We are potentially living in the most dangerous time in history since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The world owes a great deal to American President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who were able to back away from global nuclear destruction during that crisis through skillful negotiation.
Reflecting on the event several months later, Kennedy made the following statement in a commencement address at American University in Washington, DC. “While defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death wish for the world.”
Yet isn’t that exactly the scenario that world leaders have created today? If our news sources are correct, Vladimir Putin is a twisted and heartless man who is desperately trying to save face while Russia faces inevitable defeat in Ukraine. He has also threatened to use nuclear weapons.
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Former U.S. Member of Congress and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard stated, “We are at greater risk of a nuclear holocaust now than we have been since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs has been involved in attempting to achieve global settlements since before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In discussing our leaders’ current efforts to humiliate Russia and Vladimir Putin, he stated, “They are playing with fire, and they are playing with fire on our heads.”
Since Putin invaded Ukraine, only people on both extremes of the political spectrum in North America and Europe have been calling for negotiations. A deal between Russia and Ukraine to end the war was nearly reached in March, yet reports state that the U.S. and NATO refused it. Every effort to settle since that time has also been scuttled.
This is not a Democrat or Republican issue in the U.S. or a Liberal or Conservative issue in Canada. Very few oppose ever-increasing arms shipments to Ukraine, and our legislators are definitely not calling for serious negotiations. Our leaders are failing us, and they are putting all of our lives at risk.
Why should we be surprised? During the Covid crisis, our politicians made the profitability of corporate donors in the pharmaceutical industry their highest priority. They refused to support programs to share vaccines with our neighbours in poorer countries, putting the lives of billions of people at risk and potentially allowing the virus to mutate and become more deadly. Now they are playing with the danger of a nuclear holocaust to please their corporate donors in the military-industrial complex. They do this knowing full well that they have bomb shelters to run to, and we do not.
The corporate media is also failing us profoundly by not giving us the information we need that could potentially save our lives. Gabbard is only interviewed on Fox News, and Sachs makes occasional appearances on Democracy Now. The rest of the mainstream media interviews so-called experts on the payroll of the military-industrial complex. They tell us that the risk of nuclear war is minimal and that it is nothing to worry about. We just need to keep sending weapons to Ukraine.
Putin may be a megalomaniac, but he knows the history of his country. Russia crushed both Napoleon and Hitler, and Russia will use any means necessary to escape defeat, no matter how extreme or deadly.
This is the reality we are dealing with. We should all be terrified.
Our greatest hope is to get on our phones and call our Members of Parliament. We must persistently insist on a negotiated settlement to end the war in Ukraine.
These may well prove to be the most important phone calls any of us will ever make.
Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.
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