Ray McGovern: The Last Chance to Avoid World War III?
After a year of war and carnage in Ukraine, the fighting continues, and there are no signs of it slowing down. In fact, military budgets have increased, the weapons shipments have multiplied and the number of countries involved has reached world war levels. In a time of conflicting narratives, misinformation and rampant propaganda, history proves to be one of the few sources of wisdom left to predict and caution what the future holds.
In their primes, no one would have guessed Robert Scheer and Ray McGovern would end up on the same side of this issue. Scheer, the Ramparts journalist working to expose the CIA, and Ray McGovern, the man in the CIA, spoke on this special episode of Scheer Intelligence. Despite both coming from the Bronx but with polar opposite upbringings in a radical commie Jewish side of town versus a conservative Irish end, their long, experienced lives bring them back together in a true tale of America. They rewind the clocks to their days examining the Soviet Union and the original Cold War to how the US and Russia have evolved to end up, yet again, head to head.
McGovern dives deep into U.S.-Russia relations and presents parallels between tensel moments in history such as the Cuban missile crisis and what’s happening in Ukraine now. John F. Kennedy imposes an illegal blockade on Cuba following the USSR’s missile placement just miles off Florida’s shores, a historically justified action. When looking at Putin’s similar acts, McGovern asks, “Did you know about the U.S. promise from 30th December 2021 not to put offensive strike missiles in Ukraine? I dare say very few know. Why? Because it wasn’t in The New York Times.”
McGovern also remembers speaking to a key member of the Gorbachev staff and asking why the agreement to deter NATO expansion past East Germany was not written down. McGovern states that they trusted them but, “There ain’t no trust now,” McGovern says.
As for a reason why we’re involved in so much conflict, McGovern puts it simply: “If we’re a democracy, the American people need to know all this. They need to know that most of our Congress people are bought and sold. Most of the expenditures, $858 billion this year, not counting what we’re giving to Ukraine, that’s going into the pockets of these people [who] stood up and applauded Pope Francis for saying the main problem was the blood soaked arms trade. Nobody gets elected without filthy lucre. That’s what our country has come to, and it’s up to us.”
Transcript de l’entretien
Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. Let me take my glasses off here. And where the intelligence comes from my guest. Today it’s a really well known or should be better known guest, Ray McGovern spent, was in the military and then joined the CIA. True confession, I’m deeply prejudiced against Ray McGovern because we both grew up in the Bronx.
You know, he missed the Great Depression. I experienced a few years of it, and he went to Fordham College. I went to City College of New York, where we didn’t speak to each other. And then he went and joined the CIA for, I think, what, 27 years? Yeah. And I want to talk to you, this is a serious conversation, despite this light introduction. I personally think we’re at the most dangerous moment I’ve experienced since World War II.
And I, you know, not in the same capacity as you’re working at the CIA, but as a journalist, as a person, you know, social activists and so forth. You know, we’ve been through a lot of moments, the missile crisis, I went to Vietnam in the early sixties to write about it. I was in Cuba before the Bay of Pigs and before the missile crisis. I first went there in the summer of ’60. So I was around reporting and so forth. But right now, there is almost a giddiness about the possibility of World War III. Zelensky of Ukraine just said to Die Welt, I guess the German publication, there could easily be a World War III. Well, if there’s World War III, there’s no humanity.
And we talked about doing one of these podcasts early on in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And we’ve been around, around about, you know, who provoked it and the expansion of NATO and all that kind of stuff. But I want to know, on the anniversary of the year, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but marking the year of this fighting, the world has shifted, the ground is shifted.
There are new alliances. You have there’s supposed to be an embargo against Russia. But I just read where India has increased its trade with Russia 400%, and yet its rival China, after all, when you and I were growing up, the rivalry between democratic India and communist China was supposed to be a big deal. Now, India and China are still not united, still shooting at each other, but certainly united in doing business with Russia and not accepting the US position. South Africa now is engaged in military maneuvers with China and Russia.
The Chinese government, while pushing for peace, an honorable thing to be doing nonetheless has not joined in with this criticism of Russia. And while there’s a great deal of unity in Europe, it seems that by population basis, much of the world’s population, particularly the global south and so forth, has joined in. So I want to deal with two things. I mean, what if what have we learned in this last year and how frightening is this? Now I want to introduce you to people who may not know you as somebody who does your job and I forget the exact title you had at that time, you briefed presidents of the United States. You were the guy from the CIA. You weren’t a spy, spook sneaking into countries and maybe killing people or what have you or getting information that way. You worked at headquarters in an incredibly trusted position.
So instead of my giving you a big standard intro, I’ve already talked too much. Why don’t you just take us to that? What was your job there? And let’s say you had that job right now. What would your briefing be this morning to President Biden?
Ray McGovern: Well, thanks, Bob. I came down to Washington after getting a master’s degree in Russian studies and fulfilling my military obligation of two years as an army intelligence infantry officer. I joined the CIA when John Kennedy was still president, half a year before he was killed. My first portfolio was Soviet foreign policy toward China. Okay. Sino-Soviet relations. Now, this was a big deal because we were in an [indistinguishable] conflict within our CIA building as well as within Washington, the institution of Washington, with those who say “Ah McGovern, You guys have been taken in. This propaganda war between Russia and China, you think that… They’re both commies, for God’s sake, get it together! They’re commies! This is all a charade.” So it was really demanding.
Scheer: What year would that be?
McGovern: We’re talking 1964, January, when I took this portfolio. It had been occupied by a very senior guy who had been promoted.
Scheer: What was your position, your title.
McGovern: Well, my position then was an analyst in the Soviet foreign policy branch. I later became chief of that branch before the SALT talks that resulted in the ABM Treaty. But suffice it to say that James Jesus Angleton and other troglodytes would tell the director, “Don’t pay attention to these analysts. They’re being taken in by this propaganda war. The Russians, the Chinese, they’ll never, never part because they’re both commies, right?” So luckily we started to get satellite photography over the border area. In those days would do a bucket of film. It would be dropped into the ocean, the Navy ships would catch it before it got in the water. It was protected from the water.
They’d fly it back to Rochester. I remember getting a call from one of the photo interpreters. “Ray, you’re going to like this.” “Why am I going like this?” 15 top rated Soviet divisions on the Chinese border. Woah. Later, it became 40. Now, incrementally, with all kinds of proof, if this was the real deal, that they hated each other. They were shooting across the riverine border in 1969. They coveted swaths of each other’s territory. There was a [indistinguishable], in other words. So we were convinced this was real. Matter of fact, we were so convinced this was real that we told Kissinger and Nixon, you could take advantage of this. Now, I will not claim to be the inspiration of Kissinger and Nixon’s opening to China, but we certainly gave them enough information and enough intelligence to show that the Russians saw themselves as in competition with China for favor in Washington.
