Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump: An Interview with David Swanson

By Ann Garrison at Black Agenda Report
Anti-war activist and author David Swanson told the author that party partisanship fuels the anti-Russian obsession among rank and file Democrats. “If the Democratic Party had made a grand cause of friendship with Russia and disarmament and ending nuclear weapons madness, then liberal supporters of the Democratic Party would be out there saying, ‘Let’s be friends with Russia.’”

Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump: An Interview with David Swanson


by Ann Garrison



“Russians have absolutely no idea that hatred of Russia can be driven by hatred of Trump.”

In American politics, Donald Trump has been so effectively identified with Russia that hostility or friendship toward Russia is now driven by feelings about Trump. David Swanson, founder of World Beyond War and author of “War is a Lie” and “War Is Never Just,” was on a friendship tour in Russia when a Tiki torch-bearing crowd protested the removal of a Confederate monument in his hometown and chanted “Russia is our friend.” I spoke to David Swanson upon his return.

Ann Garrison: On May 13, in your hometown—Charlottesville, Virginia—a Tiki torch-bearing crowd protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The protesters chanted “Blood and Soil,” a well-known Nazi slogan invoking the bloodline of a people and its territory, and “Russia is our friend.” You were in Russia at that time on a friendship tour, so could you tell us how Russians perceived this? Continue reading “Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump: An Interview with David Swanson”

Leave Russia the Блядь Out of U.S. Scandals

In Moscow earlier this week I mentioned to a Russian friend that racists in my town in Virginia were chanting fascist and confederate slogans plus “Russia is our friend!” He replied: “But we never had slavery; we had serfdom.” He didn’t grasp why Russia was being grouped together with slavery.

Also in Moscow I met an elementary school student who said to me, “I saw a movie, and I want to ask you, in the United States are there black people and do they always kill the white people?” When I assured him that they did not, he breathed a deep sigh of relief.

A high school student asked me, “Is it hard to live in the United States with the CIA and FBI after you all the time?” I assured her it was not.

Back in the United States people asked me if it was dangerous in Moscow. Are you permitted to just talk and say anything you want? Can you walk around without state controllers? Is it safe for women? Don’t they hate Americans? These delusions, matching any from the Russian side, might be funny if they weren’t so tragic.

Let me make a few obvious points in the case for leaving Russia the hell alone.

  1. The Russian people are not the Russian government.
  2. Any flaws in the Russian government are very poorly understood in the U.S., can be only worsened by lies, hostility, sanctions, and threats, and are quite well matched by flaws in the U.S. government.
  3. We have seen zero evidence that Russia informed us of how the Democratic Party was corrupting its primaries, and it almost certainly did not do so, but would have been doing us a favor had it done so.
  4. Most Russians understand the hostility toward Trump as driven by hostility toward Russia and have no idea that hostility toward Russia can be driven by hostility toward Trump or that there are any legitimate reasons for hostility toward Trump.
  5. There are tons of legitimate reasons for hostility toward Trump.
  6. Russia tried to disarm and make peace and join the EU and join NATO and become friends, and was repeatedly told to go to hell, its economy corrupted, its people looted.
  7. Russians are only mildly better than Americans at handling such disrespect well.
  8. Russia and the United States are loaded with nuclear missiles ready to destroy the earth at a moment’s notice.

Trump’s financial corruption is U.S.-wide and world-wide. Why focus on any bits of it that involve Russians? Why are those bits worse (or better) than any others?

Trump owns stock in the weapons companies he is enriching with illegal and immoral wars. What better way could be found to improve U.S. relations to the world than to impeach Trump for that? Want to halt Russian weapons sales? Lead by example.

Trump has unconstitutionally discriminated against refugees, been stopped by the judiciary, and immediately done it again. Want Russia to take more refugees? Lead by example. Apart from that theoretical connection, there’s no Russian involvement in this scandal.

Trump has pushed policies that will aggravate climate change, a crime against humanity that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court even against a non-member. While it’s true that Russia is located on earth and has fossil fuels to exploit, there are no other Russian ties to Trump’s assault on the EPA.

