Russia-Baiting and Risks of Nuclear War

By Ray McGovern, September 30 2016

Russia-Baiting and Risks of Nuclear War

The Pentagon has been insubordinate on Syria; demonstrably scuttled the latest Kerry-Lavrov cessation of hostilities agreement.  Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has been on tour highlighting nifty nukes (including small ones).  U.S. “moderate” rebels in Syria (if any) adamantly refuse to put distance (as in actual kilometers) between themselves and the “bad” rebels, despite Secretary Kerry’s wagging his finger at them.  As for Obama, through his only folly, his weird combination of hubris and cowardice, his refusal to bring in adults to advise him, and his extreme cowardice (i. e., unwillingness to fire those who led the Pentagon revolt), the President has lost his already fragile control over U.S. policy and actions vis-a-vis Syria.


President Harry Truman, after all, had the guts to fire the very popular Gen. Douglas MacArthur for insubordination.  Secretary Ashton Carter’s popularity rests mostly with those whom Pope Francis calls the “blood-soaked arms traders.”  (Oops, perhaps that’s the main reason Obama believes he’d better let him stay on.)  As for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford – who that?  Most Americans who have heard the name Dunford think it is an old village in Devon, England.  (Oops, there would also be a political cost to no-guts Obama in firing him.)


John Kerry shows himself to be a pathetic, confused stuffed shirt; admits that Syria, with all the various vying forces at play there, is just too hard to figure out and manage; Cui bono? — No one mentions Israel – the only benefactor of the chaos in Syria.  Putin and Lavrov running out of patience — holding the negotiation-track door slightly ajar, but saying quite clearly “Fool me once …”  And they remember the rest of that expression.


Lavrov, uncharacteristically, divulging in public the substance of his confidential talks with Kerry.  And the media drums for war get louder and louder – reminiscent of just before the attack on Iraq.  Main difference: Russia DOES HAVE nuclear weapons.  (Quick: someone tell Obama.)


Ray reviews some history, part of it from personal experience on the inside, to put this alarming situation in context; shows why he believes we should all be concerned.

Baiting the Russian Bear:  In an interview with Sputnik Radio, Ray draws serious implications from the decision by the U.S. and two of its European vassal states (the Netherlands and Ukraine) to raise tensions with Russia by blaming it for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014.  There is some risk that the Kremlin may see the propaganda offense, together with the saber rattling in central Europe, as steps toward war.  In fact, there is scary precedent for that.

Ray’s segment goes from minute 1:35 to 16:35 (15 min.)


An analogous set of circumstances existed 33 years ago after the Soviets downed Korean airlines KAL-007 on Sept. 1, 1983.That, too, was a highly tense time in U.S.-Soviet relations, and government propagandists and media allies laid on all the Sturm und Drang they could to promote the lie that the Soviets had known KAL-007 was a civilian passenger plane before they shot it down.  Exploitation of the tragedy brought a steep rise in tensions, and almost led to a nuclear exchange just two months later.  There is an important lesson in this 33 years later, as the “mainstream” media manufacture fear and hatred of Russia.


On Wednesday (Sept. 28) new “evidence” blaming Russia for the downing of Flight KH17 over Ukraine was made public – brought out of the oven, as it were, at a Dutch Maid bakery employing Ukrainian confectioners.  Biting into the evidence, it immediately dissolves like refined sugar, leaving a foul, artificial taste in the mouth.


The Dutch-Ukrainian charade played by the “Joint Investigation Team” is an insult to the relatives and friends of the 298 killed in the shoot-down on July 17, 2014, who long for the truth and accountability.  The Dutch/Ukrainian confectioners should be dismissed and the bakery shut down for serving empty-calorie fare.


After the Dutch findings were made public, RT asked for Ray’s reaction.  After skimming through the released data, it became clear that some instructive points of a general nature could be made at once.  Brian Becker of RT’s Loud and Clear interviewed Ray for 15 minutes.  Ray again bemoaned the absence of the “evidence” Kerry said “we” had from the outset.  He noted that John Kerry told Meet the Press just three days after the shoot-down:


“We picked up the imagery of this launch; we know the trajectory; we know where it came from; we know the timing and it was exactly at the time this aircraft disappeared from the radar. …”

Ray also called attention to Kerry’s risible claim that “social media” is an “extraordinary tool.” The question, of course, is a tool for what?  Equally laughable – but not really – is the fact that one of the major suspects for having shot down MH17, Ukraine, is pretty much running the inquiry.