In those years there was a triangular relationship, right? A equilateral triangle, pretty much. Russia, China and the U.S. With Nixon’s visit to China, scared the hell out of the Russians. They came to an agreement on Berlin, which they never did before, and best of all, they became really interested in limiting strategic arms. Suffice it to say that I was in Moscow in May of 1972 when the first SALT Agreement, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Agreement was signed. There were several agreements with this one. The most important one was one that delimited, limited antiballistic missile sites in each country, Russia and the U.S. to two. But what’s the big deal there? Well, it was two anti-ballistic missile sites. You can hope to escape immediate retribution if you even dare to think about a first strike on the other country. ’72…
Scheer: And it should be pointed out that the prevailing doctrine was the mad doctrine and anticipating who would make the first strike. Could you survive it? Could you retaliate? How would you terminate? And we’ve lost any of that. We don’t even talk in those terms, is there now?
The new SALT agreement is just, the new version says they’re not going to participate. This is no longer a communist Russia. It’s a guy, Putin knew, yes, he came out of that old system, but he’s the one who ran against the communists and defeated them when he became president. But I want to mention something about the Sino-Soviet dispute, because it’s really the big fake news of the whole Cold War was the idea there was a unified international communism because they both read, you know, Lenin or Marx or what have you. And the reality was and it should have been obvious to really almost anyone who had any familiarity that nationalism was the dominant force.
And communism broke on the rocks of nationalism. And this was made clear when Mao went to China, was practically kept as a prisoner, in Khrushchev’s memoirs, there was lots of literature that racism divided Russia and China, that rivalry over borders. And the irony is right now, at this moment, when we tried to make Putin seem to be some kind of communist, and he’s not, he’s embraced the right, which is kind of a Trumpian figure, even on some social issues. But the fact of the matter is, we want to punish China, which is a communist country. Where do we want Apple to go? The country that most people talk about is go to Vietnam.
Well, we fought this long war in Vietnam and they had the most ignominious defeat the US has ever had to, because we said Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnam was a communist country. Therefore, they are puppets of the Russians, puppets of the Chinese. This commie thing. We are at this moment now where we have very warm, fuzzy relations and comfortable relations with Vietnam, and we want these factories to work. Instead of exploiting Chinese women workers, let’s exploit Vietnamese women workers. And then the fear, I guess, in Apple is there aren’t enough of them or they’re not docile enough for whatever they might have labor unions there. There’ve been some labor struggles. But I really have to point out here, you were an expert on Russia, you know, its history, language, everything else and what you were arguing for, well aside from having these photographs, was an obvious reality. I know. I mean, I visited Russia in the early sixties.
There is no question any conversation you had with people, no matter their relation to the government there was actually racism of a fervent kind regarding the Chinese culture. There was nationalism, it was the strongest element. The same thing was true, and I happened to go to China in the early sixties, but you didn’t have to be a spook and you don’t have to be a big analyst. And what you had was too good to check, to quote Al Gore. It was convenient in Orwellian terms, as still is now, to have a unified enemy and we still can’t think rationally about it. We got it’s crazy making because, you know, we are unifying India and China now that have had this historic thing. We are unifying still communist China with an anti-communist leader in Russia. I mean, it’s you know, so it gets to what is the Central Intelligence Agency? What is intelligence? The thing that is so carefully guarded, Oh, you’ve got these documents and you’re looking at it’s like the Pentagon Papers. I applaud Daniel Ellsberg for having made them available to us.
But there isn’t anything in the Pentagon Papers that anybody you know, there were plenty of journalists. You know, I forgot his name. A cop reporter from the New York Times was even writing honestly about it, it’s just the people in power wanted to give us fake news. Wasn’t that… You should take us to that. You are going into the president and you’re basically challenging the fake news, right? Coming from your own leadership at the CIA at that time.
McGovern: Now, Bob, I’d like to address that, but before I do, I have to take my hat off to you. Anti-Communism was the byword in our native Bronx, as well as the rest of New York City. The rest of the country. Okay. Now, you had the privilege. You had the advantage of being a red diaper, baby.
Scheer: No, not really. I mean, let me explain. By the way, I had a different advantage, which a lot of immigrants, children of immigrants should have had, which was complexity. My mother actually was a refugee from Russia. My mother had been in the Jewish socialist bund. As long as you’re bringing me into this discussion. My mother left when the Bolsheviks turned on their allies, the Mensheviks, and then groups like the Jewish Socialist Bund and many others. So my mother was one of the first political refugees, something I pointed out to the Immigration Service when they came after her at one point because her papers, she didn’t have papers. And, you know, so I was raised and in our building we had rightwing white Russians and we had people who came.
My mother came from Lithuania and Ukraine and all of this stuff people are arguing about now. My mother actually made drapes for the [indistinguishable] of the Kennedy family crossed over into Poland to measure the drapes and all that. And yet, you know, as a 20 year old, she finds herself in Manhattan. And again, New York City, as you would know if you weren’t in such a conservative Catholic family, was full of all of these different leftists, Trotskyists and pacifists and this kind of movement and so forth. And certainly City College where I were as opposed to Fordham, there were alcoves of all of these different people. So it was not a naive culture at all.
And by the way, my father was an immigrant from Germany. So my father’s family was killing my mother’s family and actually ended up killing all of our relatives in Lithuania. And when I went back and I’d gone many times to visit my German relatives, you know, they were on the other side. So I had to struggle with how did the most advanced country get to be so crazy and murderous and commit genocide? So, no, I resent the idea, actually, that there was a naivete on the left. It wasn’t true when I got to graduate school in Berkeley. It certainly wasn’t true at City College. And in fact, one of the people I talked to about this before he died was Colin Powell. And we were both engineering students. I wasn’t a buddy of his or anything.
But later in life, we talked about the atmosphere at City College and he was in ROTC. We were both in engineering, but we both were exposed. And he came from a neighborhood near mine in the Bronx. We had a lively discussion. And his parents were garment workers like mine were. So I really don’t think that naivete. That’s the argument about the useful idiots. As opposed to you could not grow up in the Bronx of our time, Ray McGovern and you had to be deliberately stupid to not know about tension internationally, whether you were talking about Italy, about anybody’s country. You know, you were exposed to being sophisticated in the Bronx. I don’t know whether your experience was different.
McGovern: Well, maybe it was a poor choice of terms, Bob, red diaper baby. I didn’t mean it the way you interpreted it. What I meant to say is that you were born into a polyglot, a very, very educated atmosphere where you listen to various people and you were told, well, there were commies and there were commies and there was this history and that. And yeah, our relatives, the Jews got killed by our other relatives. So in other words, in my part of the Bronx, we were either Irish, Italian or Jewish, and I can be called rightfully a green diaper baby. Okay. Other words, I thought I didn’t buy McCarthy. Some of my Catholic elders did. Joseph McCarthy. I mean, if the cardinal said, “Hey, he’s a Catholic, then he must be telling the truth because it’s exposing the commies.” Well, my father didn’t buy that, but most did. So all I’m saying here is you had a terrific advantage. And so it was clear to you early on in Vietnam what was really going on, nationalism instead of international communism. But it wasn’t all that clear to me. Even when I started being an analyst.
