Former Ambassador To Soviet Union Warns Of The Dangers Of Russiagate Hysteria

Jack F. Matlock Jr., ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991, writes in The Nation that, “We must end this Russophobic insanity.” Many Democrats continue to spread hysteria about Russia as opposed to accepting the reality that they lost the 2016 election by running a terrible candidate who should never have been a major party candidate for president. Matlock countered the false narrative we are often hearing by reviewing the facts. Matlock had the following seven points:

  1. It is a fact that some Russians paid people to act as online trolls and bought advertisements on Facebook during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. Most of these were taken from elsewhere, and they comprised a tiny fraction of all the advertisements purchased on Facebook during this period. This continued after the election and included organizing a demonstration against President-elect Trump.
  2. It is a fact that e-mails in the memory of the Democratic National Committee’s computer were furnished to Wikileaks. The US intelligence agencies that issued the January 2017 report were confident that Russians hacked the e-mails and supplied them to Wikileaks, but offered no evidence to substantiate their claim. Even if one accepts that Russians were the perpetrators, however, the e-mails were genuine, as the US intelligence report certified. I have always thought that the truth was supposed to make us free, not degrade our democracy.
  3. It is a fact that the Russian government established a sophisticated television service (RT) that purveyed entertainment, news, and—yes—propaganda to foreign audiences, including those in the United States. Its audience is several magnitudes smaller than that of Fox News. Basically, its task is to picture Russia in a more favorable light than has been available in Western media. There has been no analysis of its effect, if any, on voting in the United States. The January 2017 US intelligence report states at the outset, “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.” Nevertheless, that report has been cited repeatedly by politicians and the media as having done so.
  4. It is a fact that many senior Russian officials (though not all, by any means) expressed a preference for Trump’s candidacy. After all, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had compared President Putin to Hitler and had urged more active US military intervention abroad, while Trump had said it would be better to cooperate with Russia than to treat it as an enemy. It should not require the judgment of professional analysts to understand why many Russians would find Trump’s statements more congenial than Clinton’s. On a personal level, most of my Russian friends and contacts were dubious of Trump, but all resented Clinton’s Russophobic tone, as well as statements made by Obama from 2014 onward. They considered Obama’s public comment that “Russia doesn’t make anything” a gratuitous insult (which it was), and were alarmed by Clinton’s expressed desire to provide additional military support to the “moderates” in Syria. But the average Russian, and certainly the typical Putin administration official, understood Trump’s comments as favoring improved relations, which they definitely favored.
  5. There is no evidence that Russian leaders thought Trump would win or that they could have a direct influence on the outcome. This is an allegation that has not been substantiated. The January 2017 report from the intelligence community actually states that Russian leaders, like most others, thought Clinton would be elected.
  6. There is no evidence that Russian activities had any tangible impact on the outcome of the election. Nobody seems to have done even a superficial study of the effect Russian actions actually had on the vote. The intelligence-community report, however, states explicitly that “the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.” Also both former FBI director James Comey and NSA director Mike Rogers have testified that there is no proof Russian activities had an effect on the vote count.
  7. There is also no evidence that there was direct coordination between the Trump campaign (hardly a well-organized effort) and Russian officials. The indictments brought by the special prosecutor so far are either for lying to the FBI or for offenses unrelated to the campaign such as money laundering or not registering as a foreign agent.

Matlock agrees that the election of Trump was a disaster, but also criticizes the false narrative as to why he was elected. He discussed both the problems with blaming Russia, and noted that the Democrats most likely would have won if they had nominated anyone other than Hillary Clinton:

I did not personally vote for Trump, but I consider the charges that Russian actions interfered in the election, or—for that matter—damaged the quality of our democracy ludicrous, pathetic, and shameful.

“Ludicrous” because there is no logical reason to think that anything that the Russians did affected how people voted. In the past, when Soviet leaders tried to influence American elections, it backfired—as foreign interference usually does everywhere. In 1984, Yuri Andropov, the Soviet leader then, made preventing Ronald Reagan’s reelection the second-most-important task of the KGB. (The first was to detect US plans for a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union.) Everything the Soviets did—in painting Reagan out to be a warmonger while Andropov refused to negotiate on nuclear weapons—helped Reagan win 49 out of 50 states.

