Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) send open letter to President Biden warning of Ukraine escalation to WWIII

Reprinted in full below is an open letter authored by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) with signatories including former CIA counterterrorism officer and whistleblower, John Kiriakou; former FBI special agent and whistleblower, Coleen Rowley; former CIA officer, Philip Giraldi; former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern; and former UN weapons, Scott Ritter; among others (the complete list is at the end of their letter) for the attention of US President Joe Biden. The letter concludes: “Simply stated, it is not possible to ‘win the war against Russia’ AND avoid WWIII.”

All emphasis provided by capitals, bold and italics has been retained from the original.


SUBJECT: Leopards vs. the Russian Bear

Decisions in an Intelligence Vacuum

Dear President Biden:

We are aware that the just-reported decision to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine responds to Berlin’s coy insistence that ”you go first.” Now Leopard tanks from Germany and other allies will also be sent. Trouble is that those few that make it into Ukraine will be late to the party.

What your advisers should have told you is that none of the newly promised weaponry will stop Russia from defeating what’s left of the Ukrainian army. If you have been told otherwise, replace your intelligence and military advisers with competent professionals – the sooner the better.

Poorly Served

It has long been clear that you have not been adequately briefed on two issues of major importance: (1) the war in Ukraine, and (2) the strategic partnership between Russia and China. We chose this genre of “ALERT MEMORANDUM” because we want to prepare you for a major shock. Russia’s winter offensive is about to roll over the Ukrainian army. At that point, unwelcome choices will have to be made. Off-ramps must be sought – again, the sooner the better.

Your intelligence advisers seem blissfully unaware of what is coming. Still less do they appear able to offer you options to head off further disaster for Ukraine without still more dangerous escalation. As for China, the partnership with Russia is now so close that there is now a risk of a two-front war with two strong nuclear powers strongly supporting each other against the U.S.

Escalation Dominance

President Obama conceded, in a 2016 interview with The Atlantic, that Russia has escalation dominance in Ukraine, adding that Ukraine is a core interest of Russia but not of the US Thus, he warned, “we have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for.” Moreover, Obama’s warning came several years before the Russia-China entente took the solid shape it enjoys today.

Several of us undersigned were intelligence officers during Vietnam 55 years ago, when the Vietnamese Communists mounted a fierce country-wide offensive at Tet (late Jan. – early Feb. 1968). Earlier, smiley-face intelligence reporting from the military in Saigon left policymakers totally unprepared for the debacle. Recrimination was so widespread and bitter that President Johnson announced the following month that he would not run again for president.

VIPs’ Record on ‘Fixed’ (Corrupted) Intelligence

Twenty years ago, before the US/UK attack on Iraq, we warned President George W. Bush repeatedly that ‘justification’ for such an attack was based on false intelligence. (See, for example, “Today’s Speech By Secretary Powell At The UN” and “Iraq Intel: Forgery, Hyperbole, Half-Truth.”) Five years later, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, releasing the bipartisan conclusions of a 5-year committee investigation, summed them up with these words:

“In making the case for war, the [Bush] Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”

‘Nonexistent’! Ponder that. Manufactured, fraudulent. In our Feb. 5, 2003 Memo on Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech, we warned that the unintended consequences of an attack on Iraq were likely to be catastrophic. We also urged President Bush to widen the circle of his advisers “beyond those clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason.”

President Biden, please consider widening your circle now. Bring in new blood, with proven experience and the ability to weigh things dispassionately and understand the perspectives of other countries.

Ukraine: No Compelling Reason

The issuances of your current top intelligence advisers rival those of Bush’s and Cheney’s fixers in disingenuousness. Their statements run from dishonest to naïve (see below). They betray a woeful lack of understanding of Russia’s strategic concerns and its determination to use its formidable military power to meet perceived external threats. The statements also reflect abysmal ignorance regarding how US behavior has led willy-nilly to a profound shift in the world correlation of forces in favor of Russia and China – to include making them military allies in all but name.

CIA Director William Burns was to be the proverbial ‘adult in the room.’ And yet we hear him promoting the notion that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “unprovoked.” Burns was US ambassador 15 years ago when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the US what to expect if Ukraine became a member of NATO. To his credit – back then – in a Feb. 1, 2008 cable to Washington titled “Nyet Means Nyet: NATO Enlargement Redlines,” Ambassador Burns reported:

“NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains ‘an emotional and neuralgic’ issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership … . “In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”

So much for “unprovoked.”

Intelligence Illusions

A review of statements made last month by CIA Director William Burns and National Intelligence Director Avril Haines turned up the following:

On Ukraine:

“What we see, at least at CIA, is a reduced tempo in fighting … as winter sets in. The Russian military is badly battered now.” (WB)

“We’re seeing kind of a reduced tempo … and sort of a slow-down … And we expect that likely to be what we see in the coming months. … And then once you get past winter … what will the counteroffensive look like … we actually have a fair amount of skepticism as to whether or not the Russians will be, in fact, prepared for that. … I think more optimistically for the Ukrainians in that timeframe.” (AH)

“We see shortages of ammunition … They [the Russians] are quite quickly [burning through military stockpiles of munition] … I mean it’s pretty extraordinary and our own sense is that they are not capable of indigenously producing what they are expending at this stage … their precision munitions are running out much faster.” (AH)

On China:

“Well, I think Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have formed a pretty close partnership over recent years. A few weeks before Putin launched his invasion in Ukraine, when they met at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, they proclaimed a friendship without limits. There actually are some limits to that partnership … (WB)

Comment: In VIPs’s view, more important by far is that Putin got Xi Jinping’s tacit approval for invading Ukraine when the Beijing Olympics were over. Whatever “limits” Burns has in mind pale in significance compared with Xi’s willingness to give Putin, essentially, a waiver on China’s bedrock Westphalian principle of non-interference.

