July 1, 2020
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
The RUSSIA HOAX is Alive….It Won’t Go Away
It just doesn’t go away. It’s like a wooden nickel—or maybe the shingles. Even when you think it’s gone or cured, it pops up again!
The Russia Hoax—Russiagate: How many times has it been trotted out by Democrats and the leftist media (plus those Republicans who’ve never cottoned to Donald Trump’s America First policies), and each time been ignominiously rebuffed and proven a bald-faced lie?
There was the General Flynn caper—exploded as an FBI operation that exposed the seamy side of the nation’s premier Intel organization for the brazen arm of the Deep State that it is. Some fanatical Democrats and leftists want to continue defending this domestic operation that violated the basic constitutional rights of an American citizen, an operation worthy of the old Soviets themselves.
Then, there was the Russian collusion narrative, the Mueller investigation and his phony report, confected by zealous Democratic lawyers, no evidence, but with a desire to do mortal damage, however they could, to the president (and more especially to his unruly followers, the “deplorables”). Try as he did, with millions of taxpayer dollars and the solemn assertions of Representatives Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff that they had actually “seen the proof” that Trump was probably a Russian agent, or at least that Vladimir Putin had engineered his 2016 presidential victory, Mueller came up empty.
After that came the Ukrainian caper: obviously Trump was covering for the Russians who were—the Democrats and media claimed—invading and interfering with those helpless paisans from Kiev.
Now it is the breathtakingly audacious charge that Russian President Putin’s security service, the GRU, has been paying the Afghani Taliban bounty payments for every American soldier in that mountainous country they could find and kill. The New York Times, using “unnamed sources” somewhere “over there” says it, so, say the Democrats it must simply be true. Pelosi in particular thinks that Putin has “got something on Trump,” maybe a cache of revealing photos of him and Miss Teen Russia cavorting on a nude beach? Given Pelosi’s accustomed brilliance and acumen, it’s got to be something like that!
Former Deputy National Security Advisor (under Flynn) K. T. MacFarland has raised serious doubts about this accusation. Seriously reflecting…something that both Republicans and Democrats do very little of these days in Washington DC…the whole construct falls apart, from logic, from common sense, from lack of a factual basis.
First, the Russians and Taliban have been at each other’s throats for more than forty years. Recall the bloody and bitter that occurred 1979-1989. It was one of the immediate factors why the old Soviet regime collapsed in 1990-1991. Those wounds have not healed. The Taliban remains a mortal enemy of Russia in central Asia.
Second, there is the major issue and concern of Islamic extremism in Russia, beginning with the brutal internecine conflict in Chechnya in the Caucasus and dozens of acts of terrorism in the Russian heartland (including a devastating and murderous attack in a Moscow theater).
Third, the supposition is far too clever and too much of a James Bond fantasy. The Democrats and globalist Republicans who salivate at the possibility of military confrontation with Russia assert that the bounty idea is probably true because those Russkies want to keep us tied down in a costly and interminable war in Afghanistan. Donald Trump wants to remove more American military. So, their logic goes, the Russians pay the Taliban to inflict more casualties on our troops in that part of Asia, and we won’t have any alternative but keep our troops there—maybe even increase the size of our contingent. It’s all part of a grand strategy, they say, that Putin is waging. Indeed, it’s the narrative you hear from Neoconservative globalists like Republican congressmen Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and from Neocon armchair generals at Jonah Goldberg’s fiercely globalist online (and anti-Trump) journal, The Dispatch.
But wait. I thought it was those Neocon elites of establishment conservatism who actually opposed reducing the American presence in Afghanistan. They actually want more troops to go there to impose more American-style “democracy and equality” on the hapless Afghan people. So why wouldn’t they actually be pleased, if only privately, that Putin’s supposed action in paying Taliban fighters would mean more American troops heading off to Kabul?
It simply doesn’t make sense.
Fourth, consider the source. How many times now has the Times manufactured “fake” news regarding Russia, based on anonymous sources, half-baked Intel, spread about by disgruntled minions of the Deep State. I would expect something totally outlandish like this from Democrats, but Republicans—at least those with any sense about them—have seen this movie, this mis-en-scene, before. Some of them actually criticized previous “Russia Hoax” antics. But, now, they want to take the reporting of The New York Times as Gospel?
It goes to confirm, once again, that the irrational hatred of Russia continues, not just on the Left but also on the Neoconservative Right. The Left and the Democrats use it as one more strategic and political weapon to get at Trump; the Neocons employ the template because they fear Putin’s call to Russian populism and tradition, his failure to embrace full democratic equality and all that means, including same sex marriage and transgenderism—the late Senator John McCain attacked Putin precisely on Putin’s traditionalism, his opposition to same sex marriage, and his staunch defense of Orthodox Christianity. All of which compelled columnist Pat Buchanan to write (August 13, 2013): “On whose side is God now on?” Good question, that.
In sum, this story sounds very much like the same kind of “fake news” the Times has peddled to the American public for nearly four years. But it is more than just another piece of tendentious and ideological journalism: in their zeal and their hatred for the man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue they are once again casting caution to the wind and—with support from their Neocon allies—willing to provoke a massive war with the world’s other major nuclear power.