Trump openly sought to intimidate voters prior to his election, and fought the counting of ballots where they existed, was elected with a minority of votes, was elected with numerous votes uncounted and numerous voters blocked from voting by the partisan stripping of the rolls and by ID laws, following a nomination principally decided by dramatically biased media coverage. If you believe Vladimir Putin had a role in any of that, you need therapy, and your therapy should be private, not a public spectacle inflicted on the rest of us.

Trump told the Russian ambassador how to go after ISIS? Isn’t that what both he and they publicly say they’re doing together? I’m against their approach as counterproductive, but I’m virtually alone in that. Didn’t Bush Sr. tell Gorbachev a coup was coming and the source of the information? Didn’t Roosevelt blurt out secrets to Stalin? Don’t governments form alliances and talk to each other all the time?

You want to go after Trump for obstruction of justice? Great. Please do. But don’t imagine there’s some underlying basis that involves the Russian government in deciding the U.S. election until someone offers proof of it.

My god! The United States openly claims credit for inflicting Boris Yeltsin on Russia. Where are the apologies that should be replacing the accusations?

American/Russian Vladimir Posner on the State of Journalism

Vladimir Posner, who spent his youth in the United States, France, and the Soviet Union, and who cohosted a show with Phil Donahue on U.S. television for years, met with a group of visitors to Moscow from the U.S. on Monday, offering his well-informed views on a range of media-related topics.

Posner said that for years he worked on Soviet propaganda aimed at the United States. The first blow to his full belief in the rectitude of the USSR came, he said, with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. He eventually concluded that he was not telling the truth, that by telling only good things he was telling half the truth, which is a falsehood. He quit the job and he quit the Communist Party.

In the days of Gorbachev, Posner was permitted to travel, and moved back to the United States, where he co-hosted that program with Donahue until CNBC got a new president by the name of Roger Ailes. The new boss demanded the right to approve or reject topics or guests. “That’s censorship,” Posner told him. “I don’t give a rat’s ass what you call it,” Ailes replied.

So, back to Moscow it was. Posner has hosted his current weekly television show in Russia for 8 years. He says he will never again work for a government or a party, and he’ll sign a contract with a company only if it leaves him independent control.

We had heard from other Russian journalists in the preceding days who had painted a very positive picture of Russian media, telling us that there is no censorship, and that more newspapers in Russia oppose Putin than support him. Posner has a bit stricter definition of censorship, I think, as well as a television perspective. “Anyone who told you there are no restrictions on Russian media was not telling you the truth,” he said.

He said that Russia’s state television channels (1, 2, and 4, and Red TV) serve the government and dominate the audience. “There are things you cannot say and people you cannot invite on,” he said. “You cannot criticize Putin on those networks.” On smaller, private networks you can, as well as in print and on radio. “The smaller your audience, the greater your freedom.” Posner agreed that several newspapers oppose Putin, but denied that they are a majority, and dismissed their audience as no more than 1 million readers, albeit an elite readership. One of the main reasons that Putin has 80% support, Posner said, is state television. The party line in Russia and the company line in the U.S. amount to about the same thing, Posner said.

Asked later for the most common complaints with Putin, Posner didn’t offer any. Instead, he tried to explain Putin’s popularity; and the explanation may have been understood as functioning through television spin, but it also seemed factual. Posner said that people see Putin as having stood up to the 800-pound American gorilla, restoring pride to the disrespected federation of Russia. Russians were ready to be hugged when they got rid of communism. Instead they were given the rotten deals of the 1990s and now endure sanctions that have lowered incomes by 10% to 12% (while benefitting Russian agriculture) — a state of affairs that Posner predicted would win absolutely no concessions out of Russia.

Posner offered as an example of a dishonest company line Christiane Amanpour of CNN, who had never been to Crimea, reporting that people in Crimea voted to rejoin Russia only under the threat of Russian soldiers. “She was lying.”

Posner suggested that David Remnick of the New Yorker is better informed yet seemingly writes something very different from what he must know. Posner said that the New Yorker‘s ownership by Conde Nast is typical of a trend away from independence in the U.S.

Asked about Russia Today (or RT, Russian TV for Americans) he dismissed it as propaganda showing only the good in Russia and only the bad in the United States. But for those of us who ignore RT reporting on Russia and appreciate its reporting on uncovered topics in the U.S., Posner seems right only up to a point when he states that no audience will ever turn to a foreign source over a domestic one. In fact, Posner immediately offered the counter-example of the popularity of the Voice of America, the BBC, and German broadcasting in the USSR.