Scheer: Let me say this is an interesting discussion and whether anybody cares to watch it or listen. But I want to say it’s interesting because that was by design. We came out of World War II and here my being three or four years old. I was born in ’36. You were born in ’39. There is a difference. When I was a kid, you know, in the Bronx, the Russians were our allies and we were very conscious of it. And meanwhile our relatives were in the war, my, you know, cousins, you know, and my half brother, he ended up bombing our hometown in Germany and using the US Army Air Force. And I really got to know him much later but we had long discussions about that and I was the first one to go back to Germany. He wouldn’t go. He was so angry about what our linesman had done. But the New York City Council had communists on it and it had the American Labor Party. It had all kinds of people. You had a guy like Vito Marcantonio, great Congressman from Harlem. He ran on all three parties. You could do it in those days. Vito Marcantonio was one of those who opposed what was happening with the Cold War, you know. Henry Wallace got a pretty big vote in our New York City. And I can’t even remember some of the names of it.
And I think Peter Cacchione was another communist or leftist. You had a lot of newspapers that took different positions. PM, in the Compass, I mean that early, the New York Post. And so it showed the uniformity that took our allies, these, the Soviets, the Russians, and turned them into our enemies. I remember it happened almost in the blink of an eye, you know. But wait, wait, wait. Henry Wallace, he thinks you can do business with them. Certainly Roosevelt did. Now you got this guy Truman, who was supposed to be a criminal from St. Louis or something. You know, What was he doing? I mean, you know, the Pendergast Machine. Who’s this guy? You know? And I think the simplicity was not natural, because even in the church, you know, you had finally Pope John who called for Pacem in Terris. So, yes, you had Cardinal Spellman in New York. In Italy, for instance, the Italians in my neighborhood, I was always asking how come they never had to talk about their [indistinguishable] when we always were challenged? So how did they handle Mussolini? And then, you know, it turns out there were Italian communists. They almost won the election of ’48. Right? It was Togliatti or something.
McGovern: That was ’48, Right. Togliatti.
Scheer: And, you know, he was a communist and very popular in Italy because in France and Italy, they’d been the big anti-fascists. So where I’m disagreeing with you, I thought we’d be arguing about Ukraine more. We’ll get to that. But I think we were dumbed down as a culture and that, you know, just the last autobiographical thing, the reason I ended up studying engineering, I flunked every subject in the seventh and eighth grade because I was so angry with social science and history and everything.
I actually wrote a paper about South Africa, and this is in the seventh grade where I talked about our apartheid and I talked about how I got that information. Yes. From some leftist publication, maybe the communist one, maybe the social Democrat, maybe some pacifist. But I got it because stuff was all around the place. And even in the Bronx, I remember my teacher saying, No, you can’t. She gave me an F and said, Yo, you got to quote, with respectable real sources like The New York Times. And I said, The New York Times, that’s a bourgeois newspaper.
They don’t write about the reality of South Africa. And the interesting reason I’m bringing that up right now, we’re getting back to our other discussion. And yeah, I got it out of some luck because, you know, the people fighting in South Africa, as was pointed out just this week, the defense minister in South Africa talking about why he is involved in these naval deployments with Russia and China, mentioned and he went to school in the old Soviet Union and that they had been very strong supporters of the fight in South Africa. Sure. What I’m saying is this simplicity about the Cold War was misinformation driven by our school system, by our newspapers and so forth. And anyone who went to a halfway decent library to check it out would see another view right away.
McGovern: Okay, I concede that. All right. All I’m saying is that it took me a little longer to get educated. Given the more provincial atmosphere, the more parochial atmosphere in which I grew up. Now, if we fast forward to when I joined the CIA, it was an incredibly vivacious, intellectual community in the analysis division. I learned all kinds of stuff from my colleagues. Okay. And I was able to see the world very differently. My portfolio was Sino-Soviet relations, as I already mentioned. I saw them at loggerheads, I thought and my colleagues thought they would never, ever stop hating each other. We’ve been proven wrong, and I think that may be the savior of this world. We’ve been proven wrong. They are together now as never before.
Suffice it to say that I ran the Soviet foreign policy branch as the SALT, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, were being held in Helsinki and in Vienna. And I had one of my branch people seconded to Vienna, another to Helsinki and another headquarters writing up for the director and people in Washington. Were the Russians really interested? And the answer we gave Kissinger is yes. Why? Because they don’t want to spend themselves into oblivion and they see themselves in competition with China for favor in Washington. They don’t want to be outmatched by China. We went ahead and came to this agreement, and then Kissinger said to us, All right, are the Russians going to cheat? And I say, No, no. Well, Kissinger, if they cheat, how long? How quickly can you tell me? So I go back to the guys that run the satellite and all that stuff, and they say, ten days, ten days. I go to Kissinger: ten days. Okay, that’s good enough. Okay. It was then, doveryay, no proveryay. Agree but verify. Negotiate but verify. Doveryay, trust but verify. It wasn’t Nixon like it was Nixon. It wasn’t Ronald Reagan later. So did the Soviets cheat? Yeah they cheated, they built this big ass ABM radar in a place called [indistinguishable] in the middle of Siberia. We photographed it. We went to Reagan and we said, look what they’re doing. And he said, talk to them. Show them the photos. Let’s get this done. Now, that’s how we used to do stuff, okay? We used to talk. Okay. Well, it took six years. Six years. And finally, under Bush, the next president, Gorbachev says, “Alright if an ABM… I’ll tear it down, throw it away.”
Scheer: This Bush one.
McGovern: So my point simply is that you can make these deals if there’s a mutual advantage seen in this. And the China factor was crucial here. Now, fast forward to now the China factor is also crucial. It’s 180 degrees from the way it was before. And the elite people who are running on foreign policy, who didn’t have the benefit of going to City College of New York or even to Fordham, but went to schools there that showed them that they were exceptional and indeed indispensable. Well, these people have crafted a policy where we’re taking on not only Russia and Ukraine, we’re taking on China.
