If we hate or fear what Donald Trump stands for, whips up, and is trying to do, it is easy to be gleeful about anything that weakens his administration. But this is a moment for discernment, and most of us are getting sucked into something extremely dangerous. With less clarity about what is happening than what neocon Bill Kristol tweeted, many of us are effectively adopting the same stance.
The Deep State (a/k/a the Foreign Policy Establishment) consists of people and institutions who maintain a fairly consistent foreign policy regardless of which political party holds power. It has been reshaping Russia into an enemy again for some time. The weapons manufacturers, the oil oligopoly, and their bedfellows in agencies like the CIA have much to gain from the growing adversarial relationship. It appears that Trump and his cronies, however, are a tiny sector motivated by a more narrow greed: the business opportunities that a more cooperative relationship with Russia could bring them. So Trump has some powerful enemies.
Suddenly “the Liberal Media” Look Liberal
Many of us watched the so-called liberal media give the Obama Administration a pass on everything from Wall Street bailouts instead of prosecutions, to bloody drone wars, to record-breaking deportations of immigrants and prosecutions of whistle-blowers, to pretending like the weak, voluntary Paris climate accords were the real thing, to doing the bare minimum to restrain police violence or protect indigenous rights. So it is a relief to see the mainstream media go after the deeply flawed, dangerous, and crass character now in the White House. But as Glenn Greenwald told Democracy Now! Thursday
[T]his constant media obsession of leaking whatever someone whispers to them about Donald Trump and Russia, because they know it will get . . . tons of traffic by people who are being fed what they want to hear, is really feeding into the worst kind of hysteria and even fake news that the media says they’re trying to combat. These are really serious claims that merit serious investigation, and that’s exactly what we’re not getting.
Greenwald is the fine investigative reporter whom you may remember from Citizen Four as the man who helped Edward Snowden bring the Big-Brother work of the NSA to the light of day. He doesn’t say what he means by hysteria here, but to me propagandizing the public into demonizing another state and its leader is a well-known path to disaster.
The Ramping-Up of Anti-Russia Propaganda and Action
I said above that policy makers have gradually reconstituted Russia as an enemy. In 1990 the U.S. promised Gorbachev that, if Russia acceded to a reunified Germany being part of NATO, we would not expand the alliance further east. But Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary joined during the Clinton years; the Baltic countries, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Slovenia, under Bush II; and Albania and Croatia, under Obama.
Our politicians and media talk about Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine without ever mentioning that before that the U.S. encouraged the downfall of an elected Ukrainian government and its replacement by forces that persecuted Ukraine’s ethnic Russian minority.
A year ago NATO conducted “the largest war game in eastern Europe since [the] cold war, . . . involving 31,000 troops and thousands of vehicles from 24 countries.”
Last April Obama instituted a trillion-dollar, 30-year nuclear weapons modernization program, with a goal of weapons that are smaller, more targetable, and therefore more likely to actually be used. Hillary Clinton campaigned on the promise of a no-fly zone over Syria, meaning she threatened to shoot down Russian airplanes.
And one of the last acts of the Obama Administration was to send 3,000 — 4,000 troops, along with 87 Abrams M1A1 tanks, 20 Paladin artillery vehicles, and 136 Bradley fighting vehicles, to Poland.
In 1962, when the Soviet Union stationed missiles in Cuba, we considered the threat so great that Kennedy told Khrushchev he would go to war if they were not removed. If that was an understandable response, the scope of the ongoing U.S. campaign of provocations, against a country that has historically suffered greatly from invasions from the west, is breathtaking.
I am not sure why all this is happening, but I can guess. First, having enemies or perceived enemies is good for the military-industrial complex. So are wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, whether civil or international, as they create massive markets for weapons sales. Second, the oil industry needs the Middle East and Central Asian countries like Afghanistan and Kazakhstan to be under the influence of the U.S., not Russia. Finally, supposed external enemies — Communism, Terrorism, Russia — are great for keeping the 99% focused on something other than what the 1% are doing to us.
But Donald Trump, for reasons of his own, wants to stop rattling the sabers. And this, plus a few well-placed and highly-publicized leaks, brands him a Russian puppet.
Why I’m Not Quite Cheering
The Establishment’s Russia-baiting of Trump diminishes his standing and credibility, which should be a good thing. But it does so at the cost of strengthening the image of Russia and its president as villains, priming us for more arms buildup and possibly even the war that Hillary Clinton threatened.
Beyond that, it does not behoove progressives to uncritically adopt unverified, possibly fake news, and to suddenly trust the CIA, when doing so is convenient. I refer to the intelligence community’s unsubstantiated leaks of classified “information” about alleged Russian interference in the election (by the astonishingly weak means of publicizing true facts that surprised no one). The spooks’ revelations about Michael Flynn seem more likely to be based on real information. But as Greenwald points out, most Democratic politicians are blithely hypocritical about supporting brutal punishment of Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and other patriotic whistleblowers who harmed no one, while not flinching over the illegal leaking of the Flynn information, which shows the Russians the need to better secure their communications. I’d like us to have more integrity and credibility than these opportunists.
Moreover, most of Trump’s base should be our base, but this stuff entrenches them in his camp. Further, unlike typical fascists, he has not built mass organizations or gangs of thugs to intimidate his opposition, but what is happening now could change that. We may be willing to look the other way while the Deep State tries to do what the Democratic Party could not, but do you think those who favored Trump aren’t noticing? Check out The Breitbart News piece headlined “The Deep State Bumps Off General Flynn. Who’s the Next Target?” Attempts to subvert an election Trump voters feel they won under the longstanding rules of the game can only solidify their sense of being beleaguered by a liberal establishment. Moreover, such attempts give them reason to self-organize and set up their own brutal gangs or militias, since their victory is being threatened by demonstrably undemocratic means.
Finally, as Greenwald points out, we don’t get better democracy by letting the agencies so practiced at subverting governments overseas pull us out of a bad situation at home by doing it here. “That,” he says, “is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it.”
We have some very hard work to do, organizing ourselves and our fellow citizens not only for protection from the extremes of Trumpism, but from the normalcy of what mainstream Republicans and Democrats allow to be done to the people and the planet. Many of us have begun this work. To continue and broaden it, it is imperative that we distance ourselves from Russia-baiting, from partisan politicians, from the Deep State’s dirty tricks, and from accepting not inconvenient truths, but convenient untruths.