In the 1988 presidential nomination race, one candidate for the Republican party pledged to talk to the USSR, while all the others insisted they had nothing to discuss. That candidate was the eventual winner, George HW Bush. I point this out to show that even the Republican primary electorate in the Reagan era was looking for a conciliator who would avoid war with the USSR. It is true that every incoming president has said he will work with Russia. Even though the results have always been less positive than initial hopes, the people of the USA want peace with the Russians and are willing to elect presidents who will try to achieve it.
The Democrats followed the advice of paint-by-numbers campaign geniuses to divide the Republican electorate with the Russian wedge issue. Hillary Clinton hoped to gain John McCain’s endorsement by going full hawk. In doing so she exposed her simple-minded view of the Republican electorate. The view was laid out naked and bald after the election by Rahm Emanuel:
“Whenever there’s a disagreement among Republicans, I’m for one of those disagreements. I’m all for it,” the mayor said. “The President wants Russia? I’m with John McCain and Lindsey Graham. I’m for NATO. Why? Wedge. Schisms have to be wedges. Wedges have to be divides and divisions. …We’ve got to lower the President? Why? Because they are strong enough to get him than us. We’re not strong enough.”
Anyone could have told you the evidence against the Russians for hacking John Podesta’s email was non-existent. Why would they insert a phishing email with smoking-gun telltales, and then release that smoking gun to Wikileaks? The conclusions from the intelligence services that saw a link were that we think Russia had the motive to hack, so they probably hacked.
In their desperation to win, win anything, and somehow reclaim their mission over America, to take the country on its inevitable course to European social democracy, the Democratic Party clung to the same explanation for their loss that Hillary Clinton tried to use during the campaign. Russia did it. It had the added bonus of an easy way to remove a president without elections and voters.
I understood at the time that Trump would win this fight and would come out stronger in the end. He will have chewed up a year of the opposition’s time and energy on a cause that the Democratic base, peacenik as it truly and lovably is, would never embrace. He will come out as having beaten the rap. All that was fun and games to watch, until Trump bombed Syria and somebody died over this stupid story.
And now for the true scandal. Trump’s administration was fully aware of the purpose of the Syrian airstrike on Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. They were made aware by the Syrians and Russians, they knew the target was a meeting of Al Qaeda leaders, and they had all the intelligence they needed to understand that the aftermath was not from chemical weapons:
Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north…
The intercept, which had a particularly strong effect on some of Trump’s aides, did not mention nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a “special” weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with its built-in guidance system. “If you’ve already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb,” the adviser said. “Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”
Trump’s Red Line
by Seymour Hersh
Unfortunately, given the climate at the time, Democratic officeholders like Elizabeth Warren and Seth Moulton were happy to endorse a bloody line be drawn in the sand across Trump’s detente efforts with Russia. And so missiles went off and some people died.
Now we understand that Democratic voters are telling their leaders to cool it on Russia. The latest Russia-Truther rants on b.m.g. aren’t getting frontpaged any more. I expect this to be downvoted as usual from the crowd with their hands over their ears. I have no interest in the Democratic Party’s survival and I agree with Julian Assange that it could easily be swamped Macron-style in coming election cycles. However I have always had a soft spot for the antiviolence heart of the Democrats. This is for you and we can work together in what comes next.