Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- March 5, 2015


Ernest Partridge

March 5, 2015



Take heed ... how you awake the sleeping sword of war. For never two such kingdoms did contend without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops are every one a woe, a sore complaint, ‘gainst him whose wrongs give edge unto the swords that make such waste in brief mortality.

Shakespeare, Henry V

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Herman Goering


The United States and Russia are rushing, relentlessly, toward war, unless cooler voices are heard and heeded. Those voices are not being heard in our mass media or heeded by our politicians.

The familiar historical indicators of a march to war are apparent to all with eyes to see: arms buildup, depersonalization of the "enemy," demonization of its leaders, marginalizing of moderate voices, suppression of dissent, refusal to negotiate and compromise in good faith, deliberate failure to recognize the concerns and interests of "the other."

And propaganda – OMIGAWD, the propaganda! We are immersed in it.

Exhibit A: On the cover of a recent "The Week" magazine, Vladimir Putin is depicted as a mafia don at a casino. And on that cover we find this question: "Why is Putin preparing for an all-out war with the West?" This sort of question would not be allowed in any court of law, for it assumes what should be at issue; namely is Putin is in fact "preparing for war? "

Well is he? Where is the proof? There is none in the indicated article. So why should we believe that Putin is "preparing for an all-out war with the west?  No reason whatever is offered.

Exhibit B: In the Time Magazine "The Year in Review," Table of Contents we find: "Russia’s Leader Seeks to Restore an Empire." Notice: this is not a question, it is a declarative sentence.

So we read the article. Proof? None! Just a reiteration of the accusation. We are given no reason to believe it. Instead we are presented with an array of groundless assertions and accusations too numerous to tally, in an essay that reads like a declaration of war.

The American corporate media is notorious for its habit of presenting "both sides" of settled scientific issues such as climate change, vaccination and evolution. But when the subject is official dogma, "the other side" is absent. There is no shortage of scholars and journalists familiar with Russian culture, history, politics, foreign policy – scholars who have devoted their lives to Russian Studies, many of whom have lived in Russia and speak Russian. Among them, Stephen Cohen, Ray McGovern, Robert Parry, John Mearsheimer, Ambassador Jack Matlock, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky and many others. These individuals understand Russian concerns and objectives; in other words, they understand what it is like to think like  a Russian."  Thus they are well equipped to lead us away from our present peril.

But you are unlikely to hear or read such individuals in the American commercial mass-media. To be sure, if one seeks out the opinions of such well-informed dissenters, these opinions may be found on the internet, or at independent and non-commercial publications. But the audiences of these independent media are minuscule, and thus of no practical concern to the "establishment" voices who spew out the official dogma.

And so the unified "approved" voice of the corporate mass media prevails. This is the same media that convinced a majority of Americans that, in the infamous words of Richard Cheney: "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." This is the same media that silenced war critics such as Phil Donahue. Twelve years later, at the cost of four thousand American and up to a half million Iraqi lives, and three trillion wasted dollars of national wealth, we now know that Cheney was lying. And yet the American media is at it again, with unfounded accusations that Vladimir Putin is "preparing for all-out war," and is seeking "to restore an empire." And, having been fooled once, it appears that a sizeable potion of the American public is prepared to be fooled again.

As significant as the distortions, innuendos and outright lies of the official propaganda, is the absence of plain indisputable facts that undermine "the official line" about Russia. (See the BBC "Ukraine Timeline").

Fact: In February, 2010, Victor Yanukovych is elected President of Ukraine in a free and fair election.

Fact: In December, 2013, Yanukovych accepts a Russian economic aid deal, declining a more punishing deal from the European Union.

Fact: Protests of unknown origin erupt in Kiev and in February, 2014, in fear of his life, Yanukovych flees the capitol city. (Why and how was he overthrown? That’s speculation, and I choose here to confine this list to demonstrable facts).

Fact: In May, 2014, Petro Poroshenko is elected President of Ukraine in an election that largely excludes the ethnic Russian and Russian speaking eastern region.

Fact: Natalie Jaresko, an American Citizen and an employee of the US State Department, is appointed the Ukraine Finance Minister.  The Economy Minister is from Lithuania and the Health Minister is from Georgia (the Republic, not the US state). All were granted Ukrainian citizenship hours before the inauguration of the current President Porochenko.

Fact: June, 2014: "Russia's parliament cancels a parliamentary resolution authorizing the use of Russian forces in Ukraine." (BBC)

Fact: September, 2014: NATO reports a "significant" withdrawal of Russian troops from eastern Ukraine." (BBC)

Fact: October, 2014: "Putin orders thousands of troops stationed near the Ukrainian border to return to their bases." (BBC)

There are many more: additional plain facts, and still more allegations that are highly plausible but not fully substantiated,. Among the latter are allegations of US government involvement in the coup that overthrew Yanukovych and in the selection of his successors. Facts such as these erode the official line of Putin-as-despot-and-threat ("the new Stalin"), and the determined effort to mobilize the American public for "a new Cold War." And so, you must look far and wide for a statement of these facts in the "official media," and thus, unsurprisingly, little awareness of these facts among the American public.