“Pathetic” because it is clear that the Democratic Party lost the election. Yes, it won the popular vote, but presidents are not elected by popular vote. To blame someone else for one’s own mistakes is a pathetic case of self-deception.

“Shameful” because it is an evasion of responsibility. It prevents the Democrats, and those Republicans who want responsible, fact-based government in Washington, from concentrating on practical ways to reduce the threat the Trump presidency poses to our political values and even to our future existence. After all, Trump would not be president if the Republican Party had not nominated him. He also is most unlikely to have won the Electoral College if the Democrats had nominated someone—almost anyone—other than the candidate they chose, or if that candidate had run a more competent campaign. I don’t argue that any of this was fair, or rational, but then who is so naive as to assume that American politics are either fair or rational?

Matlock added that falsely blaming the election on Russia is also dangerous:

I should add “dangerous” to those three adjectives. “Dangerous” because making an enemy of Russia, the other nuclear superpower—yes, there are still two—comes as close to political insanity as anything I can think of. Denying global warming may rank up there too in the long run, but only nuclear weapons pose, by their very existence in the quantities that are on station in Russia and the United States, an immediate threat to mankind—not just to the United States and Russia and not just to “civilization.” The sad, frequently forgotten fact is that, since the creation of nuclear weapons, mankind has the capacity to destroy itself and join other extinct species…

We must desist from our current Russophobic insanity and encourage Presidents Trump and Putin to restore cooperation in issues of nuclear safety, non-proliferation, control of nuclear materials, and nuclear-arms reduction. This is in the vital interest of both the United States and Russia. That is the central issue on which sane governments, and sane publics, would focus their attention.

Related:

The Nation Debunks Russiagate Conspiracy “Fantasyland” And Irresponsible Media Coverage

Democrats Need The Right Policies, Not Just A New Slogan

Despite a decade of losing while standing for little other than being slightly more moderate than Republicans, Democrats have concentrated on cosmetic changes such as seeking the right slogan. Their latest, rather unoriginal, idea for a slogan is to “drain the swamp.” In contrast to relying on slogans, Samuel Moyn  professor of law and history at Yale, has written that Democrats need to look at the right policies.

Writing in The Guardian, Moyn noted an op-ed in The New York Times saying liberals “come off as judgmental scolds” and alienating potential voters. Remedying this is only part of the solution:

…policy matters much more than politeness. The trouble with American liberalism is not the rhetoric, the selling or the advertising; it is not even the product to sell, as if politics were marketing. Rather, liberals need to forge policies that allow Americans to identify or imagine common interests. The problem is not the bait chosen to lure voters but the whole idea of politics as fishing – as if voters across the country are suckers to be lured into one camp or another. Perhaps liberals, searching for a path forward into the hearts and minds of voters, need to pay heed to Missouri’s state motto: not “rule me more nicely”, but “show me”.

In looking for the “right policies,” Moyn mentions income inequality, as well as another which I have often noted has been receiving far too little attention, “ending the endless war on terror.”

The last two presidents of the United States have each been elected as antiwar candidates, even though each went on to govern militaristically. An antiwar coalition in the making – starting with proposals to drastically reduce America’s counterproductive use of force abroad – is likely to be powerful in future elections too. But liberals will have to give up their concessions to the national security state and their fears of coming off as unpatriotic in order to exploit this opportunity.

Rather than nominating an anti-war candidate, the Democrats nominated one of the most hawkish politicians in recent history in 2016, with one analysis showing that this did hurt Clinton in the general election. While well below the vote of the major party candidates, Jill Stein (Green Party) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) received around twice as many votes as their parties received four years previously. Others do not vote as they do not see either major political party as being worht voting for. A major party which took up an anti-war platform could likely pull in many voters who are reluctant to vote for either party at present.

I am pleased to see Moyn recommend ending the war on terror, but I also have one other wish. Liberals need to concentrate more on fundamental liberal principles of individual liberty, and keeping the government out of the private lives of individuals. We currently have a huge contradiction in our politics with the Republicans claiming to be the party of freedom and limited government, while frequently advocating policies of greater government intrusion in the private lives of individuals. This is largely because of an inconsistency on the part of Democrats. Republican voters might be more willing to accept support for reproductive rights if described as part of an overall platform of supporting individual liberty. Of course this only works if Democrats are consistent and avoid nanny state policies, or a health care plan dependent upon an individual mandate, which was one reason for Democratic losses in recent years.