Posner glides effortlessly from criticizing Russian media to criticizing U.S. media and back again. The U.S. media, he says, has demonized Russia since 1918 and has done so far more than Russian or Soviet media has ever done the same to the United States. In Posner’s estimation, Putin is demonized in U.S. media in ways that even Stalin was never subjected to. He cited as an example a graphic depicting Putin’s shadow as falling over a downed airplane in Ukraine. Putin asked to join the EU, for goodness sake, he asked to join NATO, and the U.S. turned him down, explained Posner.

Posner said that when he was a kid in the United States, Americans knew that it was the Soviet Union that won World War II, and loved Russia for it. Now, Americans have no idea. Russians, meanwhile, have come to identify Americans with their government’s hostile policies to a degree not seen during the Cold War. Everyone used to like Americans and dress like Americans, etc.

Posner explains the Russian attitude as the product of Russian propaganda and of the absence of stories of Americans protesting Washington. (I gave Posner thousands of messages from Americans hoping to fill that gap.) Posner also blamed the failure of the U.S. to provide anything like a Marshall Plan in the 1990s, or to assist in the development of democracy, something Russia had never had. Asked whether the Marshall Plan in Germany and Japan had left Europe and Japan totally subordinate to the United States, and whether Russia would have suffered the same fate, Posner seemed inclined to believe that is not what would have happened.

In explaining Russia’s lack of a democratic tradition, Posner said that Putin actually believes that the U.S. president can call up the New York Times and ask them to print a story, and they will. Well, label me a Russian autocrat, but we know of many cases of the White House feeding stories to the New York Times, and many of it suppressing stories at the New York Times. The drone kill list story of 2014 comes to mind as an example of the former (or, if you prefer, the aluminum tubes story of 2003), and the NSA mass-surveillance story of 2004 as an example of the latter.

Asked why Russians are so attracted to capitalism, Posner explained that people used to wait in lines for everything, and then suddenly everything was available in stores for anyone who had money. Now, he said, nothing is more important than money. He said that young people prefer the professions that make the most money. (That’s not my limited experience with young Russians.) Posner later said that Russia is like the United States in believing it has a mission. He described the mission as being against materialism. Of course, both of these strains (money worshipping and money despising) can be present in Russians without contradiction, but which wins out seems undetermined, as well as whether both are real. Posner did not seem to believe the Russian belief in its anti-materialism was actually justified.

What advice would you give to Trump, someone asked Posner.

He would tell him that the big problems of the world (he listed climate change and terrorism, among others — one of which Trump doesn’t believe in, and both of which Trump enthusiastically engages in) cannot be solved without Russia, and without China as well.

Posner warned that Trump’s emotional reactions make accidental nuclear apocalypse more dangerous than ever.

The stories Posner told are too many for me to recount them all, but here are four.

  1. “There is no patriotism in journalism.” Like a doctor on a battlefield who will not stop to determine nationality before aiding the wounded, a journalist must not consider national partisan interests before reporting the truth that will benefit the public.
  2. Long ago, Fred Friendly gathered a group of journalists including Posner together and asked what they would do if they saw on a desk a top-secret document stating that their nation would launch a war in 10 days. He said that within 30 seconds they had all said they would do everything they could to report it. Today that would not be the same, Posner claimed. And even back then, he said, it would not have been the same in Russia.
  3. The first American film that Posner saw was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” He said that he walked out of the theater a changed man. He points to the moral lesson in the main character’s comment “Well, at least I tried.” This line was spoken upon failing to rip a sink out of the floor. But only because of that attempt did a physically stronger character later attempt and succeed. Whether or not you fail, said Posner, the important thing is to try — echoing perhaps Camus on Sisyphus, or — more to the point — I.F. Stone on the only battles worth fighting being the ones that will only be won in a future generation.
  4. Posner visited Georgia (not the peach one) for the first time, and his friend took him out eating and drinking with a bunch of people he hadn’t met before, all of whom proceeded to toast and drink to his superior character, his wonderful admirable self, for five hours or more. Later, Posner asked why strangers would say such things about him. They seemed false and hypocritical to Posner. But his friend replied: First of all, they know that you are my friend. Second, if you are the last son of a bitch, then you will have never heard good words about yourself and maybe these words will change you.