Two excellent articles expand on these points. First, a short essay by journalist Bryan MacDonald examining carefully the accusation and its dubiousness. Second, University of Ottawa Professor of Russian and International Studies, Paul Robinson, considers this poisonous meme from the perspective of its political uses, which in such cases always must be explored. Both articles demand attention.
Fake story on Russians paying Afghans ‘bounty’ to kill Americans latest example of appalling US/UK media coverage of Russia
By Bryan MacDonald 29 Jun, 2020 16:04
The Anglo-American press is difficult to understand. Anonymous sources are treated as gospel – when they suit the ideological and political biases of news outlets – and spy agencies seem to be beyond reproach.
This, of course, is how America and Britain were drawn into the Iraq War. Mainstream media was complicit in manufacturing consent by publishing stories handed down by intelligence agencies – a great many of them later proven untrue. Perhaps most notably, the New York Times went big on the bogus “weapons of mass destruction” yarn.
After the damage was done, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had died, the paper apologized. It it was encouraged to report the claims by “United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq.”
Almost two decades on, it has plainly learned nothing. This weekend the Times had three of its most senior journalists basically rewrite a CIA press release as part of its latest attempt to undermine President Donald Trump by playing the “Russia card.” Why it took so many of them is hard to understand – unless none wanted to be the sole name on the piece, preferring safety in numbers.
The story claimed that Russia is paying Afghan militants to kill American soldiers and that Trump’s team has known for months but done nothing. The US director of national intelligence quickly denied the allegations, as did the president himself. It surely wasn't coincidental that the drop took place in the same weekend that reports of Trump planning to withdraw 4,000 troops from Afghanistan.
If you know anything about Russia, the story is obviously false. The Americans are totally bogged down in Kabul, which suits Moscow in myriad ways. In fact, the Kremlin would be only delighted if the US stayed there forever. What’s more, the Taliban hardly needs a financial incentive to attack a hated occupying force. So why would Moscow need to be handing out bounties to encourage people who already have it in for Americans?
Another interesting detail was the New York Times’ assertion that its allegations are “based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.” Given we know the US torture in Afghanistan that should be an immediate red-flag to any self-respecting journalist. Not to mention the fact that even if Afghan prisoners did say this, it's likely no more than prison gossip: “Daud told Nadir that Hashem heard the Russians will pay you for killing an American.”
The Times trio even threw in a bit of casual xenophobia. “I think we had forgotten how organically ruthless the Russians could be,” they quoted Peter Zwack, a retired military intelligence officer, as saying. Imagine a report saying Asians, Africans, Mexicans or Jews are “organically ruthless.” That's right, you can't, because it wouldn't happen. But Russians, being predominantly white and Christian, are considered to be fair game.
Soon after, the Washington Post said it had ‘confirmed’ the Times’ story. All this means is they were fed the same bulls**t by the same anonymous spooks. Even more hilariously, the paper managed to get a named Taliban spokesman to go on the record with his denial, while it allowed the Americans who pushed the yarn to remain in the shadows. Nevertheless, which narrative do you think was given more credence?
This carry-on is deeply unethical. Especially given it comes just a couple of months after US/UK media went big on another fake story Russia was trying to poison Czech politicians with ricin. Prague eventually admitted the tale was entirely made up. This confession, of course, received about one percent of the coverage granted to the original fabrication.
Predictably, broadcast media followed up on the Times and Post’s reports. Rachel Maddow front and center, naturally. You'll remember she spent a few years airing false and hysterical smears about Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow and suffered no professional consequences when the Mueller Report proved her allegations to be untrue.
But it wasn’t just Maddow. On Saturday, CNN ran “breaking news” saying it had found “a European intelligence official” to corroborate the tale. It then cut to its own correspondent, one Nick Paton Walsh. He provided no named source and his comments basically amounted to “some fella told me down the pub” stuff. Honestly, in any sane media culture, Paton Walsh would be laughed at, not encouraged.
For example, at one point he said “it's not clear when this happened” and then added, “it's clear it has caused casualties.” But instead of asking “how is it possible to know that if you can't say when it happened?” the anchor just sat there nodding along with that vacuous look in her eyes which seems to be mandatory for CNN presenters.
Later, Britain’s Sky News the same yarn, but said “British security officials have confirmed… that the reports about the plot are true.” Presumably, Sky was spoon-fed by the same spooks who exploited Paton Walsh as a ‘useful idiot’. Later, the Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner tweeted “this confirmation by closest Intel allies is critical and damning: Russia paid Taliban fighters to attack British troops in Afghanistan.”
Again, the reporter expressed no doubts, because apparently the word of spooks is golden, and they would never lie.
It’s established that mainstream US/UK media operates in a self-contained pit of rumor, fear, braggadocio, bulls--t, and propaganda when it comes to Russia. But what’s most bizarre is the sheer obviousness with which outlets circulate the same false stories and then use each other as corroborating sources even though they are all getting the information from the same people.