Robert Parry’s investigative reports on Sept. 28 & 29 scrutinized the Dutch report data presented – and the data conspicuously left out.  We recommend both pieces to those interested in exploring the findings and seeing how dubious and diaphanous they are.




On Sputnik Radio, Ray tried to fit all this into the bigger picture of vilification of Russia, and pointed to a similar sequence of events over three decades ago, when the Soviets shot down KAL-007 after it wandered far into the interior of the USSR.  U.S. propaganda, led by the U.S. Information Agency, went into high gear and doctored the evidence to “prove” the Soviets knew KAL-007 was a civilian aircraft and shot down deliberately.  “Barbaric” was the word used (and in recent days U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers has recently taken to using the same epithet).


As soon as KH17 went down on July 17, 2014, the eerie parallel with the KAL-007 shoot-down struck Ray hard, so he weaved what follows into the article he posted the following day.


The following is quoted from Ray’s article of July 18, 2014:

But the death of all 298 people onboard the Malaysian Airline flight, going from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, will surely provide plenty of fuel for the already roaring anti-Russian propaganda machine. Still, the U.S. press might pause to recall how it’s been manipulated by the U.S. government in the past, including three decades ago by the Reagan administration twisting the facts of the KAL-007 tragedy.

In that case, a Soviet fighter jet shot down a Korean Air Line plane on Sept. 1, 1983, after it strayed hundreds of miles off course and penetrated some of the Soviet Union’s most sensitive airspace over military facilities in Kamchatka and Sakhalin Island.

Over Sakhalin, KAL-007 was finally intercepted by a Soviet Sukhoi-15 fighter. The Soviet pilot tried to signal the plane to land, but the KAL pilots did not respond to the repeated warnings. Amid confusion about the plane’s identity — a U.S. spy plane had been in the vicinity hours earlier — Soviet ground control ordered the pilot to fire. He did, blasting the plane out of the sky and killing all 269 people on board.

The Soviets soon realized they had made a horrendous mistake. U.S. intelligence also knew from sensitive intercepts that the tragedy had resulted from a blunder, not from a willful act of murder (much as on July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes fired a missile that brought down an Iranian civilian airliner in the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people, an act which President Ronald Reagan explained as an “understandable accident”).

But a Soviet admission of a tragic blunder regarding KAL-007 wasn’t good enough for the Reagan administration, which saw the incident as a propaganda windfall. At the time, the felt imperative in Washington was to blacken the Soviet Union in the cause of Cold War propaganda and to escalate tensions with Moscow.

Falsifying the Case

To make the blackest case against Moscow, the Reagan administration suppressed exculpatory evidence from the U.S. electronic intercepts. The U.S. mantra became “the deliberate downing of a civilian passenger plane.” Newsweek ran a cover emblazoned with the headline “Murder in the Sky.”

“The Reagan administration’s spin machine began cranking up,” wrote Alvin A. Snyder, then-director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, in his 1995 book, Warriors of Disinformation.

USIA Director Charles Z. Wick “ordered his top agency aides to form a special task force to devise ways of playing the story overseas. The objective, quite simply, was to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible,” Snyder recalled.

Snyder noted that “the American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation. Said the venerable Ted Koppel on the ABC News ‘Nightline’ program: ‘This has been one of those occasions when there is very little difference between what is churned out by the U.S. government propaganda organs and by the commercial broadcasting networks.’”

On Sept. 6, 1983, the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council. …

“The tape was supposed to run 50 minutes,” Snyder said about the recorded Soviet intercepts. “But the tape segment we [at USIA] had ran only eight minutes and 32 seconds. … ‘Do I detect the fine hand of [Richard Nixon’s secretary] Rosemary Woods here?’ I [Snyder] asked sarcastically.’”

But Snyder had a job to do: producing the video that his superiors wanted. “The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” Snyder wrote.

Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had hidden — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were false.

The Soviet fighter pilot apparently did believe he was pursuing a U.S. spy plane, according to the intercepts, and he was having trouble in the dark identifying the plane. At the instructions of Soviet ground controllers, the pilot had circled the KAL airliner and tilted his wings to force the aircraft down. The pilot said he fired warning shots, too. “This comment was also not on the tape we were provided,” Snyder wrote.

It was clear to Snyder that in the pursuit of its Cold War aims, the Reagan administration had presented false accusations to the United Nations, as well as to the people of the United States and the world. To Reagan’s people, the ends of smearing the Soviets had justified the means of falsifying the historical record.

In his book, Snyder acknowledged his role in the deception and drew an ironic lesson from the incident. The senior USIA official wrote, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.”

