Reinvigorating Diplomacy: Global Tensions and Press Freedom

Featuring Peter Kuznick and Seth Stern

by Kate Horgan
Published: Updated:
The Project Censored Show
The Official Project Censored Show
Reinvigorating Diplomacy: Global Tensions and Press Freedom
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This week on the Project Censored Show, Mickey welcomes back to the program Peter Kuznick, Professor of History at American University and best-selling author with Oliver Stone of The Untold History of the United States. They discuss the ongoing Russian attacks in Ukraine along with US/NATO reactions, as well as US support for Israel’s ongoing assaults on Gaza, and how close we may be coming to WWIII if we don’t reinvigorate diplomacy and actively promote peace. Later in the program, Mickey welcomes back Director of Advocacy at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Seth Stern, to discuss some good news around bipartisan support for the PRESS Act, a much needed shield law for journalists in a time when press freedoms are on the decline in the US and across the globe.

 

Video of the Interview with Peter Kuznick

Video of the Interview with Seth Stern

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Peter Kuznick

Mickey Huff: Welcome to the Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio. I’m your host, Mickey Huff. Today on the program, in this segment, we are honored and delighted to bring back to the show award winning historian and author, Professor Peter Kuznick, professor of history and director of the award winning Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, co author, of course, with Oliver Stone, of The Untold History of the United States, New York Times bestseller, second edition added a couple hundred pages just on the Obama years.

Of course, it’s also an amazing documentary series. Project Censored audience folks, Peter Kuznick is no stranger to you all. It’s been far too long since we’ve had him on the program, and there is so much happening around the world. We all can use the wisdom and wit, and even humor in dark times of Professor Peter Kuznick.

Peter Kuznick, welcome back to the Project Censored Show today.

Peter Kuznick: Hi Mickey, its great to be back with you. I wish we were talking under happier circumstances.

Mickey Huff: Absolutely. And, you know, I, I, I sort of wanted to get that out of the way in the beginning that there’s, there’s so many things. happening that are very, very serious.

And as an historian, as well as a commentator on contemporary events, you fused past and present, so masterfully, better than, than most people that I know, can you talk to us a little bit about, I mean, what’s been going on with Israel and Gaza since last October has really eclipsed in many ways a lot of other things that have been happening in the world whether it’s other parts of the Middle East or the Congo or of course Russia and Ukraine, right and there’s so many things that are developing and of course with Russia and China. Could you please catch us up on the many things that are happening lately, particularly around Russia, Ukraine and, things that are happening in Southeast Asia, Peter Kuznick.

Peter Kuznick: Well, you know that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock, I think it was last year, to 90 seconds before midnight. The reality is, we’re much closer than that. 90 seconds was a relatively good period compared to where we’ve gone in the last few months. Jeff Sachs had a very interesting piece about some of this, just came out yesterday, in which he track, tracked the, how close to midnight the nuclear, the doomsday clock has gotten in the last five presidencies.

So beginning with Clinton, because it was like something like 17 minutes to midnight when the Soviet Union collapsed. And now we’ve gotten progressively from Clinton to George W. Bush to Obama to Trump to Biden. We’re now down to 90 seconds technically, but the reality is if I were on that board of advisors and I had to say how close we are now.

I would certainly move it to 60 seconds before midnight. And, and it almost, we’ve almost got to inch it a little bit forward by the day. The news that just came out yesterday that Biden has now authorized Ukraine to use U. S. weapons to hit inside of Russia, I mean, this just happened. Germany shows just issued a new doctrine which says that German weapons can also be used to hit inside of Russia.

Now, both of them are using the caveat not to strike deep within Russia, but to strike over the border where Russians are targeting Kharkiv, right? Kharkiv is 19 miles from the Russian border. So Russia’s got a lot of weaponry on the Russian side that is targeting Kharkiv. So that is now a fair game for Russia.

But, you know, you put this in the context of the broader escalation that’s gone on in recent weeks, we can begin it with the failed counter offensive on the part of Ukraine, which took place in the spring and summer. So the Russians resisted that. The Russians have corrected many of their erroneous military doctrines.

And they’ve also now got a, a, a new, secretary of defense in place instead of Shoigu. And, things there, especially when Prigozhin attempted that coup, the situation in Russia looked very, very shaky. But since that point, they’ve actually stabilized things. Putin’s regained much more control. And the Russian military has learned from a lot of their mistakes.

So not only did the Ukrainian counteroffensive fail, but Russia has gone on the offensive. And they’ve been able to do that effectively for a number of reasons. One, they learned a lot of lessons, but two, Ukraine’s manpower deficit is overwhelming. I mean, Russia’s got such a advantage in terms of manpower.

And most, many young Ukrainians have either fled the country or doing whatever they can to dodge the draft. So even though Zelensky has lowered the draft age from 27 to 25, you know, there’s tremendous opposition to even doing that inside Ukraine. Morale has been terrible. So on the numbers game, they’re losing badly.

But worse than that, with the U. S. delaying its arms package and its financial aid package, the 61 billion that they finally authorized, Ukraine faced an extraordinary 10 to 1 to 20 to 1 deficit, depending on whose figure you believe, in artillery and ammunition. And so put those together and Ukraine is not only losing in the, losing ground in the South and the East, but then Russia opened the offensive in the Northeast, in Kharkiv.

And it took a lot, they’ve taken a lot more ground, hundreds of square miles of territory that they’ve been able to conquer. And the situation is only growing more and more desperate. So to counter that desperation, many of the NATO members and the, including the United States have been calling for more extreme measures.

Now initially that took the form of more and more advanced weapons systems. And we saw that dance play out over and over again, where first Biden would resist every new weapon system, and then he would finally cave in. You can imagine what those debates would sound like. Victoria Nuland would be the leading cheerleader for the new weapons systems.

But it was very, an interesting development, just as an aside, after Wendy Sherman retired as the number two in the State Department, Victoria Newland, who’s the extreme Russia hawk, who has helped engineer, at least cheerlead the coup, the, the Biden uprising. Victoria Nuland was passed over. She was the acting number two for months.

