“We’ll talk” to North Korea, says Mike Pence
| February 11, 2018 | 8:30 pm | Donald Trump, DPRK | No comments

“We’ll talk” to North Korea, says Mike Pence
In an apparent shift, Vice President says U.S. open to talks that don’t start about denuclearization

February 12th, 2018

The United States is prepared to talk to North Korea without preconditions, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in comments published on Sunday evening.

The statement appears to represent a significant shift in the U.S. position on North Korea – which has until now been that Pyongyang would have to agree to talking about complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Describing the altered policy as “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time,” the Vice President stressed, however, that an ongoing campaign of sanctions would continue. The previous policy was simply called “maximum pressure and engagement”.

“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence told the Washington Post on Air Force Two.

“So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

When asked what Pyongyang could do to relieve some of the sanctions, the Vice President said “I don’t know… That’s why you have to have talks.”

Relaying his conversations with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the Vice President said he has been assured that North Korea would not receive any “economic or diplomatic benefits” in exchange for dialogue.

Any economic concessions to the North would be reliant on steps towards denuclearization – a pledge which, Pence said, meant the U.S. would be prepared to support DPRK-ROK engagement in the future.

One specialist said that while dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington was welcome, it was difficult to see North Korea making any concessions on its nuclear program in the near future.

“We will have to see what happens,” Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea watcher at Troy University, told NK News. “There are reasons and incentives for both sides to talk in order to avoid misperceptions and miscalculations that could trigger conflict that otherwise is avoidable.”

“The long-term objective must be denuclearization, as stated in the Rogin article. Whether that goal is achievable is partially dependent upon North Korea modifying or abandoning the KWP’s ideology and at least part of the DPRK state identity.”

This is not the first time U.S. officials have in recent months suggested that Washington would be open to talks with the North without preconditions, however.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in December said the U.S. was willing to talk to North Korea “without precondition,” while stipulating that any dialogue would need to take place following a “period of calm.”

“It’s not realistic to say we are only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program,” Tillerson told the Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum in Washington DC.

The White House later appeared to  distance itself from the Secretary of State’s comments, with a spokesperson insisting “the President’s views on North Korea have not changed.”

An op-ed in North Korea’s largest newspaper would days later, too, reject Tillerson’s comments.

But Pence’s comments come just a day after a North Korean delegation in the South delivered a message from DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to President Moon Jae-in inviting him to Pyongyang.

If the talks go ahead, they will be first between DPRK and ROK leaders in over a decade – but may exacerbate fears that North Korea is attempting to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States.

The Blue House on Saturday said Moon wanted the two Koreas to “create the environment first for that (the visit) to be able to happen.”

Saturday saw Pence – who took great pains to avoid contact with the North Korean delegation while in the South – insist that there was “no daylight” between Seoul and Washington on DPRK policy.

Ahead of the Olympic Opening ceremony last week Pence also promised that the U.S. would soon unveil the “toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever,” though did not offer further details.

Featured image: Vice President Mike Pence’s Facebook

Who was Muhiyidin d’Baha, Black Lives Matter activist gunned down in New Orleans?

Who was Muhiyidin d’Baha, Black Lives Matter activist gunned down in New Orleans?

Muhiyidin d’Baha, identified by the New Orleans Police Department as the 32-year-old man who died after being shot on Bienville Street early Tuesday (Feb. 6), was a Black Lives Matter activist from Charleston, S.C.

d’Baha, whose legal name is Muhiyidin Elamin Moye, made national headlines in February 2017 when he took a flying leap to wrestle a large Confederate battle flag from a protester in South Carolina, and the event was captured on video.

That incident occurred at an event at the College of Charleston, where activist Bree Newsome – known herself for climbing a flagpole to remove a Confederate flag at the statehouse in Columbia, S.C. – was speaking.

d’Baha was at the event, and told the Washington Post he was talking to elders in his group when he saw someone holding the flag.

“And I looked at our elders and I saw, like, fear in their eyes,” he said. “And I saw them back up, almost. That was the moment for me. We’re not going to pass this on another generation. Not another generation of people are going to be intimidated by this flag.”

He leapt across caution tape and tried to grab the flag away to “help them understand what it is to meet a real resistance, to meet people that aren’t scared,” he told the Post.

He was charged with disorderly conduct and malicious injury to real property, according to The Post and Courier in Charleston. The sequence of events was caught on video, as well as on a live TV broadcast, and the footage rapidly spread online.

Muhiyidin d’Baha grabs Confederate flag at protest.

d’Baha is originally from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and moved with his family to South Carolina when he was 13, according to an interview in the New Yorker.

“As a kid, he got in trouble for stealing cars, but then he straightened himself out and went to a good magnet school; in college, he studied psychology and played football,” the New Yorker article said.

