Trump’s Debasement of Civilization

Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment was surely a campaign gaffe, but she wasn’t wrong about Donald Trump’s exploitation of white grievances and other ugly attitudes, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

There is more to being civilized than being a citizen of some political entity. This is so despite the fact that both the verb civilize and noun citizen are derived from the Latin civitas. To be civilized demands more than just having the language and mannerisms of the Fifth Century BCE Greeks, or the Second Century BCE Han Chinese, or the Sixteenth Century CE French. All of these groups believed that being civilized meant living and acting like them.

Today the Americans have joined the chorus. They sing to the world that theirs is the home of the brave and land of the free, and claim that they are the real model for civilization. They throw in that rather ill-defined notion of freedom as a modern customizing point.

None of these claims are very convincing. After all, each claimant has waged bloody wars of aggression, discriminated against outsiders and their own minorities, and generally sought aggrandizement by stealing other people’s land.

Only recently, since the end of World War II, has there grown up an understanding that: (1) language, mannerisms, and race are so varied that they cannot be used as prerequisites for civilized status without breeding mass intolerance toward minorities and “others,” and (2) aggressive war and the pursuit of conquest actually dehumanizes your nation and destroys one’s civilized standing. Postwar international law has been designed to make intolerance on a large scale illegal – a crime against humanity – and the same goes for the waging of wars of aggression. It is questionable how effective such laws have been. Nonetheless, they are undeniably a step in a civilizing direction.

If you dig under the surface of ethnic- or nation-based claims to civilized standing, you often find that they rest on such things as military prowess, technological advancement, and/or a dubious claim to be some god’s favorite. Collective cultural expressions of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia and other such displays of intolerance, as well as the carrying on of a “muscular” foreign policy, seem not to complicate claims to civilized status for many average citizens. But, of course, they should. In fact, not being or doing any of these things should be a necessary prerequisite for any group’s appeal to civilized status.

Based on such a requirement, the claim of the United States to be a civilized society seems in serious trouble. For instance, no one is going to accuse Donald Trump of being a model of tolerance. Indeed, it would seem that his election as president has inaugurated a time of intolerance embracing just those prejudices that erode a nation’s civilized standing.

Hillary’s Greatest Gaffe

It is true that during her run for the presidency Hillary Clinton made many mistakes. She was wedded to a traditional, and very corrupt, version of U.S. politics – a version that put her in the pocket of an array of special interests that, themselves, were not very civilized (for example, the Zionists). And, as Secretary of State under President Obama, she did her part to wage aggressive war.

Yet, she was, at least in terms of her rhetoric, ready to take a stand for tolerance when it comes to social and cultural diversity within the United States. Ironically, that willingness to, in this regard, be publicly civil – and call out those who were not – led to her biggest political gaffe of the election.

The campaign faux pas came on Sept. 9, 2016, during a speech to a group of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) supporters. Here is what she said:

We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he [Trump] has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

The Trump campaign people jumped on this statement and declared that it was a sign of “her true contempt for everyday Americans.” In other words, from the Trump perspective, “those folks” were the real America. Trump’s  supporters proceeded to turn the term “deplorable” into something of a battle cry. I remember driving through the small Pennsylvania town of Red Lion soon after Clinton’s speech. There was a big sign declaring “Welcome to the Home of the Proud Deplorables.”

Trump the Decivilizer

Of course, Clinton was correct in her criticism of Trump and some of his supporters. In fact, they were more than just deplorable. They were downright uncivilized. And, she was right that Trump has incited and manipulated them and their prejudices during the campaign. And, he has continued to do so as president.

I think this became quite obvious at the Aug. 12 “unite the right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. That event signaled the fact that Trump, a wealthy, self-righteous, impulsive, one-dimensional man who, in his simplistic ignorance, cannot tell the difference between his own opinion and fact, had let loose a substantial group of racist and reactionary citizens. These people see themselves not as the uncivilized of America, but rather as saviors of an anachronistic pseudo-civilization – one based on white supremacy and mass intolerance. Regardless of how they see themselves, the behavior of both these “average Americans” and their approving President, is actually tipping America toward being unquestionably a “deplorable” and uncivilized place.

It must be kept in mind that President Trump did not originate all this prejudicial horror. It has always been there in the U.S. However, since the 1960s it has, for the most part, been kept out of the public realm. That is what the Civil Rights Movement and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs accomplished – to make it socially unacceptable, and in some cases illegal, to practice these prejudices publicly.

This was actually a great step forward in the process of civilizing the United States, and if it had been maintained for say, another five generations, the number of “deplorable” voters may have shrunk to the point that the election of a decivilizer such as Trump would have been much less likely.

However, as it was, those who harbored simmering prejudices, restless anachronistic traditions, and a fear of losing privileges in an ever more diverse society, almost immediately came together to support Donald Trump when he appeared on the political scene. And the rest of us were caught unawares.

The fact is that most people do not think about what it means to be civilized, often assuming that this status is synonymous with having an I-phone and a twitter account. Among those who do think about it, some may identify the term with those who are snobbish and think they are better than others.

Or, perhaps they see civilization as a class thing to be identified with wealth. Those who think in these terms may develop resentment toward the concept of civilization. They may come to see it as a threat to their local culture and ways of life.

Finally, who knows how many macho males there are out there who might see too much civilization as a subversive factor – something that would make the nation effete. Too much enlightenment could undermine that “muscular” foreign policy (perhaps reviving, in the case of the United States, the dreaded Vietnam Syndrome) that has always been a mark of nation-state greatness.

Of course, this is not just an American problem. The “deplorables” are to be found in all populations – more in some and less in others – but never absent. In the U.S., Donald Trump is their leader. No doubt he also serves as a symbol of leadership for “deplorables” worldwide. As such President Trump and his following subvert our future – luring us in the direction of barbarism.

Remember Arnold Toynbee observation: “civilizations die from suicide and not by murder.”

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. He blogs at www.tothepointanalyses.com.




Trump and Democrats Misread Mandates

Exclusive: Neither the Democrats nor President Trump learned the right lessons from the 2016 election, leaving the nation divided at home and bogged down in wars abroad, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

One year ago, the American electorate delivered a confused but shocking result, the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, a quirky outcome in the Electoral College that put Trump in the White House even though Clinton got three million more votes nationally. But neither party appears to have absorbed the right lessons from that surprise ending.

The Democrats might have taken away from their defeat the warning that they had forgotten how to speak to the white working class, which had suffered from job losses via “free trade” and felt willfully neglected as Democrats looked toward the “browning of America.”

The choice of Clinton had compounded this problem because she came across as elitist and uncaring toward this still important voting bloc with her memorable description of half of Trump’s voters as “deplorables,” an insult that stung many lower-income whites and helped deliver Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to Trump.

For more than a decade, some Democratic strategists had promoted the notion that “demography is destiny,” i.e., that the relative growth of Latino, Asian and African-American populations in comparison to whites would ensure a future Democratic majority. That prediction seemed to have been validated by Barack Obama’s winning coalition in 2008 and 2012, but it also had the predictable effect of alienating many whites who felt disrespected and resentful.

So, while the Democrats and Clinton looked to a multicultural future, Trump used his experience in reality TV to communicate with this overlooked demographic group. Trump sold himself as a populist and treated the white working class with respect. He spoke to their fears about economic decline and gave voice to their grievances. He vowed to put “America First” and pull back from foreign military adventures that often used working-class kids as cannon fodder.

But much of Trump’s message, like the real-estate mogul himself, was phony. He really didn’t have policies that would address the needs of working-class Americans. Still, his promises of a massive infrastructure plan, good health-care for all, and rejection of unfair trade deals rang the right bells with enough voters to flip some traditionally Democratic blue-collar states to Republican red.

Staying Blind

You might have thought that the Democrats would respond to Trump’s shocking victory, which also left Republicans in charge of Congress and most statehouses around the country, by launching an apologetic listening tour to reconnect with working-class whites.

There also might have been a clear-eyed evaluation of the weaknesses of the Democratic presidential nominee who came to personify the corrupt insider-culture of Official Washington, exploiting government service for financial gain by raking in millions of dollars for speeches to Wall Street and other special interests.

Clinton also offended many peace voters because of her support for aggressive war, both as a U.S. senator backing the disastrous invasion of Iraq and as Secretary of State pushing for U.S. military interventions in Libya and Syria. Her apology for voting for the Iraq War came across as opportunistic and insincere, and her undisguised delight over Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s grisly murder (“We came; we saw; he died!”) seemed ghoulish.

And, whether fairly or not, many Americans were turned off by the Democratic Party’s emphasis on “identity politics,” the assumption that people would vote based on their gender, race or sexual orientation, rather than on bread-and-butter policies and war-or-peace issues.

In other words, the Democratic Party could have looked in the mirror and seen what many Americans found unappealing about the modern version of a party that had done so much to build the country, from the New Deal during the Great Depression through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and taking a leading role in addressing environmental, health-care and other national challenges.

But today’s Democrats instead chose to blame their plight largely on Russia and its alleged “meddling” in U.S. politics, a strategy that not only made little sense – given the many other reasons why voters turned away from Clinton and her party – but delivered a message to white working-class voters who had gone over to Trump that they were “stupid” and had been “duped.”