Haspel Evades Questions On Torture, Cheney Backs It, And Will Democrats Back Down On Resisting Once Again?

The American Civil Liberties Union has outlined how Gina Haspel evaded multiple questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee this week. This included a question from Kamala Harris whether she found torture to be immoral. She evaded questions from Ron Wyden about whether she had wanted the use of torture “to be continued or expanded” between 2005 and 2007. She refused to recuse herself from decisions on declassifying her role in torture, with Haskel making the decisions regarding which documents the CIA will release. She misrepresented the content of torture tapes. She evaded questions on Trump’s views on torture.

While Haspel evaded questions, Dick Cheney had no qualms about presenting his views, which unfortunately consist of strong support for resuming the use of torture. He also said that that he thinks Haspel would “be a great CIA director.”

The vote on Haspel could be very close. So far one Democrat, Joe Manchin, said he would vote for her while John McCain has said he would vote against. Rand Paul previously stated he would oppose the confirmation of both Pompeo and Haspel, but folded on Pompeo.

Stopping her confirmation will depend upon the remaining Democrats sticking together, along with additional Republican defections. Glenn Greenwald questions whether the Democrats will stick together to block her nomination:

It is difficult to be optimistic, to put that mildly. The history of Democrats throughout the war on terror is to ensure that just enough members of their caucus join with the GOP majority to ensure passage of even the most extremist pieces of legislation or nominees justified in the name of terrorism or national security.

The ruse Democrats typically use to accomplish these dirty deeds is quite ingenious: The defectors change so that no one member bears the blame for enabling right-wing measures, while the party itself is able to claim that a majority opposed the extremism. In 2010 — as the Bush-era tactic of Democratic defections to the GOP continued under Barack Obama — I referred to this tactic as “Villain Rotation” and described it this way:

The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation.  They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.  One minute, it’s Jay Rockefeller as the Prime Villain leading the way in protecting Bush surveillance programs and demanding telecom immunity; the next minute, it’s Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer joining hands and “breaking with their party” to ensure Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General; then it’s Big Bad Joe Lieberman single-handedly blocking Medicare expansion; then it’s Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb joining with Lindsey Graham to support the de-funding of civilian trials for Terrorists; and now that they can’t blame Lieberman or Ben Nelson any longer on health care (since they don’t need 60 votes), Jay Rockefeller voluntarily returns to the Villain Role, stepping up to put an end to the pretend-movement among Senate Democrats to enact the public option via reconciliation.

We most recently saw the Democrats act more like collaborators than a resistance civil liberties during the votes on FISA renewal with eighteen Democrats siding with the Republicans to prevent consideration of amendments to reform the law. The eighteen Democrats provided exactly the number of votes for cloture to pass.

Democrats Are No Allies Of The Anti-War Left When Bill Clinton Is Telling The DNC To Keep Sanders Supporters Out

Among the many things which supporters of the Democratic Party establishment fail to understand is the vast difference in views of many on the left and the Democratic Party. They think that we refuse to vote for Democrats because we think they are not liberal or progressive enough. The reality is that we don’t see them as being liberal or progressive at all, and instead see them as a force which has been opposing true liberal values just as much as the Republicans have. This divide is exacerbated by the on-going actions by the pro-Clinton wing of the party to oppose the left.

Jonathan Allen was the co-author of Shattered, a book which clearly shows that Hillary Clinton lost due to being a terrible candidate who ran a dysfunctional campaign, and not due Russia or any others on the long list of those she has  blamed. Allen was on C-SPAN last week and discussed how Bill Clinton told Tom Perez to not let Sanders’ supporters become powerful in the party (video above).

NBC News national political reporter Jonathan Allen said on C-SPAN Thursday that former President Bill Clinton told Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez to not let Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I., Vt.) supporters become powerful in the party.

Allen is the author of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign and wrote a book about Clinton’s work as secretary of state in 2014.

“The DNC is unpopular with its own base,” Allen said. “Roughly half the Democratic Party felt like the DNC was unfairly tipping the scales in the last presidential election trying to get Hillary Clinton nominated trying to hurt Bernie Sanders.”