“China continues to play sort of both sides of this game, right? I mean they are continuing to work with Russia on a variety of things. They continue to do things like have meetings. … We don’t see anything that is determinative of military assistance. But there are things on the margins that concern us.” (AH)

Comment: On the margins? The tectonic shift to a two-against-one in the triangular superpower correlation of forces is deemed “on the margins” – not worth mentioning?

Putin: ‘This Is Simply Crazy’

Speaking on Oct. 27 at the Valdai International Discussion Club, President Putin questioned the sanity of those who would “spoil relations with China at the same time they are supplying billions-worth of weapons to Ukraine in a fight against Russia. …

“Frankly, I do not know why they are doing this. … Are they sane? It seems that this runs completely counter to common sense and logic … This is simply crazy. … Such irrational actions are rooted in arrogance and a sense of impunity.”

An Off-Ramp on Ukraine?

Also at Valdai on Oct. 27, Putin dropped a broad hint that, as the Russian army moves west, Moscow might agree to halt before taking Odessa, in return for concessions from US/NATO/Ukraine. A coy Hungarian journalist told Putin he was planning to visit Odessa. “Should I apply for a Russian or Ukrainian visa two years from now?” he asked.

We wonder if your advisers have told you of these remarks by Putin in response. (A missed opportunity?)

Odessa can be an apple of discord, a symbol of conflict resolution, and a symbol of finding some kind of solution to everything that is happening now. It is not a question of Russia. We have said many times that we are ready to negotiate … But the leaders of the Kiev regime have decided not to continue negotiations with the Russian Federation. It is true that the final word belongs to those who implement this policy in Washington. It is very easy for them to solve this problem: to send the appropriate signal to Kiev that they should change their position and seek a peaceful solution to these problems. And that will do it.

We don’t think Russia wants to occupy all, perhaps not even most, of Ukraine. In return for flexibility on the part of Washington/Kiev, we suggest the Russians might consider stopping their advance at the Dniepr River and try to arrange talks to create some kind of demilitarized zone from Odessa northward roughly along the Dniepr. This would leave Ukraine with access to the sea. It may not be too late to follow up on Putin’s late-October hint at Valdai. What’s to lose?

All possible off-ramps should be explored seriously. The alternatives are all quite grim.

Bottom Line

Russia is not only determined to prevail but has the means to prevail in Ukraine – the infusion of arms form the West notwithstanding. Paraphrasing President Obama, Russia sees an existential threat in Ukraine, while Ukraine poses no serious threat to the US It is a fact of life that nuclear powers do not tolerate existential threats on their border. And there is zero evidence to support the charge that “after Ukraine, Putin will go after other European countries.” The old Soviet Union is dead and gone. R.I.P.

Nor can Putin be dismissed as paranoid. He has heard from the lips of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin:

“One of the US’s goals in Ukraine is to see a weakened Russia. … The US is ready to move heaven and earth to help Ukraine win the war against Russia.”

Can the US achieve Austin’s goal? Not without using nuclear weapons.

Thus, there is a large conceptual – and exceptionally dangerous – disconnect. Simply stated, it is not possible to “win the war against Russia” AND avoid WWIII. It is downright scary that Defense Secretary Austin may think it possible. In any case, the Kremlin has to assume he thinks so. It is a very dangerous delusion.


  • Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)
  • Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security, (ret.) (associate VIPS)
  • Graham E. Fuller, Vice-Chair, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
  • Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
  • Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq and Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
  • Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer
  • John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
  • Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)
  • Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council & CIA political analyst (ret.)
  • Pedro Israel Orta, former CIA and Intelligence Community (Inspector General) officer
  • Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
  • Scott Ritter, former MAJ, USMC; former UN Weapons Inspector, Iraq
  • Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
  • Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary (associate VIPS)
  • Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (ret.); Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)
  • Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)
  • Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army reserve colonel and former U.S. diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

Click here to read the same piece published by under the headline “Leopards vs. the Russian Bear” on January 26th.



Yesterday [January 27th] Medea Benjamin of Code Pink spoke to RJ Eskow on The Zero Hour about the escalating Russia-Nato proxy war over Ukraine and the way ahead to peace:

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corona marginalia: China crisis?

Having repeatedly called on the Chinese authorities to concede to a rising tide of popular dissent, including street protests, demanding the curtailment of its extreme ‘zero covid’ policy, western news outlets now describe an escalating “covid crisis”. With the longstanding lockdowns lifted, news reports contain footage that appears to be in support of claims that Chinese hospitals are overwhelmed by a deluge of new cases, and that a spike in fatality rates is causing queues outside crematoria. But how far can we trust these latest news reports? And is this a fair representation of the difficulties most ordinary people in China are now faced with?