Whatever one thinks about white working-class voters who favored Trump, calling people gullible is not an effective way to woo back a voting bloc that already feels insulted and alienated.

Missing a Chance

So, when Trump was sworn in last Jan. 20, the ball was largely in his court. He could have focused on rebuilding America’s infrastructure; or he could have proposed a serious plan for improving access to health care; or he could have moved pragmatically to resolve a host of international conflicts that President Obama had left behind.

Instead, President Trump squandered his first days in office by getting into absurd arguments about his inaugural crowd size compared to Obama’s and denying that Clinton had won the national popular vote. His “alternative facts” made him a laughingstock.

Last spring, when I spoke with a group of Trump voters in West Virginia, they were still faithful to their choice – and wanted Washington to give him a chance – but they already were complaining about Trump’s personal outbursts on Twitter; they wanted him to concentrate on their real needs, not his petty squabbles.

But Trump wasn’t listening. He couldn’t kick his Twitter habit. He kept putting his giant ego in the way.

As his presidency stumbled forward, Trump also brushed aside suggestions that he reverse his image as a person who had no regard for facts by declassifying information about the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere – to reveal situations where Obama and his team played propaganda games, rather than tell the truth.

And, lacking sufficient knowledge about the world, Trump failed when presented with sophisticated plans for reshaping U.S. policies in the Middle East to become less dependent on Israel and Saudi Arabia. Instead, Trump jumped into the arms of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman.

Pandering to Israeli-Saudi desires – and trying to show how tough he was – Trump fired off 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria over a dubious chemical-weapons incident; threatened more Mideast strife against Iran; and escalated the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Plus, he blustered about war against North Korea and personally insulted the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as “little rocket man.” Rather than rein in neoconservative aggression, he continued to unleash it.

When Trump did address domestic policy, he defined himself as basically just another right-wing Republican, supporting a health-care scheme that would have made matters worse for millions of Americans and backing a tax-cut plan that would mostly benefit the rich while blowing an even bigger hole in the deficit. All that red ink, in turn, drowned any hopes for investments in a modern infrastructure.

In other words, Trump exposed himself as the narcissistic incompetent that his critics said he was. He proved incapable of even acting presidential, let alone showing that he could use his power to make life better for average Americans. He was left with little to boast about beyond the economy that was bequeathed to him by Obama.

Republicans also had little to brag about, explaining why Ed Gillespie, the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in Virginia in 2017, opted for ugly socially divisive attack ads as the best hope for defeating Democrat Ralph Northam, a Gillespie strategy called “Trumpism without Trump.”

But Gillespie’s approach backfired with a surprisingly strong turnout of Virginia’s voters putting Northam into the governor’s mansion and almost erasing the solid Republican majority in the state legislature.

Trump was left to tweet about how the Virginia results, which were echoed in other states’ elections on Tuesday, weren’t a reflection on his own popularity, ignoring his unprecedentedly low approval ratings for a president nine months into his first term.

So, the new political question is whether Trump can belatedly learn from his failures and finally undertake some actions at home and abroad that actually serve the interests of the American people and the world. Or will he continue to bumble and stumble along?

A parallel question is whether the Democrats will misinterpret their strong showing on Tuesday as encouragement to continue ignoring their own political and institutional shortcomings – and to keep on using Russia to bash Trump. Neither side has shown much aptitude for learning.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




The Politics of Sexual Harassment and War

The Harvey Weinstein scandal has forced the ugly practice of sexual harassment into the public square, where private companies have proven to be more responsive than the political world, reports David Marks.

By David Marks

The multiple sexual-harassment allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein have sent tremors around the world with newly expressed outrage toward the machismo atmosphere of the film industry and other work environments, including the news business and politics.

Clearly, the problem reaches far beyond Weinstein. Allegations and lawsuits filed against Donald Trump mirror the worst of Weinstein’s behavior. Trump’s hot-mic 2004 interview with “Access Hollywood” surfaced during last year’s campaign, with him bragging about his ability to get away with aggressively kissing women and grabbing their genitals: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

But even that wasn’t enough to keep 63 million Americans from voting for Trump and putting him in the White House, although that was in part because many voters saw no moral superiority in Hillary Clinton, who not only disparaged women who complained about sexual harassment by her husband but who enthusiastically embraced war as a ready option for U.S. foreign policy.

Yet, while the political careers of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton survived disclosures of their predatory behavior, Weinstein’s movie empire quickly crumbled after a number of women came forward with accounts of how he used his power to gain sexual favors. Several prominent news personalities, from Bill O’Reilly at Fox to Michael Oreskes at NPR, have lost their jobs, too, amid other sexual harassment complaints.

Oddly, it seems that private industry is now more sensitive to allegations of this kind of sexual misconduct than the American political process, possibly because of the potential legal liabilities for companies as well as the organized partisan defenses that are immediately raised around the highest-level national leaders even when there’s clear evidence of their predatory behavior. While it’s true that some members of Congress have lost seats because of sexual misconduct, the situation has been different at the presidential level.

After Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” boast became public, his Republican “base” rallied around him and prevented the expected collapse of his poll numbers. Similarly, in the 1990s, when Democratic presidential candidate (and later President) Bill Clinton was accused of predatory sexual activity with female subordinates and other vulnerable women, loyal Democrats sprang to his defense and challenged the veracity of the accusers. The Clinton team complained about “cash for trash.”

‘David Cop-a-Feel’

Even earlier, rumors about President George H.W. Bush’s extramarital activities and a fondness for groping unsuspecting women were brushed aside as yellow journalism that should not be taken seriously about so honorable a man. Only recently – in the wake of the Weinstein scandal and more women denouncing boorish male behavior – was Bush pushed into apologizing for inappropriately grabbing women as the punch line to a joke about who his favorite magician is: “David Cop-a-Feel!”

It seems that the most powerful leaders, both in industry and government, are often the most aggressive predators; both on a personal level and with how they affect the social fabric of the country through their professional actions. There are parallels between the pattern of sexual harassment, in which the historical tendency was for women to stay silent, and the U.S. government’s military assaults abroad, which most Americans tolerate as somehow necessary or inevitable.

President George W. Bush inflicted “shock and awe” on Iraq, touching off the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the destabilization of the entire region yet he is now treated as a respected elder statesman when he criticizes Trump’s behavior. President Barack Obama said he authorized military operations in seven countries, including interventions in Libya and Syria that contributed to other humanitarian disasters, but Obama faced little public outrage among the American people for these actions.

President Trump appears to have learned from his predecessors that he can boost his sagging poll numbers by threatening and launching military strikes. He’ll also win some grudging acceptance from the elites of Official Washington who never seem to see a potential war that they don’t want to send the U.S. military to fight. In April, Trump got some brief relief from the Russia-gate “scandal” after he ordered the firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria in a hasty reaction to a dubious chemical weapons incident that he blamed on the Syrian government.

Trump played the tough-guy again on Sept. 19 with a bellicose speech to the United Nations General Assembly, threatening hostilities against North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela and boasting about his plan to escalate the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. Despite America’s recent history of aggressive war – not to mention historical crimes of genocide, slavery and imperialism – many Americans still profess how morally superior we are to other people.

Any American who dares challenge this “American exceptionalism” can expect to face ostracism much as women who complained about unwanted sexual advances by male bosses in years past could expect to be categorized as troublesome and unfit for professional advancement. That could be especially true in a highly subjective profession like acting.

Yet, whether it’s Hollywood’s “casting couch” or Official Washington’s actions on the international “stage,” it remains difficult to stop predatory behavior. When a culture of male dominance looms in every direction, it is a rare individual who will defy convention – even a morally bereft convention – and do what’s right. That’s especially true when the almost certain result will be loss of friends and loss of income. We have seen plenty of cases in which even women will make excuses for male misconduct, whether involving sex or war, as Hillary Clinton has shown.

But a culture that tolerates various forms of abusive and predatory behavior, whether it’s silence amid a culture of sexual harassment or blind patriotism toward dubiously justified wars, has lost its moral compass. A democracy that in principle embraces the equality of all with everyone possessing unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, would have no tolerance for predators of any kind, whether at home, in the workplace or in warfare across the globe.

David Marks is a veteran documentary filmmaker and investigative reporter. His work includes films for the BBC, including Nazi Gold, on the role of Switzerland in WWII and biographies of Jimi Hendrix and Frank Sinatra.




Democrats, Class and Russia-gate Magic

Stunned by the defection of working-class whites, many Democrats respond by calling these Trump voters “stupid” and hoping that Russia-gate will be the “deus ex machina” to restore Democratic power, as poet Phil Rockstroh explains.

By Phil Rockstroh

Recently, Democratic Party elites have purged progressives from positions of power within the Party; have been exposed in creating and promulgating, and swallowing whole the dodgy Russian Dossier subterfuge; and have gone round-heeled for war criminal and torturer-in-chief George Bush the Lesser — yet Democratic partisans and lesser-of-two-evils, fainting-couch jockeys still retail in the fiction that the Democrats present a viable alternative to their more crass Republican doppelgängers.

It must take hours of dedicated practice to become such virtuosos of self-deception.