What I Saw When I Visited a Russian School

As I was heading off to visit Russia, a friend told me of a friend who knew a Russian school teacher. I asked if I could visit the school, and I brought along a couple of American friends.

Here’s a video of what we saw there.

We met first with high-school-level students who gave us a tour of the school and then asked us all kinds of smart questions, all in perfect English. These kids were clearly very well educated and very eager to learn anything they could.

We asked them questions as well. While a leading Russian journalist has told me that young people all want to enter into the careers that make the most money, none of these students told us they did. They said things like history, biology, higher mathematics, economics, and languages when we asked them what they wanted to study in college.

Then we met with elementary-level students. They were even more eager to speak, and they asked us many more questions, ranging from “Do you have dogs?” to “Do you like Russian music?”

The teachers told us that they have brought groups of students to the United States before and would love to again. If you know of a school, organization, or group of potential host families that would like to help them out, please let me know.

If you know of anyone who pictures Russians on the basis of the information available in U.S. news reports, please send them this.

 

Racists Love Russia?

Photo by Daily Progress.

While I’ve been in Russia trying to make friends, back home in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, a group of torch-bearing supporters of Robert E. Lee has held a rally generally understood as a proclamation of white supremacy. I’ve previously written at some length about this white identity group, their humanity, their legitimate grievances, and their support for Donald Trump.

They chanted: “You will not replace us!” possibly because the city of Charlottesville has decided to replace a statue of Robert E. Lee with something less racist.

They chanted: “Blood and soil!” I suppose to express their lengthy connection to the land (although their leader is no more from Virginia than Robert E. Lee is from Charlottesville), or — less charitably — just because of the flagrantly fascist sound of the slogan.

And they chanted: “Russia is our friend!”

If the relevance of that last one confuses you, I am very pleased to hear it.

To explain: In the United States many people identify as Democrats or Liberals, or Republicans or “Conservatives” on the other hand. What these identifications entail is infinitely manipulable by the corporate media and the powers that be in Washington, D.C. At the moment, one camp has come to mean:

Progressive,
Humanitarian,
Feminist,
Racially Inclusive,
Economically Fair,
Environmentalist,
Militarist,
And Hostile Toward Russia.

The other camp means:

Capitalist,
Regressive,
Sexist,
Racist,
Inhumane,
Destructive of the Environment,
Militarist,
And Friendly Toward Russia.

Both camps accept on the basis of no evidence whatsoever that Russia helped put Trump in the White House. Both camps are perfectly open to building up hostility toward a nuclear-armed government, but only one camp has been instructed to do so at this time for partisan reasons.

I mentioned this state of affairs to some Russians, and one replied: “But we never even had slavery, only serfdom.” Regardless of how important that distinction is, this misses the point. There’s no logical connection between liking Russia and wanting a city in 2017 to be dominated by confederate statues erected for racist campaigns in the 1920s. I’m not committing any fallacies by favoring some changes in Charlottesville’s landscape and favoring U.S.-Russia personal and governmental friendships.

I toured Moscow’s Gulag Museum today. I saw no crowd of gulag supporters proposing friendship with the United States. But such a display would hardly have been observable as such, since every single Russian I’ve ever met has proposed friendship with the United States — including Russians with a wide range of opinions about the gulags.

A Russian Journalist’s Perspective

Dmitri Babich has worked as a journalist in Russia since 1989, for newspapers, news agencies, radio, and television. He says that he used to always interview people, while lately people interview him.

According to Babich, myths about Russian media, such as that one cannot criticize the president in Russia, can be dispelled simply by visiting Russian news websites and using Google Translator. More newspapers in Russia oppose Putin than support him, Babich says.

If Russian news is propaganda, Babich asks, why are people so afraid of it? Was anyone ever afraid of Brezhnev’s propaganda? (One might reply that it wasn’t available on the internet or television.) In Babich’s view the threat of Russian news lies in its accuracy, not in its falsehood. In the 1930s, he says, French and British media, in good “objective” style, suggested that Hitler wasn’t anything much to worry about. But the Soviet media had Hitler right. (On Stalin perhaps not so much.)

