Afghan tales

I’ve said before, and no doubt will say again, that depictions of Russia often have little to do with Russia itself and are more about those doing the depiction. For many in the Western world, Russia is, and long has been, a significant ‘other’, comparison with which serves a useful purpose in the creation of self-identity. Beyond that, negative (and on occasion even positive) portrayals of Russia feed into domestic political struggles and help legitimize one side or other in whatever argument people are having. Whether these portrayals of Russia are accurate is neither here nor there. What matters is their impact on domestic politics.

Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but historians who have looked at how Westerners have viewed Russia over the course of time have amassed enough evidence to show that it’s often the case. If you doubt it, then you have merely to look at what has happened in the United States in the past four years, during which time Russia has been elevated into enemy number one, an allegedly existential threat which is on the cusp of destroying American democracy and plunging the country into civil strife. The point of the Russiagate hysteria has never been Russia itself. Rather it has been to delegitimize the election of Donald Trump as American president by portraying him as, in effect, a traitor, who has sold out his country to a foreign enemy. This narrative, of course, presupposes a foreign enemy, for which purpose one has had to be created, and Russia has proven a convenient candidate for the role.

It is this, I think, which explains the latest Russia scandal to strike the United States – the claim this week in the New York Times that Russian military intelligence has been paying the Taleban in Afghanistan to kill Americans. I am, of course, not in a position to testify as to the accuracy of the complaint, but like others am deeply sceptical of anything that is based solely on the testimony of anonymous intelligence officials and that lacks any supporting evidence. Unsurprisingly, the New York Times’s story has led to much derision, being interpreted as a sign once again of the deeply Russophobic nature of the American press. I think, though, that that interpretation may miss the point, which is that the story, like so many others, is not really about Russia but rather yet another effort to discredit Donald Trump as a puppet in the control of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

This is because a key aspect of the story was an allegation that Trump had been briefed about Russia’s nefarious activity but had done nothing in response. As might be expected, Trump’s enemies in the media were quick to exploit the story to attack the president. For instance, MSNBC’s prime Russiagate cheerleader Rachel Maddow had this to say:

Not only does the president know … there was that unexpected and friendly conversation he had with Putin. … President Trump got off that call with Putin and immediately began calling for Russia to be allowed back into the G7. … That’s how Trump is standing up for Americans being killed for rubles paid by Putin’s government.

Maddow’s colleague, MSNBC morning news host Joe Scarborough, followed suit. ‘Donald Trump has known about Putin killing Americans for months and has refused even to condemn Russia diplomatically. What Republican senator will speak out against this shocking dereliction of duty?’ he tweeted. Other journalists were equally outright in their condemnation. ‘While Trump was cozying up to Putin, Russia was paying the Taleban to kill American troops in Afghanistan,’ said GQ’s Laura Bassett on Twitter; and so on.

Whether any of this was true was something that none of these journalists bothered to ask. They simply assumed that it was, for the obvious reason that always assuming the worst about Russia suits their political agenda. Most notably, Trump’s electoral rival, Joe Biden, said this about the president:

Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin. … His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale. It’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.

The problem with all this is that, as with so much of Russiagate, it appears to be entirely false. The White House immediately denied any knowledge of the Afghanistan story, and the Director of National Intelligence backed up Trump by confirming that, indeed, the president had never been informed about the alleged Russian activity. As so often, The New York Times appears to have been peddling ‘fake news’. None of this, however, has stopped Trump’s opponents from seizing on the story as further evidence of the president’s treachery.

The question in my mind is what will happen should Trump lose the presidential election in November, an outcome that now seems likely. It strikes me that there are two possibilities. The first is that the Democratic Party and its supporters will lose interest in stories of alleged Russian malevolence, as they will no longer be needed. A Biden victory in November could, therefore, lead to a lessening in the current rhetorical tension. The second possibility is that nothing will change. Democrats, I fear, have come to believe the nonsense that they have been peddling, to the extent that it’s become part and parcel of who they are. They are therefore incapable of altering course, and will govern on the basis of the prejudices they have generated in themselves over the past few years. I would like to think that the first possibility will come to pass, but I have to say that I’m not too optimistic. As for what will happen in the event that Trump is re-elected, I dread to think. But at that point, America might well be engulfed in flames, and Russia will be the least of anybody’s problems.

51 thoughts on “Afghan tales”

  1. Every time they come up with some story, you think: this is the absolute stupidest one possible. And yet, they always manage to come up with something even more stupid. Paying the Taleban to kill Americans. What’s next? Paying cats to meow and dogs to bark?

