The Weapon Called Nerve Gas
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
On March 4, former Russian military intelligence specialist Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with nerve gas while in the midst of normal activity in the English city of Salisbury. Both were rushed to a hospital where they were found to be gravely ill. The incident led to widespread condemnations of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. Both victims of the attack eventually recovered after weeks of care in a British hospital.
Two weeks after the attack, England’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson concluded that Putin himself had ordered the attempted murder. He relied on knowledge of past acts of retribution delivered to former Russian officials who had become critics of Russian policies and leaders. In rather blunt terms, Johnson stated: “Our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin and with his decision – and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision – to direct the use of nerve gas on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe for the first time since the Second World War.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov immediately countered Johnson’s condemnation of Russia and its president as “a shocking, unforgivable breach of diplomatic proprieties.”
At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley joined in the condemnations of Russia with a statement delivered to the Security Council: “If we don’t take concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this Council. This is a defining moment.”
Britain expelled numerous Russian diplomats and so did the United States. Russia responded by expelling American and British officials. The incident clearly interrupted a recent trend marked by peaceful, even friendly, exchanges between Russia and the West. But it also brought back memories of the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in Britain. A former Russian intelligence expert, he had defected to the West and was living in Great Britain when he became ill and died soon after ingesting tea laden with radioactive polonium. Other defectors from Russia have suffered and died as a result of similarly suspicious events.
Skripal had served Russia for years as a military intelligence colonel. Convicted in 2006 of selling secret information to British authorities, he spent several years in a Russian prison but was then sent to Britain in 2010 as part of an exchange of spies. He chose to live in Salisbury where he seemed to have steered clear of any further government intrigue.
In Russia, commentator Kirill Kleimenov issued a blunt warning over government-controlled Channel One television. He calmly stated: “Being a traitor is one of the dangerous professions in the world. Alcoholism, drugs, stress, nervous breakdowns, and depression are inevitable illnesses of a traitor. As a consequence, heart attacks, strokes, traffic accidents, or suicide ultimately follow.” Statements such as his issued by Russia’s prominent media figures have the undeniable aura of government policy.
While no hard proof of Russia’s attack on the Skripals has emerged, the likelihood that President Putin or his close underlings are responsible is widely believed. Putin, it should be recalled, was the head of the dreaded KGB before succeeding in becoming his nation’s leader. He would know how to respond to critics who are deemed traitors.
Western leaders, certainly including U.S. President Donald Trump, should keep the Russian leader’s past, as well as his present, in mind when dealing with him. Leopards don’t change their spots and expecting former KGB bosses to become honorable is likely expecting what can’t be reality.
Allow Jeff Sessions To Do His Job
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
The Democrats in Congress have a new target – Attorney General Jeff Sessions. They didn’t want him as Attorney General, but he won Senate confirmation with a slim vote of 52-47. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) provided the only Democrat vote as he joined with 51 Republicans to approve the former Alabama senator.Almost immediately, other Democrats pounced on Sessions claiming that he lied during the confirmation hearings. Asked during the proceedings if he had any recent contact with Russian officials about the November election for President, he said he did not. Later, Democrats claimed that he twice met with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s Ambassador to the United States. Sessions explained that he wasn’t trying to hide anything; he thought he was being asked about meetings with Russian officials to discuss the coming U.S. election.
The apparent Sessions falsehood turned out to be a lack of precision in his answer to Senator Al Franken’s question. But the steam from the Democrat-generated charges that Sessions lied, exploded to the degree that the Department of Justice will now determine if the Russians were trying to influence the November election, if Sessions played a part in such a scheme, and if he then lied about it.
After a few days, Attorney General Sessions recused himself from the coming inquiry. In effect, he told the senators who opposed his selection as Attorney General, “Go right ahead and investigate but your investigation will not find that I had anything to do with any Russian meddling in the election. If indeed there was any.”
