"The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes. In other words, what you show people, day in and day out, is political... And the most politically indoctrinating thing you can do to a human being is to show him, every day, that there can be no change. " WIM WENDERS
Russia has hinted in the past that the United States is covertly sponsoring the Islamic State in Afghanistan. On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson raised the bar by alleging that “foreign fighters” who were transferred by “unknown helicopters” have perpetrated a massacre of Hazara Shias in the Sar-e-Pol province in northern Afghanistan. The spokesperson said:
We can see attempts to stir up ethnic conflict in the country… Cases of unidentified helicopter flights to territory controlled by extremists in other northern provinces of Afghanistan are also recorded.
For example, there is evidence that on August 8, four helicopters made flights from the airbase of the Afghan National Army’s 209th corps in Mazar-i-Sharif to the area captured by the militants in the Aqcha district of the Jowzjan province.
It is noteworthy that witnesses of these flights began to fall off the radar of law enforcement agencies. It seems that the command of the NATO forces controlling the Afghan sky stubbornly refuses to notice these incidents.
From the above, it appears that sections of the Afghan armed forces and the NATO command (which controls Afghan air space) are hand in glove in these covert operations. No doubt, this is a very serious allegation. The attack on the Hazara Shias must be taken as a message intended for Tehran.
Historically and culturally, Iran has affinities with the Hazara Shia community in Afghanistan. Possibly, the Trump administration, which has vowed to overthrow the Iranian regime, is opening a ‘second front’ by the IS against Iran from the east.
Interestingly, Russian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement on Friday on the alarming drug situation in Afghanistan. It pointed out that:
A sharp increase in drug production is expected in Afghanistan this year and one-third of the country’s population is now involved in cultivation of opium poppy.
The geography of the Afghan drug trafficking has expanded and now reaches African continent.
Tonnes of chemicals for processing narcotics are illegally imported into Afghanistan – with Italy, France and Netherlands “among main suppliers”.
The US and NATO are either unwilling or incapable of curbing the illegal activity.
Russia and Iran cannot turn a blind eye to the hostile activities by the US (and NATO) in their backyard, transforming the anti-Taliban war into a proxy war. They cannot but view the Afghan conflict through the prism of their deepening tensions with the US.
What are Russia’s options? The Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with the top brass in Moscow on August 18 that the Afghan conflict poses a threat to Central Asia’s stability. He said that Russia plans to hold joint military exercises later this year with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Russia has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Again, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan, said recently that if the Afghan government and the US are unable to counter the IS threat, Russia will resort to military force. Kabulov disclosed that Russia has raised in the UN Security Council the air dropping of supplies for the IS fighters in at least three provinces in northern Afghanistan by unidentified aircraft.
Of course, it is inconceivable that Russia will put “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan. But if the IS breaches the borders of the Central Asian states, it becomes the “red line”, Russia will hit back.
Russia is reinforcing its bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Significantly, in a joint military exercise with Tajikistan in July, Russia tested its Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles, one of the most advanced weapons in the Russian arsenal, with a range of 500 kilometers and a payload of 700 kg. Iskander is equipped with terminal guidance systems with the capability to overcome missile defences. Iskander’s accuracy could be better than 10 meters. (Russia has deployed the deadly weapon to Syria.)
With the exit of White House strategist Steve Bannon, an inveterate anti-war ideologue in the Trump administration who wanted the Afghan war to be brought to an end, the generals now have the upper hand in controlling the US policy. Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor HR McMaster favour deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan.
The ‘known unknown’ is John Kelly, whom Trump recently appointed as his chief of staff. But there are enough indications that Kelly (a retired Marine Corps general and father of a fallen Marine, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010) almost certainly shares the opinion of Mattis and McMaster.
The more one looks at it, President Donald Trump’s real challenge is not about winning the war against the Taliban, but the high risk he’ll be incurring, by taking his generals’ advice, to put his imprimatur on a full-fledged proxy war in Afghanistan against Russia, Iran and China.
Russia's Foreign Minister doesn't seem very impressed by Israel's threat to bomb Assad's palace
Probably nobody was surprised when a senior Israeli official on Monday "warned the Russian government that if Iran continues to extend its reach in Syria, Israel will bomb Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace in Damascus".
Strong words. But Moscow doesn't seem particularly impressed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that his government has "no information" about anyone planning an attack on Israel—and reminded all relevant parties that bombing sovereign nations for no reason whatsoever is a violation of international law.
Moscow has no information about anyone preparing an attack on Israel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following his talks with the emir of Qatar on Wednesday.
"We don’t have any information about anyone preparing an attack on Israel," the Russian top diplomat said commenting on media reports stating that Iran plans to deploy high-precision missiles, capable of hitting Israel, to Syria and Lebanon.
