Scapegoating Russia for Corporate Riches and Internal Fear

Review of The Russians are Coming, Again (“first as tragedy, then as farce”) by Jeremy Kuzamarov and John Marciano

To the millions of victims of the Cold War, and those who have struggled valiantly for a lasting friendship between the American and Soviet/Russian people.

That is authors Jeremy Kuzamarov and John Marciano’s dedication of this scholarly work that should be a text for high school, college and university students in the US and worldwide.

“We write this book as the curtain slowly draws down on the American Empire,” thus opened Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick in their monumental historical tome The Untold History of the United States. (Their book accompanies the 2012 Showtime documentary film in 12 episodes)

This could easily have been the opening sentence of The Russians are Coming, Again (TRACA) (Monthly Review Press, May 2018, 240 pages).

The book’s title comes from the 1966 Academy Award–winning film The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, directed by Norman Jewison, which parodies the Cold War paranoia pervading the US during the war against Vietnam and depicts chaos that seized a small coastal New England town after a Soviet submarine ran aground. The sub-title—“first as tragedy, then as farce”—comes from Karl Marx’ description of history repeating itself.

Half-century after the film was released US citizens are again being instructed to fear the “Russian menace”. Bastions of “objective media outlets” bombard us with such ridiculousness. Why? Just ask one question. What could Russia gain from being a menace to the world’s mightiest of nations; from interfering in its elections; from threatening war by moving some of their military close to their own borders where they are encircled by US-NATO forces, which spend ten times what Russia does on military might; “menaced” by a president who offered and provided real material assistance for the US war against Afghanistan; by a Russian president who went fishing with the two Bush presidents, a Russian leader who plays the piano and sings “Blueberry Hill”?

The charge of election interference has been accepted by most of the media even though intelligence agencies, whose legitimacy is at one of its lowest points following the weapons of mass destruction lie-debacle in Iraq—released a report so bereft of actual evidence that they could only make an “assessment.” In Deep State jargon that means a “guess”. Forensic specialists working with dissenting intelligence veterans asserted that the hack on the email server of the Democratic National Committee chairman was the result of a leak by someone on the inside carried out in United States eastern time zone.

Much of the book centers on a historical perspective of contemporary U.S.-Russian relations emphasizing how the absence of historical consciousness has resulted in a repetition of past tragedies and farces mainly conducted for economic profit for the massive weapons/war industry.

I quote a key paragraph at the conclusion of the book emphasizing this theme:

One clear lesson we can draw from history is that the Russians have more reason to fear us than we have to fear them. We should not be fooled by alarmist claims about Putin and a new Russia imperialism, a form of projecting our own behavior onto someone else…” as history has shown.

It was the United States that invaded the Soviet Union—not vice versa. It was the United States that encircled the Soviet Union with military bases during the Cold War and initiated many other provocative policies while intervening aggressively in Third World nations under the pretext of fighting Communism. A study by Ruth Leger Sivard that analyzed 125 military conflicts from 1946 to 1981, 95 percent in the Global South, found ‘Western powers accounting for 79 percent of the interventions, Communists for 6 percent.” Most of the latter were enacted around their borders with the exception of Cuba, which supported multiple African liberation wars against European colonial powers.

The foreword of Sivard’s book, World Military and Social Expenditures 1981, was written by George F. Kennan, who had been the epitome of a US imperialist war strategist. Late in life, he reversed himself regretting his policy of “communist containment”, which he authored under President Truman. Kennan is but one of thousands of key military, intelligence/covert operatives, and close presidential advisors/secretaries who have come over to the side of truth and peace. Many of those people are key protestors of the current war hysteria: Paul Craig Roberts, William Blum, Jack Matlock, Ramsey Clark, John Stockwell, Ray McGovern.

These dissident veterans remind us that it was the United States that expanded NATO toward the Russian border in violation of a 1990 promise not to do so, and meddles in the affairs of nations on Russia’s border, including Ukraine and Georgia. They also oppose overthrowing leaders not totally under US tutelage, like Qaddafi in Libya, Hussein in Iraq, and attempting to remove Assad in Syria—all of which alarms the Russians.

It is the US government that has methodically and chronically interfered in scores of nations’ elections; removing their leaders by murder or invasion. Just read one of William Blum’s books about this sordid record of manufacturing “democracy” for those it wishes to rule.