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      1. They’d say that the Taliban have shown signs of a willingness to negotiate and not fight as much, with the Russians looking to sabotage that. I don’t buy that for reasons noted further below.

        At play is projection. A Trump admin point man on Syria recently said that his job is to make things difficult for Russia in Syria.

        BTW, if memory serves correct, not too long ago, the Afghan and Pakistani governments expressed support for Russia getting involved with interacting with the Taliban.

        MSNBC and CNN were quite hokey last night with Adam Schiff puff pieces, which of course didn’t note his earlier BS about having proof of a Trump-Russia collusion.

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      2. I am sure that the Taleban are gravely insulted by the insinuation that they need bribing to kill infidels

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      1. Hmm. Well, what this Sreeram Chaulia guy writes for RT leaves me a bit skeptical.

        Sure, tribes in the Pakistan’s border area with Afghanistan are allied with Taleban, no question about that. But to what extent Pakistani government is complicit… I dunno. There could be some “sections”, as he says (or rather “elements”), but generally, as far as I know the tribal area is in conflict with the Pakistani establishment. And oftentimes this conflict is extremely violent, with airstrikes and suicide bombings, and tens of thousands of casualties.,,

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      2. Recall the US going into Pakistan to get OBL, without the Pakistani government’s apparent knowledge or approval.

        Compare with the “evidence” (crock) that the Russians put out a bounty on US troops. In the last two years, the number of US troops killed in Afghanistan has been (in relative terms) quite minimal.

        Related:

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  2. “The question in my mind is what will happen should Trump lose the presidential election in November, an outcome that now seems likely.”

    ****

    Still a long way to go. Don’t underestimate the Dem establishment screwing things up for themselves.

    Ad for the latest crapola, Tom Donilon wasn’t much of a voice of reason on Zakaria’s show today.

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  3. “Unsurprisingly, the New York Times’s story has led to much derision, being interpreted as a sign once again of the deeply Russophobic nature of the American press.”

    Unfortunately, this will have an impact on Americans uncritical of what they are told by the press. Vladimir Putin once offered to do all he could to help the Americans in their war in Afghanistan at the beginning, I can’t imagine he would sanction a bounty on American soldiers there now. While I’m not in a position to know the absolute truth, given the last three years, Democrat vituperation and Russophobia seems a more likely explanation.

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  4. “ For many in the Western world, Russia is, and long has been, a significant ‘other’, comparison with which serves a useful purpose in the creation of self-identity.”

    In mystical ceremony just after Waterloo, involving Lady of the Lake, her arm clothed in finest shimmering samite & holding aloft Excalibur, all enmity built up in 5 centuries of war with France got transferred to Russia.

    The US came down with its case of Russophobia in the early 1880s, just as it embarked on the construction of a globe-spanning navy. At that time, the US shifted Russia from the “Distant but friendly, and occasionally helpful power with which we have almost no conflicting interests” column to the “Blot upon, and insatiable menace to, global civilization, to be contained, punished, made to accept US leadership, to be remade in the US image” column.

    “The point of the Russiagate hysteria has never been Russia itself. Rather it has been to delegitimize the election of Donald Trump as American president by portraying him as, in effect, a traitor, who has sold out his country to a foreign enemy.”

    Indeed, precisely this was the Republican charge against the Democrats, from 1933 on. Even in the 1992 presidential elections, the Republicans seized upon Clinton’s brief trip to Russia while a Rhodes Scholar and turned it into “Moscow Bill went to Teh Kremlins to get his orders from Brezhnev!!!” It fell pretty flat of course, because of events in the USSR the previous December, but earlier it would have been far more effective.

    “ Democrats, I fear, have come to believe the nonsense that they have been peddling, to the extent that it’s become part and parcel of who they are. They are therefore incapable of altering course, and will govern on the basis of the prejudices they have generated in themselves over the past few years.”

    Exactly that happened with Republicans. The Wheel of Karma always turns a full circle.

    “I would like to think that the first possibility will come to pass, but I have to say that I’m not too optimistic.”

    You’re completely correct not to be. Russia plays the same role in US politics as it has for the Brits since shortly after the Napoleonic Wars.

    What I think it’s really about is that dominant maritime powers always hate, hate with undying passion, the biggest colored area on the globe that they don’t control, as long as they have any choice in the matter. All Kaisers Billy II & Adolf I managed to do was to force the Anglosphere to suspend their hostility to Russia, only to renew it once they were dealt with.

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    1. I’ve that book.

