Deep irony in the deep state: Some thoughts about those post-Christmas American ‘spy’ expulsions

Posted on December 30, 2016, 3:05 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: A couple of Russian “intelligence operatives” pensively contemplate the news they’re about to be kicked out of the United States for acting like journalists. Actual GRU deep cover agents may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Russian President Vladimir Putin disguised as well-known journalist Clark Kent; U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in a characteristic pose; and his Democratic Party rival, Hillary Clinton, possibly accessing her personal email server.

In the lead-up to the expulsion yesterday by President Barack Obama of 35 suspected Russian “intelligence operatives” from the United States for their government’s effort to influence the recent U.S. presidential election, a strenuous attempt has been made by many North American news organizations to leave the impression the “hacking” in question involved manipulating the actual ballot count to give the election to Republican Donald Trump.

This kind of spin is likely to continue in mainstream news coverage of this story, which is deeply ironic in several ways. Indeed, things will probably become quite feverish on this topic in the next few days and weeks, and I imagine not a few Parliamentary backbenchers will demand that we Canadians expel some Russians too.

clarkkentNaturally, Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to have known about and approved the entire thing … and maybe hacked the computers personally, possibly without even putting on his shirt.

All this said, anyone who has been following this story closely understands that there is no actual suggestion, even by the proponents of this storyline who are attempting to leave this impression, that the Russians or anyone else hacked the actual vote count.

Indeed, state-run counting of federal election ballots in the country next door to us is simply too disorganized, too technologically chaotic, and too heavily influenced by partisan state governments with agendas of their own, for the Russians to have been able to hack it in a meaningful way even if they wished to do so – which remains an open question.

So whether it was corrupt Republican governors and their staffs, a deeply politicized Federal Bureau of Investigation, angry redneck men or some other factor such as Russian spies that tipped the election to Mr. Trump in the states that matter remains a suitable topic for debate.

So does the question of whether the Russians Mr. Obama has just expelled were “intelligence operatives,” or merely diplomats, as the Russian media terms them. We can argue about this too, as long as we understand the ironic reality that all diplomats from all countries are intelligence operates to one degree or another, at least if they are doing their jobs properly.

trumpThere is, of course, an allegation of actual computer hacking by Russians. However, it is not hacking of the presidential election per se, but of email accounts used by the Democratic Party presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, and some of her aides.

Whoever did that hacking then selectively spilled the beans about what they found to the media, which no longer does much investigative reporting on its own. Reporters in turn published things that really were said in the emails that hurt Mrs. Clinton’s chances, perhaps enough in a couple of key states to ensure her Republican rival’s victory.

So while computer hacking is illegal almost everywhere, it seems like the real problem from the perspective of the outgoing Democratic Party Administration, and not a few members of the Republican establishment as well, was the leak to the remnants of a properly functioning news media, not the hack itself regardless of whether it was done by the Russians, the Republicans or disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters in the Democratic Party.

This too is ironic, although not as deeply ironic as the fact that what everyone is shouting about is the Russians acting for all the world like a group of people we used to call journalists, back when such people still existed.

The mighty Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye, the GRU, the Main Intelligence Directorate of, at various times, the armed forces of the Russian Crown, the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, did what? They investigated what Mrs. Clinton was doing and broke the story to the U.S. electorate!

LIBYA-CLINTON/Holy cow! Hold Page One! That’s certainly not the GRU we knew and feared back in the Cold War!

The GRU allegedly behaved, in other words, like a reporter and camera crew from 60 Minutes, circa 1974!

But this is different, you might say, from Morley Safer and Dan Rather, because those two weren’t trying to influence the outcome of an election. (If you’re thinking they were, just take off your tinfoil hat right now.)

But what exactly is wrong about governments or citizens of one country trying to influence the outcomes of elections and policy decisions in others? Lots of Canadians traipse across the border to campaign for one U.S. candidate or another all the time. (Rob Anders! C’mon down!) Our previous prime minister made it pretty clear he’d be happier working with Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate back in 2012, than Mr. Obama. And the government of Israel, quite famously, is not afraid to try to influence election outcomes in other countries, including the United States.