Sessions is a good and truthful man. His claim that he misunderstood the question he was asked rings true. He said later, “I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times. During the period under question.’” He claims the matters he discussed with Kislyak had nothing to do with the Trump-Clinton election.
Now let’s contrast what the Democrats and the media have sought to do to Sessions with the way Congress dealt with Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder. Under his watch, the U.S. government conducted an operation known as “Fast and Furious” that supplied thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartel criminals. The name “Fast and Furious” evolved when it was found that many of the Mexican recipients of the guns belonged to a motorcycle club with that name. Holder’s Justice Department initially labeled the operation “Project Gunrunner.”
The scheme arranged for the sale of weaponry in the U.S. to highly questionable individuals. U.S. officials knew that the guns would end up in the hands of drug dealers and murderers in Mexico. There was supposed to be some method of tracking the weapons and learning more about the operations of the Mexican drug cartels.
But two of the Fast and Furious guns led to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Estimates place the number of Mexicans slain with those guns well into the hundreds. U.S. Immigration and Customs agent Jaime Zapata’s life was snuffed out with another of these weapons. More guns ended up in the hands of drug merchants in Honduras, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. Approximately 2,000 firearms (AK-47s, sniper rifles, and revolvers) were transferred and fewer than half have ever been recovered.
The entire scheme came to the attention of the press and some concerned government officials when whistleblowers within the Department of Justice bared details about the scheme. As far back as 2013, more than 130 members of Congress called for Holder’s resignation. Called before a Senate panel, Holder said he knew nothing about the program, but documents later showed he knew about it as far back as 2009. He lied to Congress, and there was an effort to charge him with criminal contempt of Congress.
Instead of offering his resignation, Holder went on the offensive and called for more gun control aimed at the American people and their rights. He is no longer Attorney General, and it seems likely that he will never be held accountable for Fast and Furious, for lying, and being cited for contempt of Congress.
In Congress, there are many who allowed Eric Holder to walk away unprosecuted but are now hounding Jeff Sessions. They should be reminded of their negligence regarding Holder and leave Sessions free to carry out his important responsibilities.
Prosecute the Nazis, But What About Communist Criminals?
by JBS President John F. McManus
During the years 1942 to 1944, Oskar Groning served the Nazi regime at Auschwitz, the most notorious of Hitler’s numerous death camps. Assigned the task of seizing valuables from arriving prisoners, he did his job well. At age 94, however, Groning was convicted of “complicity” in the subsequent deaths of those prisoners, all of whom were themselves guilty of no crime whatsoever.
Groning never killed anyone. But his willingness to serve alongside those who did the killing was enough to bring him to justice. During his trial, he acknowledged the role he played at the Nazi camp and said, “I am truly sorry.” Sentenced to four years in prison, he will likely pass into eternity before serving those years.
The process of rounding up and punishing ex-Nazis who in any way and at any rank served at a Nazi death camp has been meticulously thorough. But it will soon end because most who served during World War II are now deceased, and death will soon have claimed all.
The crimes committed by the Nazi regime were real, painful, and a stain against humanity. Unfortunately, the Nazis were not the only terror regime that killed millions. Similar or worse atrocities were carried out by various Communist regimes. The lives of tens of millions were snuffed out in Communist China, Communist Soviet Union, and numerous Soviet satellite nations. However, none of the criminals who murdered these millions has faced trial and prosecution.
Instead, men such as Russia’s former leader Mikhail Gorbachev have been feted in the West, particularly in the United States. Gorbachev spent all of his adult life climbing into powerful leadership positions while government-created gulags were filled and millions were murdered. He is guilty of far worse crimes than many who served as minor functionaries in Nazi prison camps. The same can be said of Communist China’s leaders and those who presided over the many Soviet satellite nations. Each of those arch criminals maintained power through implementation of policies that resulted in indiscriminate terror and widespread murder for Poles, Estonians, Hungarian, East Germans, and those who lived in a dozen more captive nations. In each of those unhappy lands, Soviet-style horror reigned for decades after the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The treatment accorded Oskar Groning and others like him is the polar opposite of what Communist murderers receive. Why? Part of the reason has to be that the Nazis lost their war and the Communists were never defeated. Instead, Russian and Chinese Communist “dignitaries” everyone knows to have been complicit in mass murder are now considered political equals who must be treated with respect, and even honored. At the very least, they should be shunned. But incredibly deficient leadership of our own nation has America begging the Chinese for loans and negotiating with Russia’s criminals as if they were totally innocent of any past crimes.
