The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election
On 9 December, a CIA report concluded that Russia covertly interfered in the recent US elections. The Washington Post’s , Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller wrote;
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
An un-named senior US intelligence official was blunt in blaming Russia;
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected.”
Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, said;
“We may have crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent up on us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned.
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, rejected the allegations that Russia was the source of the Democratic Party email leaks/hacks;
“The Clinton camp has been able to project a neo-McCarthyist hysteria that Russia is responsible for everything. Hillary Clinton has stated multiple times, falsely, that 17 US intelligence agencies had assessed that Russia was the source of our publications. That’s false – we can say that the Russian government is not the source.”
Trump’s transition team retorted with a massive ‘burn‘ to the CIA;
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” (click here for CIA reference to Iraq’s alleged WMDs)
Oblivious to the excruciating irony of his response, Trump rejected any suggestion of a conspiracy to undermine the US election;
“I don’t believe it. Every week it’s another excuse. Nobody really knows, and hacking is very interesting. Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act you’re not going to catch them. They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place.”
Senior Republican senator and past Presidential candidate, John McCain, was more certain;
“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country. It’s clear the Russians interfered. Whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of investigation. But facts are stubborn things. They did hack into this campaign.”
Outgoing US Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, was happy to point to Russian cheating in the Olympics as evidence of their meddling in US politics being more than likely;
“Russia has a pretty good way of cheating. Look at what they did with athletes.”
Reid was scathing of FBI Director James Comey, who he blames for withholding explosive information (revealed in CIA report) that Russian intelligence agents gave hacked Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks;
“The FBI had this material for a long time but Comey, who is of course a Republican, refused to divulge specific information about Russia and the presidental election.
I am so disappointed in Comey. He has let the country down for partisan purposes and that’s why I call him the new J Edgar Hoover, because I believe that.
I think he should be investigated by the Senate. He should be investigated by other agencies of the government including the security agencies because if ever there was a matter of security it’s this … I don’t think any of us understood how partisan Comey was.”
And yet another un-named ‘official’ warned about;
“…the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”
This blogger agrees. Meddling by foreign powers in other countries election processes is indeed, a threat.
Especially when it is the American Empire engaged in “unprecedented meddling … in [other countries’] election process“…
Herein is a (partial) list of United States’ meddling in other countries’ affairs. Several resulted in democratically-elected governments being ousted and replaced by military regimes sympathetic to American imperial interests:
- 1953 Iranian coup d’état (known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup) was the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom (under the name ‘Operation Boot’) and the United States (under the name TPAJAX Project). The coup saw the transition of Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi from a constitutional monarch to an authoritarian one who relied heavily on United States government support to hold on to power until his own overthrow in February 1979.
- 1954 Guatemala. In a CIA operation code named Operation PBSUCCESS, the U.S. government executed a coup d’état that was successful in overthrowing the democratically-elected government of President Jacobo Árbenz and installed the first of a line of brutal right-wing dictators in its place. The perceived success of the operation made it a model for future CIA operations because the CIA lied to the president of the United States when briefing him regarding the number of casualties.
- 1958 Lebanon crisis. The President of the United States, Eisenhower authorized Operation Blue Bat on July 15, 1958. This was the first application of the Eisenhower Doctrine under which the U.S. announced that it would intervene to protect regimes it considered threatened by international communism. The goal of the operation was to bolster the pro-Western Lebanese government of President Camille Chamoun against internal opposition and threats from Syria and Egypt.
- 1960 Congo. Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Congo (later the Democratic Republic of the Congo), was pushed out of office by Congolese President Joseph Kasavubu amid the U.S.-supported Belgian military intervention in the country, a violent effort to maintain Belgian business interests after the country’s decolonization. But Lumumba maintained an armed opposition to the Belgian military and, after approaching the Soviet Union for supplies, was targeted by the CIA once the agency determined he was a threat to the newly installed government of Joseph Mobutu. The Church Committee, an 11-senator commission established in 1975 to provide oversight of the clandestine actions of the U.S. intelligence community, found that the CIA “continued to maintain close contact with Congolese who expressed a desire to assassinate Lumumba,” and that “CIA officers encouraged and offered to aid these Congolese in their efforts against Lumumba.” After an aborted assassination attempt against Lumumba involving a poisoned handkerchief, the CIA alerted Congolese troops to Lumumba’s location and noted roads to be blocked and potential escape routes. Lumumba was captured in late 1960 and killed in January of the following year.
- 1961 Cuba Bay of Pigs Invasion. The CIA orchestrated a force composed of CIA-trained Cuban exiles to invade Cuba with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, three months after John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency in the United States. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the invading combatants within three days.
