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Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security

An open letter by Gloria Steinem, Noam Chomsky, John Dean, Governor Bill Richardson, Walter Mosley, Michael Moore, Valerie Plame, and others. By The NationTwitter

Many Americans remain deeply concerned about reports of Russian interference with the 2016 election. Meanwhile, relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest and most dangerous point in several decades. For the sake of democracy at home and true national security, we must reach common ground to safeguard common interests—taking steps to protect the nation’s elections and to prevent war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

Whatever the truth of varied charges that Russia interfered with the election, there should be no doubt that America’s digital-age infrastructure for the electoral process is in urgent need of protection. The overarching fact remains that the system is vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere. Solutions will require a much higher level of security for everything from voter-registration records to tabulation of ballots with verifiable paper trails. As a nation, we must fortify our election system against unlawful intrusions as well as official policies of voter suppression.

At the same time, the US and Russian governments show numerous signs of being on a collision course. Diplomacy has given way to hostility and reciprocal consular expulsions, along with dozens of near-miss military encounters in Syria and in skies above Europe. Both sides are plunging ahead with major new weapons-development programs. In contrast to prior eras, there is now an alarming lack of standard procedures to keep the armed forces of both countries in sufficient communication to prevent an escalation that could lead to conventional or even nuclear attack. These tensions are festering between two nations with large quantities of nuclear weapons on virtual hair-trigger alert; yet the current partisan fixations in Washington are ignoring the dangers to global stability and, ultimately, human survival.

The United States should implement a pronounced shift in approach toward Russia. No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of US and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of US-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false. Concrete steps can and must be taken to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.

Andrew Bacevich, Professor Emeritus, Boston University

Rev. Dr. William Barber II, President and Senior Lecturer, Repairers of the Breach, and Visiting Professor of Public Theology, Union Theological Seminary

Phyllis Bennis, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies

Noam Chomsky, Professor, Author, and Activist

Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics, NYU and Princeton University, and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord

John Dean, Former Nixon White House Counsel

Phil Donahue, Journalist and Talk-Show Pioneer

Thomas Drake, Former NSA Senior Executive and Whistle-blower

Daniel Ellsberg, Activist, “Pentagon Papers” Whistle-blower, and Author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Founder and President, Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Jack F. Matlock Jr., Former US Ambassador to the USSR and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord

Michael Moore, Academy Award–Winning Filmmaker and Best-Selling Author

Walter Mosley, Writer and Screenwriter

John Nichols, National Affairs Correspondent, The Nation

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–Winning Novelist

Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, CUNY Graduate School

Valerie Plame, Former Covert CIA Operations Officer and Author

Adolph Reed Jr., Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico

Patricia Schroeder, Former Congresswoman

Norman Solomon, National Coordinator, RootsAction.org

Gloria Steinem, Writer and Feminist Organizer

Adlai Stevenson III, Former US Senator and Chairman, Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy

Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation

Alice Walker, Writer, Poet, and Activist

Jody Williams, Professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute

Signers have endorsed this Open Letter as individuals and not on behalf of any organization.

If you agree with these writers and activists, you can add your name to support this historic Open Letter for secure elections and true national security.

JULY 11, 2018 

Take Action: Add your name to support this historic Open Letter for secure elections and true national security.

The NationTWITTERFounded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life, from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism.

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Comment by moki ikom on July 21, 2018 at 7:57pm

Trump as New Cold War Heretic

The president has broken with the nearly 20-year orthodoxy of blaming Russia alone for today’s post-Soviet confrontations. By Stephen F. Cohen

