September 1991 (vol. 7, #6)
1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9, Tucson AZ 85716
c 1991 J Orient
After the August 19 coup in Moscow, President Bush was asked: ``Do you actually know who's in charge right now, and more specifically, who's in charge of the Soviet nuclear arsenal?''
The President replied: ``I don't imagine there's been any change in that. And we don't know who's in charge, except that they say Mr. Yanayev is in charge'' (Washington Post 8/20/91, emphasis added).
Arms control experts said that the Soviet nuclear arsenal was ``as safe as ever.'' According to Bruce G. Blair, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, ``the situation would have to become much more dire...involving clashes with military units inside the Soviet Union, before we would have to worry about a breakdown in nuclear command and control.'' Still, the experts felt that one could not dismiss the possibility of Soviet nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists or extortionists. Nor were they certain of the role of the KGB, which controlled Soviet nuclear forces until the mid 1960s.
Perhaps the Soviets will sell some of the nuclear weapons for hard currency. William F. Buckley, Jr., suggested selling them to us. But what if they sell them to Saddam Hussein instead? (It is likely that the Iraqis are still mad at us.)
The White House will monitor the situation closely, and the President can return from Kennebunkport at any time to handle new developments. Intelligence is not perfect, however. Administration officials stated that they had ``no inkling'' that a coup was imminent, although Moscow News reported ``the feeling we are balancing on the verge of a right-wing coup'' in the May 5-12 issue. Prior knowledge might not have made any difference anyway. ``Who's on first over there is up to them,'' said President Bush (Wall St J 8/23/91).
Did the Coup Fail?
Whether the coup was a failure depends on what its purpose was.
``In hindsight, the coup seems to have been doomed from the start,'' stated columnist Tom Wicker, due to the startling ineptitude and indecisiveness of the plotters. They did not silence Yeltsin; they did not kill Gorbachev; they did not take swift control of all broadcasting facilities; they did not even cut all the telephone lines.
Nonetheless, Wicker is convinced: ``There is no longer a realistic threat if there ever was of a return to the Cold War, or even to the old style of repressive government in Moscow.''
So is Mary McGrory: ``The Russian people...won a victory that time cannot take from them.'' She still has a worry though: ``Bush was indisputably in charge. The crisis...greatly improved his chances to get fabulous sums of money for more Star Wars...gadgets that had been going out of style before the Stalinists in the Kremlin decided to resurrect the Cold War notion that the world is a dangerous place.''
Just after the coup, a US Congressmen stated before television cameras that ``the world is a more dangerous place today than it was yesterday.'' After Gorbachev returned, the danger lifted: the dreaded right-wing coup had happened but had been foiled for all time.
German officials are calling for major assistance to the post-coup government. Some have charged that the Group of Seven contributed to the unrest that caused the coup by failing to give Gorbachev a large financial aid package at the July summit.
Heartened by the speedy reversal of the coup, some Western businessmen are more eager than ever before to invest in the Soviet Union (Wall St J 8/23/91).
Even Richard Perle said that ``there are things we ought to do...for a Soviet Union that is profoundly reformist that we weren't prepared to do when there was a struggle between the reformist and the center'' (Wall St J 8/22/91).
As to arms control, Frank Gaffney
may be sounding an alarm about the possibility of a ``Potemkin
coup,'' but President Bush wasn't very worried, even when the
hard-liners appeared to be in control: ``Hard-line governments
in the past adhered to certain treaties...so I don't think we
need to raise that specter [of cheating] at this point.''
Power to the People?
In Moscow, 150,000 people showed that they had the power (and the courage) to stand in front of tanks and dare them to shoot. This time, the tanks turned back.
Russians may soon have the right to vote for opposition parties. But there are still some rights that they lack. They cannot accumulate wealth. Their savings were recently confiscated by Gorbachev with the withdrawal of large ruble notes, and anticipated hyperinflation may complete the destruction of the mostly worthless currency. They cannot buy a piece of land due to the bureaucratic restrictions. If they win ``democracy'' (as opposed to individual rights under a limited government), they are still at the mercy of a million KGB troops, countless informers, and an entrenched bureaucracy. And they don't know who's got the button either.
