Upshot of Mueller Probe: Putin did to US what we did to Iran and Iraq

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The indictment of George Papadopoulos, the foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign in 2016, for lying to the FBI is the most important news that came out Monday. What he lied about was the timeline of his contacts with the Russian Federation on behalf of Trump.

It turns out that he knew long before the general public did that the Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails (the equivalent of Nixon’s Watergate break-in). And if he knew, then so did Trump. Which might explain why Trump publicly asked Russia to leak Clinton’s emails during the campaign:

Trump asks Russia to hack Hillary’s emails

As for the complaint by the Trump camp that Papadopoulos was low-ranking, that is the point. The FBI turned up evidence that Papadopoulos was attempting to set up a meeting directly between Trump and Vladimir Putin. But another campaign official wrote in May, that

“Trump himself “is not doing these trips” but that “it should be someone low-level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

Meanwhile, the contacts with the Trump campaign were not the only play the Russians had. They were also doing ad buys at Facebook. Quite effectively. Reuters reports that “Facebook says 126 million Americans may have seen Russia-linked political posts.”

Not only were RT and Sputnik, Russian government propaganda outfits, doing fake news stories on Hillary Clinton but that alt-Neo-Nazi roll of soiled toilet paper, Breitbart, amplified these fake news pieces for the American audience.

The Russian strategy was to divide Americans against themselves and to pillory Sec. Clinton from every angle.

One Russian account was the most popular Texas secession site on the internet. Mr. Putin resents that the US victory in the Cold War caused half of the Soviet Union to hive off into independent states, so that the remaining Russian Federation was much weakened and became much smaller, about half the size of the US instead of a peer country. The seceding republics took with them key strategic assets, such as the Black Sea naval base in the Crimea (a loss that Putin has rectified by military means).

So Russia hopes to break up the United States in revenge, and Texas seemed to them a likely secessionist state. Well, of course it is only the minority 45% that are non-Hispanic whites who are open to these treasonous blandishments. Texas white nationalist resentments helped throw the state to Trump, so whipping them up served Putin well.

The Russians also spoofed a Muslim-American site that praised Hillary Clinton, in order to further the narrative that she was soft on Muslim extremism while Trump was hard on it.

Russian intelligence also created Facebook ads to exacerbate racial tensions, attacking the protest movement Black Lives Matter, which sought an end to systematic police abuse of African-Americans, and using resentments of its protests to instigate white support for Trump.

These techniques, of seeking to put a particular candidate in power, of promoting secessionist sentiments, and instigating ethnic discontent, have been used by American administrations for decades.

So US and British intelligence in 1953 fomented a campaign of discontent against elected Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and managed to have him overthrown in favor of far right wing pro-American generals and the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlevi. Mrs. Clinton was Mosaddeghized.

Then there was the case of then Rep. Jane Harman, who was offered a high position in Congress in a phone call by an Israeli spy if she would intervene to stop the prosecution of two staffers of the powerful American Israel PAC, AIPAC, for having passed classified documents to the Israeli ambassador in a bid to get up a war on Iran.

Harman publicly called for a covert effort to break up Iran by heightening non-Persian ethnic resentments, in a speech that almost certainly was written for her by Israel’s Likud Party.

This is not a joke. The Baluch separatist group Jund Allah has killed hundreds of civilians in horrific bombings.

Then the former head of the Council for Foreign Affairs and former NYT editor Leslie Gelb urged that the US break Iraq up into three parts. Again, one has a sense that this was primarily put forward for the supposed benefit of Israel. Ultimately, Gelb even managed to get the usually level-headed Joe Biden aboard with this scheme. As of this moment the Gelb plan seems to have entirely crashed and burned, though in 2015 you wondered if it hadn’t come to pass.

So what is the difference between Putin raising ethnic tensions and promoting the break-up of the US, and Washington officials doing the same things to Iran and Iraq?

The US has rampaged around the world promoting coups (e.g. Iran, Chile, etc.), fostering private ethnic armies like the Pushtun Mujahidin in Afghanistan, who were set on the more left-leaning Tajiks in the 1980s, and fostering terrorism where it suited Washington. Hacking some email accounts and pulling the wool over the eyes of some Texas gun nuts? That was easy for Putin’s FSB.


