How the World May End

by John Pilger, via Consortium News, August 4, 2017

The U.S. submarine captain says, “We’ve all got to die one day, some sooner and some later. The trouble always has been that you’re never ready, because you don’t know when it’s coming. Well, now we do know and there’s nothing to be done about it.”

Gregory Peck in a scene from the 1959 movie, “On the Beach,” showing how a nuclear war ends life on the planet.

He says he will be dead by September. It will take about a week to die, though no one can be sure. Animals live the longest.
The war was over in a month. The United States, Russia and China were the protagonists. It is not clear if it was started by accident or mistake. There was no victor. The Northern Hemisphere is contaminated and lifeless now.
A curtain of radioactivity is moving south towards Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and South America. By September, the last cities, towns and villages will succumb. As in the north, most buildings will remain untouched, some illuminated by the last flickers of electric light.
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper   
These lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men appear at the beginning of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach, which left me close to tears. The endorsements on the cover said the same.
Published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War when too many writers were silent or cowed, it is a masterpiece. At first the language suggests a genteel relic; yet nothing I have read on nuclear war is as unyielding in its warning. No book is more urgent.
Some readers will remember the black and white Hollywood film starring Gregory Peck as the U.S. Navy commander who takes his submarine to Australia to await the silent, formless specter descending on the last of the living world.
I read On the Beach for the first time the other day, finishing it as the U.S. Congress passed a law to wage economic war on Russia, the world’s second most lethal nuclear power. There was no justification for this insane vote, except the promise of plunder.
Aiming Toward a Hot War
The “sanctions” are aimed at Europe, too, mainly Germany, which depends on Russian natural gas and on European companies that do legitimate business with Russia. In what passed for debate on Capitol Hill, the more garrulous senators left no doubt that the embargo was designed to force Europe to import expensive American gas.
Their main aim seems to be war – real war. No provocation as extreme can suggest anything else. They seem to crave it, even though Americans have little idea what war is. The Civil War of 1861-65 was the last on their mainland. War is what the United States does to others.
The only nation to have used nuclear weapons against human beings, they have since destroyed scores of governments, many of them democracies, and laid to waste whole societies – the million deaths in Iraq were a fraction of the carnage in Indochina, which President Reagan called “a noble cause” and President Obama revised as the tragedy of an “exceptional people.” He was not referring to the Vietnamese.
Filming last year at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, I overheard a National Parks Service guide lecturing a school party of young teenagers. “Listen up,” he said. “We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom.”
At a stroke, the truth was inverted. No freedom was defended. Freedom was destroyed. A peasant country was invaded and millions of its people were killed, maimed, dispossessed, poisoned; 60,000 of the invaders took their own lives. Listen up, indeed.
A lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts are removed. History is excised and replaced by what Time magazine calls “an eternal present.” Harold Pinter described this as “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”
Those who call themselves liberals or tendentiously “the left” are eager participants in this manipulation, and its brainwashing, which today revert to one name: Trump.
Trump is mad, a fascist, a dupe of Russia. He is also a gift for “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics,” wrote Luciana Bohne memorably. The obsession with Trump the man – not Trump as a symptom and caricature of an enduring system – beckons great danger for all of us.
A Narcissistic Media
While they pursue their fossilized anti-Russia agendas, narcissistic media such as the Washington Post, the BBC and the Guardian suppress the essence of the most important political story of our time as they warmonger on a scale I cannot remember in my lifetime.
On 3 Aug., in contrast to the acreage the Guardian has given to drivel that the Russians conspired with Trump (reminiscent of the far-right smearing of John Kennedy as a “Soviet agent”), the paper buried, on page 16, news that the President of the United States was forced to sign a Congressional bill declaring economic war on Russia.
