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November 09, 2009

Get That Man a Place on Mount Rushmore

Here's an overlooked part from a scary new article by Seymour Hersh about Pakistan's nuclear weapons:

A retired senior Pakistani intelligence officer, who worked with his C.I.A. counterparts to track down Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said..."My belief today is that it’s better to have the Americans as an enemy rather than as a friend, because you cannot be trusted," the former officer concluded. "The only good thing the United States did for us was to look the other way about an atomic bomb when it suited the United States to do so."

The Pakistani intelligence officer is talking about actions by the Reagan administration. Usually we hear about this from U.S. sources, but it's interesting to have confirmation from the other side. There's a good summary in a Consortium News article about the movie Charlie Wilson's War:

[S]urely the most glaring omission in the film is the fateful trade-off accepted by President Ronald Reagan when he agreed not to complain about Pakistan’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability in exchange for Pakistani cooperation in helping the Afghan rebels.

On page 463 of his book, Crile characterizes this deal or understanding as “the dirty little secret of the Afghan war” –- General Zia al-Haq’s ability to extract not only “massive aid” from Washington but also to secure Reagan’s acquiescence in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program via a congressional waiver of U.S. nonproliferation laws...

[T]his history remains a taboo topic for many within the Washington Establishment, especially those who look back favorably on the Reagan presidency.

And there's more: the Pakistani bomb was probably funded by Saudi Arabia, just as the Iraqi nuclear program was during the nineteen eighties. The Reagan administration was aware of it in both instances, but had other priorities.

The Reagan administration and its foreign policy is truly the gift that keeps on giving to America.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at November 9, 2009 12:03 AM

Funny thing about "the gift that keeps on giving" is that Bush and Company have "blessed us" with similar gifts that just keep on giving, like Alito and Roberts who will be blessing this country for generations to come and undoing the efforts of the majority of the population whom they don't represent. The Repugnutins knew how important the election they stole was because of the anticipated Supreme Court appointments to be made and they determined that they would be making them one way or another, even if they had to steal an election. I don't see why we have to live the rest of the century with the fraudulent implants of a President who achieved office through fraud and whose Presidency could best be summarized by two words fraud and corruption.

Posted by: knowdoubt at November 9, 2009 06:28 AM

I don't think "look the other way" is quite accurate. From the moment India tested its bomb in 1974, everyone knew the Pakitanis were going to develop their own. They made no secret of it. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had said as early as the mid 60s that if India developed a bomb, Pakistan would have to do so too even if everyone had to eat grass and leaves. I have a copy of a book published in 1981 called The Islamic Bomb (Weissman and Krosney) that discusses the Pakistani efforts at length. And that was written by journalists at that time without access to any subsequently declassified government docs. What's a little surprising to me is that Pakistan waited so long to test a nuke.

As the always excellent Parry wrote in his article: "This bargain may have been dirty but it certainly was no secret. Indeed, Washington’s acquiescence via the congressional waiver was the subject of continuing press coverage throughout the 1980s." So it wasn't a secret; it just is now. It's our equivalent to air-brushing Trotsky out of photos, but our methods are better.

What our media doesn't talk about NOW goes far beyond secrets. It includes far more than what they do talk about, information that is both historical and contemporaneous. For example, despite all our talk about the importance of Iran not getting nuclear weapons, it has been reported in a reliable source that we have been currently consistently undercutting nuclear non-proliferation efforts in Central Asia, which of course borders Iran to the north. We presumably do that because we apparently think it would be against our interests to support those nonproliferation efforts. See the article below from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

"A continuing lack of support from the United States, Britain, and France only reinforces the belief on the part of non-nuclear weapon states [in Central Asia]that the nuclear weapon states not only lack an interest in their own disarmament but also block important disarmament initiatives of others. In relation to the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone, I will charitably describe the actions of the three Western nuclear weapon states as inappropriate. . . . [L]anguage used by the three opposing nuclear powers in communication with the Central Asian states was so dismissive that some who partook in the discussions described the three nuclear weapon states as behaving as 'nuclear royalty.'"

The phrase 'nuclear royalty' really sums up the problem. We want nonproliferation for our adversaries, but not us and our allies. That has always been our game, and of course it pisses off those crazy Pakistanis, as Hersh notes, because they have one of the most precarious national security situations in the world. Despite India's 1974 nuclear test, Pakistan first tested a nuclear weapon at the end of May 1998, a few weeks after India tested some of its own nuclear weapons AGAIN in early May 1998, quite provocatively after the ascencion to power of the saber-rattling right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP party. So those crazy, dangerous Pakistanis aren't the ONLY bad guys in this story.

There will not be true nuclear nonproliferation in the world until the United States agrees to international control of all nuclear weapons. If we would agree to that, others probably would too, or at least they might. We can only guess since we have never been willing to do it.

Finally, anyone struck, as Hersh was, by what a bunch of crazy religious zealots the Pakistani military is should read a little about the United States Air Force Academy. A big chunk of our military brass enjoy the Left Behind series and look forward to the Rapture. How comforting.

Posted by: N E at November 9, 2009 08:34 AM

Wow. Super duper scawy. Looks like we better invade Pakistan, pronto! Otherwise dem subatomic dominoes gonna fall.