- 1963 South Vietnam. The United States was already deeply involved in South Vietnam in 1963, and its relationship with the country’s leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, was growing increasingly strained amid Diem’s crackdown on Buddhist dissidents. According to the Pentagon Papers, on Aug. 23, 1963, South Vietnamese generals plotting a coup contacted U.S. officials about their plan. After some fits and starts plus a period of U.S. indecision, the generals seized and killed Diem on Nov. 1, 1963 with U.S. support, which by some accounts partially came in the form of $40,000 in CIA funds.“For the military coup d’etat against Ngo Dinh Diem, the U.S. must accept its full share of responsibility,” the Pentagon Papers state. “Beginning in August of 1963 we variously authorized, sanctioned and encouraged the coup efforts of the Vietnamese generals and offered full support for a successor government…. We maintained clandestine contact with them throughout the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational plans and proposed new government.”
- 1964 Brazil. Fearing that the government of Brazilian President Joao Goulart would, in the words of U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon, “make Brazil the China of the 1960s,” the United States backed a 1964 coup led by Humberto Castello Branco, then chief of staff of the Brazilian army. In the days leading up to the coup, the CIA encouraged street rallies against the government and provided fuel and “arms of non-US origin” to those backing the military. “I think we ought to take every step that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to do,” President Lyndon Johnson told his advisors planning the coup, according to declassified government records obtained by the National Security Archive. The Brazilian military went on to govern the country until 1985.
- 1965 Dominican Republic. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, convinced of the defeat of the Loyalist forces and fearing the creation of “a second Cuba” on America’s doorstep, ordered U.S. forces to restore order. The decision to intervene militarily in the Dominican Republic was Lyndon Johnson’s personal decision. All civilian advisers had recommended against immediate intervention hoping that the Loyalist side could bring an end to the civil war. President Johnson took the advice of his Ambassador in Santo Domingo, W. Tapley Bennett, who suggested that the US interpose its forces between the rebels and those of the junta, thereby effecting a cease-fire. Chief of Staff General Wheeler told a subordinate: “Your unannounced mission is to prevent the Dominican Republic from going Communist.” A fleet of 41 vessels was sent to blockade the island, and an invasion was launched. Ultimately, 42,000 soldiers and marines were ordered to the Dominican Republic.
- 1973 Chilean coup d’état was the overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende by the Chilean armed forces and national police. This followed an extended period of social and political unrest between the right dominated Congress of Chile and Allende, as well as economic warfare ordered by US President Richard Nixon. The regime of Augusto Pinochet that followed is notable for having, by conservative estimates, disappeared some 3200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 (many of whom were tortured), and forced some 200,000 Chileans into exile. The CIA, through Project FUBELT (also known as Track II), worked to secretly engineer the conditions for the coup. The US initially denied any involvement, and though many relevant documents have been declassified in the decades since, a US president has yet to issue any apology for the incident.
- 1979-1989 Afghanistan. In what was known as “Operation Cyclone,” the U.S. government secretly provided weapons and funding for the Mujahadin Islamic guerillas of Afghanistan fighting to overthrow the Afghan government and the Soviet military forces that supported it. Supplies were channeled through the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Although Operation Cyclone officially ended in 1989 with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, U.S. government funding for the Mujahadin continued through 1992.
- Destabilizing Nicaragua 1982-1989. The U.S. government attempted to topple the government of Nicaragua by secretly arming, training and funding the Contras, a terrorist group based in Honduras that was created to sabotage Nicaragua and to destabilize the Nicaraguan government. As part of the training, the CIA distributed a detailed “terror manual” entitled “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla War,” which instructed the Contras, among other things, on how to blow up public buildings, to assassinate judges, to create martyrs, and to blackmail ordinary citizens. In addition to orchestrating the Contras, the U.S. government also blew up bridges and mined Corinto harbor, causing the sinking of several civilian Nicaraguan and foreign ships and many civilian deaths. After the Boland Amendment made it illegal for the U.S. government to provide funding for Contra activities, the administration of President Reagan secretly sold arms to the Iranian government to fund a secret U.S. government apparatus that continued illegally to fund the Contras, in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair. The U.S. continued to arm and train the Contras even after the Sandanista government of Nicaragua won the elections of 1984.
- 1983 Grenada. In what the U.S. government called Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. military invaded the tiny island nation of Grenada to remove the Marxist government of Grenada that the Reagan Administration found objectionable. The United Nations General Assembly called the U.S. invasion “a flagrant violation of international law” but a similar resolution widely supported in the United Nations Security Council was vetoed by the U.S.