“Crime unpunished is crime rewarded,” contends a seemingly forgotten maxim. But history indicates that if crime remains unpunished or at least isn’t honored, it will occur again. Ignoring arch criminals is an intellectual crime, and many of today’s leaders are surely guilty of exactly that depravity.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.
Are Ukraine’s Russian Separatists Being Abandoned by Putin?
by JBS President John F. McManus
The population of Eastern Ukraine bordering Russia is ethnically Russian. The same could be said of the Crimean peninsula in southeast Ukraine, the region absorbed by Russia earlier in 2014. After Russia’s successful (to date) absorption of Crimea, large Russian-speaking enclaves in other portions of the beleaguered country wanted the same absorption to occur for them.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin certainly gave the go-ahead for his forces to take Crimea, but he now seems to be backing away after initially supplying support in the bloody conflict being conducted by separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine. The Associated Press cites a pro-Russian separatist fighter in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk who wonders why expected help isn’t arriving: “What is Putin waiting for? We had hoped for help from Russia but we have been abandoned. Our strength is nearing an end and the Ukrainian army is advancing.”
Donetsk has seen 20 percent of its population of one million flee from fighting that has raged for several weeks. The ethnically Russian separatist forces have lately taken to confiscating vehicles, food, and any other useful resources from the people. But Putin seems now to have decided to ignore any more cries for help from the separatists he originally encouraged.
Without doubt, the Russian leader fomented the trouble engulfing the area. He took action after pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted by Ukrainian nationalists earlier this year. New Ukrainian leadership opposes separation of more of the country’s territory and newly elected President Petro Poroshenko even hinted at wanting to ally with Western Europe and the European Union, and even affiliate with NATO. Fancying himself as the equal of all of his opposition to the West, Putin sought to demonstrate a self-deluding major player stature with his moves against Ukraine. He instead brought a series of economic sanctions on his country that seem to have gotten his attention.
What the immediate future will bring to Ukraine is unknown. After debacles in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, the American people have grown intensely disinclined to have our government get militarily involved in any more frays. We can only agree with that sentiment. America’s chosen role as policeman of the world has got to stop.
Building the Case for Nonintervention: What’s NATO?
by JBS President John F. McManus
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was sold to the American people and the U.S. Congress in 1949 as an alliance needed to prevent the Soviet Union from gobbling up more nations to its West. With such an attitude prevailing, NATO won ratification in the Senate with only 13 negative votes. Opponents of entangling the U.S. in additional international pacts claimed correctly that membership in NATO would require U.S. involvement in disputes all over the world. Only a few knew that NATO was created as a “Regional Arrangement” authorized by Articles 51-54 of the United Nations Charter. Then-Secretary of State Dean Acheson didn’t attempt to hide this relationship and, in his March 19, 1949 speech to the U.S. Senate, he confidently proclaimed, “… it is designed to fit precisely into the framework of the United Nations” and is “an essential measure for strengthening the United Nations.”
The text of the very brief NATO Treaty, only 14 brief articles, actually mentions “the United Nations” five times. The treaty’s Article 5 pledges all signers to consider an attack on any member nation as an attack on all that must be met by all with a military response. In 1950, membership in NATO was cited by President Truman as his authority to send American forces into Korea to counter North Korea’s invasion of its southern neighbor. Later, the precedents established by NATO led to creation of a virtually identical treaty known as the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). President Lyndon Johnson pointed to it for authority to commit hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces to Vietnam. The two wars were the first waged by the United States without victory. And NATO is now the overall leader of the military action in Afghanistan where victory is seemingly impossible.