The bad blood between the Clinton and Sanders camps resumed “the minute Donald Trump was elected,” Allen claimed…

Allen said Perez got “very explicit” instructions from Clinton “not to let the party go to the Bernie Sanders folks.”

Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver has lots of issues with the DNC and called it a “fantasy” that Sanders will hand over his voter data to them.

“We’ve also got to make sure that all the different factions of the party are represented at the DNC,” Weaver said in January. “Tom can do a little bit more to bring in some other voices.”

The Democratic establishment has been working hard to keep other voices out while the Clintons remain active in the party. This includes efforts to demonize both those to the left and the right of them. We saw plenty of red-baiting during the primaries from Clinton supporters during attacks on Sanders. Clinton picked up this line of attack again last week in blaming her loss on declaring herself to be a “capitalist” while she called Sanders’ supporters socialists. While true of some, Sanders and many of us who voted for him are capitalists who desire reforms in the system, not socialists. As I pointed out in a post three years ago, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders was very friendly towards business growth.

On the other hand, there are attacks such as this article from Noah Berlatsky criticizing anti-war leftists such as Glenn Greenwald for aligning with anti-war rightists on some foreign policy issues. Berlatsky wrote off rightists as a bunch of authoritarians and conspiracy theorists. While true of some, this is no more accurate than it is to say that everyone on the left who opposed Clinton is a Marxist Socialist.

Berlatsky also criticized Greenwald for appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show, despite Carlson being one of the few people on broadcast or cable news to speak out against intervention in Syria. While his views on immigration are distasteful, Clinton’s pro-war and far right views on civil liberties are just as distasteful. Using Berlatsky’s logic, the anti-war left should not align with establishment Democrats either.

Berlatsky failed to recognize this, arguing that, “Bad as they are, though, the Democrats are, in practice, less likely to use military force than Republicans.” This is hard to reconcile with the new Cold War mentality we are seeing from establishment Democrats. Berlatsky does include criticism of the Democrats while advising that we should be, “working with Democrats when we can, and protesting against both political parties when they try to lead us to war.” Working with them is far less of an option when Democrats fight against us as much as they fight against the Republicans who are far closer to them ideologically.

A Response To Attacks On The Iran Nuclear Deal

Daniel Larison responded to attacks on the Iran deal at The American Conservative, Here is a portion:

Ending the deal now because of Iran’s brief flirtation with nuclear weapons research that ended a decade and a half ago makes no sense. Iran is doing everything that it is required to do now to limit its nuclear program, and that is what should matter most for those genuinely concerned to keep Iran’s nuclear program peaceful. Only someone looking for the slightest excuse to blow up the deal regardless of the consequences would want to scrap an agreement that is working because of “revelations” that revealed nothing new.

Stephens gives the game away at the end of his column when he is talking about threatening to start a war:

“Punitive sanctions combined with a credible threat of military force should follow.”

If punitive sanctions and threats of military action follow, we should expect Iran to resume some or all of the activities that it stopped as part of the agreement. There is a remote but real possibility that Iran could leave the NPT all together in a major setback for the cause of nonproliferation. Now that we are faced with a nuclear-armed North Korea, opponents of the nuclear deal would like to repeat the Bush administration’s North Korea mistakes with Iran.

Punitive sanctions would have little effect without international support, and reneging on an agreement endorsed by the U.N. Security Council and supported by all of the other P5+1 governments will guarantee that no international support for a new sanctions regime will be forthcoming. Military action would be worse than useless, since it would drive Iran to build the very weapons that it is supposed to discourage them from building. Reneging on the deal because of old and irrelevant information would be an exceptionally stupid thing to do, and it would put the U.S. and Iran back on the collision course we were on a decade ago. That is exactly why Iran hawks want to wreck the deal, and they all but admit it in their own arguments.

Why Don’t We Hear Messages Like This From The Party Of The Resistance?

The Democratic Party has struggled to come up with a response to Donald Trump on Syria. While some disagree, they cannot come up with a unified opposition to the air strikes or intervention, so they limit their opposition to complaining that Trump failed to get Congressional approval. This is no surprise considering that their last presidential candidate had advocated far greater military interventionism than Trump, and previously attacked Obama for not pursing greater intervention based upon an extremely irrational argument.