Today, Babich suggests, people are making the same mistake that the British and French media made back then, failing to appropriately stand up to a dangerous ideology. What ideology? That of neoliberal militarism. Babich points to the swift response of NATO and the Washington establishment to any proposals from Donald Trump to ease up on hostility toward Russia.

Babich is not naive about Trump. While he says that Barack Obama was decidedly the worst U.S. president ever, he does not predict great things from Trump. Obama, Babich explains, had incompetence to match his militarism. He imposed sanctions on Russia that hurt the most pro-Western organizations. “He became a victim of his own propaganda.”

I asked Babich why I’d heard such positive comments on Trump from so many Russians. His answer: “Unrequited love for the U.S.,” and “hope,” and the thought that because Trump won he must be smarter than he seems. “People hate to wake up,” Babich concluded.

Pressed on how people could possibly place hope in Trump, Babich said that because Russia has never been colonized (despite Sweden and Napoleon and Hitler trying), Russians are only now learning what Africans colonized by the West understood about the colonizers.

Asked why Russia would make alliances with China and Iran, Babich replied that the U.S. and E.U. wouldn’t have Russia, so it is taking its second choices.

Asked about Russian journalists who have been killed, Babich said that while more were killed in the time of Boris Yeltsin, he has two theories. One is that an opponent of Putin’s is responsible. Babich named a politician who died around the time of the last killing. The other theory is that people enraged by the media are responsible. Babich said he couldn’t take seriously the idea that Putin would himself be responsible for killing someone right next to the Kremlin.

Asked about the approach of RT (Russia Today) television, Babich said that the approach of the news agency Ria Novosti of trying to imitate the New York Times gained no followers because people can already just read the New York Times. By opposing U.S. crimes and giving voice to alternative perspectives RT has found an audience. I think this interpretation is borne out by the CIA report earlier this year hyping the danger of RT. If the U.S. media were providing the news, Americans wouldn’t look for news elsewhere.

Babich and I discussed these and other topics on the RT show “Crosstalk” on Sunday. The video should, sooner or later, be posted here.

A Russian Entrepreneur’s Perspective

I’ve been in Moscow some days now and have yet to meet an oligarch (although perhaps they don’t identify themselves). I have met an entrepreneur named Andrei Davidovich. He’s started several companies since his first in 1998, including a software company, a marketing agency, a publishing company, etc. He says it takes 5 days to create a new company in Russia.

He gives U.S. friends thanks for technology, research, and knowledge. He tells the U.S. government thanks for nothing.

Davidovich has been in touch for years with the U.S.-based Center for Citizen Initiatives, the excellent organization that can bring you to Russia to learn all about it, and that brought some 6,000 Russian businessmen and women, including Davidovich, to the U.S. during the previous cold war.

He has also created a highly successful online activist platform for creating citizen initiatives, now being used in 520 Russian cities. The name of the website translates as citizen.ru. Davidovich says an inspiration was the U.S. site SeeClickFix.com. The Russian site works in partnership with a Russian equivalent of Google (and Davidovich says that Google wanted to take his platform Europe-wide but cannot because of U.S. sanctions on Russia).

The Russian site makes use of a law that requires government officials to respond to public concerns within 30 days (and of the public’s willingness to make a virtual piñata of those who fail to do so). On the site, you identify your location and post a problem you want fixed. Your post may be grouped with others in a category (or may be blocked if not serious, appropriate, etc.). But if others support your post, and if the media covers it, you may end up bringing a great deal of public pressure to bear.

On Friday, says Davidovich, he heard from officials in Irkutsk demanding to know how he could dare to create a project making a demand of them, and have it in the newspaper, without having obtained permission first. Davidovich says he replied: “When Facebook appeared on computers in Irkutsk, did Zuckerberg ask your permission?”

Once Davidovich received an email from a village in Crimea that had not had clean water ever, not when it had been part of the USSR, not when it had been part of Ukraine, and not since rejoining Russia. This email was thanking Davidovich for the village now finally having good water. Stories like that one could fill hours, he says.