Last thing I’ll say about that, Bob, is what President Vladimir Putin said. It was October 27th of last year at Valdai, the Discussion Club, made a big speech and the question and answer period, he was asked, well, how about how about American foreign policy taking on China at the same time they’re vying with us in Ukraine and trying to weaken us in Ukraine? And what does Putin say, I think I almost memorized this, he says: you know, that doesn’t make any sense does it? To pick on China when they’re in a clash with us and Ukraine, it doesn’t make any sense. You know, I used to think there was maybe some subtle reasoning behind this, but I no longer think so. It’s just crazy. Putin’s words, the only thing it can be attributed to, says Putin, is a kind of overweening arrogance and a feeling of impunity. Period. End quote. Well, that’s what we have now. We have this stupid spectacle of driving Russia and China together, threatening them both, and thinking that we’re going to get away with it, thinking we’re going to prevail in either theater. Bob, take it from me. If the ball goes up in Europe, if there’s a dust up between NATO’s or U.S. and Russian forces, there’s going to be trouble in the South China Sea, East China Sea, maybe the Taiwan Straits. Take my word for it. They’re joined together at the hip now because each knows, well China knows, that if Putin loses out in Ukraine, China is next. Now, how does he know that? U.S. policy statements say it and say it explicitly. So China, Russia, this is a big deal. I’ll add one little footnote here. When President Biden got scared in March, April of 2001, with all those Russian troops coming on the border of Ukraine and Russia threatening to do so in 2001, was that.
Scheer: You mean 2021?
McGovern: I’m sorry, 2021. Now I’m going back 20 years here, 2021. Okay. Biden all of a sudden calls him up and he says, Mr. Putin, I’m worried about what your intentions are with respect to Ukraine. And Putin said, well, that’s good. And Biden said, Well, what do you mean? Putin said, Well, the first thing you can do is turn around those two guided missile destroyers that are about to enter the Dardanelles, make them go somewhere else. We don’t want them in the Black Sea. If you want to really reduce tensions. Biden turned them around. Then Putin said, Now what else you can do is restrain Zelensky from trying to get nuclear weapons, for God’s sake, and reclaiming Crimea and other places, you got to restrain him. Zelensky was restrained temporarily. And then Biden says, you know, I like to have personal discussions. Let’s have a summit. And Putin says, Okay. 16th of June, 2021. Okay. They’re together in Geneva. Now, we don’t know exactly what transpired, but we do know that Biden in his post-summit round up, said to the press, look, I don’t think—this is Biden—I don’t think I should really reveal exactly what I told Mr. Putin. But, you know, he’s got a very real problem with China. There is this thousand miles long border that he has with China. He knows that China aspires not to be only the economic power in the world, but the military power. He is being crushed. He is being squeezed by China.
Now, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Putin saw that on TV and turned to his advisers, said, Huh? This guy is… Oh, yeah, those advisors, they’re going from textbooks that guys like McGovern wrote three decades ago, four decades ago. They’re at loggerheads. They’ll never come together my God! So suffice it to say that Putin and Xi Jinping spent the whole year of 2021 trying to prove to the United States that they were together as never before. And now, just yesterday, the Chinese foreign minister, who is also a member of the Politburo in Beijing, had a very close meeting with Putin. Xi is going to visit Russia in April or May almost certainly. They’ve been together and as they say, this is consequential. And why? Well, because the U.S. policymakers, benighted as they are, hubristic as they are, have driven the two together. So the triangle that I mentioned before, the equilateral triangle, now it’s become, if you remember Bob, an isosceles triangle with two long arms and the U.S. on a short end of things. That’s big. That’s consequential. You read that in The New York Times? No.
Scheer: Yeah. And what you were saying and you know, you’ve been you’ve gone through a rough year, I think. I mean, you seem to have weathered it quite well, but you’ve had, you know, former colleagues that were sympathetic to you and so forth have said this picture that you’ve just once again presented would indicate that Putin was driven to invade Ukraine to escalate. And that’s the part that they roundly denounce. They say there’s no basis for it. And I know we can go back and forth the history of 2014, you know, and the election and Victoria Nuland and so forth. But, you know, now, a year later. There seems to be a consensus that Putin overreached. Whatever the justification, that it has not gone well. And, you know, what’s your view of it?
McGovern: Well, Bob, it’s very clear to me that we are being sold the bill of goods. You have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, saying Russia had lost. Russia has lost. Russia has lost in Ukraine. Nothing, nothing could be further from the truth. And what I’m afraid of is that we.
Scheer: They’ve lost a lot of soldiers, right? I mean, they’ve had carnage of a, I mean, massive, and I’m not saying Ukrainians haven’t, but that’s got to and should present political problems at home, no?
Scheer: Well Bob, the figures are far from clear on that. And what I do know is that the Ukrainians have suffered multiple casualties, a factor of at least six, seven to one more than the Russians have suffered. So let’s not get involved in that kind of thing, let’s get involved in the here and now in Russia.
Scheer: Can I just pick up on that and again, I am not doing this in a hostile way. I just don’t have the authority with knowledge to be able to make that kind of statement. I guess I’m overly influenced by mass media. I’m not on the ground, but. If what you said is true, then the reporting on this is atrocious. I mean, even what you said is somewhat true because I’m talking now as a reader, you know, somebody wakes up at four or five in the morning and reads it. And I would say clearly at this point that the narrative that the Russians have thrown in poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly led, the Wagner Brigade leader now denounces the military so forth, and that they, I think the average reader would think, that the Russians have suffered much higher casualties, certainly among their troops. And you’re suggesting that by a six fold factor that’s wrong?
McGovern: That’s correct, Bob. You know, in the Bronx, we would call it a crock. That’s what is, B.S., pure and simple. You know, you go back to Vietnam….
Scheer: In the Bronx, Ray, I would say prove it. What are you basing it on? Now, if we were arguing about baseball in the Bronx, you’d have the statistics, right? You have data you can trust. There’s no secrecy. That’s the whole problem talking about war and peace. Everybody lies and you don’t know and sometimes until 20… Like the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam. I thought it actually had happened. I didn’t find out for 20 years that Lyndon Johnson knew in real time that there had not been the second Bay of… And I got the document. I was working on it. So, you know, if we take it back to the Bronx, one reason people turn off politics when it comes to foreign policy is they assume, correctly, that they’re being lied to. On what basis now? I mean, this is an important one because if this war is not having this impact on Russia, of the way it’s described, it could go on forever like our forever wars. It could be horrible as it is sustainable. And you’re suggesting that these reports that I read every morning in The New York Times suggesting otherwise is incorrect. Now if you were briefing the president, you don’t still have access to that information, but you feel Biden is getting this view that it’s not going well?
McGovern: No. That’s the problem, Bob. The intelligence people take Avril Haines, who’s the director of National intelligence. And what’s his name? Bill Burns, who is head of the CIA, used to be ambassador to Moscow, of all things. Then I tell them the real scoop. I saw it in Vietnam. They’re saying, given their public statements last month, we are entering a quiescent period now. Both sides are refitting. And in the spring, the Ukrainians are going to mount a big counter offensive. It’s B.S. or the Germans would call “quatsch.” It’s crazy. It’s wrong. It’s untrue. The Russians have mobilized about 300,000 very well-trained troops. They are grinding down the Ukrainians to the point where there almost have no Ukrainians left between where the Russians are and the Yampa River. I grant you, you can’t get that from The New York Times.