While anti-war voices are rare, here is an example of a conservative who is making far more sense than most of the Democrats:

The U.S. military presence in Syria is illegal, and the same would be true of any occupying force provided by U.S. clients. Instead of looking for a substitute occupation force or maintaining one of our own, the U.S. should accept that controlling any part of Syria is not worth the costs and risks that go along with it. The U.S. has no business fighting in Syria, and it has no authority to keep its forces there, so a complete withdrawal from Syria is the only appropriate and legal course of action open to the U.S.

Unfortunately this is from a conservative blogger (Daniel Larison), and not someone who represents the policy of either political party. He wrote this in concluding a post on how Trump’s idea of having other countries replace US troops is not working.

Shouldn’t we be hearing more like this from the party which is supposedly the opposition party in Congress? We hear virtually noting from the party which claims to be “the resistance.” Instead the “opposition party” is being led by cowards who prefer to keep any real opposition voices from running.

Dennis Kucinich Warned About Current US Hostilities Towards Russia and Syria

The US bombing in Syria has made my planned posts on Dennis Kucinich this week even more applicable to current events. Earlier in the week I quoted from a profile of Kucinich in The Washington Post Magazine calling him the future of American politics. As he is currently running for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Ohio, foreign policy was only briefly touched upon in the article, noting that in 2004 he was “the voice for getting out of Iraq.” Now Kucinich is protesting that Donald Trump acted without “congressional authorization in ordering a military attack against Syria tonight. This is a clear violation of the United States Constitution…which makes it clear that only Congress has the power to declare war.”

Kucinich had continued to warn about the direction of US foreign policy in both parties since the days in which he was protesting against the war in Iraq. In October  of 2016 he had an article in The Nation entitled, Why Is the Foreign Policy Establishment Spoiling for More War? Look at Their Donors. War is first and foremost a profitable racket. It was not difficult to see a turn towards a more hawkish foreign policy when the conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton was about to become president, and her opponent was Donald Trump.

In this article from 2016 he cautioned against both the anti-Russia hysteria we are now seeing as well as our current policy regarding Syria. Some excerpts:

According to the front page of this past Friday’s Washington Post, the bipartisan foreign-policy elite recommends the next president show less restraint than President Obama. Acting at the urging of “liberal” hawks brandishing humanitarian intervention, read war, the Obama administration attacked Libya along with allied powers working through NATO.

The think tankers fell in line with the Iraq invasion. Not being in the tank, I did my own analysis of the call for war in October of 2002, based on readily accessible information, and easily concluded that there was no justification for war. I distributed it widely in Congress and led 125 Democrats in voting against the Iraq war resolution. There was no money to be made from a conclusion that war was uncalled for, so, against millions protesting in the United States and worldwide, our government launched into an abyss, with a lot of armchair generals waving combat pennants. The marching band and chowder society of DC think tanks learned nothing from the Iraq and Libya experience.

The only winners were arms dealers, oil companies, and jihadists. Immediately after the fall of Libya, the black flag of Al Qaeda was raised over a municipal building in Benghazi, Gadhafi’s murder was soon to follow, with Secretary Clinton quipping with a laugh, “We came, we saw, he died.” President Obama apparently learned from this misadventure, but not the Washington policy establishment, which is spoiling for more war.

The self-identified liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) is now calling for Syria to be bombed, and estimates America’s current military adventures will be tidied up by 2025, a tardy twist on “mission accomplished.” CAP, according to a report in The Nation, has received funding from war contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who make the bombers that CAP wants to rain hellfire on Syria.

The Brookings Institute has taken tens of millions from foreign governments, notably Qatar, a key player in the military campaign to oust Assad. Retired four-star Marine general John Allen is now a Brookings senior fellow. Charles Lister is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, which has received funding from Saudi Arabia, the major financial forceproviding billions in arms to upend Assad and install a Sunni caliphatestretching across Iraq and Syria. Foreign-government money is driving our foreign policy.