Related video:

Why Trump Was “A Candidate Putin Could Like” | “Putin’s Revenge” | FRONTLINE

25 Responses

  1. Yes, Russian interference in our elections raises these issues of hypocrisy and our own wrongdoings, all too seldomly acknowledged. As one American, I suggest we deal with the intrusion into our own election now, and vigorously. I would also love to see the U.S. be a more principled actor on the world stage. The latter is a deeply held personal preference. The former is mandatory for the survival of our democracy.

    • If it was not so atrociously true and dangerous it would funny to see some americans outraged that what they have done to the world while they were in a position of power is now done to them. Hypocrites losing grip on their lies and playing the offended bride. Ah.

  2. “the remaining Russian Federation was much weakened and became much smaller, about half the size of the US instead of a peer country.”

    No, Russia is still the largest country in the world, even after losing half its territory. It is nearly twice as large as the USA.

    • Yeah, and Putin is still one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful) leaders in the world. AND, if you acknowledge the obeisance paid by the Central Asian former Soviet states as well as the Caucasian republics and regions to Moscow even now, you could argue that the post-USSR Russia is just as much of a powerhouse as it ever was.. just a bit more streamlined geographically. In many ways, it’s all more of a mindset than a geographic entity per se.

  3. As for those Texas gun nuts, the majority of those signing “independence” petitions would probably consider themselves patriotic Americans. If you were to ask them to make some gesture against the American flag, for example, they would likely take offense.

  4. Excellent review, thanks, hope the NYT/CNN notice it.
    All agents of foreign nations should be investigated, not just those that do business with Russia.

  5. Congress and the maladministration are doing absolutely NOTHING to prevent Russian votes-tweaking from happening right NOW and forever.

    Obviously, the GOP Congress and U.S. law enforcement policing our voting activities are COMPLICIT with the Russian interference.

  6. According to historian Alfred W. McCoy writing in his book In the Shadows of the American Century where he cites research at Carnegie Mellon University, between 1946 and the year 2000, the U.S. intervened in 81 elections in foreign countries. Stephen Kinzer writes in his book Overthrow that the U.S. has overthrown 14 foreign governments.

    • “….the U.S. has overthrown 14 foreign governments.”

      This figure does not include countries where ” regime change” has been suspected to have been CIA-inspired – but nevertheless remains unproven.

      Examples include the 1963 Ramadan Revolution in Iraq where socially progressive head of state Abd a-Karim Kasim was executed following the Baathist coup. CIA official Archie Roosevelt had vehemently denied U.S. involvement afterwards.

      Also, the 1973 overthrow of popularly-elected Chilean President Salvador Allende Gossens in Santiago has been suspected to have been instigated by the Central Intelligence Agency via its contacts within the Chilean army. While denying active CIA involvement, Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms testified before the Church Committee admitted that the CIA had monitored the situation extensively and was aware of the moves of the various parties during the execution of the coup plan.

      The CIA, further, following the coup in Chile, had assisted in logistics and planning the creation of Operation Condor, an intelligence network comprised of police agencies of governments in the panhandle of South America that resulted in the abduction and torture of numerous union activists, dissidents, leftists and others suspected of anti-government activity and the deaths of at least 50,000 in Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

  7. Our version of the golden rule: Do unto others as you would not have them do unto you (except for Israel, in which case it’s okay for them to meddle).

  8. I am baffled in what way this is ‘wrong’. Legally? Morally? According to some Convention? Interference in other nation’s affairs is as old as nations. It used to be just.pamphlets and giving support to rebels. As a practice it seems simply to have kept pace with technology. Obviously it is unsatisfactory for the subject nation, perhaps their should be a UN resolution prohibiting it? No one can seriously imagine sanctions and closing diplomatic facilities will stop it. The.political integrity of the electors, however, should be capable of ignoring it.

    • How many sides of the argument can you take at one time? It looks like you take all the sides. And back in the real world, the “political integrity of the electors” is very often if not usually not able to withstand insidious outside interference. So the “subject nation” gets to make the laws it needs to keep from being ruled in the interest of an outside interest. Your opposition to this is what’s baffling.

  9. I have had a Russian on my FB writer’s page, continually beating this drum, that the U.S. deserves payback for what it did to Iraq and Iran (election-wise). Interestingly, this “Israeli” continues to insist that Putin/Russia did nothing in the way of interference in the last U.S. election.

