The case for Russian “sabotage and subversion” is like a boulder rolling downhill picking up bits of flotsam and jetsam that are used as new proof that “our democracy is in the cross hairs.” (DHS Chief, Kirstjen Nielson). Sad to say, despite the heroic efforts of the intelligence community, the American public is beginning to lose interest. A Gallup poll found that less than 1% of voters thought that Russian mischief was or should be a major concern of policy makers. With the public growing increasingly disenchanted, the intelligence community and its cheerleaders set out to reinvigorate the “Russians are coming” meme.
Using the tools at their disposal, a media willing to spread the word and a bunch of Congressional windbags on both sides of the aisle huffing and puffing whenever a microphone hoves into view, the intelligence community gathered en masse to announce more Russian conspiracies against the U.S. Let’s look at how chapter two of America’s continuing hunt for bad guys is going and while we’re at it turn the historical clock back a few decades to find more examples of American paranoia.
To begin the investigation, let’s start with a revealing comment Morning Joe’s host, Joe Scarborough, made last week as he lit into President Trump for “showing moral equivalency between men and women in uniform and a dictator who invaded two countries in a decade, shot down a passenger airline…” The New York Times wunderkind, Tom Friedman, chimed in— “[Russia] shot down a civilian Malaysian airliner over Ukraine.” Russia’s complicity in the 2014 downing of Malaysian airlines MH-17 d has never been conclusively proved, although in the U.S. proof was the last thing needed (or wanted). As then President Obama railed “the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile…from an area…controlled by Russian-backed separatists…outrage of unspeakable proportions.”
The facts were unambiguous in the second air disaster that had Russian fingerprints all over it. In 1988, Korean Air Lines flight 007 strayed into Soviet airspace, was misidentified as a U.S. spy plane (that was the heyday of the 20th century U.S. spying mania) and promptly shot down by the Soviet air force. President Reagan was apoplectic. Terming it a “massacre,” he unloaded “[a] crime against humanity [that] must never be forgotten” and an “act of barbarism… [and] inhuman brutality”.[91
What a difference five years made. In 1983, Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down in its own air space by a surface-to-air missile from the Navy cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes killing 290 passengers. Here’s Reagan rearranging reality (as U.S. presidents are wont to do when caught with their pants down): “The crew followed standard orders and highly publicized procedures…proper definitive action.” Vice President George H.W. Bush followed his lead and in words which could only have come out of the mouth of an elitist leader of an exceptional nation or a deranged American-firster “I will never apologize for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are.” Although the Vincennes Commanding Officer, William Rogers, was widely known to be “overly aggressive” and cited numerous times for violating U.S. rules of engagement, he was presented with the Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service…” Even the Vincennes crew got a share of the goodies in the form of Combat Action Ribbons.
How to explain Joe Scarborough’s omission of U.S. complicity in a similar tragedy? Perhaps it’s that old U.S. bugaboo historical amnesia. More likely big money-making talking heads on cable news know how potent media’s effect on public opinion can be. One researcher, Professor Robert Entman of George Washington University, compared media coverage of two air disasters —Iran Flight 655 and Korean Air Lines 0007—using material from Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Washington Post and CBS. His research indicated “[by] de-emphasizing the agency and the victims and by the choice of graphics and adjusting the news stories about the U.S. downing of an Iranian plane, calling it a technical problem while the Soviet downing of a Korean jet was portrayed as a moral outrage,” Russia emerged as the bad guy, the U.S. Snow White.
Little mentioned but well known to most U.S. policy makers, when it comes to “a costly act… designed to determine the election results,” [in other countries], the U.S. takes a back seat to no country. A study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in 2016 determined that the U.S. had interfered in as many as 81 elections from 1946-2000. Not included in the total (which would spike it higher) are coups the U.S. had a hand in (think Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Honduras in 2009), but only instances where the U.S. used techniques like misinformation and propaganda. Did it work? Turns out the U.S. assisted winning candidate 50% of the time. Russia came in a distant second getting credit for interference in 36 elections.
Here’s the score. The U.S, and Russia are tied in the downing of planes (culprit in MH-117 never determined) and the U.S. is miles ahead when it comes to interfering in elections. Not to worry, the media and the politicians have already come up with a couple of new angles to prove Russian culpability and to distance themselves from the election meddling rap which has proven to be light on evidence. “Russian Hackers Train Focus on Power Grid” says The New York Times. While the U.S. is busy devising strategies to keep the Russians out of the 2018 elections, they are apparently “far more interested… in implanting malware in the electric grid. The evidence for this abrupt about-face. You guessed it —the intelligence community. On the other hand, policy gurus and media shills alike are unanimous in agreeing that Russians have suddenly lost interest in major American political figures or state voter registration systems.” Let the backing away begin.
Those busy Russians, when they’re not mounting an attack on the U.S. electric grid, guess where they’re heading? South, of course. The ubiquitous Clint Watts, ex-FBI counterintelligence operative and CNN National Security Council (NSC) analyst, has determined —They’re [Russians] are now to our southern border in Mexico trying to shape politics there so they can influence us from the south.” Where is this nefarious activity occurring? Let’s face it U.S. immigrant prisons and detention centers are not exactly meccas of voting activity. To make matters worse, this Mexican hypothesis is far from the most outlandish claptrap issuing from this paid mouthpiece. According to Watts, not content with interference in the U.S., “Russia has tried to change voter rolls in Ukraine.
It turns out that the Russians are not the only ones out to do in our democracy. Just when you thought it was safe to come out of your bomb shelter, a new enemy has emerged. Who else but China, the malefactor-in-waiting. The Chinese plot against America came to light when NBC’s Johnny-on-the-spot Lester Holt interviewed Chris Wray, Trump’s FBI Director. Director Wray, seeing the handwriting on the wall for Russia-gate, came up with a new evildoer. What country is he most worried about? Wray: “I think China from a counterintelligence perspective represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face in this country.”
Giddy over the prospect of a new enemy to boost ratings, in tandem with that interview, Holt ran a story entitled “Espionage and Intrigue in America’s Top Universities: Are some Chinese Students Coming to America to Steal Secrets?” It turns out the evidence for this dastardly deed is a Chinese billionaire who once attended Duke University and built a multi-billion tech empire after he left school, following the same trajectory as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Sergey Brin (Google) who also became billionaires after leaving their universities.
No story of this magnitude would be complete without a “We know” or three. “We know that the Chinese have a shopping list of intelligence and technology that they target every year… We know that the research he [Chinese student] took from Duke University was on that collection list … We know that certain government officials and operatives met with him while he was in the U.S.” In case viewers weren’t sufficiently impressed, NBC reporter Cynthia McFadden poured more gasoline on the fire: “The scope of the problem is real. There are open espionage cases involving China in all fifty states…” If you think you’ve seen this movie before, you have. Just a different evildoer.
The conspiracy net widens. Enemies to the right of us, enemies to the left of us. What’s to be done? If the war hawks, the most populous species in D.C., have their way and the media continues to be their water carrier, we will be on the war train when it leaves the station. Asked a few months ago “Do you think the Russians interfered in the 2016 elections?” A scant 50% said yes. After a constant barrage of media hype, well over half now believe Russia will interfere in the 2018 elections. (Even though the vast majority don’t see it as a major problem.) For media elites and political leaders, war spells billions in profits. The tragic irony is that we are already at war — against Planet Earth. It’s probably a sucker bet, but we can hope that the pitifully few enlightened leaders who exist in the world today will wake up and smell the roses before there aren’t any.
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