In that interview, he spoke of the conflict he saw in “respectability politics,” referring to what the article described as “voices of forgiveness” from the black church community in court proceedings for Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a black Charleston church.

“That was accommodating white feelings and white superiority. It was ‘Yes, Massa, can I have another?’,” he said in the interview. “But, at the same time, it was spiritual fortitude forged in a crucible of terrorism. It speaks of a spiritual level that I haven’t attained… There has been an arrangement here, created over generations, to be able to endure terrorism. At this point, this is the way it is. We endure. We don’t ask for more.”

A candidate for mayor of North Charleston in 2019, Thomas Dixon, who leads an activist group there call The Coalition, told the Charleston City Paper that d’Baha was “a consummate social justice activist.”

While the two disagreed on some matters, Dixon told the outlet, “we both understood that the mission and the message superseded differences, so we were always friends no matter what.”

Dixon wrote in his activist group’s Facebook page on Tuesday to meet that evening with flowers outside City Hall to remember d’Baha.

“My brother, I am eternally grateful to you and for you … for your spirit that refused to accept injustice, your courage that showed the world that fear in the face of wrong was not an option, and your strength that kept you on the battlefield, even when no one else was there,” Dixon wrote of d’Baha on the Coalition’s Facebook page.

Brandon Fish, who described d’Baha as his “dear friend” in a social media post, wrote of the loss on Facebook. “We all have lost so much, so very much, whether you know it or not. This world was a better place because he walked around in it,” Fish wrote, asking for respect for the family as more information is made available.

Damon Fordham, historian and author of a 2008 book, True Stories of Black South Carolina, wrote in a Facebook post he saw d’Baha last summer, before d’Baha “left for Louisiana, where he passed.” Fordham said in the post d’Baha reached out to him for historical information to guide him, and referred to Fordham and his nephew as “big brothers.”

“To those who complained of the apathy of the millennial generation, he was proof of the error of that thinking,” Fordham wrote.


Washington’s Ominous Credibility Implosion
| February 6, 2018 | 7:43 pm | Political Pandemonium, political struggle | No comments
The day breaks behind the White House in Washington,DC

Washington’s Ominous Credibility Implosion


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Finian Cunningham

All statecraft and politics is notoriously deceptive and duplicitous to a degree. It’s part of the Machiavellian game and even at times, arguably, can be paradoxically key to success for good outcomes.

But Washington’s current problem is on an altogether different scale. Its rampant duplicity seems to be spinning itself into an ominous credibility crisis. A crisis that conveys historic existential consequences for American democracy and political function. Perhaps even a harbinger of world war.

Take CIA director Mike Pompeo. Last week, he gave a big interview to Britain’s state broadcaster, the BBC, in which he reiterated serious claims that Russia hacked into the American presidential election in 2016.

Further, he forewarned that Russian state agents were planning to repeat their alleged meddling in the forthcoming mid-term Congressional elections later this year.

However, within days of making such dire accusations against the Kremlin, the American spymaster was reportedly holding meetings in Washington DC with two senior Russian intelligence figures — Alexander Bortnikov and Sergei Naryshkin. The two men represent Russia’s federal and foreign intelligence services, the FSB and SVR, respectively.There was apparently nothing untoward about the top-level meeting. The American and Russian spy chiefs were reportedly exchanging views on counter-terrorism, which arguably is a positive thing. After all, a foiled terror attack in St Petersburg recently was thwarted by Russian security services reportedly following up on a tip-off from the American CIA.

READ MORE: Under Siege: CIA Chief Says Cooperation With Russia Is Critical for US Security

But here’s the thing. Doesn’t it seem a bit strange that the chief of the CIA is warning in very public media interviews that the Kremlin is meddling in US democracy through underhand means, yet virtually his next appointment involves hosting Russia’s top spies?

Not only that, but the two Russian intelligence chiefs in question have been put on an American government sanctions list and travel ban purportedly over Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea and “aggression” in Eastern Ukraine.

So, if American official concerns about alleged Russian subversion in the US and abroad are as vexed as they are made out to be in public announcements, then how does that square with Mike Pompeo greeting his Russian counterparts in a convivial professional setting?

READ MORE: Red Scare: Russian Intelligence Chiefs Visit Rattles Washington Post

When the CIA director was challenged by Congressional Democrats about his meeting with the Russians he responded by claiming there was nothing incongruous about their cooperation in Washington, and, he said, it was tough-talking encounter.

“You and the American people should rest assured that we covered very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align,” stated Pompeo in a written reply to lawmakers.

“We vigorously defend America in these encounters and pull no punches,” he added.

Still, there does seem to be something weirdly misplaced about the official words and actions of the CIA chief, and Washington’s political class in general, with regard to Russia.