Unfortunately, because the main debates surrounding covid are so polluted with nonsense (from all sides) and simultaneously restricted by intense censorship, even in the West it can be difficult to ascertain basic facts about the disease such as the efficacy of various treatments, or the effectiveness and/or harm of government policies. Such difficulties are obviously magnified once we are dealing with related issues in a region of the world the West treats as hostile – indeed, today’s geopolitics clouds all discussion surrounding China, but particularly so when it comes to matters relating to covid (Trump’s “kung flu”) in which the Chinese authorities, rightly or wrongly, have been repeatedly accused by the West of lies, cover-ups and general incompetence; accusations that first arose in the days and weeks after the disease emerged in Wuhan.

However, on the basis of the most reliable available data and through contact with direct anonymous sources living in China, John Campbell believes today’s “crisis”, though serious in terms of the rates of infection, is neither as bad as our news coverage presents nor currently any real cause for concern for people outside China:


What is needed, of course, are reliable figures for the total excess deaths across China, but instead the Chinese government provides only suspiciously low numbers for registered covid deaths in which the true figure is very likely suppressed. Regarding precise numbers, John Campbell says the best estimate comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) which is forecasting nearly 300,000 deaths in China by the start of April, i.e., over the next three months. This number averages out to approximately 3,300 deaths per day.

Unquestionably this number is large, but to be usefully assessed it needs to be put into fuller context. So let’s say the estimated 3300 deaths per day is approximately correct. This total is across a population of 1.4 billion people. For comparison, the UK population is a little over 65 million. Doing the basic maths therefore we find that it corresponds to an equivalent death rate in the UK of around 150 per day. Keep this comparative number in mind.

Although also suppressed at the time, UK figures during the peak of our own pandemic rose significantly above 1000 per day. In other words about 7 times this comparative number based on the IHME figure provided for China. In fact, the non-covid excess deaths across UK based on data running across the entire period of last year (average of about 260 per day) is still far in excess of these comparable figures for China. Indeed, rates for excess deaths not attributed to covid have remained high across most of Europe and more widely although this subject is NEVER discussed by the mainstream news – John Campbell remains one of the few channels to draw attention to this extremely worrying trend.

So presuming the IHME figures for China are broadly correct it would appear that the whole notion of “crisis” is in all likelihood an overblown piece of western media hype. (Propaganda that really shouldn’t surprise anyone.)

John Campbell quotes a personal source who lives in an undisclosed city of Northern China who writes [from 13:45 mins]: “I can confirm there are queues at crematoria in China, but to get this in perspective one must consider that there are only three crematoria here in a city of five million.”

The same source also says [from 16:40 mins]: “The queues at fever clinics are for paracetamol and ibuprofen, etc, which many Chinese don’t use ordinarily, and many chemists are sold out of.” S/he goes on to stress that many of those standing in line are also seeking covid tests – and after three years of China’s ‘zero covid’ policy, it is entirely understandable that high levels of concern about the disease amongst the public have doubtless exacerbated a high demand for testing.

Campbell summarises: “So [given the limited facilities] you don’t need to actually increase the deaths that much for there to be queues at crematoria”, adding “it seems to me that a lot of western media outlets want to make things look worse in China than they actually are.”

But then, casting our minds back to the start of the pandemic, we may recall how the western media had initially castigated the Chinese authorities when they refused to allow a handful of European nationals to leave on flights out of the country because of suspected infection. Three years on, with widespread immunity across Europe and faced with the prospect of a much less deadly variant (omicron) that has been well-studied, is better understood and entirely endemic today, parts of this same media are however actively encouraging a ban on all travellers from China. A shift in attitudes reminiscent of its current shift in attitudes toward China’s general covid policy; lockdowns are good only when the West sanctions them, relaxation wrong only when China decides to relax. Likewise, all our vaccinations are beneficial, theirs ineffective. The propaganda about covid comes in infinite varieties and never ceases.

John Campbell concludes [from 17:45 mins]: “China’s ‘zero covid’ policy was absolutely ludicrous. It went on for far too long. The vaccination rate in China is relatively high. The Chinese vaccines are more effective than a lot of western outlets would have you believe. They are protecting against severe illness and death. The population fully vaccinated in China is actually 91%. But, of course, now they’re developing a natural immunity at a very high rate indeed. But we’re still probably getting 20–25 million new infections a day in China at the moment.”

Adding as a further reminder of the shambolic mess our own governments oversaw [from 15:00 mins]:

“We had the obscene situation in this country where people were dying and their relatives were not allowed to be by their bedside at the time… I’ve told you before my dad was in hospital for a couple of months and I couldn’t go see him in the pandemic. And yet the chief medical officers and the chief scientific officer and the chief executives that oversaw that obscene programme are still in post. That’s fine! No accountability at all for what they did to us.

“[By contrast] they’re able to go to funerals uninhibited in China, whereas we were restricted for long periods of time. Remember those heartbreaking scenes of loved ones trying to say goodbye to the relatives who were dying on a mobile phone. It’s just disgraceful. That’s not happening in China and the numbers are much less.”



In the original post I had incorrectly stated that over the period of the last year (2022) the UK has averaged about 1800 non-covid excess deaths per day. The correct figure is 1800 per week which although still very high corresponds only to about 260 per day as the article now states.