Military Exercise Almost Gets Us Fried


A former colleague and senior manager of  Soviet analysis, Mel Goodman, wrote last October about a “war scare” in the Kremlin, and asked if history may be repeating itself.

Mel’s prose has always been super, so I will simply cull several paragraphs from his highly interesting/disturbing article, including the role he personally played in persuading President Ronald Reagan to ratchet down the tension.  What follows is from Mel:


“… 1983 was the most dangerous year in the Soviet-American Cold War confrontation since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.  President Reagan declared a political and military campaign against the “evil empire” …  Soviet leaders believed that the “correlation of world forces,” Soviet terminology for the international balance, was unfavorable to Moscow and that the U.S. government was in the hands of a dangerous anti-Soviet crowd.


In response to Reagan’s references to the Soviet Union as the “focus of evil in the world” …  the new Soviet general secretary, Yuri Andropov, a former KGB chief, suggested that Reagan was insane and a liar …  Andropov would take no chances.  Soviet leaders believed the Reagan administration was using a mobilization exercise called “Able Archer” in November 1983 to prepare a nuclear surprise attack. The KGB instituted a sensitive collection effort to determine if the United States was planning such an attack. …


Provoking the Russian Bear


In addition to the Able Archer mobilization exercise that alarmed the Kremlin, the Reagan administration authorized unusually aggressive military exercises near the Soviet border that, in some cases, violated Soviet territorial sovereignty.  The Pentagon’s risky measures included … naval exercises in wartime approaches to the USSR where U.S. warships had previously not entered.  Additional secret operations simulated surprise naval attacks on Soviet targets.


One of the great similarities between Russia and the United States was that both sides feared surprise attack.  The United States suffered psychologically from the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor; it has still not recovered from 9/11.  Yet, the United States has never appreciated that Moscow has similar fears due to Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion in the same year as Pearl Harbor, a far greater nightmare.


Russia’s fear of surprise attack was accentuated in 1983, when the United States deployed the Army’s Pershing-II missile and land-based cruise missiles in West Europe as a counter to the Soviet Union’s SS-20 missiles. The SS-20 was not a “strategic” weapon because of a limited range (3,000 miles) well short of the United States.  The P-II, however, could not only reach the Soviet Union, but it could destroy Moscow’s command and control systems with incredible accuracy.  Since the Soviets would have limited warning time–less than five minutes–the P-II was viewed as a first-strike weapon that could destroy the Soviet early warning system.

In addition to the huge strategic advantage from the deployment of P-II and numerous cruise missiles, the U.S. deployment of the MX missile and the D-5 Trident submarine placed the Soviets in an inferior position with regard to strategic modernization.  Overall, the United States held a huge strategic advantage in political, economic, and military policy.


The Pentagon’s psychological warfare program to intimidate the Kremlin, including dangerous probes of Soviet borders by the Navy and Air Force, was unknown to CIA analysts.  Thus, the CIA was at a disadvantage in trying to analyze the war scare because the Pentagon refused to share information on military maneuvers and weapons deployments.  In 1983, the CIA had no idea that the annual Able Archer exercise would be conducted in a provocative fashion with high-level participation.  The exercise was a test of U.S. command and communications procedures, including procedures for the release and use of nuclear weapons in case of war.


Enlisting President Reagan’s Help


I [Mel Goodman] believed that Soviet fears were genuine and Reagan’s national security advisor, Robert McFarlane, was even known to remark, “We got their attention” but “maybe we overdid it.”  …  Casey took our analysis to the White House, and Reagan made sure that the exercises were toned down.


For the first time, the Able Archer exercise was going to include President Reagan, Vice President Bush, and Secretary of Defense Weinberger, but when the White House understood the extent of Soviet anxiety regarding U.S. intentions, the major principals bowed out.  …  Soviet military doctrine had long held that a possible U.S. modus operandi for launching an attack on the USSR would be to convert an exercise into the real thing.


Three decades later, history seems to be repeating itself.  Washington and Moscow are once again exchanging ugly broadsides over the confrontations in Ukraine and Syria. The Russian-American arms control and disarmament dialogue has been pushed to the background, and the possibilities of superpower conflict into the foreground.  Pentagon briefers are using the language of the Cold War in their congressional briefings, referring to Putin’s Russia as an “existential threat.” …


END of excerpts from Mel Goodman’s account of “Able Archer.”  Note that it followed the furor over KAL-007 by just two months.  Happy Thanksgiving.


