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The American Anti-Russia Hysteria and Sanctions Bill

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Recently, the US House of Representatives voted 419-3 and the US Senate voted 98-2 to lump North Korea, Iran, and Russia together in a massive, sweeping sanctions bill. Does it not strike anyone as strange that these quite different, hardly connected countries would be lumped together in one huge sanctions bill, and for no apparent or specific reason except that: “We don’t like you. We think you are evil. Therefore, we take it upon ourselves with great moral authority to punish you.”

Furthermore, this bill includes a provision that the President of the United States cannot violate or change it without notifying Congress first. Essentially, in the case of Russia in particular, what this means is that even if President Trump would like to mend relations with Russia, his hands will be tied. The fact that Russia is tied with the likes of North Korea and Iran is the most interesting feature of this new sanctions bill, especially given the anti-Russia hysteria that has so dominated American politicians and MSM ever since Trump was elected. Hence, I will focus on this feature; however, since Iran and North Korea are also included, I’ll first briefly comment on those two countries.

In general, sanctions are rarely effective, only serve to heighten tensions further, usually only affect the poor within the country targeted, and leaders often find ways around them; moreover, sanctions are often counterproductive and sometimes backfire. For example, concerning Iran, who has experienced the brunt of US sanctions for years, this new bill will do little to further punish them and will, in fact, be almost like a godsend since Iran did nothing in particular to deserve new sanctions. Though Iran has considerable influence in Iraq and has for some time been providing support for Hezbollah, both of these factors are not new, yet the USsuddenly decides to throw new sanctions at Iran (even while Hezbollah is currently driving Al-Qaeda out of Lebanon). Moreover, Iran has been abiding by the 2015 nuclear agreement, which was signed not only by the Obama administration but by the EU and the five members of the UN Security Council. Even Trump has grudgingly acknowledged that Iran has been living up to its end of the bargain. So what do you think these “other,” significant parties to the nuclear agreement are going to think about this unilateral, essentially emotional, decision to punish Iran for being Iran, and recklessly endangering the deal in the process? Of course, they are going to think it’s quite unfair and foolish: Iran comes out smelling like a rose.

Now, lets’ briefly consider North Korea. North Korea has been “sanctioned” more than any country on the earth, yet nothing has changed much, has it? In fact, it seems that the more North Korea is sanctioned, the worse they become. You cannot threaten an already paranoid North Korea, and military action is out of the question. After all, this is not a toothless Iraq, but a dangerous military power. On the other hand, history shows that when North Korea is engaged, countries stand a better chance of getting them to stop their nuclear build up. Though it’s true that the Agreed Framework of the 90s ended in failure during the early years of the Bush Administration, at the same time, North Korea did not add one atom bomb to their arsenal during the eight year period while the Agreed Framework was in effect.

Now regarding Russia, Europe is not very happy about these sanctions either since the sanctions are not only aimed at Russian companies but also apply to companies of any government that chooses to do business with Russia. Of course, since Europe does more business with Russia than the US does, this unilateral decision stands to hurt Europeans more than it does Americans. Once again, American unilateral decisions, arrogantly oblivious to the impacts on the rest of the world, are becoming a global sore spot. At this point, it’s not clear how Europe will react. For one thing, the US has too much influence over Europe for them to rebel against their master. As usual, they will probably just bow their heads and do what they are told. But who knows? Europe may eventually reach its tipping point with the US and decide that enough is enough.

One curious thing throughout this anti-Russia hysteria is the use of the word “fact.” American politicians and media emphatically pound into the public the FACT that Russian meddled in the American elections. Facts are interesting critters, aren’t they? The last time I checked, they are always accompanied by evidence, so it’s curious that one often hears the word “fact” but rarely hears anything about “evidence,” and the corporate media rarely even questions these so-called “facts” to ask for evidence. You’d think it would be common sense to merely ask for the evidence to support the facts, and the rare occasion a reporter does naively stumble upon this question, the answer is always the same: “Yes, we have evidence, but it’s ‘classified.’” How many times have you heard that song and dance? It seems to me that “classified” has become just another form of censorship; in reality, the American people and the world at large are on a “need to know” basis. Big Brother tells us what they want us to know, faithfully echoed in the lapdog media, and what they don’t want us to know is “classified.”  How convenient in the land of a “free” democratic society.

When these officials and media talking heads mention these “facts,” they are usually referred to in the context of the so-called “17 intelligence agencies” who are all “highly confident” that Russia meddled in the election. Hillary Clinton mentioned the 17 agencies in the second debate with Trump, and this myth has been repeated as a mantra in the media, even though it has since been thoroughly debunked. It was not 17 intelligence agencies but three: the NSA, CIA, and FBI (four including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence). Moreover, these were Obama appointees chosen specifically for this investigation, who had vested interests in coming up with the right intelligence to fit policy.  Sound familiar? Somehow, I am reminded of the way that information was manipulated in the lead up to (and in the aftermath of) the 2003 Iraq war – the way that intelligence was cherry-picked and fixed to fit policy objectives.