“Russia has a checkered past as a nation as do we,” write the authors, “however, it has never intervened militarily in Mexico or Canada, funneled expansive military aid to them, tried to manipulate their politics,” as the US has done and does to Russia’s neighbors.

Here is but one of many examples the authors provide readers about how unfair and imbalanced the US media are about US and Russian politics.

The mass media tirelessly demonizes Russia and President Putin, preparing public opinion for war while ignoring or belitting the few peace activists in the US. For example: according to Edward S. Herman, the Times from January 1 to March 21, 2014, had twenty-three articles on the Pussy Riot group to signify alleged Russian limits on free speech, and gave one member of the group op-ed space to denounce Putin. The group had been arrested after disrupting a church service and were given a two-year sentence. Around the same time, eighty-four-year-old Sister Megan Rice was given a [three-year] jail sentence for protesting a nuclear weapons site in Tennessee, but she was mentioned only in the back pages and not given an opportunity to publish an op-ed. Nor could she meet with the Times editorial board as Pussy Riot did.

She, and two comrade activists, served two years before release in 2014.

The first chapter of TRACA discusses the new Cold War, with a focus on the Russophobic discourse and demonization of Putin in the New York Times and its political implications.

The second chapter goes back to when the Franklin Pierce administration sent a military delegation to assist Russia during the Crimean War (ironically enough), and Russia returned the favor by sending a naval fleet as a signal to Britain and France to not intervene militarily on behalf of the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War. Half a century later (1918-20), the unprovoked U.S. invaded the new Soviet Russia without the consent of Congress.

The US military commander in Siberia, William S. Graves, considered the invasion a violation of Russia’s sovereignty. Graves also denounced horrible atrocities conducted by both US forces and allies in the Russian White Army.  Among those killed were former members of the constituent assembly, railroad workers who had struck for higher wages, and at least two thousand Jews.

In that war US and British troops pioneered the use of nerve gas designed to incapacitate and demoralize the Red Army.

In the United States, critics of the intervention were prosecuted under the Alien and Sedition Acts that made it a crime to “willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language about the U.S. form of government, constitution, military or naval force or flag.”

So Much for Freedom of Speech!

The book also shows how the Russian army and people were the actual victors of WWII. Less than half-a-million US forces lost their lives compared to 27 million Russians and other Soviet people, about half of all deaths in the war.

In February 1942, General Douglass MacArthur, who later was willing to invade “red” China and use nuclear weapons, said of the Russian military:

I observed such effective resistance to the heaviest blows of a hitherto undefeated enemy, followed by a smashing counterattack which is driving the enemy back to his own land. The scale and grandeur of this effort marks it as the greatest military achievement in all history.

The next four chapters provide a panoramic history of the first Cold War, showing how it was an avoidable tragedy.

“NATO chiefs tellingly concluded in 1950 that the Soviet armed forces had not increased since the end of the Second World War, and there were no serious ‘indications that the USSR is preparing for [war against the West].’ General Albert Greunther, Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff in Europe, stated that Soviet ‘industrial production [was] not geared to an all-out war,’” wrote the authors.

Kuzmarov and Marciano conclude that it was “the imperatives of class rule that drove the United States to expand its hegemony worldwide, the warping of the American political economy through excessive military spending, [and caused] the purges and witch hunts, and the Cold War’s adverse effect on the black community and unions.”

The final chapter delves into the Cold War’s effect on Third World nations, which suffered from proxy wars and regime change operations. The era’s victims and dissidents are spotlighted, and it is hoped that their “wisdom and courage may yet inspire a new generation of radicals”.

Again, the authors cite the rabid anti-Communist General MacArthur, of all people, who asserted that during the Cold War the US government “kept us in a perpetual state of fear—kept us in a perpetual stampede of patriotic fervor—with the cry of a grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”

The Cold War was started by Winston Churchill and Harry Truman despite having no fear of any Soviet military threat. General Walter Bedell Smith became the Central Intelligence Agency’s second director (1950-3). He had been General Dwight Eisenhower’s chief of staff and Truman’s ambassador to the Soviet Union. He was so confident that the Soviets would not “undertake a deliberate military attack on . . . our concentrations of aircraft at Wiesbaden [Germany]” that he would “not hesitate to go there and sit on the field myself.”