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  (Santayana)

A “cameo” appearance by Ray on Russia’s TV Channel One’s Sunday Time, Sept. 25.  The focus of the segment was on how it could be possible that terrorists like the recent ones in New York and New Jersey are (1) seldom prevented from blowing up people and things, and (2) nonetheless are readily caught after the fact.

(from minute 2:00 to 2:22; can hear Ray’s words beneath the Russian voice-over)

The full segment, in Russian, runs 9 minutes.


Channel One picked those 22 seconds out of a 20-minute interview on Sept. 22 as the only part to air. Earlier, Ray had to parry “don’t-you-really-think?-type” questions pointing toward one or another conspiracy.  The brief clip shows Ray suggesting that so many thousands of U.S. “organs of state security” are distracted by electronic surveillance that “old fashioned,” yet tried and tested, detective techniques have been put in storage in favor of the new toys that, in Ed Snowden’s words, enable intelligence and law enforcement “to collect everything and understand nothing.

TheRealNewsNetwork covered the award ceremony at American University on Sept. 25, at which Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence honored John Kiriakou with its 15th annual award.  The short Real News report shows John accepting the award from former FBI Division Counsel and Special Agent Coleen Rowley and Elizabeth Murray.


(six and a half minutes)

or, with transcript:

Coleen Rowley received SAAII’s first annual award in 2002 – the same year she was named a Time magazine Person of the Year (an honor she shared with two other courageous women whistleblowers.)  Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, planned and coordinated the award ceremony, which was MCed by former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, the awardee in 2005.  Speakers included two other former awardees – Larry Wilkerson (2009) and Tom Drake (2011) – together with two former CIA officials, analyst Larry Johnson and operations officer Phil Geraldi.


The entire ceremony at American University (1 hour & 19 minutes) was video-ed by American University and appears, together with other information on Sam Adams Associates, on the website You can also view it here:




CIA Whistleblower Kiriakou Honored for Integrity

By Ray, September 26, 2016

CIA Whistleblower Kiriakou Honored for Integrity

Former CIA official John Kiriakou, who spent two years in prison for revealing the truth about White House-sanctioned torture, became the 15th recipient of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity (see at a ceremony at American University on Sept. 25.  While John sat in prison, Senate Intelligence Committee investigators were uncovering heinous details about torture by the CIA – details contained its own original, banality-of-evil cables, which also showed that the agency and others had lied in claiming torture “worked.”

President Barack Obama chose to add his weight to a remarkably brazen effort to cover it all up and scuttle the Senate report. To her credit, committee chair Dianne Feinstein, with support from other Democratic senators, faced the President down and published an executive summary in December 2014.  While almost three weeks have passed since Obama’s intervention was revealed by The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman, who interviewed the Feinstein’s chief investigator, for some reason the “mainstream” media missed it.

The President’s active acquiescence, so to speak, not only in CIA’s attempt to suppress the Senate report, but also in the agency’s attempts to retaliate against the investigators – in the process, playing fast and loose with the separation of powers – is stunning.  It is no surprise that White House-controlled media decided the less said about this the better.  (And what could be better than zero?)  This is one reason why Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence wove this new finding about the President and torture into John Kiriakou’s citation, the text of which is included in Ray’s Consortiumnews article (link above).




Former CIA officer John Kiriakou (right) receiving 2016 Sam Adams Award for Integrity from Elizabeth Murray (left) and Coleen Rowley on Sept. 25, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Linda Lewis)

Attacks in Syria Ratchet Up Likelihood of U.S.-Russia military clash


… about which Ray tried to explain – and warn – four weeks ago, when Kerry and Lavrov reached their next-to-last Potemkin-Village-type agreement to tamp down the violence.  This clip was posted at the time (on


RT asked Ray for instant reaction to the sputtering marathon talks today in Geneva between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as soon as the concluding press conference was over on August 26th.


(six minutes)


Normally, it takes Ray just 15 minutes to get to RT’s studio in Washington.  He suspects this is largely why he has become a go-to interviewee on fast-breaking developments like the penultimate Kerry-Lavrov failure (on August 26) to work out an agreement that could stick.  Ray called the thinly disguised failure what it was and addressed the factors that made it so.  Those same factors have brought the instant crash of what now seems to be the ultimate (as in “last’) Kerry-Lavrov agreement on Syria.


In a word, the Pentagon and CIA are running foreign policy for Obama.  Could Kerry have been unaware that, when push came to shove, they would prevail?  Did he think, rather, that he might prevail by force of personality over the “blood-soaked” arms industry and Russia-bashers?


