Can Trump’s Neocons Exploit Russiagate? (2/2)

However much Russiagate may annoy Trump personally, administration officials like H.R. McMaster are seizing on it to advance a militarist agenda at home and abroad. Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate discuss


AARON MATÉ: It’s the Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. This is part two of my conversation with Max Blumenthal, best selling author and senior editor of the Grayzone Project at The Real News. We’re talking about the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three organizations for allegedly meddling in the US political process through social media. One point I want to raise is a concern that I had in watching the reaction this weekend to Donald Trump’s Twitterstorm about the indictment. He used it to profess his innocence and continued to deny these claims of collusion. My concern in seeing the reaction is I’m worried that people are conflating an issue that I’m sure annoys Trump personally, this notion that he was elected with the help of Russia, conflating that with an issue that I’m not so sure if the people around him are so upset about, and can use for their own benefit.

For example, this weekend in Munich at Global Security Conference, we saw National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster declare that now, with this indictment, proof that Russia meddled in the US is incontrovertible. And McMaster recently has been warning about Russian meddling in the upcoming Mexican elections, where a leftist candidate happens to be in the lead. And hat I’m concerned is the people are missing that just because this issue annoys President Trump personally, that does not mean that it does not serve the agenda of the people around him, the people who are running policy in such influential ways, Mattis, McMaster, General Kelly, his chief of staff, who can very much use this issue of a foreign villain for their militaristic agenda, and furthermore use the distraction that all this focus on proving Trump-Russia collusion causes to meanwhile advance hawkish, militaristic policies vis-à-vis Russia that everyone is ignoring in the search for evidence of a Trump-Russia tie. Like, for example, arming Ukraine, something Obama didn’t even do, and increasing the NATO military presence right on Russia’s border.

I’m wondering your thoughts on that, the utility of Russiagate, not maybe for Trump, but the people around Trump.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: I’m so glad you brought up McMaster’s comments and that whole episode at Munich. We have to look at the bigger picture here, and realize this is the culmination of a long-standing, neoconservative attempt to reignite the Cold War for a variety of reasons. They want a massive arms buildup. The neoconservative movement really emerged from anti-Russian sentiment in the 1970s, beginning with the Jackson-Vanik sanctions, and they have managed to gain liberal consent through the election and the shock of the victory of Donald Trump. This is a really signal moment for the Robert Kegans and the William Kristols, who had been trying to put the US on a war footing against Russia and to essentially criminalize détente with a nuclear power. They despise Vladimir Putin, not because he’s not progressive, but because he is the main leader in the world who is challenging US hegemony in his periphery. That’s why. It has to do with NATO expansion, as you mentioned, it has to do with Ukraine. The failure of the US to put a NATO ally on Russia’s borders. All sorts of reasons. The failure of the US to enact regime change in Syria because of Russian intervention.

So, the liberals who are seeing this entirely through a partisan lens are missing the big picture and H. R. McMaster has basically been implanted in the Trump Administration after Michael Flynn was dimed out,as their direct channel into the National Security Kitchen Cabinet. Through H. R. McMaster, they implanted Fiona Hill, who is known simply for being at the Brookings Institute and writing a book-length attack on Vladimir Putin. She’s now kind of the in-house Russia expert. And another significant event happened at Munich when McMaster was on stage. A Russian senator rose from the crowd and asked McMaster if the US and the Trump Administration would be interested in any way on collaborating on cybersecurity and on de-escalating cyber attacks, basically, writing treaties against cyber attacks, and McMaster flat out rejected this proposal. This is the second time the US has rejected Russian proposals to sign treaties against meddling in cyber attacks. So, the Cold War continues with total liberal consent.

Another really disturbing development that I’ve witnessed in this past year is just the increasing role of the intelligence agencies in American life. Not just in American politics, where they’re dominating the House Intelligence and Senate Intelligence Committees through these Russia investigations, but in our culture. You have CNN and MSNBC signing a who’s who of former intelligence operatives from James Clapper to Michael Hayden to Philip Mudd to Jeremy Bash as contributors, and they don’t just function has contributors, they help design content, especially during crises, like when Donald Trump was pressured into authorizing the bombing of Syrian airfields in April 2017. This is a dangerous moment. I’ve been told by a friend who saw the film, Black Panther, which is dominating the box office this week, that the hero of that film is a CIA agent. It is virtually impossible now to criticize the FBI or the CIA, and you look at new media like Buzzfeed or VOX. They never report on the CIA. They simply use the CIA and FBI as a source and accept all of its claims as a gospel.

The intelligence community is this term that conveys the sense that this is a collection of wise men who go out in the woods to a Mensa meeting and read the oracle on what’s happening in the world and we have to accept all of their claims as the truth. So, it’s an incredibly dangerous moment where the American public, particularly liberals, particularly the base of people who marched against the war in Iraq and were skeptical of George W. Bush’s claims are being depoliticized. The country is being de-democratized and we’re witnessing a quiet coup by the intelligence agencies under the cover of Russiagate and the narrative of Russian meddling.

AARON MATÉ: And you know, just quickly, there’s sort of an apparent contradiction here. On the one hand, if we’re supposed to reveal our intelligence agencies as the guardians of democracy. Well then, if it’s true that this Russian troll farm operation was an act akin to Pearl Harbor, then that would presumably be a pretty big screw up. We’re supposed to believe that what the intelligence agencies are guardians of the country, do amazing work, but then they also missed this troll farm operation that people are likening to an act of war.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: It’s not just that, but, yes, Pearl Harbor was also a big intelligence screw up. But leaving that aside, the Parkland shooting was a gigantic screw up by the FBI, and the FBI was in the hot seat all week until the Mueller indictment came down, and then the FBI again became the protector of democracy. So, there is something to the timing of it. And I think that the upcoming protests against gun violence in the US are extremely important and really should represent the heart of what the resistance should be about. But if you look at mainstream media, it’s being overwhelmed. The public outrage over gun violence, which is such a terrifying feature of this dystopian American life we live, is being overwhelmed by coverage of Russiangate and this Mueller indictment of 13 employees of a troll farm. It’s really scandalous.

Not only that, we’ve seen the veteran anti-gun activists from the Brady campaign go out and blame Vladimir Putin for the Parkland shooting. I mean, there are so many factors in this shooting to look at, and I don’t think one of them was Putin. It’s another factor, I think, in the de-democratization of Americans and the depoliticization of American liberals. Who can resist this narrative? I mean, it seems like one domino after another is falling and I don’t know where it will lead because unlike Libya, for example, unlike Iraq, Russia has deterrent capacity. It has nuclear weapons. It can push back against US attempts to even wage a proxy war in Ukraine. So, what will the US do? This is just such a disturbing moment and the reaction that I’ve see to this Mueller indictment is unlike anything I’ve witnessed since the reaction by the US public to 9/11. The difference is, 9/11 was an actual, real event.

AARON MATÉ: Just to explain what Max is referring to there about the FBI failing to prevent the shooting massacre in Florida, they received two tips, including one, as we reported on The Real News last week, that the shooter, Cruz, they received a tip about his “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” That’s from the FBI. They received a tip about that but failed to properly follow up.

We’re going to leave it there. Max Blumenthal is the senior editor of the Grayzone Project here at The Real News and a best selling author. Max, thank you.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me.

AARON MATÉE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.