And from her vantage point, pushing a more aggressive policy toward Russia and Ukraine, she was passed over for Kurt Campbell. Kurt Campbell, as you know, Mickey, is the leading China hawk, which really signaled the Biden administration’s priorities because Biden came to power with 18 top advisors from the Center for New American Security.

And those are the people who are the real China hawks. And that was the, the attitude always that China’s the pacing threat, you know, Russia’s an annoyance and they’re a nuclear threat, but they don’t real, not really a competitor to the United States. So Nuland was passed over, but she’s been speaking out anyway.

And among the things she’s been urging is allowing Ukraine to use U. S. weapons in order to attack inside of Russia. Putin has been issuing warnings about this. That that not only will Russia retaliate against sites in Ukraine, including the European and other weapons sites in Ukraine, but they’ll also hit outside of, of, Ukraine as well.

So Putin is effectively, so let me backtrack a little more. Yes. A lot of this begins with Macron urging, sending NATO troops into Ukraine in two capacities. One is as trainers, or three capacities, really. One is as trainers. Secondly, is to run the advanced weapons systems that the Ukrainians themselves can’t run and provide the targeting information.

And thirdly, as ground troops. So they know that Ukraine is losing, that the Ukraine, the Ukraine is, is threatened with an actual military collapse and a defeat. And so you look at the logic that’s being played out steadily, and we saw that from Mike Johnson. When Mike Johnson flipped from opposing U. S. weapons to Ukraine to, you know, fast tracking them, finally, what Mike Johnson said is that we don’t want to see Russia you know, take over all these other European countries. That’s the lie that’s at the heart of it that you and I understand as historians, because we traced back that this idea that this boogeyman image that was always created of the Soviet Union, you know, when Ronald Reagan would say how far behind the Soviets we are militarily, why we’ve gotta have a 50 percent increase military spending.

We see this over and over again. We saw it with the Gaither report. after Sputnik. We, we saw it, with the missile gas, you know, all that insanity. We, we see it repeatedly with the domino theory. Yes. We, we saw it. I mean, we can look at it over and over again. This idea that that Russia is out to conquer the world.

Nitze was using that line to support NSC 68 back in 1950, which called for a quadrupling of U. S. military spending. The Project for a New American Century, the neocons, that was what they were all about. The need for vastly increasing our military because we’re so weak. And we’re seeing that now play out in the Pacific, and we’re seeing it play out in the Middle East, and we’re seeing it play out with the, with the Russians.

And so when Mike Johnson explained his flip flop, he said, well, I’ve seen these intelligence reports that show how powerful Russia is and how bent they are on world conquest. And if we don’t stop them in Ukraine, they’re going to take over Poland. Hold on, they’re gonna take a little Baltics.

Mickey Huff: Are we in a time machine, Peter Koznik?

Peter Kuznick: Well, we’re in a negative, an infinite negative loop right now, and it, it, it is so frightening. We, the other historical parallels when Fico, the prime minister in Slovakia, there was that assassination attempt on him.

Mickey Huff: Yes.

Peter Kuznick: Felt like a pre World War I. Yes. Sarajevo, you know, it, it, the, it has got all these entangling alliances and assassinations. And you look at the response to Trump’s conviction yesterday, Reuters had a very interesting article where they monitored all of the pro Trump sites, and on one after the other, they’re all calling for an armed uprising, and assassinating judges and witnesses and legislators. I mean, we are in many ways, both a pre World War I and pre World War II moment, where you’ve got fascist forces on the rise around the world, including in the United States, and the limited democracy that allows us to have this conversation.

You know, we, you and I are both critics. of the American system and, and the, all the disparities and the, and the surveillance state that’s been created in the national security state and the military state. We do have certain freedoms that we have to defend, including the ability for us to criticize our own government, which is very important.

And it’s something that my friends in Russia don’t have right now, and my friends in China don’t have right now. And, and we, we still do have that. We have to recognize how important that is because we like to criticize everything, but it’s not, you know, but we have to have a more nuanced view of what is good and what is redeemable and salvageable and what we have to change.

Mickey Huff: Well, indeed, and Peter Kuznick, we’re going to be coming up on a break in a moment, but the, the, the aid package that you were talking about specifically was giving money to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. Correct? So, there’s another issue with that that we’ve actually been writing about because as a writer on that package was the TikTok ban or divestment, right? Because it’s owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance. And actually Mitt Romney and Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken said out loud that the reasons that they were targeting it was basically because they couldn’t control it, and that there was information on it that they, they didn’t exactly like, particularly around news coming from Gaza.

Peter Kuznick: Right.

Mickey Huff: And so I found it very troubling that that and you mentioned Mike Johnson, but that that package is going to further more war issues. It’s the United States is again, arming more countries around the world while simultaneously trying to shut down any kind of information that counters their hegemonic propaganda, which is, to me, very problematic.

I have no illusions about what social media companies do, as far as being data harvesters or how they censor or deplatform or algorithmically work toward people’s confirmation biases, all real issues, but all of them have those issues, not just TikTok, right? All of them do. And so the targeting of it is so overtly political that this is why, and this is what sparked this.

We’ve got to take a break in a second, but and then we’ll come back. But when you were talking about the freedoms that we have to talk about these things, right, that’s very important, but we can only meaningfully and intelligently talk about them if we have access to accurate, transparently sourced information.

And when information is, you know, blockaded, the degree to which that we have to rely on social media platforms to get information about things that are happening in certain parts of the world. That’s a pretty damning indictment of the failures of the fourth estate in the larger picture. That all of our information systems are wrought with many problems and challenges.

Peter Kuznick.

Peter Kuznick: I mean, I totally agree with you about TikTok, you know, if they want to control the social media, they can control them all, you know, because they all are a problem, they all participate in the dumbing down of American society. Absolutely. Which is really a problem. It is. And especially when it comes to understanding history.

Yeah, indeed.

Mickey Huff: So there’s so much to catch up on with you and you just caught us up a little bit on how serious, internationally, our, our situation has become particularly regarding Russia.

And of course, you’ve been mentioning China. There’s a lot more to discuss and we haven’t even got into Israel, Gaza yet. So, Peter Kuznick, do you want to maybe segue into the talk about from Russia over to what’s happening with China, or do you want to shift our attention to the Middle East? It’s, it’s, either way, we have too many things to discuss.

