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On Russia’s Stealing the White House

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0


Paris.

The current hysteria in the United States over allegations that Russia stole the American election to put its man, Donald Trump, in the White House would be hilarious if powerful people in the U.S. government and the mainstream media did not appear to take this scenario seriously.

It has been leaked to the Washington Post by an anonymous source that the CIA has concluded with high confidence that the Kremlin preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.

Well, duh! How much intelligence, in any sense, does it take to reach that conclusion?

Clinton had publicly compared President Putin to Hitler and promised to step up efforts to provoke, punish and humiliate Russia.

Trump had promised to treat Russia and its president with respect and to seek to cooperate with Russia on matters of common interest.

Of course, Russia preferred Trump!

Americans are supposed to be shocked, shocked (à la Casablanca) that, in these circumstances and with the relationship between the two major nuclear powers being the most important and dangerous inter-state relationship on the planet, Russia might have dared to try to influence the result of the American election.

Readers of A Legacy of Ashes, Tim Weiner’s definitive history of the CIA, will be aware that two of the principal activities of the CIA since its creation have been the propagation of fake news stories (officially, only for foreign consumption) and seeking to influence foreign elections, with the former often placed with friendly media so as to further the latter – admittedly, relatively benign activities compared to the CIA’s more recent focus on torture and drone-assassinations.

Where that didn’t work, the CIA organized coups to overthrow democratically elected governments not to America’s liking (Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Ukraine, etc.), and, of course, there have been numerous American regime-change operations involving bombings and invasions.

And, meanwhile, the NSA is vacuuming up every electronic communication on the planet …

It requires hypocrisy and historical amnesia on a breathtaking scale to be outraged that Russia might have made available to WikiLeaks some true internal emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Campaign that did not reflect well on Clinton – let alone to characterize such a disclosure, as one member of Congress recently has, as an “act of war”.

Assuming, for the sake of argument (and notwithstanding former British Ambassador Craig Murray’s admission that he personally delivered the relevant leaked emails to WikiLeaks on behalf of a “disgusted” Democratic Party insider), that the Russian government really was responsible for the release of these emails into the public domain, how many American voters actually read these emails, and how many of those would have been so shocked to learn that the Democratic National Committee was not ensuring a level playing field between Clinton and Bernie Sanders (already rather obvious) or that the inner workings and calculations of a political campaign are (like sausage-making) better not viewed up close (also no surprise) that they changed their voting intentions?

A better argument can be made that the late intervention by FBI Director James Comey, suggesting as it did the possible indictment and prosecution of a president-elect, might, even though he backed off a few days before election day, have changed the voting intentions of a sufficient number of wavering voters to affect the result. But the DNC and Podesta emails? Russia? Really?

In accordance with the rules of the bizarre and absurd 18th century Electoral College system (and barring a massive defection of “faithless electors” when they vote in state capitols on Monday), Donald Trump has been duly elected as the next president of the United States. America and the world will have to live with it.

The efforts currently underway among some politicians and in the mainstream press to try to convince the American people that Trump is a “Siberian Candidate” in the service of Russia and that his election was – and his presidency will be – illegitimate because his victory was achieved only by the “hacking” and “subversion” of the election by a foreign power (both terms being hurled as fact in Paul Krugman’s latest column in the New York Times, in which he also argues that Trump’s election should not be accorded “any legitimacy beyond the bare legal requirements”) are wildly irresponsible and dangerous.

Russia does not need to trash American democracy. From the start of this extraordinarily ugly campaign season, Americans have been doing an excellent job of that themselves. Their politicians and “opinion leaders” should resist the urge to dig the hole in which the country finds itself even deeper, and Democratic members of Congress should resist the urge to adopt the scorched-earth approach of the Republican Party over the past eight years and devote all their efforts in the coming four years toward ensuring the failure of their country’s president in everything he seeks to accomplish.

Sadly, at the moment, the country of my birth is looking more and more like the world’s largest open-air insane asylum.

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John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who as advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

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