Desperate liberals have convinced themselves that the risible, Russiagate fool’s mythos will provide a deus ex machina miracle to rid the (sham) republic from the likes of boxy-suit-clad, two-legged toxic waste dump who ascended to the presidency due to the Democratic Party gaming their primary and nomination process for a candidate who performed the seemingly impossible — to wit, preventing the craven Trump from defeating himself.

The best thing Republicans have going for them is, the Democrats themselves, from their corrupt-to-their-reeking core leadership class down to their willfully and belligerently obtuse rank-and-file. In particular, professional and political-class liberals’ refusal even to acknowledge the grim plight of the besieged U.S. working class, and when they deign to notice their economic lessers, at all, they, as a rule, evince an aura of condescension and scorn.

Apropos, I recall a piece published in the New York Times after Trump’s “pussy grabbing” palaver came to light, late in the 2016 presidential campaign. Quoting from the article, headlined: “Inside Trump Tower, an Increasingly Upset and Alone Donald Trump,” published Oct 9, 2016:

“But the real source of comfort to Mr. Trump seemed to be the small band of supporters waving Trump signs on the Fifth Avenue sidewalk outside the building. His fans clashed with people walking by, including a woman who told a female Trump supporter that she should go back to her ‘trailer.’”

It is a given that Trump’s misogynist remarks displayed the very emblem of mouth-breather inanity. Yet the demeaning jibe bandied by the passing pedestrian, who I’m certain would self-identify as “progressive” in her politics, was emblematic of liberal classism. When was the last time you witnessed an affluent liberal expressing umbrage in regard to their caste’s proclivity for class-based shaming?

The supercilious mindset is the result of an insularity borne of privilege. Moreover, when do liberals ever converse, one on one, with members of the laboring class, unless, of course, the situation involves the de facto master/servant relationship involved in a service industry exchange?

On a personal basis, liberals with whom I used to clash when I was a resident of Manhattan, almost to a person, were completely removed from and, worse, utterly incurious, about the lives of the working class. When traveling around my native South, for example, when visiting my wife’s family in the rural South Carolina Low Country, I found the people there far more receptive to a socialist critique of the capitalist order than that of liberals. Why? Unlike upscale liberals, the working class, on a day-by-day basis, endure perpetual humiliation under depraved capitalism.

Why do liberals refuse to acknowledge class-based deprivation as a defining factor in the angst and animus of the laboring class?

In short, an honest reckoning would cause Liberalcrats to acknowledge classism is, as is the case with sexism and racism, hurtful, destructive, and flat-out reprehensible. Moreover, an acknowledgement would call them to account for their own privilege thus revealing the imperative to make amends and provide restitution for their complicity in the oppression inflicted on the less fortunate by capitalism, the system that is the source of liberal affluence and the progenitor of their snobbery.

A Buffer for the Rich

The Liberal Class have, on an historical basis, acted as the buffer zone between leftist, minority, and laboring-class aspirations and the capitalist over-class — i.e., the bestower of liberacrat privilege. As the man limned in lyric, “same as it ever was.” Thus we come upon a reason for the mistrust held by people languishing on the boot-on-the-neck side of the capitalist class divide for economically privileged liberals.

Moreover, when was a last time you noticed a laboring class person parroting that the meany-pants Russian Bear ate poor, little Hillary’s homework fool’s mythos? The Cold War 2.0 tall tale that avers:

“Putin has penetrated the precious bodily fluids of the U.S. electoral system,” as a Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper of the Liberal Class might rant, thereby coming off like a liberal version of Alex Jones reading the minutes of a John Birch Society meeting, circa 1955, on communist infiltration of the Ladies’ Auxiliary Bingo Club, due to reports of an inordinate number of winners wearing red poodle skirts.

In short, there is a howling, class chasm between the cultural criteria that separates affluent liberals from the struggling laboring class. How could sneaky Vladi and his fake news-wielding squads of internet Cossacks be responsible for the neoliberal economy, comprised of low wage, no benefits, no future mcjobs, that plague the working life of the latter? Thus the Russiagate storyline holds little resonance for downscale working people.

The rise of rightist demagogues and their angst-ridden, resentment-reeking followers, both on an historical and present day basis, can be traced to a primary source: the loss of hope and the daily doses of humiliation inflicted on the working class by capitalist economic despotism. In the hollow regions of the psyche where hope has been banished, rage rises and fills the aching void.

Adding to the host of miseries, an odious aspect of the capitalist greedscape imparts, in both an overt and subliminal basis, the insidious message: The psychical injuries inflicted by the economic order are caused by personal failings. If internalized, concomitant feelings of shame will torment the mind of the sufferer — feelings freighted with intense self-reproach that tend to manifest themselves in a host of pathologies, e.g., intense anxiety and severe depression.

Hence, the dark art of shame displacement, in the form of racist and xenophobic tropes, can and will be retailed by demagogues. Don’t blame the capitalist Plundering Class, they exhort, instead blame immigrants and minorities (who, in reality, are also victims of capitalism’s inherent depravities) for your dismal prospects. Build an unscalable border wall, deport the interlopers en masse, put an end to the practice of “reverse racism” (of which, polls reveal the majority of white people, in utter defiance of reality, believe is widespread) then America’s greatness will be restored and the usurped futures of hard-working, true Americans will be seized back from  undeserving hordes of interlopers.

A deft demagogue’s tropes of blame shifting can serve to dissipate feelings of aloneness and mitigate the miasmic shame attendant to capitalist economic despotism, a phenomenon that liberals, and history confirms the tragic fact, ignore at the peril of all concerned.

Russia-gate to the Rescue

And what is the Democrats plan? From all appearances, a full spectrum deployment of … more of the same.

Thus we arrive at the question: How can they display such a yawning disconnect from reality? And we shamble into the tawdry reality: The Democratic Party elite and their cynical operatives possess the sum total of nada desire to be connected with anyone other than their economic elite benefactors — withal, the only constituency to whom they possess any degree of fealty.

Thus Democratic partisans cling to the salvation fantasy that an act of deus ex machina will soon be at hand. But how many times now has Trump’s trajectory toward impeachment been assured by some new revelation … yet nothing substantive comes of the vaporous evidence?

Present-day Democrats bring to mind the image of a sad, aged prom queen, passed over by time, possessed by magical-thinking-borne fantasies involving the appearance of an imaginary gentleman suitor whose arrival will restore her faded glory.

The crackbrained fantasies shield Democratic partisans from being buffeted by the reckoning: They are affiliated with the go-to Party of Wall Street and of neoliberal and militarist imperium.

It comes down to this: Almost everyone, at this point, sees through Trump’s popinjay ways. Barack Obama, aka former President Citigroup von Drone, was a far more effective con man. How so? Liberals had the Wall Street bagman and multicultural imperialist Obama’s back. At present, after his two terms, he is luxuriating in the cash-redolent embrace of his High Dollar benefactors, as all the while, bedecked in their broken tiara and torn prom dress regalia, Democratic Party loyalist pine away for another sweet lie-proffering, political Lothario to replace the likes of Obama’s charming vapidity.

“I don’t want realism. I want magic” — Blanche DuBois, from Tennessee William stage play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

What a cringe-inducing sight it is. One almost could be moved to pity in regard to Democrats’ Blanche DuBois theatrics. But, of course, gentle, vulnerable Blanche never acted as an apologist for drone murder nor blamed Russian meddling for her troubled plight.

Unlike impoverished Blanche, blown and buffeted by circumstance into the seedy precincts of (un-gentrified) New Orleans’ French Quarter, it is difficult to work up any degree of sympathy for contemporary Democrats, enclosed as they are in their insular, bristling, psychical citadels, from where they unloose volleys of supercilious scorn upon those who remain unmoved by their partisan casuistry and are rankled by the condescension they direct at those who are not graced with their privileged status.

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living, now, in Munich, Germany. He may be contacted: philrockstroh.scribe@gmail.com and at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/phil.rockstroh 




Sorting Out the Russia Mess

Exclusive: The U.S. mainstream media finally has its “smoking gun” on Russia-gate — incriminating information from a junior Trump campaign adviser — but a closer look reveals serious problems with the “evidence,” writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Russia-gate special prosecutor Robert Mueller has turned up the heat on President Trump with the indictment of Trump’s former campaign manager for unrelated financial crimes and the disclosure of a guilty plea from a low-level foreign policy adviser for lying to the FBI.

While longtime Republican fixer Paul Manafort, who helped guide Trump’s campaign to the GOP nomination in summer 2016, was the big name in the news on Monday, the mainstream media focused more on court documents related to George Papadopoulos, a 30-year-old campaign aide who claims to have heard about Russia possessing Hillary Clinton’s emails before they became public on the Internet, mostly via WikiLeaks.

While that would seem to bolster the Russia-gate narrative – that Russian intelligence “hacked” Democratic emails and President Vladimir Putin ordered the emails be made public to undermine Clinton’s campaign – the evidentiary thread that runs through Papadopoulos’s account remains tenuous.

That’s in part because his credibility has already been undermined by his guilty plea for lying to the FBI and by the fact that he now has a motive to provide something the prosecutors might want in exchange for leniency. Plus, there is the hearsay and contested quality of Papadopoulos’s supposed information, some of which already has turned out to be false.