The authors’ conclusion about the Cold War:

As brutal a leader as he was, Stalin cannot be held singularly responsible for starting the Cold War if we consider that the US controlled more than 2,000 bases and 30,000 military installations at the end of the Second World War, virtually encircling the Soviet Union.

Add to that the USSR was totally impoverished, bankrupted and shattered by Nazi genocide.

US Cold War further waged ‘limited wars’ in Korea and Vietnam where it splashed oceans of napalm, defoliated the landscape, killed millions of civilians, supported drug trafficking proxies in Southeast Asia and Latin America, and unleashed chemical and likely biological warfare, while training repressive police forces in dozens of countries.

The Cold War also devastated communities of leftists and activists in the United States as a result of McCarthyite witch hunts, eroding the prospects for social democracy and included the warping of the US political economy and development of a permanent warfare state; the corruption of science, US universities, and the media; victimization of blacks; and the abuse of civil liberties…and its lingering effects on US political culture, which can be seen in the hysteria about Putin.

So what did the US get out of the Cold War? Enormous profits for military contractors like Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics, General Electric, Chrysler, and Hughes Aircraft. These corporations employed legions of former army officers, spent millions of dollars in lobbying, and increasingly financed the political campaigns of candidates from both major parties. US taxpayers were the ones who got fleeced. A 1959 congressional probe led by F. Edward Hébert (D-LA), a Southern conservative Democrat, found that major military contractors had defrauded the government of millions of dollars by pocketing excess profits and charging unnecessary overhead for no-bid contracts. They were given blank checks to produce weapons systems that often-proved to be faulty.

That criminal behavior continues today.

What did the people get? About 20% are poor and many suffer mal-nutrition. Americans rank number 18 in infant mortality. The nation’s infrastructure is in ruins, the schools are imprisoning students who learn far less than most other industrialized nations’ students. The blockaded and attacked small nation of Cuba has better health care and educational benefits than does the richest nation and greatest aggressor in the world.

Trillions of dollars the people could have benefited from pay for murderous projects like Operation Paperclip, which left a legacy of “ballistic missiles, Sarin gas cluster bombs, underground bunkers, space capsules and weaponized bubonic plague.” “Eight of the scientists had worked directly with Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, or Herman Goering, ten were part of the Nazi storm troopers. Six stood trial at Nuremburg…. The best-known Paperclip scientist was Werner von Braun, who was instrumental to the development of guided missiles and the U.S. space program. These operations also included [the CIA and] US army’s biological weapons program at Fort Detrick, Maryland, which led to the creation of anthrax, pest-laden bombs, and herbicides like Agent Orange, which resulted in birth deformities, cancers, and environmental damage in Southeast Asia… and Operation MK-ULTRA sponsored research in the behavioral sciences.” The CIA helped to place Nazi scientists in universities, which also trained secret police in Vietnam.

Under the mad illogic of the Cold War, the United States developed a nuclear stockpile of 22,229 warheads (or 10,948 megatons of TNT) by 1961 compared to 3,320 Soviet warheads (3,420 megatons of TNT). In 1954, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) put forth a plan to attack the Soviet Union with hundreds of bombs, turning it into “a smoking, radiating ruin at the end of two hours.” “The plan involved killing 80 percent of the population in 118 major cities, or 60 million people.” “That same year the United States began to place nuclear weapons in Europe…a clear provocation and threat from the Soviet point of view, one that ignited their own escalation of the arms race.”

The Cold War ideology intertwined with the racist McCarthyism of the times. Key African American leaders for equality, justice and peace were demonized by it—W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King. The Establishment even cajoled some black spokespersons to condemn these heroic fighters for justice, and this atmosphere aided in the assassination of King.

In the 1980s, the most popular president in US history, Ronald Reagan, was the circus master of internal conflicts throughout Central America where he backed gruesome dictators and militarists who massacred and tortured hundreds of thousands of people.

Reagan’s administration supplied over $100 million in weapons to Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries, whom Reagan dubbed as “freedom fighters” in the style of the American founding  fathers. In January 1984, CIA agent Duane Clarridge inaugurated a program to mine Nicaragua’s harbors. Two Nicaraguans were killed and fifteen sailors were injured. The World Court condemned the US for mining the harbor in Managua, which caused death and destruction. Its verdict was ignored just as was the verdict that Reagan had sponsored the Iran-Contra crime and defied his own congress that prohibited military support to the Contras. That “patriotic operation” included sending weapons to Iran, which was at war with Iraq, and the US was allied with Iraq.