Shortly after I posted the original article below, John Campbell released an updated video which is embedded here – the significant points are not affected:


Filed under analysis & opinion, China

can the left disagree without being disagreeable? Vijay Prashad

Speaking to Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, George Bush famously said “You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Today it feels as if Bush’s commandment has been reattached to all areas of debate. Everything is deemed black and white.

And as social media segments debate and silos opinion, so the Left gets sucked into pro-intervention positions just as the Right becomes ever more anti-interventionist. This strict division increasingly applies to issues as diverse as climate, covid, censorship and most recently to war.

The following short article reproduced in full is political analyst Vijay Prashad’s response to an outpouring of criticism he received after tweeting the image below:

The points Vijay Prashad raises are twofold. First, that we have collectively entered a stage in history when it is no longer possible to have dispassionate and informed debates. Second, that this has led the Left in particular down a dangerous path.

To be clear, I do not approve of China’s draconian “zero covid” policy although I have never seen any of the ongoing covid debate in purely black and white terms. There was always an East-West divide when it came to approaches to tackling the disease. Most countries in the eastern hemisphere tried to halt its spread altogether and those in the West did not. Prashad evidently holds the view that the eastern approach was finally the better one. Up to a point I share this opinion – read the addendum – but that’s not what his article is really about, or my reason for sharing it.

The main issue today is not covid but war. A war in Europe in which Nato is a proxy and that might conceivably spread to China-Taiwan or spark an incident between Iran-Israel and result in worldwide conflict and potential nuclear annihilation. That I am writing this at all is alarming, that you will likely read it and not regard the seriousness of my warning as hyperbole is deeply, deeply shocking – or ought to be.

So where are the protests? Where is the antiwar movement? What has happened to the Left?

This is the issue Vijay Prashad is raising and there could not be a more important one at this pivotal and historic time. Yet, apparently there is greater concern over just making the right gestures. Did he really mean to write that zed in bold…?

Judge for yourself, if you must. Frankly I can’t be bothered second-guessing the true intentions of someone I don’t personally know.

His message is clear enough I think. Wholeheartedly I agree and endorse it.


I have been a reporter for thirty years. During this period, I have been to many former war zones and to active war zones, including in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. I have seen things that I wish I had not seen and that I wish had not been seen by anyone, let alone experienced by anyone. The thing about war zones that is often not talked about is the noise: the loud noises of the military equipment and the sound of gunfire and bombs. The sound of a modern bomb is extraordinary, punctuated as it often is in civilian areas by the cries of little children. Imagine the trauma inflicted upon generations and generations of children by the noise itself, not to speak of the neurological fear of the adults around them and the great loss of life that they experience from early in their lives. There is no war that should be supported based on the catastrophic cost paid by humanity for the violence.

There is no war that I have experienced that has been as devastating as the war on Iraq, which snatched the lives of millions, devastated the lives of the entire population, and left the country scarred beyond belief. No doubt other reporters who are in Ukraine will come with their own stories. There is no comparison of warzones, one more deadly than the other, although the sheer destruction of Iraq compares to the pain inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bombs.

Wars are to be opposed and every effort must be made to prevent wars and to end wars.

So, to claim that I support the Russian war on Ukraine is against everything that I have said or done on the record. I oppose this war as I oppose every war, which is why I have written – since 2014 – for the need for negotiation and for the need for neighbours to find a way to live with each other. It is peculiar that a call for negotiation between Russia and Ukraine is now painted as a ‘talking point’ of Vladimir Putin rather than a gesture towards peace. That is the toxic nature of debate, including within the left, where anything that is not identical with what someone believes is pilloried as the absolute opposite position; the space for nuance and dialogue is being withered by this sort of attitude.

Vijad Prashad discussed the same points with Katie Halper during an interview on December 21st which is available in full on Patreon — the relevant excerpt is embedded above.

I posted a picture on social media about Zero Covid. Having lost family and friends in the COVID pandemic, beloved people who lived in countries that had failed their populations, I remain in awe of the three years of Zero Covid policy and practice of countries with efficient governments (such as in China). When I took that picture, I was in a hotel room, where I used the stationery and pen provided for me. I had to draw the Z for Zero twice, which made the Z darker. This extra dark Z was taken to mean support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. This is the absurd place we have entered, where such fantasies are peddled as fact, despite the public record of my arguments for an end to the war.

Second, the picture was interpreted as a sign that I am a full-scale supporter of the government in China and all its policies. To be sure, I am impressed by the Chinese government’s many policies, such as the way it handled the pandemic, the way it has eradicated absolute poverty, and the way it has managed the social development of the population. If you compare China with India, you will have no problem seeing the impressive developments in the former. There is a noxious way in which Western media claims about China are taken as completely correct, and then these claims – often exaggerated – are put before one as a litmus test: what do you think about this or that policy of the Chinese government, and based on one’s answer, one is measured for ones correct leftism. What is your view on Xinxiang? What is your view on Hong Kong? What is your view on Taiwan? I have never been interested in these kinds of litmus tests. I am interested in discussion and debate, not in treating left discourse as a multiple-choice exam where there is only one correct answer to every question. History is a bundle of contradictions; social policy is fraught with difficult choices: to believe that history is a sequence of questions with one pure answer is erroneous and it creates a fratricidal culture in the left. We need to be far more generous with each other, able to hold conversations without resort to insults and abuses.

