PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME AFTER MUELLER

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation

The West – its governments and its governments’ scribes – are obsessed with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Obsessed” is probably too weak a word to describe the years of impassioned coverage, airy speculation and downright nonsense. He is the world’s leading cover boy: military hats, Lenin poses, imperial crowns, scary red eyes, strait-jackets, clown hats; anything and everything. He’s the avatar of Stalin, he’s the avatar of the Tsars, he’s the Joker, he’s Cthulhu, he’s Voldemort, he’s Satan. He’s the palimpsest for the New World Order’s nightmares. Putin is always messing with our minds. He weaponises information, misinformation and sexual assault accusations. Childrens’ cartoons, fishsticks, Pokemon and Yellow Vests, “Putin’s warships” are lurking when they aren’t stalking; “Putin’s warplanes” penetrate European airspace; “Putin’s tanks”, massing in 2016, massing in 2018, still massing. His empire of rogue states grows. All Putin, all the time.

In an especially imbecile display in 2015, Western reporters (unable to find his website) thinking he hadn’t been seen for several days started a contest of speculation about coups, death, wars, plastic surgery, secret births and other nonsense; when he “re-appeared”, the story went down the Memory Hole.

For some reason, Americans personalise everything. In meetings with US intelligence agencies I was always fascinated how they would reduce every complicated reality to a single individual. But it isn’t Saddam, or Assad, or Qaddafi, or Osama, or Aidid, or Milosevic, or Maduro, or Castro or any of the other villains-of-the-day, it’s a whole country: these people got to the top for good reasons. Removing the boss makes some difference but never all the difference. They go but they never leave a Washington-friendly country behind and Washington does it all over again somewhere else. This peculiar blindness drives Putin Derangement Syndrome and has infected everybody else.

But Putin is much worse than the others. The other enemies had relatively weak countries but Russia could obliterate the USA. But worse, Putin’s team has steadily become more powerful and more influential. And worst of all, he’s still there: huffing and puffing has not blown him down, sanctions strengthen the economy and there is nothing to suggest he won’t be succeeded by someone who carries on the same policies. It’s a whole country, not just one man.

Vladimir Putin is the biggest man on earth.

Except that he’s short and can’t hide it. He’s a megalomaniac because he’s short; he’s trying to prove his bigness; napoleon complex says some shrink. Just another in a long list of crackpot “expert” opinions. From a list I complied in 2015: Asperger’s Syndrome, cancer of the spinal cord, personality disorders, gayness, Parkinson’s Disease, psychopath, people don’t like him so animals have to, sinister, lonely life, fears his own people, envious of Obama. Remember the gunslinger walk“? Oh, in case you hadn’t heard, he was in the KGB and that explains everything: “Once a KGB man, always a KGB man”. Nothing is too absurd.

But laughing has passed – Putin Derangement Syndrome has become dangerous.

In 2016 Hillary Clinton lost a sure-fire election to Donald Trump and, looking for an excuse, jumped on the Russia claim. Putin Derangement Syndrome was ramped up to a much more dangerous level. War-level dangerous.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said President Donald Trump’s administration is doing nothing to stop Russians from interfering in the 2018 election cycle, comparing the lack of action on the part of the president to the 9/11 and Pearl Harbor attacks that killed thousands of Americans.

A popular actor made a video to tell us were were at war. “Warfare” says Haley, “act of war” said John McCain, could be says Cheney, 911 says Clinton, disappointed CIA guy agrees, Pearl Harbor says Nadler. Diplomatic expulsions and sanctions and more sanctions. These are much more serious than gassy op-eds about Putin’s gait or fish weights, these are actions: actions have consequences. Moscow doesn’t find war talk very funny.

Clinton’s victory was 99% certain until it wasn’t and excuses were needed. Clinton went through a lot of them but “Russian interference” was always the big one.

That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [9 November 2016] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument. (From Shattered, quoted here.)

In What Happened, Clinton also says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for Trump was driven by his own anti-women sentiment, stacking the deck against her: “What Putin wanted to do was…influence our election, and he’s not exactly fond of strong women, so you add that together and that’s pretty much what it means.” At press events for her memoir, Clinton continues to warn Americans against Russia’s power over Trump and the country. “The Russians aren’t done. This is an ongoing threat, and that is one of the reasons why I wrote the book and one of the reasons I’m talking about it,” she said on Sunday at Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival. (Newsweek)

Her claim is, to put it mildly, unproven; the so-called “all 17 agencies” report notwithstanding. (The first premise that it was hacked is here disproved: downloaded by someone in the building). Her accusation moved Putin Derangement Syndrome away from the realm of mere craziness into war talk. Taking the hint, Western politicians, under attack for their lacklustre performances, were happy to push the blame onto Putin. He’s attacking democracy! Western media weighed in until it became completely accepted by some people that anything that spoiled the happy complacency of the Western world must be a result of Putin’s interference: gilets jaunes, “assistance provided to far-right and anti-establishment parties“, he’s the poster boy of the dreaded populism, his populist tentacles reach Hungary and Italy. And the next thing we knew, Putin was mucking around in everybody’s votes: Brexit; Catalonia; Netherlands; Germany; Sweden; Italy; EU in particular and Europe in general; Mexico; Canada. Newsweek gives a helpful list. Sometimes he loses elections: Germany, Ukraine but he goes on, unstopping. But his greatest triumph was said to have been in the US election: he “won” because Donald Trump was his willing puppet.

(None of these “experts” ever seem to wonder why Putin’s influence, so decisive far away, is so ineffective in Ukraine or Georgia. But then, it’s not actually a rational, fact-based belief, is it?)

The entire ramshackle construction is collapsing: if Mueller says there was no collusion then even the last ditch believers will have to accept it: Robert Mueller Prayer Candles are out of stock, time to toss the other tchotchkes, it wasn’t a Mueller Christmas after all. Clinton’s fabrication had two parts to it: 1) Putin interfered/determined the election 2) in collusion with Trump. When the second part is blown up, so must the first be. And then what will happen to all the loyal little allies crying “ours were interfered with too!”? The two halves of the story had the same authors and the same purpose: if one dies, so must the other. Now that Trump is secured from the obstruction charges that hung there as long as Mueller was in session, he is free to declassify the background documents that will show the origin, mechanics, authors and extent of the conspiracy. And he has said he will. In the process, both halves of the story will be destroyed: they’re both lies.

(For those who now realise there is something they have to catch up on: Conrad Black has a good exposition of the overall conspiracy and here is a quick round-up of the mechanics of the conspiracy. This may show its very beginning, three years ago).

