A Cold War Re-Education in 8 Minutes

By David Swanson, March 21, 2021
Remarks at the Cold War Truth Commission

The Cold War didn’t have a hard and fast beginning that transformed the world or that turned heroic anti-Nazi Soviets into Satanic Commies on a particular afternoon.

The rise of Nazism had been facilitated in part by Western governments’ pre-existing enmity for the USSR. That same enmity was a factor in the delay of D-Day by 2.5 years. The destruction of Dresden was a message originally scheduled for the same day as the meeting at Yalta.

Upon victory in Europe, Churchill proposed using Nazi troops together with allied troops to attack the Soviet Union — not an off-the-cuff proposal; the U.S. and UK had sought and achieved partial German surrenders, had kept German troops armed and ready, and had debriefed German commanders. General George Patton, Hitler’s replacement Admiral Karl Donitz, and Allen Dulles favored immediate hot war.

The U.S. and UK violated their agreements with the USSR and arranged new rightwing governments with bans on the leftists who had fought the Nazis in places like Italy, Greece, and France.

The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was in part a message to the USSR.

Among the deep and horrible flaws one can attribute to the USSR, starting the Cold War is not one of them. The U.S. could have chosen hot war, but could also have chosen peace.

But the Cold War was not carefully and deliberately arrived at as a wise policy over a period of time. The worst president the United States has ever had, Harry Truman, advanced it in 1945, and announced its rapid expansion as an urgent necessity in 1947, laying out a doctrine that soon established a major permanent military industrial complex, the CIA, the NSC, the Federal Employee Loyalty Program, NATO, a permanent empire of bases, the upsurge in U.S.-backed coups, the permanent taxation of working people for a permanent war budget, and massive nuclear stockpiles, all of which — with some variations — are still with us.

The general pattern during the Cold War was one of the U.S. leading the USSR in weapons and driving the arms race, while pretending to be losing it as a justification for escalation. Much of the U.S. propaganda was the work of former Nazis in the U.S. military.

Many of the particular lies are still used in variation today: missile gaps, domino effects, reborn Hitlers everywhere.

Major Cold War themes so control common thinking as to be hardly visible, including:

–the idea that the United States should dominate the globe,

–the idea that shortcomings within a foreign country are grounds for bombing its people,

and If you think anti-Asian hatred is mysterious, imagine how confused you’d be if people who consume U.S. media were able to imagine they could recognize people of Russian ancestry.

–the idea that progressive reforms in the United States should be blocked if they can be associated with a foreign enemy (the Cold War was not just foreign policy, nothing has done more to make the U.S. public the worst-off wealthy nation on earth),

–the idea that government secrecy and surveillance are justified.

The Cold War created the habit of living with the risk of apocalypse, and conditioned people (through their survival over what they imagine to be a long period of time) to think the threat was overblown — many of them assume the climate threat is overblown too.

The notion that the Cold War had something to do with democracy was addressed by LBJ to the Greek Ambassador: “Fuck your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant, Cyprus is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked by the elephant’s trunk, whacked good.”

The most important fact about the Cold War is its incredible stupidity. Building weapons to destroy the earth numerous times over, while hiding under school desks and backyards should be viewed as roughly as sensible as burning witches.

The second most important fact about the Cold War is that it wasn’t cold. While wealthy nations have not fought each other, the proxy wars and wars on poor nations and coups have killed millions and have never let up. The U.S., in 2021, arms, trains, and/or funds the militaries of 48 of the 50 most oppressive governments on earth, with no need of a “communist threat” to justify it. It’s normal now.

The third most important fact is that the Cold War was not won by militarism. The USSR was damaged by its militarism and dismantled by nonviolent activism, but the U.S. was deeply damaged too. The nuclear danger is now greater than ever. The proximity between parties in Eastern Europe is greater. And the ridiculous claims are more firmly than ever a matter of faith. Pentagon officials admit to the media that they’re lying about Russia (or China) to sell weapons and maintain bureaucracies, yet nothing changes.

Russiagate depicted a U.S. president engaged in numerous acts of hostility toward Russia as secretly a servant of the Russian president. In many countries a major effort would have been needed to get people to believe such a thing. Not in the post-Cold War U.S.

That U.S. academics can sit through two decades of devastating U.S. wars on Western and Central Asia, and then hysterically denounce the public referendum in Crimea to rejoin Russia as the greatest threat to the peaceful world order in modern times, is a product of the Cold War.

Wildly exaggerated and distorted tales about China and the Uighurs — not to mention Hillary Clinton’s claiming of the entire Pacific — is a product of the Cold War.

When Biden called Putin a killer and Putin wished Biden good health, the New Yorker informed me that Putin’s comment was clearly a threat. That’s a product of the Cold War.

There were serious scholars who believed that when the USSR ended, so would U.S. militarism. Earlier, others had believed the same about the end of the wars on the Native Americans. But the mad drive to dominate everyone, and the corruption of the weapons business, will not end because a particular sales pitch ends. New spins will be found, and old standbys revived, until benevolent imperialism is simply normal:


It’s humanitarian!

It’s anti-terrorism!

It’s anti-Trump!

It’s recommended by 4 out of 5 dentists for their patients who kill children!

There is, sadly, vastly more evidence that the United States Senate hates you and wants you to suffer than there is that Russia or China does. The war business is an uncontrollable monster, creates the nuclear risk, erodes civil liberties, destroys self-governance, fuels bigotry, devastates the natural environment and climate, and kills first and foremost by diverting resources into war and away from human and environmental needs, or what Dr. King called programs of social uplift, but which we’re all most familiar with under the name socialism, or its earlier variation: godless Commie evil.

3 thoughts on “A Cold War Re-Education in 8 Minutes”

  1. An informative article and I’d like to see it reach a wide audience. But I don’t agree with ridiculing the practice of ducking and hiding in anticipation of a nuclear attack. Not everyone would be at Ground Zero. Those at some distance from an atomic blast could possibly be spared death and severe injury by taking some simple defensive steps, like not standing by a window waiting for 200 mph winds to hit. Let’s say only five percent of schoolchildren instructed to duck and cover actually survive a nuclear attack. It’s still worth it. I don’t get the comparison with burning witches.

    1. good point, thanks; it’s the very idea of risking nuclear war and planning how to slightly mitigate the damage that I’m ridiculing

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