5 Christian Right Delusions and Lies About History


5 Christian Right Delusions and Lies About History

They’re not just delusional about science!

 The Christian right is most known for their denial of inconvenient science, but in many respects, they’re just as bad when it comes to the facts of history. After all, no matter what the topic, they know they can just make stuff up and their people will believe it. So why not do the same when it comes to political history? Here are five examples.

1. Joe McCarthy was a good guy. A new and extremely toxic myth is beginning to percolate in on the Christian right: Insisting that Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a paranoid alcoholic who saw communist subversives in every corner, was actually an upstanding guy fighting for God and country. In 2003, Ann Coulter published a book she claims vindicates McCarthy, but its impact wasn’t felt until 2010 when the Christian right members who stack the Texas State School Board tried to get the pro-McCarthy theories into Texas school books.

Christian right fanatics attempted to claim that McCarthy had been vindicated by something (wrongly) called the “Verona papers” (they’re actually named the “Venona papers”). There is a Venona project that has reputed historians who show that the Soviets did have spies in the country, but saying that means McCarthy was right is like saying I’m right to call your mother a serial killer because there are serial killers in America. Harvey Klehr, one of the experts working on the Venona project, denounced Christian right efforts to exploit his work to vindicate McCarthy, noting that McCarthy mostly just fingered innocent people in his paranoid haze.

The new information from Russian and American archives does not vindicate McCarthy. He remains a demagogue, whose wild charges actually made the fight against communism more difficult. Like Gresham’s Law, McCarthy’s allegations marginalized the accurate claims. Because his facts were so often wrong, real spies were able to hide behind the cover of being one of his victims and even persuade well-meaning but naïve people that the whole anti-communist cause was based on inaccuracies and hysteria.

That the Soviets spied on the U.S. is neither surprising—not even to liberals—nor indicative that the communist witch hunts were an appropriate response. The Christian right’s interest in rehabilitating McCarthy probably has less to do with readjudicating the anti-communist cause and more to do with their modern-day obsession with promoting paranoid liars in the McCarthy mold to leadership positions. If they can instill the idea that McCarthy was vindicated by history, it will be easier to argue that the current crop of politically powerful right-wing nuts such as Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz will actually “be proven right by history.” But McCarthy wasn’t and neither will they be.

2. What the Founding Fathers believed. For people who downright deify our Founding Fathers, the religious right is really hostile to accepting them as they actually were, which is not particularly religious, especially by the standards of their time. But David Barton, a revisionist “historian” whose name comes up again and again in these kinds of discussions, has spread the belief far and wide in the Christian right that the Founders were, in fact, fundamentalist Christians who are quite like the ones we have today. Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas confirms this, saying that Barton “provides the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today.”

Barton has convinced the right to believe in their fervent wish that the Founders were religious and even theocratic with quote-mining and outright lying. He likes to whip out this John Adams quote: “There is no authority, civil or religious — there can be no legitimate government — but what is administered by this Holy Ghost.” Problem? Adams was summarizing the opinion of his opponents; that wasn’t Adams’ view at all.

Barton’s reputation took a hit recently. His most recent book, which tried to portray Thomas Jefferson as a “conventional Christian” who wanted a religious government, was so bad that even his Christian publisher decided to reject it.  But according to Politico, that’s just a small setback and Barton is quickly being restored to his position as an authority on history for gullible right-wingers. So that means his lies continue to grow and spread in right-wing circles—such as the completely made-up claim that the Constitution (which only mentions religion to insist the government stay out of it) is based on the Bible.

3. God’s protection. If you believe the lie that the Founders intended this to be a religious nation and that secularism is only a recent development, it’s not much of a leap to decide next that God, in his anger, has turned his back on the United States. And therefore that bad things are happening to us because he doesn’t protect us anymore.

You see this belief throughout the Christian right all the time. Every bad thing that happens is blamed on God removing his “hedge of protection” from the U.S. to punish us for turning our back on God in recent decades.School shootingsGlobal warmingHurricanes9/11.

The problem with this theory should be obvious: If God is turning away from America because we’re supposedly becoming more secular, then things were better back in the day. But when was this supposed Eden of American life supposed to have happened? During the Civil War? The Gilded Age of abusive labor practices? The Great Depression? WWI? WWII? Bad things are always happening, so the notion that they can only be blamed on God’s irritation with us sinners now makes no sense at all.

4. Roman civilization. The Christian right doesn’t just like to lie about our own history; they lie about other nations, too. A popular theory on the right is that the Roman Empire “collapsed” because growing decadence and liberalism caused people to, I don’t know, be too busy screwing to govern. It’s always a little hazy, but the formula is standard: Romans started having a bunch of sex, stuff fell apart, warning for America. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear this theory floated.

The problem with that theory is it makes no kind of sense. It’s not really right to suggest there was some kind decline in “moral values,” by which the Christian right means sexual prudishness, at all. Romans were pretty uptight.The rumors that they turned all perverted and debauched were made up by Christians trying to smear pagan culture. Rome didn’t really “fall” in the sense the Christian pundits mean, anyway. It was more a gradual decline of centralized power.

Anyway, the decline coincided with the rise of Christianity, which under the “God’s protection” theory means that God was punishing Rome for dropping paganism and adopting monotheism.

5. French revolution. One problem with characterizing the American revolution as Christian instead of secular is that there was another one shortly thereafter, built on the same basic ideals, that was undeniably secular due to the aggressive attacks on Catholic power. If the French were so secular, how could the Americans not be? The answer to the conundrum is to lie and claim there was some kind of gulf between the ideals of the French Revolution and the American Revolution.

Rick Santorum floated this theory at the 2013 Values Voters Summit, where he claimed the French revolutionaries were bad because they believed that rights and democracy stem from the social contract, instead of being handed down from God. Fair enough, though really the “reason” is probably closer to how they would have described it at the time, but where he goes off the rails is to insinuate that they were rejecting the values laid out by their fellow revolutionaries in America when they did this. In reality, the arguments of French and American revolutionaries are nearly identical, echoing philosophers like John Locke who were trying to construct an ideal of rights and freedoms that is frankly secularist in nature.