Will the exposure of the plot and the plotters end the war-talk stage of Putin Derangement Syndrome? In a rational world, it would (but can its believers be embarrassed by the exposure of their credulity? Can they be made to think it all over again from the beginning?). It is true that Russia stands in the way of the neocons and liberal interventionists who have been guiding Washington this century, but that hardly means that Putin is the enemy of the American people. Because, properly considered, it’s the neocons/liberal interventionists and their endless wars burning up lives, money and good will that are the enemies of Americans; in that respect Putin (unintentionally) stands with the true best interests of the American people. But the propaganda is so strong and the hysteria so unrestrained, that anyone who suggests that blocking the war party is in the best interests of Americans would be run out of town on a rail. (As the attacks on Tulsi Gabbard show.) The USA is far down the rabbit hole. (Although I should say US elites: a Rasmussen poll shows that slightly more Americans think Clinton colluded with a foreign power than think Trump did. Considering the news coverage of the last two and a half years, that’s a very interesting finding.)

So, the sad conclusion is that Putin Derangement Syndrome will probably endure and the best we can hope for is that it is dialled down a bit and the “act of war” nonsense is quietly forgotten. Derangement was strong before the interference/collusion lie and it will exist as long as Putin does: the war party is too invested in personalities ever to realise that it’s Russia, not its president, that’s the obstacle. Let alone ever understand that much of what Moscow does is a pushback against Washington’s aggression.

Let The Onion have the last laugh at this dismal matter:

“What the hell? I worked so hard on this—if I wasn’t colluding with the Trump campaign, who the hell was I colluding with?” said the dumbfounded Russian president, growing increasingly angry as he scrolled through his email inbox and recounted his numerous efforts at covert communication with individuals who he had thought were high-ranking Trump officials, but now he suspected were bots or anonymous internet trolls.

COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

Scientific researchers say Russian social-media trolls who spread discord before the 2016 U.S. presidential election may also have played an unintended role in a developing global health crisis.

From the US state broadcaster RFE/RL

The biggest measles outbreak is in Ukraine which hardly has a state-of-the-art medical system.

And yet………….. it’s the RUSSSSSSHUNZ wot dunnit.

The anti-vaxx notion was given real impetus when the Russian trolls that run the British (but actually Putin-controlled) medical (but actually GRU propaganda outlet) journal Lancet (real name Ланцет) published a paper in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield (real name Эндрю Уэйкфилд) suggesting a link between certain vaccines and autism. The paper has since been retracted.

 

THE CHARGE SHEET

From time to time somebody sets out a list of all the accusations against Russia/Putin. Here is the latest. I won’t waste my time commenting except to say that “from RFE’s point of view” and “alleged” should have been used more often.

Putin omits all the reasons why relations with Europe are strained, so it might be useful to recap some of them: Russian interference in numerous elections and referendums in EU countries over the last decade; Russia’s active disinformation campaigns across the EU; Russian-based cyberattacks targeting numerous EU countries; provocative Russian military flights in and around EU and NATO airspace; Russia’s alleged interference with GPS navigation systems in Scandinavia; Russia’s continued deployment of “peacekeepers” in Moldova despite that country’s repeated requests that Russian troops be replaced with UN peacekeepers; Russia’s 2008 war against Georgia and its continued occupation of some 20 percent of Georgian territory; Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region; Russia’s intense involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine, which the ICC in November 2016 ruled “an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation”; Russia’s obstructionism in implementation of the Minsk agreements to end the Ukraine conflict; Russia’s role in the 2014 downing of a passenger airliner over Ukraine that killed 298 people; Russia’s alleged poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko in London in 2006; and Russia’s alleged attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

Robert Coalson, Senior Correspondent RFE/RL

COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

The spy chief said he did not know why Russia was so aggressive, adding: “Perhaps it feels threatened by the quality of Western institutions and Western alliances.”

Alex Younger, head of MI6, 16 February 2019

I’m sure that’s the reason: Putin and his inner circle sit around bemoaning the fact that, as Russians, they just never will have that mysterious quality.

INTEGRITY INITIATIVE: BIG BROTHER’S MINIONS – OR FLIM-FLAM ARTISTS?

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation. Picked up by JRL2019/16/24,  ZeroHedge, South Front, Straight Line Logic, The New Dark Age, Trade for Profit, The Russophile, Viral News, Olduvai.ca, Truth in Our Time,

I’m not sure what to make of Integrity Initiative (what a great gaslighting name: integrity? Hah hah: no, just furtive paid propaganda and opinion steering). But I watch the unfolding revelations with fascination. Certainly, the whole thing is bigger than it seemed at first and all the documents being revealed appear to be true.

On the one hand, it looks like a group of superannuated old gits gassing on about how warfare today involves everything, especially “information warfare”, while last century it was only bullets. (Ever read any, say, Sun Tzu or Clausewitz? Or, speaking of the last century, Goebbels? How about Bernays?) And how we concerned individuals have voluntarily come together (assisted by £2+ million of the taxpayer’s money) to save democracy. Unpaid, unasked and unplotted. Completely conspiracy-free in fact. To individually and unconspiratorially assure you that only Russian dupes would try to tell us, contrary to all reason, that Russia, a nuclear superpower, has interests that we’d be wise to consider. Or that Western NGOs are often US State Department fronts. Or that the West promised Gorbachev it wouldn’t expand NATO (Too late, the documents are out). In short, that the essence of democracy is never to doubt what the Ministry of Truth tells you. There’s a naïve and bubble-like quality to this: they never think any thoughts but their own. So maybe these guys, instead of kveching at the mirror and shouting at the TV set, have figured out how to flim-flam the government into supplementing their pensions in return for pages of conspiracy-babble.

Or are we looking at something rather bigger? As John Helmer points out, there is a long history of British intelligence operating behind such “independent” and “disinterested” cover. Did they help start the Russia hysteria in the USA? Did they not only play up the Skripal affair but actually create it? Did they have an effect on Spain and Catalonia? Infiltrate Sanders’ campaign? What’s this “impose changes over the heads of vested interests. NB we did this in the 1930s” stuff? Is that a reference to the Zinoviev Letter forgery? (1924 actually, but they don’t look like people who bother to check details). Corbyn, of course, they see as another Kremlin stooge: is it time to “discover” a Dear Jeremy, How can I help you win? Your friend Vladimir letter? There is a danger these “clusters” of like-minded (and paid) flacks pose: in a time when the “news” media solemnly informs us that Putin has weaponised humour and Pokemon, to say nothing of killer squids, a group of “expert” “concerned citizens” who “voluntarily” appear can ratchet the hysteria up to further heights. (Although only a Russian troll would “emphasise the dangers of war in Europe (!!)”) They are trying to establish a base in the USA (“challenging the ignorance of, tolerance of or sympathy for the Russian activity” – tolerance!!?? the US media Russia-bashes 24/7!) So, no matter the temptation, we can’t write them off as silly old fools.

