Trump derangement syndrome infects the nuclear disarmament movement

The campaign to oust President Trump by any means necessary has been recognized by some as an ugly factional war within the American ruling elite, but the anti-Trump, anti-Russia crusade, based on many fabrications,[1] has been extremely successful in duping a large segment of the intelligentsia and the general population to go along with the narrative that wants to say all was well before, and all will be well again if the nation’s natural ruling class is restored to power with the help of the CIA, FBI and NSA. We are witnessing “tribal warfare inside the ruling class, happily joined by the wage serfs of each tribe.”[2]

One might have hoped that the nuclear disarmament movement would stay above this factional war over who will rule the American empire. Nuclear disarmament activists are often assumed to have an international perspective and unbiased critique of all the nuclear powers. The slightest sign of bias toward one nuclear state would instantly discredit any disarmament group as a propaganda tool, betraying their supporters and wasting their donations. Unfortunately, some individuals and organizations in the anti-nuclear movement have taken the anti-Trump side in the factional war, expressing more interest in American dominance and partisan politics than in their stated goals. A glaring example of this shift in priorities was on display in two recent interviews on The Real News Network. First, Aaron Mate interviewed Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a nuclear disarmament organization founded by sculptor Sally Lilienthal in 1981. Joe is also described proudly on the Ploughshares website as “an MSNBC contributor, regularly making appearances on The Rachel Maddow Show.”[3] Referring to the July 2018 Helsinki Summit between the American and Russian presidents, Joe had this to say about the meeting:

Both of these men [Trump and Putin] are dangerous. Both of these men oppress basic human rights, basic freedoms. Both of them think the press are the enemy of the people. Putin goes further. He kills journalists. He has them assassinated on the streets of Moscow. Donald Trump does not go that far yet. But I think what Putin is doing is using the president of the United States to project his rule, to increase his power, to carry out his agenda in Syria, with Europe, et cetera, and that Trump is acquiescing to that for reasons that are not yet clear.[4]

In a subsequent interview a few days later, Russian historian Stephen Cohen pointed out what was extremely lamentable about these views coming from a prominent nuclear disarmament activist at the head of a very well-funded American organization:

How is it that Joe, who was once one of our most eminent and influential, eloquent opponents of nuclear arms race, who was prepared to have the president of the United States negotiate with every Soviet communist leader, including those who had a lot of blood on their hands, now decides that Putin kills everybody and he’s not a worthy partner? What happened to Joe? I’ll tell you what happened to him. Trump. Trump has driven once-sensible people completely crazy. Moreover, Joe knows absolutely nothing about internal Russian politics, and he ought to follow my rule. When I don’t know something about something, I say I don’t know. But what he just said is ludicrous. And the sad part is... that once-distinguished and important spokespeople for rightful causes, like ending the nuclear arms race, have been degraded, or degraded themselves by saying things like he said to the point that they’re of utility today only to the proponents of a new nuclear arms race. And he’s not alone. Somebody called it Trump derangement syndrome. I’m not a psychiatrist, but it’s a widespread mania across our land. And when good people succumb to it, we are all endangered.[5]

Joe Cirincione’s comments suggest that he is now more than ever interested in being a pro-American, Democrat, anti-Trump partisan than in pursuing his organization’s advertised goals. Five years ago he was interviewed on Fox News when Syria’s chemical weapons were in the news, and when asked if we should trust the Russians, he stated:

We deal with our adversaries. We deal with our enemies. Eisenhower negotiated with Stalin [sic: Khrushchev]. Nixon made friends with Mao. You deal with people you don’t like, that you are adversaries with, but you do it for the national security interests of the United States. 

These words show that Stephen Cohen is correct. Joe Cirincione has changed in recent years. However, the change is not that drastic or surprising. It seems that the interest in nuclear disarmament always took second place to “the national security interests of the United States.” His response on Fox News implied that indeed the Russians cannot be trusted, but the conversation included no balanced statement about whether the Russians could trust the United States. In the same interview Joe also said Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons was a threat to Israel, but he avoided saying at the same time that Syria and other countries in the region feel threatened by Israel’s nuclear arsenal—and this comment was from a man whose organization was founded upon the goal of nuclear disarmament, not on chemical weapons issues.

In the early 1990s, the founder of Ploughshares, Sally Lilienthal, gave a $5,000 grant to MIT physicist Theodore Postol for him “to finish a technical paper that exposed the Pentagon's exaggerated claims of the effectiveness of Patriot missiles during the Persian Gulf War.”[6] More recently, without support from Ploughshares, Postol has investigated Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons and concluded there is no evidence for the numerous attacks that the Western media has been quick to attribute to President Assad.[7] This skeptical counter-narrative received almost no attention in the media, and when it did, the skeptics were accused of being “stooges” for the Syrian government. One has to wonder in this case if Ploughshares has drifted far away from its founder’s original vision, trading away integrity in order to have a voice and be a player within the Washington establishment. Why is it no longer supporting dissenting voices like Theodore Postol? Readers can assess the 2017-18 list of grantees for themselves to see, who, in addition to the NATO mouthpiece and designated Facebook censor, Atlantic Council, now receives support from Ploughshares.[8]