Operation INFEKTION | Anti-American, KGB Manufactured Conspiracy Theories


Operation INFEKTION
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In 1992, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov admitted that the KGB was behind the Soviet newspaper articles claiming that AIDS was created by the US government.[1]

Operation: INFEKTION was a KGB disinformation campaign to spread information that the United States invented HIV/AIDS [2] as part of a biological weapons research project at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The Soviet Union used it to undermine the United States’ credibility, foster anti-Americanism, isolate America abroad, and create tensions between host countries and the U.S. over the presence of American military bases (which were often portrayed as the cause of AIDS outbreaks in local populations).[3]

According to U.S. State Department analysts, another reason the Soviet Union “promoted the AIDS disinformation may have been its attempt to distract international attention away from its own offensive biological warfare program, which [was monitored] for decades”–in addition to anthrax, the Soviets were believed to have developed tularemia, the plague, and cholera for biological warfare purposes, as well as botulinum toxin, enterotoxins, and mycotoxins.[4] An alternative explanation is that the operation may have been in retaliation for American accusations that the Soviets used chemical weapons in Southeast Asia, later dubbed the yellow rain incident.[2]

Story Genesis and Progression

The groundwork appeared in the pro-Soviet Indian newspaper Patriot which, according to a KGB defector named Ilya Dzerkvelov, was set up by the KGB in 1962 “in order to publish disinformation”.[5] An anonymous letter was sent to the editor in July 1983 from a ‘well-known American scientist and anthropologist’, stating that AIDS was manufactured at Fort Detrick by genetic engineers. The ‘scientist’ claimed that “that deadly mysterious disease was believed to be the results of the Pentagon’s experiments to develop new and dangerous biological weapons,” and implicated CDC scientists with being sent to Africa and Latin America to find dangerous viruses alien to Asia and Europe. These results were purportedly analyzed in Atlanta and Fort Detrick and thus the “most likely course of events” leading to the development of AIDS.[6]

The Segal Report

The campaign started in earnest in October 1985 after the story was ignored for two years, with the original article being published again by Literaturnaya Gazeta. To lend credence, the Soviet Union used a pseudo-scientific paper written in 1986 by a retired East German biophysicist named Dr. Jakob Segal, co-authored by his wife Dr. Lilli Segal and Dr. Ronald Dehmlow, at Humboldt University. The report was quoted heavily by Soviet propagandists, and the Segals were often said to be French researchers in order to hide their connections with communism. Dr. Segal postulated that the AIDS virus was synthesized by combining parts of two distantly related retroviruses: VISNA and HTLV-1. [7] An excerpt of the Segal report is as follows:

It is very easy using genetic technologies to unite two parts of completely independent viruses… but who would be interested in doing this? The military, of course… In 1977 a special top security lab… was set up…at the Pentagon’s central biological laboratory. One year after that… the first cases of AIDS occurred in the US, in New York City. How it occurred precisely at this moment and how the virus managed to get out of the secret, hush-hush laboratory is quite easy to understand. Everyone knows that prisoners are used for military experiments in the U.S. They are promised their freedom if they come out of the experiment alive.[8]

Elsewhere in the report, Segal said that his hypothesis was based purely on assumptions, extrapolations, and hearsay and not at all on direct scientific evidence.[9]

Dissemination methods

The AIDS story exploded across the world, and was repeated by Soviet newspapers, magazines, wire services, radio broadcasts, and T.V. It appeared forty times in Soviet media in 1987 alone. It received coverage in over eighty countries in more than thirty languages,[10] primarily in leftist and communist media publications, and was found in countries as wide spread as Bolivia, Grenada, Pakistan, New Zealand, Nigeria, and Malta. A few versions made their way into non-communist press in Indonesian and Philippine press. [11]

Dissemination was usually along a recognized pattern: propaganda and disinformation would first appear in a country outside of the USSR and only then be picked up by a Soviet news agency, which attributed it to others’ investigative journalism. That the story came from a foreign source (not widely known to be Soviet controlled or influenced) added credibility to the allegations, especially in impoverished and less educated countries which generally could not afford access to Western news satellite feeds. To aid in media placement, Soviet propaganda was provided free of charge, and many stories came with cash benefits.[11] This was particularly the case in India and Ghana, where the Soviet Union maintained a large propaganda and disinformation apparatus for covert media placement.[12]

Soviet narrative

To explain how AIDS outbreaks were simultaneously so prevalent in Africa, the Moscow World Service announced that Soviet correspondent Aleksandr Zhukov discovered that in the early 1970s, a Pentagon controlled West German lab in Zaire “succeeded in modifying the non-lethal Green Monkey virus into the deadly AIDS virus.” Radio Moscow also claimed that instead of testing a cholera vaccine, American scientists were actually infecting unwitting Zairians, thus spreading it throughout the continent. These scientists were unaware of the long period before symptom onset, and resumed experimentation on convicts upon return to the US, where it then spread when the prisoners escaped.[13]

Other disinformation campaigns running at the same time made the AIDS accusations more believable. In 1987, Professor Rychkov, the head of the human genetics lab at a Soviet genetics institute, claimed the United States was researching a DNA molecule capable of controlling people’s minds and behavior, and said it was a definitely a possibility that AIDS was made by the U.S. Other allegations were made that included the creation of an ‘ethnic bomb’ to destroy non-whites, and fine-tuning it to target specific age groups and genders. The U.S. was also said to have released killer mosquitoes into Pakistan, violating arms control agreements, trafficking in baby parts, and creating treatment resistant and ultra-deadly strains of dengue fever, malaria, and other tropical illnesses. [14]

Claims that the CIA had sent “AIDS-oiled condoms” to other countries sprang up independently in the African press, well after the operation was started.[2] In 1987, a book (“Once Again About the CIA”) was published by Novosti, with the quote:

The CIA Directorate of Science and Technology[15] is continuously modernizing its inventory of pathogenic preparations, bacteria and viruses and studying their effect on man in various parts of the world. To this end, the CIA uses American medical centers in foreign countries. A case in point was the Pakistani Medical Research Center in Lahore… set up in 1962 allegedly for combating malaria.

The resulting public backlash eventually closed down the legitimate medical research center. Soviet allegations declared the purpose of these research projects, to include that of AIDS, was to ‘enlarge the war arsenal.’[12]

Worldwide Response to AIDS Allegations

Ironically, many Soviet scientists were soliciting help from American researchers to help address the Soviet Union’s burgeoning AIDS problem, while stressing the virus’ natural origins. The U.S. politely refused to help as long as the disinformation campaign continued.[16] The Segal report and the plenitude of press articles were dismissed by both western and Soviet virologists as nonsense. [17]

Dr. Meinrad Koch, a West Berlin AIDS expert, stated in 1987 that the Segal report was ‘utter nonsense’ and called it an ‘evil pseudo-scientific political concoction.’ Other scientists also pointed out flaws and inaccuracies in the Segal report as well, including Dr. Viktor Zhdanov of the Ivanovsky Institute of Virology in Moscow, who was the top Soviet AIDS expert at the time. The president of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences clearly stated that he believed the virus to be of natural origin. Other scientists and doctors from Paris, East and West Berlin, India, and Belgium called the AIDS rumors lies, scientifically unfounded, and otherwise impossible to seriously consider. [18] Although Segal himself never said ‘this is fact’ and was very careful to maintain this line throughout his report, “such technical qualifiers do not diminish the impact of the charges, however, because when they are replayed, such qualifiers are typically either omitted or overlooked by readers or listeners.”[19]

US Embassy officials wrote dozens of letters to various newspaper editors and journalists, and held meetings and press conferences to clarify matters. Many of their efforts resulted in newspapers printing retractions and apologies.[20] Rebuttals appeared in reports to Congress and from the State Department saying that it was impossible at the time to build a virus as complex as AIDS; medical research had only gotten so far as to clone simple viruses. Antibodies were found decades earlier than the reported research started, and the main academic source used for the story (Segal’s report) contained inaccuracies about even such basic things as American geography—Segal said that outbreaks appeared in New York City because it was the closest big city to Fort Detrick. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. are all closer, while New York is 250 miles away.[19]

