Iraq’s WMDs Found…In Russia

White House photo by Eric Draper

In late 2017, actor Morgan Freeman announced in a video created by a who’s who of senior U.S. Intelligence officials that Russia had attacked the United States and that ‘we’ were at war. Freeman, whose net worth is said to be about a quarter-billion dollars, claimed that ex-Soviet ‘authoritarian’ Vladimir Putin, bitter about the dissolution of ‘his’ country, was behind the attack. The terms ‘attack’ and ‘war’ were not qualified as metaphors.

The crudeness of the appeal— provoking naked fear of invading hordes of godless communists led by an evil dictator, had a retro quality that undid thirty years of technocratic upgrading of American agitprop Where is the Reagan-era Patrick Swayze packing a grenade launcher when you need him? Or going back a bit further in agitprop history, where is Kevin McCarthy with a panicked warning about your neighbors going to sleep as good Americans and waking up as communists stooges of the Kremlin?

Within weeks of Donald Trump’s electoral victory the ‘true American’ press, in the form of the Washington Post, revealed that it had a list of known communists who had infiltrated the U.S. government political websites that were acting as witting or unwitting agents of the Kremlin, current company included. One could be forgiven for imagining that the ‘authoritarian’ Donald Trump was behind the smear.  But no— it appears to have been Ukrainian ‘patriots’ with ties to both the Democratic Party leadership and actual European Nazis that struck this blow for freedom.

Freedom through censorship might seem an odd construct until it is understood that Kremlin agents are everywhere. By 2017, my friends from New York were suddenly afraid to venture out of Manhattan for fear of encountering a ‘Trump voter.’ (This is true). Never mind that a half-century of neoliberal predation had left the economy a shadow of its former self, the only possible explanation for Trump! was Russian subversion of our electoral process. That the U.S. ranks low in terms of free and fair elections has nothing to do with ‘Russian interference.’

The inclusion of Mr. Freeman as a modern-day Minuteman signaled that the target audience for the video wasn’t marginally literate ‘deplorables’ swilling beer in their underwear as they watched Dancing with the Stars, but rather the people who spend their days in offices or on airplanes. Because they wear suits, these good people must be smart and sophisticated, not the ‘low information’ voters who see a picture of an eagle in front of a waving flag and nod their heads approvingly with whatever nonsense follows (irony alert).

At the height of George W. Bush’s war against Iraq, there wasn’t a trading floor on Wall Street where CNN or Fox News wasn’t blaring 24/7 that WMDs had been found in Iraq. Better a million dead Iraqis over there than a mushroom souffle for lunch over here. Those who remember ‘Poppy’s war,’ Gulf War I that buried tens of thousands of Iraqi conscripts alive in the desert after Iraq had surrendered, may remember that it was also Wall Street that hosted the ticker tape parade that followed that glorious victory.

Any of the intelligence officials associated with the Morgan Freeman video could have acted in it as competently as Mr. Freeman. Most had spent more than a bit of face time lying under oath to congress. But no mention was made of the fact that they were behind the video. Mr. Freeman, wearing casual clothes with the hipster single earing in each ear, was the face of ‘the people’ rising in righteous anger at the afront to ‘our democracy.’ That no one had died in ‘the attack’ likely made the video the least lethal project these intelligence officials had participated in in their adult lives.

A few Democrats and ‘the left’ had remained outside of the George W. Bush administration’s propaganda effort in the run up to the Iraq war. The demonstrations held before the war began were the largest in history. In contrast, the people who found the administration’s argument for war compelling were liberal hawks amongst the urban bourgeois and the people who fought it. The overlap between these two groups n’existe pas. And it was the latter who brought back stories of the clusterfuck quality of the war to its liberal proponents comfortably ensconced in their armchairs of freedom.

That propaganda effort was politics 101, divide and conquer. As Mr. Bush put it, you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists. That 9/11 was 1) both a rational response to American foreign policy in the Middle East and 2) planned and financed by business associates of the Bush family, would seem to muddy the waters of binary divisions. Following, as Mr. Freeman put it, you’re either with us, or you’re with Putin. Never mind the business intereststhat tied the intelligence agencies to U.S. based energy companies competing with Russia to supply Europe with oil and gas.

The glorious victory of freedom over tyranny that was the Obama administration led coup in Ukraine was never over anything as base as material interests. That Democratic Party wunderkind and 2020 presidential aspirant Joe Biden was cobbled to neocon warlordess Victoria Nuland in the months preceding it, and Joe’s son Hunter joined Ukrainian oil and gas patriots to slay the Russian bear soon thereafter, is what the gods call serendipity. That Russia stepped in to protect its Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol, Crimea proves its treachery.

One might have imagined that the historical break that Mr. Trump’s election represented, as put forward by the Democratic operatives who lost the election, would speak for itself. Of course, racism, sexism and misogyny have no place in American history— just watch Mr. Freeman’s / the U.S. intelligence agency’s video for a clear recounting of the unalloyed virtues of American democracy. When Israeli strongman freedom fighter Benjamin Netanyahu gave the U.S. Congress instructions for future U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East in 2015, the word ‘collusion’ wasn’t mentioned even once in New York Times reporting on the event.

The first round of Mueller indictments against Russian internet advertising firms produced charges that stood little chance of being contested. An analogy is to indict figures from history, say Plato or the Marquis de Sade who, because they are dead, pose little risk of asking for the evidence against them. But surprise! Concord Management, one of the firms charged by Mueller, responded with counsel seeking discovery. Mr. Mueller used a procedural move to precludehanding his evidence over to actual lawyers. Lonely are the brave.

The Hamilton 68 ‘Russian interference’ tracking website turns out to be affiliated with the German Marshall Fund which itself is filled with ex-Obama administration officials with ties to the National Security Council. The German Marshall Funds runs the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a neo-con think tank that includes John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff and chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid. The U.S. State Department and NATO are major contributors to the German Marshall Fund.

Of course, everyone knows that these coalitions of Democratic Party insiders and intelligence agency officials are behind most of the ‘Russian interference’ hysteria because the New York Times and Washington Post put them front and center as their sources, right? Surely no reputable newspaper would give front page coverage to unproven allegations made by political operatives working against the Party and personages currently in power, right? Doing so could be perceived as taking sides in an internecine political battle to undo the democratic will of at least a bit more than a quarter of eligible voters.

It was John Podesta’s emails that were alleged to have been hacked and released to news agencies during the 2016 campaign that would have deeply embarrassed Clinton campaign officials if they were capable of embarrassment. Yes, this is the very same John Podesta that ‘advises’ several of the groups cited by the New York Times and Washington Post as sources for stories about who hacked someone named John Podesta’s emails. Of course, everyone knows that ‘hacked’ is a euphemism for ‘leaked.’

Why Democratic strategists preferred Morgan Freeman as the face of righteous outrage, rather than John Podesta’s brother Tony, is a mystery for the ages. Brother Tony, who was set to be charged with former Trump something-or-other Paul Manafort with colluption, a newfangled amalgam of collusion and corruption, decided that omerta is for suckers. Brother Tony squealed to Robert Mueller, decidedly complicating circumstances for Mr. Manafort, if making Brother Tony laud-worthy amongst his fellow Democratic Party lobbyists.

Of course, the intelligence-Democrats’ insight that Morgan Freeman is a better front-man than omerta-lite Brother Tony, or any of the other sixty-something pallid white guys in suits who have spent their careers making life miserable for something called ‘humanity,’ proves they are anti-racist, right? It is universally known that Bob Mueller loves both Muslims and immigrants so much that he rounded up and threw a thousand of them in jail without charges following 9/11 to protect them from being not in jail. He has that much heart.

Likewise, the CIA has long been known for promoting black and brown people— from the material to the ethereal plane. Responding to earlier red menace incursions, CIA ‘advisors’ sent four million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians to what Christians speculate is a better place. Later, in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua the CIA provided free education through the School of the Americas to peasant-scholars in how to be tortured to death with dignity. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands graduated and went on to decompose with dignity.

The NSA heroes who keep us safe from authoritarian creeps who would otherwise skirt the law to create illegal spy programs to gather and keep information on people suspected of no crime in direct contravention of the U.S. Constitution and existing law and then repeatedly lie about doing so under oath to congress certainly deserve the trust of the American people. If they say that Pump (Putin + Trump) represents an existential threat to our freedom, then let them shut down the opposition press, arrest anyone they think might be inconvenient to American business interests and unseat a leader that a lot of people voted for. As the saying goes, freedom ain’t free.

Support for increasing the power of the FBI, CIA and NSA and local and regional police departments while Donald Trump has been in office has been bi-partisan. If the national Democrats believed a word of their bullshit that Mr. Trump is a foreign agent, they would be, in the parlance, ‘traitors’ to give him more power. By the time that ‘high information voters’ figure out that they’ve been had, it will be on to the next diversion. Reportedly, about the same proportion of the population still believes the collusion story as believes that WMDs were found in Iraq.

Here’s the punchline— even if you believe the worst accusations of Russian interference in U.S. elections, they are orders of magnitude lower than the influence of American oligarchs and the state of Israel. If the Democrats want Donald Trump out, they should run someone that people will vote for. I would try to bring in some of the nearly half of the electorate that is eligible to vote but that doesn’t. Calling them deplorable seems a weak strategy for getting them to vote for you. In fact, it seems remarkably like Donald Trump’s disparagement of immigrants. But as a card-carrying puppet of the Kremlin, what do I know?

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.