Posted by: Oarwell at November 9, 2009 10:13 AM

In the category of airbrushing include the US contribution to the development of the ISI who became a state within a state using the enormous amount of funding channeled directly to them by the CIA. Before this period the interlocutor for the CIA in Pakistan was the Intelligence Bureau (IB) - the civilian intelligence agency. The IB was reluctant about participating in the US project and argued against it. To punish them the CIA took their elsewhere and helped build up the ISI. IIRC (and I might be off a bit on this) at one point the US supplied budget for the ISI was larger than that of the rest of the army. The ISI of course went on to become the patron and protector of the Taliban.

Posted by: empty at November 9, 2009 10:18 AM

Super duper scawy. Looks like we better invade Pakistan, pronto!

I don't think you have to want to invade Pakistan in order to find the idea of further radicalization of the Pakistani government to be scary. They and India have already come very close to nuclear war several times. And even if they don't do anything, it would almost certainly cause some pretty scary reactions from the U.S. and India.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at November 9, 2009 11:04 AM

Nuclear exchanges in the middle east, south asia or Eurasia has always been something or an ace in the hole US strategy of the great global strategic thinkers. What better way to halt the relative decline of the US? It isn't that we want it but you can be damn sure we are ready to take advantage when the time comes. Don't go counting Gods empire on earth out yet.

Posted by: rapier at November 9, 2009 03:35 PM

"And even if they don't do anything, it would almost certainly cause some pretty scary reactions..."

Maybe I'm missing the point here, but assuming we're both about the same age, we both grew up under the cloud of imminent nuclear annihilation. From 'Fail Safe' to 'Strangelove,' the message was always the same: we could all be dead in the next 20 minutes.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union (where, by the way, command and control of the strategic rocket force, bombers and subs never seemed to be an issue), the NYT published a long article on how difficult it was, in reality, to launch nuclear weapons, have less a coordinated attack. And if it was difficult for the U.S. to launch, it was doubly so for the USSR.

Since 1989, I've come to the realization that the whole thing, the Cold War hysteria, was BS. There was never any risk of nuclear war -- both sides knew it would be far too destructive to attempt. The Cuban Missile Crisis, that near-climacteric point in thermonuclear coupling, has been overdramatized: neither Kruschev nor JFK were about to launch. Jonathan Schell, in 'The Real War,' says as much -- top US military planners knew that using nuclear weapons was simply not tenable. He documents an occasion, I think '68 after Tet, right before MacNamara resigned as SecDef, when LBJ wondered whether we could light off a tactical nuke in Vietnam. MacNamara demurred, explaining to the president world reaction would be so hostile as to make the idea a non-starter.

Khan was giving away nuclear tech at the behest of US intelligence, yes. Always the National Security State is busy creating new enemies which can be used to terrorize the home population, new bogeymen who must everywhere be thwarted. Like marketers selling a new diet soda, the NSS has as its task not the protection of the US, but the creation of profitable enemies who can be used to goad the public into supporting boondoggle military and black budget intelligence expenditures. After the collapse of the Soviet Union they were in a panic to find a new swarthy foeman to justify those enormous MIC budgets, to thwart any such foolishness as a "peace dividend."

Read the standard stuff about Khan on, for instance, the Carnegie Endowment site. Khan was rogue, Khan was selling tech to Libya, North Korea, Iran, the usual suspects. As if he was doing it without NSS blessing. Who did we send in to tell Musharraf to reign him in? Richard Armitage! As if that guy's not dirty as Hell. But suddenly Armitage was all concerned about humanity. Riiight. And the Paki intelligence service was wiring Atta his funds before 9-11 (oops).

So unless you were just engaging in reflexive Reagan-bashing, which is always salubrious on a Monday, not to mention Tuesday, I can't find myself getting terribly concerned about this "next" ominous menace to world peace.
Of course, we probably have very different views on 9-11, too. (I'm with the 6 9-11 commissioners who want a new investigation.)

But when beantown gets the bomb, wake me up.

Posted by: Oarwell at November 9, 2009 03:43 PM

And who profits from a more dangerous world? Couldn't be the same people who back Republican candidates, could it?

Posted by: Seth Chandler at November 9, 2009 03:54 PM

Here's a neat backgrounder, assuming you don't hate Michel Chossudovsky (is he still teaching at U Ottawa?). Amazing that he wrote this on 9-12-2001.

Did ISI not wire Atta his funds in Florida? Debunkers galore!

A Wurlitzer wilderness of mirrors! But as above, I'll stick with the 6 original 9-11 commissioners who say they were lied to by the WH, FAA, and Pentagon, and want a new demonstration. Either that, or forever trust Cheney and goatboy's version.

Posted by: Oarwell at November 9, 2009 03:59 PM

Well, there's really no sense in blaming Reagan when it was Clinton that is really the cause of all of today's problems.

Posted by: Chris- The Fold at November 9, 2009 04:07 PM

Thanks for digging that one up.

Posted by: Batocchio at November 9, 2009 05:53 PM

"Since 1989, I've come to the realization that the whole thing, the Cold War hysteria, was BS. There was never any risk of nuclear war."

Oarwell, that first sentence is absolutely right, and the second sentence is absolutely wrong. The JCS several times wanted to use tactical nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and they weren't fooling around any more than they were fooling around when they firebombed Tokyo or nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If escalation to full nuclear war had occured, the JCS were prepared for that eventuality too, and they intended to win. I've read The Real War, though not lately, and I don't remember Jonathan Schell saying the military was just bluffing about nuclear war. Maybe at the end of the Cold War that was true, but only then. Frankly, I'm also not aware of LBJ ever calling for the use of a tactical nuke, which he spent a good deal of time trying to prevent during the first half of his time as President. That's basically why he was screwed, for reasons I have explained and could explain again to anyone who cares.