Peter Kuznick: Yeah. Well, let me, let me just comment on what we were saying, right before that. . You know, I, I take the mainstream media to task all the time, but the situation has gotten so dangerous now that even the Washington Post has been running articles about how the threat of nuclear war increasing with the authorization to strike targets inside of Russia. Reuters, you know, I has been full of articles the last few days talking about how dire the situation has become

Mickey Huff: But the noise of the Trump trial just drowns all that out, doesn’t it?

Peter Kuznick: Well, yeah anything that, you’re not going to see much of it on CNN or MSNBC or Fox or no no, you know, so we’ve got to use all of our sources because you look what’s coming, you and I try to read as much of the Russian and Chinese and European, and Latin American press as possible.

And there are a lot of developments that are, go unreported in mainstream sources here. The fact that there’s a lot of pushback inside NATO to this targeting. That Italy, that. Spain.

Mickey Huff: So there’s division here. So, so talk a little, talk a little about that. Yeah. Talk about that.

Peter Kuznick: We might get dismissed Orban as a proto fascist, but he talks so much sense.

I mean, he’s talks about these other NATO leaders as being crazy. He says the things that they want to do in terms of provoking Russia are going to lead to world war three. And he says this very openly. And so we, and we had the assassination attempt on Fico in Slovakia, who’s also condemning the NATO aggression.

So there are people out there, we’ve got the meetings between Xi Jinping and Lula, and they’re issuing the six point peace plan for Ukraine. That doesn’t get discussed in the Western media, but when I look at Russia’s, at China’s previous 12 point plan, and what I like about it is the first point defends sovereignty.

It says it talks about the importance of national sovereignty, implicitly criticizing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the second point says no nation’s security should be achieved at the expense of other nation’s security, which is their attack on NATO expansion up to Russia’s doorstep. You know, and China has tried to play that role. What I’ve been doing with some of my colleagues is trying to get to Guterres. You look now for who speaks for the planet. And there is almost nobody who speaks, you know, Biden wants to make America great again, and Putin wants to make Russia great again, and Xi wants to make China great again, and Modi wants to make India great again, and Netanyahu, who knows

wants to do other than stay out of jail and kill Palestinians, but, but who speaks to the planet?

You’ve got Guterres, who’s been very good. You’ve got the Pope on occasion, you’ve got Lula, sometimes Xi Jinping, but what, what we’ve been trying to do is light a fire under Guterres to call for a global summit. We need to step back from the brink over China Taiwan, the South China Seas, Israel and Gaza, as well as, over Ukraine.

Ukraine is the most immediately urgent crisis that we’ve faced in more than 60 years, but they’re all, any one of these could explode into World War III. We, we talked to, you mentioned Israel and Gaza. Well, I’ve been doing a lot of interviews about that as well, of course. And you know, and I always go out of my way to say that I’m not a supporter of Hamas.

I don’t like Hamas. I don’t like religious zealotry in any form. I don’t like their attitude toward Israel as a state. I hate what they did on October 7th and I condemn it every chance I get, but there’s no potential, positive, possible excuse for what Israel is doing. You know, being someone who lost most of my family before I was born in the Holocaust, I’m very careful about using the term genocide. So I’m not sure if this is a genocide, but it sure gets too close to a genocide for anybody’s liking. And this idea that Israel has to wipe out Hamas, what gets lost in this to me is that Hamas was never considered a threat. Hamas would launch a few rockets, sometimes kill a few people in Israel each year, and that was a bad thing, but they never posed a threat, which is why Netanyahu supported them, why he authorized Qatar to keep on funding them, as well as Iran, why he wanted to maintain them there.

Because as long as Hamas had control in Gaza, then they would never get together with the Palestinian Authority and form a two state solution. But when it came to the attack on October 7th, Israel had the plans for more than a year. Israel knew the whole plan for that attack. They saw them training the weekend before the attack occurred.

They weren’t kid- they didn’t care about it. And Netanyahu had moved the Israeli troops from the Gaza border up to support the fascists in the West Bank, those settlers who were trying to take more and more Palestinian land and attacking the Palestinians and killing the Palestinians. And so, yeah, you know, and then the Israeli army took two days to respond.

I mean, an Israeli intelligence meeting- what is going on there? He had divided the country with his so called judicial reform, and had divided the Israelis before that. This whole thing, this whole idea that Hamas represents some kind of existential threat for Israel is totally bogus along the same lines that we’re talking about with you, you know, that Russia represents an existential threat to Europe.

Mickey Huff: We heard this 20 some years ago after 9 11, Peter Kuznick, and that was the neocons prior to that and rebuilding America’s defenses that were talking about the westward expansion and Pax Americana. And the whole plan for the 21st century American hegemony and so forth. I mean, and then after 9 11, it was all Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and Isis and all that.

And even though that it turned out that Bill Clinton had been working with people, those folks earlier, turns out that we were working with different factions of Isis and other groups thereafter. I mean, if you take a look at that history, which is pretty remarkable, but that’s that history that’s either, well, untold history, which you’re certainly expert at.

And it also doesn’t seem to really break through the noise of the culture in, you know, into the dominant news culture, the establishment press, the legacy press. There’s a lot of details that Americans just simply don’t know anything about. You know, and just spinning back to Israel for a moment, we’re up to 37, 000 dead.

Peter Kuznick: No, no, no. My sources say well over 50, 000. Yeah.

Mickey Huff: Okay. So I’m using the ones

Peter Kuznick: that the Gaza health ministry can confirm, right? There’s so many people buried under that rubble. And to see those images of infants and children being pulled out for that rubble,

Mickey Huff: which many people aren’t seeing here, Peter Kuznick, right.

And again, back to the TikTok ban,

Peter Kuznick: the place they’re really not seeing it is in Israel.

Mickey Huff: I was just going to say that. Go ahead, please continue.

Peter Kuznick: Yeah, the censorship on the media is extraordinary.

Mickey Huff: Banning Al Jazeera, taking the AP equipment and then giving it back, but taking it they’re, they’re trying to shut down the whole show, Peter Kuznick.

Peter Kuznick: No, this is totally right.

Mickey Huff: Ditto in Russia with our censorship in Russia. There is a lot of press censorship there too.

