The Existential Risk of Trusting ‘Intel’

Official Washington has a near mystical faith in “intelligence,” especially when it’s warning of some foreign enemy, but ideological bias and groupthink often creep in as shown in an insightful Cold War memoir, reports John V. Walsh.

By John V. Walsh

In Tom Lehrer’s ballad satirizing former Nazi rocket scientist Werhner von Braun’s cavalier attitude toward the deadly consequences of his work, there’s the line, “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun.”

Illustration by Chesley Bonestell of nuclear bombs detonating over New York City, entitled “Hiroshima U.S.A.” Colliers, Aug. 5, 1950.

From MAD to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning is the enlightening memoir by Paul Johnstone, a man who worked in the “department” that decided where “they” would come down. Johnstone labored there during WWII and then from 1949 to 1969, the initial period of the Cold War and the period covered by this book. On Aug. 29, 1949, the Soviet Union caught the world flat-footed when it set off its first nuclear bomb (just over four years after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Thus began the years when frightened children scrambled under their desks by day and were tormented with mushroom cloud nightmares by night. The U.S. and the USSR stood on The Brink over the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Crisis when The Wall went up. Those years were the initial period of nuclear standoff called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

What Johnstone saw as he went about his duties horrified him – and it should also horrify us. For it is the thesis of the Afterword, by the author’s daughter, the prominent political commentator Diana Johnstone, that after the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. moved quickly from “MAD to Madness.”

Madness refers to plans for a knockout nuclear first strike on Russia, aided and abetted by the latest missile defense boondoggle. That was a favorite fantasy of the generals in the post-WWII era. Whether we now live in another era of Madness, when a disabling first strike again dances in the heads of the Elite, or once again in an era of MAD is an open question in my mind. But Paul Johnstone’s memoir is a work of great importance in either case.

Paul Johnstone started out in Henry Wallace’s Department of Agriculture during the New Deal, but was moved to the Department of War after Pearl Harbor. His job was to pick targets for conventional bombs in Japan, although not the targets for the first atom bombs.

When the Cold War commenced, he studied how targets for nuclear weapons should be selected and how much damage The Bomb would do when dropped on various corners of the USSR. He also assessed the damage of Russian nukes landing in various corners of the U.S. He worked at the most august levels of U.S. intelligence: Air Force Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of Secretary of Defense.

Some of Johnstone’s studies became part of the Pentagon Papers, leaked by former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg. Johnstone gave the manuscript for this memoir to his daughter, Diana Johnstone, when he was on his deathbed in 1981.

Faulty Intelligence

A central message of the book is the inevitable failure of intelligence. This aspect of the memoir is hard to apprehend in all its facets without actually reading it. Why can “intelligence” not be trusted?

Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations on Feb. 5. 2003, citing satellite photos which supposedly proved that Iraq had WMD, but the evidence proved bogus.

First the intelligence agencies lie – and do so quite consciously when it suits those who command them or the desires of those who command their commanders. Anyone who does not recognize this by now has not been paying attention. Intel did this most notoriously in recent years in the case of the non-existent WMD that led the U.S. to a multitrillion dollar war on the innocent people of Iraq – which we fight to this day even though Barack Obama declared the war “officially” over.

But even when the Intel agencies are trying to make honest estimates, they face other obstacles. This is the major lesson that Paul Johnstone delivers. Let us take a few examples. On the topic of trying to assess the damage done by nuclear weapons either on the USSR or on the U.S., he writes:

–“They (the effects of nuking a target) would be researched, and in time – much time – a lot would be learned about them, although not enough ever to provide the basis for predictive measurements. So men do what men always do. They calculated what was calculable as best they could, and generally ignored, or dismissed with mere mention by name, the factors that, however relevant and crucial, were incalculable. Or they would just make a wild guess. One problem was that whatever the uncertainties, those utilizing the information were rarely in a position to understand its degree of reliability.” (p. 39 of From Mad to Madness, hereafter FMTM)