Out of disagreement comes understanding. But out of malicious slander only comes disorientation.

Click here to read the original article by Vijay Prashad published on December 20th by Counterpunch.


Addendum: My personal perspective on ‘zero covid’ and other policies

At the start of the pandemic no one knew how deadly the virus might be – or might become. China closed down cities and built new hospitals to contain the spread. We did not.

Although oddly the UK and other western governments eventually mimicked the Chinese model, our own so-called Nightingale Hospital was hardly used because it wasn’t built for the same purpose. In China the whole point was to keep covid patients isolated from others without the virus, whereas the British facilities were built to accommodate an envisaged overspill. Likewise the original lockdowns in China quite obviously stopped widespread transmission of the disease (especially during Chinese New Year when millions travel home to their families). In Britain and the West less stringent lockdowns were imposed only after the virus had already infected all regions.

In reality, the world of the pandemic became divided into two quite distinct camps. Broadly, the countries of the eastern hemisphere including China but also Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, (in many ways) South Korea and Japan as well as in Australia and New Zealand, the main goal was to completely stop the spread by all means available including border controls, widespread testing and (in some cases) strict lockdowns. By contrast, the countries of Europe and the Americas mostly adopted a “flatten the curve” strategy, bringing in lockdowns and other measures but only after the spread of the virus was widespread. The argument that “zero covid” was a more effective strategy is therefore the same claim that responses in the East were generally better than responses in the West. Overall, I regard this as the case.

Leaving aside questions of civil liberties, the statistics do ultimately speak for themselves. By delaying, the West got this badly wrong. Ultimately nearly all our governments imposed lockdowns, the mandatory wearing of masks and other restrictions that had minimal effect. This was not the case in the eastern hemisphere where lives were certainly saved albeit at a sometimes high social cost. Theirs was a real “zero covid policy”; as I say, ours was only ever to “flatten the curve”.

So I sympathise with Vijay Prashad’s stance on this issue, while I realise that like his, my own position (which is different) also meets with disagreements on all sides of the political spectrum. Unpopular with libertarians as with many on the left too, who believe you must stand firm in one of two camps. Either you support the lockdowns wholeheartedly or you don’t. Either you say the virus was deadly or you say it was no worse than flu. No nuance is allowed.

In fact my own position on covid has been laid out countless times on this blog so I do not wish to go back over all points. The original and subsequent strains of the virus were bad enough. I caught the original strain in March 2020. Having contracted a novel disease of uncertain origin and risk I’d soon found myself entirely abandoned by state authorities. Trapped indoors due to the sickness itself and also trying to self-isolate, I relied solely on help from my close family who happen to live nearby. My symptoms dragged on for eight weeks during a period when we had yet to hear about “long covid”.

So why, I wondered, had the UK government very quickly dropped its immediate border controls? Why had it ended its testing regime just as people were contracting the disease? Such lapses are hard to explain. And lockdowns were clearly a knee-jerk response to these failures as well as an indirect measure of government incompetence. South Korea did not introduce lockdowns, but relied on testing above all. This was a model we might easily have adopted, but instead Boris Johnson vanished almost without a trace – went on holiday in fact – and for weeks the government just let the situation drift into a crisis.

Prior to my direct covid experience, I had also spoken to one of my Chinese students (I teach at an international college) who had expressed very grave concerns about the impact of the disease at home. He was seriously worried that if the situation worsened it might bring down the government of China – which contrary to what the western news repeatedly tells us is not an outcome most people in China would wish to happen. So he supported the lockdowns in China as did nearly all Chinese at that time.

Times change, of course, and the omicron strain arrived as a blessing in disguise. It did what the vaccines could not – immunised the entire world with little harm. In consequence, all restrictions in the West have been gradually abandoned, and yet the Chinese authorities held fast. For what reasons we can only speculate. Political inertia? Inbuilt authoritarianism? Fears of new strains? The important point is their longstanding “zero covid” policy no longer made sense to most Chinese and so after very well-publicised if limited protests, China has finally dropped all its measures too.

So is the spread of the virus now overwhelming China due to a lack of natural immunity and vaccine failures? This is how western news outlets have covered the change in policy, but the evidence appears to be somewhat different. Judging from the figures  rather than the propaganda, a massive spike in new cases is not resulting in a commensurate spike in hospitalisations and deaths – which is understandable given how relatively benign the omicron strain evidently is.

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western media is (still) whitewashing far-right extremism in Ukraine


Some Western observers claim that there are no neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine, chalking the assertion up to propaganda from Moscow. Unfortunately, they are sadly mistaken.

There are indeed neo-Nazi formations in Ukraine. This has been overwhelmingly confirmed by nearly every major Western outlet. The fact that analysts are able to dismiss it as propaganda disseminated by Moscow is profoundly disturbing. It is especially disturbing given the current surge of neo-Nazis and white supremacists across the globe.

From an article published in The Hill as recently as November 2017.