Here’s their website. And here’s some of their output, most of it written straight off the top of the head. Bellyfeel, as they say in Newspeak.

Deadly “Novichok” is not strong enough to kill you today, but is strong enough to kill someone four months later. Whatever – deadly, shmeadly – you read it, my head hurts.

Its [Russia’s, of course] ongoing lawfare activities have shaken the pillars of the post-WWII security architecture in Europe. Who knew? The very pillars!

Russian state media have succeeded in persuading some parts of the Arab world that Russia intervention is required to resolve the region’s disputes, which appears be the ultimate goal of Russia’s strategy in the region. I don’t think it’s Russian media, I think it’s these guys. Here they are again in Manbij.

The Thesis of Conspiracy: The Kremlin’s current world-view is stark, striking and scary. According to senior leaders, including Putin, America is attacking Russia. Silly Russians! NATO expansion, colour revolutions, sanctions, gas wars, rhetoric, tossing arms control treaties – all done to help you!

Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, lying that it was Georgia which had attacked Russia, absurd though this sounds when one compares the respective sizes of each country. A powerful argument, not heard before. (And not considered by the EU either; even its feeble report understood that Tbilisi attacked.)

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is often presented as the most striking symbol of Russia’s resurgent military power. Really, by whom? I follow this stuff and I know Russians like to talk about Piotr Velikiy or their submarines but the elderly Kuznetsov is just functional. (Although, escort tug, belching smoke and all, it works and the British media gets the fantods every time it appears.) This piece tries to show that Russia’s infrastructure is falling apart. Maybe they should spend more time on YouTube.

The Kremlin lies. Repeatedly and seriously. This is the only conclusion which can be drawn if you accept the view of the British Government that the Russian state is behind the attack using a nerve agent on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yuliya. The Russian authorities have already put out at least 17 different versions of what happened. (47 here). Ah, but the prosecution doesn’t win if the accused can’t prove who did it. Presumption of innocence – isn’t that one of those fundamental principles you’re supposed to be defending? The problem with accepting the “view of the British Government” is that it requires superhuman doublethink and crimestop as this summary of the absurdities shows. The latest being that a bit of “Novichok” on a door handle requires removing the roof of the house while Zizzi’s, old roof and all, is open for business!

However, at no time has the Integrity Initiative engaged in party political activity and would never take up a party-political stance. Spain and Catalonia? Sanders? Corbyn? Stay tuned.

These guys really should get out more. If they were being paid by some private individual for this tripe that would be one thing; but the British government (and others?) is paying – in fact, it’s actually paying these people to influence its own policy. Think about that: that’s rather different. Even leaving aside all the stuff about “we did this in the 1930s”. It’s a bit Deep Stateish – it’s a lot Deep Stateish.

Or maybe it’s just a bunch of retirees swindling the government by writing fluff about how Russia is sapping and impurifying all our precious bodily fluids.

Sarcasm is fun but the big question is: who’s winning: these guys with millions and the support of most media outlets, or us with hundreds and sites like this one? But then we have reality on our side and, eventually, but it can be a long eventually, it bites.

You decide. Here and here are the hacks. Or are they leaks? Interesting question, eh? We owe much thanks to Anonymous for exposing these people. Add Kim Klarenberg to your Twitter feed – an actual reporter doing actual reporting! I think there’s lots more to be revealed.

I’m amused by Donnelly saying that the fact that their stuff has been hacked shows that they must be having an effect; no, there are people out there who are tired of the lies, secret manipulations and managed media campaigns whooping up war fever. They found you and they broke into your files. That’s all.

REAL CRICKETS, FAKE NEWS

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation

You’re an American diplomat. Posted to Cuba. You compose yourself for peaceful slumber, as an innocent American dip should… What’s that noise? Whine, buzz. Get up. Lights on. Look. Nothing. Head on pillow. Whine, buzz. We’ve all been kept up nights by some unidentifiable sound. You promise yourself you won’t listen to it. Aha, it’s stopped… no, there it is again. Another night of tossing and turning. Very understandable. The next morning you tell a colleague, heard it too, another hadn’t but can’t help listening. Soon everybody is awake listening to this irritating noise. Doctors come, check people out and find this and that (as ageing apes we all have something. Is there any before and after take on these injuries?) This is happening in Cuba, a country richly furnished with noisy insects. At some point, this irritating sound, that could be insects, morphs into something more sinister: “‘microwave hearing,’ also known as the Frey effect” for example.

The US Embassy in Havana re-opened in July 2015. About a year later, it was reported that some American diplomats complained about strange noises. The Guardian reported the story using numerous variations on the word “attack”. Crickets are mentioned, but only to be dismissed; “But this is Cuba”, wink, wink, nudge, nudge; Russia peeps above the horizon:

In fact, almost nothing about what went down in Havana is clear. Investigators have tested several theories about an intentional attack: by Cuba’s government, a rogue faction of its security forces, a third country like Russia or some combination thereof. Yet they’ve left open the possibility an advanced espionage operation went horribly awry, or that some other, less nefarious explanation is to blame.

Attacks – the story builds. A recording is produced (verrry irritating; keep anybody awake). “High pitched cricket sound”. That’s because they are insects say the Cubans. The phrasing of the AP report that covered the Cuban findings has to be read to be believed: it’s written in the sneering tone that tells you to ignore them:

Cuba on Thursday presented its most detailed defense to date against U.S. Accusations… Cuban officials attempted to undermine the Trump administration’s assertion… alleged was a lack of evidence for the U.S. Accusations… an exhaustive investigation ordered by “the highest government authorities,” a clear reference to President Raul Castro… Thursday night’s special did not present an alternate explanation for the facts presented by U.S. officials, with one significant exception…

What a dishonest way to cover a report by Cuban specialists saying we compared the recordings with cicada sounds and there was a good fit. Fortunately, as we shall see, honest people did follow that lead.

American tourists are solemnly warned “Exercise increased caution in Cuba due to attacks targeting U.S. Embassy”. Washington expels Cuban diplomats and the Guardian helpfully tells us:

Cuba employs a massive state security apparatus that keeps hundreds and possibly thousands of people under constant surveillance. US diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island. It’s virtually impossible for anyone to take action against an American diplomat without an element of the Cuban state being aware.

So the state of play as of the end of 2017 is this. Facts: noises, medical findings, investigations, expulsions. Speculation: they’re “attacks”, the Cuban authorities control everything and the insect explanation should be laughed at. Next year it’s China’s turn.

But at last, in September 2018, the Russian sun rises over the horizon.