According to the court documents, Papadopoulos got to know a professor of international relations who claimed to have “substantial connections with Russian government officials,” with the professor identified in press reports as Joseph Mifsud, a little-known academic associated with the University of Stirling in Scotland.

The first contact supposedly occurred in mid-March 2016 in Italy, with a second meeting in London on March 24 when the professor purportedly introduced Papadopoulos to a Russian woman whom the young campaign aide believed to be Putin’s niece, an assertion that Mueller’s investigators determined wasn’t true.

Trump, who then was under pressure for not having a foreign policy team, included Papadopoulos as part of a list drawn up to fill that gap, and Papadopoulos participated in a campaign meeting on March 31 in Washington at which he suggested a meeting between Trump and Putin, a prospect that other senior aides reportedly slapped down.

The ‘Email’ Breakfast

But Papadopoulos continued his outreach to Russia, according to the court documents, which depict the most explosive meeting as an April 26 breakfast in London with the professor (Mifsud) supposedly saying he had been in Moscow and “learned that the Russians had obtained ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Clinton” and possessed “thousands of emails.” Mainstream press accounts concluded that Mifsud must have been referring to the later-released emails.

However, Mifsud told The Washington Post in an email last August that he had “absolutely no contact with the Russian government” and described his ties to Russia as strictly in academic fields.

In an interview with the U.K. Daily Telegraph after Monday’s disclosures, Mifsud acknowledged meeting with Papadopoulos but disputed the contents of the conversations as cited in the court papers. Specifically, he denied knowing anything about emails containing “dirt” on Clinton and called the claim that he introduced Papadopoulos to a “female Russian national” as a “laughingstock.”

According to the Telegraph interview, Mifsud said he tried to put Papadopoulos in touch with experts on the European Union and introduced him to the director of a Russian think tank, the Russian International Affairs Council.

It was the latter contact that the court papers presumably referred to in saying that on May 4, the Russian contact with ties to the foreign ministry wrote to Papadopoulos and Mifsud, reporting that ministry officials were “open for cooperation,” a message that Papadopoulos forwarded to a senior campaign official, asking whether the contacts were “something we want to move forward with.”

However, even an article in The New York Times, which has aggressively pushed the Russia-gate “scandal” from the beginning, noted the evidentiary holes that followed from that point.

The Times’ Scott Shane wrote: “A crucial detail is still missing: Whether and when Mr. Papadopoulos told senior Trump campaign officials about Russia’s possession of hacked emails. And it appears that the young aide’s quest for a deeper connection with Russian officials, while he aggressively pursued it, led nowhere.”

Shane added, “the court documents describe in detail how Mr. Papadopoulos continued to report to senior campaign officials on his efforts to arrange meetings with Russian officials, … the documents do not say explicitly whether, and to whom, he passed on his most explosive discovery – that the Russians had what they considered compromising emails on Mr. Trump’s opponent.

“J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon official who worked for the Trump campaign as a national security adviser and helped arrange the March 31 foreign policy meeting, said he had known nothing about Mr. Papadopoulos’ discovery that Russia had obtained Democratic emails or of his prolonged pursuit of meetings with Russians.”

Reasons to Doubt

If prosecutor Mueller had direct evidence that Papadopoulos had informed the Trump campaign about the Clinton emails, you would assume that the proof would have been included in Monday’s disclosures. Further, since Papadopoulos was flooding the campaign with news about his Russian outreach, you might have expected that he would say something about how helpful the Russians had been in publicizing the Democratic emails.

The absence of supporting evidence that Papadopoulos conveyed his hot news on the emails to campaign officials and Mifsud’s insistence that he knew nothing about the emails would normally raise serious questions about Papadopoulos’s credibility on this most crucial point.

At least for now, those gaps represent major holes in the storyline. But Official Washington has been so desperate for “proof” about the alleged Russian “election meddling” for so long, that professional skepticism has been unwelcome in most media outlets.

There is also another side of the story that rarely gets mentioned in the U.S. mainstream media: that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has repeatedly denied that he received the two batches of purloined Democratic emails – one about the Democratic National Committee and one about Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta – from the Russians. While it is surely possible that the Russians might have used cutouts to pass on the emails, Assange and associates have suggested that at least the DNC emails came from a disgruntled insider.

Also, former U.S. intelligence experts have questioned whether at least one batch of disclosed emails could have come from an overseas “hack” because the rapid download speed is more typical of copying files locally onto a memory stick or thumb drive.

What I was told by an intelligence source several months ago was that Russian intelligence did engage in hacking efforts to uncover sensitive information, much as U.S. and other nations’ intelligence services do, and that Democratic targets were included in the Russian effort.

But the source said the more perplexing question was whether the Kremlin then ordered release of the data, something that Russian intelligence is usually loath to do and something that in this case would have risked retaliation from the expected winner of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton.

But such questions and doubts are clearly not welcome in the U.S. mainstream media, most of which has embraced Mueller’s acceptance of Papadopoulos’s story as the long-awaited “smoking gun” of Russia-gate.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




The Democratic Money Behind Russia-gate

As Russia-gate continues to buffet the Trump administration, we now know that the “scandal” started with Democrats funding the original dubious allegations of Russian interference, notes Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria

The two sources that originated the allegations claiming that Russia meddled in the 2016 election — without providing convincing evidence — were both paid for by the Democratic National Committee, and in one instance also by the Clinton campaign: the Steele dossier and the CrowdStrike analysis of the DNC servers. Think about that for a minute.

We have long known that the DNC did not allow the FBI to examine its computer server for clues about who may have hacked it – or even if it was hacked – and instead turned to CrowdStrike, a private company co-founded by a virulently anti-Putin Russian. Within a day, CrowdStrike blamed Russia on dubious evidence.

And, it has now been disclosed that the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for opposition research memos written by former British MI6 intelligence agent Christopher Steele using hearsay accusations from anonymous Russian sources to claim that the Russian government was blackmailing and bribing Donald Trump in a scheme that presupposed that Russian President Vladimir Putin foresaw Trump’s presidency years ago when no one else did.

Since then, the U.S. intelligence community has struggled to corroborate Steele’s allegations, but those suspicions still colored the thinking of President Obama’s intelligence chiefs who, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “hand-picked” the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 “assessment” claiming that Russia interfered in the U.S. election.

In other words, possibly all of the Russia-gate allegations, which have been taken on faith by Democratic partisans and members of the anti-Trump Resistance, trace back to claims paid for or generated by Democrats.

If for a moment one could remove the sometimes justified hatred that many people feel toward Trump, it would be impossible to avoid the impression that the scandal may have been cooked up by the DNC and the Clinton camp in league with Obama’s intelligence chiefs to serve political and geopolitical aims.

Absent new evidence based on forensic or documentary proof, we could be looking at a partisan concoction devised in the midst of a bitter general election campaign, a manufactured “scandal” that also has fueled a dangerous New Cold War against Russia; a case of a dirty political “oppo” serving American ruling interests in reestablishing the dominance over Russia that they enjoyed in the 1990s, as well as feeding the voracious budgetary appetite of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Though lacking independent evidence of the core Russia-gate allegations, the “scandal” continues to expand into wild exaggerations about the impact of a tiny number of social media pages suspected of having links to Russia but that apparently carried very few specific campaign messages. (Some pages reportedly were devoted to photos of puppies.)

‘Cash for Trash’

Based on what is now known, Wall Street buccaneer Paul Singer paid for GPS Fusion, a Washington-based research firm, to do opposition research on Trump during the Republican primaries, but dropped the effort in May 2016 when it became clear Trump would be the GOP nominee. GPS Fusion has strongly denied that it hired Steele for this work or that the research had anything to do with Russia.

Then, in April 2016 the DNC and the Clinton campaign paid its Washington lawyer Marc Elias to hire Fusion GPS to unearth dirt connecting Trump to Russia. This was three months before the DNC blamed Russia for hacking its computers and supposedly giving its stolen emails to WikiLeaks to help Trump win the election.

“The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee retained Fusion GPS to research any possible connections between Mr. Trump, his businesses, his campaign team and Russia, court filings revealed this week,” The New York Times reported on Friday night.

So, linking Trump to Moscow as a way to bring Russia into the election story was the Democrats’ aim from the start.

Fusion GPS then hired ex-MI6 intelligence agent Steele, it says for the first time, to dig up that dirt in Russia for the Democrats. Steele produced classic opposition research, not an intelligence assessment or conclusion, although it was written in a style and formatted to look like one.

It’s important to realize that Steele was no longer working for an official intelligence agency, which would have imposed strict standards on his work and possibly disciplined him for injecting false information into the government’s decision-making. Instead, he was working for a political party and a presidential candidate looking for dirt that would hurt their opponent, what the Clintons used to call “cash for trash” when they were the targets.

Had Steele been doing legitimate intelligence work for his government, he would have taken a far different approach. Intelligence professionals are not supposed to just give their bosses what their bosses want to hear. So, Steele would have verified his information. And it would have gone through a process of further verification by other intelligence analysts in his and perhaps other intelligence agencies. For instance, in the U.S., a National Intelligence Estimate requires vetting by all 17 intelligence agencies and incorporates dissenting opinions.

