The Russian Patsy

“We are going to do a terrible thing to you—we are going to deprive you of an enemy.”

~ Georgi Arbatov, director of the Soviet Academy of Sciences’ Institute for U.S and Canada Studies, 1988

The Soviet Union was the most militarily powerful enemy the United States has ever faced, and after its demise in 1990, US foreign policy and military strategy hasn’t done so well. Since Grenada, the US has lost or stalemated every armed conflict it engaged in. (Let’s not count Libya—it had already surrendered before we decided to bomb it.) We still have holdovers from the Axis of Evil—Syria, North Korea, and Cuba—that we can’t seem to defeat. Nixon lost China and Obama gave up on Cuba, yet it seems our leaders still cling to the notion of bringing Russia into America’s orbit. This will be news to many people, but that objective—turning Russia into a US client state—has smoldered among the best and the brightest of our militarists since 1990. The election of Donald Trump has smothered but not extinguished that beacon of hope. Throughout all those decades “we will deprive you of an enemy” has met a chorus of murmurs saying “hold on, not so fast; we’re not done with you yet…”

Now that we “know” that the Russians hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton advisor John Podesta and released them on Wikileaks, a chorus of outrage has swelled from the swells of Washington and editorial pages across the nation. Of course the recently-released joint intelligence report doesn’t provide any real proof (that would reveal “sources and methods” don’t you know), but that’s enough to convince the masses that Vladimir Putin aims to sabotage American democracy.

Other than his immediate and obvious preference for wild-card Trump over neoliberal Clinton they don’t say why Putin has this putative agenda—that would be “speculation—they just want you to believe. So let me ask you, do you think the Russkies are out to destroy our democracy? If answered No, then how do you know? If you answered Yes, then likewise, what’s your evidence? If you answered Don’t Know, then join the club, but realize that you’re in in the minority, along with Donald Trump, of course.

More and more American mainstream media outlets are becoming comfortable with calling Russia our main adversary, as if it were a proven fact that it has the US in its gun sights. I swear I heard an NPR reporter call Russia that a few days ago, but it seems to have been elided from the transcript. No matter and no need to single out NPR for this pernicious meme, which permeates the infosphere. Dissing Russia has become a media pastime even before members of the “intelligence community” managed to overcome their turf battles and petty jealousies to jointly communicate that Russian hackers, orchestrated by Vlad “The Inhaler” Putin, perpetrated cyber attacks on the DNC last summer. Their secret report and its sanitized version did not go so far as to claim that the theft of DNC and John Podesta’s email and subsequent release on Wikileaks altered the course of the presidential election, but that’s only in the narrow sense that the evildoers did not electronically electorally compromise the voting process.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t compromised or that the affair didn’t affect the outcome. All that would have taken would have been for a sufficient number of voters not to signify for Hillary Clinton after learning of the double-dealing going on in the DNC. And of course, it could also have been the result of FBI Director James Comey announcing the Agency was going to investigate Clinton’s use and abuse if her private email server, then closing the investigation, and next reopening it during the last week before the election, raising doubt in many voters’ minds about her integrity (not, I grant you, that such doubts weren’t already widespread). But let’s not get into how Clinton managed to undermine her own candidacy in any number of ways. Her emails and the DNC scandal may not have done her in on their own, but they must have contributed to the evaporation of her substantial lead last October, when these matters were being widely taken up in the press.

Politicians of both parties and the so-called liberal media appear to have closed ranks behind the intelligence community to blame Russia for hacked revelations that, to a person, they agree did not alter the outcome of the election. But the events surrounding those revelations and the positions that Clinton’s adversaries took probably did tilt the election in ways that nobody seems willing to discuss. Another possibly contributing factor that politicians and the media steer clear of is the use of electronic voting systems in swing states that are amenable to unverifiable tampering from within. No, it’s so much easier for everyone on the losing side to blame the Russians and not open our own cans of worms.

There is, apparently, a certain nostalgia in certain high circles for the good old days of the cold war when the US and the Soviet Union were on hair-trigger alert for a nuclear engagement, and some of these circles encompass the highest levels of government and our military-industrial establishment.[1] Badmouthing Russia is simply a necessary first step toward gaining public acceptance for raising the threat level to the point where the US will have no choice but to militarily respond to its evil provocations. Respond, that is, beyond expanding NATO, arming Russia’s neighbors in Eastern Europe with anti-missile installations and other advanced weapons systems, and conducting war games there that from Putin’s perspective have tightened the military noose around the Russian Republic. Our war hawks can’t forgive Putin for its accession of Crimea, a reaction primarily triggered by a CIA-engineered coup in Ukraine that installed an oligarch friendly to the West. Of course, that was no provocation.

Which brings us back to NPR and the rest of the “liberal media” taking for granted that Russia is our implacable adversary. Hence, not one major US news outlet has seen fit to investigate any alternative theory about the email hacking. It was, of all sources, the Tea Party that alerted me to credible allegations that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked. Its blog quoted an article in the UK Daily Mail about Craig Murray, a UK diplomat for 20 years until he was drummed out of the corps for contradicting official stories. In mid-December, Murray, who is close to Julian Assange, claimed that it was he, not the Russians, that gave the DNC emails to Wikileaks. He had obtained them, he said, on a flash drive from an intermediary in a wooded area on the campus of American University in Washington DC. Murray claims in his blog that the data had been downloaded by a disgruntled DNC staffer who had legitimate access to it and that Russia had nothing to do with any of it.

One can count on the fingers of the stump of one hand the number of US mainstream media outlets that have given time to Murray’s allegations. Politifact has never bothered to check them out, but did and labeled them “unproven.” Of course, Murray could have made this all up. He could be shilling for Putin for that matter. But the astounding thing is that no US news outlet (though plenty of bloggers) saw fit to run his story. In fact, Murray asserts (and provides evidence) that Facebook suppressed shares of his post. (After he called out Facebook for doing that, he said Facebook did unblock it.) One can only conclude that the American “free press” not only vigorously peddles the Russian hacking angle, it is bound and determined to suppress all alternative explanations.

It seems Russia has no need to destroy America’s democratic institutions while our four estates—aided and abetted by think tanks, SuperPACs and corporate enterprises—are doing such a good job of it.


[1] Readers too young to remember that MAD (mutual assured destruction) era should watch the recent PBS American Experience film Command and Control to see how close America came to nuking itself on more than one occasion.

Geoff Dutton is a reformed geek turned columnist, novelist, and publisher hailing from Boston who writes about whatever distortions of reality strike his fancy. Turkey Shoot, his novel interrogating the lives and times of members of a cell of terrorists in Europe, recently received an award for Courage in Fiction. You can find more of his writing here and at Progressive Pilgrim Review. He welcomes correspondence at geoff-at-perfidy-dot-press.