The same piece continues:

The most infamous neo-Nazi group in Ukraine is the 3,000-strong Azov Battalion, founded in 2014. Prior to creating Azov, its commander, Andriy Biletsky, headed the neo-Nazi group Patriot of Ukraine, members of which went on to form the core of Azov. Biletsky had stated that the mission of Ukraine is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival … against the Semite-led Untermenschen.” […]

Azov’s neo-Nazi character has been covered by the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, the Telegraph and Reuters, among others. On-the-ground journalists from established Western media outlets have written of witnessing SS runes, swastikas, torchlight marches, and Nazi salutes. They interviewed Azov soldiers who readily acknowledged being neo-Nazis. They filed these reports under unambiguous headlines such as “How many neo-Nazis is the U.S. backing in Ukraine?” and “Volunteer Ukrainian unit includes Nazis.”

How is this Russian propaganda? 1

In a subsequent article published in March 2018, The Hill reported:

A little-noticed provision in the 2,232-page government spending bill passed last week bans U.S. arms from going to a controversial ultranationalist militia in Ukraine that has openly accepted neo-Nazis into its ranks.

House-passed spending bills for the past three years have included a ban on U.S. aid to Ukraine from going to the Azov Battalion, but the provision was stripped out before final passage each year. 2

And yet, despite all of the damning evidence there are still ongoing attempts to draw western public attention away from the Nazi brigades fighting on the Ukrainian frontline and to dismiss the irrefutable facts as merely “Russia propaganda”. The latest standout example was written by David Axe and published last week by Forbes magazine.

Beneath a picture of a tank driven by member of the notorious Azov Battalion, David Axe writes:

The narrative the Kremlin advances to justify its brutal war on the Ukrainian people—that Ukraine is a far-right Nazi regime bent on destroying Russia—is a lie.


Yes, there really are far-right elements in Ukrainian society. But it’s unfair to describe Ukrainian military units—even those that orginally formed within fringe groups—as “right-wing.” Kyiv deliberately has de-radicalized these units.

The 98th Azov Battalion is one of several units that has undergone this transformation. Today the battalion essentially is indistinguishable from other Ukrainian formations. 3

However everything here is a lie, and worse than this, Davis Axe must presumably have known it was a lie. How can I make this bold accusation? Because as geopolitical analyst Brian Berlectic shows in the short video embedded at the top, the image from the article is actually a screenshot of a longer Azov parade in which the members of the regiment are seen not merely giving repeated Nazi salutes but driving military vehicles decorated with German WWII crosses as well as overtly Nazi symbols – one clearly has a Wolfsangel emblazoned on its flank.

David Axe concludes his Azov puff piece saying:

Expect Russian propagandists to shout “Nazis!” every time the 98th Azov Battalion makes a move. Don’t believe it.

But then like so many in the ranks our “liberal media”, he’s just carrying water for the hawks in Washington. He is right, of course, that we must all try to avoid being fooled by propaganda. So I agree that we ought to reject propaganda wherever we find it, including the sort Nazi-denying tripe that David Axe likes serve up. Just watch the video above and you can believe your own eyes instead.


1 From an article entitled “The reality of neo-Nazis in Ukraine is far from Kremlin propaganda” written by Lev Golinkin, published in The Hill on November 9, 2017.  

2 From an article entitled “Congress bans arms to Ukraine militia linked to neo-Nazis” written by Rebecca Kheel, published in The Hill on March 27, 2018.  

3 From an article entitled “Ukraine Deradicalized Its Extremist Troops. Now The Might Be Preparing a Counteroffensive” written by David Axe published in Forbes magazine on December 16, 2022.

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Mick Lynch’s latest state of the nation address

It’s the holy trinity of excuses. Covid/Putin/Brexit. Those are the reasons life is bad. Nothing at all to do with unregulated banking / tax relief for the wealthy / corrupt politicians / bought and paid for media. Please don’t look here, look over there. We’re here to help. Everything we do is for your benefit, trust us.

These are not my words but views expressed in one comment beneath the video. Such a perfect encapsulation of the state of Britain that I have nothing else to add:


Update: petition for the right to strike

A message from the campaign group ‘Enough is Enough’ received today:

As prices rise and wages fail to keep pace, workers everywhere are fighting back with a wave of industrial action across Britain.

But now, their rights are under attack.

The Tory government plans to introduce new anti-trade union laws that will make it much harder to organise for better conditions at work.

If these laws pass, workers in some sectors could even be forced to work against their will. This is the biggest threat to working people in decades.

We need your help to defend the #RightToStrike.

Sign and share this petition – in your union, your workplace, with your friends and family and in your community.

Enough is Enough is launching a campaign of rallies, protests and picket line demonstrations to oppose this legislation.

We see Rishi Sunak’s proposals for what they are: an attempt to shackle workers so that the corporate elite can continue to profiteer from this crisis.

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ruminations on life, the universe and making things better…

After 15 years of writing and rewriting, I am very pleased to announce that my book Finishing the Rat Race: Ruminations on Life, the Universe and Making Things Better is now completed, bound with its own cover and available online at cost price (my gift to anyone who wishes to read it).

A pdf version is also available to read and download for free by clicking here.

Long-term followers and subscribers to this blog will be aware that I’ve been uploading chapters on a fairly regular basis and so the main body of the book is already publicly available. Over the past twelve months, however, much of the original content has been revised and updated, and the book as a whole has also been restructured and reedited. The uploaded chapters will remain unaltered for those who wish to read the original version.