As the drumbeat for an expanded war gets louder, Allen and Lister jointly signed an op-ed in the Sunday Washington Post, calling for an attack on Syria. The Brookings Institute, in a report to Congress, admitted it received $250,000 from the US Central Command, Centcom, where General Allen shared leadership duties with General David Petraeus. Pentagon money to think tanks that endorse war? This is academic integrity, DC-style…

The American people are fed up with war, but a concerted effort is being made through fearmongering, propaganda, and lies to prepare our country for a dangerous confrontation, with Russia in Syria.

The demonization of Russia is a calculated plan to resurrect a raison d’être for stone-cold warriors trying to escape from the dustbin of history by evoking the specter of Russian world domination…

As this year’s presidential election comes to a conclusion, the Washington ideologues are regurgitating the same bipartisan consensus that has kept America at war since 9/11 and made the world a decidedly more dangerous place…

t is our patriotic duty to expose why the DC foreign-policy establishment and its sponsors have not learned from their failures and instead are repeating them, with the acquiescence of the political class and sleepwalkers with press passes.

It is also time for a new peace movement in America, one that includes progressives and libertarians alike, both in and out of Congress, to organize on campuses, in cities, and towns across America, to serve as an effective counterbalance to the Demuplican war party, its think tanks, and its media cheerleaders. The work begins now, not after the Inauguration. We must not accept war as inevitable, and those leaders who would lead us in that direction, whether in Congress or the White House, must face visible opposition.

Kucinich was right about the direction we were heading. Not only have we had this weekend’s attack on Syria. We have also seen increased fear-mongering and demonetization of Russia. Part of this comes from Clinton’s neocon allies who have desired regime change in Russia or see other benefits in fueling conflict. This is exacerbated by Democrats who cannot accept that Donald Trump is president because the Democratic Party rigged the primary process to give the nomination to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, and therefore fall for conspiracy theories blaming Russia for her defeat.

I wish that Kucinich was running for a position more related to foreign policy than a Governor. There are far too few anti-war voices left in Congress. One is Tulsi Gabbard, who traveled to Syria with Kucinich last year, and last week did write Donald Trump last week urging against a military strike against Syria.

Matt Taibbi Tries To Explain Why We Should Avoid War With A Nuclear Power

Add Matt Taibbi to those I mentioned yesterday warning about going to war in Syria. He has an article in Rolling Stone entitled,  If We’re on the Brink of War, the Fault Is Ours, Not Trump’s or Bolton’s.

So here we are, on the brink. Here’s Donald Trump’s tough-ass tweet about how he’s about to mix it up with both Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s Vladimir Putin:

Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!  –Donald J. trump 

The fate of humanity now rests in the hands of this Twitter-obsessed dingbat executive and his new national security adviser, John Bolton – one of the most deranged people to have ever served in the United States government, a man who makes Jeane Kirkpatrick look like Florence Nightingale.

With these two at the helm, we are now facing the imminent possibility of direct military conflict with a nuclear enemy. No one in the popular press is saying it, but there could easily be Russian casualties in Trump’s inevitable bombing campaign. Which will then put the onus on a third lunatic, Vladimir Putin, to respond with appropriate restraint.

Ironically, pretty much the only places where you will read today about the frightening possibility of Russian casualties are in military journals, in the nervous musings of Pentagon officials. Here and there you will see reports of concern about what might happen if we kill the wrong Russians, or the wrong quantity of Russians. One outlet calmly suggested the Russians might step up “harassment” of U.S. warplanes and outposts if we kill too many of theirs, as if this would not cause the whole world to soil itself in terror.

So to recap: the most terminally insecure president ever sits in the White House, advised by one of the most war-crazy hacks in the history of federal service, at the outset of a fully avoidable proxy war with an enemy that possesses thousands of lethal thermonuclear warheads aimed directly at us.

Bear in mind that virtually any exchange of nuclear missiles between these two countries would mean the absolute end of civilization. We could all, right now, be minutes away from the end of everything, especially given who holds the respective buttons.

Taibbi notes that there was hope for a different outcome:

But we had a head start in dodging the bullet with Trump, as one of the few not-terrifying qualities he demonstrated as a candidate was his seeming reluctance to get into unnecessary wars. Trump was specifically on record as wanting to “stay out of Syria.”

Taibbi notes that Trump’s isolationism was “at least partly insincere.” He also notes that, “unlike his racism and xenophobia and lack of sympathy for the poor – issues where there are obvious currents visible in what passes for his mind – Trump is highly suggestible in matters military.”