So the “decision makers” for nuclear war could well be acting on intel that is “a wild guess,” and they would not know it! And here is Johnstone writing on the way that the “wild guesses” and other intelligence estimates come to be made, most notably about enemy capabilities – an essential if one plans to start a nuclear war:

–“I believe that, to anyone who has been deeply immersed in it and then has had the privilege of viewing it with some measure of detachment, military intelligence must seem a world of flickering light, dark shadows, mood music and whispered rumors, half heard against trumpeted accompaniment proclaiming dire threats that imperil us from outer darkness. Shapes are partly perceived at best, most commonly merely implied, often not seen at all, and often what you think you see is really not there at all. There are always some things you know you know, but you never know how many things there are that you have no evidence even to suspect. You do not know how much of what you see is deliberately staged to mislead you.

“What is seldom realized is that there is always a dominant mood that determines, more than the sharpest senses or the most acute reasoning, what you decide is out there and what is going on. Like all the world and all experience, it is kaleidoscopic; and the bits and pieces that flit before your eyes are what you thought you’d see before you looked.

“Always of course there are the true believers. The images immediately before their eyes are God’s own truth. It’s a matter of right or wrong, bright sunlight or utter darkness. Then there are those not fully convinced nor deeply caring, who find it least troublesome to see what others say they see. Like herded sheep they may once in a while say ‘baa,’ but though they may distrust the direction they are driven in, they feel reassured following the path forced on them by the pressure of the bodies next to them.” (FMTM, p. 63)

In other words, in the end, the data and analysis do little more than to confirm pre-existing sentiments and prejudices.

Agenda-Driven Intel

Then there were the “experts” who had their own agenda. A striking example is the “Special Studies Group” set up in the early 1950s in the Air Force Directorate of Intelligence.

Henry Kissinger, former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.

Johnstone writes: “It was headed by Steve Possony, a Hungarian émigré who professed to be an expert on Communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular. Steve was the first of several Central European émigrés I met in the next few years who passed as experts on Communist Europe. … Others were Stausz-Hupé, Kissinger, Brzezinski and many lesser lights such as Leon Gouré and Helmut Sonnenfeldt. In every case I felt that they were thinking, consciously or otherwise, as representatives of a lost cause in their native land, and I always believed that they were used by the military because their ‘obsessions’ were so useful.” (FTFM, p.80)

Of course it is not clear who was using whom here. But we can think of a latter day equivalent in Bush 2 time when neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz dominated the Pentagon. As they ginned up the War on Iraq, it was all too clear that their loyalty to Israel came into play. For while the wars in the Middle East and North Africa did little to advance the interests of the U.S., costing it blood, treasure and new enemies like ISIS, those wars left in ruins potential adversaries of Israel in its neighborhood. There can be little doubt that the interests of Israel were served by these American “strategic thinkers.”

Johnstone goes on: “The one product of Possony’s group that I most distinctly remember was an annual appraisal of the strategic situation. And the reason I remember it, perhaps, is that every year that appraisal forecast a massive Russian land attack on Western Europe the following year. Several of us began to laugh about it after a while, but the forecast was always intoned awesomely and with superficial plausibility. I do not know whether many people who heard the briefings really believed the forecasts. I suspect many doubted it would really be next year, and thought it more likely the year after or even later. But even doubters approved the forecast because, they reasoned, it was better to err in this direction than to minimize the danger. Above all, it was good to say things that emphasized the need for strong defenses.” (FTFM, p. 80)

Alarmist warnings about impending Soviet invasions of Europe also were helpful in expanding U.S. military budgets.

The issues that Johnstone raises are relevant not only for scholars, but for each and every one of us since our very existence hangs by a thread increasingly frayed by the incessant anti-Russia drumbeat in our media. That drumbeat has reached a neo-McCarthyite crescendo in these days of Russia-gate where politicians crazed by hatred of Vladimir Putin like John McCain or hatred of Donald Trump like nearly every last Democrat hold sway.