Below the cover you will also find the foreword, which offers a short summary of the main themes of the book.

finishing the rat race cover

Foreword: Skip to the end

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

― From The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot


When I first told a friend about my ambitions for this book, he smiled enthusiastically and replied “the important thing is to keep it short.” Unfortunately his advice came much too late! So here instead is a précis condensed to a few short paragraphs – the book in pamphlet form:

There’s an old adage that ‘you are what you eat,’ when more accurately you are where you’ve lived and what you choose to believe in. Likewise, societal structures, public and private institutions and behavioural norms are the products in great part of our prevailing attitudes toward life, the universe, and by extension, human nature.

Modern civilisation has flourished for more than three centuries grounded upon solid but rigid scientific axioms and a commensurate faith in mechanistic physicalism – the towering ontological edifice of today. Our ever-expanding knowledge of the thinginess of stuff heaped up material prosperity, lifestyle improvements, medical enhancements and astonishing levels of interconnectedness. As technology advanced by leaps and bounds, individual freedom soon followed and buoyed by the dream we have greatly enjoyed the pleasures it afforded.

Indisputably this progress required the grotesque and involuntary sacrifice of an oppressed, maltreated and silent majority both domestically and abroad, but beyond the dire costs both the intellectual and concrete material successes have been truly spectacular. Judged by its own metrics (another thing our system excels in), however, western progress has recently halted. With the prospect of future benefits dwarfed by escalating social and environmental costs, another way of living – a new formula – is now being frantically sought.

It is my contention that this crisis-point we pivot around involves our quite literal disenchantment: a painful misunderstanding that the universe is but a cold and inhospitable place and we are estranged biological robots lost in the midst of its infinite desert spaces. Meanwhile, raised above an otherwise godless void, there is a singular omnipotence that reshapes us daily with its own routines: the serpentine dollar sign. Coercing us through mass media, education, politics and work, its purpose is ceaselessly to remind us to consume and clamber higher up the greasy pole. Thus, to these ends and its own perpetuation, a distant billionaire class controls our political arena, the business sector and, most importantly, the narrative.

Lately, a postmodern fad has also arisen amongst the ruins of the old beliefs and into which, devoid of meaning, a banal individualism can be endlessly refashioned to accommodate the inherent and inescapable meaninglessness of our given existence. A life of drudgery interspersed with entertainment: the choice of brain death and/or distraction from it.

Finally, the rat race is approaching the finishing line, but not in a good way. Coerced by the established moneyed interests into tightening confinement, a future of non-stop surveillance and micromanaged control enabled by new cyber- and biotechnologies awaits us. Do we plunge into the bright, shining hell of the lab rats that enabled its development? For this will be the way our civilisation may end, unless…


Cover design by Gavin Tolan based on image by Blek le Rat – Subliminal Projects (24) courtesy of Stefan Kloo from Los Angeles, CC BY 2.0 <> via Wikimedia Commons.

Paperback copies of other Lulu publications including my 2001 Tanzanian travelogue are available here.


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the recipe for the collapse of an empire

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John Campbell asks (again) why are non-covid attributed excess deaths continuing to rise in the UK and elsewhere? And why does no-one care?

Across the United Kingdom during the week ending October 21st (i.e., the latest data set available) a total of 13,463 deaths were registered from all causes. This figure is 15.7% above the five-year average and includes 1,822 excess deaths, most of which were non-covid related. By comparison, on the week ending March 23rd 2020, when the government introduced its first lockdown there had been 1,379 excess deaths – a rate that although rising steeply was actually 25% lower than the current figure.

In his most recent report John Campbell sifts through the latest UK data and finds that non-covid attributed excess deaths have continued to rise across all age groups. This sustained lack of government concern or mainstream media interest given the alarming numbers causes him to raise the following point:

“We had we had all these lockdowns. We had this mass vaccination campaign. We had people bouncing up and down about it; politicians and medical officers and scientific officers strutting over the telly every night TV. Every night! And now we’ve actually got higher levels of death no one seems to be commenting on it at all.

“It is utterly bizarre and inexplicable that we did so much for a certain number of deaths, [but] now we have a higher number of deaths and no one seems to be saying a thing. It really is very, very strange that this is going on.

“Now we don’t want to get into conspiracy theory, but it just it’s to me inexplicable why mainstream media is not all over this and shouting it from the rooftops, because there’s a major phenomenon that we’re suffering from.”

John Campbell concludes:

“What we need of course is a massive investigation, and I think we have to demand explanations for the more distal causes. So there is something pretty horrible going on – over 1800 excess deaths a week more than we would expect, and it’s been going on for a long time now. And we need an explanation.

“So I really think this is one of those things where we should be writing to our representatives to say ‘look, come on. What the heck is going on here?’ Because these aren’t statistics; these are individuals.

“So, on that really quite depressing, ominous note – on that quite inexplicable note – thank you for watching.”

Click here to read an earlier post entitled “corona marginalia: global excess death mystery” based on John Campbell’s previous analysis published on August 29th.