Instead Steele was producing a piece of purely political research and had different motivations. The first might well have been money, as he was being paid specifically for this project, not as part of his work on a government salary presumably serving all of society. Secondly, to continue being paid for each subsequent memo that he produced he would have been incentivized to please his clients or at least give them enough so they would come back for more.

Dubious Stuff

Opposition research is about getting dirt to be used in a mud-slinging political campaign, in which wild charges against candidates are the norm. This “oppo” is full of unvetted rumor and innuendo with enough facts mixed in to make it seem credible. There was so much dubious stuff in Steele’s memos that the FBI was unable to confirm its most salacious allegations and apparently refuted several key points.

Perhaps more significantly, the corporate news media, which was largely partial to Clinton, did not report the fantastic allegations after people close to the Clinton campaign began circulating the lurid stories before the election with the hope that the material would pop up in the news. To their credit, established media outlets recognized this as ammunition against a political opponent, not a serious document.

Despite this circumspection, the Steele dossier was shared with the FBI at some point in the summer of 2016 and apparently became the basis for the FBI to seek Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against members of Trump’s campaign. More alarmingly, it may have formed the basis for much of the Jan. 6 intelligence “assessment” by those “hand-picked” analysts from three U.S. intelligence agencies – the CIA, the FBI and the NSA – not all 17 agencies that Hillary Clinton continues to insist were involved. (Obama’s intelligence chiefs, DNI Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan, publicly admitted that only three agencies took part and The New York Times printed a correction saying so.)

If in fact the Steele memos were a primary basis for the Russia collusion allegations against Trump, then there may be no credible evidence at all. It could be that because the three agencies knew the dossier was dodgy that there was no substantive proof in the Jan. 6 “assessment.” Even so, a summary of the Steele allegations were included in a secret appendix that then-FBI Director James Comey described to then-President-elect Trump just two weeks before his inauguration.

Five days later, after the fact of Comey’s briefing was leaked to the press, the Steele dossier was published in full by the sensationalist website BuzzFeed behind the excuse that the allegations’ inclusion in the classified annex of a U.S. intelligence report justified the dossier’s publication regardless of doubts about its accuracy.

Russian Fingerprints

The other source of blame about Russian meddling came from the private company CrowdStrike because the DNC blocked the FBI from examining its server after a suspected hack. Within a day, CrowdStrike claimed to find Russian “fingerprints” in the metadata of a DNC opposition research document, which had been revealed by an Internet site called DCLeaks, showing Cyrillic letters and the name of the first Soviet intelligence chief. That supposedly implicated Russia.

CrowdStrike also claimed that the alleged Russian intelligence operation was extremely sophisticated and skilled in concealing its external penetration of the server. But CrowdStrike’s conclusion about Russian “fingerprints” resulted from clues that would have been left behind by extremely sloppy hackers or inserted intentionally to implicate the Russians.

CrowdStrike’s credibility was further undermined when Voice of America reported on March 23, 2017, that the same software the company says it used to blame Russia for the hack wrongly concluded that Moscow also had hacked Ukrainian government howitzers on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine.

“An influential British think tank and Ukraine’s military are disputing a report that the U.S. cyber-security firm CrowdStrike has used to buttress its claims of Russian hacking in the presidential election,” VOA reported. Dimitri Alperovitch, a CrowdStrike co-founder, is also a senior fellow at the anti-Russian Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.

More speculation about the alleged election hack was raised with WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 release, which revealed that the CIA is not beyond covering up its own hacks by leaving clues implicating others. Plus, there’s the fact that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has declared again and again that WikiLeaks did not get the Democratic emails from the Russians. Buttressing Assange’s denials of a Russian role, WikiLeaks associate Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said he met a person connected to the leak during a trip to Washington last year.

And, William Binney, maybe the best mathematician to ever work at the National Security Agency, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern have published a technical analysis of one set of Democratic email metadata showing that a transatlantic “hack” would have been impossible and that the evidence points to a likely leak by a disgruntled Democratic insider. Binney has further stated that if it were a “hack,” the NSA would have been able to detect it and make the evidence known.

Fueling Neo-McCarthyism

Despite these doubts, which the U.S. mainstream media has largely ignored, Russia-gate has grown into something much more than an election story. It has unleashed a neo-McCarthyite attack on Americans who are accused of being dupes of Russia if they dare question the evidence of the Kremlin’s guilt.

Just weeks after last November’s election, The Washington Post published a front-page story touting a blacklist from an anonymous group, called PropOrNot, that alleged that 200 news sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other leading independent news sources, were either willful Russian propagandists or “useful idiots.”

Last week, a new list emerged with the names of over 2,000 people, mostly Westerners, who have appeared on RT, the Russian government-financed English-language news channel. The list was part of a report entitled, “The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West,” put out by an outfit called European Values, with a long list of European funders.

Included on the list of “useful idiots” absurdly are CIA-friendly Washington Post columnist David Ignatius; David Brock, Hillary Clinton’s opposition research chief; and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report stated: “Many people in Europe and the US, including politicians and other persons of influence, continue to exhibit troubling naïveté about RT’s political agenda, buying into the network’s marketing ploy that it is simply an outlet for independent voices marginalised by the mainstream Western press. These ‘useful idiots’ remain oblivious to RT’s intentions and boost its legitimacy by granting interviews on its shows and newscasts.”

The intent of these lists is clear: to shut down dissenting voices who question Western foreign policy and who are usually excluded from Western corporate media. RT is often willing to provide a platform for a wider range of viewpoints, both from the left and right. American ruling interests fend off critical viewpoints by first suppressing them in corporate media and now condemning them as propaganda when they emerge on RT.

Geopolitical Risks

More ominously, the anti-Russia mania has increased chances of direct conflict between the two nuclear superpowers. The Russia-bashing rhetoric not only served the Clinton campaign, though ultimately to ill effect, but it has pushed a longstanding U.S.-led geopolitical agenda to regain control over Russia, an advantage that the U.S. enjoyed during the Yeltsin years in the 1990s.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Wall Street rushed in behind Boris Yeltsin and Russian oligarchs to asset strip virtually the entire country, impoverishing the population. Amid widespread accounts of this grotesque corruption, Washington intervened in Russian politics to help get Yeltsin re-elected in 1996. The political rise of Vladimir Putin after Yeltsin resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999 reversed this course, restoring Russian sovereignty over its economy and politics.

That inflamed Hillary Clinton and other American hawks whose desire was to install another Yeltsin-like figure and resume U.S. exploitation of Russia’s vast natural and financial resources. To advance that cause, U.S. presidents have supported the eastward expansion of NATO and have deployed 30,000 troops on Russia’s border.

In 2014, the Obama administration helped orchestrate a coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine and installed a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. also undertook the risky policy of aiding jihadists to overthrow a secular Russian ally in Syria. The consequences have brought the world closer to nuclear annihilation than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

In this context, the Democratic Party-led Russia-gate offensive was intended not only to explain away Clinton’s defeat but to stop Trump — possibly via impeachment or by inflicting severe political damage — because he had talked, insincerely it is turning out, about detente with Russia. That did not fit in well with the plan at all.

Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal among other newspapers. He is the author of How I Lost By Hillary Clinton published by OR Books in June 2017. He can be reached at joelauria@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.




Russia-gate Breeds ‘Establishment McCarthyism’

Exclusive: As Russia-gate gives cover for an Establishment attack on Internet freedom and independent news, traditional defenders of a free press and civil liberties are joining the assault or staying on the sidelines, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In the past, America has witnessed “McCarthyism” from the Right and even complaints from the Right about “McCarthyism of the Left.” But what we are witnessing now amid the Russia-gate frenzy is what might be called “Establishment McCarthyism,” traditional media/political powers demonizing and silencing dissent that questions mainstream narratives.

This extraordinary assault on civil liberties is cloaked in fright-filled stories about “Russian propaganda” and wildly exaggerated tales of the Kremlin’s “hordes of Twitter bots,” but its underlying goal is to enforce Washington’s “groupthinks” by creating a permanent system that shuts down or marginalizes dissident opinions and labels contrary information – no matter how reasonable and well-researched – as “disputed” or “rated false” by mainstream “fact-checking” organizations like PolitiFact.

It doesn’t seem to matter that the paragons of this new structure – such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and, indeed, PolitiFact – have a checkered record of getting facts straight.

For instance, PolitiFact still rates as “true” Hillary Clinton’s false claim that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” agreed that Russia was behind the release of Democratic emails last year. Even the Times and The Associated Press belatedly ran corrections after President Obama’s intelligence chiefs admitted that the assessment came from what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies: CIA, FBI and NSA.

And, the larger truth was that these “hand-picked” analysts were sequestered away from other analysts even from their own agencies and produced “stove-piped intelligence,” i.e., analysis that escapes the back-and-forth that should occur inside the intelligence community.

Even then, what these analysts published last Jan. 6 was an “assessment,” which they specifically warned was “not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” In other words, they didn’t have any conclusive proof of Russian “hacking.”

Yet, the Times and other leading newspaper routinely treat these findings as flat fact or the unassailable “consensus” of the “intelligence community.” Contrary information, including WikiLeaks’ denials of a Russian role in supplying the emails, and contrary judgments from former senior U.S. intelligence officials are ignored.