Unlike every other Trump signing, this was conducted in virtual secrecy and attached with a caveat from Trump himself that it was “clearly unconstitutional.”
A coup against the man in the White House is under way. This is not because he is an odious human being, but because he has consistently made clear he does not want war with Russia.
This glimpse of sanity, or simple pragmatism, is anathema to the “national security” managers who guard a system based on war, surveillance, armaments, threats and extreme capitalism. Martin Luther King called them “the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today.”
They have encircled Russia and China with missiles and a nuclear arsenal. They have used neo-Nazis to install an unstable, aggressive regime on Russia’s “borderland” – the way through which Hitler invaded, causing the deaths of 27 million people. Their goal is to dismember the modern Russian Federation.
In response, “partnership” is a word used incessantly by Vladimir Putin – anything, it seems, that might halt an evangelical drive to war in the United States. Incredulity in Russia may have now turned to fear and perhaps a certain resolution. The Russians almost certainly have war-gamed nuclear counter strikes. Air-raid drills are not uncommon. Their history tells them to get ready.
The threat is simultaneous. Russia is first, China is next. The U.S. has just completed a huge military exercise with Australia known as Talisman Sabre. They rehearsed a blockade of the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, through which pass China’s economic lifelines.
The admiral commanding the U.S. Pacific fleet said that, “if required,” he would nuke China. That he would say such a thing publicly in the current perfidious atmosphere begins to make fact of Nevil Shute’s fiction.
Silencing Dissenting Journalists
None of this is considered news. No connection is made as the bloodfest of Passchendaele a century ago is remembered. Honest reporting is no longer welcome in much of the media. Windbags, known as pundits, dominate: editors are infotainment or party-line managers. Where there was once sub-editing, there is the liberation of axe-grinding clichés. Those journalists who do not comply are defenestrated.
The urgency has plenty of precedents. In my film, The Coming War on China, John Bordne, a member of a U.S. Air Force missile combat crew based in Okinawa, Japan, describes how in 1962 – during the Cuban missile crisis – he and his colleagues were “told to launch all the missiles” from their silos.
Nuclear armed, the missiles were aimed at both China and Russia. A junior officer questioned this, and the order was eventually rescinded – but only after they were issued with service revolvers and ordered to shoot at others in a missile crew if they did not “stand down.”
At the height of the Cold War, the anti-communist hysteria in the United States was such that U.S. officials who were on official business in China were accused of treason and sacked. In 1957 – the year Shute wrote On the Beach – no official in the State Department could speak the language of the world’s most populous nation. Mandarin speakers were purged under strictures now echoed in the Congressional bill that has just passed, aimed at Russia.
The bill was bipartisan. There is no fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. The terms “left” and “right” are meaningless.  Most of America’s modern wars were started not by conservatives, but by liberal Democrats.
When Obama left office, he presided over a record seven wars, including America’s longest war and an unprecedented campaign of extrajudicial killings – murder – by drones.
In his last year, according to a Council on Foreign Relations study, Obama, the “reluctant liberal warrior,” dropped 26,171 bombs – three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. Having pledged to help “rid the world” of nuclear weapons, the Nobel Peace Laureate built more nuclear warheads than any president since the Cold War.
Trump is a wimp by comparison. It was Obama – with his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his side – who destroyed Libya as a modern state and launched the human stampede to Europe. At home, immigration groups knew him as the “deporter-in-chief.”
One of Obama’s last acts as president was to sign a bill that handed a record $618 billion to the Pentagon, reflecting the soaring ascendancy of fascist militarism in the governance of the United States. Trump has endorsed this.
Buried in the detail was the establishment of a “Center for Information Analysis and Response.” This is a ministry of truth. It is tasked with providing an “official narrative of facts” that will prepare us for the real possibility of nuclear war – if we allow it.