Peter Kuznick: I know and I hate seeing it, right? I mean, I I hate that my friend, you know, I would go there I got invited on a regular basis before Trump’s election in 2016 and all as you know all my Russian friends were say it was supporting Trump and saying that he’s gonna be a friend to Russia he wants talks about peace with Russia and I kept saying as much as I dislike Hillary Clinton, the world is going to be much better off with a sane hawk, a warmonger like Hillary Clinton, than with an insane warmonger like Donald Trump.

Mickey Huff: Yeah, we have quite a predicament we have here, Peter Kuznick.

Peter Kuznick: At least if, if, and Biden is in many ways worse than Clinton was, although they’re both three out of that same, cut out of that same cloth. But if Biden gets elected, and I keep on urging all my Democrat friends to find an alternative to Biden, but, you know, Biden is so selfish, so narcissistic that he’s willing to risk being defeated by Trump and putting this outright fascist in power who will never leave office.

If Trump gets in there again, he’s never going to leave, at least not, he may be in a body, in a box, but.

Mickey Huff: Well, Peter, Peter Kuznick, let’s, so as an historian, again, we, we don’t, we’re not supposed to be prognosticators. But, you know, you have, not only are, do you have this vast historical knowledge, you’re, you put it to use, you talk to many people around the world, you’re trying to facilitate, some types of solutions and ceasefires and some kind of peaceful process.

Can you talk to us about where, where, and given that the American public is largely in the dark about many of these things, can you talk a little bit more in detail about some of the efforts that you see or that you, you would, prescribe if you don’t see them as a way of mitigating these multiple crises around the world.

And the U. S. seems to be embroiled in, you know, either in the middle of or on the right on the sidelines of all of them. Peter Kuznick,

Peter Kuznick: You know, the U. S. really is at minimally enabling all of them, in most cases, the U. S. is arming all of them. The U. S. is funding all of them. You know, China talks about win win diplomacy.

They don’t always practice it, you know, in terms of the, I think that they could be much more, show much more largesse toward the other countries in the South China Sea, you know, Vietnam and Brunei and, you know, Philippines and all the others that they’ve got these disputes with. But you have to realize that those countries also have expansive claims to the South China Sea.

It’s not just China that’s got these expansive claims. And in many cases, China’s claims go back thousands of years, whereas the Philippines claims to the Second Thomas Shoal might go back to the 1950s. You know, so it’s a, it’s a very complicated history, but we need to sit down. And there was just a meeting in Beijing this week with China and the Arab states. And, El-Sisi is making an official visit there now, but China is reaching out, trying to push for a peaceful solution, resolution in the Middle East as well. I mean, in all of these situations, what we need is diplomacy. The world has lost track of diplomacy, and that’s largely the U. S. doing. Biden, Putin keeps saying he’s open to negotiating on Ukraine.

And I keep saying, you know, and I, and I do have access to the media all over the world, but not in the United States. Right. Not in my own country, except, you know, with you, of course, progressive sources, but not mainstream sources or very rarely. But I did close to 300 TV interviews last year around the world.

And, you know, and my message is almost always we need to sit down and talk, call Putin’s bluff. He says he wants to negotiate over Ukraine. And there are reasons why I think he really does want to. He’s not going to give up a lot of territory, right? He’s going to draw. He says he’s going to draw the line where it is now militarily and they’ll take they’ll take that.

One of my favorite Japanese movies in 1991 that won the Academy Awards in Japan, a movie about Hiroshima called Black Rain. That same year, Kurosawa’s Rhapsody in August about Nagasaki came out and Black Rain. And in Black Rain, you got the atomic bomb survivors, and then they’re getting reports that you, that this is a Korean War now is five years later, and we’re talking about using nuclear weapons again in Korea.

And one of the survivors says to another, he says, and unjust peace is better than a just war, you know? And, and I, and I, and that’s my view when we come to what’s going on now in Ukraine. It’s an unjust peace. You know, Russian aggression should not be rewarded. But unjust peace is better than a, than a just war there.

And for the, from a Ukrainian standpoint, if this goes on another year, as Biden would like to see, they all say that, you know, 2025 could be Ukraine’s year, Ukraine is never going to push the Russians out of Ukraine out of that territory like Zelensky demands, what we’re going to have is a year from now, 200, 000 more Ukrainians dead and wounded, more of the Ukrainian economy destroyed, more land lost.

What is the point and the possibility of World War III? And it grows by the day. Why don’t we have leaders who are willing to sit down and attempt diplomacy? The U. S. and Russia, our strategic stability talks don’t exist anymore.

Mickey Huff: Well, it’s as if talking is like trading. People equate talking and diplomacy almost with treason.

I mean, it’s a pretty radical, extreme environment we’re in right now, Peter Kuznick.

Peter Kuznick: People who are acute or talk about diplomacy are dismissed as, as dupes. Yes. That’s a good one. You know, the, is, so it’s, and when you watch it as an historian and you see us inexorably moving toward the abyss and with nobody stopping it, which is why I think we need, desperately need, a global summit and we need to get Biden and we can even we’ll let let Sunak come and Modi and Xi and you know and Putin and we’ve got to figure out how to tamp down all of these hot spots because any one of them could have led could lead to a war a border world war three

Mickey Huff: Absolutely Peter Kuznick I want to get it quickly if you could, they’re, just the, the use, the failure of diplomacy, we can, you know, we can go back to the League of Nations, World War I, World War II, right, U. N. The U. N. seems to struggle with the Security Council stalemates and, and, each side saying that it’s a useless body or it’s a tool of, of whatever, either the U. S. or NATO or others. But what about the International Criminal Court, that’s also now being very, very politicized on, on one level? We, we saw, the Biden administration, lauding the, the ICC, when they were talking about Putin and, and war crimes.

But now when we see Netanyahu and Hamas, now there’s, they’re saying, well, the ICC doesn’t matter. It’s, it’s, it’s, well, the favorite word, of, of the, of the, the last several years in this country has been rigged, right? Everything’s rigged from the NFL to elections. Peter, can you talk a little bit about that and, and sort of the challenge that that presents?