This entrepreneur extraodinaire said many mayors and town governments are resistant to public engagement and do not want any bad publicity, but others are lining up to actively work with his project, presenting the problems raised by the public in government meetings in order to address them.

Davidovich is quite an opponent of President Vladimir Putin, yet was asked to make a presentation to the Public Chamber, a sort of advisory group created by Putin. The presentation was well received. People in Putin’s government now use his project. And other groups make use of its open-source code.

Davidovich, who says that he does not like Putin, and who has posts on Facebook opposing Putin, does say that U.S. sanctions have brought him closer to Putin, and that he will unite with Putin until the sanctions end, and then return to criticizing him.

“The sanctions do not affect Putin; they affect me,” says Davidovich, who cannot sell to the U.S. On the other hand, he says, he’s very happy that Dell and Cisco cannot sell to Russia. (And when they do return to Russia, he promises to blow the whistle on any corruption they engage in.)

I asked Davidovich whether the U.S. government shouldn’t have offered real assistance, something like the admittedly flawed Marshall Plan, to Russia in the 1990s. Davidovich said he’d rather not have any of the sort of help that the U.S. did offer, sending people over to bribe and corrupt, sending the IMF with abusive loan terms, etc.

As with many Russians (and of course many Americans as well) I found myself in great agreement on a large percentage of what this man had to say — right up until he declared “I like Trump. I like his way of thinking. He is a real man. He is a business man!”

Laugh?

Cry?

If we had a law requiring that our demands be met in 30 days, Trump would have 29 left in office. I hope we work that out somehow, but if Trump can do anything good for Russia between now and then I will be as pleased as anyone. And if I manage to discern a “way of thinking” in his statements I will be extremely delighted.

Things Russians Can Teach Americans

I suppose the list is lengthy and includes dancing, comedy, karaoke singing, vodka drinking, monument building, diplomacy, novel writing, and thousands of other fields of human endeavor, in some of which Americans can teach Russians as well. But what I’m struck by at the moment in Russia is the skill of honest political self-reflection, as found in Germany, Japan, and many other nations to a great degree as well. I think the unexamined political life is not worth sustaining, but it is all we have back home in the not so united states.

Here, as a tourist in Moscow, not only friends and random people will point out the good and the bad, but hired tour guides will do the same.

“Here on the left is the parliament where they make all of those laws. We disagree with many of them, you know.”

“Here on your right is where they are building a 30-meter bronze wall for the victims of Stalin’s purges.”

Moscow has a museum devoted exclusively to the history of the gulags as well.

A tour guide in the shadow of the Kremlin points out to us the spot where a political opponent of Vladimir Putin was murdered, and goes on to lament the delays and failures of the justice system in pursuing the case.

When told about Lenin’s mausoleum you are as likely as not to have him presented to you as a thug. Yeltsin is likely to be described as the guy who was too dimwitted to figure out a better approach to the parliament than shooting at it.

A great many sites are “glorious.” Others elicit different adjectives. “The hideous buildings on your left were put up in the time of ….”

It may be that the length and diversity of history here helps. Jesus stares across a square at Lenin’s grave. Soviet constructions are loved and hated, just like Soviet history. Across the street from our hotel, a huge park is left over from an exhibition of economic achievements put up in the 1930s. It still creates pride and optimism.

Back in Washington, D.C., a Native American Museum and an African American museum have joined the endless parade of war memorials and the museum about genocide in Germany — that committed by Nazis in camps, not by the U.S. bombs that still pose a danger to this day. But there is no slavery museum, no North American genocide museum, no McCarthyism museum, no crimes of the CIA museum, no museum recounting the horrors inflicted on Vietnam or Iraq or the Philippines. There’s a news museum that criticises news from anywhere other than U.S. news corporations. Even a proposal to include a little fact-based commentary alongside the display of an airplane that dropped nuclear bombs on cities created an uproar.

Can you imagine a bus tour in Washington D.C. with a guide remarking over a sound system: “To your left are the monuments glorifying the destruction of Korea and Vietnam, with the giant temples and phallic symbols for the slave owners behind there, and up that street there’s a tiny little memorial that promises not to lock up Japanese Americans again, but mostly it praises a war. Our next stop is the Watergate; who can name the band of crooks that got caught there sabotaging this so-called democracy?”