The New York Times is giving a fully distorted view of this. Now, let me draw an analogy. Do you know about Vietnam? I know about Vietnam. Vietnam was part of my portfolio watching Russian relations with Vietnam. Now, I used to be a good friend of Sam Adams. Sam Adams was a crackerjack analyst out of Harvard. But he was not only well-educated, he was not elitist. And he was given the job of counting up communists under arms in South Vietnam. Guess what? It hasn’t been done since 1954, when the French lost. Okay, Sam collected all the information, this great big defector reports, embassy reports, satellite photography, and intercepted all of it. And he came up with a figure of between 500,000 and 600,000 troops, communist troops armed in South Vietnam. But General Westmoreland was saying there were only 299,000. Now, why was he saying that? Well, one reason was that the press corps in Saigon, as you know quite well, was not all that bright but they could do arithmetic, right? And they were counting up how many communists we killed every week.
And if it came to more than 299,000, there’d be a lot of questions about how come, how come? Well, you know… So what happened? Sam Adams goes to Saigon and he has it out with Westmoreland staff, and a sergeant meets him in the bathroom and says, Mr. Adams, now don’t worry about it. You’re never going to win. There can’t… Ho Chi Minh will not be allowed by General Westmoreland to add one more troop to the 299,000 bogus troops that he has in his Obey’s order of battle. Sam comes back to Washington and tells various and sundry about this charade and prevails in getting a National Intelligence Estimate written, saying five hundred to six hundred thousand people, August 1967. At about that time, I’m having lunch with Sam Adams, and I say, Sam, why is it? I mean, generals usually like to build up to magnify the threat from the enemy. Why would Westmoreland be saying only half as many as they really are? And Sam says, Ray, there was a cable in this morning. The date was August 20th. Westmoreland was traveling… So this was from General Creighton Abrams, his deputy. And General Abrams says this, quote, I memorized it, we can’t possibly accept the higher figures given by Mr. Adams because we have been—this is a quote now, right—we have been projecting a aura of superiority and winning in this battle and no amount of caveats or explanations would suffice to explain this change to the press corps in Saigon. My God, there it was. I mean, Abrams was a great tank commander, he wasn’t really astute politically. He wrote it down! Okay. So instead of asking Sam, “Sam, could you give me a copy of that?” And taking that to The New York Times bureau in Washington, I just stroked my chin and said, My God, what happened? That was August 20th, 1967.
The estimate was killed. Richard Helms took Sam Adams aside and he said, Sam, my primary mission here is to defend the CIA. Defend the agency. And I can’t possibly hope to defend the agency if I get involved in a pissing match with the U.S. Army at war. So we’re going to go with the 299,000 figures of Westmoreland. The whole rest of the intelligence community agreed with Sam, except the Army intelligence. That’s August 1967. January, February, 1968. Tet Offensive, five hundred to six hundred thousand troops invade all hamlets, villages, cities, towns in South Vietnam. LBJ finally realizes he’s being lied to, so he decides not to run again. And that’s what it comes to. It took us what? It’s 1968. It took us five more years to get out of the war. Seven more years to end the damn thing. And 58,000 people were killed on that hill.
Scheer: According to McNamara, secretary of defense, even much earlier, you said three and a half million Indochinese people.
McGovern: I was just going to say, yeah, if you’re talking about Vietnam, the War, the Memorial then…
Scheer: It probably rises to five, six million for the whole area. Laos, Cambodia. Let me ask you a question. You know, I could talk to you for hours and I’ve taken a disproportionate amount of time. Maybe I can get somebody else out. But generally, I just like to run it the way it is. What is this really all about? War. Peace. Okay. The Soviet Union. Okay, whatever you say. Reagan, in his brilliance, accepts Gorbachev, you know, and his brilliance and Gorbachev does something very few—I mean, my God, he’s among the most heroic figures in my mind in human history.
McGovern: I agree.
Scheer: I mean, I was there at the time and I reviewed his book and I, you know, talked to all these people. I mean, who was at the head of a, you know, still very powerful country where certainly his legacy can be protected. His family, his, you know, income or what have you. And he says, hey, fellas, it’s not working. We’ve got to give it up. And certainly changes so fundamentally you wouldn’t recognize it. And nobody wants to hear that. You know, people have been working hard and you’re telling them it’s not going to get better any time soon. And amazingly enough, Reagan seems to like the guy Reagan, who, when I interviewed him, his whole argument, why the Russians might engage in nuclear war. Well, they’re monsters. Okay. Suddenly he meets this guy and, you know, he’s not such a monster. He’s got a brain. We can talk. And Reagan really gets out of the room there in Iceland, where the meeting and then Perle, Richard Perle and all these hawks. Now, that’s when you start to get maybe he’s senile, that Alzheimer’s and all that because he’s saying something sensible. They never raised that possibility when he was saying crazy stuff. But anyway, the big question for me is why didn’t we welcome a peace dividend? And their answer will be once again that now they’re not communist, but Putin is a monster.
The Russians are monsters, their system is failing. And therefore, you know, we have basically two ways to look at it. You could take Orwell’s point of view. And Orwell was certainly not naive about any political power and certainly not communists. He has suffered from them. However, you could take the view that we need an enemy to justify this biggest military edifice that the world has ever seen. That would be pretty much my view. Or you could take the view that the enemy is real and threatening and dangerous and worth risking the future of the world. Because if you think about this current moment where people are actually considering World War III, we have one of the top commanders in our Air force out in the Pacific, right, who said he told his troops, we’re going to be likely fighting with China in two years. You’ve got people making these kinds of statements. You know, Zelensky said, World War III is a possibility. Well, wait a minute.
That’s the end of humanity. You know, this means… What are we talking about here and here you had a situation where we seem to be getting along quite well with China, for example. And even if you look at Oliver Stone’s long interview with Putin, which I consider to be a very interesting insight to the man. He very clearly talks about that. You guys don’t want peace, the Americans. You really need war. You know, because we accept, we go a long way. This is where the argument really has to be centered now. [Inaudible] Inherently a warlike nation that is dependent upon the profit of war. Because if you look how we got through the pandemic, America was kept alive by Chinese productivity. What came on Amazon to our houses was mostly produced in China. So what they used to say in World War II, is this trip necessary? Meaning discouraging travel. But it was a good slogan. Is this trip necessary? Could it have been avoided? What’s going on?
McGovern: The answer is no. The answer is clearly no. Now, I decided to major in Russian in 1958. Okay. I’ve been watching Russia for lots of decades, all right? I’ve watched everyone from [indistinguishable] down to Putin. And there was a big thing that happened in 1990, 1991, Russia imploded. The Soviet Union collapsed. Okay. And the burden of proof is on those who would say that Putin, like his communist forebears, wants to take over the world or simply wants to take over Europe as Fiona Hill says, you know, she writes an op-ed for The New York Times and she says that what Putin wants is to drive the U.S. out of out of Europe and say, don’t let the door hit your rear end on the way out. That’s puerile. Okay. Now, for those who say Russia is no different from the Soviet Union, and I had a really interesting little tweet that I did yesterday, the Fox News people started talking about Russia as a communist state still, inadvertently, but that’s the mentality okay? It ain’t communist anymore in the sense that they threaten us. Now, here’s a little factoid. There was a revolution.