The Gorbachev administration also responded indignantly and launched a defensive denial campaign “aimed at limiting the damage done to its credibility by U.S. efforts to raise world consciousness concerning the scope of Soviet disinformation activites”. [12] The Soviet Union interfered with general attempts by US Embassy officials to address misconceptions and expose the Soviet disinformation campaign, to include placing pressure on news agencies that recanted their position. For example, Literaturnaya Gazeta on December 3, 1986, castigated a Brazilian newspaper which earlier in the year had run a retraction following its publication of the AIDS disinformation story. In 1987 “Moscow’s Novosti news agency disseminated a report datelined Brazzaville (Congo), calling on the West to put an end to the ‘anti-African campaign’, and repeating the charges that the virus was created in US military laboratories” while in 1986 Literaturnaya Gazeta warned specifically against contact with Americans. [21]

In 1988, Sovetskaya Rossiya put out an article defending their right to report different views, and the chief of Novosti stated that it drew upon foreign sources for much of the AIDS coverage and the press was free under glasnost.[12] The Mitrokhin Archives reveal that

faced with American protests and the denunciation of the story by the international scientific community, however, Gorbachev and his advisors were clearly concerned that exposure of Soviet disinformation might damage the new Soviet image in the West. In 1987, US officials were told in Moscow that the AIDS story was officially disowned, Soviet press coverage of the story came to an almost complete halt.[22]

The campaign faded from most Soviet media outlets, but it occasionally resurfaced abroad in third world countries as late as 1988, usually via press placement agents.[23]

Aftermath

Fairly recent research shows the ongoing effect on the public mind.

In 1992, 15% of Americans considered it definitely or probably true that “the AIDS virus was created deliberately in a government laboratory.”[2] In 2005, a study by the RAND Corporation and Oregon State University revealed that nearly 50% of African Americans thought AIDS was man-made, over 25% believed AIDS was a product of a government laboratory, 12% believed it was created and spread by the CIA, and 15% believed that AIDS was a form of genocide against black people.[2] Other AIDS conspiracy theories have abounded, and have been discredited by the mainstream scientific community.

In 1992 Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov admitted that the KGB was behind the Soviet newspaper articles claiming that AIDS was created by the US government.[24] The book Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police [25] describes how the Stasi cooperated with the KGB to spread the story.[25]

See also

References

  1. Jump up ^ AIDS as a biological weapon. America.gov (2005)
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e Operation INFEKTION – Soviet Bloc Intelligence and Its AIDS Disinformation Campaign. Thomas Boghardt. 2009
  3. Jump up ^ U.S. Department of State. Soviet Influence Activities: A Report on Active Measures and Propaganda, 1986-87. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Public Affairs, August 1987., pg. 33
  4. Jump up ^ Ibid., pg. 45
  5. Jump up ^ Ibid., pg. 34, 44
  6. Jump up ^ Ibid., pg. 35
  7. Jump up ^ Ibid., pg. 34-36
  8. Jump up ^ U.S. Department of State. Soviet Influence Activities: A Report on Active Measures and Propaganda, 1987-1988. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Public Affairs, August 1989., pg. 3
  9. Jump up ^ Soviet Influence Activities, 1986-1987., pg. 35
  10. Jump up ^ U.S. Information Agency. “Soviet Active Measures in the Era of Glasnost.” Report to Congress, Washington D.C., March 1988., pg. 10
  11. ^ Jump up to: a b Soviet Influence Activities, 1986-1987., pg. 38
  12. ^ Jump up to: a b c d Soviet Influence Activities, 1987-1988., pg. 4
  13. Jump up ^ Ibid., pg. 3
  14. Jump up ^ Soviet Influence Activities, 1986-1987., pg. 34-35, 39, 42
  15. Jump up ^ This is essentially like saying a hospital’s department of neurosurgery is researching how to give heart-worm medication to cats. The CIA’s Science and Technology department has virtually nothing to do with biological warfare research. See https://www.cia.gov/offices-of-cia/science-technology/index.html for a more accurate description.
  16. Jump up ^ “Soviet Active Measures in the Era of Glasnost”., pg. 3
  17. Jump up ^ Ibid., pg. 10
  18. Jump up ^ Soviet Influence Activities, 1986-1987., pg. 36
  19. ^ Jump up to: a b “Soviet Active Measures in the Era of Glasnost”., pg. 10-11
  20. Jump up ^ Soviet Influence Activities, 1986-1987., pg. 41-42
  21. Jump up ^ Soviet Influence Activities, 1986-1987., pg. 43, 49
  22. Jump up ^ Andrew and Mitrokhin, 2005., pg. 340
  23. Jump up ^ Soviet Influence Activities, 1987-1988., pg. 3-4
  24. Jump up ^ AIDS as a biological weapon. America.gov (2005)
  25. ^ Jump up to: a b Koehler, John O. (1999) Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police ISBN 0-8133-3409-8

External links

CIA Kept Area 51 Secret Because Rumors Cooler Than Reality


CIA Kept Area 51 Secret Because Rumors Cooler Than Reality

Kelsey D. Atherton
[Australian Popular Science gives credence to what we’ve repeatedly inferred, that conspiracy theories are frequently employed as a style of propaganda. In this case, fabricated UFO and Alien conspiracies employed as a cover for real, but secret military experiments. As noted on this site previously, conspiracy theorists were the most prominent dupes and disseminators of crackpot, anti-American propaganda entirely fabricated by the Kremlin, for instance manufactured anti- American AIDS conspiracies as well anti-US, Kremlin invented JFK conspiracies.]
<strong>A Pair Of U-2 Spyplanes</strong> One the left is an original U-2, with an 80 feet wingspan, and on the right is a U-2R with a wingspan of 103 feet.
A Pair Of U-2 Spyplanes One the left is an original U-2, with an 80 feet wingspan, and on the right is a U-2R with a wingspan of 103 feet.
IMAGE BY Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday the CIA declassified a 400-page document about Area 51, the secret facility in the Nevada desert that has fascinated armchair historians and tormented conspiracy theorists for decades.

The site, about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, has been associated with a number of legends and rumors: about strange aircraft, experimental weapons, weather control, and especially aliens. So many alien conspiracy theories.

Area 51, it turns out, was just test site that housed spy planes, most notably the U-2. Introduced in 1957, the U-2 could travel as far as 7,000 miles, at an altitude of 70,000 feet, and stay airborne for up to 12 hours. U-2s are still in service with the U.S. Air Force today, and the old film cameras have been replaced U-2s used to carry have been replaced by digital cameras. In fact, some public land has weird, barcode-like patterns on it, built for U-2 camera tests.

Why is the CIA involved? Before spy satellites, U-2s flew over the Soviet Union to collect information about the USSR’s nuclear program. This was intelligence by airplane, conducted secretly and with huge consequences on the international stage. In 1960, a U-2 was shot down by Russia, spoiling a diplomatic meeting and escalating Cold War tensions. Later, in 1962, a U-2 took photos of what looked like preparations for nuclear weapons in Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is all old history by now, but when the CIA first classified the U-2 program and chose to keep Area 51 a secret, it was state-of-the-art technology, and an incredibly important test site for collecting secrets.