A New Era of MAD

The relevance of the memoir is inescapable, and this is laid out with considerable insight in a preface and a postscript by Johnstone’s daughter, Diana, a journalist residing in Paris and a frequent commenter on French and U.S. politics. She is also the author of The Politics of Euromissiles (1984), Greens in the European Parliament – A New Sense of Purpose for Europe (1994), Fool’s Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (2003), and Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015).

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Austria on June 24, 2014. (Official Russian government photo)

She is careful of the conclusions she draws. In addition, Paul Craig Roberts’s Foreword adds a further dimension to the book since he worked with some of Paul Johnstone’s colleagues and also inside the Reagan cabinet when the first Cold War finally came to an end. (Regrettably here we are again – in Cold War 2.0.)

I remain unconvinced only by one conclusion of the book and that lies in Diana Johnstone’s Afterword. One thesis of the Afterword is that we went from the era of MAD back to the era of Madness, that is an attempt at a nuclear first strike, after the demise of the USSR. That may well have been true in the first decade of the Century when Russia was still on its back and China was relatively weak. (Diana Johnstone cites literature from this period to make her case. See also “The End of Mad”.)

George W. Bush was in power then, and the neocons were in the driver’s seat. Bush withdrew from the ABM treaty in June 2002, which opened the door to developing the ever elusive anti-missile system that would make possible a first-strike on Russia and/or China. (At times first strike capability is called “nuclear primacy”.) Those ABM plans persisted and have been implemented right up to the present with their deployment in Eastern Europe nominally against Iran and in South Korea nominally against the DPRK. They are in fact aimed at Russia and China, and no one is fooled by other claims, least of all Russia and China.

But we are now 15 years out from 2002 and Russia’s economy and military are much stronger under Putin. Moreover, China’s GDP was only about 18 percent of the U.S. GDP in Purchasing Power Parity terms in 2002; it is now in 2017 about 120 percent that of the U.S., and the gap grows daily. And of course military power grows out of economic power.

Things have changed. Certainly, the U.S. maintains a vast edge in its military capability, but is it enough for the neocons and neoliberalcons to realistically dream any longer of a nuclear first strike? I doubt it, but the grave danger is that they are living in the past and that their “intel” is telling them that nuclear primacy is still theirs. Why? Because the intel agencies might feel that is what their bosses want to hear.

After all, who wants to abandon past glory. Empires do not have a great track record when it comes to accepting decline. Living in the past is one of the things that might concern us after reading Paul Johnstone’s work. So it is a book of considerable importance for the moment. It warns us of the perilous age in which we live, and it tells us that the need to create a structure of peace in a multipolar world is urgent.

John V. Walsh is a founding member of “Come Home America” and formerly a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He can be reached at [email protected] .

25 comments for “The Existential Risk of Trusting ‘Intel’

  1. May 18, 2017 at 12:16

    Russia and China should send a list of targets, that will be their priority in the event of nuclear war, to Congress and the Senate plus the Wall Street banks. Those primary targets should be the towns and cities where the war mongering Senators and their families live. Every secure bunker of the US Government should be clearly shown on the plan and have a red target printed on it so that they understand that even if they should get to the bunker they would be buried alive. Of course unless the Wall Street bankers are really stupid they know that Wall Street will cease to exist about 1/2 hour after the nuclear war begins. Secondary targets should be every tax haven in the world, Then the third set of targets should be all military installations . Switzerland in particular should be wiped off the map. A lot of influential and disgustingly rich people are buying real estate in New Zealand so that they have a safe haven if nuclear war breaks out. They should be disabused of that country not being hit and hit hard.

    If that were to happen there would be no nuclear war. The best way to stop a fight is to reassure the instigator that he will be the first casuality if the fight breaks out. that usually has a sobering effect on the really mouthy ones.