- 1989 Panama. In December 1989, in a military operation code-named Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invaded Panama. President George H. W. Bush launched the war ten years after the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were ratified to transfer control of the Panama Canal from the United States to Panama by the year 2000. The U.S. deposed de facto Panamanian leader, general, and dictator Manuel Noriega and brought him to the United States, president-elect Guillermo Endara was sworn into office, and the Panamanian Defense Force was dissolved.
- 1991 Haiti. Eight months after what was widely reckoned as the first honest election held in Haiti, the newly elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed by the Haitian army. The CIA “paid key members of the coup regime forces, identified as drug traffickers, for information from the mid-1980s at least until the coup.” Coup leaders Cédras and François had received military training in the United States.
- 1994-96 Iraq. The CIA launched DBACHILLES, a coup d’état operation against the Iraqi government, recruiting Ayad Allawi, who headed the Iraqi National Accord, a network of Iraqis who opposed the Saddam Hussein government, as part of the operation. The network included Iraqi military and intelligence officers but was penetrated by people loyal to the Iraqi government. Also using Ayad Allawi and his network, the CIA directed a government sabotage and bombing campaign in Baghdad between 1992 and 1995, against targets that—according to the Iraqi government at the time—killed many civilians including people in a crowded movie theater. The CIA bombing campaign may have been merely a test of the operational capacity of the CIA’s network of assets on the ground and not intended to be the launch of the coup strike itself. The coup was unsuccessful, but Ayad Allawi was later installed as prime minister of Iraq by the Iraq Interim Governing Council, which had been created by the U.S.-led coalition following the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
- 2003 Iraq. Illegal invasion based on allegations of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
- 2005 Iran. According to U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources, beginning in 2005 the U.S. government secretly encouraged and advised a Pakistani Balochi militant group named Jundullah that is responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran. Jundullah, led by Abd el Malik Regi, sometimes known as “Regi,” was suspected of being associated with al Qaida, a charge that the group has denied. ABC News learned from tribal sources that money for Jundullah was routed to the group through Iranian exiles. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture,” according to Professor Vali Nasr. U.S. intelligence sources later claimed that the orchestration of Jundallah operations was, in actuality, an Israeli Mossad false flag operation that Israeli agents disguised to make it appear to be the work of American intelligence.
- Syria 2005-2015 Starting in 2005, the US government launched a policy of regime change against the Syrian government by funding Syrian opposition groups working to topple the Syrian government, attempting to block foreign direct investment in Syria, attempting to frustrate Syrian government efforts at economic reform and prosperity and thus legitimacy for the regime, and getting other governments diplomatically to isolate Syria. The Obama administration starting in 2009 continued such policies while taking steps toward diplomatic engagement with the Syrian government and denying that it was engaging in regime change. After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the U.S. government called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to “step aside” and imposed an oil embargo against the Syrian government to bring it to its knees. Starting in 2013, the U.S. also provided training, weapons and cash to Syrian Islamic and secular insurgents fighting to topple the Syrian government.
- 2011 Libya. The US was part of a multi-state coalition that began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was taken in response to events during the Libyan Civil War, and military operations began, with US and British naval forces firing over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the French and British Air Forces undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces. Air strikes against Libyan Army tanks and vehicles by French jets were since confirmed.
- 2006-2007 Palestinian Territories. In the Fatah-Hamas conflict, the U.S. government pressured the Fatah faction of the Palestinian leadership to topple the Hamas government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The Bush Administration was displeased with the government that the majority of the Palestinian people elected in the January Palestinian legislative election of 2006. The U.S. government set up a secret training and armaments program that received tens of millions of dollars in Congressional funding, but also, like in the Iran-contra scandal, a more secret Congress-circumventing source of funding for Fatah to launch a bloody war against the Haniyeh government. The war was brutal, with many casualties and with Fatah kidnapping and torturing civilian leaders of Hamas, sometimes in front of their own families, and setting fire to a university in Gaza. When the government of Saudi Arabia attempted to negotiate a truce between the sides so as to avoid a wide-scale Palestinian civil war, the U.S. government pressured Fatah to reject the Saudi plan and to continue the effort to topple the Faniyeh government. Ultimately, the Faniyeh government was prevented from ruling over all of the Palestinian territories, with Hamas retreating to the Gaza strip and Fatah retreating to the West Bank.