The suspicion that Russia is likely behind the alleged attacks is backed up by evidence from communications intercepts, known in the spy world as signals intelligence, amassed during a lengthy and ongoing investigation involving the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. agencies. The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence… If Russia did use a futuristic weapon to damage the brains of U.S. personnel, it would mark a stunning escalation in Russian aggression toward Western nations, compounded recently by the use of a military-grade nerve agent to poison an ex-spy and his daughter in Britain.

Love the juxtaposition of “suspicion”, “likely” and “alleged”: how many degrees of uncertainty is that? You have to wonder whether an Integrity-challenged Initiative clusteroid gave that little gem to NBC – the “signals intelligence” will probably turn out to be a five-year-old RT report about insomnia. Also note that the US military “has been working to reverse-engineer the weapon or weapons used to harm the diplomats”.

Ensorcelled by this “un-elaborated” “intelligence”, the Gadarene media swine rush straight for the cliff:

Did Russia Attack U.S. Officials in Cuba? U.S.S.R. Used Microwaves Against American Diplomats During Cold War (Newsweek) Russia Is No. 1 Suspect in Mystery Brain Attacks in Cuba and China: Report (Daily Beast) Russia Might Be Behind Those Sonic Attacks on U.S. Government Workers in Cuba and China (Fortune) The U.S. Now Believes RUSSIA May Be Behind Sonic Attacks On Americans In Cuba And China (Daily Wire) So the Russians were ‘sonic-ing’ down in Cuba? (American Thinker) Russia main suspect behind illnesses of US staff in Cuba and China – report (Guardian) Russia suspected in Cuba mystery ‘attacks’ against US diplomats (NBC) Report: Experts Suspect Cuba May Have Had Russian Help in ‘Sonic’ Diplomat Attacks (Breitbart)

Altogether a perfect illustration of how fake news is built.

Step One. Something that could be lots of things but we’ll call it an attack.

Step Two. Attacks have attackers, so who is it? (I find it interesting that they weren’t quite ready to blame Havana, although they expelled a few Cuban diplomats: “‘I still believe that the Cuban government, someone within the Cuban government can bring this to an end,’ Tillerson added.”)

Step Three: Drum roll… Putindunnit!

It’s surprising, actually, that it took so long; after all, Putin has weaponised Soviet history, Syrian refugees, Photoshop, humour, Pokemon, and Russophobia, why would you think he’d have forgotten crickets? Nothing is beyond or beneath him: “14-legged killer squid found TWO MILES beneath Antarctica being weaponised by Putin?“.

This happy complacency was interrupted…

by…

a loud…

POP!

The Sounds That Haunted U.S. Diplomats in Cuba? Lovelorn Crickets, Scientists Say.

And, because they’re Western scientists, not Castro’s Cuban Collaborators, we have to believe them. Two honest scientists – remember their names: Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Zapato of the University of Lincoln in England – on their own it seems, applied human reason to the problem and solved it. Here’s a summary of their paper.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So that’s it; the story’s dead (although the NYT does its best to keep it alive: “That’s not to say that the diplomats weren’t attacked, the scientists added”). Would be nice, though, if State took its warning down. In time the details will fade away leaving a vague sense that Cuba’s a bad and dangerous place and nasty Russians do nasty things for the fun of it. But that’s the purpose of propaganda: to leave an impression when the details are forgotten.

So what really happened? Irritating cricket sounds produced a kind of dancing mania among US diplomats and the presstitutes sank to the occasion – even though the Cuban evidence was out there – and blamed Russia.

PS. My neighbours often ask me from where I get my news when I tell them something they’ve never heard of. Well not from the Guardian or the NYT or NBC or the others that boomed this fake story: I learned from Moon of Alabama that it was crickets waaaay back in October 2017 when he (a one-man operation who does more reporting than the entire NYT building) beat the NYT by 14 months. You should read him too so you too can get next year’s NYT headlines today.

THE WEST SLIPS DOWN ANOTHER STEP

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation, picked up by ZeroHedge, JRL/2018/216/19, YouTube, WITSNEWS, The Good Fight, Viral News, The Fringe News)

There is much on the Internet these days about documents allegedly hacked by Anonymous; these documents belong to the “Integrity Initiative” and describe a multi-country effort, funded by London and Washington, to counter “Russian propaganda” and “fake news”. Since the initial story broke, a good deal of confusion has been laid down: Wikileaks is doubtful, and Anonymous itself is being evasive. On the other hand, Integrity Initiative doesn’t entirely deny.

But even if entirely false, they would be in that curious category of “fake but true”: Integrity Initiative does actually exist and here is its website. It is certainly engaged in anti-Russia propaganda. It publishes articles locking the barn door after the horses have escaped: yes, “Novichok” is terribly deadly but that doesn’t mean it will kill you. But, if it isn’t strong enough to kill you today, it may be strong enough to kill someone four months later. Its most memorable statement is surely this:

The Kremlin has invested more operational thought, intent and resource in disinformation, in Europe and elsewhere in the democratic world, than any other single player.

A statement that would stun anyone who’s ever been in a hotel and gone channel cruising: RT’s in there somewhere along with CNN, MSNBC, Fox, BBC, DW, France Télévisions, Rai and so on. A tiny voice in a bellowing crowd. But, after all, these are the people who tell us that Russia affected the US election with one FB message per 400 million others.

The Integrity Initiative is one of many. We had, and still have, the Legatum Institute which worried about “Russian disinformation” back in 2013, a pair of British thinktankers two years later also worried about “Russia’s information warfare in the UK“. Then it was time for “hybrid war“, a supposed Russian invention. The so-called intelligence assessment (of “all 17 agencies“, but actually a hand-picked group from only three, one of which only had “moderate confidence”) on Russian hacking devoted nearly half its space to a four-year old rant about RT!

Such an obsession with RT and Sputnik! How many eyeballs do they reach? Not that many by all evidence. We’re talking small – not 1/413,000,000th small – but small. A good deal less than the BBC alone. Amazing! But the West bravely marshals its feeble power against the colossus of RT and creates the British Army’s “77th Brigade” of Twitter commandos, the US has its soldiers at Fort Bragg trolling away, NATO’s Centre of Excellence in Tallinn pumps it out and now the Integrity Initiative extrudes copy. Even little Canada has got into the act. Then we have the so-called independent think tanks busy creating “objective” “impartial” “scholarly” expliqués of the Russian threat. Some of these are nothing but beards for the arms industry. An example is CEPA (“a tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan, public policy research institute”) supported by, inter alia, the US Mission to NATO, NATO Public Diplomacy Division, US Naval Postgraduate School, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Raytheon Company, European Defense Agency, Chevron Corporation, Bell Helicopter, Textron Systems and BAE Systems. Its “non-partisan” reports tell us Russia is sowing chaos, that we must defend the “Sulwaki Corridor”, Nord Stream is a bad idea and so on. You may not have noticed Moscow’s hand in Catalonian separatism, but they have. All very predictable and just the sort of thing a company making big weapons wants out there to buttress its sales pitch. Bearded guys in turbans and sandals with IEDs are not big business; Russians in tanks are. A rather curious idea of “non-partisan”.