The declassification of the CIA’s documents won’t deter any conspiracy theorists; the kind of person who thinks the government creates weather machines for mind control will have no qualms believing the government also falsifies documents to cover up evidence of the same.

Communism As Religion


Communism is Religion

Posted by Daniel G. Jennings

One major argument that apologists for religion like to make against proponents of secularism, humanism and religion is to equate all opponents of religion with Communism and the numerous crimes against humanity perpetuated by such monsters as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Fidel Castro. The best argument against these people of faith is a simple one, far from being a humanist or rationalist belief system, Communism was and is a religion.

Like all religions, Communism is irrational, dogmatic and based on faith rather than science. Just like Christianity and Islam, Communism had its Holy Books which were treated as Holy Scripture, namely the writings of Lenin, Mao, Marx and others–all of which were far from scientific. Karl Marx, who was treated by Communists as a genius, was actually a small-time journalist whose writings are a collection of prejudices, generalizations and editorializing. Marx held and promoted some beliefs which were later disproved by science, for example Marx taught that many human characteristics we now know to be inherited through genetics were caused by environmental factors. When scientists in 1930s Russia pointed this fact out, Stalin reacted by throwing the scientists into the gulag just like the Church imprisoned Galileo. Just like fundamentalist Christians who promote creation science, Stalin (himself the recipient of an “education” in a Christian seminary) backed a charlatan named Lysenko who came up with a completely false science of genetics that fit squarely with Communist dogma and then banned the teaching of genetics because it contradicted Communist dogma.

As with Christianity and Islam, Communism attracted followers by promising a pie-in-the-sky heaven to the faithful. The difference being that the Communist heaven would be sometime in the future when all people would be happy and equal under Communism rather than after death. This magical future was conveniently pushed farther and farther into the future so that Communist leaders could “explain” to the average people impoverished by their wonderful system why they hadn’t yet achieved utopia. It might also be pointed out that the Communists never actually said exactly how this utopia would be created–just as Christians and Moslems can present no evidence of life after death.

Like most religions, Communism operated on irrational faith; people in Communist countries had to have absolute faith in the Communist system and its leaders. Thinking for oneself was strictly verboten in Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and Ho’s Vietnam. Those who questioned Communism and its leaders were treated as heretics by the Communist state.

Far from being an example of the evils that occur when religion is removed in society, Communism is a perfect example of the excesses and horrors that result when religion is allowed to take over a society. The Communist Party acted just like the church had in Medieval Europe.

Just like the Church in Medieval Europe, the Communists tortured and killed those who refused to adopt the official faith. Just like the Church, the Communists promoted the belief that governmental authorities were all-knowing, all-powerful and sanctioned by God, and the idea that refusing to bow to authority was a sin.

Just like the medieval church, the Communist Party promoted the idea of saints, people whose total devotion to the Communist cause was a good and holy thing and entitled them to be worshiped. The difference was that the Communists substituted Communist leaders like Mao and Stalin for the saints. The Communists even revived the bizarre medieval practice of worshiping the dead bodies of the saints; they built massive mausoleums in which they placed the embalmed bodies of their dead leaders and forced their people to worship them.

Just like the Russian Orthodox Church, the Communists also created icons, pictures of Communist leaders whom people were to worship. In North Korea, for example, it is even a crime to destroy a picture of the late dictator Kim Il Sung.

The Communists also revived the horrendous medieval practice of the Inquisition, an official body to hunt down and eliminate heretics, in the form of the purge trials and the various secret-police forces. Hundreds of thousands of people in Communist countries were tortured, brutalized and murdered by such bodies.

Just like the church before them the Communists tried to force their captured enemies to repent their “sins.” After the fall of Saigon, 600,000 Vietnamese were forced into concentration camps called reeducation centers to learn Communist dogma. Just as the “First Holy Roman Emperor,” the religious fanatic Charlemagne, tried to forcibly baptize German pagans captured in his wars, captured American soldiers in the Vietnam and Korean wars were also forced to admit the “truth” of Communism.

As if bringing back the Inquisition wasn’t bad enough, the Communists also revived the witch hunt. Like other people of faith, the Communists blamed the failings of their system–not on their own loony dogma–but on hidden enemies who were secretly sabotaging Communism so as to prevent the Communists from creating a utopia. In 1930s Russia, tens of thousands of innocent people, many of them good Communists, were falsely accused of being foreign agents and “wreckers” who were sabotaging the Stalinist system, and then executed or thrown into the gulag–where many of them died from torture, forced labor and starvation. Those killed in this purge included several of the Red Army’s top generals who were falsely accused of being enemies by Communist courts using information provided by the Nazis (thus leaving Russia unprepared in 1941 when it’s real enemies attacked).

It must also be noted here that it didn’t take the Russian Communists long to revive another old evil of the church: anti-Semitism; by the early 1950s, Stalin was blaming Russia’s problems and his own bad health on the Jews. Just as the Medieval Christians blamed plagues and the black death on Jews secretly poisoning wells, so Stalin blamed his ill health on Jewish doctors who were trying to poison him.

In the 1960s, Mao went Stalin one better. When the Chairman’s brutal attempt to create the Communist heaven on Earth, the “Great Leap Forward,” failed miserably, resulting in the worst famine in human history, Mao blamed–not himself or his faith–but the Chinese people for not having enough faith in Communism (much as Hitler had blamed the German people and not his own incompetence, arrogance and stupidity, for his defeat in World War II). Mao then turned vast numbers of Communist fanatics, known as Red Guards, loose to punish the Chinese people for not showing enough faith in Mao and Communism. Just as the Medieval witch hunters burned little old ladies at the stake for owning cats, Chinese people were beaten up and terrorized for such crimes as owning birdcages or wearing makeup in the so-called Cultural Revolution. Many great treasures of China’s past were destroyed by Communist thugs during the Cultural Revolution (just as the Taliban blew up Buddhist statues in Afghanistan).

The excesses in Soviet Russia and Red China have been repeated in almost every other Communist country. Almost every Communist regime has behaved like a religion that is in a manner completely irrational and paranoid. The major difference between the Communist fanatics and the Christian fanatics of the inquisition was that the Communists had access to modern technology, weaponry and systems of government that enabled them to kill far more people far more quickly. Had the inquisition access to the same technology as the Communists, its body count would have rivaled that of Stalin and Mao.

Far from being an example of what happens when religion, faith and God are removed from society, Communism is a perfect example of what happens when society is turned over to religion. People are deprived of their basic freedoms, science and scholarship are suppressed, and average people are tortured and murdered for not displaying sufficient faith.

It must also be said here that Christianity did little or nothing to stop Communism or the horrible crimes the Communists committed against humanity. Russia was the most religious country in Europe in 1917 yet the Church was unable to stop the Bolshevik takeover. If Christianity is such a powerful force for morality, why couldn’t the Orthodox patriarchs and bishops have simply ordered the Russian people not to follow Lenin and Stalin’s orders? Why weren’t the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church able to appeal to the piety of Joseph Stalin, himself a product of an Orthodox seminary, and get him to recant Communism? Far from protecting Russia’s people from Communism, the Orthodox Church did little but have the Russian people sit and pray to icons for the end of the Communist system.

