Beach 2017: The Beckoning Of Nuclear War
By John Pilger
07, 2017 "Information
- The US submarine captain says, “We’ve all got
to die one day, some sooner and some later. The
trouble always has been that you’re never ready,
because you don’t know when it’s coming. Well,
now we do know and there’s nothing to be done
he will be dead by September. It will take about
a week to die, though no one can be sure.
Animals live the longest.
was over in a month. The United States, Russia
and China were the protagonists. It is not clear
if it was started by accident or mistake. There
was no victor. The northern hemisphere is
contaminated and lifeless now.
curtain of radioactivity is moving south towards
Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and
South America. By September, the last cities,
towns and villages will succumb. As in the
north, most buildings will remain untouched,
some illuminated by the last flickers of
This is the way the world
Not with a bang but a whimper
These lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The
Hollow Men appear at the beginning
of Nevil Shute’s novel On
the Beach, which
left me close to tears. The endorsements on the
cover said the same.
Published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War
when too many writers were silent or cowed, it
is a masterpiece. At first the language suggests
a genteel relic; yet nothing I have read on
nuclear war is as unyielding in its warning. No
book is more urgent.
readers will remember the black and white
Hollywood film starring Gregory Peck as the US
Navy commander who takes his submarine to
Australia to await the silent, formless spectre
descending on the last of the living world.
I read On
the Beach for the first time the other day,
finishing it as the US Congress passed a law to
wage economic war on Russia, the world’s second
most lethal nuclear power. There was no
justification for this insane vote, except the
promise of plunder.
“sanctions” are aimed at Europe, too, mainly
Germany, which depends on Russian natural gas
and on European companies that do legitimate
business with Russia. In what passed for debate
on Capitol Hill, the more garrulous senators
left no doubt that the embargo was designed to
force Europe to import expensive American gas.
main aim seems to be war – real war. No
provocation as extreme can suggest anything
else. They seem to crave it, even though
Americans have little idea what war is. The
Civil War of 1861-5 was the last on their
mainland. War is what the United States does to
only nation to have used nuclear weapons against
human beings, they have since destroyed scores
of governments, many of them democracies, and
laid to waste whole societies – the million
deaths in Iraq were a fraction of the carnage in
Indo-China, which President Reagan called “a
noble cause” and President Obama revised as the
tragedy of an “exceptional people”He was not
referring to the Vietnamese.
last year at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington,
I overheard a National Parks Service guide
lecturing a school party of young teenagers.
“Listen up,” he said. “We lost 58,000 young
soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your
stroke, the truth was inverted. No freedom was
defended. Freedom was destroyed. A peasant
country was invaded and millions of its people
were killed, maimed, dispossessed, poisoned;
60,000 of the invaders took their own lives.
Listen up, indeed.
lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts
are removed. History is excised and replaced by
what Time magazine calls “an eternal
present”. Harold Pinter described this as
“manipulation of power worldwide, while
masquerading as a force for universal good, a
brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of
hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened.
Nothing ever happened. Even while it was
happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter.
It was of no interest.”
who call themselves liberals or tendentiously
“the left” are eager participants in this
manipulation, and its brainwashing, which today
revert to one name: Trump.
is mad, a fascist, a dupe of Russia. He is also
a gift for “liberal brains pickled in the
formaldehyde of identity politics”, wrote
Luciana Bohne memorably. The obsession with
Trump the man — not Trump as a symptom and
caricature of an enduring system – beckons great
danger for all of us.
they pursue their fossilised anti-Russia
agendas, narcissistic media such as the Washington
Post, the BBC and the Guardian
suppress the essence of the most important
political story of our time as they warmonger on
a scale I cannot remember in my lifetime.
August, in contrast to the acreage the Guardian has
given to drivel that the Russians conspired with
Trump (reminiscent of the far-right smearing of
John Kennedy as a “Soviet agent”), the paper
buried, on page 16, news that the President of
the United States was forced to sign a
Congressional bill declaring economic war on
every other Trump signing, this was conducted in
virtual secrecy and attached with a caveat from
Trump himself that it was “clearly
against the man in the White House is under way.