During the whole Cold War, there was at least one call so close that it should make imaginative people have nightmares. At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when our military wanted to be aggressive and some like Air Force Generals LeMay and Powers actually hoped to precipitate a full nuclear war because we had dominant power, a Russian sub almost launched a nuke while being hit with depth charges (two officers out of three on the sub voted to launch). McNamara learned how close they had come to a nuclear war only during the fortieth anniversary of the Missile Crisis in Havanna, where it was learned that Vasily Archipov prevented a nuclear exchange that our military would have taken all the way:

So I can think of no more erroreous statement than "there was never any risk of nuclear war." There most certainly was a very real risk, and if we don't stop with the militarism, homo sapiens sapiens just isn't going to make it. I assume your position stems from the misuse of these concerns by Cheney and the Cheneyettes to attack anyone we want, and that's a good concern, but your position actually depresses me, because you're knowledgeable in general. These risks are serious; they just aren't a good reason to try to rule the world by force of arms under the pretext of keeping everyone safe.

As for 9/11, even the commissioners who wanted a real investigation aren't bold. Yes, there should be a real investigation, and it doesn't take great courage to say that, but it's also a waste of breath. All our official investigations have been shams. Without evidence, there is impunity, and the secrecy justified by National Security considerations guarantees that there will be no evidence. Even if documents exist, they can always be destroyed--because there's impunity for that too. All the CIA's MKUltra files were destroyed, and when Angleton was forced to resign in 1975, another 40,000 of his counterintel files were destroyed. And what harm did that do to CIA? None. (Imagine what was in those files, since the "family jewels" files produced were nasty enough.)

So we can have all the investigations you want, for all the good it will do you. Pieces of the puzzle will be revealed, but the big secrets will stay secret, leaving people to argue forever about plane debris and molten metal and how towers fall and the identity of those crazy arabs led by the tall bearded guy of the many videotapes. In the process, stupidity will ascend to ever greater heights, and not everyone will be arguing in good faith, but it probably wouldn't matter anyway; the debate will be ignored as nonsense or craziness or too complicated by nearly everyone. That's why there is impunity, and the consequences of our collective gullibility suck, but it is the reality we face.


Posted by: N E at November 9, 2009 07:26 PM

NE, thanks, I knew you'd respond. On p. 10 of Real War, Schell notes that Kennedy and Johnson swung away from John Foster Dulle's policy of nuclear retaliation ("nervous about a policy that courted the devestation of the world.") P. 26 he refers to the 1954 article by William Kaufman, showing that nuclear deterrence wasn't credible, laying the groundwork for a different form of credibility, ground troops. P. 33, responding to charges of Sen. McCarthy, "There followed a series of denials from the administration spokesmen, culminating in a statement by the President that "so far as I am aware" neither the "Joint Chiefs of Staff, the SecState, nor the SecDef" had at any time "considered or made a recommendation in any respect to the employment of nuclear weapons." This was true (Schell writes) but incomplete. The person conspicuously missing from the list was the President himself, who, alarmed by the course of events in an important battle ... at Khe Sanh, had queried Westmoreland whether as Presdient he might sometime soon face a decision whether or not the use of nuclear weapons might be required. Westmoreland (not MacNamara, as I wrote) replied that their use "should not be requried in the present situation.

NE, I was just reading Ambassador Craig Murray's article on how he was slandered and pilloried for trying to bring Uzbek human rights abuses to the attention of the British Foreign Service. Before the slanders began, he received this curt letter: “Dear Ambassador, we are concerned that you are perhaps over-focused on human rights to the detriment of commercial interests." Then they tried to destroy him, using Fleet Street to spread the lies to the British public. Disgusting.

Murray goes on to write "So much of this intelligence was nonsense. It was untrue and it was designed to paint a false picture. The purpose of the false picture was to make people feel afraid. What was it really about. …

"But the most interesting bit of the entire book comes before the page numbers start, which is a facsimile of a letter from Enron, from Kenneth Lay, chairman of Enron, to the honorable George W. Bush, governor of the state of Texas. It was written on April 3, 1997, sometime before Bush became president.

"It reads, I’ll just read you two or three sentences, “Dear George, you will be meeting with Ambassador Sadyq Safaev, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to the United States on April 8th. … Enron has established an office in Tashkent and we are negotiating a $2 billion joint venture with Neftegas of Uzbekistan … to develop Uzbekistan’s natural gas and transport it to markets in Europe … This project can bring significant economic opportunities to Texas.”

"Not everyone in Texas, of course. George Bush and Ken Lay, in particular. That’s actually what it was about. All this stuff about al-Qaeda that they were inventing, extreme Islamists in Central Asia that they were inventing."

If you haven't read Murray's letter, it's truly horrifying:

So no, NE, I don't believe any of it. It's all bogeyman stuff. It's all intended to keep us overawed and trembling and obedient to those "in the know." It's madness.