Unfortunately any attempts to influence Trump have been in the wrong direction:

As president, however, the one time he received praise from the Washington consensus was when he bombed Assad last year. You might remember that as the time when Fareed Zakaria gushed on CNN, “Donald Trump became president tonight,” and a tumescent Brian Williams countered by calling the bombs “beautiful” 8 times in 30 seconds, quoting Leonard Cohen as he said, “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.”

Taibbi next showed several examples of Trump receiving criticism for talking about leaving Syria and many, including Democrats like Howard Dean, taking the wrong position. Taibbi wrote:

“Trump’s Syria Policy Isn’t Retrenchement, It’s Pandering,” sneeredForeign Policy.

“Chaos reigns with his president,” said Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono, calling the withdrawal plan “incoherent.”

Howard Dean, a man I once voted for because he at least tepidly opposed a pointless Middle Eastern war, decided to use this occasion to taunt Trump in schoolyard fashion.

“Why are you such a wimp for Assad and Putin?” Dean tweeted.

This is just one of the reasons why I am glad I did not trust or vote for Howard Dean in 2004.

Taibbi concluded by repeating the consequences of those who now advocate attacking Syria over the alleged poison gas attack:

One could maybe understand this attitude from millennials, who weren’t raised amid The Day After or “99 Luftballoons” or “1999” or Failsafe or Dr. Strangelove even, and have never experienced even fake angst about growing up under the specter of nuclear war. But all the preceding generations should know better. We all grew up aware it could all be over in a heartbeat.

This is probably the most serious showdown between nuclear powers since the Cuban missile crisis, or at the very least, the shooting down of Korean Airlines flight 007 in 1983.

The oft-derided Doomsday Clock, kept by the Union of Atomic Scientists, describes us as closer to nuclear war than at any time since 1953, when both the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested thermonuclear weapons for the first time. “The continued existence of urban, technological civilization will soon hang in a precarious balance,” the Scientists predicted then…

That Trump might forget the awesome danger of nuclear war is a given. The man is a fool. But what’s our excuse?

Taibbi’s Twitter page shows that many others are as foolish as Trump. For example: “Hacking our election was an act of war. No different than Pearl Harbor. I’d proudly fight if I were younger. Remember our Hillary!!! ”

Tabbi replied: “How do you think war with Russia goes? With rifles and bayonets, like at Iwo Jima? This is the nuclear age. In the best case, it’s a big noise, most everyone dies, and the lucky ones get fifty years of MREs.”

Remember Hillary? The ultra-hawk who is just barely less dangerous than John Bolton? She’s the one who supported Syria bombing last year, and who previously supported greater intervention in Syria, which would have placed us at considerable risk of confrontation with Russia. To compare trivial meddling in the election, which had no effect on the result, to Pearl Harbor is utterly insane. Yet many have been making exactly that comparison, or comparing it to 9/11.

Another uninformed reader tweeted, “Putin’s possession of nukes does not mean he intends upon using them or HAS THE CAPABILITY OF USING THEM. Putin actually believes his delivery systems are worthless for the exact same reason that i do. our missile defenses are much further developed than disclosed.”

Does anyone in their right mind really think that it is worth risking a nuclear attack?

As I tweeted and posted on Facebook: “My opposition to going to war with a nuclear power over inconsequential Facebook ads or even a suspected poison gas attack does not mean I support either Putin or Assad. It means I oppose the destruction of the earth in a nuclear holocaust.

Two People Speaking Out Against War In Syria

It is a shame that a xenophobic conservative like Tucker Carlson is making more sense about Syria on Fox than most others in the news media, including the supposed liberals on MSNBC. During the show (video above) Carlson questioned the wisdom of military action in Syria:

With Assad gone, who would run it exactly? Do we have another strongman in place to install? Or is it our hope that a stable democracy will magically appear in the wake of this protracted civil war?

And who exactly are these moderate rebels you’re always hearing about, the ones that we’re supporting with your tax dollars?

Meanwhile Newsweek warns: RUSSIA PREPARES FOR WAR WITH U.S., INSTRUCTING CITIZENS TO BUY WATER AND GAS MASKS:

Claiming that some Americans are preparing for a coming war with Moscow, Russian state-owned television explained to the country’s residents how to stock their bunkers with water and basic foodstuffs in case a war breaks out.