It was not the Orthodox Church or its leaders that formed the main resistance to Communism in Russia, it was humanists and rationalists who refused to bow to irrational Communist beliefs. For example, the great scientist, Andre Sakarov, and many other Russian intellectuals, refused to go along with the Communist assault on the human mind. Later on, more enlightened and intelligent Soviet leaders, such as Mikhail Gorbachev, undermined Communism by allowing people to question and challenge its basic assumptions. Just like Christian and Islamic dogma, Communist dogma can’t stand up to a close examination based on reason and the scientific method.

It was the secular, democratic, capitalist societies in the United States, Japan and Western Europe–which are based on humanistic and rational values–which ultimately proved to be the undoing of Communism. The irrational, faith-based, Communist system simply couldn’t compete with the rational, secular United States and its allies. By basing their societies on faith rather than on reason, thus being in no position to change or adapt their system to meet future challenges, the Communists thereby sowed the seeds of their own destruction–except, of course, in countries such as Vietnam and China where Communist leaders have quietly abandoned Communism and adopted capitalism in order to preserve their own skins and line their own bank accounts.

Far from being an example of a godless society, Communism is a perfect example of the dangers which religion poses to human freedom and humanity’s future. Those Americans who want to establish an official religion should take a hard look at the history of Communism, for any country that establishes an official religion and a faith based system will end up just like the Communists–in the ash heap of history.

Operation INFEKTION: Soviet Bloc Intelligence and Its AIDS Disinformation Campaign


Operation INFEKTION: Soviet Bloc Intelligence and Its AIDS Disinformation Campaign

“Our friends in Moscow call it ‘dezinformatsiya.’ Our enemies in America call it ‘active measures,’ and I, dear friends, call it ‘my favorite pastime.’”—Col. Rolf Wagenbreth, director of Department X(disinformation) of East German foreign intelligence The CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence has just published Volume 53, Number 4 (December 2009) of Studies in Intelligence. The issue includes an unclassified extract from a classified study of the Soviet Union’s propaganda “campaign to implicate the United States in the emergence of the AIDS pandemic that appeared in the early 1980s.” According to a note at the beginning of the extract, “This article was the recipient of an Annual Studies in Intelligence Award in 2009.”The author writes:

The opening salvo of the AIDS disinformation campaign was fired on 17 July 1983, when an obscure newspaper in India, the Patriot, printed an anonymous letter headlined “AIDS may invade India: Mystery disease caused by US experiments.” The letter, allegedly written by a “well-known American scientist and anthropologist” in New York, claimed that “AIDS…is believed to be the result of the Pentagon’s experiments to develop new and dangerous biological weapons.” (4)

The 17 July letter’s extensive quoting of US sources—e.g., U.S. News & World Report, Associated Press, and Army Research, Development & Acquisition magazine—suggests that US-based KGB officers initiated the AIDS campaign, or at least collected the material that triggered the idea. The KGB had large residencies in New York City and Washington, DC, both of which were assigned officers who worked solely on active measures. (5)

Read the CIA’s introduction here and the actual study by Thomas Boghardt here.

 

Conspiracy Theories Used as Propaganda | Operation INFEKTION | The KGB and Anti-American AIDS Conspiracies


Government use of conspiracy theory: Operation INFEKTION
Art: Burning heart by Leslie Ann O’Dell. Listening: Black Star by Lustmord.

A future common theme on this blog will be that governments don’t just partake in conspiracies, but they also create and amplify conspiracy theories. Note the difference here. The former is legal term about individuals colluding in secret; while the latter pertains to a narrative about these collusions. One is ontological to do with the world; while the other is epistemic to do with beliefs about the world.
There are various reasons why governments would need to create a belief in conspiracy. Sometimes it is to cover up black projects or intelligence failures, i.e. covering up real conspiracies. Other times the conspiracies are created as offensive weapons against some international actor, i.e. creating fake conspiracies. For the moment, I’d like to discuss the aforementioned reason from a case that is in actual scholarly literature: Operation INFEKTION, which was the Soviet disinformation campaign to pin the origin of AIDS on the USA.

A good source on this disinformation operation is an essay entitled “AIDS Made in the USA”: Moscow’s Contagious Campaign, which is from the book The New Image Makers: Soviet Propaganda & Disinformation Today. The author is the noted historian of counterintelligence Roy Godson. You won’t find this essay published on the Internet, which is unfortunate given it is a well-reasoned argument giving us a clear example of governments creating conspiracy theories (I may get around to scanning it, and putting it up on this blog). The reason why this clear example is so important is because it allows us to draw some broader themes of how governments go about spreading disinformation. True believers in high weirdness and conspiracy circles often accuse each other of spreading disinformation, and it sometimes becomes hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. A clear non-bullshit example can be quite illuminating.
Godson argues in the essay that the “AIDS was made in the USA” disinformation campaign was created by the KGB in 1985. They continued this disinformation campaign for around two years. Godson identifies five reasons why they did this:

  1. To discredit the United states by falsely claiming that AIDS originated in CIA-Pentagon experiments.
  2. To discourage undesirable political contact with Westerners by portraying them as potential carriers of the disease.
  3. To create pressure for removal of US military bases overseas on the grounds the US service personnel spread AIDS.
  4. To undermine US credibility in the Third World by maintaining that hypotheses about the African origin of AIDS are an example of Western, and especially American, racism, and;
  5. To divert attention from Soviet research on biological warfare and genetic engineering and to neutralize accusations that the Soviet Union has used biochemical agents in Asia.

Notice the two wider themes here of using conspiracy theory. (1) to (4) are all examples of undermining the ethos or moral stature of some actor or groups. (5) is an example of diverting attention away from an actual conspiracy. These twin themes of undermining ethos and diverting attention from actual conspiracies will arise again in future posts about government use of disinformation. Also, when I say ethos, I mean in the rhetorical sense. To undermine someone’s ethos in rhetoric is to undermine their character. This is important in rhetoric, as building rapport with the audience by appealing to one’s character and moral stature is one of the foundations for a rhetorical speech.

I won’t recount the timeline of how this disinformation campaign came about. You can read the Wikipedia article above on the operation to recount this. But some other tidbits worth noting here are the following:
The disinformation campaign started in newspapers in Russia and India. They then spread to radio, and then other sources from around the world picked up on the disinformation. This disinformation campaign was also backed by pamphlets, which were spread in Africa. One of these pamphlets was written by biologist named Jacob Segal, and was backed by (what appeared to be) scientific reasoning. Segal was then cited in a news article in England, which then spread the disinformation about the planet like wildfire. Once major papers from around the planet picked up on it, the KGB no longer used their primary sources. Instead they started spreading the disinformation by stating other major papers from around the planet had confirmed the theory about AIDS. What we can learn from these is that:

  • disinformation can be sophisticated. It can use individuals that people trust (like scientists), and can dress itself up with reasonable arguments.
  • disinformation campaigns can use multiple sources (radio, newspapers, pamphlets).
  • disinformation campaigns will try to hide the original sources. Once the campaign is in the open, they may switch to sources that their targets may trust (in this case, domestic newspapers). In rhetoric this is a combination of using kairos (the opportune moment to switch sources), combined with exploiting ethos (sources people trust).