It’s almost unimaginable.

When we Americans hear Russians tell us that Trump is right to fire anyone for disloyalty, we find such notions backward and uncivilized (even as Trump proudly announces them to the world). No, no, we think, there should be no following of illegal orders or of orders opposed by the people. Oaths are sworn to the Constitution, not to the executive charged with carrying out the laws of the Congress. Of course we’re living in a dream world that exists only in elementary school text books and tour guides. But we’re also denying recognition of the rigidly imposed demand for loyalty to the United States, its flag, its wars, and its foundational mythologies.

How many people did Stalin kill? A Russian can tell you an answer, even if it’s a range.

How many people has the U.S. military killed in recent wars? Most Americans are off by orders of magnitude. Not only that, but most Americans feel they are acting immorally in allowing the question into their brains at all.

In the end, both Russians and Americans allow love of their country to dominate. But one group does so in a more complex and informed way. Both are, of course, utterly and catastrophically misguided.

These two countries are leaders in the dealing of weapons to the world, with horrible bloody results. They are leaders in the development and holding of nuclear weapons, and in the proliferation of nuclear technologies. They are major producers of fossil fuels. Moscow has recovered from the economic destruction that the United States helped inflict on it in the 1990s, but done so in part by selling oil, gas, and weapons.

Of course, the U.S. leads the way in its own military spending and its consumption of fossil fuels. But what we need from the U.S. and Russia is leadership on disarmament and on transition to sustainable economies. Neither nation’s government seems particularly interested in the latter. And only the Russian government seems at all open to disarmament. This state of affairs is unsustainable. If the bombs don’t kill us, the environmental destruction will.

Muscovites are calling this current month “Maynovember” and proposing fur swimsuits. They’re used to warmth in May, not cold and snow. One hopes they are able to keep their sense of humor to the end.

Gorbachev: It Was Worse Than This, and We Fixed It

By Дэвид Суонсон (David Swanson)

On Friday in Moscow I and a group from the United States met with former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. He said the current relationship between Washington and Moscow alarmed him. But, he said, it is possible to rebuild trust. “We had a situation that was worse, but we were able to rebuild trust. And people-to-people contacts helped to rebuild trust.”

When Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan first met, presidents of the two countries had not met for six years. Members of Reagan’s cabinet opposed the meeting. Gorbachev came out of the meeting saying of Reagan “He’s not a hawk, he’s a dinosaur.” Reagan came out denouncing Gorbachev as “a die-hard communist.”


But they kept meeting. Eventually and inevitably Reagan asked what the Soviets would do if the U.S. were attacked by a meteor or aliens. Both men said their countries would help each other. However, Reagan was a fan of Star Wars, both the weapons boondoggle and the movie — which he may have kept distinct from each other in his mind. Gorbachev and Reagan accomplished a great deal of disarmament, not to mention Gorbachev’s accomplishing the nonviolent dissolution of an empire. But they could not get rid of all the nuclear weapons, and they could not take other serious steps in that direction, because Reagan was not willing, and the U.S. government was not willing.

Just as the climate of the culture of the day, as created by activists, journalists, citizen diplomats, and hundreds of other forces, may have mattered more to the disarmament efforts’ successes than the precise words or personalities in the negotiating room, the established war interests in Washington may have determined the failures more than anything else.

“When the Soviet Union broke up,” Gorbachev said on Friday, “many in the West were rubbing their hands together. That was immoral. Our country was in a severe crisis, and it was treated as an enemy.”

On Friday, Gorbachev faulted the same forces on both sides. “We both have the military industrial complex,” he said. “They want war, but we want peace.” He then quoted U.S. President John F. Kennedy saying that the peace we need is not a “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” Gorbachev recounted telling Reagan the very same thing that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is reported as having said this week: “the era of a master-pupil relationship is long over.” Russians want peace, but they want peace among equals, not peace under somebody’s boot heel.

Gorbachev tried for peace, and had the United States fully reciprocated, it is conceivable that today weapons of war would be banned from the earth. For that effort, Gorbachev is not honored in his home country as much as around the world. And the U.S. refusal to accept peace and friendship is recognized and regretted least in the United States — greatly to our shame.