Posted by: Oarwell at November 9, 2009 09:07 PM


We're talking past each other, and I don't know what you are saying has to do with whether there has ever been a risk of nuclear war. The question of whether a nuclear deterrent could be credible is entirely different from the possibility of nuclear war. The use of nuclear weapons was recommended several time by the JCS, including before 1954, during it, and several times after, and there were some concerted efforts to provoke conflict. Per a source as conventional as Steven Ambrose, Ike was asked to use nukes by the JCS three or four times in 1953 alone (I'd have to look up the number.) And then there's the Missile Crisis, and there were some efforts to create a nuclear attack on China both in Korea and in Vietnam. I'm not blowing smoke here--those facts are true.

You're right that Kennedy and Johnson tried to change the US deterrent from massive nuclear retaliation, in part because that wasn't a credible deterrent (that was always the stated reason), but in truth probably more because they damn well knew that there were people in the navy and air force eager for a limited or even total nuclear war against China and/or the USSR. To the uberhawks, nuclear weapons were just another weapon. I often joke that Dr. Strangelove was a documentary, but if you don't think the possibility of nuclear war war real, you haven't been reading enough Ellsberg, and you didn't pay enough attention to the front end of Douglas's book.

That being said, you're right to be wary of using the risk of nuclear terrorism as a pretext for aggressive/preemptive wars. That's what the Bush Doctrine was about, and Cheney's 1% doctrine. My personal assessment is that Cheney is deranged and likely thought that in 2000 that the US was incredibly vulnerable to a catastrophic terrorist attack as a result of the proliferation of WMDs, especially nukes. Actually, I don't think there's much doubt he thought that, or that he is paranoid, ruthless, Machiavellian, cunning, brutal, and capable of extreme harshness. So you're right to not like that sort of thinking, because look what it got us the next year.

But we did many times almost have nuclear wars, that was real. And we almost had them because we almost started them. We have always been the dominant nuclear power, even in the late 70s when the Russians gained ground, so no other nation ever was tempted to attack us. Just like Iran won't be tempted to attack anyone with nukes if it gets them, because that would be crazy. We would annihilate them, literally, as we apparently threatened to do in 2002 upon hearing a rumor of another terrorist attack against us. That was Cheney and Rummy in action. And I hate that shit too. But it doesn't mean nukes aren't dangerous.

Posted by: N E at November 9, 2009 10:53 PM

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic
--John F. Kennedy

NE, it's true that nuts like LeMay's wet dreams took the shape of mushroom clouds, but the military are subservient to civilian policy makers, who themselves (I think we both agree) are subservient to bankers. Maybe I'm discounting the dangers, but as LeCarre noted in his later novels, at the top of the heap there seemed to be common interests at work. It's useful, damn useful, to have a few loose cannons on the gundeck of the National Security State, to scare the hoi polloi, as long as the cannons remain unloaded.

Just as no one at Ft. Hood was allowed to have a loaded weapon (the military terrified of troop mutiny), no fool General was going to be allowed to get his hands on the 'fire' button attached to a nuke, no matter what we've been told. Stephen Ambrose is an establishment historian, ie., a courtier, a distorter of reality. We probably are talking past each other, but if A) we both think 9-11 was an inside job, and that B) the CIA/NSS killed JFK, then the ultimate reasons in both cases were not anti-communist or pro-Zionist fanaticism but the lure of profits. The rest is a cover story.

Did you have a chance to read Ambassador Murray's article (which was a partial transcript of a speech he gave)? He says explicitly (with regards to Afghanistan) that there are a small number of people who want to profit from the $15 trillion worth of central Asian oil and natural gas, and that they're willing to kill thousands to do it.

I remember that you have a skeptical view of Anthony Sutton, but I believe that "Wall Street" did finance both Lenin and Hitler. It seems pretty well-documented, and not just from Sutton. In which case it's unlikely the owners of the joint are going to let peons like LeMay or anyone else blow the place up over misguided ideologies.

The only ideology that matters to the owners is that of profit. They knew all along that even a limited nuclear exchange would deeply "impact" the bottom line. I'll give the devil his due--he's shrewd enough not to want to lose money on his operations.

Otherwise, they are utterly immoral, essentially an alien mindset to the rest of humanity. How else could they engage with a dictator who mutilates children in front of their parents to get them to falsely admit to being members of al Qaeda?

Remember what Winston learned in room 101. Goldstein was a party member. St. George was telling us something there.

But I do love the quote about Strangelove being a documentary.

Posted by: Oarwell at November 10, 2009 09:15 AM

Now N E, I thought you knew better than to quote retired military and intelligentsia. They sometimes claim weird things... like conspiracy theories that are literally out of this world.

Seriously though, although I agree the nuclear option was never brought up and the ground invasion idea was contested, the Joint Chiefs of Staff DID infact agree on a surprise air strike against Cuban and Soviet targets. Whether they intended to finish the fight with the Soviet Union is up in the air although it seems that there was a consensus that the Soviets would take their beating gracefully and cut their losses.

Of course none of you mention the other little detail, the SOVIET National Security State. The Presidium was nearly unanimous in standing their ground and would fight a war to prove it. Infact, after the crisis the Presidium was so furious at the aftermath, they effectively fired Khrushchev, we all know what happened to Kennedy.

I hope this link fleshes out the American sides of things anyway, its a good read throughout.

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at November 10, 2009 11:00 AM


I don't think I've ever expressed a skeptical view about Anthony Sutton, or mentioned him at all, though frankly I'm cautious about anyone with any connection to the Hoover Institution because it's so right wing. I have read parts of Sutton's books on Wall Street's connections to the rise of Bolshevism and Hitler, and there is some illuminating information in them, but I've never read never except for general information and never to critique Sutton. Plus, it's been a while.

