‘The New York Times fabricates Russian murder plot’, 3 July 2020, Patrick Martin, wsws.org (w/permission to repost all content)
“Not since William Randolph Hearst cabled his correspondent in Havana in 1898 with the message, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war,” has a newspaper been so thoroughly identified with an effort to provoke an American war as the New York Times this week.
The difference—and there is a colossal one—is that Hearst was fanning the flames for the Spanish-American War, a comparatively minor conflict, the first venture by American imperialism to seize territory overseas, in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The Times today is seeking to whip up a war fever directed against Russia, one that threatens to ignite a third world war fought with nuclear weapons.” [snip]
“The Times reporters spearheading this campaign are not journalists in any real sense of the term. They are conduits, passing on material supplied to them by high-level operatives in the CIA and other intelligence agencies, repackaging it for public consumption and using their status as “reporters” to provide more credibility than would be given to a press release from Langley, Virginia. In other words, the CIA has provided the plot line, and the newspaper creates the narrative framework to sell it to the American people.” [snip]
In this week’s “Russian bounties” campaign, Schmitt and Sanger are at it again. A front-page article published Thursday under their joint byline carries the headline, “Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy.” This article is aimed at advancing the claim that Trump was negligent in responding to allegations against Russia, either being too lazy to read the President’s Daily Brief—a summary of world events and spy reports produced by the CIA—or choosing to ignore the report because of his supposed subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The political line of the article is set early on, when the authors claim that “it doesn’t require a high-level clearance for the government’s most classified information to see that the list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rivals some of the worst days of the Cold War.” The list is ridiculously thin, including “cyberattacks on Americans working from home” (no evidence presented) and “continued concern about new playbooks for Russian actors seeking to influence the November election” (this is a description of the state of mind at the CIA, not of any actual steps taken by Russia). The purpose is to place the current allegations about Russian bounties in the context of the long-running effort to portray Russian President Vladimir Putin as the evil genius and puppet master of world politics.
Schmitt, in an article co-authored with Michael Crowley, refers to “intelligence reports that Russia paid bounties to Taliban-affiliated fighters to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan,” as though this was an established fact. The article cites various unnamed “former officials” of the Trump and Obama administrations who claim that such an allegation would certainly have been brought to Trump’s attention, and that his failure to take action in response must be seen as negligence.
The article suggests that there is “supporting evidence” for the CIA claims of a Russian bounty plot, citing, among other things, “detainee interrogations, the recovery of about $500,000 from a Taliban-related target and intercepts of electronic communications showing financial transfers between the Russian military intelligence unit and Afghan intermediaries.” In point of fact, every item on this list represents an assertion by unnamed intelligence sources, not evidence: no actual detainees, cash hoards or electronic intercepts have been produced.
Another article by Schmitt, along with three Afghan-based reporters, focuses on the alleged role of an Afghan businessman, Rahmatullah Azizi, a former drug smuggler and US government contractor, in whose home investigators found a cash hoard of half a million in US dollars. [*see below] Again, “US intelligence reports” are cited, claiming Azizi was “a key middleman between the GRU and militants linked to the Taliban.” Again, there is no actual evidence cited, and Azizi himself cannot be found. As for the alleged cash hoard, this suggests more the proceeds of narcotics trafficking than anything else, an enterprise in which Azizi was supposedly engaged.
The article asserts that the Russian government organized the bounty scheme as “payback” for decades of humiliation in Afghanistan at the hands of the United States, although how killing a handful of US soldiers would accomplish such a goal is a mystery. Moreover, the Times also admits, citing an unnamed congressman who participated in a White House briefing on the allegations, that the intelligence briefing did not “detail any connection to specific US or coalition deaths in Afghanistan,” and that “gaps remained in the intelligence community’s understanding of the overall program, including its precise motive …”
In other words, the Russian “bounties” program has no identifiable victims and no credible motive. This makes the unanimity of the media chorus that much more damning a self-indictment. Why is there not a single article or commentary in the corporate media challenging the claims being peddled by the CIA? It is not that these claims are particularly convincing in and of themselves. Far from it. It is the source of the claims that is decisive: if the US intelligence apparatus says it is so, the American media obediently salutes.