Peter Kuznick: Well, I would talk about the rigging of Major League Baseball before there you go. NFL has a salary cap. Okay. The Dodgers and the Yankees spending billions of dollars on on buying up players. That’s a little bit more more rigged, but I’m glad the Orioles are going to beat the Yankees anyway. Despite that fact, they have just about the lowest salary.

But, but when we come to, you know, or, or the U. S. response to the U. N. Security Council statement on Gaza, and the U. S. says it’s non binding. How is that non binding? I mean, that’s not, that’s the law. That’s non binding, but the U. S. rules based international order is somehow legitimate. I mean, we’ve, we’ve lost all reason at this point. We’ve lost any respect for other countries red lines. We’ve lost respect for global rationality, and we’ve lost respect for diplomacy. And, you know, some of us, you and me and Jeff Sachs and Yvonne, Yvonne Hughes and, and some of our allies, Ray McGovern and, and other people who we, we work with and look up to, you know, are, are pushing for diplomacy, how close we are to, to nuclear Armageddon, you know, are not the ones who are in power in the Biden administration.

Mickey Huff: Peter Kuznick, your late great friend, Daniel Ellsberg. To the end, you know, was fighting for this for a against nuclear annihilation, fighting for, for world peace. Such a towering figure.

Peter Kuznick: Dan was a voice in the wilderness. I mean, Dan understood he was in touch with Robock and Toon and the physicist and the the astrophysicists who are working on nuclear winter.

You know, and Dan learned this back in his days at Harvard and in his war games that he was doing, and as the leading expert on command and control of nuclear weapons in the you know, in the, in the, defense department in the early sixties and

Mickey Huff: Rand Corporation.

Peter Kuznick: Yeah. You know, was working with Rand.

I mean, Dan understood how, how crazy a situation we’re in, that there is as Jonathan shell and other dear friends who I miss terribly as Jonathan Shell made clear, no, no specific issue and gains that can come from any specific issue are worth threatening the world with annihilation. You know, Kennedy made that same point in his AU commencement address.

He did. He said to put a nuclear armed power in a position of either suffering a humiliating defeat or resorting to nuclear weapons is either a colossal failure of statesmanship or a death wish on the part of the human race. And that’s what we see. We see the NATO countries trying to put Russia in that position, where Russia and Putin is responding with there’s his own saber rattling and threats.

Russia just conducted the first ever tactical nuclear weapons drill that was on the border of Ukraine. You know, they’re signaling as clearly as they can, back off, because we are going to respond in a way that is going to be, you know, horrific. And Biden has said that there is almost no chance of a limited nuclear war.

That once it starts, it spreads to Armageddon and, you know, and, you know, mass annihilation on our planet. But we’re sleepwalking and we’re not seeing this. You look, this report came out from the London based International Strategic Studies Institute, I think it’s called, about war games in the Pacific.

And they traced it from 2001, I think, to 2022 or 2023. And they said that the number of war games, military exercises in the Pacific has been increasing at a very, very rapid rate. I think I’ve got the statistics here. Between 2003 and 2022, the London based International Institute of Strategic Studies said that the U. S. and its allies in Asia ran 1,113 military exercises, China ran 130 with its allies. So China is far behind, but increasing, and China is increasing its military capabilities. China has in terms of the number of ships, the biggest surface fleet in the world now, not in terms of the tonnage, which the U. S.

is still far ahead. China, which used to rely on a nuclear deterrent of 200 nuclear weapons, is now past 500. The Pentagon says that they want to have 1, 000 by 2030 and 1, 500 by 2035. So China is also, they say, we want to have a credible second strike as credible deterrent.

Mickey Huff: Back to detente.

Peter Kuznick: The world is just moving and, and, and as I was saying before.

Every nuclear arms treaty has been abrogated. There’s nothing left. The, you know, the New START Treaty, which was all we had, now is not being abided by anymore. And so the United States, we had just had this U. S. Military Posture Commission, bipartisan congressional commission, call for dramatically increasing America’s nuclear arsenal.

So all those years we saw the decreasing nuclear arsenals down to the point we’ve got under 13, 000 weapons now, nuclear weapons, but now the United States is talking about increasing it. The British are talking about increasing theirs by 40 percent China by far more than that. Russia’s talking about increasing it again.

India, I mean, every single nuclear power is not only modernizing, they’re increasing their arsenal. And when you’ve got other countries, you look at the situation with Iran under the JCPOA, they ran a nuclear deal. They were at least a year away from a breakout of developing a nuclear weapon. Now the experts say they might be a month away.

You know, under the, before Trump abrogated the nuclear deal with Iran, Iran had shipped out 97 percent of its highly enriched uranium. Iran was enriching only up to, what, three, three, little bit more than 3%. Now Iran is enriching up to more than 60%. To jump from 60% to 90%, which is a nuclear weapon, is easy.

The hard part is to get from 3% to 60% and they all those mothballed centrifuges, which they had done, now we’re all operating again, you know, and we’ve got an upcoming election in Iran. We had the assassination. The or not the assassination, but

Mickey Huff: the helicopter crash

Peter Kuznick: attack, which fortunately they have not tried to blame on Israel because that could have triggered

Mickey Huff: Israel already- they are already attacking. I mean, again, the US and others attacking right over talking about it’s okay to attack over the Russian border. Israel’s already attacked Iranian, they’ve already killed people, the general, they attacked the embassy. I mean,

Peter Kuznick: That was the, they attacked the consulate in Damascus, Iranian consulate, and Iran had a symbolic people response, you know, but Iran, Iran’s has so many ways as, as we know, you look at their proxies.

Yes. Hamas is weak. But if you look at Hezbollah, they’ve got 150, 000 missiles and rockets and drones that could hit, overwhelm Israel’s, you know, Iron Dome defense system. You’ve got the Houthis increasing their attacks now. You’ve got Hamas. You’ve got the militias. In Syria and Iraq. I mean, there’s so many capabilities aside from Iran itself, carrying out this attack.

We’re going to have now new elections in Iran, and it’s going to be one hardliner or another.

Mickey Huff: Yeah, it’s not, it’s not good. And Peter Kuznick, history seems to suggest that we don’t learn much from history.

Peter Kuznick: Sadly, we learned very little from history. You know, I was just looking at a Reinhold Niebuhr of 1951, from, I guess, Ironies of History, and he talks about, how countries, how, how evil gets promulgated by countries who think that they have righteousness on their side.