I have now read Ambassador Murray's article, and I respect him. It calls to my mind once again the ending of The Bourne Identity, when Jason Bourne says--"that knowledge, it changes things, doesn't it?" How dare Murray make respectable people uncomfortable by calling attention to the fact that children were being boiled alive. I'm sure he's a social pariah, unlike people who send children to be boiled alive.

As for our dangerous and immoral presence in Central Asia, South Asia, the Caucusus, and the Caspian Basin being about the astronomical value of huge energy supplies, yes of course it is about that. That's pretty obvious to anyone willing to think about it. But don't adopt a cartoonish version of materialist theory. There is no inconsistency between wars being about wealth and ideologues believing their own extremist ideas. I suspect Cheney believes his own bullshit.

Ideologues can have a very profound effect on history, even to the detriment of those cold-blooded capitalists and their mercenary economic agendas. There is a significant amount of irrationality in capitalism, and that irrationality can give rise to political forces that take on a momentum and dynamic of their own. Naziism is a good example. When the German manufacturers listened to Hitler's anticommunist speech in Dusseldort in 1932 and blessed his movement, a blessing necessary for its success, they had no way of foreseeing all the consequences, nor the insight or historical acumen to do that. They just hated communism and like the speech. Americans now have just as little insight as to what directions our more loathsome political movements will take in the future. Don't presume the ideology is safe merely because materialism ultimately determines the broad outlines of history. The broad outlines are much too broad.

Yes, Goldstein was a party member. Yes, Osama was a boogeyman, so much so that it doesn't even matter that he's probably been dead since the end of 2001. And yes, the US and its allies have such dominant power now that it seems like the only real risk we face is letting our government trick us into thinking that we are in danger. But that too, will pass, and over the next few decades things will probably even out some, and we better create stable international institutions that keep our crazy militarists and other crazy militarists from killing tens or hundreds of million (or billions) of people. All those wars in history aren't fictional--they happened. We need to give that up, beacause the next world war will make the prior ones seem like kid stuff. And once everyone starts to think weakness amounts to treason, things easily get out of hand.

Posted by: N E at November 10, 2009 01:58 PM

Good response, NE. "Don't presume the ideology is safe merely because materialism ultimately determines the broad outlines of history." True.

Nikolai, you're right, too easy to discount the Soviet side of the equation, esp. from the safe remove of 20 years. Thanks for the link.

Posted by: Oarwell at November 10, 2009 02:54 PM


You crack me up with the Cooper always and forever.

I maybe didn't say often enough that the US wanted to use nukes more than just during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That's not a trifling difference. Many people know about the Missile Crisis, but not so many realize how often our air force generals and our navy admirals tried to provoke a war with China and were ready to use nukes to win it. From Macarthur in 1950 on, it happened regularly. In 1954 Eisenhower actually remarked that the Soviets must be scared out of their minds.

Those Soviets in the Soviet National Security State weren't irrational to think they should stand firm. They had some experience to teach them that the US would keep moving forward right up until the Soviets stopped backing up. I'm by no means saying the Soviets were morally better for not being more aggressive; they were just weaker. And that doesn't mean they were weak--just weaker. They got more respect than China did, let alone small countries. (And that doesn't mean China was weak either. They and the North Koreans fought extremely well, for example, just as the Vietnamese later did. But we had that vast and horrific air power that could obliterate everything.)

Don't forget that Khruschev didn't get replaced by his own hard-liners until after JFK was assassinated, thus completing the reaction against detente by hard-liners on both sides. It wasn't the Missile Crisis that cooked Khruschev's goose, it was JFK's assassination.

As to the White House tapes, sorry, but I just can't stand seeing Zelikow's name, and I certainly don't trust his editing.

Posted by: N E at November 10, 2009 04:18 PM

NE, just to add to your comments, I only learned recently that two bombers took off from an aircraft carrier located about 500 miles from the Sinai, both planes loaded with nuclear weapons, both flights ordered after hearing the SOS from the USS Liberty during the 6 day war in '67. These were recalled, refitted with conventional weapons and sent on their way again, only to be recalled again on orders from McNamara.

A number of the officers from the Liberty believed that the whole idea was to sink the ship, which would then be an act of war provoked by unknown attackers who would be assumed to be Egyptian. This would enable the US to enter the war for the Israelis and attack Egypt, backed at the time by the USSR.

Some officers believed the plan was to nuke Egypt. Whether this is true or not, it's a spooky thought, one that I was utterly unaware of until 40 years after the event. Apparently, although (having a sieve like brain) I can't remember the dates now, there were a few other occasions when we came perilously close to nuclear events. I concur with you completely about the very real dangers of nuclear terror which we lived with for more than half a century.

Posted by: Terry5135 at November 10, 2009 07:30 PM

Terry5135: I've never been sure what was intended with the Liberty, but in those days framing communists to try to start or broaden wars seems to have been common. Certainly the Liberty didn't get the message to hightail it out of those waters.

Those who want to know about our various flirtations with nuclear war apart from the Cuban Missile Crisis might read in particular:

Bruce Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, volume 2;
Franz Schurman, The Logic of World Power (read it despite the overly philosophical title);
Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy( ditto as to the melodramatic title)

Posted by: N E at November 10, 2009 11:24 PM

'Certainly the Liberty didn't get the message to hightail it out of those waters.'

