I’m no fan of the US President-elect Donald Trump but whether or not he’s cut from presidential cloth is for Americans to decide, and indeed, they have. Now, as his inauguration looms, the frustrated losers and disapprovers, among them President Barack Obama as well as Congressional dinosaurs, have ganged up to mount a campaign aimed at throwing barriers in front of his policy decisions and are set on delegitimising his win in the same way they are alleging Russia has done so as to scupper Hillary Clinton’s chances.
Obama’s initial urging of Americans to come together was nothing but his signature pretty talk. His finger pointing at Russia for affecting the results of the ballot couldn’t be a more divisive parting shot aimed at placing doubt in American minds and at blocking any future US-Russian détente.
Trump’s scepticism has been painted as unpatriotic. He’s being slammed for believing Julian Assange over 17 US intelligence agencies, the same agencies that determined Saddam Hussain had Weapons of Mass Destruction and referred to Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) as having no more significance than a junior-varsity team.
Assange, whose whistle-blowing reputation would be shot by fabrications, says categorically that no state actor hacked into the DNC. Former British Ambassador Craig Murray has admitted he leaked the offending emails that were forwarded to him by a DNC insider. Notably the DNC refused to give the FBI access to its servers. Every major power spies on one another as the chief of US intelligence James Clapper confirmed to a bipartisan Senate Committee, headed by virulent Trump-critic Senator John McCain, last week.
Even so-called friends do. Remember the Israeli ‘art student’ spies caught in the US in 2001 who were later quietly deported, and lest we forget during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, America was found to have spied on UN diplomats. Moreover in 2015, the NSA tapped into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone. And why weren’t Chinese diplomats sent packing over China’s hacking of US national security agencies and the email accounts of senior US officials? Clapper had no criticism of countries’ intelligence gathering efforts (after all, that’s what he does) but went on to split hairs between the garnering of intelligence and the use of such intelligence to further national interests. What use is foreign intelligence if it is meant to gather dust in a forgotten file?
To his credit with regard to questions on spying, Clapper did admit that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks, which didn’t go down well with Senator Lindsey Graham who characterised that statement as “inadequate to the moment” vowing to throw as many rocks at Russia as he could.
I watched the session on CNN live and was surprised to hear Senator Thom Tillis reveal research to the effect that the US has interfered in 81 foreign elections since the Second World War aside from coups and regime changes, as opposed to Russia that’s meddled on approximately 36 occasions. He noted that the US lives in a big glass house, adding, “When Russia was apparently trying to influence our elections, we had the Israelis accusing us off trying to influence their election.” As far as I can tell, no US network has re-aired those ‘pot-calling-kettle-black’ observations.
There is no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin is anxious to recalibrate the US-Russian relationship and, naturally, given Clinton’s hostility to Russia, he prefers to deal with a Trump White House. He may well have sanctioned a propaganda campaign to undercut Clinton’s chances using social media and networks such as RT and Sputnik with links to the Russian government, which in a world where news is angled and selective that is just par for the course.
On Friday, Trump was briefed by heads of various intelligence agencies. In response, he refrained from singling Russia out and affirmed that hacking did not affect the vote. Instead, he has blamed the DNC for “gross negligence” in insufficiently protecting its computers and will form a committee tasked with finding ways of protecting America’s cyber sphere from all predators. The much-awaited 25-page intelligence report designed for public consumption offers no proof whatsoever of Putin’s role in the DNC hacking or that of any other political party.
However, as writer Alexander Mercouris, specialising in Russian affairs, rightly points out, “No one is alleging that the British government illegally interfered in the US presidential election because some British politicians openly spoke out against Donald Trump and because the BBC . . . openly favoured Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.”
Trump has described the ballyhoo as a political witch hunt. It certainly looks like that. Now that his political enemies are colluding with intelligence agencies and a section of the media that Trump has snubbed, he will either be persuaded to toe the line or spend his term in office watching his back.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.