Predictably, this inflation of poisonous propaganda is found on "the other side" as well. And, sadly, it has had a troublesome result. The independent Russian polling firm, Levada Centre reports that 13% of the Russian public views United States positively, and 81% negatively. This is a dramatic change from a year ago when the ratio was even at 43/44%. Today, 79% of Russians describe relations between the US and Russia as "tense" or "hostile." A year ago, that number was 17%. Sadly, there is little reason to dispute that 79% figure. (There is a wealth of additional information at this website. It is in Russian, but you can get an English translation by selecting "EN" in the upper-right corner).

So it appears that both sides are adopting a "White Hat vs. Black Hat" – our side (good) vs. their side (evil) – polarization that history has taught us, time and again, is a precursor to war. As W. B. Yates famously warned:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Please understand me. I don’t wish to suggest that the Russians are without fault in this conflict. I am no admirer of Vladimir Putin, and most emphatically would not wish to live under his regime. But the internal problems of Russia are the business of the Russian people, to tolerate or to meliorate as they choose. And at the moment, it is clear that a sizeable majority of the Russians have endorsed Putin’s leadership. I am far more familiar with the shortcomings on the American and western European side of the dispute. And from that perspective, and the perspective of numerous wise and informed individuals that I have come to trust, "the Russia threat" to world peace has been vastly exaggerated by our leaders. And that exaggeration poses a grave danger to us all.


There is a road via negotiation and compromise toward peaceful coexistence. And tragically, this is a road that is not being followed today.

Why not? What kind of madness possesses the the American and NATO leaders today?

First of all, captivated by "group think," these leaders appear to be totally clueless about political psychology and history, as they attempt, full-out, to bully Russia with threats and sanctions. Don’t they realize that such behavior almost invariably unites a nation behind its leader – even a despot as ruthless as Josef Stalin?  Again, look to history: Pearl Harbor, The Battle of Britain, Operation Barbarossa (the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union). The Japanese were convinced that Americans were weak, selfish and pleasure-seeking. Destroy their Pacific fleet and the Americans will surely sue for peace. When warned not to invade the Soviet Union, Hitler reportedly said: "We have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten Russian edifice will come tumbling down."

Didn’t happen!

Instead, we Americans responded to the Japanese attack with defiance, as did the Russians to the Nazi invasion.

Yet today, the political ignoramuses that write and implement our foreign policy seem to believe that with a few sanctions and NATO missile bases along the western border, Russia will fold like a cheap lawn chair and meekly consent to "regime change" followed by economic colonization in the "hegemony" of the neo-cons’ "New American Century."

Don’t these Ivy-League idiots understand who they are dealing with? Did they flunk all their history classes at Harvard and Yale? Do they not realize that the Russians are a proud and stubborn people, who, just like us, respond to threats with defiance? "Billions for defense, not one Kopeck for tribute." Just ask the Germans.

Russia is a nation that built factories from the ground up east of the Urals after the Germans flattened their industrial base in the west. It is a nation that produced thousands of first-class weapons such as the Ilyushin Stormavic fighter-bomber and the T-34 tank. It is a nation which, at the sacrifice of a sixth of its population, pushed back the Wehrmacht along a two-thousand mile front from Leningrad through Stalingrad to Sevastopol and the Caucuses, all the way back to the streets of Berlin.

Yet we somehow believe that the Russians won’t stand up to our economic bullying. People capable of believing that are also capable of believing that when we invade Iraq our troops will be "greeted with flowers and sweets," and that the cost of the invasion will be fully covered by oil revenues. (Off by a mere three-trillion dollars).

And so now, having failed to learn from history, we Americans are apparently preparing to repeat it.


Instead, let’s all pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and look carefully down that dreadful road, before we travel on.

First, it is past time that we shelve the imperial ambitions that were clearly articulated by the Neo Cons and the Project for a New American Century.  Aside from the immorality of such pretensions, the simple fact is that the rest of the world, Russia above all, will not tolerate and will steadfastly resist the American "hegemony" that the neo-cons wish to impose on them. The nations beyond our shores are well aware of the misery that unregulated libertarian capitalism has brought to the mass of Americans, and they want none of it.  Russians experienced such misery directly under the Yeltsin regime, when hordes of right-wing American "advisors" descended on Russia to "teach" the Russians how to have an economy "just like ours."  As Andre Vitchek reports: "I saw Russian scientists in Novosibirsk selling their libraries in the bitter cold, at Metro stations.  I saw old war veterans begging, selling their medals.  I saw Russian workers starving, their salaries unpaid for months."

As we may soon discover to our sorrow, the rest of the world is well-equipped to resist and reject "the New American Century." Especially so if economic alliances unite against the American "hegemon." Such alliances are being formed at this moment, as China has recently agreed to come to Russia’s aid during its current economic crisis.  And today, the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) is gaining strength, and is in place to dominate the global economy if and when the 95% of humanity outside our borders has had quite enough of our lawless arrogance and bullying.