NATO has recently raised its voice in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean area of Ukraine, and to the further stationing by Russia of tens of thousands of troops near the Ukraine-Russia border. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that the Russian actions have “undermined the very foundations” of the relationship that NATO has been building with Russia. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined with officials of other NATO member nations in planning to build up air, sea and land forces for possible use in reversing Russia’s moves. Should force be employed against Russia, one can be certain that its main ingredient will consist of U.S. military might. But such a development is extremely unlikely inasmuch as it would have to stem from authorization supplied by the UN Security Council where Russia possesses a veto.
Seemingly lost in all of this headline-grabbing activity is the fact that the people in Crimea have already approved being annexed by Russia. At most, the situation involves only the two neighbors, Ukraine and Russia. In years gone by, such a low-level problem would involve only those affected by it. Now, thanks to the United Nations and its NATO subsidiary, any such dispute seems poised to become a regional or even a world conflagration. UN and NATO leaders seem desirous of injecting their organizations and their forces. And, if they succeed, existing treaty obligations will require the U.S. to participate, even lead the response.
All of which points to reasons why the United States should withdraw from NATO and its parent, the United Nations. Doing so would terminate the ongoing U.S. policy that has American forces acting as the policemen of the world. And respect for the United States would begin to rise again to heights previously enjoyed when our nation minded its own business.
The Inconsequential G-7 Snub of Russia: Some History of the Ukrainians
by JBS President John F. McManus
Over many centuries, the country now known as Ukraine has for a time been considered part of Lithuania, Poland, Russia, or even Austria. Modern Ukraine became independent during a war that lasted from 1917 to 1921. No sooner had independence been won than communist Russia took control and Ukraine became the first of the many totally dominated nations in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet-induced famine of 1932-33 then killed somewhere between six and eight million persons and certainly resulted in hatred of Russian dominance among many.During World War II, Nazi forces were greeted as liberators by Ukranians, especially in the country’s west. But there was always a desire on the part of many to reject both German and Russian dominance. Nevertheless, by the end of WWII, the Soviet Union acquired total dominance and Ukraine, along with nearby Belarus, was awarded a seat in the United Nations where both unfailingly followed USSR dictates.
When the USSR dissolved in 1991, Ukraine once again began to function as an independent nation. More than 90 percent of the people voted for complete autonomy in a 1991 referendum, but, in Crimea, the desire to separate from Russia won support from only 56 percent. That number in Crimea has eroded because a large proportion of those living in the peninsula are ethnically Russia and speak the Russian language. From then until now, Ukranians have been split over whether to look westward toward the European Union, or look to the east to Russia for their commerce and friendship. Only recently, as is well-known, Vladimir Putin’s Russia decided to retake the Crimean peninsula and Russian military forces backed up the move with a show of force. Many Crimeans seem happy about the development while those in other parts of Ukraine are not. A recent plebiscite in Crimea resulted in the residents choosing to be part of Russia, but the plebiscite’s result has been deemed rigged and a violation of the nation’s constitution.
To register their disapproval of Russia’s move into Ukraine, leaders of the economically powerful G-7 nations (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States) disinvited Russia to their latest gathering, which, in reality, had become the G-8 group that has more recently included Russia. Meeting in The Hague on March 24th, the G-7 leaders canceled their scheduled plan to meet with Russia for a June G-8 session in Sochi, Russia. This step, along with sanctions imposed by several nations to protest Russia’s Crimean takeover, was supposed to influence Putin. But expecting Russia to withdraw from Crimea seems improbable even though UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon condemned Russia’s action.