Folks who obviously have their own agendas, and are playing gormless hacks like a fiddle. The other incredible thing is a clear lack of understanding about what ‘confirmation’ even means. It obviously requires tangible evidence, on the record.
The New York Times’ coverage of Russia basically only has two tricks. They either rip-off articles from smaller Russian leftist outlets (who often can't complain too loudly as they rely on Western funding) or they regurgitate anonymous sources in the US military-intelligence establishment looking to run scare stories about the country. None of this involves any reporting, and it cannot be considered journalism under any accepted definition of what the trade involves.
Given the New York Times is arguably the biggest, and most visible, fish in the US/UK media world, you can only imagine the even lower standards that permeate further down the food chain.
New York Times' Afghanistan 'bounty' story is not about Russia, it's aimed at influencing US domestic political struggles
By Dr. Paul Robinson 29 Jun, 2020 15:39
Professor Paul Robinson is an authority on Russian history and contemporary politics. He is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history, and military ethics.
I’ve said before, and no doubt will say again, that depictions of Russia often have little to do with Russia itself and are more about those doing the depiction.
For many in the Western world, Russia is, and long has been, a significant ‘other’, comparison with which serves a useful purpose in the creation of self-identity. Beyond that, negative (and on occasion even positive) portrayals of Russia feed into domestic political struggles and help legitimize one side or another in whatever argument people are having.
Whether these portrayals of Russia are accurate is neither here nor there. What matters is their impact on domestic politics.
Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but historians who have looked at how Westerners have viewed Russia over the course of time have amassed enough evidence to show that it’s often the case. If you doubt it, then you have merely to look at what has happened in the United States in the past four years, during which time Russia has been elevated into enemy number one, an allegedly existential threat which is on the cusp of destroying American democracy and plunging the country into civil strife.
The point of the Russiagate hysteria has never been Russia itself. Rather it has been to delegitimize the election of Donald Trump as American president by portraying him as, in effect, a traitor, who has sold out his country to a foreign enemy. This narrative, of course, presupposes a foreign enemy, for which purpose one has had to be created, and Russia has proven a convenient candidate for the role.
It is this, I think, which explains the latest Russia scandal to strike the United States – the claim this week in the New York Times that Russian military intelligence has been paying the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill Americans. I am, of course, not in a position to testify as to the accuracy of the complaint, but like others am deeply skeptical of anything that is based solely on the testimony of anonymous intelligence officials and that lacks any supporting evidence.
Unsurprisingly, the New York Times’s story has led to much derision, being interpreted as a sign once again of the deeply Russophobic nature of the American press. I think, though, that that interpretation may miss the point, which is that the story, like so many others, is not really about Russia but rather yet another effort to discredit Donald Trump as a puppet in the control of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This is because a key aspect of the story was an allegation that Trump had been briefed about Russia’s nefarious activity but had done nothing in response. As might be expected, Trump’s enemies in the media were quick to exploit the story to attack the president. For instance, MSNBC’s prime Russiagate cheerleader Rachel Maddow had this to say:
“Not only does the president know… there was that unexpected and friendly conversation he had with Putin… President Trump got off that call with Putin and immediately began calling for Russia to be allowed back into the G7… That’s how Trump is standing up for Americans being killed for rubles paid by Putin’s government.”
Maddow’s colleague, MSNBC morning news host Joe Scarborough, followed suit. “Donald Trump has known about Putin killing Americans for months and has refused even to condemn Russia diplomatically. What Republican senator will speak out against this shocking dereliction of duty?” he tweeted. Other journalists were equally outright in their condemnation. “While Trump was cozying up to Putin, Russia was paying the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan,” said GQ’s Laura Bassett on Twitter; and so on.
Whether any of this was true was something that none of these journalists bothered to ask. They simply assumed that it was, for the obvious reason that always assuming the worst about Russia suits their political agenda. Most notably, Trump’s electoral rival, Joe Biden, said this about the president:
"Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, but Donald Trump has also continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin… His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale. It’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.”
The problem with all this is that, as with so much of Russiagate, it appears to be entirely false. The White House immediately denied any knowledge of the Afghanistan story, and the Director of National Intelligence backed up Trump by confirming that, indeed, the president had never been informed about the alleged Russian activity. As so often, The New York Times appears to have been peddling “fake news”. None of this, however, has stopped Trump’s opponents from seizing on the story as further evidence of the president’s treachery.
The question in my mind is what will happen should Trump lose the presidential election in November, an outcome that now seems likely. It strikes me that there are two possibilities. The first is that the Democratic Party and its supporters will lose interest in stories of alleged Russian malevolence, as they will no longer be needed. A Biden victory in November could, therefore, lead to a lessening in the current rhetorical tension.
The second possibility is that nothing will change. Democrats, I fear, have come to believe the nonsense that they have been peddling, to the extent that it’s become part and parcel of who they are. They are therefore incapable of altering course and will govern on the basis of the prejudices they have generated in themselves over the past few years. I would like to think that the first possibility will come to pass, but I have to say that I’m not too optimistic.
As for what will happen in the event that Trump is re-elected… at that point, America might well be engulfed in flames, and Russia will be the least of anybody’s problems.