Up above us there is a scientific laboratory circling the earth in a truly warming example of world-wide cooperation. The International Space Station (ISS) is an impressive scientific venture which for the last ten years has relied entirely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft and rockets for transportation of crews and materiel to and from the station in orbit. All launches and landings are from the Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome which is leased from Kazakhstan. According to the European Space Agency there have been 1680 successful launches, and the invaluable Wikipedia notes that “as of May 31, 2020, 240 individuals have made 395 spaceflights to the ISS.” Long-term ISS crews have been composed mainly of astronauts from the U.S. (53) and Russia (39).
It might be expected that this outstanding example of international cooperation would receive wide media cover and be greeted with approval by all who desire furtherance of international amity. Unfortunately, although there is indeed considerable support for the international aspects of the programme, the Western media largely ignores Russia’s part in its success and concentrates almost entirely on the involvement of SpaceX, a U.S. private venture company, in sending missions to the Space Station.
It was intriguing that the New York Times (for example), in its detailed 1500-word report of the first SpaceX astronaut launch on May 30, recorded that there were three crew already on board but mentioned only one name — that of U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy. You would have to go to the site of the Space Agency itself to learn that the other two were “Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.” The general principle for much of the Western media is to refrain from mentioning Russia in any positive context.
Which brings us to the fable about the supposed payment of bonuses to Afghan Taliban for killing U.S. military personnel. In June the New York Times headlined “Suspicions of Russian Bounties Were Bolstered by Data on Financial Transfers” and went on to say that “analysts have used other evidence to conclude that the transfers were most likely part of an effort to offer payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan.” This was an even bigger story than SpaceX, weighing in at over 5,000 words (including audio transcripts), and packed with amazing if somewhat dubious revelations.
The original story had been that “American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops . . . according to officials briefed on the matter.”
Then the Times was fed more juicy stuff and tried to confirm its allegations by reporting that “Afghan officials this week described a sequence of events that dovetailed with the account of the intelligence. They said that several businessmen who transfer money through the informal “hawala” system were arrested in Afghanistan over the past six months and were suspected of being part of a ring of middlemen who operated between the Russian intelligence agency, known as the G.R.U., and Taliban-linked militants. The businessmen were arrested in what the officials described as sweeping raids in the north of Afghanistan as well as in Kabul.”
The whole thing was nonsense, but attracted a great deal of attention and continues to be firmly believed by countless readers, if only because the Times (and many other media outlets) didn’t carry the NBC report that General Frank McKenzie, Commander of U.S. Central Command, was far from happy with the story. (A search of the New York Times or the Washington Post for ‘General Frank McKenzie’ does not come up with this account.) NBC recorded that “a detailed review of all available intelligence has not been able to corroborate the existence of such a program” and quoted the General as saying “It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me.”
It’s not surprising it has not been proved to any level of certainty, because like so many other stories it came from anonymous unaccountable “sources” who do not have to provide evidence for their tales to appear in the U.S. mainstream media as if they were undeniable reality. It appears that the lessons of the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” that led to the destruction of Iraq and chaos in the Middle East have not been learned.
The likes of Senator Richard Blumenthal remain true believers, however, and he tweeted supportively that “This administration has turned a blind eye to Russian aggression since day one. Intelligence powerfully shows that the Kremlin offered the Taliban bounties for killing Americans in Afghanistan, but the Trump admin prefers catering to Putin rather than protecting our servicemen & women.” This line of attack is two-fold, in that it bolsters the anti-Russia propaganda campaign while capitalising on Trump’s alleged statement that dead soldiers are “losers” and “suckers”.
Now Trump is undoubtedly a vulgar disgusting creep who you wouldn’t have in your house to clean a sink sump, and there is little doubt he said, for example, that the late Senator John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese was “not a war hero” because Trump “likes people who weren’t captured.” The man is contemptible, but the media is acting sleazily, to put it mildly, in linking that sort of repulsive rhetoric with the fabrication that Russia was paying Afghan insurgents to kill U.S. soldiers.
The pre-election pantomime in the United States has become a sloppy charade, with the president conducting himself in a fashion unbefitting a head of state. But his opponents, in seeking to tie him to supposedly sinister machinations, are lowering themselves to his grubby depths. The allegations about supposed Russian dabbling in the election process, now and in 2016, are used by both sides to deflect attention from the unpalatable fact that U.S. presidential elections are utterly chaotic.
In 2016 Trump got 61.2 million votes and his opponent, the evil Clinton (remember “we came; we saw; he died,” when President Gaddafi of Libya was murdered?), got 62.5 million — but Trump won. The weird system of the Electoral College negates simple democracy, and a combination of that fandango and the usual procedural incompetence was enough to ensure that the result did not reflect the wishes of the majority who voted.
But those who voted represented only 54 per cent of the voting-age population, and in any event, as reported by the Washington Post, “A Gallup poll two weeks before Election Day found that only one-third of Americans (35 percent) were “very confident” that their vote would be counted accurately. Even worse, when people around the world were asked how confident they were in the honesty of their elections, Gallup found that this year the United States ranked 90th out of 112 countries.”
The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University produced an analysis of the situation which concluded, inter alia, that “Party polarization disputing the outcome of the 2016 U.S. elections is only the latest set of problems which add to a system already creaking under the strain of the excess of money in politics, the lack of gender equality and minority representation in elected office, and effective electoral choice restricted through partisan gerrymandering. For all these reasons, the persistence of many serious flaws in American contests, and partisan attacks on elections without the capacity to mobilize effective reforms addressing these shortfalls, is playing with fire by threatening faith in American democracy.”
There is no need for any outside agency to try to influence America’s election process, because it is already a shambles. All that the world needs to do is sit back and shake its collective head at the monstrous slapstick and then try to live with what results. The claims that Russia is officially involved in “fixing” the process are bogus and made without evidence, just as were assertions of bonuses for killing soldiers. They are part of the anti-Russia propaganda campaign, which is gathering momentum.