But, despite this, we’re supposed to believe that RT and Sputnik have awesome powers and that one little tweet from a Russian bot has an overwhelming effect against which these “non-partisan” outfits have a tough struggle. An intelligent child can see the nonsense.

But enough sarcasm, this isn’t funny: it’s actually very serious. Apart from the dangers of building up war fever against a power that could obliterate the West, it’s a telling indication of the decline of the West. And so triumphant and so confident only two decades ago!

In the Cold War Moscow’s sin was that it was actively trying to overthrow us and send those of us it didn’t shoot to the GuLag. Today its crime is contumacy: it persistently refuses to accept the blame that the West puts on it.

But neither do many of us. So, if you, as I do, think that the Western version of the MH17 story is a bit fishy, doubt that Assad is dumb enough to do the one thing that would invite Western missiles, regard Whitehall’s Skripal story as laughably incoherent, doubt that Litvinenko could write a perfect English sentence, find it absurd to assume that Putin kills people by such easily noticed means, know that there were Russian troops in Crimea all along, notice that the White Helmets have received millions yet can only afford dust masks and flip flops, had heard of the Crimean Tatars before, notice that NATO has expanded up to Russia’s borders and not the other way around, know something about Ossetian-Georgian relations, know what the Ukrainian Constitution says about getting rid of presidents, remember Nuland’s telephone call, can remember all the people falsely demonised by the Western propaganda machine… If you dare to think those thoughts, these people will call you a victim of (or accomplice in) Russian disinformation and say you need re-education. Certainly they don’t want you to be heard.

Of course no one is calling for the end of freedom of speech, just a shutting down of “fake news”. Social media is doing its best to do so, advised by such “impartial” organisations, in the case of Facebook, as the Atlantic Council. Which is funded by, well, many of the same organisations as CEPA, but with more foreign governments and oil companies. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, United Technologies, Boeing: they’re not interested in funding a venue for people who question the Russian threat meme, are they?

Once upon a time truth was considered to be the best defence. In the Cold War there was little effort to silence Soviet propaganda. Anybody could listen to Radio Moscow, read Soviet newspapers or anything else. Most countries had a legal communist party working, under Moscow’s strict control, for a communist takeover and pumping out propaganda as hard as it could. Innumerable front groups pushed communist and Soviet policy under a variety of covers. We didn’t worry too much: truth was the best defence. But the USSR did worry and it spent enormous efforts jamming Western broadcasts. A child could figure it out: the side that’s blocking the other side is afraid of the truth, it’s afraid of dissent, it’s afraid of freedom.

Twenty years ago most Russians would have agreed that Pravda & Co were lying both about the USSR and about the West. But not any more: read what Margarita Simonyan, the head of the dreaded RT, says: “Лет пятьдесят – тайно и явно – мы хотели жить как вы, а больше не хотим” (“For fifty years, secretly and openly, we wanted to live like you, but not any longer“). Reflect on what produced this contemporary Russian bittersweet joke: “Pravda lied to us about the USSR, but it told the truth about the West”.

So, in the end, Russians didn’t “drink the Kool-aid”. Willing once to believe, they believe no more. And that is Russia’s sin. It’s not bolsheviks lusting for blood, with nooses in their hands, charging down Park Lane and Wall Street these days, it’s Russians stubbornly being Russian. And that is unforgivable to a West that has lost the confidence that its positions stand strong and unaided.

Which it has. Why else these attempts to manipulate public opinion and block disagreement? It is, in a word, Soviet behaviour. The side that’s mostly telling the truth isn’t afraid of the other side’s lies. Again, a child could figure it out.

What they are telling us (forget all that Magna Carta, freedom of speech and thought, European Values stuff they were boasting about a few years ago) is this:

We don’t trust you to make up your mind, so we’ll do it for you.

Accept, Believe, Repeat. It’s a big slip down the slope.

Remember the notion, popular at one time, that the Soviets and the West would converge? Well, maybe they did and just kept moving past each other. Soon we’ll be fully Soviet in our response to Big Brother: believe the opposite, read between the lines, notice what you’re not being told.

But the “Russia information war” pays good money for people who can say with a straight face: “Novichok is deadly except when it isn’t” or “Our intelligence agencies rely on Bellingcat to tell them what’s going on” or “Assad gasses civilians when he’s winning because he likes being bombed” or “Putin kills all his enemies except the ones who are telling you he does” or “the Panama Papers prove Putin’s corruption even though his name isn’t mentioned” or, indeed, “Russia swung the US election with a trivial number of social media posts”. Oh, and RT is rotting our minds. Even if no one you know has ever watched it.

They are paid to believe what they believe to be paid.

 

 

REALLY STUPID THINGS SAID ABOUT RUSSIA

For example, in Georgia in 2008, without using American military forces on the ground, we used a whole set of – a whole smorgasbord of tools, international tools with Sarkozy, the president of France at the time, leading the international diplomatic effort, sanctions and other actions that eventually saw the Russians withdrawing to their start positions at the beginning of that conflict in Georgia. So that’s an example of how you can do it.

Briefing by James F. Jeffrey, (US) Special Representative for Syria Engagement, 14 November 2018

I’ve been waiting for Washington to claim it pushed Russia out of Georgia and now here it is. The Russians never had any intention of staying and that’s a big difference between the Russia way of war and the American: the Russians know that there are only certain things you can do with violence; the Americans still haven’t figured that out.

AMERICAN WAR DECLARATION

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation; picked up by JRL/2018/193/25)

 

Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in the US State Department, gave a remarkable presentation to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 21 August 2018. Titled “U.S. Strategy Towards the Russian Federation” it ostensibly lays out the US reaction to Russia’s continuing aggression, hostility, interference and so forth. It is written in the tone of a sadder but wiser householder who, formerly expecting better from his neighbour, now realises that there will be no better: the neighbour, alas, is not capable of decent behaviour. While remaining ever hopeful that reason will prevail, the peaceful neighbour must gird himself for an unpleasant struggle – Washington must respond to Moscow’s disruption. How sad.

But in all of these areas, it is up to Russia, not America, to take the next step. Our policy remains unchanged: steady cost-imposition until Russia changes course.