On one hand, the CIA and large sections of the US political establishment, including prominent news media outlets have been harping on about grave allegations of Russian meddling in American democracy for more than a year. Some Republican politicians have even gone as far as describing Russia’s supposed interference as “an act of war” by Moscow.

On the other hand, however, the head of the CIA seems to have no problem holding professional meetings with the Russian “arch enemies” right in the seat of American democracy.What we are talking about here is a stupendous lack of consistency, or put another way duplicity; which in turn undermines American credibility over the whole “Russiagate” narrative that has so dominated Washington’s official discourse.

No bigger discrepancy perhaps is the fact that the American head of state, President Donald Trump, maintains that the allegations of Russian collusion and interference are “fake news” — or at least overblown. That puts the country’s leader completely at odds with his head of foreign intelligence.

READ MORE: CIA Director Claims North Korea Months Away from Being Able to Strike US

How is the world supposed to take anything these people say seriously if they are so inconsistent about a matter which, we are told to believe, is a grave national security concern?

They seem to have shot their own credibility to pieces.

In his BBC interview, Pompeo also warned that North Korea was capable of a missile attack on the US “within months”.

This lack of American credibility and the danger of a catastrophic war are correlated.

America’s credibility problem is much bigger than President Trump or his CIA chief. It encompasses the entire American political class.

This past week, the Trump administration released a so-called “Kremlin Report” which impugned 210 leaders of Russian politics and business. The figures included Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, as well as Foreign and Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu. The Washington report, drawn up by the Treasury Department, stems from the claims of Russian interference in US politics.No credible evidence has ever been presented to substantiate the “Russiagate” claims. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the claims as baseless.

Indeed, there is plausible evidence — buried by the US mainstream media — that the alleged hacking of Democratic party computers during the 2016 election campaign was not a hack but rather was a leak from within the party by a staffer disgruntled with candidate Hillary Clinton’s dirty tricks against rival Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders.

It is also now emerging that the agencies which quite possibly interfered in the presidential election were not Russian, but rather America’s own “finest” secret services, the FBI, CIA and NSA, who were allegedly trying to sabotage then Republican candidate, and future president, Donald Trump.

For over a year, the provocative and reckless accusations of Russian interference in American democracy, and additionally in European democracy, have run and run without relent. Even though those accusations have no legs of credibility. Just this past week, as noted, the head of US intelligence solemnly reiterated those claims and is warning of more Russian meddling.Washington’s political class and America’s supposed bastions of journalism have indulged this dubious narrative to brain-numbing saturation point.

But when Washington shows such rampant duplicity and inconsistency that’s not just a problem of unfortunate public relations. It conveys a profound crisis of credibility, authority and legitimacy for the entire edifice of government. That is fatally corrosive to the essence of government and American democracy.

READ MORE: Kremlin Report: US Tries to Punish Russia for Success on Int’l Arena — Analyst

And guess what? It has nothing to do with “Russian enemies”. It is a credibility crisis made solely in America by its own morally and politically bankrupt system of governance.

The resulting chasm in Washington’s credibility has onerous implications for an historic political implosion. And surely the much misled American people will take their revenge. It’s going to get raucous and it’s going to get ugly.

Paradoxically, a day of reckoning could be good for renewing American democracy, eventually.

There again it also makes the world a very dangerous place. Because war, for example a US military strike on North Korea, is a proven Machiavellian escape route for political scoundrels facing a dead-end.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Washington’s ‘crackpot’ nuclear posture endangers the world to an alarming degree
| February 6, 2018 | 7:39 pm | struggle against nuclear war | No comments

Washington’s ‘crackpot’ nuclear posture endangers the world to an alarming degree

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
Washington’s ‘crackpot’ nuclear posture endangers the world to an alarming degree
Washington’s latest Nuclear Posture Review imperils global security in three ways: it inflates perceived threats to the US, it conflates conventional & nuclear war and it pushes for the development of low-yield nuclear weapons.

These three new moments in US policy increase the risk of nuclear war rather than lowering it, as American Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed in signing off on the Nuclear Posture Review published last week.

Mattis states that the long-term goal of the US is the elimination of all nuclear weapons from the world — but Washington has no intention of ever doing this. That’s because US leaders never cease to view the world as a relentlessly threatening place, justifying a $1 trillion upgrade of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The NPR states: “This review comes at a critical moment in our nation’s history, for America confronts an international security situation that is more complex and demanding than any since the end of the Cold War.”

Four specific threats are outlined: Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

But what’s perplexing is that so little credible detail is presented by the Pentagon to justify why it considers these four entities to be such dire threats, requiring greater US nuclear posturing.

In regard to Russia and China, the NPR asserts (on page 6): “Since 2010 we have seen the return of Great Power competition. To varying degrees, Russia and China have made clear they seek to substantially revise the post-Cold War international order and norms of behavior.”