Hard to do when you're being strafed, bombed and torpedoed, and when your men in lifeboats are machine gunned.

"Forty years ago this week, I was asked to investigate the heaviest attack on an American ship since World War II. As senior legal counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry it was my job to help uncover the truth regarding Israel’s June 8th 1967 bombing of the USS Liberty.

On that sunny, clear day 40 years ago, Israel’s combined air and naval forces attacked our American intelligence-gathering ship for two hours, inflicting 70 percent casualties. Thirty-four American soldiers died and 172 were injured. The USS Liberty remained afloat only by the crew’s heroic efforts.

Israel claimed it was an accident. Yet I know from personal conversations with the late Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, president of the Court of Inquiry, that President Johnson and Secretary of Defence McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of “mistaken identity.”

The ensuing cover-up has haunted us for 40 years.What does it imply for our national security, not to mention our ability to honestly broker peace in the Middle East, when we cannot question Israel’s actions, even when they kill Americans?

On June 8th, survivors of Israel’s cruel attack will gather in Washington DC to honor their dead shipmates as well as the mothers, sisters, widows and children they left behind. They will continue to ask for a fair and impartial congressional inquiry that, for the first time, would allow the survivors themselves to testify publicly.

For decades I have remained silent. I am a military man and when orders come in from the Secretary of Defence and President of the United States, I follow them. However, attempts to rewrite history and concern for my country compel me to tell the truth.

Admiral Kidd and I were given only one week to gather evidence for the Navy’s official investigation, though we both estimated that a proper Court of Inquiry would take at least six months.

We boarded the crippled ship at sea and interviewed survivors. The evidence was clear. We both believed with certainty that this attack was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew.

I am certain that Israeli pilots and commanders who had ordered the attack knew the ship was American. I saw the bullet-riddled American flag that had been raised by the crew after their first flag had been shot down completely. I heard testimony that made it clear the Israelis intended there be no survivors. Not only did they attack with napalm, gunfire and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned at close range three life rafts that had been launched in an attempt to save the most seriously wounded.

I am outraged at the efforts of Israel’s apologists to claim this attack was a case of “mistaken identity”.

Admiral Kidd told me that after receiving the President’s cover-up orders, he was instructed to sit down with two civilians from either the White House or the Defence Department, and rewrite portions of the Court’s findings. He said, “Ward, they are not interest in the facts. It’s a political matter and we cannot talk about it.” We were to “put a lid on it” and caution everyone involved never to speak of it again.

I know that the Court of Inquiry transcript that has been released to the public is not the same one that I certified and sent to Washington. I know this because it was necessary, due to the exigencies of time, to hand correct and initial a substantial number of pages. I have examined the released version of the transcript and did not see any pages that bore my hand corrections and initials. Also, the original did not have any deliberately blank pages, as the released version does. In addition, the testimony of Lt. Lloyd Painter concerning the deliberate machine-gunning of the life rafts by the Israeli torpedo boat crews, which I distinctly recall being given to the Court of Inquiry and included in the original transcript, is now missing.

I join the survivors in their call for an honest inquiry. Why is there no room to question Israel, even when they kill Americans, in the halls of Congress?

Let the survivors testify. Let me testify. Let former intelligence officers testify that they received real-time Hebrew translations of Israeli commanders instructing their pilots to sink “the American ship.”

Surely uncovering the truth about what happened to American servicemen in a bloody attack is more important than protecting Israel. And surely forty years is long enough to wait."

Honor the courage and integrity of three parties: Ward Boston Jr. for writing that; the Editor of the San Diego Union Tribunefor publishing it; and the Copley family which owns the newspaper and allows it to be a beacon of light in an otherwise very dark and menacing mainstream media landscape.

Hightail my ass. That's disgusting misrepresentation, NE--I hope you did it out of ignorance.

Posted by: Oarwell at November 11, 2009 09:33 AM

Oarwell: I'm a little disappointed that you would presume I don't know what I'm talking about.

From The War Conspiracy, Peter Dale Scott, 1972 edition, at page 69, discussing Joseph Goulden's Truth is the First Casualty:

Goulden concludes with a review of the "mistakes seen in Tonkin." Assuredly Washington made mistakes, and, as Goulden demonstrates, they do "recur all too frequently." One of his most telling chapters is a review of the command-and-control snafus surrounding other ill-fated electronics intelligence missions--the USS Liberty
in the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, and more recently the Pueblo. The Israelis, he reveals, attacked the Liberty after the US military attache,
in good faith, had denied there were any US ships in the area. The attache had seen a JCS cable ordering all US craft in the area a hundred
miles out to sea; the Liberty, however, had not received the order. The original message had been dispatched, in error, to the Philippines
and then to Fort Mead in Maryland; a follow-up, confirming order was likewise deflected in error to Morocco. Again Washington was thrown into a crisis of which it had no good intelligence. As McNamara later admitted, "I thought the Liberty had been attacked by Soviet forces. Thank goodness our carrier commanders did not
launch directly against the Soviet forces who were operating in the Mediterranean."

If you have a problem with the facts set forth in Joseph Goulden's account of what happened involving the Liberty, as repeated by Scott, I'm all ears. Pending contrary facts, and not just an affidavit by an understandably angry participant from the Liberty, I have no reason not to believe Goulden's facts.