And you know, whether it’s, you know, look at, at Biden. You know, this is not an evil man, but he’s an old, a feeble old fool who surrounds himself with hawkish advisors and can’t stand up to them. (unintelligible) in every confrontation. You know, that’s why we, we loved Kennedy, not everything he did, but the fact that he, that he alone would stand up to not only all of his political advisors, but all of his military advisors during the Cuban missile crisis, that he’d be willing to, to re resist all of their pressure to bomb and invade Cuba.

And we know now that would have triggered World War three

Mickey Huff: and he stood up to Dulles and he stood up to the CIA and well, yeah, we saw we saw how that ended for for JFK,

Peter Kuznick: right? And Biden, clearly, if he ever had that backbone, which I’ve never seen, or that inclination. He certainly doesn’t have it now.

Mickey Huff: So Peter Kuznick, I want to thank you for all the important work you do, as an historian as a public intellectual, really trying to help people understand the things that are going on around the world.

As ever, it’s very enlightening. And, even though we seem to be in pretty dark times, you have some pretty specific reminders that diplomacy, talking, understanding, empathy. These are things that we have to embrace. Or else we won’t have anything left to embrace,

Peter Kuznick: You know, and you don’t negotiate with your friends and allies.

You negotiate with your adversaries. And part of the problem is we so demonized Putin, you know, once you start using the Hitler analogies or the other things that Biden has said, or Zelensky has said about Putin, that almost of necessity rules out talking. (unintelligible) . So, you know, you one this demonization that goes on this impugning somebody else’s integrity and their motives.

You know, I don’t like the invasion of Ukraine, but I understand the ways in which it was provoked, and I understand that it was a failure on everybody’s part and Putin really did want that (unintelligible) agreement to work and Scholz and Merkel played him for a fool. You know, and they dragged that out so that Ukraine would have time to rearm.

You know, we know how that went. You know, there’s blame to go around. And that’s why I don’t think there are any good guys, really, or very, very few good guys in the world. And I think we’ve got to sit down and negotiate agreements that are in everybody’s interest. The way agreements work and are adhered to is they are in everybody’s interest, what the Chinese call win win.

And we can do that over Ukraine, and we can do that over, with a two state solution, and we can do that over Taiwan. And the South China Sea. We just need to inject some humanity, some decency, some rationality, some diplomacy into this picture.

Mickey Huff: Well, Peter Kuznick, once again, thank you so much for joining us on the Project Censored Show, co author with Oliver Stone of the Untold History of the United States, professor of history at American University.

And I know we were saying there seems to be a paucity of of good guys, but you’re in my book you’re one of the good guys Peter Kuznick. So keep up. Thank you. Keep up the stellar work that you’re doing much appreciated

Peter Kuznick: You too. Thank you

 

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Seth Stern

Mickey Huff: Welcome back to the Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio. I’m your host, Mickey Huff. In this segment, we would like to welcome back to the program, we would like to welcome back Seth Stern. Seth Stern is with the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is the Director of Advocacy, and Seth was on the program not long ago with Associate Director of Project Censored, Andy Lee Roth.

Seth Stern, we’re having you back to talk about the so called PRESS Act right now, and before the, before I’m introducing you here, I just alluded to the fact that this is a, a potentially positive development, protecting journalists and reporters. So could you give our listeners a welcome back to the program, by the way, Seth, thanks for joining us.

Seth Stern: Thanks, great to be here.

Mickey Huff: So I’m eager to dive right in because it’s not every day we get to talk about some good things that might be happening, around the First Amendment and press, press freedoms. Tell us a little bit about the history of what, what is the PRESS Act? Of course, it, it is an acronym. So tell us about that, the history of it, and, and, you know, why we need it.

Seth Stern.

Seth Stern: So the PRESS Act i, a reporter’s shield bill to protect journalists source confidentiality, it would prohibit the federal government, whether it be, prosecutors, the judiciary from compelling reporters to burn their sources essentially through subpoenas or through other forms of surveillance.

Administrations from both political parties, both Obama, for example, and Trump spied on journalists emails. And this would prevent that it not only would prevent spying on on reporters through subpoena that are directly issued to reporters. It would prohibit enlisting telecom providers, phone and email companies to turn over reporters, confidences and again, outsources and it’s important because journalists depend on sources. Oftentimes sources are confidential. Not because they’re being weasely and wanting to get anonymous quotes in the paper, but because they’re people who have a lot to lose by coming forward. They could lose their job. They could lose their freedom in many instances, and when they can’t come forward with reasonable confidence that their identities won’t be publicized.

They’re often reluctant to come forward at all. So stories don’t get told that should be told or stories get told without the detail that, that, that, that should be included, you know, of course, some of the biggest stories in US history were, were, were told through confidential sources. And there’s long been a recognition of the need for journalist source communications to be privilege to some extent. 49 states, either as a matter of statutory law or case law from the courts, recognize some form of reporter’s privilege. And the various federal appellate circuits, many of them, with some exceptions, like the Seventh Circuit where I live, but most appellate circuits recognize some form of limited reporter’s privilege.

But the problem there is, one, the, the privileges are, as I said, limited. Oftentimes they’re kind of wishy washy. They give judges a lot of discretion to balance the importance of the reporter’s testimony against it’s, it’s necessity or it’s, it’s contribution to, to, to, to the proceedings. And when you’re a judge and you’re spending your whole life in a legal system and you’re asked to balance the legal system’s interests versus journalists interests, inherently you’re going to defer to the legal system because that’s where you, that’s, that’s where you exist.

That’s where your biases are. It’s sort of natural. And a lot of the privileges only apply, let’s say in criminal cases or only in civil cases. What that results in is when journalists are talking to sources and sources ask, what happens if you get subpoenaed, journalists have to give basically lawyer answers, they have to say, it depends, it depends on the jurisdiction in which the subpoena issues, it depends on the circumstances, they can’t commit to, I’m going to keep your identity confidential unless there is a imminent national security emergency or a risk that someone’s going to die if your identity is not disclosed. And that’s essentially what the exceptions to this bill, are. If there is, yeah, a need to identify a terrorist, a perpetrator of terrorism or, or some risk of, you know, imminent harm, which is something that is unlikely to happen.