  2. May 18, 2017 at 12:08

    Realist, your comment about Cheney was great.

    Professor Stephen F. Cohen remarked to Tucker Carlson that the Intel agencies operate as the fourth branch of government.

    David Talbot’s book, “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Shadow Government” shows the deep state beginnings. Dulles cared only about his spymaster games, viewed people as simply “useful”. A fascinating read…

  3. Operation Dinner Outlaw
    May 17, 2017 at 23:46

    After concluding another prison term in 1967, Coe embarked on a music career in Nashville, living in a hearse which he parked in front of the Ryman Auditorium. He caught the attention of the independent record label Plantation Records and signed a contract with the label.

    The Pittsburgh car wash didn’t work out. I’m heading to DC to open a car wash for hearses. They have dirt and hearses. In outlaw we trust.

  4. robert carter
    May 17, 2017 at 20:38

    The Russians have little reason to trust the USA, especially as the current modernisation plan of the american nuclear wepons give a first strike capability. Various people have suggested that the Russians are a bit paranoid about the USA intentions.The Thaad sites in Poland and Romania are perceived as a direct threat, and nothing to do with the Iranians. Likewise the new base in S Korea that is almost certainly irrelevant to the N Koreans. What if the Russians announced a plan to strike those two sites with the intent to destroy them, a limited strike with 3 months warning, no matter what if they were not available to inspection or demolition. How would the USA respond, especially if an equal strike to the continental USA was promised if Russia it’s self was attacked. Would this help disarmament if the USA saw the reality, the possible consequences of their present policy.

    • susan sunflower
      May 17, 2017 at 22:42

      The USA almost monthly makes the “need for” and “utility of” having a nuclear arsenal “existential” to more and more countries who are much too small and poor to EVER challenge the USA militarily (even in “coalition” with a band of other tiny nations) because — deterrence. Watching “The Americans” (I’m about to start season 3, while the world is on Season 5), I was reminded of the Rosenbergs and the many people who believed that Russian “existentially” needed the Atomic bomb, and the world needed Russia to have the Atomic bomb, in order to balance out the USA which had already proven they were willing to use it — twice. I’m sure the American newspapers brooked no dissent in the condemnation of such espionage … even if the materials passed merely sped up already in progress Soviet development. The hysterical denunciations of Manning and Snowden come to mind. Also the “outrage” when it was leaked that the USA was intercepting Bin Laden’s satellite phone calls (hindered as usual by a lack of Arabic speakers to translate and a lack of expertise in Middle Eastern affairs (outside of Israel and OPEC).

    • Brad Owen
      May 18, 2017 at 04:51

      No. The Anglo-American Empire is dead, killed by their own financial shenanigans. Their despair drives them to destroying the World. If they can’t rule, then nobody will. This is the truth. How do we talk the rulers down from THIS state of mind? THAT is the issue…to show them there is still a good life they can live, after Empire and Reign.

  5. Evangelista
    May 17, 2017 at 20:30

    The existential fact about Intel is that you have to accept it as existential information reflecting an existential perspectivity existentially defined by the Intel’s provider’s existential perspective of reality within the existential framework of existential reality in and of its own existentialization of the subject’s existential subjectivity in the Intel’s framing reality.

    What all of that means is that whatever you hear or read, you have to do your own thinking about (unless you want to be just a true believer), because the perspective will be the provider’s.

    Thinking about Intel, or any information received, and maybe doing a little research to look for confirmation, can provide you intelligence; sometimes intelligence the Intel-provider did not anticipate providing, or having discovered.

    Two great examples of Intel have been recently provided for examples.