This Russia meddling “investigation” concluded with a report last January (which anyone can easily find and read online). Basically, it’s what Van Jones of CNN refers to as a “nothing burger.” Surprisingly, a disproportionate amount of it is focused on criticizing Russia Today (RT), the Russian-owned media outlet largely staffed with American, British, and Russian hosts of programs that offer alternative perspectives on world affairs, mostly challenging mainstream narratives. Is that what this “meddling” charge is all about? It seems incredible, doesn’t it, to think that a Russian-sponsored news network would be given such credibility, that RT is so powerful it effectively changed the election results just because it supposedly supported Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton? This would be astonishing if it were actually true. However, since I view RT news programs frequently, I can assure you that, to the contrary, RT did not give overwhelming favorable coverage of Donald Trump. Okay, Larry King did give one favorable interview of Donald Trump on his show “PolitiKing.” Yes, of course, King’s interview had such an effect on American voters that it “proves” that Russia “meddled” in the election.

“But what about ‘Russian hacking’ and ‘Russian collusion?’” you might ask. Once again I’m reminded of the numerous Iraq War justifications. One narrative falls apart only to be replaced by another: “Saddam has WMDs!”, “Saddam is a tyrant!”, “We’re promoting democracy!” Like each of the Iraq War narratives, the Russian hacking narrative fell apart because no evidence was ever presented. I specifically remember how the NSA was conspicuously silent when this charge first surfaced; instead, it was the CIA making this accusation, and of course everyone knows how trustworthy the CIA is, right? Regardless, the NSA’s initial silence does strike one as peculiar when the presumed hacking fell directly into their domain; as a matter of fact, as Snowden revealed, nothing happens on the Internet that the NSA doesn’t know about. Undoubtedly, the NSA would have known about it and possessed hard evidence immediately. You’d think that it would be in the US’ best interest to publicly disclose such a finding in order to gain international support for retaliatory action, wouldn’t you? However, that didn’t happen because the “hack” never happened; instead, as Julian Assange, Craig Murray, and the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity all definitively declared: it was a “leak” – not a hack. And this leak was so damaging to the Clinton campaign and DNC that they had to create a new narrative in order to hide the real “collusion,” which was the rigging of the primaries and the cover up in the aftermath. Now that’s the real “collusion” story that the media should have been focusing on all this time.

So once the Russian hacking narrative fell apart, the Russian collusion narrative rises to take its place, similar to the way that various narratives emerged consecutively to justify “Dubya’s” Iraq War. It’s the same “one-lie-replaces-another” tactic; however, this time it’s the democrats who are egging on the new McCarthyite fishing expedition and witch hunt. Nevertheless, the Russian collusion story has recently also started to fall apart to become just another “nothing burger.” I’ll spare you the details except to say that upon a bit of investigation and the application of critical analysis, I’m sure you’ll discover for yourself how little substance lies in this allegation. It involves nothing out of the ordinary; in fact, if you want “collusion,” you’d have much better luck with the DNC collusion with Ukraine to gather dirt on Trump. I’m not sure how much hay you can make out of that story, but it certainly looks at least as substantial (if not more) than the supposed Russian collusion to spread political dirt on Clinton.

As for the media running with all these false, anti-Russian narratives, it’s somewhat understandable. As Jeff Zucker, CEO of the CNN said (captured in the undercover video by Project Veritas): It’s “bullshit” – but this bullshit is “good for the ratings.” The tabloid media knows that its “news” is often phony, but they could care less, for fake news is what they specialize in. However, what gets me is the irresponsible politicians who are either “zuckered” in by it or else privately know that it’s nonsense but are in on it out of cowardice or greed.

I don’t know how this is going to play out eventually, but I’m confident that these renewed sanctions will backfire on the US. Perhaps this will prompt the rest of the world to say, “You know what? We’ve had enough of this insane, hypocritical global empire, which has a long history of ‘meddling’ in other country’s elections and internal affairs and yet has the gall to accuse other countries of it without presenting a shred of evidence. Maybe the US should tend to the predicament of its own ailing democracy and stop bullying the world with these meaningless but hurtful sanctions.” As a matter of fact, tending to its own ailing democracy is the best medicine. Doesn’t history show that empire building and democracy do not mix well? It is an irreconcilable contradiction, and countries that persist in that path eventually collapse. All of this hysteria is but the symptoms of a sick nation, like a spoiled child, throwing a temper tantrum because she can’t have her way, then blaming and taking it out on others. There are number of valid reasons to oppose the Trump presidency – this isn’t one of them.

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Dennis Morgan is a Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea.

CounterPunch Magazine


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