Most important, the possibility of direct U.S.-Russian military clashes (not just vicarious ones through proxies) now looms LARGE.  Hapless President Obama and his sophomore advisers – with little appreciation of Russia’s military power and its determination to use it to protect its soft underbelly – are in this thing way over their heads.  Needless to say, this is dangerous.


As the November election approaches, Obama is likely to give even freer rein to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.  Carter, together with his hawkish generals and civilian officials (not to mention the bevvy of former officials waiting in the wings for senior appointments under Hillary Clinton), have made no secret of that their common preference is to bloody, not cooperate with, the Russians.


President Putin and his military, for their part, are likely to see the next few months as crucial to saving the Bashar al-Assad government AND decimating the threat from ISIS and other terrorists – “moderate” or immoderate – supported by the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, et al.  As long as Obama keeps playing the fiddle while Syria burns, the U.S. military will be doing more shock and awe in there.  And the Russians, with far more skin in the game than Washington has, are likely to strike still harder.  Fasten your seat belts.

Ray discusses with RT International the latest claptrap from Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence.


Two months ago, in a moment of inadvertent candor, Clapper called the raft of reporting about Russia trying to influence the U.S. election “hyperventilation.”  He added, though, in the next breath (a la the film “Casablanca”) that the “usual suspects” were being pursued and “unnamed government sources” quickly indicated that Russia was the most likely culprit to have had a hand in providing email grist for nasty people who don’t like Hillary .


Ray cannot get out his head words from an old college ditty: “…when a gentleman dapper stepped out of the crapper, and these are the words that he said.”  On September 20, the words the dapper Clapper said were essentially the same as what he said two months ago.  At an evening event sponsored by the Washington Post, Clapper suggested Russia was behind the computer hacking of emails from the Democratic Party.  Ray tried, again, to explain the Magnificent Diversion mounted by Hillary and the media to turn attention away from the content of those email records (blame Russia, blame Assange, poor Hillary, they are trying to sabotage her, and the Russians want Trump to win).

In a word, the emails show Hillary and the DNC stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders.  Ray added a few words about gentleman dapper Clapper’s credibility, or lack thereof.

(4 minutes)

“Law and Disorder Radio” did an 18-minute interview of Ray on September 14.  It aired four days later.

(The segment with the interview of Ray runs for 18 minutes, from minute 41:20 to 59:30.)


Ray was asked to talk about the changes after 9/11, to include why, with a few other CIA “alumni,” he created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).  The idea was to warn President George W. Bush there was no need to attack Iraq – even if some of what Colin Powell told the UN was true.  VIPS went on to expose the fraudulent (NOT “mistaken,” fraudulent) intelligence cooked up by former analyst colleagues accustomed to giving more importance to career than to truth.


Ray’s experience watching, up close and personal, the corruption of the analysis directorate of the CIA suggests that it takes a generation to destroy an ethos of integrity in an institution. And that this can most readily be done by promoting malleable managers willing to pimp prostituted intelligence for the next promotion.  And that’s how it (and they) went down in helping Bush and Cheney “justify” the attack on Iraq.


The interviewers also asked Ray to comment on why President Obama joined CIA Director John Brennan in trying to scuttle the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation on CIA torture, and how, for once, the Senate stood up to the White House and published a redacted executive summary including depiction of the heinous torture practices revealed in CIA’s own banality-of-evil cables.  In sum, Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein refused to throw her tenacious investigators under the bus.  This is explained in suspenseful detail in a recent Guardian series written by one of the best investigative reporters, Spencer Ackerman.  See link (posted on below: “US Media Ignores CIA Cover-up on Torture,” by VIPS, September 16, 2016, which in turn contains links to the Guardian series.


Nice coincidence.  A good friend of Ray, Jeff Haas, a National Lawyers Guild attorney, who just spent 10 days at the Standing Rock Native American tribe encampment in North Dakota, was interviewed during the first segment.  I was not surprised to learn that Jeff is working with other lawyers to see that the Native Americans are, finally, treated with true justice.


When Jeff and his equally intrepid wife Mariel Nanasi lived in Chicago, they laid the groundwork for putting former Chicago PD Commander (and torturer) Jon Birge behind bars.  Jeff also represented the family of Black Panther Fred Hampton and successfully proved that Hampton was assassinated by the FBI and the Chicago PD.  Haas wrote a riveting book about all this: “The Assassination of Fred Hampton.”

(Jeff’s segment runs from minute 01:15 to 19:00.)