JULY 18, 2018

As has every American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1943, President Trump held a summit meeting with the Kremlin’s leader—Russian President Putin, in Helsinki on July 16. As with every president since Eisenhower, the underlying and overriding purpose was to reduce the chances of war between the two nuclear superpowers. With the new US-Russian Cold War fraught with possibilities of hot war on several fronts, from Ukraine and the Baltic and Black Sea regions to Syria, Trump had a vital national-security duty to meet in the most august way with Putin. As with previous summits, details will come later, but the two leaders reached several important agreements: to revive the necessary US-Russian diplomatic process tattered by recent events; to restore decades-long negotiations intended to reduce and regulate nuclear weapons and thus avert a new nuclear arms race; to jointly try to prevent Iran, Russia’s Middle East partner, from threatening “Israeli security,” as Putin formulated it, on that nation’s borders; to jointly relieve the “humanitarian” crisis in Syria, whose suffering was caused substantially by the aid rendered by Washington and its allies to anti-Assad “freedom fighters” and then, as collateral damage, by Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian war, in September 2015, in order to destroy the murderous Islamic State, which was threatening to take Damascus; and to promote American-Russian “business ties,” a nebulous aspiration, considering US and European economic sanctions on Russia. 

Historically, in what were once “normal” Cold War times, these summit achievements would have been widely supported, even applauded, across the American political spectrum, as they were, for example, even under President Nixon. But not Trump’s, which elicited an unprecedented torrent of denunciation by the US mainstream bipartisan (primarily Democratic but far from only) political-media establishment. Idioms varied, from The Washington Post to MSNBC and CNN, but the once-stately New York Times, as is now its nearly daily practice, set the tone. Its front-page headline on July 17 blared: “Trump, At Putin’s Side, Questions U.S. Intelligence on 2016 Election.” Another headline below explained, “Disdain for U.S. Institutions, and Praise for an Adversary.” The “reporting” itself was fulsomely prosecutorial, scarcely mentioning what Trump and Putin had agreed to.

Times columnists competed to indict the American president. An early entry, on July 16, before anything was actually known about the summit results, came from Charles M. Blow, whose headline thundered: “Trump, Treasonous Traitor.” The title of the entry by Michelle Goldberg, on July 17, was less alliterative: “Trump Shows the World He’s Putin’s Lackey.”

(more)...

(to the end)

Heretics are scorned or worse, but sometimes in history they prevail. However strongly people may disapprove of the president’s other words and deeds, anyone, anywhere across our political spectrum, who wishes to avoid war with Russia—again, conceivably nuclear war—must support and encourage this Trump heresy until it is no longer heresy, until the full debate over reckless US policy since the 1990s finally ensues, and until that approach changes, as should have happened, as Trump said, “a long time ago.” It is not too late, but it may be the last chance.

Stephen F. CohenStephen F. Cohen is a professor emeritus of Russian studies

and politics at New York University and Princeton University and a contributing editor of The Nation.

https://www.thenation.com/article/trump-new-cold-war-heretic/

.

Comment by koshersalaami on July 22, 2018 at 6:46am

The one thing I agree with Trump about (there may be a second when it comes to our needing some reaction to extreme trade imbalances) is that continuing on a Cold War footing with Russia has been wrong since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Putin being in office in the first place is a Russian reaction toward continuing and totally pointless hostility from the United States toward post-Soviet Russia. We should have helped them build Democratic institutions when the Soviet Union fell. Unfortunately, Republicans were in office, and that’s not their kind of investment. I haven’t made a secret of my views on this and have posted about them. 

That being said, it is a prerequisite toward holding American office that one treat our elections as of paramount importance. There’s no question there was Russian interference in our election. I wouldn’t call that a caucus belli but would take the attitude of the signers of the above letter that we need a whole lot more electoral security. And I certainly wouldn’t insult America’s intelligence community in front of the world like Trump did. It made him look incompetent and unsuited for his office (which, in his case, means I guess he was truthful). 

If he accomplished a lot, he is the one who managed to eclipse his accomplishments by his statement which grabbed all the headlines. When you’ve been President for a year and a half you should have been able to figure that out by now. 

Also, there are better ways to approach Russia than to threaten to pull out of NATO for financial reasons and screw with our key allies. If he wanted to make a case that NATO wasn’t necessary, that’s one thing, but he approached it as a business decision. 