But, in an interesting slip of the tongue, he gave away the real policy. I say “slip of the tongue” because the State Department version of his speech leaves out the two sentences that tell you that most of Mitchell’s testimony is sleight of hand to distract the audience.

Senate testimony version

The starting point of the National Security Strategy is the recognition that America has entered a period of big-power competition, and that past U.S. policies have neither sufficiently grasped the scope of this emerging trend nor adequately equipped our nation to succeed in it. Contrary to the hopeful assumptions of previous administrations, Russia and China are serious competitors that are building up the material and ideological wherewithal to contest U.S. primacy and leadership in the 21st Century. It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers. The central aim of the administration’s foreign policy is to prepare our nation to confront this challenge by systematically strengthening the military, economic and political fundaments of American power.

The State Department version leaves out the two emphasised sentences.

So, Mitchell – who ought to know – is telling us that a “foremost [but there can be only one foremost] national security interest” of the USA is to

prevent the

domination of

the Eurasian landmass by

Russia and China

In 1904 Halford Mackinder wrote a paper in which he divided the world into “the World-Island” (Europe, Asia and Africa); the “Offshore islands” (British Isles, Japan and others), and “the Outlying Islands” (the Americas and Australia) and discussed the geopolitical implications. In 1919 he summed his theory up as:

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;

who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;

who rules the World-Island commands the world.

In Mitchell’s presentation, the principal “Outlying Island” and its allies in the “Offshore Islands” must prevent Russia and China from controlling the “Heartland”. Echoed by George Friedman’s remarks that the essence of US policy for a century or more was to prevent Germany and Russia from uniting.

Now Americans have always been a bit uncomfortable about their imperium. Going so far sometimes as to deny that there is any such thing. Perhaps a hegemony but only an empire if President Bush makes the wrong decisions (which I suppose the author would say he did). Niall Ferguson says it’s an “empire in denial“. Friedman seems prepared to use the word. A “tempered American imperialism” maybe. Not an empire; yes it is but it’s a good empire. And so on: there’s as much or as little debate as you want but the central reality is that Americans are not comfortable with the idea of being an imperial power. Not so the Romans: they gloried in it; Rome had the power and it used it. Cato the Elder was delighted with the death and enslavement of the Carthaginians. Caesar claimed to have killed a million Gauls and enslaved a million more and there’s nothing to suggest he lost a moment’s sleep over it. Vae victis.

What Mitchell would be saying, if he were a Roman, is that we intend to remain the world’s predominant power and if Russia is an obstacle, we will crush it. That’s the way of the world and that’s what we’ll do. And China and Iran and anyone else. But he’s an American so he must pretend that the USA is the peaceful householder and Russia is the troublesome neighbour; he must tell the Senate committee, and it so expects, that Moscow has broken the peace and deserves punishment.

The specific charges he makes against Russia are nonsense.

In Ukraine, we have maintained an effort under Ambassador Kurt Volker to provide the means by which Russia can live up to its commitments under the Minsk Agreements.

The word “Russia” doesn’t even appear in the Minsk Agreements; there are no “commitments”.

unprecedentedly brazen influence operations orchestrated by the Kremlin on the soil of our allies and even here at home in the United States

A few Facebook ads, most of which appeared after the election and only “Russian” by assertion. Even at the most generous interpretation of “Russian-influenced”, it’s a negligible number of possibles. And, as I have argued elsewhere, had Moscow wanted to influence the election it would have used the Uranium One case to either blackmail or smear Clinton.

Putin wants to break apart the American Republic, not by influencing an election or two, but by systematically inflaming the perceived fault-lines that exist within our society. His is a strategy of chaos for strategic effect.

I suppose that the “factual basis” for that is that some American who wants to break California into two parts lives part time in Moscow and a Russian professor thought that the USA would break up into a number of pieces. So what? there are lots of opinions around, who cares what some academic says or thinks? Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was a lot closer to power than these Russians, thought that a “loosely confederated Russia” of three parts would be a good idea. And Stratfor’s Friedman thinks Russia will break up soon. But when a senior US official says that “Putin wants to break apart the American Republic”, that’s existential; that’s a pretty serious charge. Is it a nuclear war kind of charge?

the Putinist system’s permanent and self-justifying struggle for international dominance.

(But didn’t Mitchell say something about preventing the “domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers”? Wouldn’t his Russian equivalent be able to point to his speech and talk about how Russia must resist Washington’s “permanent and self-justifying struggle for international dominance”?). It’s not Moscow that has 800 or so military bases around the world; Moscow isn’t expanding its military alliance to the US border. Projection.

There’s lots of projection in Washington’s and its minions’ assertions about Russia. As far as official Washington is concerned, Moscow’s resistance to the Imperium can only mean that it wants to crush the US, break it up, incite civil war and impose its imperium on the world. (Romans would agree: either Rome eats, or Rome is eaten.) If you look in a mirror you see yourself. Projection again.

Doing so involves an evolved toolkit of subversive statecraft first employed by the Bolshevik and later the Soviet state, which has been upgraded for the digital age. While these tools and technologies differ depending on the context, the key to their success is that the Kremlin employs them within a common strategic and operational framework aimed at leveraging all available means to achieve a decisive strategic effect.

Bolsheviks, Putinists whatever: Russia, the Once and Future Enemy. I think my favourite part – what adjective? – deluded? crazy? insane? McCartheyesque? is this bit:

we formed a new position – the Senior Advisor for Russian Malign Activities and Trends (or, SARMAT) – to develop cross-regional strategies across offices.

SARMAT – a Russian ICBM named after the Sarmatians, who may have been the origin of the Arthurian legends. Is this a joke? But who can tell these days? But one can be certain that the office will grow and grow as it busily finds evidence of Russian involvement everywhere: Star Wars, organic food, guns, Mueller, vaxx; whatever brings in the salaries and promotions. (But a rather unimaginative name though: why not SPecial Executive for Countering Terrorist Russian Excesses? Or Special Ministry for Engaging Russian Sabotage and Horrors?)

Pretty crazy stuff indeed – frighteningly so – but, thanks to Mitchell giving away the secret, we don’t have to waste our time debating Russia and Ukraine or how cute puppies “sow discord and chaos“. They’re only shoved in because Americans have to be the white hats – “Moscow is attacking us!” – when a Cato would bluntly say: “Moscow must be destroyed!” But it’s the same thing: it’s a Mackinder war. So far with sanctions (the economic fundament) and propaganda accusations (the political fundament). The military fundament fortunately remains offstage.

***********************

But Mitchell is late to the party. Moscow and Beijing know they’re on the hitlist and their alliance grows and strengthens. Iran, a significant player on the “World-Island” knows it’s on the hitlist too. India is playing both sides. The endless American wars in the MENA do not strengthen Washington’s control of the “Eurasian landmass”. CAATSA will alienate everyone else. Even Zbigniew Brzezinski came to understand “[the US was] no longer the globally imperial power“.