While ordinary Russian citizens may be feeling empowered, ordinary Americans have good cause to be more aware of their own vulnerability. There are several lessons to be learned from the coup:
Even if we know who's got the button today, we don't know who will have it tomorrow. (We do know that the missiles it controls are aimed at us.)
Even if we know who has it, we can't necessarily stop him from pushing it, although we could pay whatever tribute is demanded.
If the missiles are launched, we have no defenses.
Is it time for grassroots democratic action in the US?
Did our fighting troops have the same option?
American citizens in Saudi Arabia asked the US govern-ment for protection as provided for Saudi citizens by the Saudi government. The US declined and told the Americans to leave Saudi Arabia.
The largest group of American troops in Operation Desert Storm were killed in Saudi Arabia by a Scud missile while sleeping in a warehouse-not unlike the 250 Marines killed at the Beirut Airport while sleeping in their barracks. The latter were killed by one terrorist truck driver-both had no defensive measures.
Have we learned? Not likely. Ask our active duty Marines about the civil defense shelter signs posted on their World War II barracks here in the US.
It would appear that our political and military leaders are not interested in the defense of our nation, our troops (active or reserve), or our citizens. The anti-defense crowd in the US Congress continues to ax all efforts to provide civilian and missile defense of the US.
Everyone knows that the Patriot Missile works-so well in fact that the Bush Administration released technology critical to the Patriot System for sale to the Soviet Union, who can then sell it to Iraq, Syria, Libya, and others (Wall St J 2/26/91). Still, $300 billion is spent annually on defense. As powerful as our military forces are, they cannot stop one incoming long-range or intermediate-range ballistic missile.
TV showed us panic-stricken mothers, frightened children, air-raid sirens, and the air filled with explosions in Israel and Iraq. Can this happen to us? Today? In the US? Yes, it can.
The silence has been broken...Time has come when all citizens at the grassroots level cease to be the ``silent majority'' and become the vocal majority.
The American Legion in Maine has broken the silence.
Our population exceeds one million. It is time to enlighten Maine with a million points of light....
Steve Alley, Chairman
Defense Civil Preparedness Committee
American Legion, Department of Maine
reprinted from The Maine Legionnaire, July-Aug 1991
Construction of the shelter was financed by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. The costs of transporting it to Phoenix (and then on to Las Vegas for the annual meeting of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness) will be paid by Physicians for Civil Defense.
During Desert Storm, the Ameri-can Legion and the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine arranged to ship 600,000 rifle bags and 4,500,000 magazine protection bags to the Gulf. Although recommended by military experts, such bags were not (and are not) being issued to our troops.
Improved rifle bags with imprinted instructions for the dual use will be on display in the civil defense shelter at the Ameri-can Legion Convention. The instructions will be published in a future issue of The Fighting Chance Newsletter ($60 for 12 issues from OISM, PO Box 1279, Cave Junction, OR 97523).
``...[T]here can be no reasonable doubt that the dissident movement as a whole is a KGB-controlled false opposition movement....Only if this interpretation is accepted is it possible to explain why a totalitarian, neo-Stalinist regime should allow a degree of Western contact with...prominent `opposition' figures. It is, of course, more than likely that some of the individual rank and file dissidents are honest people who have become involved in the movement without realizing how they will be exploited....
``From 1980 onward an `expansion of democracy' and the appearance of a so-called multiparty system can be expected in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the Bloc....
``[R]eading Sakharov's predictions as disinformation, it can be deduced that the bloc and its...allies plan actions...to secure actual changes in the West...to achieve political sys-tems...approaching closer to the communist model. The changes planned for the communist system will be deceptive and fictitious; those planned for the West will be real and actual. That is the meaning of convergence in communist language....
``Socialist convergence will reduce differences in social structure, promote intellectual freedom, science, and economic progress, and lead to the creation of a world government (1980-2000).''
New Lies for Old, Clarion House, 1984, 1990