This is not because he is an odious human being,
but because he has consistently made clear he
does not want war with Russia.
glimpse of sanity, or simple pragmatism, is
anathema to the “national security” managers who
guard a system based on war, surveillance,
armaments, threats and extreme capitalism.
Martin Luther King called them “the greatest
purveyors of violence in the world today”.
have encircled Russia and China with missiles
and a nuclear arsenal. They have used neo-Nazis
to instal an unstable, aggressive regime on
Russia’s “borderland” – the way through which
Hitler invaded, causing the deaths of 27 million
people. Their goal is to dismember the modern
response, “partnership” is a word used
incessantly by Vladimir Putin — anything, it
seems, that might halt an evangelical drive to
war in the United States. Incredulity in Russia
may have now turned to fear and perhaps a
certain resolution. The Russians almost
certainly have war-gamed nuclear counter
strikes. Air-raid drills are not uncommon. Their
history tells them to get ready.
threat is simultaneous. Russia is first, China
is next. The US has just completed a huge
military exercise with Australia known as
Talisman Sabre. They rehearsed a blockade of the
Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, through
which pass China’s economic lifelines.
admiral commanding the US Pacific fleet said
that, “if required”, he would nuke China. That
he would say such a thing publicly in the
current perfidious atmosphere begins to make
fact of Nevil Shute’s fiction.
this is considered news. No connection is made
as the bloodfest of Passchendaele a century ago
is remembered. Honest reporting is no longer
welcome in much of the media. Windbags, known as
pundits, dominate: editors are infotainment or
party line managers. Where there was once
sub-editing, there is the liberation of
axe-grinding clichés. Those journalists who do
not comply are defenestrated.
The urgency has plenty of precedents. In my
Coming War on China,
John Bordne, a member of a US Air Force missile
combat crew based in Okinawa, Japan, describes
how in 1962 – during the Cuban missile crisis –
he and his colleagues were “told to launch all
the missiles” from their silos.
armed, the missiles were aimed at both China and
Russia. A junior officer questioned this, and
the order was eventually rescinded – but only
after they were issued with service revolvers
and ordered to shoot at others in a missile crew
if they did not “stand down”.
height of the Cold War, the anti-communist
hysteria in the United States was such that US
officials who were on official business in China
were accused of treason and sacked. In 1957 –
the year Shute wrote On the Beach – no
official in the State Department could speak the
language of the world’s most populous nation.
Mandarin speakers were purged under strictures
now echoed in the Congressional bill that has
just passed, aimed at Russia.
bill was bipartisan. There is no fundamental
difference between Democrats and Republicans.
The terms “left” and “right” are meaningless.
Most of America’s modern wars were started not
by conservatives, but by liberal Democrats.
Obama left office, he presided over a record
seven wars, including America’s longest war and
an unprecedented campaign of extrajudicial
killings – murder – by drones.
last year, according to a Council on Foreign
Relations study, Obama, the “reluctant liberal
warrior”, dropped 26,171 bombs – three bombs
every hour, 24 hours a day. Having pledged to
help “rid the world” of nuclear weapons, the
Nobel Peace Laureate built more nuclear warheads
than any president since the Cold War.
is a wimp by comparison. It was Obama – with
his secretary of state Hillary Clinton at his
side – who destroyed Libya as a modern state and
launched the human stampede to Europe. At home,
immigration groups knew him as the “deporter-in-chief”.
Obama’s last acts as president was to sign a
bill that handed a record $618billion to the
Pentagon, reflecting the soaring ascendancy of
fascist militarism in the governance of the
United States. Trump has endorsed this.
in the detail was the establishment of a “Center
for Information Analysis and Response”. This is
a ministry of truth. It is tasked with providing
an “official narrative of facts” that will
prepare us for the real possibility of nuclear
war – if we allow it.
views expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of Information Clearing House.