There was a coup d’état actually on the streets of Kiev on February 22nd, 2014. It overthrew a relatively pro-Russian government, installed coup leaders who immediately said, we want Ukraine to be part of NATO and we don’t want any Russian as an official language. Worse still, the prospect that Crimea could fall into with the rest of Ukraine, into NATO. That was verboten. Now, where was Putin? He was in Sochi at the Winter Olympics. He comes home on the 23rd of February 2014 and says, My God, what are we going to do? We can’t let them take our naval port, our only ice free all year long naval base in Sevastopol in Crimea. So there was the referendum and then the annexation of Crimea. Now, a month after the annexation of Crimea, we’re talking April of 2014. Putin had a big speech and he said, you know, I have to explain why we thought we needed to annex Crimea. And he said, now the prospect that Ukraine might join NATO was one factor, but, mark my words Bob, but Putin said even more important was the prospect that they would put medium range ballistic missiles on the periphery of Russia in places like Romania and Poland. And we did it. We did it. We put in bases in Romania and Poland, ostensibly for anti-ballistic missile systems. They’re in the wrong place. They can’t shoot down any Soviet, any Russian ICBMs from there. What were they for? Well, the U.S. said, well, they were for Iran. We’re going to defend from Iran. What they are are capsules that can easily accommodate cruise missiles like Tomahawk missiles or hypersonic missiles.
Now, on the 21st of December 2021, Putin made a speech before his most senior generals and defense people. And he said, look, you know, the capsules that are in Romania and going into Poland can accommodate these medium range ballistic missiles formerly banned by the INF treaty that Trump got out of. But they’re there. They can be put in overnight. And if they’re Tomahawk missiles, that will give me seven to ten minutes of warning launched to target. If they’re hypersonic missiles, and mark my word, the Americans will eventually get hypersonic missiles. It’ll give me 5 minutes to decide whether or not I need to retaliate and risk blowing up the rest of the world. Now, what happened? That was the 21st of December 2021. Nine days later, on the 30th of December, the White House gets a call from the Kremlin. Mr. Putin would like to speak to Mr. Biden right away, please. White House says what’s going on here? Our negotiators are going to meet in Geneva on the ninth and 10th of January, less than two weeks… Why does he… Look, Mr. Putin would really like to talk to Mr. Biden now. 30th of December. To his credit, Biden takes the call. What’s the readout? The readout is. Mr. Joseph Biden said that Washington has no intention of deploying offensive strike missiles in Ukraine.
No intention of deploying offensive strike missiles in Ukraine. Whoa. Big deal. New Year’s Eve was big in Moscow. Putin’s advisers were waxing eloquent about prospects for those negotiations to begin just nine days later. What happened? They woke up Joe Biden on New Year’s Eve [inaudible] well, forget about it Joe. Forget about it. And they forgot about it. 12th of February, so six weeks later, the last conversation between Biden and Putin, the readout: the subject of not deploying offensive strike missiles in Ukraine was not discussed. It was off the table. Less than two weeks later, Russian forces enter Ukraine. That was not the only reason. But if you look at the placement of those capsules, okay, And then you look at what the U.S. did in 1962, and I was on active duty in Fort Benning at the time, and there were no weapons there because they were all down in Key West. If you look at what John Kennedy did in reaction to the emplacement of Russian offensive missiles in Cuba, just minutes away from Washington or Omaha, where the SEC headquarters were. If you look at that, you know, and you see JFK, understandably imposes a blockade, he called it a quarantine. A blockade is illegal under international law. Now, did anybody say, wait a second. John Kennedy. This is unprovoked. You’re here violating international law, blockade? Building up an invasion force in Key West, threatening nuclear war. John Kennedy, you’re not even, you’re not provoked. Well, look, look at the mirror image now. Vladimir Putin, candidly saying to his senior military leaders, look, I don’t want to have just five minutes or even seven to 10 minutes to respond to offensive missile systems set up. The emplacements are already in Romania and in Poland now. I asked Ted Postol, who’s a terrific guy, chief advisor, intelligence chief. And I said, okay, now, is this a real legitimate fear? How would they get those missiles into those holes? And he says, Ray, it gets dark at night in Romania and Poland and all it takes, Ray, is the equivalent of an electric line. You know, if your line goes down in a storm, an electric truck, a line truck to come in with a missile sticking a little different disk into the computer, and you’ve got the offensive capability that JFK wouldn’t allow to happen just miles offshore, 90 miles offshore in Cuba. So the analogy is completely the same. The problem is the U.S. people know nothing about this because nothing. Did you know about the U.S. promise from 30th December 2021 not to put offensive strike missiles in Ukraine? I dare say very few. Why? Because it wasn’t in The New York Times. So, again, if you want to be informed about Ukraine or anything important, I know to my great regret, being a New Yorker, I don’t look in The New York Times, the Gray Lady has fallen.
Scheer: Okay. But let me get this specific thing. I don’t know whether this was an apocryphal meeting that you said Biden backed off or a policy. Let’s go through that again, because it’s absolutely critical. Let’s take it sort of day by day as if we’re talking about the missile crisis. There was an understanding, you say, in this phone conversation between Putin and Biden that they would not be going it right?
McGovern: That’s right. Yeah. You see, what happened was we developed these naval missiles that were actually fulfilling an ABM, an Anti-Ballistic missile, mission, they put them on ships. Okay. Then somebody got into their head. Well, let’s put them on the ground in Poland and Romania, and we’ll use the same holes really, for Tomahawk missiles, cruise missiles, which can reach Moscow or ICBMs in Russia in seven to 10 minutes. And they went ahead and dig those holes. Now, when the Russians called…
Scheer: And that will give you a first strike capacity?
McGovern: Well, you know, it would allow you, as Putin himself has said, allow you to take out many of the ICBM fields in the western part of Russia. It’ll allow you to take, decapitate, as they say, the leadership in Moscow. It’s the kind of legitimate fear that any leader, any great country would move against.
Scheer: So and at that point, there’s a phone call, right, from Putin and Biden reassures him, right?
McGovern: Yeah, We’ll do the chronology. Just one more thing before the phone call. Here’s Putin, pouring his heart out to these senior military leaders, 21st December 2021. Okay. But he says, look, this time, this time I don’t want just seven to 10 minutes or five minutes. This time we need to have it written down. We have to have an agreement. We have to have it written down. Now, I looked at the faces of those military leaders and, you know, this is inference on my part.
