ellsberg wears on his sleeve," if nothing else he plans do go down fighting. When asked if, at 90-years old "he might slow down a bit" and pass the baton to younger activists, he replied: "I will be trying to alert people to the day that I die. I think our nuclear policy is…dangerously delusional." And so it is.

Daniel Ellsberg hasn’t an ounce of quit in him – and neither should we.




Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy (CIP), contributing editor at, and director of the new Eisenhower Media Network (EMN). His work has appeared in the NY Times, LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, The American Conservative, Mother Jones, Scheer Post and Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge and Patriotic Dissent: America in the Age of Endless War. Along with fellow vet Chris "Henri" Henriksen, he co-hosts the podcast “Fortress on a Hill.” Follow him on Twitter @SkepticalVet and on his website for media requests and past publications.



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