However, the Pentagon doesn’t provide substantive detail on what this “revision of the international order” by Russia and China entails and why it should be considered by the US a grave security threat.

On Russia, the Pentagon claims: “Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use force to alter the map of Europe and impose its will on its neighbors, backed by implicit and explicit nuclear first-use threats… Its occupation of Crimea and direct support for Russia-led forces in eastern Ukraine violate its commitment to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Regarding China, Mattis states in the preface of the NPR that Beijing is “challenging traditional US military superiority in the western Pacific.” Here, the Pentagon is referring to China’s territorial claims to islands in the South China Sea.

These alleged transgressions by Russia and China are repeated throughout the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, as well as assertions that both countries have moved to “greater salience of deployment of nuclear forces.”

What is disturbing is how the Pentagon has inflated specific local territorial disputes — Ukraine and South China Sea — to constitute somehow a “worsening global threat environment.”

In the executive summary, the NPR states “global threat conditions have worsened markedly since the most recent 2010 NPR, including increasingly explicit nuclear threats from potential adversaries. The United States now faces a more diverse and advanced nuclear-threat environment than ever before.”

At a couple of brief points, the US NPR states that it does not want to have an adversarial relationship with either Russia or China, yet it repeatedly depicts both as a threat. This is consistent with two other documents recently published by the Trump administration — the National Security Strategy, in December, and the National Defense Strategy (NDS), in January — which again called out Russia and China as priority “rivals.” The NDS indeed said Russia and China were now a bigger national security threat than non-state terrorism.

In the latest NPR one quote (page 30) stands out: “Russia is not the Soviet Union and the Cold War is long over. However, despite our best efforts to sustain a positive relationship, Russia now perceives the United States and NATO as its principal opponent and impediment to realizing its destabilizing geopolitical goals in Eurasia.”

Aside from the flagrant deceit over US and NATO encirclement of Russia, again it is noteworthy how vague accusations are somehow made into a sinister threat. The NPR surely ought to say what Russia’s supposedly “destabilizing geopolitical goals in Eurasia” are, but doesn’t.

So are we to believe that Russia’s economic integration with China and other Eurasian neighbors is an illegitimate ambition? Is Russia’s move towards replacing the American dollar in bilateral trade with China immoral? Arguably, such moves are threatening to US hegemony. But they are not acts of war in any reasonable definition.

That’s the thing. It is obvious that Washington is construing political and economic changes in the world — the tendency toward a multipolar order — as a mortal threat to its unipolar ambitions. For Washington, this threat is being transposed into military terms. The problem is not foreign “enemies;” the problem is Washington’s warmongering.

The second perplexing theme in the US NPR is how it conflates conventional and nuclear war. Repeatedly throughout the document, it states that American nuclear forces are to be “tailored and more flexible” as “deterrents” (one could argue “offensives”) “against conventional and nuclear threats.”

With regard to Russia, the Pentagon reiterates the litany of allegations against Moscow that it is acting aggressively in Ukraine and against American allies in Europe, including with “new forms of aggression from cyberattacks.”

Provocatively, the Pentagon declares that “Russian aggression” will “trigger incalculable and intolerable costs for Moscow.”

This is disturbing, to say the least, because the military chiefs in Washington are accusing Russia of what it perceives as “aggression,” while at the same time Washington is saying that it is moving toward “nuclear deterrence” to confront it.

A third area of concern is the explicit go-ahead by Washington for the development of so-called “low-yield nuclear warheads.” The concept of “mini-nukes” has been around for several years, but now the Pentagon is declaring it will pursue development of these weapons. The NPR specified submarine-launched missiles as the sector where the mini-nukes will be deployed.

The dangerous consequence is the notion that a limited nuclear war may be feasible. Thus, a greater risk of “low-yield” nuclear weapons being deployed in action. But the real danger is that the threshold will then be lowered for escalation to strategic weapons of mass destruction.

Taken together, the latest US Nuclear Posture Review presents an alarming deterioration in global security. In stark contrast to the Pentagon’s claims of “raising the threshold” for nuclear war, the latest policy formulation entails a reckless lowering of that threshold.

During the height of the Cold War, the renowned American sociologist C. Wright Mills coined the phrase “Crackpot Realists” to refer to Pentagon war planners and their relentless depiction of world threats as justification for stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

It is evident from the latest NPR that the Cold War is still being waged, and Crackpot Realists are ever-present in the Pentagon.

As Mills wrote back in 1958: “The absence of an American program for peace is a major cause of the thrust and drift toward World War III.”

Think about that. The risk of world annihilation and the grotesque waste of human resources could easily be solved, if only Washington would engage in peaceful diplomacy with the rest of the world.