But, you know, I think, you know, wasn’t the ABM Treaty written down before junior Bush left? Or was it the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987? Wasn’t that written down? Wasn’t the open skies? Come on, Vladimir. Writing it down is not going to do it. And so in the next paragraph, Putin says we also have to have assurances. Now, that was the 21st of December. Now you can argue that it’s fallacious to, say, post hoc, ergo procto hoc. I’m not 100% sure that nine days later that was the reason that Putin needed to talk to Biden. But the readout says Joseph Biden said that Washington has no intention of putting offensive strike missiles in Ukraine. End quote. So then, of course, the negotiations began and it wasn’t on the table. Six weeks later, during the next conversation between Biden and Putin, the Russians complained that no one would discuss these offensive strike missiles not going into Ukraine.
So it’s not only that the possibility of them going in there was paramount in Russian calculus, but also the fact that we renege once again. And the last thing I’ll say on this business of reneging, I was in Moscow about eight years ago and I saw a fellow named Kuvaldin first name, Viktor Borisovich. Okay. Now, he was one of Gorbachev’s prime lieutenants, prime advisers during all this stuff, negotiating with Bush one and James Baker. So I said to Mr. Kuvaldin, I said, Mr. Kuvaldin, then can you tell me honestly why the promise not to move NATO one inch to the east was not written down? And after all, James Baker is a lawyer. I mean, why was it not written down? And he looked at me and he gave me the two usual excuses as well. We didn’t have German buy-in, and the Warsaw Pact actually still existed. Then he looked me right into the eye, Bob, and he said, But Mr. McGovern, the real reason was we trusted you. There ain’t no trust now. That was why at that time there were 12 NATO members. Right. How many now? 30? And where are they? Are they all to the east—more than one inch mind you—all to the east of the East German border? Now, remember, the quid for that quo was a reunified Germany. And when I heard that was being discussed, I started to shudder because I didn’t want to reunify Germany. I understood quite well that the whole raison d’etre for NATO was to keep the Americans in, keep the Russians out and keep Germany down and divided. And I dare say I’ve had second thoughts even now watching what’s going on in Germany as to whether it was a good idea to let them get reunited.
Scheer: Sure. Okay, we’re going to end this, but I want to. The big question is. Why? Why don’t we give peace a chance? I mean, the thing and I’ve spent, you know, again, coming in a different track than yours, but I did interview first President Bush, I did interview Clinton, I did interview Nixon. I did interview, you know, on this very question: war and peace, nuclear war and so forth. Every one of them. And Nixon, after he was in office, when I did talk to him, when he was forcibly retired, even wrote books about it, I went and talked to him about it and so forth. And they all accepted that the survival of humanity, prosperity, solving our basic problems, now we have global warming, climate change. And we’ve got terrible weather emerging right now, even in our paradise of California. And, you know, there was such a clear understanding. I mean, even Rumsfeld and first President Bush talked about cutting the military by a third and getting rid of, you know, getting a big peace dividend. And we had in the example of China, a country that was clearly prospering by getting into the market, getting into market capitalism, making things maybe, you know, with electric cars now, they seem to be better at it than anyone. And finally, getting a big part of the car market and we know their success. Why is there this indifference, even loathing of peace and where is it coming from? How did we get with the collapse of this big visible enemy that we said was unified? Oh, no. They turned out to be not unified. And clearly it would be an illusion to think Russia could take over the world or manage it or what have you, do you know, relatively small population and what have you, or that China wants to go there? What is going on? Why are the drums of war being beaten so loudly? Let’s say I’m the president. See me now or people listening to this. And oh, Joe Biden said, you know, let’s say he says this, maybe he doesn’t believe it but let’s say he says. How did we…you know?
This is a question that the second President Bush said with the housing meltdown. How did this happen? This is a question that can be asked, as the failure of the Bay of Pigs, right? What was the CIA doing? What is this information? So what if Biden just had an honest moment there and you come in and you’re the CIA briefer and he said, “how do we get to this now? China helped us get through the pandemic. We buy all their things. They buy our stuff. What’s going on? How do we get to this? Is it that we love war, need war? They need war? What’s the answer?
McGovern: Well Bob, you alluded to it before, in a word. Filthy lucre. Now, I don’t agree with everything that Pope Francis says, but when he came before Congress in 2015, during the joint session of Congress, he said something very profoundly correct. And he said, and I quote, “The main problem today is the blood soaked arms trade.” Oh. What did those congressmen and senators do? They all got up and they applauded and then they looked into their pockets to see if the latest envelope from Lockheed was there, the one from Raytheon and it was giving hypocrisy a bad name. Now, Biden knows all this. If we’re a democracy, Bob, the American people need to know all this. They need to know that most of our Congress people are bought and sold. Most of the expenditures, $858 billion this year, not counting what we’re giving to Ukraine, that’s going into the pockets of these people stood up and applauded Pope Francis for saying the main problem was the blood soaked arms trade. Nobody gets elected without filthy lucre. That’s what our country has come to and it’s up to us. You know, there really aren’t enough of us that can appreciate this and can get out, get off our arses and put our bodies into it, because it’s come to that. The benighted views of these well-educated, elitist folks that think they can push Russia and China around at the same time, well, I just quote Putin again and say that’s really crazy. Worse than crazy. It’s really dangerous.
Scheer: Yeah, but I do want to end this, but I can’t leave it standing there because, look, we don’t have a peace movement. I mean, it really literally may be the two of us and another 19 people we can talk about. There wasn’t one single person, Democrat, and certainly not among the Democrats. There were a few grumbling among the Republicans. And I thought AOC might have said something against her vote, but didn’t vote for it. Then she said, Oh, no, but I wasn’t really against it. There’s no peace movement. There’s no… It’s not raised in any major publication. There’s no wing in Congress that speaks for it. There are no Ron Dellums any more. I see. Even the woman who replaced him, long admired Barbara Lee now is on for more spending. And you see it worldwide. Used to be you could count on the German population after their experience with the madness of war [indistinguishable] You know, we want to not be drawn into the Cold War. You see now that Germany is going to be building more of a military machine. Japan, you know, is going to build more military, the whole world. And so forget about climate change. I mean, the clearest way to destroy the environment of the planet is more preparation for the expenditures, whatever. And, you know, there’s no push. This finally, you know, when you were in the government, there was a push from a peace movement, from business elsewhere to negotiate.
That’s what you were doing, I mean they were negotiating with Stalin, for God’s sake. You know, now if you say let’s negotiate peace, after all, what China has been pushing was pushing the Security Council and so forth, you’re seen as a useful idiot. You’re seen as a traitor. How did this happen? There is simply no pressure or any inclination on the part of the Democratic Party with Biden as president to negotiate. And have you… And that’s why I began this whole thing by saying, I feel we’re in the most dangerous moment I’ve experienced, certainly since World War II.
