Written by Caitlin Johnstone; Originally appeared at her blog
As we just discussed, some major news stories have recently dropped about what a horrible horrifying menace the Russian Federation is to the world, and as always I have nothing to offer the breathless pundits on CNN and MSNBC but my completely unsatisfied skepticism. My skepticism of the official Russia narrative remains so completely unsatisfied that if mainstream media were my husband I would already be cheating on it with my yoga instructor.
I do not believe the establishment Russia narrative. I do not believe that Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government to rig the 2016 election. I do not believe the Russian government did any election rigging for Trump to collude with. This is not because I believe Vladimir Putin is some kind of blueberry-picking girl scout, and it certainly isn’t because I think the Russian government is unwilling or incapable of meddling in the affairs of other nations to some extent when it suits them. It is simply because I am aware that the US intelligence community lies constantly as a matter of policy, and because I understand how the burden of proof works.
At this time, I see no reason to espouse any belief system which embraces as true the assertion that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections in any meaningful way, or that it presents a unique and urgent threat to the world which must be aggressively dealt with. But all the establishment mouthpieces tell me that I must necessarily embrace these assertions as known, irrefutable fact. Here are five things that would have to change in order for that to happen:
1. Proof of a hacking conspiracy to elect Trump.
In most cases, it's so basic that unproven allegations by a prosecutor in an indictment shouldn't be accepted as true one need not even point it out. In this case, pointing it out will be seen as blasphemy. Everyone should want to see the evidence on which the claims are based: https://t.co/a10klzbMRS
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 13, 2018
The first step to getting a heretic like myself aboard the Russia hysteria train would be the existence of publicly available evidence of the claims made about election meddling in 2016, which rises to the level required in a post-Iraq invasion world. So far, that burden of proof for Russian hacking allegations has not come anywhere remotely close to being met.
How much proof would I need to lend my voice to the escalation of tensions between two nuclear superpowers? Mountains. I personally would settle for nothing less than hard proof which can be independently verified by trusted experts like the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
Is that a big ask? Yes. Yes it is. That’s what happens when government institutions completely discredit themselves as they did with the false narratives advanced in the manufacturing of support for the Iraq invasion. You don’t get to butcher a million Iraqis in a war based on lies, turn around a few years later and say “We need new cold war escalations with a nuclear superpower but we can’t prove it because the evidence is secret.” That’s not a thing. Copious amounts of hard, verifiable proof or GTFO. So far we have no evidence besides the confident-sounding assertions of government insiders and their mass media mouthpieces, which is the same as no evidence.
2. Proof that election meddling actually influenced the election in a meaningful way.
Even if Russian hackers did exfiltrate Democratic party emails and give them to WikiLeaks, if it didn’t affect the election, who cares? That’s a single-day, second-page story at best, meriting nothing beyond a “Hmm, interesting, turns out Russia tried and failed to influence the US election,” followed by a shrug and moving on to something that actually matters.
After it has been thoroughly proven that Russia meddled in the elections in a meaningful way, it must then be established that that meddling had an actual impact on the election results.
3. Some reason to believe Russian election meddling was unwarranted and unacceptable.
Highlighting the U.S.’s long history in meddling in other countries’ elections is not #whataboutism, but rather a highly germane point to understanding the context for allegations of Russian meddling in Election 2016, Caitlin Johnstone observes. https://t.co/OZoIzC8vIc @caitoz
— Consortium News (@Consortiumnews) February 20, 2018
The US government, by a very wide margin, interferes in the elections of other countries far, far more than any other government on earth does. The US government’s own data shows that it has deliberately meddled in the elections of 81 foreign governments between 1946 and 2000, including Russia in the nineties. This is public knowledge. A former CIA Director cracked jokes about it on Fox News earlier this year.
If I’m going to abandon my skepticism and accept the Gospel According to Maddow, after meaningful, concrete election interference has been clearly established I’m going to need a very convincing reason to believe that it is somehow wrong or improper for a government to attempt to respond in kind to the undisputed single worst offender of this exact offense. It makes no sense for the United States to actively create an environment in which election interference is something that governments do to one another, and then cry like a spanked child when its election is interfered with by one of the very governments whose elections the US recently meddled in.
This is nonsense. America being far and away the worst election meddler on the planet makes it a fair target for election meddling by not just Russia, but every country in the world. It is very obviously moral and acceptable for any government on earth to interfere in America’s elections as long as it remains the world’s worst offender in that area. In order for Russia to be in the wrong if it interfered in America’s elections, some very convincing argument I’ve not yet heard will have to be made to support that case.
4. Proof that the election meddling went beyond simply giving Americans access to information about their government.
In case anyone forgot: the “hacked emails” contained multitudes of revelatory information about powerful political actors that otherwise would have been concealed from voters https://t.co/PQnOh9V3rW
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) July 14, 2018
If all the Russians did was simply show Americans emails of Democratic Party officials talking to one another and circulate some MSM articles as claimed in the ridiculous Russian troll farm allegations, that’s nothing to get upset about. If anything, Americans should be upset that they had to hear about Democratic Party corruption through the grapevine instead of having light shed on it by the American officials whose job it is to do so. Complaints about election meddling is only valid if that election meddling isn’t comprised of truth and facts.
5. A valid reason to believe escalated tensions between two nuclear superpowers are worthwhile.
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) February 6, 2018
After it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia did indeed meddle in the US elections in a meaningful way, and after it has then been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia actually influenced election results in a significant way, and after the case has been clearly made that it was bad and wrong for Russia to do this instead of fair and reasonable, and after it has been clearly proven that the election meddling went beyond simply telling Americans the truth about their government, the question then becomes what, if anything, should be done about it?
If you look at the actions that this administration has taken over the last year and a half, the answer to that question appears to be harsh sanctions, NATO expansionism, selling arms to Ukraine, throwing out diplomats, increasing military presence along Russia’s border, a Nuclear Posture Review which is much more aggressive toward Russia, repeatedly bombing Syria, and just generally creating more and more opportunities for something to go catastrophically wrong with one of the two nations’ aging, outdated nuclear arsenals, setting off a chain of events from which there is no turning back and no surviving.
And the pundits and politicians keep pushing for more and more escalations, at this very moment braying with one voice that Trump must aggressively confront Putin about Mueller’s indictments or withdraw from the peace talks. But is it worth it? Is it worth risking the life of every terrestrial organism to, what? What specifically would be gained that makes increasing the risk of nuclear catastrophe worthwhile? Making sure nobody interferes in America’s fake elections? I’d need to see a very clear and specific case made, with a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list and “THE POTENTIAL DEATH OF LITERALLY EVERYTHING” written in big red letters at the top of the ‘cons’ column.
Rallying the world to cut off Russia from the world stage and cripple its economy has been been a goal of the US power establishment since the collapse of the Soviet Union, so there’s no reason to believe that even the people who are making the claims against Russia actually believe them. The goal is crippling Russia to handicap China, and ultimately to shore up global hegemony for the US-centralized empire by preventing the rise of any rival superpowers. The sociopathic alliance of plutocrats and intelligence/defense agencies who control that empire are willing to threaten nuclear confrontation in order to ensure their continued dominance. All of their actions against Russia since 2016 have had everything to do with establishing long-term planetary dominance and nothing whatsoever to do with election meddling.
Those five things would need to happen before I’d be willing to jump aboard the “Russia! Russia!” train. Until then I’ll just keep pointing to the total lack of evidence and how very, very far the CIA/CNN Russia narrative is from credibility.