The underlying reason for why this does not happen — American-desired hegemony — is why Washington stands condemned.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Donald Trump in Twitter row with Corbyn & Hunt as he attacks Britain’s ‘broke’ NHS
| February 5, 2018 | 7:50 pm | Donald Trump, Health Care, Jeremy Corbyn | No comments

Donald Trump in Twitter row with Corbyn & Hunt as he attacks Britain’s ‘broke’ NHS

Donald Trump in Twitter row with Corbyn & Hunt as he attacks Britain’s ‘broke’ NHS
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has hit out at Donald Trump’s “wrong” criticism of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) after the president claimed that thousands of people were protesting because “the system is going broke.”

Corbyn replied to Trump on Twitter, saying: “People were marching because we love our NHS and hate what the Tories are doing to it. Healthcare is a human right.”

Hunt – the Tory health secretary accused of ordering the cuts that have angered protesters – also took issue with Trump’s claim. He said on Twitter: “I may disagree with claims made on that march but not ONE of them wants to live in a system where 28m people have no cover.

“NHS may have challenges but I’m proud to be from the country that invented universal coverage – where all get care no matter the size of their bank balance.”

Trump tweeted on Monday: “The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!”

Trump’s tweet refers to the mass ‘Save our NHS’ protest on Saturday, which saw tens of thousands of people walking to Downing Street in London to demand that PM Theresa May injects more funds into the crisis-stricken NHS.

His comments on the NHS are meant as an attack on the opposition Democrats, who want the government to play a bigger role in providing healthcare for Americans.

Currently only elderly and poor people can get free care in the US, with everyone else buying health insurance. Some Democrats – including potential challengers to Trump in the 2020 election – are calling for the US to move towards a system more similar to the NHS.

It is not clear on what information Trump was basing his assessment of the NHS. He thanked the hosts of Fox News’s morning ‘Fox and Friends’ show immediately after the first tweet.

The show had run a segment on the NHS that morning, featuring an interview with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who campaigned for Trump during the 2016 election campaign.

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Scandalize my Name…

Scandalize my Name…

– from Greg Godels is available at:

For the owners, publishers, and editors of the The New York Review of Books anti-Communism is still alive. The periodical occupies a unique, indispensable role in fostering and sustaining Cold War myths and legends.

The New York Review of Books has embraced rabid anti-Communism since its opportunistic birth in the midst of a newspaper strike. Founded by a cabal of virulent anti-Communists with identifiable links to the CIA through The Paris Review and the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, NYRB maintains the posture of the popular intellectual journal for academics, high-brow book clubbers, and coffee shop leftists for over half a century. Seldom would an issue go by without an earnest petition signed by intellectual celebrities pointing to human rights concerns in some far-off land that was coincidentally (perhaps?) also in the crosshairs of the US State Department. To be sure, the NYRB would muster a measure of indignation over the most egregious US adventures, particularly when they threatened to blemish the US image as the New Jerusalem.

Even with the Cold War behind us, the NYRB maintains an active stable of virulent anti-Soviet writers, partly to hustle its back list of Cold War classics and obscure “dissident” scribblers, partly to pre-empt any serious anti-capitalist thought that might emerge shorn of Red-dread.

Paul Robeson on Trial

In a recent essay/book review (The Emperor Robeson, 2-08-18), the NYRB brought its Red-chopping hatchet to the legacy of Paul Robeson in a piece transparently ill-motivated and poisonous.

Paul Robeson was nothing if not an exceptional, courageous political figure who galvanized US racial and political affairs in mid-century. Yet NYRB assigned Simon Callow, a UK theater personality, to the writing task despite the fact that he reveals in an interview cited in Wikipedia that “I’m not really an activist, although I am aware that there are some political acts one can do that actually make a difference…” And his essay bears out this confession along with his embarrassing ignorance of US history and the dynamics of US politics.

Callow begins his essay seemingly determined to prove his inadequacy to the task: “When I was growing up in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, Paul Robeson was much in evidence… His name was haloed with the sort of respect accorded to few performers…” He then goes on at some length, heaping praise on Robeson. Then suddenly at “some point in the 1960s, he faded from our view…”

Whether Callow’s impressions are reflective of the UK experience is irrelevant. Surely, the important truth, the relevant fact, is that in Robeson’s country– the US– he was, throughout that time, a veritable non-person, the victim of a merciless witch hunt. To fail to acknowledge the fact that Robeson and his work were virtually unknown, were erased by the thought police, underscores Callow’s unfitness to discuss Robeson’s career. Indeed, members of the crowd that sought, at that time, to put lipstick on the ugly pig of racism and anti-Communism were soon to found the NYRB.

To say, as Callow does, that before the Cold War Robeson was “…lionized on both sides of the Atlantic…” is to display an unbelievable ignorance of the racial divide in the US. Robeson’s unequalled command of and success at multiple disciplines failed to spare him the indignities and inequalities that befell all African Americans in that era of US apartheid.