I think he’s right to defuse relations with Russia. We are way more of a threat to Russia than Russia is to us. They sure as Hell aren’t containing us. By the way, inappropriate American containment of Russia is what made Russia’s Crimea incursion necessary. (And when the Soviet government assigned Crimean governance to Ukraine, that was administrative convenience, not the expectation that a Russian area by population would become part of a Ukrainian nation.) 

But the outcry over Trump’s reaction to the American intelligence community’s findings on Russian interference in our election was not about defusing relations, particularly given that Trump was the direct beneficiary of that interference. 

Comment by moki ikom on July 22, 2018 at 9:51am

"Putin being in office in the first place is a Russian reaction toward continuing and totally pointless hostility from the United States toward post-Soviet Russia. We should have helped them build Democratic institutions when the Soviet Union fell. Unfortunately, Republicans were in office, and that’s not their kind of investment."

I agree with the pointless hostility toward post-cccp point but the point that is being left in the dark is that all the hostility of the usa toward any peoples who wanted to experiment with instituting communist economy models in their own nation was surely not pointless but even more sure is that it was immoral, ethically shameful and possibly irrevocably fatal for our great grandchildren, at least our grandchildren, maybe even ourselves.

The Clintonian neoliberal brzezinski crowd were cohorts to Republican’s “We can help them build democratic (<not upper case) institutions.”  And, in their view,  that was the neoliberal contribution (ngo propaganda) to aid, provoke, effectively midwife to birth a coup to oust Gorbachev, annointing Yeltsin to set Russia up for capitalUSt$ predation by the Bill Browders of the West.

Comment by Ron Powell on July 22, 2018 at 11:36am

Kosh. why are you, any of you, trying to make Trump look and as though he knows what he's doing?

He's clueless and if he stumbles upon the correct or appropriate course of action in any sphere of government it would be by chance not by choice....

There's absolutely nothing about Trump's "thinking" that should be recognized or acknowledged as being possessed of the slightest shred of legitimacy.

Trump has no business being President of the United States. 

We can separate the person from the office sufficiently enough not to make assumptions about the intelligence or the motives of the current occupant....

If Trump were a black man , he'd have  been impeached by his own party and on already on trial alreadyfor what he's done.

There would be nothing any of you could find in what he's done or said to "be in agreement with"....NOTHING!!!

Comment by koshersalaami on July 22, 2018 at 12:24pm

Ron,
I don’t think he knows what he’s doing. The fact that he may be right about something doesn’t mean he got there in any sensible way. However, I’m not going to disagree with every stand he makes just because he made it. If he’s right about something by accident, he’s still right. 

Comment by moki ikom on July 22, 2018 at 12:38pm

ditto about means of arrival to common sense, better late than too late, though it could be too late already as Ron fears for an opposite result of reasoning that is common at the moment but not prevalent enough to be sense, good sense.

Comment by Ron Powell on July 22, 2018 at 12:44pm

Kosh; When I was in high school my algebra and geometry teachers insisted that we understood why the solutions to the problems presented to us were correct...

The sentiment was that any idiot can stumble upon the correct answer to a problem, but only a well prepared and intelligent student can apply the process to achieve solutions to larger or more complex matters...

A broken clock is going to be right twice a day, nevertheless it's still broken...

Trump's presidency and administration is about as fucked up, illegitimate, and unethical as it can be...More strategic planning goes into his trips to the toilet than that which attends his trips abroad...

We know that's the case because we can be reasonably certain that when he gets to the bathroom, he'll always be met by a roll of toilet tissue...

Comment by moki ikom on July 24, 2018 at 12:52am

Ron, when i was in middle and high school my algebra, geometry, calculus and differentials teachers seemed never to notice that us fukwads in trousers went to the pencil sharpener in the front of the classroom next to the chalkboard exponentially times more often than the skirts in the room.  Maybe those teachers were sharper than we fuktards thought? maybe? .

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