Second, it is long past time that we rid ourselves of the conceit that we are the most admired nation on earth. Anyone abroad with half a brain and access to a newspaper and the internet is well aware that for the first eight years of this century, the United States was governed by authentic war criminals. They know that we routinely ignore international law when convenient. Millions of widows and orphans from Viet Nam to Iraq to Nicaragua are tragically aware of our indifference to innocent human life when it gets in the way of our international ambitions. Accordingly we should not be surprised to when the Gallup organization poll of 24 countries tells us that the United States is regarded in these countries as the greatest threat to world peace.

Furthermore it is no secret abroad that authentic democracy has disappeared from the United States, that the top one percent of Americans own more than a third of the national wealth, and that the same one percent took for themselves 95% of the national wealth gained since 2008. The government of the United States has, in effect, become the personal property of the oligarchs.  As Senator Durbin (D. IL) said: "The bankers own this place" (i.e., the Senate of the United States).

No, we are no longer admired abroad. And the world beyond our shores wants no part of the "gift of freedom" (for the elites) that the neo-cons are attempting to impose upon them.

Finally, there is much more that should unite us with the Russians than that which divides. Time and again throughout history, traditional enemies have united in the face of a common external threat. So it was with the Athenians and Spartans facing the Persians. So it was with the Americans, British and Soviets facing the Nazi regime. So it is again today.

To begin, there is the so-called "global war against terrorism." The Russians arguably have a greater stake in defeating the Islamic militants than we do. About 15% of the Russian population is Muslim. In addition, the former Soviet "Stan" republics to the south of Russia are predominantly Muslim: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan. Like the vast majority of the billion-plus Moslems throughout the world, these Russian and post-Soviet Muslims reject the violent extremism of ISIS and other militant groups. Yet these regions within and immediately outside Russia are fertile seedbeds for the recruitment of extremists

Islamic terrorism is a concern shared by the United States, and Europe, as we are reminded daily by the news reports. Thus the struggle against Islamic extremism should be an international endeavor, including to be sure the Islamic nations which are especially vulnerable to the militants. All nations involved in this struggle must acknowledge that "the enemy" is not a religion, Islam, but rather fanaticism. It is a struggle that can and should unite the United States and Russia.

But there is a still greater over-arching global emergency that is well-suited to unite us all and put our divisive power struggles permanently in the dust bin of history.

I refer, of course, to global climate change. If this is not addressed immediately and forcefully, in the next century there will be no diplomatic game-playing among elites in Washington, London, Beijing, Berlin and Tokyo, because all these cities will then be under water. Ironically, Moscow will then be high and dry. But no matter: the breadbasket steppes of Ukraine and Russia today will then be parched and sterile deserts.

All of us – every single nation on this planet – now face that common enemy, if only we had the eyes to see. And the industrialized nations have caused it. "We have met the enemy and he is us." Climate change is a threat to our children, grandchildren and generations beyond greater than the armies of Xerxes or Hitler. Human civilization must either deal with it head-on or perish on an uninhabitable planet. There is no third alternative. (In November, 1989, during my first trip to Russia, I spoke on this theme at a conference sponsored by the Soviet Academy of Sciences).


The Russians can be essential allies, as we discovered in WWII. They are intelligent, resourceful, and determined. And as I have personally discovered, as friends and colleagues they are loyal, trustworthy and generous.

Russian scientific research is first rate, or at least it was until the cowboy capitalists of the Yeltsin era slashed their funding. The glory days of Russian science can and must be restored. As for technology, think Sputnik and Soyuz, along with the Stormavik and T-34. Even today, American astronauts and their supplies are carried aloft in Russian rockets.

The military-industrial establishments of several countries will resist a demobilization. The answer is to apply judo: redirect their engineering and manufacturing might toward research and development in renewable energy, carbon capture, etc. If our best engineering minds are now attached to the military establishment, then let’s direct their attention to planetary survival and renewal. There is precedent: the US demobilized in 1945 and restarted the domestic industrial economy without hardship. Many of the returning veterans, rather than joining the unemployment lines, went to college on the GI Bill to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers – the foundation of the middle class that was, until recently, the envy of the world

This late in the essay, I will not test the reader’s patience by presenting a long list of proposals aimed at detente between the United States and Russia. It is not necessary, since I have done so elsewhere (see the final section of my "Letter to my Friends in Russia").

Instead, I close with a plea: Stop the madness – now! There is nothing to be gained by a new cold war that is remotely worth the risk of devastation that it might bring upon all of us. We earthlings – all of us – face a planetary crisis that we must either address collectively and intelligently, or else our posterity will endure unimaginable horror and face the end of civilization.

Where are the leaders that will rescue us from this insanity? None are in evidence at this moment in time. If none, then we the people of the United States, of Russia, and of the entire world must unite and demand: no war! Survival at any cost! If existing political and economic institutions and leaders will not respond, then we must together establish new institutions and find new leaders.

We cannot afford, or survive with, any less than this.


Copyright 2015 by Ernest Partridge



Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .