As a former intelligence officer who participated in covert actions overseas (i.e., actions designed to shape foreign public opinion to fall in line with U.S. policy) I have watched with a mixture of amusement and horror the circus spun up around the ridiculous claim that Russia interfered with the U.S. Presidential election. I do not doubt that Russia, if it put its mind to it, could do a number on our national election. The Russians have an outstanding, capable intelligence service and a much more pragmatic view about the outside world. I can't say the same for the good old USA.
But where's the beef? Where's the actual evidence that Russia interfered in our elections in 2016? Please go back and take a look at the lamentable so-called intelligence assessment put out by Jimmy Clapper when he was still head of the the DNI (Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections). Here are the key conclusions:
- We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.
Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.
We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.”
Sounds very ominous. But it is still quite vague and non-specific. What exactly did those dastardly Rooskies do? Let's go back to the assessment:
Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties.
We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.
Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.
Russia’s state-run propaganda machine contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.
That's it–three basic things to "influence" the Presidential election. First, the NSA, CIA and, to a lesser extent, the FBI, believed that the Russians hacked into the DNC and John Podesta emails, then passed that content to to Wikileaks and DC Leaks, who subsequently published the information. Second, the Russians supposedly obtained access to "elements" (undefined) of US state or local electoral boards. Third, Russian media outlets, RT and Sputnik News, put out Kremlin friendly messages.
Is this a joke? That's not how the CIA used to steal/influence elections. in the past. We bought opposition candidates. We funded them and procured outside advisors for them. We sent bags of cash. Any sign that the Russians did these things? No.
The claim that the Russian intelligence service hacked the DNC and Podesta is without evidence. The FBI did not conduct a forensic examination of the computer of either the DNC or Podesta. The belief that the Russians did it is based on a very questionable Crowdstrike examination of the DNC emails. It is worth noting that one of the owners of Crowdstrike is a strong anti-Russian guy with close ties to Ukraine (Kiev) –hmm, no motive there for mischief. Right?
How about vote buying or rigged machines? No evidence of that either. There is zero evidence that any of the computer "attacks" on the "US state or local electoral boards" actually originated with the FSB, SVR or GRU. And, by Jim Clapper's own admission, those intrusions of the electoral boards did not alter the vote in any form or fashion.
One of the subliminal texts to this whole Russian conspiracy theory is the insistence that the Trump campaign colluded with Vladimir Putin or some Russian mobster to sabotage Hillary's campaign. That smear has been repeated endlessly on the cable channels and has become an article of faith to many Americans, especially Democrats who are in denial over Hillary's implosion.
So, why the vitriol towards the Russians? Why such a concerted effort to dirty up Trump with the brush of being a Commie dupe? This was done IMO in order to ensure that Trump's hands would be tied when it came time to deal with the Russians on issues like NATO and Syria. One of the real appeals of Donald Trump during the campaign was his willingness to attack George W. Bush (and Hillary and McCain and Jeb) for starting an unnecessary war of choice with Iraq in 2003. Trump, at least during the campaign, insisted we had no business inserting ourselves into the war in Syria. And Trump correctly noted that NATO was an anachronism.
Now that the campaign is over and Trump is in the White House, the Foreign Policy establishment (referred to on Colonel Lang's blog as "The Borg" and characterized by others as the "Deep State") has succeeded in getting Trump to walk back his campaign promises. NATO is now said to be an essential organization and Trump has pledged his allegiance to Article 5 of the NATO treaty. In Syria, the US launched an unprovoked cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield under the pretext of "punishing" Syria for using Sarin gas that the US intelligence community knows was not used (but that's another story for another time). And Trump has surrendered US policy in the Middle East to the Saudis and the Israelis. We are now evidently ready to go to war with Iran.
The average American is ignorant about the importance of Russia in our broader foreign policy. The cartoon painted in the West portrays the Russians as unrepentant imperialist authoritarians bent on global conquest. This is a view I believe a majority of Americans share. With that belief as a starting point it becomes easy to justify multi-billion dollar defense budgets in order to contain the new Russian threat. We also justify putting our ground forces, air assets and naval forces on the borders of Russia to conduct military exercises all in the name of containing the threat.
If a Martian landed in Switzerland (let's go neutral) tomorrow, knowing nothing of World History over the last 27 years, he would only have to ask one question to determine which country is the biggest threat to world peace–What country has carried out the most military operations in other countries and caused the most casualties? Iran? Nope. They have not invaded a single country and their backing for groups like Hezbollah and Hamas have not produced a raft of terrorist attacks. Those two groups have been largely inactive in terms of spinning up global plots.
How about Russia? Well, it has carried out military operations in the Crimea, the Ukraine and George. Total casualties from those acts of aggression? Less than 5,000 dead.
How about the United States? Let's see–Somaila, Iraq (1991), Iraq (2003) Afghanistan (2001), Pakistan, Libya, Syria and (I'm sure I'm forgetting something). Total dead? Some estimate in excess of 500,000.
Looking at these facts a Martian might conclude that the biggest bully, threat and source of mayhem in the world today is the United States. It ain't the Russians. Trump may have believed such a thing during the campaign, but the Borg is busy whipping him into shape. He will be subservient to the establishment desire for perpetual war.