The real question to be answered about the latest anti-Russian provocation is this: what political considerations are the driving force of this episode of media fabrication?
It is no coincidence that the Afghanistan “bounties” story has surfaced just at the point where the Trump administration is visibly reeling in the face of the twin crises of the coronavirus pandemic and the popular upsurge against police violence. The American ruling class has been deeply shaken by the outraged protests by large interracial crowds, particularly of young people, that have swept virtually every American city and town. And the financial aristocracy is well aware of the deep-seated popular opposition to its drive to force workers back to work under conditions where every large factory, warehouse and office is a potential epicenter for the ongoing resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The response to this crisis by the political and media representatives of the ruling elite is twofold: seeking to split the working class along racial lines and seeking to divert domestic social tensions into a campaign against foreign antagonists, particularly China and Russia.
The New York Times acts as a political mouthpiece of the Democratic Party, which is determined to block any mass radicalization of workers and youth. In the event that former Vice President Joe Biden is elected in November and takes office in January 2021, an incoming Democratic administration will carry out policies no less reactionary than those of Trump.
The campaign against Trump’s alleged “dereliction of duty”—a phrase used by Biden three times during his Tuesday press conference—is nothing more than a continuation of the campaign by the Democrats to attack Trump from the right, as too “soft” on Russia and too unwilling to intervene in the Middle East. This began with the anti-Russia campaign that triggered the two-year-long Mueller investigation, continued with the Ukraine phone call that led to impeachment, and now emerges in the form of increasingly vehement demands that the US government “retaliate” for an entirely fabricated Russian effort to kill American soldiers.”
‘Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy; High-level clearance is not required to see that the list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rivals some of the worst days of the Cold War’, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, July 1, 2020 (I’ll add these bolded hilarities: the Slimes loves Bolton now!):
“There are at least two Russia strategies in this divided administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, usually so attuned to Mr. Trump, speaks for the hawkish wing: He came to the State Department podium a few weeks ago to declare that Crimea, annexed by Russia six years ago, will never be recognized as Russian territory.
Then there is the president, who “repeatedly objected to criticizing Russia and pressed us not to be so critical of Russia publicly,” his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, notes in his recent memoir. A parade of other former national security aides have emerged, bruised, with similar reports.” [snip]
“And in this case, there was another element: concern inside the White House about any intelligence findings that might interfere with the administration’s announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban.
After months of broken-off negotiations, Mr. Trump was intent on announcing the accord in February, as a prelude to declaring that he was getting Americans out of Afghanistan. As one senior official described it, the evidence about Russia could have threatened that deal because it suggested that after 18 years of war, Mr. Trump was letting Russia chase the last American troops out of the country.
The warning to Mr. Trump appeared in the president’s briefing book — which Mr. Bolton said almost always went unread — in late February. On Feb. 28, the president issued a statement that a signing ceremony for the Afghan deal was imminent.”
Also on July 1st: Afghan Contractor Handed Out Russian Cash to Kill Americans, Officials Say; A small-time businessman became a key middleman for bounties on coalition troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence reports say. Friends saw him grow rich, but didn’t know how’, Mujib Mashal, Eric Schmitt, Najim Rahim and Rukmini Callimachi, nytimes.com
“Now Rahmatullah Azizi stands as a central piece of a puzzle rocking Washington, named in American intelligence reports and confirmed by Afghan officials as a key middleman who for years handed out money from a Russian military intelligence unit to reward Taliban-linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan, according to American and Afghan officials.
As security agencies connected the dots of the bounty scheme and narrowed in on him, they carried out sweeping raids to arrest dozens of his relatives and associates about six months ago, but discovered that Mr. Azizi had sneaked out of Afghanistan and was likely back in Russia. What they did find in one of his homes, in Kabul, was about half a million dollars in cash.”
(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)