In light of this irony, it’s worth asking: What’s different about Russia? That is, what’s different about Russia that makes it a threat when it does exactly the same thing Canada or Israel or Saudi Arabia tries from time to time?

Because we don’t hack people’s computers? Are you sure we don’t? Are you sure they did?

Most ironic of all, of course, is that the United States is certainly no virgin when it comes to influencing elections in other countries, and often by using means considerably more distasteful than merely hacking computers and selectively leaking the results to the media.

In no particular order of time or alphabet, Syria, Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Italy, Germany, Nicaragua, Chile, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, France, Ukraine, Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Congo, Afghanistan, Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia, Laos, Grenada, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and, of course, Russia, are just a few of the places American “intelligence operatives,” some of them diplomats, are known to have intervened since the end of World War II to circumvent democracy – and in some cases completely dismantle it.

Given what happened yesterday, this is a profound irony indeed.

In addition, of course, U.S. corporations try in a variety of ways to influence elections in other countries – including this one. Consider the bags of money trucked across the border to help our Canadian right-wing think tanks produce fatuous “studies” on how markets are always better than government regulations.

So the Russians stand accused – on as yet unpersuasive evidence – of acting like journalists, and like Canadians and Israelis, and like Republican state governors, and, worst of all, like Americans! No wonder our American cousins are in a full-blown swivet.

Believe me, Donald Trump is going to be a spectacularly terrible president. It’s going to be ugly. Bigly ugly.

And there are a lot of people who share the blame for this – including the Democrats for running a candidate as egregiously bad as Mrs. Clinton.

But the Russians? Seriously?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

28 Comments to: Deep irony in the deep state: Some thoughts about those post-Christmas American ‘spy’ expulsions

  1. jay

    December 30th, 2016

    Dave: For once, ironically, you’ve probably got mouth-breathers on both sides of the border agreeing with you. Sad.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 30th, 2016

      I doubt it, Jay. But if so, even a broken clock can be right twice a day.

      Reply
  2. Val

    December 30th, 2016

    “… Syria, Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Italy, Germany, Nicaragua, Chile, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, France, Ukraine, Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Congo, Afghanistan, Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia, Laos, Grenada, Azerbaijan, the Philippines…”

    hm! i did know above mentioned states was examples of democracy for the world.
    as for the rest, if you see the smoke, there somewhere is a fire as well.
    we don’t know and most likely will never know what exactly happen. nevertheless interesting will be to see Trump’s move. on his part as president of USA, dismissal of such allegations will compromise the trust to dozen of national security institutions and actually will demonstrate his gratitude to Putin for help, doesn’t matter how much true or not it was.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 30th, 2016

      So are you saying Germany and France are unstable banana republics? The United Kingdom (Brexit) could be added to that list of insufficiently democratic countries as well as well, now that I think about it.

      Reply
    • Rocky

      December 30th, 2016

      Hey, Val, your comment illustrates just how effective your brainwashing has been. You use the lack of democracy in Iran, caused by a U.S. sponsored coup in 1953, and in Chile, caused by a U.S. sponsored coup in 1973, to justify U.S. Intervention in those countries because … they’re not democratic enough. Better go finish your Kool-Aid before it gets warm.

      Reply
    • Val

      December 30th, 2016

      @David, i haven’t noticed any meddling of US state department or administration into political progression or regression in any West European state. at least since the end of WWII as well, as any interference into later brit’s move.
      when i saw you mentioned Germany, Italy, France… i thought you have in mind Hitler’s Germany, Musolini’s Italy and Vichy’s France. but putting in one list present western countries with Syria, Russia, Iran… at least quite weird.

      @ROCKY
      i didn’t say that US international policies is exemplary in its perfection. but if you remember Iran coup, then why you forget Eastern block, Vietnam, Cuba, Korea, China and many, many other, where USSR/Russia tried and often succeeded to establish their rules and ideological values?
      b.t.w. what is Cool-Aid?