As for the post-World War II Red-scare, Callow simply ignores it as if it never occurred. Never mind the harassment, the surveillance, the denied careers, the confiscated passports, and the HUAC subpoenas that Robeson, like thousands of others, suffered from a hysterical, vicious anti-Communist witch hunt. For Callow, Robeson’s problems spring from a meeting granted by then President Truman in which Robeson had the audacity to make demands on his government. “From that moment on…” Callow tells us, “…the government moved to discredit Robeson at every turn…”

What a deft, nimble way to skirt the suffocating, life-denying effects of an entire era of unbridled racism and anti-Communism.

And, from Callow’s myopic perspective, Robeson’s campaign for peace and Cold War sanity resulted in “…universal approbation turned overnight into nearly universal condemnation.” For Callow, standing for peace against the tide of mindless conformity and mass panic is not the mark of courage and integrity, but a tragic career move.

In contrast to Paul Robeson’s life-long defiance of unjust power, Callow attributes a different approach to Robeson’s father, William: “But the lesson was clear: the only way out of poverty and humiliation was hard, hard work– working harder than any white man would have to, to achieve a comparable result.” One waits futilely to read that this reality is precisely what son, Paul, was trying to correct.

Like so many of today’s belated, measured “admirers” of Paul Robeson, Callow cannot resist delving into Robeson’s sexual proclivities, an interest which bears relevance that frankly escapes me. Similarly, Callow raises the matter of Robeson’s mental health and his withdrawal from public life.

Rather than considering the toll that decades of selfless struggle and tenacious resistance might have taken on Robeson’s body and mind, as it did countless other victims of the Red Scare, Callow contrives different explanations. “Robeson, it is clear, knew that his dream was just that: that the reality was otherwise. But he had to maintain his faith, otherwise what else was there?” So, for Callow, Robeson’s bad faith was responsible for mental issues and ill health. It was not a medical condition, the emotional stress of racism, or the repression of his political views that explain his decline. Instead, it was the consequences of bad politics.

Paraphrasing the author of a book on Robeson that Callow favors, he speculates that Robeson’s physical and mental decline “may have directly stemmed from the desperate requests from Robeson’s Russian friends to help them get out of the nightmarish world they found themselves in.” We are asked to believe that a man who resisted every temptation of success, defied the racial insults of his time, and steadfastly defended his commitment to socialism was brought to his knees by anti-Soviet media rumors? Certainly, there is no evidence for this outlandish claim.

Again, using author Jeff Sparrow (No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson) as his mouthpiece, Callow reveals his “problem” with Robeson: “…Robeson’s endorsement of Stalin and Stalin’s successors, his refusal to acknowledge what had been done in Stalin’s name, is the tragedy of his life.” In other words, like Budd Schulberg’s fictional snitch in On the Waterfront, if Robeson had only denounced his class, ratted on his friends, and bent to authority, he could have been a “contender” for the respect of liberals and the blessings of bourgeois success. But since he didn’t, his life was “a pitiful spectacle.”

Thankfully, there are still many who draw inspiration from the “pitiful spectacle” of Paul Robeson’s extraordinary life.

One Who Does

As if misunderstanding Robeson were not enough, Callow attacks a prominent scholar who does understand Robeson’s legacy. In contrast with his fawning review of the Sparrow book (“as different as chalk and cheese”), Callow demeans the contribution of one of the most gifted and thorough chroniclers of the page in history that included the life of Robeson. As a historian, Gerald Horne’s prodigious work stretches across books on such politically engaged Robeson contemporaries as WEB DuBois, Ben Davis, Ferdinand Smith, William Patterson, Shirley Graham DuBois, and John Howard Lawson. His writings explore the blacklist and The Civil Rights Congress, both keys to understanding Robeson and his time. In most cases, they represent the definitive histories of the subject.

But Callow prefers the shallow Sparrow account that substitutes the overused literary devices of “in search of../searching for…” to mask its limited scholarly ambition.

Callow is baffled by Horne’s Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary. Horne’s insistence that Robeson was a ‘revolutionary’ makes Callow apoplectic (“…page after page…”). But if Robeson was not an authentic, modern US revolutionary, then who was?

Callow cannot find a “clear picture of Robeson’s personality” in the Horne account, a conclusion that probably should not trouble Horne who seems more interested in history rather than psychology.

Callow’s sensibilities are especially offended by Horne’s depiction of the odious Winston Churchill, the man many believe to share responsibility for the WWI blood bath at Gallipoli and the two million deaths in the Bengal famine of 1943. It seems that Horne’s words for the short, chubby, Champagne and Cognac-loving prima donna– “pudgy, cigar-chomping, alcohol-guzzling Tory” — struck Callow’s ears as “vulgar.”