Godson also has a lengthy paragraph on how the AIDS campaign was, “a diversionary tactic against claims that the Soviet Union has used biochemical weapons in Cambodia, Laos, and Afghanistan and is engaged in genetic-weapon research.” The first claim about chemical weapons pertains to Yellow Rain. Those interested in disinformation should also read that Wikipedia article on Yellow Rain for a possible similar campaign conducted by the USA. The second claim about genetic-weapons pertains to US attempts to undermine Soviet bioweapons research via UN arms control treaties (Godson quotes a State Department report here). Godson states that one of the aims was to “muddle the debate” between bio-chemical weapons and AIDS.
So finishing up, we have the two aims of government use of conspiracy theory:

  1. To undermine ethos, and;
  2. To divert attention away from actual conspiracies.

We also have some general properties of these disinformation campaigns:

  • They can be epistemologically sophisticated.
  • The sources will change themselves according to the opportune moment for spreading the disinformation.
  • They will take into consideration the targets of the campaign, and will use sources that the target trusts.

Now, true-believing conspiracy theorists might state something along the lines of, “Yeah, but how do we know this Operation happened? It could be a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory.” The answer to this, is that it actually happened. You can look up old news archives and find the disinformation spread in actual newspapers. There are also multiple corroborating sources that this event occurred, including sources from the Russian parliament and members of the East German Stasi admitting to the campaign. Godson has 26 footnotes to his essay, most of which are primary sources. I will endeavour to upload a scan of this essay in the future.

Russia Plans to Launch Moon Probe in 2015


Russia plans to launch Moon probe in 2015

Artist's concept of Luna-Glob mission (NASA)

Artist’s concept of Luna-Glob mission (NASA)

Back to the Moon Russia will resume a long-dormant quest to explore the Moon by sending an unmanned probe there in 2015; the head of the space agency was quoted as saying.

The craft, called Luna-Glob, or Moon-Globe, will be carried by the first rocket to blast off from a new facility that Russia is building in its far eastern Amur region, says Roskosmos director Vladimir Popovkin, according to the Interfax news agency.

“We will begin our exploration of the Moon from there,” he says of the new space centre that will decrease Russia’s reliance of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the ex-Soviet nation Kazakhstan, which it leases.

Russian space officials have said Luna-Glob would consist of an orbital module and a probe that would land on the Moon and beam back information about samples it takes from the surface.

The Soviet Union got a jump on the United States in the Cold War space race, sending a probe to the Moon in 1959 and putting the first person into space in 1961. But the United States first put a man on the Moon in 1969 and Russia has not done so.

The last successful Soviet launch of an unmanned probe to the Moon was in the 1970s, and Russia has suffered setbacks in its space program in recent years, including bungled satellite launches and the failure of a Mars probe in 2011.

A successful rocket launch on Tuesday put three military satellites in orbit, the Defence Ministry said.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved a plan last month to spend 2.1 trillion roubles ($70 billion) on space industry development in 2013-2020, to pursue projects to explore the Moon and Mars, among other things.

Australia’s Disneyfied Israel


Australia’s Disneyfied Israel

by 

For two weeks this month, Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), visited Australia as a guest of the New Israel Fund Australia Foundation. Only 18 months old, NIF Australia has already achieved a significant aim of its creation: to begin anew a conversation about Israel and Judaism in Australia.

Hagai El-Ad standing in front of the Melbourne skyline. (Photo by Arielle Perlow via New Israel Fund Australia)
Hagai El-Ad standing in front of the Melbourne skyline. (Photo by Arielle Perlow via New Israel Fund Australia)

The Jewish community here—dominated by Holocaust survivors and their descendants, and migrants from South Africa and the former Soviet Union—is acutely aware of the importance of multiculturalism and of respecting human rights in Australia. But, paradoxically, though hardly uniquely, the communal leadership has ensured these values aren’t applied in its engagement with Israel.

Blinded by fear of anti-Semitism and the need to over-protect Israel and our conversations about it, the community has landed firmly on the Zionist Right. With a leadership composed almost exclusively of middle-aged Religious Zionist men, the community has developed a thinly veiled enmity towards left-wing Jews and Zionists. Instead of fostering a pluralist Zionist conversation, they largely promote a limited set of views. The lessons of tolerance, human rights, and equality have, over time, been lost and replaced with a myopic Zionism.

Though the establishment sets its “red lines” for inclusion as being anti-BDS and pro-two-state solution, it has embraced, or at best turned a blind eye to, groups on the right, like Ateret Cohanim, which are active campaigners against Palestinian sovereignty. Meanwhile, NIF guests like David Landau, despite firmly fitting the criteria, are demonized. Similarly, NIF’s credentials and leadership are constantly brought into question.

The math just doesn’t add up: Setting boundaries for Zionist conversation, and then ignoring those boundaries to welcome speakers with anti-Palestinian agendas and to undermine liberal Zionists is, quite simply, rank hypocrisy.

The community’s leadership also deliberately weakens public expressions of liberal Zionism. The cancellation of a visit by Naomi Chazan to Australia in early 2010 served as the precursor for a prolonged global campaign against the New Israel Fund. It was as if, to the communal leadership’s sudden surprise, NIF was full of liberals and left-wing Zionists, and was therefore unworthy of engagement. I have been a victim myself, having been terminated as a columnist at the country’s only Jewish newspaper for daring to support a boycott of settlement goods.

Fully understanding the causes of this dynamic is difficult, but the unbroken right-wing communal leadership and the impact of the Holocaust no doubt contribute to wanting to protect Israel and Diaspora Jews.

Which is why El-Ad’s visit is so crucial. Throughout, a common theme of his talks was an urge to have a “real relationship with a real Israelnot a fake relationship with a ‘Disneyfied’ version of Israel.” Each time he said that, I watched the crowd lift their heads. It was as if they paused, reflected back on his discussion of the human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, of Bedouin displacement in the Negev, of Israel’s mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and realized this was the first time they were actually engaging in these real-world-Israel issues.

His visits to Jewish day schools, in particular, provoked such responses. The occupation, when it is dealt with, is not understood as something that necessarily creates terrible human rights violations and undermines the long-term viability of the Jewish-democratic Zionist project. The ‘aha’ moment with regard to the occupation and the realities facing refugees and asylum seekers, when El-Ad spoke, was that Israel faces these issues, and that bringing them to light is okay. In a small way, his visit contributed to a wider understanding of Israel.

Given everything Jews have been through, and given how close Australian Jewry has been to these catastrophes, it’s not surprising there is a desire to shelter or be sheltered. But creating an atmosphere in which views held by loving and concerned Zionists are marginalized is precisely the wrong way to go, not only as a matter of principle, but because of the way young Jews are disengaging like never before.

El-Ad’s message of human rights and his plea to challenge assumptions ingrained over the decades has further challenged the self-perceived right of the communal leadership to act as marshals of Zionist conversation, deciding who is allowed in and which opinions are kept out. Recently, because of organizations like NIF, members of the community have begun rejecting that paradigm. Being exposed to Israel’s wrongs brings an appreciation for how we can contribute to curing them. These messages don’t delegitimize Israel, they add to its strength.