The Jan. 6 report also tacked on a seven-page addendum smearing the Russian television network, RT, for such offenses as sponsoring a 2012 debate among U.S. third-party presidential candidates who had been excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates. RT also was slammed for reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests and the environmental dangers from “fracking.”

How the idea of giving Americans access to divergent political opinions and information about valid issues such as income inequality and environmental dangers constitutes threats to American “democracy” is hard to comprehend.

However, rather than address the Jan. 6 report’s admitted uncertainties about Russian “hacking” and the troubling implications of its attacks on RT, the Times and other U.S. mainstream publications treat the report as some kind of holy scripture that can’t be questioned or challenged.

Silencing RT

For instance, on Tuesday, the Times published a front-page story entitled “YouTube Gave Russians Outlet Portal Into U.S.” that essentially cried out for the purging of RT from YouTube. The article began by holding YouTube’s vice president Robert Kynci up to ridicule and opprobrium for his praising “RT for bonding with viewers by providing ‘authentic’ content instead of ‘agendas or propaganda.’”

The article by Daisuke Wakabayashi and Nicholas Confessore swallowed whole the Jan. 6 report’s conclusion that RT is “the Kremlin’s ‘principal international propaganda outlet’ and a key player in Russia’s information warfare operations around the world.” In other words, the Times portrayed Kynci as essentially a “useful idiot.”

Yet, the article doesn’t actually dissect any RT article that could be labeled false or propagandistic. It simply alludes generally to news items that contained information critical of Hillary Clinton as if any negative reporting on the Democratic presidential contender – no matter how accurate or how similar to stories appearing in the U.S. press – was somehow proof of “information warfare.”

As Daniel Lazare wrote at Consortiumnews.com on Wednesday, “The web version [of the Times article] links to an RT interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that ran shortly before the 2016 election. The topic is a September 2014 email obtained by Wikileaks in which Clinton acknowledges that ‘the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia … are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.’”

In other words, the Times cited a documented and newsworthy RT story as its evidence that RT was a propaganda shop threatening American democracy and deserving ostracism if not removal from YouTube.

A Dangerous Pattern

Not to say that I share every news judgment of RT – or for that matter The New York Times – but there is a grave issue of press freedom when the Times essentially calls for the shutting down of access to a news organization that may highlight or report on stories that the Times and other mainstream outlets downplay or ignore.

And this was not a stand-alone story. Previously, the Times has run favorable articles about plans to deploy aggressive algorithms to hunt down and then remove or marginalize information that the Times and other mainstream outlets deem false.

Nor is it just the Times. Last Thanksgiving, The Washington Post ran a fawning front-page article about an anonymous group PropOrNot that had created a blacklist of 200 Internet sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other independent news sources, that were deemed guilty of dispensing “Russian propaganda,” which basically amounted to our showing any skepticism toward the State Department’s narratives on the crises in Syria or Ukraine.

So, if any media outlet dares to question the U.S. government’s version of events – once that storyline has been embraced by the big media – the dissidents risk being awarded the media equivalent of a yellow star and having their readership dramatically reduced by getting downgraded on search engines and punished on social media.

Meanwhile, Congress has authorized $160 million to combat alleged Russian “propaganda and disinformation,” a gilded invitation for “scholars” and “experts” to gear up “studies” that will continue to prove what is supposed to be proved – “Russia bad” – with credulous mainstream reporters eagerly gobbling up the latest “evidence” of Russian perfidy.

There is also a more coercive element to what’s going on. RT is facing demands from the Justice Department that it register as a “foreign agent” or face prosecution. Clearly, the point is to chill the journalism done by RT’s American reporters, hosts and staff who now fear being stigmatized as something akin to traitors.

You might wonder: where are the defenders of press freedom and civil liberties? Doesn’t anyone in the mainstream media or national politics recognize the danger to a democracy coming from enforced groupthinks? Is American democracy so fragile that letting Americans hear “another side of the story” must be prevented?

A Dangerous ‘Cure’

I agree that there is a limited problem with jerks who knowingly make up fake stories or who disseminate crazy conspiracy theories – and no one finds such behavior more offensive than I do. But does no one recall the lies about Iraq’s WMD and other U.S. government falsehoods and deceptions over the years?

Often, it is the few dissenters who alert the American people to the truth, even as the Times, Post, CNN and other big outlets are serving as the real propaganda agents, accepting what the “important people” say and showing little or no professional skepticism.

And, given the risk of thermo-nuclear war with Russia, why aren’t liberals and progressives demanding at least a critical examination of what’s coming from the U.S. intelligence agencies and the mainstream press?

The answer seems to be that many liberals and progressives are so blinded by their fury over Donald Trump’s election that they don’t care what lines are crossed to destroy or neutralize him. Plus, for some liberal entities, there’s lots of money to be made.

For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union has made its “resistance” to the Trump administration an important part of its fundraising. So, the ACLU is doing nothing to defend the rights of news organizations and journalists under attack.

When I asked ACLU about the Justice Department’s move against RT and other encroachments on press freedom, I was told by ACLU spokesman Thomas Dresslar: “Thanks for reaching out to us. Unfortunately, I’ve been informed that we do not have anyone able to speak to you about this.”

Meanwhile, the Times and other traditional “defenders of a free press” are now part of the attack machine against a free press. While much of this attitude comes from the big media’s high-profile leadership of the anti-Trump Resistance and anger at any resistors to the Resistance, mainstream news outlets have chafed for years over the Internet undermining their privileged role as the gatekeepers of what Americans get to see and hear.

For a long time, the big media has wanted an excuse to rein in the Internet and break the small news outlets that have challenged the power – and the profitability – of the Times, Post, CNN, etc. Russia-gate and Trump have become the cover for that restoration of mainstream authority.

So, as we have moved into this dangerous New Cold War, we are living in what could be called “Establishment McCarthyism,” a hysterical but methodical strategy for silencing dissent and making sure that future mainstream groupthinks don’t get challenged.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




NYT’s Assault on Press Freedom

Exclusive: The New York Times, which once postured as the champion of a free press, now is seeking crackdowns on news that the public gets from the Internet under the guise of combatting “Russian propaganda,” explains Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare

Once upon a time the danger to a free press came from the right. But since Russia-gate, liberals have been busy playing catch-up.

The latest example is a front-page article in Tuesday’s New York Times. Entitled “YouTube Gave Russian Outlet Portal Into U.S.,” it offers the usual blah-blah-blah about Kremlin agents engaging in the political black arts. But it goes a step farther by attempting to discredit a perfectly legitimate news organization.

Reporters Daisuke Wakabayashi and Nicholas Confessore begin by noting that RT, the Moscow-funded TV channel formerly known as “Russia Today,” is now an Internet powerhouse and then observes that when it became the first YouTube news channel to surpass one million views, YouTube Vice President Robert Kyncl “joined an RT anchor in a studio, where he praised RT for … providing ‘authentic’ content instead of ‘agendas or propaganda.’”

Cue the ominous background music. “But now,” the article continues, “as investigators in Washington examine the scope and reach of Russian interference in United States policy, the once-cozy relationship between RT and YouTube is drawing closer scrutiny.”

Why? Because RT took advantage of its “prominent presence on YouTube’s search results” to pepper viewers with negative videos about Hillary Clinton. According to Wakabayashi and Confessore:

“As the presidential election heated up in the spring of 2016, RT consistently featured negative stories about Mrs. Clinton, according to United States intelligence officials. That included claims of corruption at her family foundation and ties to Islamic extremism, frequent coverage of emails stolen by Russian operatives from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, and accusations that she was in poor physical and mental health.”

The story quotes “the American intelligence community” describing RT as the Kremlin’s “principal international propaganda outlet” and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia calling YouTube “a target-rich environment for any disinformation campaign.”

Then comes the kicker: “Much like the Russian-controlled pages on Facebook, RT’s YouTube videos comply with YouTube’s community guidelines, which cover things like nudity, copyright violations and promoting violence against a group based on race or religion. But not propaganda.”

Bottom line: disinformation and propaganda are what RT is all about. But there’s a problem: the Times article is less than clear about what RT actually got wrong.

Making Real News into ‘Fake News’

The web version, for example, links to an RT interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that ran shortly before the 2016 election. The topic is a September 2014 email obtained by Wikileaks in which Clinton acknowledges that “the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia … are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”

“I think this is the most significant email in the whole collection,” Assange states as interviewer John Pilger murmurs in agreement. “As analysts know, and even the US government has mentioned … some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIS, funding ISIS. But the dodge has always been that it’s just some rogue princes using their cut of the oil to do what they like and – but actually – the government disapproves. But that email says no, it is the government of Saudi and the government of Qatar that have been funding the ISIS.”

The exchange resumes with Pilger saying: “And, of course, the consequence of that is that this notorious terrorist, jihadist group called ISIL or ISIS is created largely with money from the very people who are giving money to the Clinton Foundation.”

Assange: “Yes.”

Pilger: “That’s extraordinary.”

Is this dezinformatsiya, as the Russians call disinformation? The Times implies that is, yet in fact Assange’s statement is perfectly correct. The email’s authenticity is unchallenged while there is also no question that Arab Gulf interests have contributed massively to the Clinton Foundation.