So I repeat that the Liberty for some reason didn't get the message to hightail it out of those water--BEFORE it was attacked. And apparently there were bizarre reasons for that failure that might well have led to a shooting war with the Soviets.

Posted by: N E at November 11, 2009 11:28 AM

Also Oarwell, before you get too busy honoring the Copley press, you should read this piece on one of your favorite subjects: The Mighty Wurlitzer

Journalism and the CIA: The Mighty Wurlitzer
by Daniel Brandt

Brandt is an honest author. And to be clear, nothing I have said excuses Israel for the attack. I believe someone once wrote something suggesting that Israel may have even attacked the Liberty to prevent the ship from picking up radio traffic about war crimes in Sinai. Why the Liberty didn't leave those waters may not even be related to why Israel attacked it, and it certainly doesn't excuse the attack.

Posted by: N E at November 11, 2009 01:17 PM

I would never believe a word that McNamara said. He's a liar through and through.

Posted by: Susan at November 11, 2009 06:58 PM


I see no motive for McNamara to lie with respect to what he said about the Liberty. Even liars often tell the truth if they have no reason to lie, just as even the most honest people will lie when they have enough cause. (Not that I think what McNamara said really proves much of anything either.)

I also think McNamara (despite having been part of the lying machine that was the US government during the Vietnam War) told quite a bit of the truth in Fog of War, and in his memoir In Retrospect. There are some revelations there, including that JFK was withdrawing troops from Vietnam and that he doubted the reports about the Gulf of Tonkin when he received them. What McNamara said as to our characteristic mistakes in forming military policy was valuable too, or would be if anybody paid any attention to it. The Right reviles him because he wasn't a fascist, and the Left reviles him as a warmonger. Which is too bad, because though he ended up playing the part of a warmonger, he didn't set out to do that. There are important lessons to be learned from his failures, and I give him credit for not flinching from them. Not all old men are such liars.

Most of all, the real bad guys in the 60s were at the Pentagon and Langley, and they were very bad indeed. They hated McNamara even more than you do. He was the most reviled Secretary of Defense in US history, especially by the ultra-hawks. Had it been up to them--and McNamara had to consider the possibility that it could be--the 600 million casualties in Europe and Asia that Daniel Ellsberg has recently written about actually could have come to pass. Oarwell thinks that possibility is mularkey that was meant to scare us, though he and others might pause to reflect on what propaganda value a "TOP SECRET--EYE'S ONLY" analysis forecasting such casualties, seen by only a few dozen National Security State bureaucrats, would have served. The hawks didn't even disclose the nuclear war plans that have since been declassified. Those were kept secret from the people, as most ugly evidence of militarism is, until children born when the documents are drafted move into retirement homes.

Finally, to McNamara's credit, he remembered Norman Morrison's name nearly four decades after Morrison burned himself to death outside McNamara's office in protest of the war in Vietnam. Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld wouldn't let a name like that linger in their memory for 10 minutes.

So I don't think McNamara was more dishonest than most people, or a person without conscience, which just goes to show that even brilliant people trying to do what they think is right need to be careful how they make decisions, and what they excuse as necessary, or they might find themselves sitting in front of a camera in their old age talking about people who burned themselves to death in front of their office to protest what they did.

Posted by: N E at November 11, 2009 08:27 PM

I could be uninformed, but I don't know what the fate of Kruschev's counterpart had to do with his own. Either way, you have to understand that even by the time of the 1961 K-19 disaster the Soviet Union had enough nuclear weapons to nuke the whole world over. Twice. So there was something there that could give even high-level Soviet extremists confidence. I do concede that confidence no doubt faded shortly after the Union's peak prosperity circa 1960s-1970s.

Speaking of Mr. Milton and air power perhaps a more readily acceptable explanation for the flying saucers of UFO lore is that they're Air Force black projects. According to the theory, the Mach speeds and anti-gravity characteristics common with sightings are possibly with Telsa energy, a highly-recyclable power source that the U.S. military solely uses, courtesy of the greedy petroleum industry.

This craft shown here was cancelled but its testing results were used elsewhere. The prototype was put on display only recently at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

Indeed, multiple reported sightings of triangular UFOs in the late 80s were said to have been factors in the U.S. Air Force's confirmation of another black project, the then brand new F-117 Nighthawk.

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at November 11, 2009 10:09 PM

"Either way, you have to understand that even by the time of the 1961 K-19 disaster the Soviet Union had enough nuclear weapons to nuke the whole world over. Twice. So there was something there that could give even high-level Soviet extremists confidence."

Well, Nikolay, that most certainly was NOT the opinion of the Pentagon, and I think it's just not true. You really should read the following article closely, and frankly everybody should:

The basis for the Soviet Union's confidence in the late 50s, 60s, and even 70s wasn't military parity, let alone nuclear parity (though by the 70s that existed for all practical purposes). The USSR's strength was ideological. Communism was very popular after WWII, including in Europe, mostly because everything else had acquitted itself so disgracefully, and the USSR had emerged from the war as a superpower, largely because its enemies had destroyed each other. In the 50s and 60s, Sputnik and the success of communism was an ideological threat, not a military threat--at least not in the sense of a great-power conflict.

As for UFOs and your man Cooper, I wouldn't be at all surprised if UFOs really refer to some other experiemental aircraft or technology. I don't know much about it; I just don't believe in Vulcans or Romulans or even Martians.