      Reply
      • Murphy

        December 30th, 2016

        Absolutely astounding, Val, that you would make a comment coming from a position of total ignorance on the subject. The CIA operation to thwart the communists in Italy was one of the largest that they ever undertook. You literally have no understanding of this subject.

        Reply
    • Val

      December 30th, 2016

      David, your links point to political scandals, involving spying/monitoring of day by day life in other countries but that’s common practice with millennia of history. there nothing about direct involvement in political/social life, with purpose to stir it for own benefits.
      can you be sure that germans, french, brits doesn’t doing the same and only not yet have their own version of Snowden?
      as for Italy, well, that’s was 1948, post-war time and i believe today people of Italy in fact thankful for it, that their country didn’t turn into adriatic East Germany or Cambodia 🙂

      Reply
  3. rumleyfips

    December 30th, 2016

    Nice try. While both US ( Radio Free Europe ) and Russia ( Pravda ) have been at it for years it is not acceptable. While you see it as some comical Spy vs Spy episode real damage has been done, Brexit, LaPin , Russia has decided that financial and logistical support for far right parties and candidates is the best was to weaken NATO, the EU and the US. In Putin’s opinion, Trump is the best guy to weaken US power domestically and internationally. They used to think that left wing parties were the most damaging.

    While Trump is ready to fight the last war, Putin is practicing for the next one; an electronic war. The partial shutdown of the Ukrainian electrical grid both a trial run for a US disruption and a warning to Washington. The ability to alter American opinion is another trial run of a tactic to be further refined for future use.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 30th, 2016

      My issue isn’t with your analysis of Russian grand strategy, with which I largely agree, including its troubling support of far-right parties in Western Europe and the reasons for it. Mr. Trump, obviously, is the right guy to weaken the U.S., as you put it, which is why, had I been an American, I would have held my nose and voted for Mrs. Clinton with grave concern about her likely geopolitical policies. The main topic was the profound inability of our American neighbours to see that what they’re accusing the Russians of doing is exactly what they themselves do regularly and with impunity, and moreover what they tolerate in others, and further that their media increasingly behaves like a well-oiled propaganda machine pushing one narrative, for which there is little persuasive evidence and even if it turns out to be true in its entirety is unlikely to have produced the outcome claimed. No, Americans themselves are responsible for Mr. Trump’s success, not Russians, not Israelis, not visiting Canadians like Rob Anders.

      Reply
      • rumleyfips

        December 30th, 2016

        Americans are the ones that used the hack delivered to Asange but noone thinks Americans did the hacking.
        Americans have subverted lots of democracies but that doesn’t mean that Russia isn’t behind this caper nor does it excuse them. Both actions are to be condemed.

        Reply
    • Murphy

      December 30th, 2016

      Total rubbish. This tripe about Putin funding the far-right in Europe comes straight from the personal propaganda machine owned and operated by by reptilian criminal oligarch Kodorkovsky. Why the Russians didn’t have that man shot is beyond me.

      Reply
  4. spranch

    December 30th, 2016

    hey, if you’re covering non-alberta news now then i look forward to your thoughts on the massacre in aleppo!

    Reply
    • Murphy

      December 30th, 2016

      Yes, the massacre by the US proxy Islamist forces of Federal Syrian troops in East Aleppo was pretty disgusting. Thankfully, Russian aerospace forces and the Syrian army have liberated the city and put an end to the atrocities committed by the US proxies.

      Reply
      • spranch

        December 31st, 2016

        hey, does mr. surkov pay well? i’m about to get laid off and i’m looking for a job i could do from home; seems like professional trolling might be right up my alley! here’s a writing sample: “obama and putin are just as bad as each other, but actually putin isn’t that bad, so therefore we should criticize obama and only obama.” pretty good, eh?