The roster of board members at Ploughshares is almost entirely American, with no Chinese, Russian, French, Indian, Pakistani, or North Korean representation. The board consists of heads of think tanks, corporate leaders, lawyers, former politicians, and even the vice president of the Investment Management Division of Goldman Sachs. Another board member is the former director the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Center for Global Security. The line between NGO and GO is completely blurred here. The “Finances” page of the Ploughshares website lists net assets for 2017 of $33,239,759, with $32,040,357 held in capital reserves. There were new contributions of $6,541,682 and a 14% rate of return ($4,459,538) on the capital reserves added to the contributions. One might ask, if indeed Trump is such a threat to global security, why Ploughshares does not spend the reserve fund like there is no tomorrow. If things are as dangerous as they say, this would be an excellent time go all in on a massive effort to save the world.

During the Cold War, American conservatives often accused the nuclear disarmament movement of being infiltrated by Soviet agents and communists, but since the 1980s the opposite has happened. The movement has actually been infiltrated by guardians of the American empire. Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger and others of their ilk suddenly saw the anti-nuclear light as their communist foe disappeared. Nuclear disarmament became just another cause célèbre for the Beltway think tanks to blend in with the general concern for “international security and cooperation” and “emerging threats” to the unipolar world order. Thus the work Ploughshares supports is far from radical or disruptive, and its message now undermines the purported goal of the organization. I doubt they would give a grant to aboriginal groups fighting uranium mining on their territories, or rural communities trying to stop a nuclear waste disposal project. The Nuclear Hotseat podcast, Radiation and Public Health and other worthwhile anti-nuclear projects operate on small donations and unpaid contributions, but one must keep in mind that they speak out about the connections between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, so they don’t have Goldman Sachs executives and national security experts clamoring to serve on their boards.

China, Russia and other adversaries, and now even the loathed US president himself, are seen as obstacles that have to be dealt with before we can do the real work on nuclear disarmament. Perhaps on some magical day in the future, there will be no more “tyrants,” “strongmen” and “despots” to wave fingers at. The US will intervene and perfect their societies, and then it will negotiate nuclear disarmament while brandishing the conventional arsenal of the trillion-dollar Pentagon budget. This is the implicit assumption of a broad segment of the American nuclear disarmament movement, and unfortunately many well-meaning people in the anti-nuclear movement fail to see it or dare to call it what it is.

Stephen Cohen’s question, “What happened to Joe?” may in fact be the wrong question to ask. Nothing happened to Joe. He has just revealed himself as what he always was—a partisan for American supremacy. Considering the interests and tendencies of the people on the board of Ploughshares Fund, and those of many of the donors, “hyperventilating over the phantom collusions of Donald Trump”[9] is exactly what one should have expected. It is time for individual activists to be much more discerning in choosing the anti-nuclear groups they will support, and time for a truly international group to form outside of such partisan, nationalistic and hybrid quasi-governmental organizations.  


[1] Ray McGovern—Potential U.S./Iran Catastrophe & The Mueller Investigation,” Talkingstick TV, 10:20~“There’s a great incentive on the part of… the military-industrial-intelligence-media-congressional complex… to keep tension with Russia at high levels… That’s why you got absolutely no balanced reporting on the [July 2018 Helsinki] summit. Why should we be so afraid of the summit? People say, ‘Oh, you can’t let Trump get together with Putin one-on-one. He’ll clean his pockets.’ Give me a break. What can happen? … one just has to read Daniel Ellsberg’s latest work on the doomsday machine… to realize how close we’ve come in the past and how it makes no sense at all to have these incredible things like the Trident submarines… with the capability of destroying the world. It sounds ridiculous, but that’s what it is: destroying the world. So when we got a chance to talk with Russians and everybody was saying, [as in the New York Times headline] ‘Oh my god, Trump, in Putin’s presence, expresses doubt about US intelligence. Oh my god!’ Well, there is ample reason for him to express doubt about US intelligence coming from James Clapper who said the Russians are almost genetically driven to lie. So what should the headline have been? The headline should have been ‘The Doomsday Clock has been moved from two minutes to midnight to four minutes to midnight.’ The fact that we’re now talking to the Russians at the highest level may mean something good can come out of this.”
[2] Jason Hirthler, “Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes,” Counterpunch, August 15, 2018.
[3]Two Experts Discuss Nuclear Threats in Los Angeles,” Ploughshares Fund, May 30, 2018.
[4] Aaron Mate, “Debunking the Putin Panic with Stephen F. Cohen,” The Real News Network, July 24, 2018.  
[5] Ibid.
[6] Patricia Sullivan, “Sally Lilienthal, 87; Created Peace Fund,” Washington Post, October 27, 2006.
[7] James Carden, “The Chemical-Weapons Attack In Syria: Is There a Place for Skepticism?The Nation, April 19, 2017.
[9] Jason Hirthler, Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes,” Counterpunch, August 15, 2018.

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