    One is a hyperventilation about Syria asserting that the Syrian government is operating a !!Crematorium!! at a prison complex. True Believers are anticipated to, all on their own, connect !!Crematorium!! with !!Holocaust!! and imagine Assad !!Gassing!! !!His Own People!! !!Like Hitler!!. The “Intel” “evidence” for this “Intel” assertion appears to be a satellite (or drone” surveillance photo on which a note is overlaid with an arrow pointing to a section of black rectangle. The note notes that the snow, apparently making other roof areas white, is melted on the noted arrowed rectangle. The implication you are asked to draw to like it was an inside straight (or inside info and straight) is, of course, that !!The must be burning bodies inside!!.

    There is no chimney apparent in any area adjacent to the ‘snowmelt’ evidence of heat inside the building. There is no “smoke” (steam) visible in the ‘evidence’ photo. Human bodies are 98% water, wherefore cremating a body is akin to burning to ashes about six cases of Gatorade, plastic bottles and cardboard box case materials included (constituting a suitable substitute for the 02% non-aqueous container material of human bodies). Cremating, therefore, is 98% evaporating, 02% heating to combustion temperature and combusting. The big trick for Crematoriums in areas where neighbors may be sensitive, as in the United States, is to heat and aerate the byproduct steam enough to not produce a cloud of “telltale” “smoke” steam over the crematorium exhaust stack. At a facility in the Syrian desert where the nearest ‘gated community’ is a prison, it is unlikely there would be much effort to avoid “unsightly “smoke” steam. On a day cold enough for snow to linger on roofs, when even breathing produces clouds of steam, it is unlikely there would be cremation without steam “smoke”. And even more unlikely that a crematorium would have no exhaust stack (unless it was an outdoor ghat).

    So the Intel evidence provided and asserted to “proof” a !!crematorium!! in fact almost certainly evidences no such thing. The Intel is just some propaganda monger’s effort to trigger knee jerks to jump to conclusions in reaction (almost certainly exactly like the propagandist did to “think up” his “great propaganda coup”), imagining Assad !!Gassing!! !!Innocent Prisoners!!.

    In fact, the noted area where the snow is melted away from the roof is far more likely to be the facility kitchens, the photo being taken in early morning when the bread that will feed the prisoners, and staff, through the day is being baked in ovens.

    !!Ovens!! !!Dachau!! !!Had Ovens!!… !!Holly Caust, Batman! The Syrians are–.”

    You just have to enjoy these idiots. There is no way of getting away from.

    The second great example is the Washington Post “revelation” that Trump !!Gave Away Secrets!! !!Classified Information!! !!From an outside source!! !!Who Trusted Him!!.

    There is no information about the source. Or who the “outsiders” might be; who might as likely as not be Da’esh, or the “Syrian Observer of Human Rights”, in Britain. The WaPo propagandist/reporter simply reports, in vivid hyperventilate prose exactly what the propagandizers who loaded him loaded him with.

    In the old days, when rural was more common and people knew about contrivances like manure-spreaders the image of the reporter as a manure-spreader would come to mind and be passed along for an analogy.

    Nowadays it’s the other way around. When urban and suburban children look confused and ask, “What’s a manure-spreader?” a good answer is, “Well, it was a device sorta like a Media Outlet is today, except manure-spreaders blew real cow-shit, instead of verbal bullshit, and the spreading made crops grow, instead of just flooding the field mice and lemmings under inundations of misinformation.”

    No body in any positions to know about the Intel content of the WaPo propagandists’ blowing heard anything like what the propagandists reported. But that did not stop anything: the Intel just kept blowing.

    And no body seems to have made the connection that Donald Trump, as President of the United States, could not, no matter who he was, is or might be, could falsely or wrongly release, or, as the hyperventilators are wont to say, “give away” “Classified Information: The president of the United States is Commander in Chief: If he has released information, the highest authority has released the information and in so doing has authorized the release.

    We live in an era of lots of Intel, but not a lot of Intelligence. Not much to do but enjoy it. If you can think your way through to do that.

    • Typingperson
      May 17, 2017 at 22:26

      This is such a fantastically great post, Evangelista. Smart, informed, well-written, clear and witty. Why on earth aren’t you writing a column for WaPo or NYT? Doh, no need to answer that!! ….