Update: Govt petition and UK parliamentary debate

John Campbell more recently reported on a parliamentary petition debate calling for a public enquiry into covid-19 vaccine safety that took place on October 24th:

Petition 602171 reads:

There has been a significant increase in heart attacks and related health issues since the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines began in 2021. This needs immediate and full scientific investigation to establish if there is any possible link with the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

It is the duty of the Government to ensure that the prescribed medical interventions of its response to Coronavirus are safe. We believe that the recent and increasing volume of data relating to cardiovascular problems since the Covid-19 vaccine rollout began is of enough concern to warrant a full Public Inquiry.

It reached 107,122 signatures.

The official transcript from Hansard is available here:

The full debate available on Youtube  is also embedded below:

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Douglas MacGregor issues a dire warning that US is preparing for direct military engagement with Russia over Ukraine

Speaking with former judge Andrew Napolitano in a recent interview (uploaded yesterday) and embedded below, Col. (ret.) Douglas MacGregor, a former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, says:

“We have people in Washington who want a direct confrontation with Russia because they believe they can bully Russia. They believe they can compel the Russians to submit. That Mr Zelensky can show up and accept their surrender. It’s bizarre. There’s no evidence for it. It’s dangerous. It’s stupid, but yes they are there. And I think that characterizes the thinking at the top of the administration.”

MacGregor then adds:

“Right now we have people at the top of this administration who are behaving like three-year-old children who have found out that there are these things called electrical sockets and they’ve got forks and they’re shoving forks into the electrical socket to see what happens. Well one of them is going to be electrocuted to be sure. It probably will be shocked at the least. That’s where we are. That’s what this idea of going into Ukraine is. It’s dangerously stupid. You are pushing the fork into the electrical outlet.”


In a related op-ed entitled “Playing at War in Ukraine” published by The American Conservative on October 24th, Douglas MacGregor writes:

An indicator of just how weird Washington is becoming is the apparent interest in General (ret.) David Petraeus’s recent suggestion that Washington and its allies may want to intervene in the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev.

According to Petraeus, the military action he advocates would not be a NATO intervention, but “a multinational force led by the US and not as a NATO force.” In other words, a U.S.-led Multi-National Force on the Iraq model composed of conventional ground, air, and naval forces.

Petraeus does not explain why U.S. military action is needed. But it’s not hard to guess. The intervention is designed to rescue Ukrainian forces from defeat and presumably compel Moscow to negotiate on Washington’s terms, whatever those terms might be.

MacGregor continues:

Admittedly, the whole business seems weird, but Petraeus’s suggestion should not be dismissed. Not because Petraeus’s military expertise warrants consideration—it doesn’t. Rather it merits attention because Petraeus would never make such a recommendation unless he was urged to do so by powerful figures in Washington and on Wall Street. And as Jeffrey Sachs tells Americans, globalist and neocon elites clearly want a direct armed confrontation with Russia. […]

Petraeus’s suggestion confirms two critical insights. First, the perilous state of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Absent the foreign fighters and Polish soldiers fighting in Ukrainian uniform, Ukraine has little left to withstand the Russian winter offensives. The series of Ukrainian counterattacks over the last 60 to 90 days have cost Ukraine tens of thousands of lives, human capital in uniform that Kiev cannot replace.

Second, it is the 11th hour. The Russian sledgehammer scheduled to fall on the Zelensky regime in the November or December timeframe, or whenever the ground freezes, will crush whatever remains of Ukrainian forces.

In other words, Petraeus’s real message is that the only way to prolong the life of the Zelensky regime is for Washington and its coalition of the willing to intervene directly before it’s too late. The usual war hawks in the White House, the Pentagon, the CIA, and on the Hill probably assume that a quiescent American electorate will buy the argument that the commitment of U.S. forces in Ukraine without a declaration of war could facilitate a face-saving deal with Moscow.

Click here to read the full article published on October 24th by The American Conservative.


In their follow-up discussion speaking to Andrew Napolitano (embedded at the top), Douglas MacGregor also makes the following observation in response to the question “is this something we have to fear that we will wake up some morning and find out that while we all slept 50 000 uniformed American troops – I’m just throwing that number out – entered the Ukraine-Russian war?”:

“Yes, I think it’s a real possibility now. Much more so than any kind of nuclear exchange. I still do not believe that anyone in the White House is deranged enough to even consider such a thing, but I do think that this is a possibility. How much is it? – 90%, 80%, 60%, I don’t know. But I do know that after I’d written that op-ed piece I received an awful lot of information from people on the inside telling me that I was dead right and on target, and then beginning to tell me the kinds of things that were under consideration. So yes, I think it’s a possibility.”



On November 3rd, Andrew Napolitano spoke again with Douglas MacGregor in light of first reports of US troops entering Ukraine and with the prospect arising of some cobbled together “coalition of the willing” involving Polish and Romanian units:

In interview recorded on October 21st [uploaded November 1st] and embedded below, Andrew Napolitano also spoke recently with former CIA analyst and anti-war activist Philip Giraldi:

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Russia, Ukraine, USA

the video that got Katie Halper fired: Israel IS an apartheid state

Here’s the video that got Katie Halper censored, fired, and cancelled by Next Star media, which owns The Hill and Rising, a show she’d been a weekly contributor to for three years:


Katie Halper thanks Breakthrough News “for making this video and actually being an independent and uncensored media outlet.” @BreakThrough News

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Filed under analysis & opinion, did you see?, Israel, Palestine