As J. Dana Stuster succinctly wrote in a 2013 piece for Foreignpolicy.com;
The era of CIA-supported coups dawned in dramatic fashion: An American general flies to Iran and meets with “old friends”; days later, the Shah orders Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh to step down. When the Iranian military hesitates, millions of dollars are funneled into Tehran to buy off Mossadegh’s supporters and finance street protests. The military, recognizing that the balance of power has shifted, seizes the prime minister, who will live the rest of his life under house arrest. It was, as one CIA history puts it, “an American operation from beginning to end,” and one of many U.S.-backed coups to take place around the world during the second half of the 20th century.
Several national leaders, both dictators and democratically elected figures, were caught in the middle of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War — a position that ultimately cost them their office (and, for some, their life) as the CIA tried to install “their man” as head of state. The U.S. government has since publicly acknowledged some of these covert actions; in fact, the CIA’s role in the 1953 coup was just declassified this week. In other cases, the CIA’s involvement is still only suspected.
Of course, when Washington orders intervening in another country’s internal governance, it is euphemistically referred to as “regime change”.
It is only “meddling” when someone does it back to the Americans.
This hypocrisy/irony was noted by both The Washington Post and Huffington Post. Staff writers pointed out that Russia has (allegedly) done to the US what the US has been doing for decades to other nations.
While the days of its worst behavior are long behind it, the United States does have a well-documented history of interfering and sometimes interrupting the workings of democracies elsewhere. It has occupied and intervened militarily in a whole swath of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America and fomented coups against democratically elected populists.
For decades, these actions were considered imperatives of the Cold War, part of a global struggle against the Soviet Union and its supposed leftist proxies. Its key participants included scheming diplomats like John Foster Dulles and Henry Kissinger, who advocated aggressive, covert policies to stanch the supposedly expanding threat of communism. Sometimes that agenda also explicitly converged with the interests of U.S. business: In 1954, Washington unseated Guatemala’s left-wing president, Jacobo Arbenz, who had had the temerity to challenge the vast control of the United Fruit Co., a U.S. corporation, with agrarian laws that would be fairer to Guatemalan farmers. The CIA went on to install and back a series of right-wing dictatorships that brutalized the impoverished nation for almost half a century.
When Chinese interests were alleged to have supported Democratic Party campaign financing, Tharoor pointed out;
Meanwhile, the threat of foreign meddling in U.S. elections is not restricted to fears of Russian plots. In the late 1990s, the specter of illicit Chinese funds dominated concerns about Democratic campaign financing. But some observers cautioned others not to be too indignant.
“If the Chinese indeed tried to influence the election here . . . the United States is only getting a taste of its own medicine,” Peter Kornbluh, director of the National Security Archive, which is affiliated with George Washington University, said in a 1997 interview with the New York Times. “China has done little more than emulate a long pattern of U.S. manipulation, bribery and covert operations to influence the political trajectory of countless countries around the world.”
For the Huffington Post, Ryan Grim said;
…Russia appears to be meddling in the U.S. presidential election, but for some supporters of Bernie Sanders, it’s just turnabout.
Lakewood, Colorado, delegate Kim Netherton said it’s beside the point whether agents of Russian President Vladimir Putin hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails, as reported this month. And it may come with a little poetic justice for Hillary Clinton, according to Netherton.
“Isn’t it interesting that her campaign is now experiencing the same thing that she perpetrated on other countries,” Netherton told The Huffington Post, as she awaited Sanders’ speech Monday night.
“She did this in Haiti, she did this in Honduras, and now it’s coming back on her and she’s all verklempt about it,” Netherton added. “It’s a little bit of her own medicine, but unfortunately I don’t think she’s open minded enough to see that for what it is.”
Indeed, meddling in foreign politics is a great American pastime, and one that Clinton has some familiarity with. For more than 100 years, without any significant break, the U.S. has been doing whatever it can to influence the outcome of elections ― up to and including assassinating politicians it has found unfriendly.
Grim’s ‘parting shot’;
The phenomenon is so prevalent, there’s even a running joke in Latin America that goes like this:
Q: Why has there never been a coup in the United States?
A: Because there’s no U.S. embassy in Washington.
It is unsurprising that most of the world looks upon American grievances of (alleged) Russian “meddling” with risable scorn. Whether true or not – and most probably harbour a secret hope that it is true – the Americans richly deserve what they have been meting out to other nations throughout the 20th, and first decade of, the 21st century.
They are getting a taste of what countries in Latin America, Middle East, and elsewhere have suffered. And as Ryan Grim pointed out;
“It Doesn’t Feel Good.”
The Washington Post: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House
The Independent: Russia ‘tried to help’ Donald Trump win the election, CIA concludes
Wikipedia: United States involvement in regime change
Foreignpolicy.com: Mapped – The 7 Governments the U.S. Has Overthrown
The Washington Post: The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 December 2016.
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