I would argue that the American dominance of the Twentieth Century was principally due to four factors. A tremendous manufacturing capacity; great inventive ingenuity allied to the ability to exploit new inventions; a stable political system; the emotive reality of “the American Dream”. How much remains? A recent government report summarises the outsourcing of manufacturing. Is the inventive capacity more than just social media, pop music or a different iPhone button? Political stability wobbles. And as to the American Dream: will your children be better off than you are? One should not forget that Trump was elected on the slogan “Make America Great Again“.

Perhaps the Mackinder War has already been won by the “Heartland” powers.

********************************

Statement of A. Wess Mitchell

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

U.S. Strategy Towards the Russian Federation

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Menendez, thank you for inviting me to testify today. I will use my prepared comments to outline in brief form the overarching strategy of the United States towards the Russian Federation. The foundation for this strategy is provided by three documents, as directed and approved by the President: the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and the Russia Integrated Strategy.

The starting point of the National Security Strategy is the recognition that America has entered a period of big-power competition, and that past U.S. policies have neither sufficiently grasped the scope of this emerging trend nor adequately equipped our nation to succeed in it. Contrary to the hopeful assumptions of previous administrations, Russia and China are serious competitors that are building up the material and ideological wherewithal to contest U.S. primacy and leadership in the 21st Century. It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers. The central aim of the administration’s foreign policy is to prepare our nation to confront this challenge by systematically strengthening the military, economic and political fundaments of American power.

Our Russia policy proceeds from the recognition that, to be effective, U.S. diplomacy toward Russia must be backed by “military power that is second to none and fully integrated with our allies and all of our instruments of power.” To this end, the administration has reversed years of cuts to the U.S. defense budget, begun the process of

recapitalizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, requested close to $11 billion to support the European Deterrence Initiative, and, in the past year and a half, worked with NATO Allies to bring about the largest European defense spending increase since the Cold War – a total of more than $40 billion to date. In addition to commitments from over half of the Alliance to meet NATO’s two-percent defense spending requirement by 2024, the United States achieved virtually all of our policy objectives at the NATO Summit, including the establishment of two new NATO Commands (including one here in the United States), the establishment of new counter-hybrid threat response teams, and major, multi-year initiatives to bolster the mobility, readiness, and capability of the Alliance.

In tandem, we have worked to degrade Russia’s ability to conduct aggression by imposing costs on the Russian state and the oligarchy that sustains it. Building on Secretary Pompeo’s recent testimony, I am submitting for the record a detailed list of actions this administration has taken. These include, to date: 217 individuals and entities sanctioned, 6 diplomatic and consular facilities closed or kept closed, and 60 spies removed from U.S. soil. The State Department has played the lead role in ensuring that these efforts are closely and effectively coordinated with European allies through synchronized expulsions and the continued roll-over of sanctions related to Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.

Our actions are having an impact. Research by the State Department’s Office of the Chief Economist shows that on average sanctioned Russian firms see their operating revenue fall by a quarter; their total asset valuation fall by half; and are forced to fire a third of their employees. We believe our sanctions, cumulatively, have cost the Russian government tens of billions of dollars on top of the broader impact on state-owned sectors and the chilling effect of U.S. sanctions on the Russian economy. Following the announcement of sanctions in April, the Russian company Rusal lost about fifty percent of its market value. In the five days following our August 8 announcement of Chemical and

Biological Weapons Act sanctions, the ruble depreciated to its lowest level against the dollar in two years.

Even as we have imposed unprecedented penalties for Russian aggression, we have been clear that the door to dialogue is open, should Putin choose to take credible steps toward a constructive path. In Syria, we created de-escalation channels to avoid collisions between our forces. In Ukraine, we have maintained an effort under Ambassador Kurt Volker to provide the means by which Russia can live up to its commitments under the Minsk Agreements. But in all of these areas, it is up to Russia, not America, to take the next step. Our policy remains unchanged: steady cost-imposition until Russia changes course.

As with the overall strategy, the premise of these efforts has been that our diplomacy is most effective when backed by positions of strength. We have placed particular emphasis on bolstering the states of frontline Europe that are most susceptible to Russian geopolitical pressure. In Ukraine and Georgia, we lifted the previous administration’s restrictions on the acquisition of defensive weapons for resisting Russian territorial aggression. In the Balkans, American diplomacy has played a lead role in resolving the Greece-Macedonia name dispute and is engaging with Serbia and Kosovo to propel the EU-led dialogue. In the Caucasus, Black Sea region, and Central Europe we are working to close the vacuums that invite Russian penetration by promoting energy diversification, fighting corruption, and competing for hearts and minds in the lead-up to the 30th anniversary of the end of Communism.

Our strategy is animated by the realization that the threat from Russia has evolved beyond being simply an external or military one; it includes unprecedentedly brazen influence operations orchestrated by the Kremlin on the soil of our allies and even here at home in the United States. These activities are, as FBI Director Wray recently stated, “wide and deep,” being both extensively resourced and directed from the highest levels of the Russian state. We work closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and, and

the National Security Council to ensure that all relevant resources are being brought to bear to thwart and punish any Russian influence campaigns in the run-up to the elections.

It’s important to state clearly what these campaigns are and are not about.

What they’re not about is any particular attachment to specific U.S. domestic political causes. They are not about right or left or American political philosophy. The threat from Russian influence operations existed long before our 2016 presidential election and will continue long after this election cycle, or the next, or the next. As the recent Facebook purges reveal, the Russian state has promoted fringe voices on the political left, not just the right, including groups who advocate violence, the storming of federal buildings and the overthrow of the U.S. government. Russia foments and funds controversial causes – and then foments and funds the causes opposed to those causes. Putin’s thesis is that the American Constitution is an experiment that will fail if challenged in the right way from within. Putin wants to break apart the American Republic, not by influencing an election or two, but by systematically inflaming the perceived fault-lines that exist within our society. His is a strategy of chaos for strategic effect. Accepting this fact is absolutely essential for developing a long-term comprehensive response to the problem. The most dangerous thing we could do is to politicize the challenge, which in itself would be a gift to Putin.

What Russian efforts are about is geopolitics: the Putinist system’s permanent and self-justifying struggle for international dominance. As stated by a handbook of the Russian Armed Forces, the goal is “to carry out mass psychological campaigns against the population of a state in order to destabilize society and the government; as well as forcing a state to make decisions in the interests of their opponents.” Doing so involves an evolved toolkit of subversive statecraft first employed by the Bolshevik and later the Soviet state, which has been upgraded for the digital age. While these tools and technologies differ depending on the

context, the key to their success is that the Kremlin employs them within a common strategic and operational framework aimed at leveraging all available means to achieve a decisive strategic effect.