        Reply
        • Rocky

          December 31st, 2016

          Notwithstanding the activities of Vladislav Surkov, an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, such as they may be, Murphy’s comment hardly rates as trolling. Rather, it is a legitimate response based on the indisputable fact the U.S. government openly admits to arming and training what it calls “moderate rebels” in Syria, which the Russians and the Turks claim are terrorists. There are plenty of suggestions, though not so much solid evidence, that some U.S. agencies and military units are prepared to work with Al Qaeda affiliates (Jabhat al-Nusra, AKA Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) and perhaps even ISIS if the goal is the overthrow of the Assad Regime. So how DID ISIS get back to Palmyra without anyone noticing? USAF transport planes? On the other hand, suggesting that Murphy is taking money from the Russians for this comment is trolling, pure and simple. I am astonished that our host even permits this kind of commentary. I certainly wouldn’t. If I were you, I wouldn’t count on getting paid for your efforts. I don’t think your writing skills are up to it.

          Reply
          • Val

            December 31st, 2016

            lots of posts like this on main news sites, especially in the topics regarding Russia and Putin. due to unfolding by Kremlin in last 6-7 years of a huge worldwide campaign of cyber warfare it’s understandable. but this blog is small and quite specific to get attention from Moscow and yet, fans of “dear leader” do appear even here and i’m pretty sure they aren’t “paid for post” trolls.
            i’m curious, if you so much don’t like Western world and its values, why you don’t move to live in Russia? after all you’re not behind the iron curtain and no one holds you by force.

          • Spranch

            January 3rd, 2017

            i have absolutely no doubt that the cia and american military have committed many atrocities in syria. i’m not posting here to defend obama. i just want to know why people are so quick to rush in to defend putin and assad for bombing innocent civilians by saying the rebels are just as bad. we should condemn both then, shouldn’t we?

            also: my writing,s great.. take a hike, bud..

          • Murphy

            January 3rd, 2017

            There is absolutely proof that U.S. Agencies and military units work with Islamists. I have a hunch that this blog suffers from Canada’s “ukrainian problem”, that being the fact that British Intelligence lied to get former members of SS Division Galicia admitted to Canada post-war, and we have a Ukrainian Nazi infestation to which the right panders in the era of failing US hegemony.
            http://www.dhra.mil/perserec/osg/terrorism/mohamed.htm

  5. Bill Malcolm

    December 30th, 2016

    Excellent post. Sums up my feelings exactly. Don’t do as we do, do as we say, signed, United States of America.

    And if we are to include nitwit Canadians who went to the US and campaigned for Hillary, then the “Big I am. Yes, it’s me and I’m always correct!” Rob Anders probably went for an extended snore in a janitor’s closet somehere in Montana as his contribution and is a total lightweight.

    Curiosity never enters their minds, apparently, so Putin is evil, Bibi is a concerned social activist and Obama never prepared a drone hit-list each week. And oh yes, Aleppo bad with nary a mention of Mosul.

    Reply
  6. Sam Gunsch

    December 30th, 2016

    Until actual evidence is shared with the media and the public by the agencies, it’s probably way too early to judge anything with much certainty… as per Matt Taibbi on this point:

    excerpt: ‘the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.

    On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d’etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy.

    But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.’

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/something-about-this-russia-story-stinks-w458439

    =============

    On the other hand…The history of the many USA interventions/contributions to and leading roles in political overthrows of elected governments in other countries is however, overwhelming. But then there’s all those people who don’t believe in climate change either because it doesn’t fit with their political tribe’s belief system.

    Reply
  7. tom in ontario

    December 31st, 2016

    A standing joke in Latin America goes something like this.

    Why hasn’t Castro’s government been overthrown like so many others in the region?
    No U.S. embassy.

    Now that there is one, look out Cubans.

    Reply
  8. TC

    January 2nd, 2017

    Now, I’m not suggesting that the Russians influenced (or didn’t) influence the US Presidential election. But…Wouldn’t having disorganized state-runned elections work in favours of the hackers? Given the winner-take-all rules for most states in the Electoral College, rigging just enough votes in swing states do the job.

    Reply

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