As the foundation’s own records show, Saudi Arabia has given anywhere from $10 million to $25 million over the years, Qatar has contributed between $1 million and $5 million, while other Gulf governments, corporations, and individuals have kicked in anywhere from $13 million to $50 million more.

This is not fake news, but the plain truth. Moreover, it’s the scandalous truth because it shows Clinton taking money from people funding the same terror organizations she was professing to fight.

It’s as if Jesse Jackson had been found taking payoffs from South Africa’s white supremacist government during apartheid. If that had occurred, the Times would have been up in arms. Yet not only has it never said a word about the 2014 Clinton email, it is now going after RT for putting out news that it has sat on for months.

What’s going on here? Is the Times suggesting that truth is irrelevant and that the only thing that counts is where it originates? Is it arguing that what’s said matters less than who’s saying it – and that if it’s RT, WikiLeaks, or whomever, we must all stop up our ears so that the message will be blocked?

Barring Foreign Information

The article goes on to suggest that “RT’s embrace of YouTube shows how difficult it could be to limit foreign influence.” Calling for foreign influence to be rolled back for no other reason than the fact that it’s foreign is very dangerous. Indeed, it’s nothing more than a liberal echo of the isolationist, America-First politics practiced by Donald Trump except that where Trump wants to bar immigrants and imports, the Times wants to bar foreign information, no matter how pertinent or how truthful. Instead of reporting news, it is seeking to block it.

While the Times was chasing after RT, The Washington Post was going public with the truly sensational news that the Clinton campaign’s law firm had paid for the notorious Christopher Steele dossier, famous for charging that Trump had paid for a couple of prostitutes to urinate on a Moscow hotel bed once occupied by Barack and Michelle Obama.

After accusing the Trump campaign of collaborating with foreign agents to influence an American election, it turns out that the Democrats, or at least their lawyers, not only collaborated with, but hired a foreign agent – Steele formerly worked for MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA – to do the same (and Steele claimed to have gotten Russian officials to supply unsubstantiated allegations designed to hurt Trump’s campaign).

The result of all this has been nonsense piled on top of nonsense. More than a year after the Democratic National Committee’s massive email dump, there is still no evidence that the Kremlin was responsible or even that it was a hack at all. (Wikileaks, with its 100-percent record for veracity, continues to maintain that the emails were leaked by an insider.)

Indeed, the sole basis for the charge is a report by CrowdStrike, a California-based cyber-security firm whose chief technical officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, is known both for his anti-Kremlin bias and his close ties to the Clinton camp.  (See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Scandal Hidden Behind Russia-gate.”)

The FBI never inspected the DNC’s computer servers to see for itself if they were truly hacked while a major CrowdStrike foul-up – it subsequently accused pro-Russian separatists of using similar malware to target Ukrainian artillery units – has gone largely unreported even though the firm was forced to issue a retraction. Certainly, the Times has never breathed a word about the blunder.

The NYT’s Motives

What’s the goal here? One aim, of course, is to drive Trump out of office – not by opposing him from the left, however, but from the right on the basis of anti-Russian xenophobia. But another is what might be described as an exercise in induced mass conformity.

If, thanks to Russia-gate, the Times succeeds in scaring Americans into believing that the country is being hit with an epidemic of “fake news” even though no one knows what the term even means; if it can persuade readers that news is “disinformation” simply because it comes from a Russian outlet; if it can convince them that “Kremlin-aligned agents secretly built fake Facebook groups to foment political division” even though “Kremlin-aligned” can mean just about anything under the sun – if it can do all those things, then it can persuade them to turn their critical faculties off and believe whatever the U.S. intelligence agencies (and The New York Times) tell them to believe.

The integration of the corporate media and the so-called “intelligence community” will thus be complete. Instead of information, the result will be a steady stream of CIA propaganda aimed at dulling critical faculties and preparing the public for one imperial misadventure after another

The Times, to paraphrase Chico Marx, is essentially asking readers, “Who you gonna believe, the CIA or your own critical faculties?” The correct answer, it seems to think, is the former. Rather than a force for enlightenment, the “newspaper of record,” is turning into the opposite.

Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace). 




What Did Hillary Clinton Know?

Exclusive: With the disclosure that Hillary Clinton’s campaign helped pay for the original Russia-gate allegations against Donald Trump, a new question arises: what did Clinton know and when did she know it, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The revelation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped pay for the notorious “Steele Dossier” of hearsay claims about Donald Trump’s relations with Russia is not surprising but is noteworthy given how long the mystery about the funding was allowed to linger.

Another mild surprise is that the Clinton campaign would have had a direct hand in the financing rather than maintaining an arm’s length relationship to the dossier by having some “friend of the campaign” make the payments and giving Clinton more deniability.

Instead, the campaign appears to have relied on its lawyer, Marc E. Elias of Perkins Coie, and a confidentiality agreement to provide some insulation between Clinton and the dossier’s startling claims which presumably helped inform Clinton’s charge in the final presidential debate that Trump was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.” Indeed, how much Clinton personally knew about the dossier and its financing remains an intriguing question for investigators.

Ultimately, the facts about who commissioned the dossier were forced out by a congressional Republican subpoena seeking the bank records of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele to compile the opposition research, known as “oppo,” against Trump.

As part of the legal wrangling over that subpoena, the Clinton/DNC law firm, Perkins Coie, wrote a letter releasing Fusion GPS from its confidentiality agreement.

After that letter, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday night that the Clinton campaign and the DNC had helped fund the Steele effort with attorney Elias retaining Fusion GPS in April 2016 and with Fusion GPS then hiring Steele.

The Post reported that “people familiar with the matter” disclosed that outline of the arrangement but still would not divulge how much the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid to Fusion GPS. One source told me that the total amount came to about $1 million.

‘Trash for Cash’

An irony about Hillary Clinton’s role in funding allegations about Trump’s connection to the Russians, including claims that he cavorted with prostitutes in a five-star Moscow hotel while Russian intelligence operatives secretly filmed him, is that the Clinton camp bristled when Bill Clinton was the subject of Republican “oppo” that surfaced salacious charges against him. The Clintons dismissed such accusations as “cash for trash.”

Nevertheless, just as conspiratorial accusations about the Clintons gave rise to the Whitewater investigation and a rash of other alleged “scandals,” which bedeviled Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Steele Dossier — also known as the “Dirty Dossier” — provided a map that investigators have followed for the ongoing Russia-gate investigation into President Trump.

Much like those Clinton allegations, Steele’s accusations have had a dubious track record for accuracy, with U.S. government investigators unable to corroborate some key claims but, I’m told, believing that some are true nonetheless.

In the 1990s, even though the core allegations of wrongdoing about the Clintons and their Whitewater land deal collapsed, the drawn-out investigation eventually unearthed Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and led to his impeachment in the House although he was acquitted in a Senate trial.

Some Democrats have openly hoped for the impeachment of President Trump, too, and they have hitched many of those hopes to the Russia-gate bandwagon.

There is also no doubt about the significance of the Steele Dossier in spurring the Russia-gate scandal forward.

When Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, offered what amounted to a prosecutor’s opening statement in March, his seamless 15-minute narrative of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russia followed the trail blazed by Steele, who had worked for Britain’s MI-6 in Russia and tapped into ex-colleagues and unnamed sources inside Russia, including supposedly leadership figures in the Kremlin.

Steele’s Methods

Since Steele could not reenter Russia himself, he based his reports on multiple hearsay from these anonymous Russians who claim to have heard some information from their government contacts before passing it on to Steele’s associates who then gave it to Steele who compiled this mix of rumors and alleged inside dope into “raw” intelligence reports.

Besides the anonymous sourcing and the sources’ financial incentives to dig up dirt, Steele’s reports had other problems, including the inability of FBI investigators to confirm key elements, such as the claim that several years ago Russian intelligence operatives secretly videotaped Trump having prostitutes urinate on him while he lay in the same bed at Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton used by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

That tantalizing tidbit was included in Steele’s opening report to his new clients, dated June 20, 2016. Apparently, it proved irresistible in whetting the appetite of Clinton insiders. Also in that first report were the basic outlines of Russia-gate.

But Steele’s June report also reflected the telephone-tag aspects of these allegations: “Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for a least 5 years.

“Source B asserted that the TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir PUTIN. Its aim was to sow discord and disunity both within the US itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance which was viewed as inimical to Russia’s interests. … In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years. …

“The Kremlin’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.”

Besides the anonymous and hearsay quality of the allegations, there are obvious logical problems, especially the point that five years before the 2016 campaign, virtually no one would have thought that Trump had any chance of becoming President of the United States.

There also may have been a more mundane reason why Trump’s hotel deal fell through. A source familiar with those negotiations told me that Trump had hoped to get a half interest in the $2 billion project but that Russian-Israeli investor Mikhail Fridman, a founder of Russia’s Alfa Bank, balked because Trump was unwilling to commit a significant investment beyond the branding value of the Trump name.

Yet, one would assume that if the supposedly all-powerful Putin wanted to give a $1 billion or so payoff to his golden boy, Donald Trump, whom Putin anticipated would become President in five years, the deal would have happened, but it didn’t.