Warning that the potential conflict between the two superpowers would be “catastrophic,” an anchor for Russia’s Vesti 24 showed off shelves of food, recommending that people buy salt, oatmeal and other products that can last a long time on the shelves if they plan to hide in a bunker. Powdered milk lasts five years, while sugar and rice can last up to eight years, the newscaster explained before showing videos of pasta cooking in a bomb shelter.

In contrast to the calls to go to war, Stephen R. Weissman, former staff director of the House Subcommittee on Africa, discussed a more rational policy at In These Times:

The United States has intervened militarily in civil wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen to defeat Al Qaeda, associate America with a democratic “Arab Spring” and support the ambitions of friendly Middle Eastern governments. Yet little progress towards these objectives has occurred, partly because American policies were misplaced. Central Al Qaeda has long been located in Pakistan, not Afghanistan, and the Arab Spring proved ephemeral. Meanwhile, intervention has damaged many fundamental American interests. It has strained relationships with U.S. partners, stoked interstate tensions, threatened to plunge the U.S. into new military commitments, burdened America’s complex relationship with Russia, contributed to tremendous losses of human life and aggravated U.S. budgetary deficits.

What to do? Critics of the Obama administration’s “weakness” have urged the United States to double down on its use of force. Though wary of domestic political constraints on further American casualties, the Trump administration has ventured partway in this direction. In Afghanistan, it added a few thousand troops to the 11,000 already present, loosened constraints on American military operations and suspended security assistance to Pakistan over its failure to crack down on Taliban sanctuaries. In Syria, it reportedly ended major CIA covert military assistance to “moderate” rebels, but, after helping subdue the Islamic State in Northern Syria, maintains 2,000 U.S. troops and considerable air power in the region as “leverage” against the Bashar al-Assad regime and Iran. In Yemen, it has escalated military support—arms sales, intelligence and refueling of military aircraft—to the Saudi-led coalition defending the displaced government against Houthi rebels.

Nevertheless, no amount of politically permissible U.S. military escalation will rescue failing U.S. policies. Local U.S. clients suffer from political and military dysfunctions that cannot be alleviated by outside economic and military aid. At the same time, their opponents have been supplied by Pakistan, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran and Russia with enough resources to avert defeat and even gain ground.

A more promising route to protect America’s political and humanitarian interests exists, but you will not hear much about it from the executive branch, Congressional foreign policy leaders, prominent Washington think tanks and mainstream media. It is to pursue an end to these wars through mediated, compromise political settlements based on ground-level realities—leavened with as much justice and accountability as can be achieved.

Does this sound naïve? It is what the United States did in helping to resolve seven civil wars (in three of which the U.S. military had been involved) between 1990 and 2005 in Bosnia, Burundi, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (an interstate as well as intrastate conflict), El Salvador, Mozambique and Sudan. This was an era when the Cold War ran down, enabling U.S. political and opinion leaders to address these conflicts forthrightly. Today, their vision is clouded by fearful overreactions to international terrorism and Iran’s regional rivalries. Still, from 1990–2013 a larger percentage of civil wars were resolved by negotiated settlements than by military victories.

The seven wars endured from four to twenty-two years (four lasted at least eight years). Individually, they resulted in anywhere from tens of thousands to, in Congo’s case, 3.5 million military and civilian deaths. But once serious peace talks began, six of the negotiations were completed in less than three years. Every one of these accords was achieved through external mediation among the parties to the conflict. As former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere told me in 1997, after having led the effort in Burundi for two years, “One thing I know, they can’t do it on their own.”

Weissman discussed this in further detail. Diplomacy may or may not work, but dropping more bombs on Syria will not help keep people in Syria more safe. It might escalate to the nuclear war they are talking about in Russia.

Quote of the Day: Trump Going To North Korea Compared To Nixon Going To China

“It’s like Richard Nixon going to China, but if Nixon were a moron.” –Jeffrey Lewis, writing in Foreign Affairs about Trump going to North Korea. (Hat tip to Political Wire for link. Picture is of Kim and Trump impersonators from Foreign Affairs.