I really doubt we’re going to find ourselves in a situation where the key to stopping the next, you know, 9 11 resides in a journalist’s notebook. And honestly, if it did, the journalist would voluntarily hand over that information. So, it’s good that those exceptions are in there. I doubt those exceptions are ever actually going to be needed.

The other great thing about this bill is that unlike some past proposals, it defines journalist very broadly. Anybody who essentially regularly gathers and shares news with the public, it does not require that they be employed by some mainstream news outlet. It does not even require, as did the last shield bill that, that, that, that was in Congress a few years ago.

It doesn’t require that they that they earn their income through journalism. It defines journalism as a verb, not a noun. It’s an action. If you are engaged in journalism, you are protected. There is the requirement that you regularly engage in journalism so that, you know, somebody who posts on Facebook once can’t claim the act’s protections.

But honestly, somebody who somebody who pays to post on Facebook once is not going to have sources and is not going to have news gathering material. So it’s sort of irrelevant. The people who do have sources and do have news gathering material are going to be protected. And, I think in part actually because of that broad definition, this bill is getting bipartisan support because, look, plenty of small independent journalists work for conservative publications or, or, or, or are conservative journalists independently have a blog, whatever it may be.

This doesn’t. You know, this isn’t some gift to the liberal media. This benefits everyone equally. So it passed the House, unanimously. It has in two state, two straight Congresses, it’s passed the House unanimously.

Mickey Huff: That’s amazing. I just want to interject to say how amazing that is.

Seth Stern: Right, right. You wouldn’t expect it because we’ve got this climate where well, everything’s divided.

There’s really a, you know, the, the, the, the political climate is so polarized, but especially when it comes to the media, you’ve got, you know, the whole fake news narrative, liberal media, you’ve got, all of this discourse about how biased and awful the media is. is, and then, you know, on the left people, of course, aren’t fans of Fox News and whoever else among the conservative press.

But despite all that, there is a recognition that, you know, the news, the news media might be far from perfect, very far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to have their first amendment rights. If we want the news media to improve and, and to be the free and unrestrained press that we want it to be.

It’s rights to gather news need to be protected. One of the reasons why some news outlets function as, you know, stenographers for the government and mostly print official spin rather than digging for the facts is because sources aren’t going to come forward when they’re afraid of, potential repercussions.

And because journalists don’t don’t want to risk, you know, going to prison for, not disclosing their sources or for their news gathering methods in the first place. Well, you know, when you’ve got laws like the Espionage Act on the books and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and others that are used to criminalize routine journalism.

So anything that can be done to improve journalists rights is a positive. No matter which journalists, any individual respects or likes, no matter what any individual thinks of the state of the news media, generally, this, this helps whatever media you rely on. So as it passed the house, unanimously and two Congresses in a row, now it’s pending in the Senate, where it also has bipartisan support. On the Democratic side, it’s got Dick Durbin and Ron Wyden as sponsors. On the Republican side, it’s got Lindsay Graham and Mike Lee. You know, Wyden and Lee might not be all that surprising to people. Ron Wyden, he’s got a, you know, family background in journalism and he’s on a lot of press freedom and, and, and civil liberties bill.

Mike Lee kind of represents the, the, libertarian anti surveillance wing of the Republican party. And I think that’s the aspect of this bill that primarily appeals, to him. And that’s great. But then, you know, to have the sort of mainstream report of a support of Durbin and Graham, and that’s particularly important, not to get too much in the weeds of the processes here, but this, this bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senator Durbin is the chair of that committee.

Senator Graham is the highest ranking Republican in that committee. So there are two really helpful people to have on board with this bill. And, you know, speaking of people in, in leadership in the Senate, Senator Schumer has also been quoted saying he would like to see this bill on this, on the president’s desk this year.

So there’s, there’s some real support behind it. And we’re just hoping That it will be scheduled for a markup in the Judiciary Committee so it can get out of committee and get in front of the full Senate while there’s still time because it is getting kind of, you know, late in the legislative session and we want that to happen right away.

Mickey Huff: Seth Stern, I can’t help but think of the case of Julian Assange, although it’s international and has various implications, but you had mentioned the Espionage Act is one of the many different tools the government has to try to silence or shut things down. And I’m particularly interested in the fact that, and you explained this very well, that, it doesn’t define a journalist by someone that works at, an established outlet, like you don’t have to have a press credential at the New York Times or whatever, you said very clearly that if you’re a practicing journalist, a citizen journalist, you don’t have to have a career or money, but if you have a record, a track record of reporting about things going on that, that this would apply to you.

That is, that is correct. That’s extraordinary because you know, in previous incarnations where we’ve seen some of this, this kind of activity, there actually have been efforts to kind of define what that is or to clearly exclude people. And the kinds of people that are normally excluded are independent reporters, people that have different perspectives and voices.

Could you speak to that just a little bit more? Because I just find that to be a really profound development as part of this.

Seth Stern: Right. Agreed. In the past, I think before the internet and before the troubles, the financial troubles that the mainstream news media is facing these days, lawmakers were more comfortable trying to define what kind of journalism needs to be protected.

So there was less resistance politically when, someone would say, would try to limit protections like these to newspaper reporters, television reporters, people with some sort of press credential. There was always resistance to that idea from First Amendment and press freedom advocates. It is, you know, the First Amendment does not only apply to the institutional press.

The institutional press didn’t, exist. When a bunch of radical insurrectionists drafted the First Amendment, right? So, you know, there’s no indication that their intention is to protect the New York Times. No, but among in, in, in DC, in the past, there’s been a higher comfort level with trying to define who is and isn’t a journalist.

Nowadays, even in DC, there is some resistance to that, both because people are not a fan of the current mainstream media, for whatever reason, whether they think it’s because they have a liberal bias or whatever it may be, people aren’t that thrilled with the mainstream media that they want the protection to be on for them.