But Callow spews his own venomous insults: Horne’s book lacks “…articulate analysis, his account is numbing and bewildering in equal measure, like being addressed from a dysfunctional megaphone…”

Horne’s concluding endorsement of the relevance of Marx and Engels famous slogan– Workers of the World, Unite! –really brings Callow’s rancor to a boil: “I’m sorry to break it to Mr. Horne, but he doesn’t. And it isn’t.”

We surely know which side of the barricades Simon Callow has chosen.

The Legacy

The legacy of Paul Robeson has been maintained for the four decades since his death by his comrades and allies of the left, principally the Communist left. Most of those who worked and fought alongside of him have also passed away. Yet a small, but dedicated group of a few academics and more political activists have continued to tell his story and defend his values against a torrent of hostility or a wall of silence. Through the decades, he has been forced out of the mainstream– the history books and popular culture.

Of course, he was not alone in suffering anonymity for his Communist politics. Another giant who was brought down by Cold War Lilliputians, denigrated by hollow mediocrities, was African American Communist, Claudia Jones. Until recently, her powerful thinking on race, women’s rights, and socialism could only be found by those willing to search dusty corners of used book stores.

Perhaps no one promised to live and further Robeson’s legacy than the young writer Lorraine Hansberry, celebrated before her tragic death for her popular play, A Raisin in the Sun. Her work with Robeson and WEB DuBois on the paper, Freedom, brought her politics further in line with theirs: militant anti-racist, anti-imperialist, pro-socialist, Communist.

Forgotten by those who wish to portray her as a mere cultural critic, she famously called out Robert Kennedy’s elitist, patronizing posture in a meeting with Black civil rights leaders as enthusiastically recalled by James Baldwin.

Ignored by those who would like to see her as simply another civil rights reformer, her speech at a Monthly Review fundraiser, shortly before her death, resounds with revolutionary fervor:

If the present Negro revolt is to turn into a revolution, become sophisticated in the most advanced ideas abroad in the world, a leadership which will have had exposure to the great ideas and movements of our time, a Negro leadership which can throw off the blindness of parochialism and bathe the aspirations of the Negro people in the realism of the twentieth century, a leadership which has no illusion about the nature of our oppression and will no longer hesitate to condemn, not only the results of that oppression, but also the true and inescapable cause of it—which of course is the present organization of American society.

Today, there is a renewed interest in Robeson, Claudia Jones, and Lorraine Hansberry. Articles, books, and documentaries are appearing or are in the works. Some are offering ‘new’ perspectives on the lives of these extraordinary people, exploring aspects of their lives that show that their humanity perhaps reached further than previously thought. Yes, they were Communists, but they were not just Communists. Indeed, they belong to the world.

However, it would be a great tragedy if they were denied their conviction that capitalism– the present organization of American society, in Hansberry’s words– represented the foundation of other oppressions. It would be criminally dishonest if there were no acknowledgement that they were made enemies of the state precisely because they embraced socialism. For an African American, in racist, Cold War mid-century USA, the decision to embrace Communism was not taken lightly or frivolously. Robeson, Jones, and Hansberry knew exactly what that commitment meant to the forces of repression. And they risked it. They should be looked upon as people’s champions for their courage.

New researchers are welcome to explore other dimensions of the lives of these unbending fighters for social justice. But their authentic legacies are needed now more than ever.

Greg Godels
Moscow Disappointed by Content of New US Nuclear Doctrine
| February 4, 2018 | 2:27 pm | Analysis, Russia, struggle against nuclear war | No comments

Russian Foreign Ministry building

Moscow Disappointed by Content of New US Nuclear Doctrine

© Sputnik/ Vladimir Pesnya

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The Russian Foreign Ministry has commented on the Nuclear Posture Review, issued by the United States on February 2, naming Russia, North Korea, Iran and China as potential threats to the US national security.

“The content of the new nuclear doctrine (the so-called Nuclear Posture Review) released by the United States on February 2 has provoked our deep disappointment. The confrontational and anti-Russian nature of this document strikes the eye. We can state with regret that the United States explains its policies for a large-scale boost of nuclear weapons by referring to the modernization of the nuclear forces in Russia and alleged increasing role of nuclear weapons in the Russian doctrine statements. We are accused of lowering the nuclear threshold and of conducting some ‘aggressive behavior,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Speaking about the US Nuclear Posture Review released on February 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that accusations against Moscow of aggressive behavior, interventions, breaches of arms control agreements, written in the document, have nothing to do with reality.

“All of these [accusations] has nothing to do with the real situation. The military doctrine of the Russian Federation clearly limits the use of nuclear weapons to two hypothetical and purely defensive scenarios: only in response to aggression with the use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction against Russia and (or) our allies, and also — the second scenario — in case of use of conventional weapons, but only when the very existence of our state is threatened,” the ministerial statement reads.