    • Steven A
      May 18, 2017 at 15:23

      In her _Fool’s Crusade_, Diana Johnstone relates the true story of one of those “iconic” images from the Yugoslav wars – in which a photographer, from _within_ a compound surrounded by barbed wire photographed a gaunt man standing on _the outside_. This photograph was used to promote the genocide-against-Bosnian-Muslims narrative, and was used to bring Jews into the cause of the Bosnian Muslims – or rather the US-German-Nato effort to Balkanize the Balkans. The taxpayer funded US Holocaust Museum joined the warmongering hysteria, just as I noticed it did again during the “fall” of Aleppo.

      Differential snow-melt is so common it’s trivial. It snows in Syria, but I suspect that more than light coverings are rather rare – so any slightly warmer rooftop surface would produce a big difference soon after the initial snowfall. Recalling the snow in Aleppo around Dec 21 or so, I’m not sure whether it reached down as far south as Damascus on that occasion. Certainly there was not a trace to be seen in the footage of the al-Assad family Christmas visit to the orphans in the Monastery at Saydnaya on Dec 25. Of course these are very crude calibrations, and of course I don’t know the history of snowfall during the years in question.

  6. mike k
    May 17, 2017 at 19:20

    Only a world without paranoia will be long term survivable. How do you get there? Small agreements kept. Then larger ones….
    Our so-called enemies have all offered olive branches, parleys. We refuse to talk. The US does not want peace. This is plainly true. If you don’t believe this, then you have passed a simple test for being brainwashed – it means you most certainly are positive for being brainwashed. Don’t care? You just passed another test showing you are a zombie.

    • susan sunflower
      May 17, 2017 at 20:08

      yes, “there is no way to peace, peace is the way” … and “trust, but verify” … most of all, if people (Americans) acted like responsible grownups who believe a future is possible, rather than TV personalities wanting to be liked, or feared or someother primary-color response, it would help immeasurably. I wasn’t a fan of Obama’s smugly professorial public speaking mien, but after Bush and now with Trump…

      Last fall someone asked Merkel about reports Russians (and others) were trying to influence German elections … she sighed and said it was annoying but simply a fact of life to be dealt with and overcome (as I recall by better communication/counter-campaigns) … Grownups … Thoughts of FDR and Carter and even LBJ make me realize how Junior League our politicians are and how few wise moderating voices there are …

  7. Zachary Smith
    May 17, 2017 at 17:55

    First the intelligence agencies lie – and do so quite consciously when it suits those who command them or the desires of those who command their commanders.

    Then there were the “experts” who had their own agenda.

    These reminded me of the power grab by some ignorant, arrogant, and extremely ambitious Navy officers in early WW2.

    I was looking for a picture of it this morning, and discovered the Redmans did a modest bit of legacy building- there is a Redman Avenue at least two NavComStas, a suitable tribute to a couple of self-aggrandizing officers who put careers before country.

    I think that is borderline treason, but what the hell.

    As the author says, Richmond Kelly Turner was another of the villains. Losing the Battle of Midway would have been a given if these fellows had been able to backstab Joseph Rochefort just a bit sooner than they finally did.

    The agencies can’t be trusted, and neither can the individuals staffing them – not without the closest supervision. And by the very nature of Intelligence Agencies, that seldom happens.

  8. susan sunflower
    May 17, 2017 at 17:06

    Nuclear first strike has seemingly been replaced by the disbursement of mini-nukes for use in the battlefield … nukes that will (not unlike a “dirty bomb”) render an area undesirable, even risky … clear a battlefield or a border region and — like that much feared terrorist “dirty bomb” — it will sow limited for very effective “terror” in the locals and the regional combatants … That has been part of Obama’s NATO expansion and mini-nukes have also been part of North Korea’s recent experimental work … no more mass casualties, just dead zones … like those awesome neutron bombs that kill the people and leave the area a ghost-town with buildings and infrastructure pretty much intact (a true “neoliberal weapon”).