John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist based in London. Pilger’s Web site is: www.johnpilger.com. His new film, “The Coming War on China,” is available in the U.S. from www.bullfrogfilms.com


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Aug 6, 2017 3:24 AM


Aug 6, 2017 2:06 AM

Some very interesting comments. The idea that we are dealing with a system that is failing makes sense. Washington is run by lobbiests for major multinationals. Capital has risen above government.The continual preparation for war determines public policy. The need for that preparation is driven by command of ‘cheap energy’ by such companies. Maximise that sequestration and use of energy for endless growth of profits/ economic activity. Of course everything is finite . This model defies logic. It also defies the obvious effect of the Big Bang; no new matter is being created and our universe will move to entropy over time.
Time for a new model or is that exploitative model destined to move to a new
home. Mars anyone?

Aug 6, 2017 9:12 AM
Reply to  Ozymandias

I believe Elon Musk is looking into that!

Aug 5, 2017 7:25 PM

So at long last is this what it has come down to? Only two individuals out of 100 who are intelligent enough to vote for the prevention of war instead of support for it? How did this happen? Where are the peace loving Senators? Are we then to just sit back until we become nuclear cinders? Is that what this is all about?

Aug 5, 2017 1:21 PM

Sadly at this juncture I’m considering where to buy my next home with thoughts about family future & safety and the possible war that BBC & CNN so crave. This is not a good way to have to approach life in 2017 !
Recently at a Bastille day celebration I found myself thinking on how the crowd could be attacked & how many could be killed – a few days later in conversations I understood that I was not alone in my thoughts. The fact that this is on many people’s minds in wrong………….because the terrorists were created by our own politicians & media – not by us & not by the countries we attacked ?

Aug 5, 2017 1:12 PM

Reblogged this on leruscino.

Aug 5, 2017 3:01 PM
Reply to  John Presley

That counter argument might hold some weight if the US did not have China and Russia surrounded with their hundreds of military base’s, intimidating and threatening the populations of both countries since years. I wonder how the mighty US would react if Russia suddenly decided to set up similar base’s around the US. To regard the US with loathing and extreme skepticism in the face of their brutality and hubris is not only necessary but is becoming increasingly vital so that Western populations are more aware of the impending dangers on multiple fronts. Putin was correct last year when he urged Western journalists to please educate their complacent populace, to no avail sadly as this type of response from Hutt and the Western media is typical of their inability to challenge the mighty militarised US, a machine now out of control with the deep state neo-cons running the show. Pilger… Read more »

Aug 5, 2017 8:44 PM
Reply to  betrayedplanet

@betrayedplanet: I agree with what you say: but if we take a step back from the current situation – we could see that Russia, China and the US (being principle); and everyone else (being secondary or tertiary) – all form a unified system. It is this system – call it the global financialized hydrocarbon economy – that is in systemic failure. The current situation is merely the first emerging symptoms of terminal illness. The business model of the developed OECD countries is the same: fianancialized (based on debt); expansive; extractive; and exploitative – literally fuelled by hydrocarbons. The point I am making is in no way to defend the evils of the US-NATO Imperium: just that rolling back its hegemony will not effect a cure. We have already reached the planetary boundaries of hydrocarbon economy expansion: some planetary boundaries are already breached (biodiversity (species extinction); phosphorous and nitrogen cycles; ozone… Read more »

Aug 6, 2017 12:38 AM
Reply to  BigB

I see the carbon ploy as another demonisation of our nature by which to divert from the nature of the deceit. It grafts onto human guilt and fear in the self-same pattern deceit has ever employed – as a sense of self-righteous blind allegiance – that sees its own ‘denials’ in the OTHER but never recognizes the mirror in all accusatory and personally invalidating assertion. The exploitive racketeering nature of the energy cartels extends to the millitary, pharma, plastics – and etc and etc. The very nature of the approach and use of such ‘energy’ is toxic in its sourcing and usage – but CO2 is no more a villain than butter or cholesterol or sunshine. The mind-capture of a false sense of power is nearly complete – that is to say the degradation of consciousness is nearly overwhelmed by its denials – that are no less active for being… Read more »

Aug 5, 2017 12:39 PM

Hollywood is nothing but lobbyist propaganda crap. No rational should believe it.
There will never be a nuclear war among White nations. The US-USSR proved that during the so-called Cold War. The US dropped nuclear bombs on Japanese cities instead of Germany which was the main enemy of the Allied Forces.
Donald Trump is not duped by Russians but Israelis as American Jewish academic and former UNHRC envoy Richard Falk said in his recent blog post.