Now, the G-20 group consisting of the G-8 plus a dozen more emerging economic powers has entered the fray. Representatives of these 20 nations are scheduled to meet in Australia next November. When the possibility of excluding Russia from the G-20 summit was announced by an Australian official, G-20 members Brazil, China, India and South Africa immediately denounced the idea. They claimed that “hostile language, sanctions, and counter-sanctions” won’t lead to a peaceful resolution to the incident. Peace, it seems, will exist if the Putin takeover isn’t reversed. That is unlikely.
Incidents like what has occurred in Ukraine have the potential for starting world conflagrations. But chances that this will be an outcome are remote. Other nations might not like Putin’s retaking of Crimea, but it’s possible that the people who live there like what he has just done. If so, the rest of the world, especially the already overstretched United States, should mind its own business. We should hearken to the wise words of President George Washington given during his farewell address in 1796:
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible …. It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.
Ukraine-related articles at The New American:
Borrowing Paves the Way Toward Servitude
by JBS President John F. McManus
Chapter 22, Verse 7, of Holy Scripture’s Book of Proverbs tells us what our nation can expect because of heavy indebtedness and consequent borrowing. It says very bluntly, “… the borrower is servant to him that lendeth.”
We can’t be sure that any Russian official has read Holy Scripture. But it is certain that some Russians didn’t need the Good Book to figure out that a borrower puts himself in a subservient position.
In the wake of the Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, officials in Washington issued stern warnings to the Russian government. One key threat stated by President Barack Obama informed Moscow that assets held by Russians in U.S. banks could be frozen if the takeover continued. His warning was supposed to scare Vladimir Putin and various Russian plutocrats into canceling the takeover. But Mr. Obama’s not only didn’t frighten any Russian official, it made some of them angry. The blustering out of Washington had a reverse effect that could imperil the U.S. far more than anything waved in front of Putin and his team. On March 17th, the U.S. President made good on his threat and ordered the freezing of some Russian assets. Russian officials reacted with laughter. Putin is placing his own sanctions on U.S. Senators.
Sergei Glazyev is a top advisor to Putin. On March 4th, according to a report published by the Russian news agency Novosti – and reported in the U.S. by Barron’s – Glazyev showed very clearly his belief that considerable leverage in this confrontation is held by his country, not by the United States. With the blessing of Vladimir Putin, he thundered:
We hold a decent amount of Treasury bonds – more than $200 billion – and if the United States dares to freeze accounts of Russian businesses and citizens, we can no longer view America as a reliable partner. We will encourage everybody to dump U.S. Treasury bonds, get rid of dollars as an unreliable currency, and leave the U.S. market.
Japan and China each hold far more U.S. Treasury bonds than does Russia. Looking at the amounts realistically, Russia’s $200 billion is almost pocket change compared to what these two Asian governments possess. Should the U.S. offend either of them, or should they follow the course laid out by Glazyev, or should either or both simply decide to pull the plug on the dollar, one or the other could dump their holdings and cause the dollar to resemble the worthless Zimbabwean currency of only a few years ago. According to Glazyev, Japan and China may indeed be prodded by Russia to do so.
Right now, the admitted U.S. national debt stands at approximately $17.5 trillion dollars. Much of it has been “serviced” by foreign purchases of U.S. bonds. Another large portion has resulted from the Federal Reserve creation of dollars out of thin air, new dollars to cover domestic deficits and to bail out shaky banks both here and overseas. Yet, deficit spending continues and the sacrosanct “independence” of the Fed remains unaudited and uncontrolled.
U.S. leaders have placed our country’s neck in a noose. Instead of working to extricate America from its predicament, a merry march toward insolvency and loss of sovereignty continues as if there will always be a lender. Congress recently passed legislation to allow the national debt to rise and, while at it, members didn’t even place a ceiling on how high it could go. Blame for this outrage should be directed at Republican leaders and most Democrats who arranged also to keep government debt much less of an issue during the 2014 election cycle.
Will American awaken in time to keep our country free of servitude to its lenders? Only God Himself knows for sure, but we can all be certain that what was stated in His Book of Proverbs can’t be denied.