    Like the polling predictions in the 2016 election, our technology ain’t what we want to believe it is … look at ISIS thundering across the plain … or any number of other CIA failure-to-detect fiascos. They’re infatuated with data, even as it fails them again and again and again … the last several European “terrorists” have been “known” to authority …

    I remember marveling, in Baghdad, how often we managed to bomb the wrong building … usually hitting civilian residences … sometimes, the “coordinates” were off, other times, it seems we had simply misidentified the building we intended to hit … after a decade of — I presume — aerial surveillance in a major (I would presume mapped) national capital … in one case we “meant” to hit a parked car, and destroyed an apartment block next to the car … see also Dresden. We DGAF about human life … we are monsters of truly Hitlerian dimension, figuring number of countries, civilian deaths, length of “hostilities”, hardships and disruption of civil society and the destruction of the economies of other nations. Our two-ton canary military industrial complex is the elephant in the living room of the world.

    • Realist
      May 17, 2017 at 18:47

      A poster on Zero Hedge offered a good suggestion to reduce the possibility that nukes might be used in any capacity.

      “Change the locks on all those special bunkers that congress will use in the event of the worst. They might change their mind about Russia.”

      • glitch
        May 18, 2017 at 19:19

        I like it.

        I also like the idea of locking the doors from the outside during their next emergency drill. Not necessarily permanently, just as a time out for them to think about their behavior.

  9. Realist
    May 17, 2017 at 16:09

    I am convinced that most of the commentary our federal government now makes about anything is just self-serving bullshit with only the remotest connection to the truth. They have crafted a fictional facade in which we all live, just like in the movie “The Truman Show,” only every one of us is being snookered, not just the lead character.

    Of course, if this existence is just one of an infinite number of parallel holograms then, as Hillary would say, “what difference does it make?”

  10. Drew Hunkins
    May 17, 2017 at 14:21

    “Certainly, the U.S. maintains a vast edge in its military capability, but is it enough for the neocons and neoliberalcons to realistically dream any longer of a nuclear first strike? I doubt it, but the grave danger is that they are living in the past and that their “intel” is telling them that nuclear primacy is still theirs.”

    Actually the grave danger is Russia and China’s perceptions of reality, and their perceptions are grounded in pragmatism. R&C’s perceptions — not unreasonable ones by any measure, I might add — are that Washington has been massing ABMs near their border regions. Couple this outrageous move with the First Strike doctrine and R&C rightfully perceive themselves as vulnerable sitting ducks.

    Washington has essentially convinced R&C that Washington’s making plans to shoot first!

    What would you do if you had your back against the wall, sit and wait until you’re hopelessly unarmed or go on offense? Last I checked, R&C have no ABMs anywhere in southern Canada, northern Mexico or the Caribbean.

  11. Bill Bodden
    May 17, 2017 at 13:37

    Then there is the Peter Principle that posits that people rise to their level of incompetence. This appears to apply to many people with access to the White House for one reason or another.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 17, 2017 at 15:24

      Bill from my own personal experience I found Dick Cheney to be the most competent among the various people we know about in the DC circle. To this day I regret that the ever expedient Dick Cheney wasn’t on the side I wish he were on. What a loss to not have him be a man of the people, but instead to have him be the man of the corporate masters who so dominate our daily lives. There was a very good reason why on 911 Dick and Lynne were hunkered down in that bunker, while George W was on an endless ride aboard Air Force 1. Now you may throw bricks at the screen…but the truth is the truth.

      • Realist
        May 17, 2017 at 16:15

        Do you ever wonder why Dick Cheney is not dead ten times over from the numerous heart attacks he has suffered? The man existed for YEARS with a totally artificial heart until he got a transplant, a device meant to bridge only a short interval of time until a donor heart might become available. If the Saker thinks that daemonic forces are loose in the world, Dick Cheney is the place to start the investigation.

