Angus King flirts with Armageddon


Angus King flirts with Armageddon
And Maine’s mainstream media plays wing man

The hysteria over alleged Russian efforts to influence last month’s presidential election would be hysterically funny if it weren’t a pretext to launch World War III. Sen. Angus King and Maine’s major newspapers are recklessly leading us to the brink of Armageddon, and with Donald Trump only weeks away from being handed the nuclear football, it behooves us all to call bullshit on this dangerous propaganda campaign.

At issue are two kinds of cyber hooliganism: the spread of fake news stories online and the hacking of e-mail accounts belonging to Democratic Party operatives. The fake news stories that have caused alarm sought to slander Hillary Clinton by making the sorts of outrageous claims commonly found in supermarket tabloids like The National Enquirer. The hacks revealed the text of Clinton’s private speeches to Wall Street bankers and internal Donkey Party political strategizing intended to damage Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

It’s doubtful that any of these cyber shenanigans changed enough voters’ minds to have a significant impact on the election. Sure, there are probably some pinheads out there who thought to themselves, “Donald Trump is a serial liar and self-proclaimed sexual predator, but this article I saw on Facebook, by a news organization I’ve never heard of, says Hillary’s running a child-sex-abuse ring in the back room of a D.C. pizza parlor, so I definitely ain’t votin’ for her.” But far more significant are the very real distortions of the voters’ will imposed by the Democratic Party’s unelected superdelegates, and by the Electoral College, which has effectively disenfranchised more than 2.7 million citizens (Hillary’s margin of victory as of this writing) who marked a ballot for Clinton in the general election.

Rather than call attention to the inherently undemocratic nature of those American institutions, Sen. King is blaming the Ruskis. He called the phony articles and hacks “an arrow aimed at the heart of democracy by a foreign government” and a “national security issue of the gravest consequence.”

Folks, them’s fightin’ words. We jumped into the first two World Wars to defend “democracy,” and the last time we faced a “national security issue of the gravest consequence,” President Kennedy nearly started a Third World War over the Cuban Missile Crisis. For Sen. King to ratchet the rhetoric up to “code red” level in response to some tabloid trash and a few embarrassing e-mails that got Wikileaked is the height of irresponsibility, as is the mainstream press’ amplification of King’s craven fear-mongering.

“Based on the little that is known about Russian attempts to influence the presidential election through computer hacking and propaganda, we should all be outraged and disturbed,” the Portland Press Herald declared in a Dec. 5 editorial. The editorial board of the Bangor Daily News, citing what it called “credible evidence” of Russian culpability — none of which has yet been presented to the public — hailed King’s push to make a mountain out of this molehill and urged the Republican-controlled Congress to launch an investigation.

If such an investigation concluded that the Russian government was firing projectiles “at the heart of democracy,” one shudders to think what the right-wing nationalists who run Congress and the White House would launch in response.

To bolster the argument in its Dec. 3 editorial, the BDN quoted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who told the Los Angeles Times, “We cannot sit on the sidelines as a party and let allegations against a foreign government interfering in our election process go unanswered because it may have been beneficial to our cause.” Graham, a powerful member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is widely considered one of the most hawkish and alarmist legislators in Washington. Writing in Foreign Policy last year, contributor Michael A. Cohen said of Graham: “If he’s not recommending that Americans be sent into harm’s way, he’s pooh-poohing the notion that diplomacy or any form of coercion that doesn’t include bombs can be effective.”

Though the Press Herald concedes that the “threat” posed by Russian hanky-panky on the Internet may be “overblown,” their editorial brain-trust concluded: “from what we know, it’s much more likely that the government of Vladimir Putin has opened a new front in a cyber war meant to destablize [sic] the United States and raise Russian prominence and influence on the world stage.”

A “new front” in a “war” intended to “destabilize the United States” — more fightin’ words from the chicken hawks at the Herald, who should know better than to fan the flames of militarism less than a month after a hot-tempered and bigoted buffoon became the Leader of the Free World.

Left unmentioned in all the local coverage of this kerfuffle that I’ve seen is any acknowledgement that the United States routinely pries into the private communications of political figures in foreign countries (even allies like German leader Angela Merkel) and attempts to influence the outcome of political events inside other sovereign nations. Nevermind phony Facebook posts — we fund, advise and arm militants who stage violent coups d’état.

This isn’t conspiracy theory — it’s history. Kennedy tried to assassinate Fidel Castro. The C.I.A. engineered the coup d’état in Iran that overthrew its democratically elected prime minister in favor of a repressive monarch, the Shah, whose misrule sparked the Iranian Revolution in 1979. More recently, we encouraged and then immediately embraced the results of the coup in Ukraine that toppled the democratically elected government on Russia’s western border. This led to the Russian re-annexation of Crimea and hostilities in eastern Ukraine that could provide the flashpoint for a global showdown of cataclysmic proportions.

It’s beyond insulting when mainstream media outlets like the Press Herald and the BDN write as though their readers are ignorant of history and current geopolitical events. With the stakes this high, it’s unconscionable. Articles and editorials are published without the context that an acknowledgement of history and America’s actions “on the world stage” would provide. Absent such context, we get propaganda, not journalism.

The most cogent and insightful journalism of this matter that I’ve come across is Andrew Cockburn’s cover story for this month’s issue of Harper’s. Titled “The New Red Scare,” it explains that the propaganda spewed by politicians like King (and spread by media like Maine’s dailies) does serve the interests of one special group: defense contractors. Cockburn quotes a defense analyst who wryly described the mission of his office at the Pentagon as one “where we program weapons that don’t work to meet threats that don’t exist.”

This brought to mind reports last month that the new “stealth” destroyer built at Bath Iron Works sprang a leak, stalled out, and had to be towed through the Panama Canal — at least the third malfunction that’s crippled the multi-billion-dollar battleship this fall. That revelation followed reports in early November that even the Navy is now struggling to justify the enormous expenses associated with the Zumwalt-class ships. The high-tech projectiles the destroyers are designed to shoot cost approximately $800,000 each — about 16 times what contractor Lockheed Martin originally estimated the price tag would be. The Associated Press reported that the Navy now plans to purchase no more than 90 of these smart-shells, even though the ship is “supposed to be stocked with 600.” Analysts say the only way the price will go down is if the Navy spends more billions to build additional destroyers.

You might ask why we’re deploying warships to the Pacific in the first place, but good luck getting a straight answer. Such displays of deadly force are apparently part of President Obama’s so-called “pivot to Asia,” an effort to bolster security and trade in the region by showing upstarts like China and North Korea who’s boss on this planet. Might there be a cheaper way to keep the wheels of global commerce greased, one that didn’t involve threats of murder and mass destruction?

If Gloomy ’Gus has got an answer, he’s keeping it to himself, or he’s too busy bragging about all the goodies for Maine-based merchants of death loaded into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. As Mainebiz reported on Dec. 2, the $618.7 billion peacetime defense-spending measure also contains a provision that Armed Services Committee member King pushed to “ensure that at least $191.5 million will be dedicated to counter the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, including heroin and fentanyl,” as well as language similar to a bill King co-authored that will “require the [Trump] administration to develop options for deterring threats in cyberspace and determining what types of actions in cyberspace may warrant a military response.”

If Russian efforts to hoodwink fools on Facebook and expose what top Democrats actually think constitute a “national security issue of the gravest consequence,” I suggest you start digging your bunker right now.

— Chris Busby

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