Thank You Vasili Arkhipov, The Man Who Stopped Nuclear War


Thank you Vasili Arkhipov, the man who stopped nuclear war

Fifty years ago, Arkhipov, a senior officer on the Soviet B-59 submarine, refused permission to launch its nuclear torpedo

 Vasili Arkhipov

Vasili Arkhipov, who died in 1998

If you were born before 27 October 1962, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov saved your life. It was the most dangerous day in history. An American spy plane had been shot down over Cuba while another U2 had got lost and strayed into Soviet airspace. As these dramas ratcheted tensions beyond breaking point, an American destroyer, the USS Beale, began to drop depth charges on the B-59, a Soviet submarine armed with a nuclear weapon.

The captain of the B-59, Valentin Savitsky, had no way of knowing that the depth charges were non-lethal “practice” rounds intended as warning shots to force the B-59 to surface. The Beale was joined by other US destroyers who piled in to pummel the submerged B-59 with more explosives. The exhausted Savitsky assumed that his submarine was doomed and that world war three had broken out. He ordered the B-59’s ten kiloton nuclear torpedo to be prepared for firing. Its target was the USS Randolf, the giant aircraft carrier leading the task force.

If the B-59’s torpedo had vaporised the Randolf, the nuclear clouds would quickly have spread from sea to land. The first targets would have been Moscow, London, the airbases of East Anglia and troop concentrations in Germany. The next wave of bombs would have wiped out “economic targets”, a euphemism for civilian populations – more than half the UK population would have died. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s SIOP, Single Integrated Operational Plan – a doomsday scenario that echoed Dr Strangelove‘s orgiastic Götterdämmerung – would have hurled 5,500 nuclear weapons against a thousand targets, including ones in non-belligerent states such as Albania and China.

What would have happened to the US itself is uncertain. The very reason that Khrushchev sent missiles to Cuba was because the Soviet Union lacked a credible long range ICBM deterrent against a possible US attack. It seems likely that America would have suffered far fewer casualties than its European allies. The fact that Britain and western Europe were regarded by some in the Pentagon as expendable pawn sacrifices was the great unmentionable of the cold war.

Fifty years on, what lessons can be drawn from the Cuban missile crisis? One is that governments lose control in a crisis. The worst nightmare for US defence secretary Robert McNamara was the unauthorised launch of a nuclear weapon. McNamara ordered that PAL locks (Permissive Action Links) be fitted to all ICBMs. But when the PALs were installed, the Strategic Air Command had all the codes set to 00000000 so that the locks would not impede a quick launch in a crisis. Nuclear weapons security will always be a human issue – at all levels. On one occasion, Jimmy Carter, the sanest of US presidents, left nuclear launch codes in his suit when it was sent to the dry cleaners.

The cold war has ended, but the thermo-nuclear infrastructures of the US and Russia are still in place. And the risk of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers remains very real. In 1995 Russian early warning radar mistook a Norwegian weather rocket for a ballistic missile launched from an American submarine. An emergency signal was sent to President Yeltsin’s “Cheget”, the nuclear suitcase with launch codes. Yeltsin, presumably with vodka close at hand, had less than five minutes to make a decision on a retaliatory strike.

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, the chances of survival of the human species are quite slight.” Every study of long-term risk analysis supports Noam Chomsky’s claim. Ploughshares estimates there are 19,000 warheads in the world today, 18,000 of which are in the hands of the US and Russia. Whatever the exact numbers, the American/Russian nuclear arsenals are the only ones capable of totally destroying all human life. As security analysts Campbell Craig and Jan Ruzicka point out: “Why should Iran or North Korea respect non-proliferation when the most powerful states lecturing them possess such enormous arsenals?”

Most of all, the Cuban missile crisis showed that the weapons themselves are the problem. Britain is now in pole position to lead a “nuclear disarmament race”. In a 2009 letter to the Times, Field Marshal Lord Bramall and Generals Lord Ramsbotham and Sir Hugh Beach denounced Trident as “completely useless”. Ditching the system may be a no-brainer for the generals, but not for politicians afraid of a public opinion that equates nuclear weapons with vague notions of “being strong”. And yet getting rid of Trident would gift the Treasury a windfall of more than £25bn – enough to finance a million affordable homes.

The decision not to start world war three was not taken in the Kremlin or the White House, but in the sweltering control room of a submarine. The launch of the B-59’s nuclear torpedo required the consent of all three senior officers aboard. Arkhipov was alone in refusing permission. It is certain that Arkhipov’s reputation was a key factor in the control room debate. The previous year the young officer had exposed himself to severe radiation in order to save a submarine with an overheating reactor. That radiation dose eventually contributed to his death in 1998. So when we raise our glasses on 27 October we can only toast his memory. Thank you, Vasya.

Eisenhower – Man of Peace and the Military Industrial Complex Reality and Fiction


How One Paragraph in a Single Speech Has Skewed the Eisenhower Record

Wednesday 19 January 2011

by: Ira Chernus, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

How One Paragraph in a Single Speech Has Skewed the Eisenhower Record

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower pictured in his Army uniform. Eisenhower delivered a farewell address fifty years ago about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. (Photo: US Army)

The fiftieth anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address and its famous warning about the military-industrial complex presents progressives with a dilemma. They can continue the popular trend of claiming Eisenhower as a prophetic voice against militarism and for peace. Or they can set aside that manufactured image and get Eisenhower straight: they can talk about him and his policies accurately, with analysis based on research straight from the original source documents, and straighten out the distorted image the peace movement has propagated for so long. But they cannot do both, since the image so directly contradicts the reality.

It’s not an easy choice. The fictional Eisenhower, supposedly dead-set against wasteful spending on military (especially nuclear) armaments, has been a powerfully effective poster boy for the peace movement. After all, how could the war hawks argue with a beloved Republican war hero? The image of Eisenhower as the “man of peace” is so useful that I almost hate to burst the bubble.

On balance, though, I think that fiction does more harm than good. It distorts our picture of the early cold war years and prevents us from learning valuable lessons that an accurate history of that time can teach us. So, it’s healthy to see a small debate about Eisenhower triggered by this anniversary because some of the contributors give us a more honest understanding of this president who has had such a huge lasting influence.

And even if you’ve read the most accurate op-eds of the last few days, believe me, you haven’t heard anywhere near the whole story. I offered the most accurate history I could in the three books I wrote on Eisenhower, who once summed up his philosophy when he told the British ambassador that he would “rather be atomized than communized.” In writing those books, I saw over and over again how Eisenhower put his anticommunist ideology above human life.

He maintained elaborate plans for fighting a nuclear war. Though he was never eager for that war, he was absolutely prepared to start it if he believed the Soviets were about to destroy the “free world” in any way. “Shoot your enemy before he shoots you,” he told his advisers, and “hit ’em … with everything in the bucket.” He insisted that, with the right planning, the US could “pick itself up from the floor” and win the war as long as only 25 or 30 American cities got “shellacked” and nobody got too “hysterical.”