Posted by: N E at November 11, 2009 10:48 PM

You all just watch the press for the next week or ten days and pay attention to the reaction to this intransigence by Obama, which poor Professor Chazelle probably just can't believe is actually happening. We'll see some stories on the maniacs on the right. There will probably be a story or two relating to past or potential present assassinations, such as the rare NYT story last month discussing the CIA's refusal to produce some JFK assassination material (Can you believe they STILL haven't produced some of those files?) There will likely be some more reporting about how pissed Obama's generals are at him. And of course Cheney will egg on the right with more "dithering" charges. We have good political climate control by the media.

Posted by: N E at November 11, 2009 10:56 PM

Regarding pressure from the generals and the press giving them a sympathetic hearing, I also expect the sun to continue rising in the east.

So far Obama has conceded more, policywise, to AIPAC and Netanyahu than to the Pentagon--the cave-in on the settlement issue was wondrous to behold, though not exactly surprising, and I can say all that without reference to assassinations and conspiracies and so forth--it's almost as though the ordinary pressures of politics and lobbying groups loom larger for him than the Cthullu and the other elder gods who run the military-industrial complex.

I don't suggest going very far down the conspiracy route when it comes to the I/P conflict cuz it has nasty historical associations (and also it's crazy). It's just normal for politicians to cave into a loud group which is very passionate about one issue, even if it makes the US look very weak in the Arab world.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 12, 2009 01:01 PM

Interesting. Well, it occurs to me that I can't find my own source and so I'll trust yours.

As for these objects, through the phenomena's unknown origin and our government's cover ups the evidence is scarce. But I assure you, the evidence that I have personally collected suggests a knowledge that has been suppressed for years.

The occurrences of these craft are definitely increasing, especially in South America so an experience with these craft may just occur in your lifetime. Still, the great chasm of the unknown frightens us all.. so it is best to disclose when the time is right...

And that is DEFINITELY not during the school year. I have noticed that this blogging eats up the time so until further notice you might note my absence. For now.

Still I must thank you, N E for the discussions. Always enlightening and a pleasure.

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at November 12, 2009 01:44 PM

"So far Obama has conceded more, policywise, to AIPAC and Netanyahu than to the Pentagon."

--How does a person tell who such concessions are to? I haven't really tried to keep track, but I can't even think of a disagreement among that crowd.

There now seems to me to be a strange irrational role played by occasional press accounts of assassinations and conspiracies. They are vaguely ominous but in such an amorphous way that they can't be taken seriously or even really interpreted that way. But I do think they are part of the political climate, and I also think that they add an element of crazy to it.

I also agree politicians cave a lot. I think the problem is the structure of our political system. I read today something by Rick Herzberg that I agreed with: "[m]y attention goes back to the structure the [Democrats] are trapped in. That’s what Obama and the Democrats are in the grip of now. And that remains to be fixed.”
Herzberg also said that “People are going to get fed up with the Democrats at some point, and they will replace the Democrats with the Republicans. And if these are the Republicans, we are really up shit’s creek.”

It could be that the way to fix that is to push the Republicans left by pushing the Democrats left--the Overton window approach. But that risk needs to be considered.

Posted by: N E at November 12, 2009 04:51 PM

"but I can't even think of a disagreement among that crowd."

Which crowd? I think there are a number of people in mainstream foreign policy circles (Brzezinski, for one) who'd like to rein Israel in, but this view doesn't prevail, because of domestic political considerations. And this mainstream desire for a more balanced approach to the I/P conflict has nothing to do with human rights concerns in most cases, of course--it's just that Israel is in some ways a millstone around their necks, making it more difficult for the "moderate" Arab regimes (or their corrupt elites) to ally themselves with our corrupt elites.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 12, 2009 05:18 PM

This is interesting--the Angry Arab blogger thinks the US is supporting Saudi Arabian intervention in the Yemen war.


Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 12, 2009 06:02 PM

Donald Johnson:

By "that crowd" I meant AIPAC, Netanyahu, and the Pentagon, the three you had mentioned. I don't see a lot of bickering among them.

As for Brzezinski, he does mildly criticize Israel now and again, and he takes the bold position that we should be more neutral, but I tend to think it's mostly for public consumption.
His is a radically pro-palestinian view in the US.

At this point, in my opinion Israel isn't that much of a millstone around anyone's necks. All the Gulf states are thoroughly corrupt, especially the Saudis, and they take making statements for public consumption to a whole other level. If you think "our" elites are corrupt, you ain't seen nothing. Of course, their elites are corrupt mostly because of us, so I guess we get credit anyway. I'm sure the arab elites hate Israel, just as the Israelis hate them right back, but that mutual hatred is largely inconsequential. The arab elites are looking out for themselves (not their citizens, themselves).

I don't know what's going on in Yemen, but Saudi Arabia doesn't cross the United States. They have some sort of strange notion that King Faisal was shot by his nephew because he forgot why he shouldn't do that. If the Saudis are doing something in Yemen, we have either requested it or at least approved it. Look up client state in the dictionary and it should mention Saudi Arabia. They aren't going to get themselves killed or jeopardize the gravy train they have in oil money. But it may not be entirely up to them. Now they have 30 million people and 7 million guestworkers/slaves, not just the 6 million citizens they had forty years ago. The oil money they bring in is going to stop being enough one of these years, so the princes all better keep their jets idling on the runway, ready for take-off.

Posted by: N E at November 12, 2009 08:19 PM