The crimes of the Cold War are too long for any book review, but the authors do their best to re-reveal them. They point out that during the first Cold War:

The Soviet Union was a perfect foil for the United States because the absence of political freedom could be played up for propaganda purposes. The true danger, however, was that Communism represented an alternative to capitalist industrialization, structured around a command economy, attractive to Third World nations that equated capitalism with colonialism.

Putin’s Russia fulfills a similar function in US demonology…[bad] Russia helps to reaffirm US national identity and visions of exceptionalism and righteousness at a time of escalating domestic crises, and helps rationalize the expansion of NATO and maintenance of huge military budgets. The result is that we are again threatened with the outbreak of a Third World War, with the United States again bearing considerable responsibility.

Without a movement supporting the sovereign rights of Russia and all nations, US politicians and the mass media hypnotize ordinary people with the false slogans that the US fights for democracy; i.e., majority rule. The June 2017 Pew Research Center poll found that 87 percent of Russians have confidence in Putin; 58 percent of Russians say they are satisfied with their country’s direction. The New York Times, however, depicts Putin as a new Tsar, a threat to global stability.

So much for majority rule!

Kuzmarov and Maricano point out that the masses of Russians appreciate their elected leader because he turned the country back to them after the Yeltsin-Clinton plundering. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, GDP in Russia plunged by forty percent, people lost their social benefits, 75 percent were plunged into poverty, longevity for men dropped to about fifty-seven years and disease epidemics revived. The 1990s was a horrible decade, though the New York Times extolled Boris Yeltsin as a ‘key defender of Russia’s hard-won democratic reforms” and “enormous asset for the U.S.’” Today, economic and social conditions have greatly improved.

The authors provide a wonderful index. They are meticulous in documenting how Establishment politicians and militarists are recreating the Red Scare witch-hunt of the 40s-50s. One of numerous ironies is that its early advocates were Republican Party hawks such as Senator Joe McCarthy and his chief aide Roy Cohn. The right-wing fanatic Cohn was also a key player in the murder of the heroes Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Then he became a loyal friend and lawyer of Donald Trump.

This “gay homophobe, the anti-Semitic Jew, the self-serving, self-loathing one-time chief counsel and henchman of red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy of 1950s infamy…got Trump his tax breaks for Trump Tower. ‘Donald calls me 15 to 20 times a day,’ Cohn said in 1980 to reporter Marie Brenner,” so wrote Michael Kruse for Politico Magazine.

Today, the loudest of new Red Scare proponents are Democratic Party spokespeople and their comrades in the military, the Deep State and the media. Repeating history as a farce, the rekindled Cold War atmosphere makes those who explain Putin’s truly benign motives are subjected to neo-McCarthyite attacks.

The one bone I must pick with the authors is their placement of Bernie Sanders in the same category with protestors against this new Cold War scenario. They write:

As the Bernie Sanders campaign, Occupy Wall Street, and spinoffs like the Democracy Spring movement have reminded us, the priorities of US government elites in both the Republican and Democratic parties are not the same as those of the public at large. Greedy, ideologically driven plutocrats want open markets, control of world resources, and access to military bases that could enable the extension of corporate interests, power, and U.S. hegemony. The public at large wants peace, security, a healthy environment, and access to good jobs, which plutocratic interests threaten at every turn.

Bernie Sanders, however, is no different than other Cold Warriors. He has backed all the Establishment wars for decades. He only voted against the Iraq war but then voted for funding it. Sanders supports Clinton, the Democratic Party and Russiaphobia. The first priority of every person who wishes to live in a peaceful world with justice and equality is to oppose wars of aggression for domination and profit.

I concur with the authors’ final words:

We believe that our only hope remains the development of a citizens’ campaign for peace and justice along the lines of the anti-Vietnam War movement, one capable of restoring some sanity to our foreign policy. We must do everything in our power to try to stop the new Cold War, which threatens even more damage to humanity than the first one, started by Woodrow Wilson following the Russian Revolution and extended by Harry S. Truman & Co.

#Ron Ridenour is the author of the new book, The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert Read other articles by Ron, or visit Ron's website.