(You can read a detailed summary of what I learned about Eisenhower and nuclear weapons here.)

The loudest voice in the current debate is James Ledbetter, an economics journalist who has just published a well-timed book on the farewell address. In a New York Times op-ed, Ledbetter stresses the point that everyone stresses: Ike was indeed worried about excessive military spending. What Ledbetter, like all the members of the “I Like Ike” club, ignores is that Eisenhower spent eight years approving an enormous and unnecessary buildup of the nation’s military arsenal.

Melvin A. Goodman, a columnist for Truthout, falls into the same trap when he claims that, “Eisenhower ignored the hysteria of the bomber and missile gaps in the 1950’s, as well as the unnecessarily heightened concerns about US security” in a number of government reports, and “stood alone in countering America’s infatuation with military power.”

Would that it were true. In fact, Ike presided over by far – and that’s an understatement – the largest nuclear buildup in US history, going from a few hundred warheads when he took office to nearly 20,000 by the time he left. He also approved the deployment of a vast array of new kinds of weapons and delivery systems, including the intercontinental ballistic missiles that made it possible to obliterate the Soviet Union and China in a single day.

True, he didn’t give the Pentagon everything they wanted, but most of the time he bitched and moaned about the cost and then approved new weapons anyway – especially if they were nuclear. When Goodman writes, “Eisenhower understood that it was the military-industrial complex that fostered an inordinate belief in the omnipotence of American military power,” he misses the crucial point. The president, too, believed that the US could be, and had to be, omnipotent in military power. That’s why he kept approving all of those weapons of overkill even though he understood the economic risks.

Ledbetter rightly describes Eisenhower as “a lifelong opponent of what he called a ‘garrison state,’ in which policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite.” Ledbetter, like most writers, misses the key point here. Ike opposed the garrison state for the same reason he worried about the military budget: it would restrict the freedom of wealthy capitalists to get richer. (Though he was never a very wealthy capitalist, most of his friends were.)

The president, who was seen in his day as a limited intellect, actually had a somewhat sophisticated economic analysis, all based on a boundless fear of anything that would hamper the growth of free-market capitalism. He loved nukes precisely because they were so cheap, giving “more bang for the buck.” He was convinced that more nukes, like the cold war itself, meant more protection for free enterprise.

Eisenhower managed to mislead so many because of the vast disjuncture between his peace-oriented rhetoric and his huge military buildup. An Eisenhower fan who gets tripped up by the rhetoric, understandably enough, is his granddaughter Susan Eisenhower. In a Washington Post op-ed, she explains quite rightly that her grandfather’s concern about excessive military spending began long before the farewell address. She casts it as “the bookend” to his first major foreign policy speech as president, “A Chance for Peace,” where he warned eloquently of the military and economic dangers of the burgeoning nuclear arms race.

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“But pulling these quotes out of context, as we like to do, misses the reprehensible context of the speeches in which they originated,” as David Swanson notes on Truthout. The “Chance” speech was a propaganda piece through and through, designed to calm the fears of his Western European allies that the US was itching for a nuclear fight (which would take place on European soil). Though Ike insisted on his nation’s desire for peace, most of the speech was a call for the Soviet Union to show an equal desire – by totally capitulating to the US on every major issue of conflict. Eisenhower knew perfectly well that this speech could never ease cold war tensions. That was never its intent.

Nearly eight years later, as Swanson points out, in the farewell address, Eisenhower still “claimed eternal innocence for the United States in foreign affairs” and blamed all the dangers of the nuclear arms race completely on the Soviets. “He maintained the same set of lies that allowed for the military industrial complex to grow into something today that probably didn’t penetrate his worst nightmares.”

In fact, for eight years, while he talked so believably about his desire for peace, Ike made sure that disarmament talks with the Soviets would bear no fruit, mainly because he was convinced, as he told an aide, that “you can’t trust them when they are talking nice, and you can’t trust them when they are talking tough.” Nothing could change his mind; mistrust and hatred of communism were the bedrock of his faith.

Ledbetter also gets caught in the gap between rhetoric and policy when he speculates that, “Eisenhower would likely have been deeply troubled, in the past decade, by the torture at Abu Ghraib, the use of martial authority to wiretap Americans without warrants and the multiyear detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay without due process.”

I’ve read thousands of pages of private letters, memos and minutes of meetings and conversations recording Eisenhower’s words. If he had any concern about such abuses, he kept them to himself. In fact, Eisenhower approved the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran and Guatemala, putting in place cruel dictatorships that held power by massively abusing human rights every day. (Though few Americans remember the violation of democracy in Iran, you can bet most Iranians are still well aware of it.) He was willing to do anything to defeat “the reds.”

Ledbetter’s book, despite its apparent praise for Eisenhower, may provide more of a glimpse of historical reality. David Greenberg, who has read and blurbed an advance copy, writes accurately in Slate that, “Eisenhower’s fears about standing military power never outweighed his conviction that it was necessary.” Then he quotes the book: Ike was, “by any definition, a leading figure in that [military-industrial] complex.” In fact, he started promoting closer ties between the military and corporate America when he was still a young officer in the late 1920’s, and he never stopped.

As Greenberg rightly says, “the cult around Ike’s farewell address” has “misleadingly recast Eisenhower – a lifelong internationalist and military man [and commie-hater, he might have added] – as a veritable peacenik.” And it has misleadingly cast blame for war on the military corporations, as if the American public’s acquiescence had nothing to do with it.

Greenberg adds that Eisenhower’s “warnings about military overreach were couched, it’s usually forgotten, in passages insisting on the need for a military of unprecedented size.” The famous final warning about the military-industrial complex is the best example: It was immediately followed by words that are typically ignored: “We recognize the imperative need for this development [of the complex]…. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action” because the communist threat “promises to be of indefinite duration.”

“Indefinite duration.” That’s the most crucial and ignored point about Eisenhower’s lasting influence. Every time he talked about his longing for peace, he also told the nation that we had to prepare more for war because we had entered an endless “age of peril.” (“This phrase of not an instant but an age of peril – I like that fine,” he told the speechwriter who coined it.)

The influence of that constantly repeated warning lasted throughout the cold war era and far beyond. For sixty years or more, we have lived in a national insecurity state. It has been easy for presidents to persuade the public that we must fight because some enemy is out there ready to destroy us, that we are wholly innocent, that they are evildoers who have no comprehensible grievance against us, they just hate our freedoms.

With his frightening words and his massive nuclear buildup, Eisenhower did more than any other president to create the irrational age of peril that is still with us. The US government is still claiming total innocence in world affairs, still insisting that people who would attack us have no motive but sheer evil and still putting forth plans to survive nuclear attack – as long as nobody gets too “hysterical.”

The current debate about Eisenhower is healthy if it brings out the honest reality of a president who is now especially widely admired in progressive peace circles. Knowing the facts, it should make us wonder how less-admirable presidents talked and thought about nuclear weapons and war. It should remind us how easily presidents can create images that mask profoundly important truths. It should also warn us how easily peace progressives can promote those images and unwittingly serve the warmongering policies that they mean to oppose.