Despite the dubious quality of Steele’s second- and third-hand information, the June 2016 report appears to have impressed Team Clinton. And once the bait was taken, Steele continued to produce his conspiracy-laden reports, totaling at least 17 through Dec. 13, 2016.

Framing the Investigation

The reports not only captivated the Clinton political operatives but influenced the assessments of President Obama’s appointees in the U.S. intelligence community regarding alleged Russian “meddling” in the presidential election.

Still, a careful analysis of Steele’s reports would have discovered not only apparent factual inaccuracies, such as putting Trump lawyer Michael Cohen at a meeting with a Russian official in Prague (when Cohen says he’s never been to Prague), but also the sort of broad conspiracy-mongering that the mainstream U.S. news media usually loves to ridicule.

For instance, Steele’s reports pin a range of U.S. political attitudes on Russian manipulation rather than the notion that Americans can reach reasonable conclusions on their own. In one report dated Sept. 14, 2016, Steele claimed that an unnamed senior official in Putin’s Presidential Administration (or PA) explained how Putin used the alleged Russian influence operation to generate opposition to Obama’s Pacific trade deals.

Steele wrote that Putin’s intention was “pushing candidate CLINTON away from President OBAMA’s policies. The best example of this was that both candidates [Clinton and Trump] now openly opposed the draft trade agreements, TPP and TTIP, which were assessed by Moscow as detrimental to Russian interests.”

In other words, the Russians supposedly intervened in the U.S. presidential campaign to turn the leading candidates against Obama’s trade deals. But how credible is that? Are we to believe that American politicians – running the gamut from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren through former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to President Donald Trump – have all been tricked by the Kremlin to oppose those controversial trade deals, which are also broadly unpopular with the American people who are sick and tired of trade agreements that cost them jobs?

Of course, the disclosure that the Clinton campaign and the DNC helped pay for Steele’s opposition research doesn’t necessarily discredit the information, but it does suggest a possible financial incentive for Steele and his collaborators to sex-up the reports to keep Clinton’s camp coming back for more.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




Getting the Left to Embrace US ‘Exceptionalism’

Exclusive: Neocons have deftly used the Left’s hatred of President Trump and the demonizing of Russia to lure liberals and progressives into an interventionist mindset to defend “American exceptionalism,” observes James W. Carden.

By James W. Carden

Last year, Donald J. Trump triumphed over 15 Republican primary opponents and a Democratic candidate with an impressive résumé largely on the strength of a simple four-word message: “Make America Great Again.”

Trump’s slogan worked even though President Obama offered the rejoinder, “America is already great,” and Hillary Clinton made the counterpoint that “America is great because America is good.”

Since Trump’s victory nearly a year ago, the major American media has often reprised the Obama-Clinton messaging that America is already great as though Trump, the most unabashedly jingoistic president since perhaps Ronald Reagan, needs reminding.

Yet in Trump’s Washington, where the bipartisan foreign policy consensus is wrongly perceived to be under attack, the Establishment has been circling the wagons in order to fend off what is viewed as Trump’s frontal assault on the core tenets of American exceptionalism.

Soon after the election, political and media elites, particularly those within Democratic Party circles, began to express their dismay at Trump’s seeming disregard for what, to their way of thinking, America represents to the rest of the world.

Two months into the Trump presidency, a former Obama State Department official whose specialty is described by the most amorphous and flexible of constructions, “human rights,” took to the pages of The Atlantic magazine to inform readers that since the November election “the global club of autocrats has been crowing about Trump” because he, like they, takes a dim a view of “democracy, human rights, and transparency.”

Autocrats, declared Tom Malinkowski, now a Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey, were said to be delighted by Trump’s election because, “they’ve heard him echo their propaganda that America is too crooked and corrupt to preach moral standards to others.”

“This,” wrote Malinkowski, “makes me sad.”

Likewise, Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice also has expressed alarm that the administration has been busy “jettisoning American values and abdicating United States leadership of the world.”

Rice believes that “The network of alliances that distinguishes America from other powers and has kept our nation safe and strong for decades is now in jeopardy. We will see the cost when next we need the world to rally to our side.”

Fears for American Hegemony

A number of liberal journalists have been quick to join the fretting. At The Intercept, a foreign affairs analyst worried that Trump is letting American global hegemony slip away.

“Through a network of nearly 800 military bases located in 70 countries around the globe, in addition to an array of trade deals and alliances,” wrote Murtaza Hussain, “the U.S. has cemented its influence for decades across both Europe and Asia. American leaders helped impose a set of rules and norms that promoted free trade, democratic governance — in theory, if not always in practice — and a prohibition on changing borders militarily, using a mixture of force and suasion to sustain the systems that keep its hegemony intact.”

Over at Slate, Yascha Mounk, opined that, with regard to Russia, “Trump likes Putin because he admires his strong (read: autocratic) leadership. And he sees him as an ally because he shares Putin’s disdain for the liberal order, preferring a world in which strong powers do what they like in their spheres of influence without having to worry about obeying — much less enforcing — international norms or human rights.”

Similarly, when The New Republic’s Jeet Heer recently delved into the realm of U.S.-Russia relations, he warned readers that “The problem is not just the nature of Putin’s autocratic government, which uses social conservatism and nationalism to hold together a nation frayed by massive economic inequality. … The problem is that Russia’s foreign policy threatens to export many of the Putin regime’s worst features, particularly xenophobia and homophobia.”

For Heer the proper response to Putin’s foreign policy is obvious: “Fighting Trumpism in America is not enough. Leftists have to be ready to battle it in all its forms, at home and abroad.”

In other words, it’s time now to undertake yet another global crusade against Russia.

By this point it should be clear that what these worthies are doing is conflating a vision of a liberal, tolerant America with American hegemony; their concerns always come back to their quite unfounded worry that Trump is in the process of repudiating the unipolar fantasy that they themselves buy into and seek to perpetuate.

Innocents Abroad?

Among many other problems, the hubristic nature of American Exceptionalist ideology feeds delusions of innocence, which serve to prevent a critical rethinking of America’s recent, mainly catastrophic adventures abroad. We can see how this tendency manifests itself in the mainstream media.

In July, The New York Times published a piece that whitewashed the motives behind the decision by George W. Bush’s White House to invade Iraq. “When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein,” wrote reporter Tim Arango, “it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East.”

This is now par for the course. The media critic Adam Johnson has rightly pointed out that “nominally down-the-middle reporters are allowed to mind-read U.S. policy makers’ motives so long as they conclude that those motives were noble and in good faith. Never are reporters allowed to ascribe sinister motives to U.S. officials—this is only permissible when covering America’s enemies.”

Similarly, the illegal American intervention in the Syrian war was portrayed as “self-defense” when U.S. forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet over Raqqa in June. “The Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer (who has now since mercifully resigned), “that we will retain the right of self-defense, of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.”

Time was, during the early years of the First Cold War, that public intellectuals often looked askance at America’s belief in its innate virtue. Within a decade of the allied victory in the Second World War, during which time American power and prestige was at its zenith, prominent Anglo-American thinkers, including Graham Greene, George Kennan and Reinhold Niebuhr were already casting a gimlet eye on the pretenses of the “American Century.”

Where are the contrarian voices such as these calling for restraint and reflection now that we are in the throes of a Second Cold War? They are almost utterly absent from mainstream American political discourse.

A Bipartisan Pretense

Part of the reason Trump won, of course, is that he plays and feeds into the very same pretenses that the both the Establishment and the public does — though in cruder form. There is only a difference in degree, not in kind, between “Make America Great Again” and “America Is Already Great” since both are premised on the same line of reasoning: America, due to its providential founding, cannot be and is not a normal country: it is exceptional, a “shining city on a hill.”

The idea that Trump himself hasn’t embraced and internalized the core tenets of American exceptionalism is laughable – and even some neoconservatives, like Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, have begun to notice. Lake, observing Trump’s September speech to the United Nations General Assembly, cracked, “For a moment, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a Weekly Standard editorial meeting.”

Yet there’s an insoluble problem that remains for the adherents of the myth of American exceptionalism: the presumption that the rest of the world buys into the myth which largely rests upon a willful misunderstanding of the past, and blinds us to available alternatives, such as realism.

Some on the Left see little cause for concern. America, by their lights, should intervene all over the world on a values crusade. Leftist journals like Dissent and Jacobin have endeavored to excuse the Trotskyite impulse to political violence. In this way neoconservatism, the American variant of Trotskyism, is not dead yet, it remains a zombie ideology that haunts the country.

Forget anti-imperialism, some Leftists say, it’s Trumpian nationalism that is the real problem. And there are indeed elements of Trumpian nationalism that are troubling. But is the answer a crusade to impose, in the felicitous phrasing of neocon propagandist Max Boot, “the rule of law, property rights and other guarantees, at gunpoint if need be?”

In the end, the ideology of American Exceptionalism feeds delusions of American Innocence and prepares the ground for military intervention the world over. Is that really the right way to oppose Donald Trump?

James W. Carden served as an adviser on Russia policy at the US State Department. Currently a contributing writer at The Nation magazine, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Quartz, The American Conservative and The National Interest.