      On US based anti-Russian bigotry:

      https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=S7f5XoSpGcaqytMP65GzwAs&iflsig=AINFCbYAAAAAXvnFW1kFCNHaPGeHXXF9Xos6rff6iN0n&q=bernadine+bailey+the+captive+nations&oq=bernadine+bailey+the+captive+nations&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQDDoFCAAQsQM6AggAOgUIABCDAToHCAAQsQMQQzoECAAQCjoECAAQQzoGCAAQFhAeOgUIIRCgAToFCCEQqwI6BwghEAoQoAFQ4QVY3kpg7FZoAHAAeACAAbkBiAG1EpIBBDM0LjKYAQCgAQGqAQdnd3Mtd2l6&sclient=psy-ab&ved=0ahUKEwjE-uno3abqAhVGlXIEHevIDLgQ4dUDCAw

      A very good read in understanding the mindset of the pro-Bandera west Ukrainians who arrived in the US after WW II.

      As a follow-up on the Dems: in the north of the NYC burbs, two Dem foreign policy establishment politicos, Eliot Engel and Evelyn Farkas, got creamed in a recently held primary. The winners aren’t as committed to the neocon-neolib leaning foreign policy line.

      Related:

      https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/05/24/what-evelyn-fakas-trey-gowdy-and-some-others-dubiously-have-in-common/

      The likes of Sanders and AOC have their fault-lines. Hoping that there’s a gradual wasting away of the neocon-neolib foreign policy perspective among Repubs and Dems in place of something better. Tulsi Gabbard and Rand Paul have the potential for greater influence.

      Concerning the left coast and even putting aside political biases, there’s something noticeably wrong with Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Maxine Waters. Maybe they might go the route of Engel and Farkas, in the not too distant future.

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  5. …it seems unlikely that this could stop simply because the “Party and its supporters will lose interest”.

    I think the normal institutional dynamics dictate that loyal rank and file (and fonctionnaires) continue signaling their loyalty by parroting and amplifying already established dogmas and talking points.

    To stop this, I reckon it would require a clear, unambiguous directive. And then some.

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  6. Disputing the legitimacy of an apparently legitimately elected President(*) marks the death of US democracy and the US as an effective power outside its own petty domestic Politics. Presumably if the Democrans win the Presidency, the Republocrats will fling Ukrainegate/Burisma at them with equal enthusiasm.

    * – I do not support Trump or any of them as they are all a load of evil war-mongers (since Carter? in scale if not absolutely)

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    1. “Disputing the legitimacy of an apparently legitimately elected President(*) marks the death of US democracy and the US as an effective power outside its own petty domestic Politics. ”

      Then US democracy died in 1993, for from that point on, no Democratic victory was ever legitimate, and no Democratic initiative was ever to be met with anything but blind & uncompromising opposition.

      Bob Dole as Senate Minority Leader (Majority Leader after 1994) treated Bill Clinton exactly as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Majority Leader after 2010) treated Barack Obama, with total, uncompromising opposition to everything Clinton/Obama tried to do, apart from signing Republican legislation.

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      1. “Bob Dole as Senate Minority Leader (Majority Leader after 1994) treated Bill Clinton exactly as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Majority Leader after 2010) treated Barack Obama, with total, uncompromising opposition to everything Clinton/Obama tried to do, apart from signing Republican legislation.”

        ******

        Bob Dole and Bill Clinton worked well against the Serbs. Dole has an anti-Russian track record. Now ailing, Dole exhibited mean spirited prick attributes in his prime.

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  7. Tl;dr

    The term of the week is:

    “Donald Trump has known about Putin killing Americans for months and has refused even to condemn Russia diplomatically.”

    I, and other patriotic Russians, would like to know:

    – How many Americans did our President kill so far? I mean, sure, he knows judo and what not, but, just to keep the tally of the frags.

    – How much did he pay the Talibs for doing that? Hopefully, not too much.

    Hopefully, Rakhil Medova and others will help us with the full and succint answers.

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    1. The explanations given are that

      – Putin is a troublemaker,
      – form of payback for the Russian contractors killed by US military action in Syria and openly bragged about by some US elites
      – belief that the US and Afghan government have been lax in stopping the poppy fields, which doesn’t help the drug abuse situation in Russia.

      That said, I don’t buy this latest bounty claim on account of how it has been reported in a way that lacks specifics. Such reporting has happened before against Russia, which when found out to be bogus, is never highlighted as fake new,s by the media review likes of Brian Stelter and Howard Kurtz.

      In all likelihood, the bounty story will play out in the very same manner.

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      1. “That said, I don’t buy this latest bounty claim on account of how it has been reported in a way that lacks specifics.”

        But isn’t it just stupid on the face of it: when Taleban can kill Americans, surely they do. That is what they do. And, presumably, their motivation is much stronger than getting paid for it.