    When I went to block this person from further comment (after months of unintelligible comments with no regard to my responses), I discovered that he was using a stock photo (big surprise there) and had more than one account to block with the same name and photo.

  10. I can’t begrudge the Russians for seeking to play the same dirty pool we favor. Educated voters would see through the deceit and make their own decisions; it helps the Russian schemes that US citizens are so disengaged, apathetic, and ignorant. The best defense against foreign meddling — which most nations do, disguised as “lobbying” — is an informed electorate. All that said, Texans hardly need encouragement to vote Republican (so that money was wasted!), this state hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since about 1994 and hasn’t given its electoral college votes to a Democratic nominee since Jimmy Carter.

    Americans could also do themselves a favor by abolishing the electoral college, without which Clinton would have been elected with a majority of actual voters — the way almost every other free country chooses leaders. American exceptionalism must extend to exceptionally stupid election processes that are apparently set in stone, since twice in 16 years it’s installed the loser of the popular vote yet there is no outcry to change things, no riots or strikes like you’d certainly see in Europe if this happened.

  11. forget Iran and Iraq – we did worse to RUSSIA ITSELF in the 90s. Our interference that turned a Yeltsin defeat into a victory was vastly worse than anything Russia’s accused of today.

    Stephen F Cohen is my authority and voice of reason on Russia, in an age when democrats are sounding like Jesse Helms on the USSR in the 80s. I wonder what Cohen will say in response to yesterday’s news.

  12. “Then the former head of the Council of Foreign Affairs and former NYT editor Leslie Gelb…..”

    Actually, Leslie Gelb had served with the Council on Foreign Relations, who publishes the “Foreign Affairs” periodical, where Gelb acted as its president under Chairman Peter Peterson.

  13. Putin’s payback -payday…Trump almost seems like a member of the Putin crime family, looking at the massive corruption in the GOP, what would stop Putin from exporting his criminal enterprise to the US?

  14. People pointing the finger at the Russians are not incorrect, but are misguided. Of course the Russians will try to interfere: why should they not?

    But it should be recognized that the United States is uniquely vulnerable, not due to its freedom, but due to its massively corrupt political and media system.

    In a country where political advertising is regulated and controlled, where political contributions are restricted, and where the media does not consist of three or four gargantuan conglomerates beholden to billionaire owners, external political meddling is futile.

    But in the US, where the airwaves are for sale to the highest bidder, even on the news side, where money rules, and news is entertainment, manipulation is not just likely: it is inevitable.

  15. quoting Thomas – . . . ” looking at the massive corruption in the GOP, what would stop Putin from exporting his criminal enterprise to the US?”

    Nothing, it’s here, right now. The Trump administration fits that description, precisely.

  16. Jundullah, besides being ethnic Baloch also leaned on Sunni Islamist extremist groups for their activities, so also targeted civilian populations in Pakistan, particularly the Shia minorities there.

    It’s not surprising to find some Shia Pakistanis who, besides based on the optics of Syria and Iraq and about the Russian and US roles across decades, as well as the Saudi-US alliance and how sectarianism affects them in Pakistan, are somewhat glad that Russia messed with the US and undermined what they see as an unaccountable superpower, even if it meant it would be detrimental to most US Muslims and other Pakistani Americans with having a bigoted Trump administration elected.

  17. Of course, many who pay attention to history as well as their own politics recognize the ‘symmetry’ between the clandestine political operations of the U.S. as well as of Russia. The power elites in either case maneuver in such ways in search of ever more international control.

    However, we must not overlook what in the Putin-Trump case is a somewhat unusual coalescence of interests. Both, in fact, whatever the rhetoric, represent in their own ways the interests of the oligarchies of which they “lead” in very different ways. What we have here is an international cult of oligarchy. The kleptocracies these men oversee have certain mutual interests that lead them to cooperate in diverse ways, including mutual political support however denied. Of course, Trump’s lies are peculiarly transparent, while Putin’s poker face prevails. Political chaos among the opposition serves the interests of both. Together, they embody a cult of oligarchy. I discuss this in “The International Cult of Oligarchy” at

  18. While it is certainly true that the US interferes just about everywhere, it is regrettable that Juan Cole is taking Mueller’s charges as proof of anything, and particularly as proof that Putin was directing interference in the US! Check out this rebuttal by David Stockman: link to

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