McGovern: Well, we are, Bob. You know, it doesn’t matter what Bob or Ray think. Bob and Ray. It matters what Vladimir Putin and his advisors and Xi Jinping and his advisors think. I believe they not only say what Putin said and I quoted him twice already, but they believe that these folks are crazy and they take that into account. They don’t even rely on the professional military because General Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, says one week that we ought to negotiate and two weeks later, he says no, the Russians have lost, the Russians have lost, the Russians have lost, which is far from the truth. So put yourself in Putin’s place? Put yourself in the knowledge that those capsules already exist in Romania and Poland and could be taken in by electric line repair trucks and put in those holes in the ground. The computer disk being changed and Putin thinking, Oh, now I have seven, five minutes to decide whether they’re going to blow up the rest of the world. That’s what the problem is. Russians, they’re not going to have to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. They’re going to win a conventional victory. Quite simply, all my good military advisers tell me that. What’s going to happen, the U.S. is going to be shocked out of its mind because American people have not been educated to know that it’s all over for the Ukrainian army, that the Russian army is going to get to the Dinyeper probably in a month. Okay. And then it will be the last chance for them to deal.
Okay. So there’s going to be a big shock here. What will the U.S. do? Will they escalate? Will they escalate to the point of threatening these small little tactical nuclear weapons, which are only as big as the ones in Hiroshima or not? Will they do that? I don’t know. But if I’m Putin, I’ve got to say, my God, they’re crazy enough. They’re crazy enough to try that or to think they could prevail. That’s why it’s so as the Germans say, labil, that’s why it’s so dangerous and so tentative here. And I agree with you, I went through the Cuban Missile Crisis. I know all about that. And I know what happened. I know lots of other threats that almost happened. But today we have to get off our asses Bob! I mean, now you’ve done a good job of that over your whole career, but I’m talking about the American people. And I would cite I.F. Stone, you know, who I.F. Stone right?
Scheer: I would read I.F. Stone on the IRT going to City College. That’s where it all really started for me.
McGovern: You remember what you said. Now, look, in this fight, you got to go into it with your eyes open and a little sense of humor because you’re going to lose. And you’re going to lose and then you’re going to lose again. And then one fine day, people who think the same way you do and are striving for justice are going to win.
Scheer: No, I can’t. I’m not going to let you go there. I’m not going to. No, no, because… No, there’s something more fundamental or more serious at work here. There is a giddiness. There’s a sense that we don’t have adults watching the store, which I didn’t ever have before. I had, occasionally, TK Jones in the Defense Department telling me there could be a winnable nuclear war and I wrote a book and wrote about that. I’ve met these people, but in the main, we had, I mean, Richard Nixon is a very good example. Richard Nixon was obviously a terrible hawk and smearing people and, you know, could be a demagogue. But at the end of the day, he knew what these weapons represented. He knew that you could not survive. There was a business community. I mean, right now you have these business people who’ve dealt with China. They’re in China. That’s the main place where they’re doing automation of auto production and everything else. And we’re picking a fight now with China, it’s really not Russia anymore. And, you know. We don’t have the, I mean Kissinger has warned us he’s still alive. Right? He warned us at Davos, I guess it was, that this is very dangerous, you know, and what I get is the sense that there isn’t anyone advising Biden now. I can’t speak for what’s going on in China or Russia, but I don’t get that there’s not even a faction of Congress. There are no pickets outside the White House. And it’s nostalgia for you and I to be sitting here saying, oh, well, there’ll be a peace movement that emerges, there’s no sign of it.
McGovern: Well, Bob, what I’m trying to say is that we are it, we are the people that we’ve been waiting for.
Scheer: Here I’m going to switch. From Ray McGovern and I’m going to go to Chris Hedges. I’m going to go to, you know, who have a very dark view. And it publishes…
McGovern: Too dark, too dark.
Scheer: It’s only too dark if it’s inaccurate. And I’m saying, you know, we could chat away like this, but, you know when Martin Luther King warned us during the Riverside Church speech a year before he was assassinated, that the US is the major purveyor of violence in the world today. That was a serious warning. That means that our benign view of our own government, our conceit that somehow reason will prevail is misguided. And that’s really, I don’t want to bum everybody out and we’ve gone on much longer than I expected, but since you’ve been there with presidents, since you’ve been there in the CIA, I wonder why you are not, dare I say, more alarmed than you appear to be. I just wonder, you know, that Doomsday Clock. You know, I used to always look at the clock and say, Who are these people? Why do they move the clock? This is the first time that I really feel that maybe it is a matter of being right up there to the point where it all ends. You don’t feel that way.
McGovern: I do. Bob, I’m just not as emotional as most people. What I’m trying to say here is that what counts is what Putin worries about or Xi worries about. And they cannot be satisfied or in any way confident that logical and crazy decisions won’t be made. So, you know, what I’m trying to say here, Bob, is that you and I were two people. But, you know Max, and you know lots of young people out there at UCLA. It’s time to get those people to do what we did back in the day. And that means old people like us have to put our bodies into it. You know why, Bob? Because when old people get beat up, Americans don’t like that. Okay? Young people, ah they got it coming to them. Okay, so let’s do some good examples here. Let’s go out and challenge with our presence and let’s follow the dictates of Cesar Chavez. Okay. Now, Cesar, of course, came from your part of the country, or what is now your part, well, what he used to say is, hey, without action, nothing is going to happen. Let’s have a great boycott. There aren’t enough of us. We have to get off our asses and show the young people that we care.
Scheer: All right. Listen, I’m going to cut this a little bit back because I think we wandered from the main point just the last few minutes. I think. Let’s at least agree that it’s an alarming moment.
McGovern: Sure, I agree.
Scheer: And it’s a world away from really struggles from the past because. I mean, I don’t want to put too fine a point on this, but I do think the most alarming thing about in this moment is, is the lack of any real strong sensibility in the media, both of our cultural leaders, religious leaders, that we are talking about the survival of this species and with it all other forms of life on the planet, except maybe cockroaches and beetles. And it’s not even part of the conversation. That is what is amazing about it, and that the people are actually considering maybe some nuclear weapons will be used and maybe there will be the beginnings of a World War III. And there’s almost a sense now that you could survive it and if not, anyway, it’ll be Putin’s fault. It’ll be Xi’s fault. Big deal as everybody’s dead. I’ll end on that note. That’s my editorial. Well, thank you, Ray McGovern, for his many good…
McGovern: Good talking to you, Bob.
Scheer: Yeah. And, you know, hopefully we’ll have a more optimistic discussion going forward. And I want to thank Laura Kondourajian and Christopher Ho at KCRW for getting these things posted on a very strong NPR station in Santa Monica. I want to thank Joshua Scheer, our executive producer, Diego Ramos, for writing the introductions. Max Jones, for joining us as the producer of the TV part of this. I want to thank the JKW Foundation for giving us some support and memory of a very, really excellent writer, Jean Stein. And see you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.
(Photo credit: Carol Leigh Scarlot Harlot)