The Russian side revealed their position on the document, calling it an unfair attempt to shift the blame for the degradation of the international nuclear situation.

“Such peremptory cliches have recently been replicated by Washington without a pause. We consider this as an unfair attempt to shift on others the responsibility for the degradation of the situation in the field of international and regional security and the imbalance of arms control mechanisms, resulting from a series of irresponsible steps taken by the United States itself,” the ministry added.

The ministry called the statements concerning the US interest in “stable relations” and commitment to constructive cooperation, mentioned in the doctrine, hypocritical. As the ministry explained, Russia would take the necessary measures to ensure its security due to the approaches defined in the document.

“Of course, we will have to take into account the approaches introduced by Washington and take all necessary measures to ensure own security,” the ministry said in a statement issued in response to the Friday publication of the NPR.

READ MORE: Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review: From US Nuke Capabilities to Nuclear Terrorism

Addressing the bottom line of the document, Moscow stated that it questions Russia’s right to self-defense in situations critical for the country’s existence.

“It turns out that the US readiness, declared in this review, to use nuclear weapons in order to prevent Russia from using its nuclear weapons is an attempt to question our right to self-defense when countering aggression in situations critical for the existence of the state,” the statement said.

Nevertheless, Moscow urged Washington to engage in a joint search for solutions to problems related to maintaining strategic stability, underlining that all nuclear states should be involved in nuclear disarmament, especially the United Kingdom and France as the US’ allies.

“The doctrine’s parts about Washington being interested in ‘stable relations’ with us [Russia] and its determination to work constructively in order to reduce respective risks look hypocritical,” the statement reads.

“From our part, we are ready for such work [on cooperation]. We urge the United States to seriously engage, jointly with us, in the search for solutions to the problems accumulating in the sphere of maintenance of strategic stability,” the Russian ministry said.

“We have directed the attention [of various players] including the United States to the fact, that settling key strategic stability problems, such as unilateral and unrestricted deployment of the US global missile defense system, implementation of the ‘global strike’ concept, the US denial to ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and refusal to rule out possibility of deploying weapons in space, would contribute to creating the needed conditions for moving on the path of nuclear disarmament,” the statement pointed out.

US Nuclear Weapons

Moscow has expressed concern over Washington’s “unlimited” approach to the issue of nuclear weapons use, calling for a deeper look into the possibility of its use in a case of “extreme circumstances”, as the Posture Review reads. Speaking about their anxiety over the document, the Russian side explained that the US still possessed ans is even modernizing tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, placing them near Russian borders.

“Washington’s practically ‘adjustable’ approach to the use of nuclear weapons is concerning. The possibility of its use in the case of ‘extreme circumstances’ is declared, which the doctrine’s authors do not limit to military scenarios at all,” the statement read.

“If all this is not an increase of the nuclear weapons factor in the doctrine, then what does the United States mean when it uses this notion about Russia?” the statement pointed out, referring to the US statement on the increasing role of nuclear weapons in the Russian military doctrine.

READ MORE: US Nuclear Doctrine Allows for ‘Another Hiroshima, Nagasaki Bombing’ — Lawmaker

Speaking about the accusations against the country, the Russian side stressed its commitment to all obligations under international agreements, in particular, the INF treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty) and the Open Skies agreement.

“The document’s statement that Russia allegedly refuses to further reduce its nuclear capabilities is yet another example of the blatant ‘falsification,'” the ministry said.

The newly released Nuclear Posture Review describes US nuclear capabilities, as well as challenges supposedly posed by Russia, China, rogue states and nuclear terrorism.

“Statements that the implementation of plans presented [in the US nuclear doctrine] ‘will not lower the threshold of the use of nuclear weapons,’ is, at least, the intention to mislead the world community,” the Russian ministerial statement reads.

“Even more dangerous is the belief of the US military experts and other specialists in the sphere of national security, emerging from the pages of the nuclear doctrine, in their ability to reliably simulate the development of conflicts, in which they allow usage of ‘low-yield’ nuclear warheads. For us, the opposite is clear: significantly lowered ‘threshold conditions’ may lead to a missile-nuclear war even during low-intensity conflicts,” the Russian ministry stressed.

US President Trump has decided to follow Obama’s plan for modernizing the country’s nuclear arsenal, including new bomber aircraft, submarines and land-based missiles. US nuclear forces are said to contribute to the “deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attack,” “assurance of allies and partners,” “achievement of US objectives if deterrence fails,” and “capacity to hedge against an uncertain future.” As Secretary of Defense James Mattis has observed, “a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent is there to ensure a war that can never be won, is never fought.”