The State Department takes this threat very seriously. From my first day on the job, I have established for our team that countering this threat, in both its overt and covert forms, will be among the highest priorities for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. As a co-chair of the Russia Influence Group, I work with General Scapparotti to bring the combined resources of EUR and EUCOM to bear against this problem. Under EUR’s leadership, all 50 U.S. missions located in Europe and Eurasia are required to develop, coordinate and execute tailored action plans for rebuffing Russian influence operations in their host countries.

Within the Bureau, we recruited one of the architects of the Global Engagement Center legislation from the staff of a member of this committee; in addition, we formed a new position – the Senior Advisor for Russian Malign Activities and Trends (or, SARMAT) – to develop cross-regional strategies across offices. Early this year, EUR created a dedicated team within the Bureau to take the offensive and publicly expose Russian malign activities, which since January of this year has called out the Kremlin on 112 occasions. Together with the GEC, EUR is now working with our close ally the UK to form an international coalition for coordinating efforts in this field. The State Department requested over $380 million in security and economic assistance accounts in the President’s 2019 Budget for Europe and Eurasia that can be allocated toward combatting Russian malign influence.

In these efforts, we recognize that Congress has an important role to play in providing the tools and resources that will be needed to deal effectively with the combined Russian problem set. As Secretary Pompeo made clear in his recent testimony, we are committed to working with all of you to make headway against this problem and align our efforts in support of the President’s Russia strategy.

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for inviting me to speak today. I welcome your questions.

OCKHAM’S RAZOR AS A GUIDE TO SLICING NONSENSE AWAY

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation)

Why “razor”? Because it cuts away the unnecessary and redundant. Several Latin versions but this is the one I remember: noli multiplicare entia praeter necessitatem. Literally: “do not multiply essences without necessity” which is Medieval for “don’t make your theory any more complicated than it has to be” or “the simplest explanation is the best”. Or Newton (another Englishman, four centuries later): “Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes“. The modern American equivalent would be KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

On the anniversary of 911 we were again inundated with theories about “controlled explosions“. A great deal, if not almost all, of the “evidence” that 911 was an inside job is the presumed “free fall” of the buildings, jet fuel can’t melt steel, thermite and many many other supposed “proofs” that the buildings were actually collapsed by a planned implosion. I have never found this convincing and am perplexed why so much energy is spent arguing back and forth.

A more productive approach is to turn the question upside down which is the practical application of “Ockham’s Razor”. “Turning the question upside down” is a technique I recommend. And there is much relevance to an intelligent and independent-minded assessment of the Western propaganda war: Litvinenko, Skripal, US election interference, Assad and chemical weapons. If the West really had evidence for its accusations, it wouldn’t be relying on Bellingcat. Ockham’s Razor slices off the nonsense.

The essence of the “conspiracy theory” conspiracy theory is that everyone is so busy arguing over minutiae that they never ask whether the fundamental assumption makes sense. Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would try to kill Skripal years after he was traded? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about perfume bottles? Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would kill Litvinenko by such a convoluted and detectable way? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about tea rooms? Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would try to swing the US election without using his best information? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about a ten minute meeting with a Russian lawyer? Does it fundamentally make sense that Assad would kill children with Sarin in the hour of victory? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about holes in roads? The more we argue about perfume bottles, holes or tea cups, the more the lies stick. And maybe that’s the intention: “The point of propaganda is to leave an impression after the details have been forgotten“.

Ockham’s Razor starts to cut when you ask yourself:

if it was a conspiracy, what is the simplest conspiracy?

911 is an illustration. Let’s pretend that our Secret Hidden Masters decide that a “War on Terror” would be good for them and that an attack on some American landmark by Crazy Muslim Fanatics will start it off. Angry Muslims are set up; easy enough: entrapments are done all the time. The Masters figure out a way to control the planes because they can’t be sure the dummies can or will do what what they’re supposed to do. They block communications because passengers phoning to say the hijackers are panicking too would wreck the story. And, on The Day, the planes hit the Twin Towers, they burn out leaving a memorable and exploitable image: lower two-thirds white, black above: “Candles of freedom” “Re-Light Freedom!” “Remember the Candles!”. The slogans write themselves. Chalked on bombs: 9 and two white stripes with black tops! Not too complicated: most of the people who could reveal the conspiracy die and the few others (who aren’t already in “The Club”) can have quiet car accidents off stage. A powerful effect at minimum exposure.

But suppose that one conspirator wants the buildings to come down. But this would be absurdly over-complicated: it takes a long time to openly prepare an empty building for a planned detonation; how much longer when you have to do it in secret? Every night you have to bet that several hundred people will notice nothing; every day you have to bet that several thousand notice nothing. They all know that the buildings were a target before and they will phone security. And if one person does, the plot is blown. Odds of millions to one, risking everything, for no discernible advantage.

Competent conspirators want their conspiracies to be simple, manageable and easy to execute. They want the risk of discovery to be as low as possible. Keep the buildings standing; it will serve the purpose just as well, or even better, and at a fraction of the risk. So, William of Ockham tells you to stop poring over videos: the controlled demolition stuff didn’t happen because it would have added immense and unproductive complication.

And he tells us that Putin didn’t kill Litvinenko by dribbling radioactive poison in every restaurant in London; he didn’t try to kill Skripal by scattering a nerve agent randomly around Wiltshire; he didn’t manipulate Americans “to get me out of the way”, ignoring his most powerful weapon; Assad doesn’t gas children to make his enemies attack him; Kerry doesn’t actually have data on MH17.

It’s not all that complicated once you think about the fundamental probability.

Noli multiplicare entia praeter neccesitam

What actually did happen? Who killed Litvinenko, brought down MH17, executed 911, what’s the story on the Skripals? It’s not our job to refute the Gish Gallop of accusations; the accusers are obliged to prove their cases. They have to prove them not by megaphone, petitio principii, Bellingcat’s inventions or by starting other false hares; they have to use the same old boring methods that we used to see English detectives do in dozens of BBC TV series: evidence, argument, proof. So, less “Litvinenko: A deadly trail of polonium“, more Miss Marple and Poirot from the BBC, please. To quote another fictional English detective who would be unable these days to get a job either in the BBC or in Her Majesty’s Government:

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

But I forget Ockham’s Razor: these accusations are not the result of detection, they do not involve reasoning, they’re Goebbels, they’re not Holmes. Propaganda.

(PS. I have referred to 911 to show that not all examples of petitio principii are done by the Establishment. It is depressingly common to assume the answer and remain in the bubble: confirmation bias, it’s called.)