Aug 5, 2017 11:02 AM

‘While they pursue their fossilized anti-Russia agendas, narcissistic media such as the Washington Post, the BBC and the Guardian suppress the essence of the most important political story of our time as they warmonger on a scale I cannot remember in my lifetime.’ Indeed. We have crossed the rubicon and will have to face the appalling consequences of our endless greed, avarice and disgusting abuse of the planet as the downward spiral that began with the Chicago Boys reaches its zenith of madness, chaos and ultimately a no win war. That we the people have allowed this to become a reality without any major fightback is a travesty and one of the most upsetting aspects of the whole sad history of human life on this planet, soon coming to an end in my opinion either by a nuclear war or vicious climate change already creating havoc with its multiple feedback… Read more »

Aug 5, 2017 11:37 AM
Reply to  betrayedplanet

You might take some comfort from the following. George Orwell saw that modern warfare would not simply affect the soldiers in the front line, but the whole nation. This was confirmed in WW2 when civilians were deliberately targetted for destruction. The policy was cheered on by the armchair warriors safely ensconced in the rear. However, this is no longer the case. Increasingly in modern warfare, there is no hiding place. This prompted Orwell to observe that in coming wars you might see the armchair warriors (jingoists as he called them) ‘with a bullet hole in them.’ Now I can die a little happier with the thought such a fate awaiting Lindsey Graham, Victoria Nuland, Rachel Madcow and the rest.

Coreen Gato
Coreen Gato
Aug 6, 2017 1:58 AM
Reply to  betrayedplanet

Well said – my sentiments exactly! I too likewise spend much of my time, but with one added exception: single malt. Impossible at this point to know which catastrophe will annihilate us first: the nuclear or the natural (or perhaps the single malt, but I don’t consider that a catastrophe.)
In Canada, we are subject to the same American-led narcissistic, psychopathic, megalomaniac ruling elite, who relentlessly appoint the same pusillanimous puppets to front for them, while successfully convincing the great unwashed that we voted them in. We now have Ken and Barbie to “lead” us.
Thanks also to John Pilger for another erudite journalistic jewel.

Aug 5, 2017 9:53 AM

What’s interesting about the times we live in is the rightward lurch of the liberals and vast swathes of the left. Why and how did this happen? It seems that we are being prepared for war with Russia and a campaign, propaganda campaign, has been launched to make this happen.

Dead World Walking
Dead World Walking
Aug 5, 2017 9:14 AM

‘If we allow it’
We have allowed it John
With our pursuit of mammon, with our consumer acquiescence, with our wilful ignorance, with our addiction to travel (the opiate of the middle class), with our employment choices, with our ambitions for our children and with our loss of awe and reverence for Mother Nature and other beings.
We not only allowed it, we fed it.

Ross Hendry
Ross Hendry
Aug 5, 2017 7:20 PM

Thanks for that, very well said. We are surrounded by symptoms but we never deal with the disease – because we don’t realise we are the origin of all disease. As Einstein and others have said, we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them; also it’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
So what to do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s the bloody emphasis in our cultures on neurotic/psychotic “doing something” that’s the root problem. If we can recognise ourselves as the prime cause of the mess we are in, and therefore acknowledge our necessary impotence in dealing with it, we might just gain some overdue humility and realise our proper place in the natural order.

Aug 16, 2017 4:10 PM

So bring it into the present tense as a choice. Not a guided compulsion – but a true acceptance. Let habits become a matter of present choice and release the present from self-definitions and beliefs that no longer serve us. If we persist in doing what we say we do not want it is because at some level we do want it – and uncovering this brings it into the realm of ownership and therefore change. Recognition and repentance are bedfellows – but thinking about guilt feeds the belief in worthlessness – and this immediately transfers or projects onto our world, our fellow beings and even our loved ones. An unwatched mind can drift and be manipulated to further drift from its true presence – so as to become a reversal of its original function – which could be summarised as ; ‘behold’. The newly disturbed think it a recent… Read more »

Aug 5, 2017 9:03 AM

Best destroy america as soon as possible…make the world a better place…and smash zionist terrorists in isra hell, destroy the british government of terrorists and destroy saudi, bahrain and all the other filth on our lovely planet…Not long now yank scum.