      • Bill Bodden
        May 17, 2017 at 16:30

        I found Dick Cheney to be the most competent among the various people we know about in the DC circle.

        Unfortunately, Cheney is like another band of scoundrels in Washington and Wall Street – skilled and knowledgeable but lacking a moral compass and a code of honor.

        • Joe Tedesky
          May 17, 2017 at 19:53


  12. Joe Tedesky
    May 17, 2017 at 13:27

    I agree that the U.S. has more than likely loss the competitive edge in the arms race, both conventional and nuclear, and now should be a time to think rational verses insane. No matter how much you say it, or how many military maneuvers are fudged to look successful, the adversary is not losing a beat when keeping up with our U.S. military’s arms escalations. To be honest our U.S. military is the gold standard to live up to, so why wouldn’t Russia nor China aim their efforts to one up the U.S.?

    Yet, I continually read how there are those in our U.S. government who truly believe the U.S. would come out on top if there were a nuclear showdown with the Russians. I mean what are the bench marks, losing Baltimore and only parts of DC okay, or how much of New York City would survive a nuclear blast, I mean I ask you what is the criteria for thinking crazy? Seriously, the smart kids are going to get us all killed.

    Lastly, it is cool to see that a person such as Paul Johnstone was raised a daughter who has a civil conscience that we should all appreciate to the fullest. I always look forward to reading Diana Johnston essay’s, and now I know what fathered her excellent mind.

  13. Brad Owen
    May 17, 2017 at 13:24

    The past may not be so far behind. Synarchist International, in existence for more than a hundred years to this day, midwife to the birth of fascist and NAZI movements, still plans on a revival of a Holy Roman Empire, with a king of Europe (the true end-game of the EU/NATO). While it’s obvious that the wars in North Africa and M.E. benefits Israel, it’s well-hidden that the placing of Israel in the middle of hostile territory gives cover for a Holy Roman Empire to launch a fifth crusade (in “protection of Israel”) to reclaim Rome’s North African and M.E. provinces that were lost to Muslim Empires. I can see a move in the future to “take back” Constantinople, and Anatolia Province (with Kurdish help?), so Erdogan had better be careful with the “Caliphate” talk…then again, Turkey was the progenitor of The Deep State, and is very wilely about how to play off one group against another, to safeguard itself…anyway, the New Silk Road obsoletes all of this Imperial/Colonial/Geopolitical thinking, as we enter the TRUE Era of the U.N.

  14. Kim Dixon
    May 17, 2017 at 13:05

    The real danger to our planet comes not from a sudden technological breakthrough which would make nuclear war safe, but from the demented filled minds of the US Neocons who believe that they can bring Russia to heel in a game of “nuclear chicken”. These Neocons have apparently convinced themselves that making conventional threats against Russia, such as unilaterally imposing no-fly zones over Syria, does not bring us closer to a nuclear confrontation. It does.

    The Neocons love to bash the United Nations in general, and the veto power of the Permanent Five (P5) at the UN Security Council, but they apparently forgot the reason why this veto power was created in the first place: to outlaw any action which could trigger a nuclear war. Of course, this assumes that the P5 all care about international law. Now that the USA has clearly become a rogue state whose contempt for international law is total, there is no legal mechanism left to stop the US from committing actions which endanger the future of mankind. This is what is really scary, not “super-fuses”.

    What we are facing today is a nuclear rogue state run by demented individuals who, steeped in a culture of racial superiority, total impunity and imperial hubris, are constantly trying to bring us closer to a nuclear war. These people are not constrained by anything, not morals, not international law, not even common sense or basic logic. In truth, we are dealing with a messianic cult every bit as insane as the one of Jim Jones or Adolf Hitler and like all self-worshiping crazies they profoundly believe in their invulnerability.

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