I think for someone like a Mike Lee, it’s, it’s, it’s more exciting to protect small freelance independent upstart journalists that it is to protect, mainstream journalists. So I, I think that plus the recognition that the traditional business models of the news media are in trouble and that there needs to be some breathing room for the media to evolve and and and and passing legislation at this point in time that only protects sort of the the old model of media is not very forward looking because that old model is pretty clearly on its last legs. Yeah. So that’s led to this moment in time where there is this willingness to protect sort of a broader swath of, of, of journalists and of news outlets. And right. We, we think that’s a great thing.

Mickey Huff: And Seth Stern, you wrote earlier this year, and you’ve written quite a bit about this.

You partnered with Clayton Weimers, Reporters Without Borders. And you, you wrote for the Hill. You mentioned a couple of more high profile cases of journalists that were being attacked, including James Risen. Right. And you mentioned another, you mentioned another CBS journalist, Catherine Herridge, was being, was at risk of being held in, in contempt.

So, so there are actually issues, contemporary issues and instances where the Press Act would come in very handy to protect people, correct?

Seth Stern: Right. Yes, very much so. James, it’s, it’s, it’s unfortunate that both James Risen and James Rosen are among the journalists who have been pressured to disclose their sources.

It’s very easy to confuse them, but I guess it just shows that this is a relatively commonplace occurrence that people with one letter separating their names have both fallen victim.

Mickey Huff: You wrote about Rosen, yes. Yes,

Seth Stern: We wrote about both of them at varying times, but yeah, Risen, I think back then was with the New York Times, now writes for The Intercept.

And Rosen

Mickey Huff: was with Fox.

Seth Stern: Right, he was with Fox and he’s now with Newsmax. Risen was pressured by, I believe, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Rosen, mostly the Obama administration, the Trump administration, also attempted to access journalists emails from, the, the, the Associated Press, other outlets.

The Biden administration at first continued that effort, then dropped it and actually, enacted a Department of Justice policy restricting Subpoenas of journalists that that policy for one, it’s just a DOJ policy. So it only applies to federal prosecutors. It doesn’t apply to other agencies. It doesn’t apply to defense lawyers.

It doesn’t apply to, to the courts, to, to, it’s a policy that can be repealed by any future administration. And the Trump administration, for example, almost certainly will, if it came to their attention, the only hope is that they never look at it.

Mickey Huff: Yeah.

Seth Stern: So we need more than a policy. We, we, we, we need a law and yes, it’s.

This is something that happens all the time, regardless of politics. Catherine Herridge is a journalist who was most recently with CBS before she was with Fox. She was subpoenaed in a civil case, to, to, to, to disclose sources, to, help a plaintiff pursue privacy claims against the FBI, actually. And she, she would not.

She stood her ground. She didn’t disclose her sources. She was held in contempt of court. The judge fined her 800 per day that she didn’t disclose her sources. Fortunately, the judge, delayed that fine, stayed it pending her appeal. So she’s not paying right now. But, the risk of not only having to pay your lawyers, but to have to pay 800 a day in contempt fees.

Hey, that might be something you can handle if you’ve got Fox News and, or, footing the bill. But if you’re an independent journalist, that is, that’s, that’s not, that’s not doable. And past journalists, you know, in, in, in Catherine Herridge’s case, it’s only a fine, but past journalists have, have, have, done jail time.

The Judith Miller case is the most famous. She spent several months in jail. Another case, the journalist who I believe spent the longest time in jail anyone ever has for not outing their sources, was Vanessa Leggett, who is a Houston based crime journalist. She spent, I think, almost six months in prison, in jail for refusing to out sources.

And that’s, I like bringing that case in because it sort of drives home. That these are not all political cases. It’s a lot of the talk is national security journalism when it comes to someone like Risen or Rosen or, or like Judy Miller, but most cases where journalists are subpoenaed have nothing to do with presidential politics.

And that’s another reason that this is a bipartisan bill because. Vanessa Leggett’s crime reporting in Houston, Texas was equally of interest to everyone, regardless of political leanings. You know, the journalist in Chicago, Jim DeRogatis, who broke the R. Kelly story about R. Kelly being a predator, he, he, he was subpoenaed twice for his, news gathering information.

I would hope that people of all political stripes see the benefit in a journalist being able to expose that a major celebrity is preying on teenage girls all over Chicago and all over Atlanta. So, so, so it’s easy to get caught up in the sort of DC politics of this, but it’s bigger than that.

Journalism is not just about DC politics.

Mickey Huff: Yeah, Seth Stern, I’m really glad you said that. I apologize for the awkward backward way I kind of got into that question. My, my, my goal was to say if this is a bipartisan effort, meaning it’s the, the Press Act has bipartisan support, but the effort to squelch journalists or to silence stories is also bipartisan.

Seth Stern: Yes, yes. Both are, somehow both are true.

Mickey Huff: Somehow. Seth, Seth Stern, Director for Advocacy at Freedom of the Press Foundation. Anything else you’d like to share with our audience today, how they can follow your very important work at Freedom. Press?

Seth Stern: Yeah, Freedom. Press is the website, at Freedom of Press on, on, on Twitter and, all of the other platforms.

I would encourage people, if they’re so inclined, to reach out to their, Senators, especially if you’re in Illinois and can reach out to Senator, Durbin’s office, since he is the one who really needs to move this bill along and, submit it for a markup at the Judiciary Committee. He obviously supports the bill, he’s sponsoring it, but I think it’s helpful for him to hear that it’s a priority because he’s got other things on his plate.

If you, are represented by a Senator who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, they’re especially high priority right now, but really, anybody, just, just, just, just reach out. This is never going to be the number one legislative priority for anyone in the Senate. So for them to hear from their constituents that this is important to people, any extra motivation you can provide them is useful.

We sent a letter yesterday, which Project Censored joined a lot around along with over 120 press freedom, civil liberties organizations, media lawyers, law professors. Hopefully that’ll build some momentum, but unfortunately an hour or so after we sent that letter out and sent out our press release, hoping that it would, develop some buzz around this bill, the former president decided to get convicted of 34 felonies.

So that, sort of took the news momentum away from our, our, campaign. So any anything that people out there can do to talk to pressure their senators and let their senators know that this is important is really much appreciated.

Mickey Huff: Seth Stern, Director of Advocacy for the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Thanks as always for joining us on the Project Censored Show and thanks for your very important work. All appreciate it. Thanks so much

Seth Stern: for having me.