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      2. US governments haven’t been shy when outing the wrongs of a perceived adversary, as evidenced by the Cuban missile crisis and KAL 007 instances.

        It therefore stands to reason that if this bounty claim is actually true, we’d see the raw evidence in place of the underhanded instance.

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  8. Ok you say you’re not in the position to verify the accuracy of the reports but you decree that it’s just an election year ploy along the vein of Russiagate. There’s a glaring difference here between that and this. In Russiagate nobody died. I’m not sure who’s ass you’re contorting yourself to kiss here.

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  9. The Democrats are the war party

    Obama, Biden and Hillary Clinton started more wars than George Bush

    Wars in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Libya, escalated the war in Afghanistan and Somalia. And created another war in Iraq by encouraging the growth of Isis with the Arab monarchies.

    They took the hostility to Russia to another level. And enrolled the Europeans in this – without much difficulty.

    Obama and Biden are behind this new lie – which builds upon the Russiagate lies of the past 4 years.

    They are attacking Trump from the right – I am not sure this will work

    Hillary Clinton when she campaigned was so hawkish on Russia (talking about no fly zones in Syria ) I think she frightened voters into backing Trump who campaigned as an isolationist.

    The Democrats keep pushing and pushing this Russia hatred until the only option will be war.

    Do voters want war ? I don’t think so

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    1. Explains why the neocon-neolib foreign policy establishment preferred Eliot Engel and Evelyn Farkas, lost in a recent Democratic primary, to people who aren’t as committed to such a stance.

      Granted, the aforementioned victors might prove to be willing dupes of the existing order.

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    2. I can imagine the more deranged elements in the US policy establishment wishing a foreign conflict or in the case of a country actually able to damage America, a military stand off. This might unify a country in internal turmoil as a result of the bad handling of the Covid response and the potential ethnic conflict regarding BLM. Global economies will plunge to a New Great Depression why not take people’s minds off this by having a bit of jingoism.

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  10. Taking a moment to ‘zoom out’ a little what does it say or continue saying about America as a political entity? That they are all, irrespective of political hue, utterly untrustworthy. Changes of administration are always an opportunity for a reset but I fear that is no longer the case. America is in deep trouble in almost all sectors; economy, social stability, wealth, military, geopolitical etc. I think Russia cannot plan anything in their future which allows for significant agreement in any way with the US and even if the US tries in some small way(s) they simply are not to be trusted. Russias’ true future is now autarkic, granted significant involvement with China but its TRUE long term future can only realistically be one thing. Perhaps Putin knows this in his heart of hearts, hence the recent constitutional ‘adjustments’

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  11. This is pure rhetorical silver, if not gold, Paul:
    I’ve said before, and no doubt will say again, that depictions of Russia often have little to do with Russia itself and are more about those doing the depiction. For many in the Western world, Russia is, and long has been, a significant ‘other’, comparison with which serves a useful purpose in the creation of self-identity. Beyond that, negative (and on occasion even positive) portrayals of Russia feed into domestic political struggles and help legitimize one side or other in whatever argument people are having. Whether these portrayals of Russia are accurate is neither here nor there. What matters is their impact on domestic politics.

    From my specific point of view irony alert. Starting in late 2016 getting hotter in early 2017 the basic agendas in both camps were set. Followed by constant hammering in one’s camp’s points:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda-setting_theory#3_types_of_agenda-setting:_Policy-makers,_Media_and_Audience

    Russiagate vs Obamagate.

    Obamagate started slowly with what still felt like genuine impeachment fears. It was followed then by the diverse Coup Fears. Which of course the other side did its best to keep alive.

    What’s fascinatingly irritating is the reinforcement of the defensive walls the camp managed to erect against each other. Without doubt Russia in the end is a potential ally only to the extent it isn’t a competitor too. Ultimately for both camps. The rest is smoke and mirrors. 😉

    Anyway: In the process the outer rival/enemy/competitor mutated into an inner enemy to some extent. Equation: democrats=communists. Or worse the anti-fascist inner enemy or terrorist. For the record, I am not a fan of any variation of iconoclasts. Or windowpane smashing shoplifters or arsonists. But would assume it’s easy to invite the former.

    *******
    Concerning your two options in the end. It feels the biggest group among theoretical voters, the non-voter-block, may once again increase.

    If I were American I’d say: A plague on both your houses!

    *******

    But then, who knows, Durham may have a trump card up his sleeve that convinces the average US voter, that there was indeed a huge elite conspiracy against Trump and his MAGA deplorable gang.

    No fan of Biden … Another four years of someone, whom I consider a slightly distasteful self-promoter, but not always wrong. Although often. ;). Why not?

    We’ll see.

    Like

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