While speaking about the nature of cooperation between Iran and Syria, the Russian foreign minister stressed that "if they [Iran and Syria] cooperate in any field without violating the foundations of international law, then no one should question their cooperation."
"If anyone in the Middle East or in other parts of the world plans to violate international law by infringing on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states, including the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, it is reprehensible," Lavrov added.
The spate of deadly US Navy collisions is a symptom of a wider morale crisis among American military forces. Part of the reason is that American troops are simply exhausted from being abused by political masters in Washington.
“Over-stretch” is one way of putting it. American forces continue to be assigned in overseas wars and operations around the globe with no end in sight. And for no credible purpose either.
This is not just a Navy problem. It affects all other branches of the US military: Army, Air Force, the Marines and National Guard.
When President Donald Trump announced his brazen U-turn sending more American troops back to Afghanistan, the move had the backing of the Pentagon’s top brass. No doubt stock prices for US arms manufacturers spiked.
But what about ordinary American soldiers? One can imagine renewed Afghan missions are not welcome, given that the US has been fighting its longest war – 16 years – in that country known as the "Graveyard of Empires."
Any army is only as good as the morale among soldiers. Morale depends on having a respected leadership and a credible just cause. In America’s case, there are neither of these attributes, therefore it is no surprise that morale diminishes, as does fighting effectiveness. Look at the appalling record of US military defeats or failures.
The fatal collision of a US Navy guided-missile destroyer this week with an oil tanker near Singapore – in which 10 missing American crew are feared dead – was the fourth major accident involving the Pacific 7th Fleet this year alone. The admiral of the fleet has been dismissed from his command post.
Several military commentators are pointing to low morale among rank-and-file Navy members, from being forced to spend longer periods at sea on deployment, with little training and demanding work hours.
As a report in military.com noted: "Operational demand around the globe… means less time at home for rest and training; crews are therefore operating with greater stress and exhaustion levels."
The report quotes Congressman Rob Wittman, of the House Armed Services Committee, saying: "I believe that there are even more basic causes for this systematic operational failure of our fleet including a demanding operational tempo, limited training opportunities and inadequate funding to support basic needs."
But here’s the paramount issue that is not mentioned. Why are US forces being increasingly despatched to Asia-Pacific?
Of course, it is to do with US imperial objectives of confronting China over its alleged expanding influence in that region. The ramped-up tensions with North Korea are also connected to the US aim of curtailing China.
When we say the "US aim" we mean precisely the ruling class and their imperial designs. What ordinary Americans get out of this strategic "Asian Pivot" is far from certain. Combine dubious mission with dubious leadership, long months away from home under wearying conditions, and is it any wonder that morale of crew members sinks?
The problem is much bigger than the US Navy and the Asia-Pacific. The American military must be the most internally conflicted force there is. The surge in wars ever since the September 11 terror incidents in 2001 was supposed to be about "defeating terrorism."
All too often, however, that official purpose has been distorted to serve ulterior objectives, such as regime change. How must American troops, navy and air men feel when they realize that their own commanders and intelligence agencies are supporting the same terrorists that the rank-and-file soldiers are supposed to be combating?
American troops no doubt know what’s going down on the ground. They will know that the Pentagon and CIA are arming and training terrorist death squads in Syria, Iraq, and, yes, Afghanistan.
Russia’s foreign ministry reported this month that foreign jihadist fighters are being flown by “unidentified” helicopters to various parts of Afghanistan. Some Taliban units have been identified driving US Humvee military vehicles. This covert duplicity all sounds like a repeat of America’s dirty wars in Syria and Iraq, where thousands of American troops were killed or maimed for life.
Over the past century, American forces have been involved in dozens of wars around the world. A case can be made that the First and Second World Wars were a just cause for the Americans. But all the other conflicts have been simply wars of aggression, carried out for some ulterior nefarious purpose. The official pretexts for these wars are always shown eventually to be fraudulent, whether it was fighting Soviet expansionism as in Korea and Vietnam, or fighting terrorism as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or, the biggest fraud of all, to protect human rights as in Libya and Syria.
The history of crimes and lies is catching up with American imperialism. Its never-ending need for wars around the world is no longer tenable. The US is not pursuing some noble crusade. It never has been. It is a warmongering state that is addicted to wars of conquest in order to satisfy the economic lust of its elites.
It’s easy for armchair generals like Donald Trump and his Joint Chiefs of Staff to threaten nuclear war against North Korea. But nobody of a sane mind could possibly accept this criminal recklessness.
In a recent media commentary, a former US nuclear missile launch officer, Bruce Blair, said that no-one among serving officers believes that Trump has any right to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.
“Nuking another country just because it seeks to acquire nuclear weapons enjoys virtually zero support from US nuclear troops,” wrote the former missile launch officer.
The inference is that there is widespread distrust of the American leadership and its motives. That again leads back to the issue of morale crisis among America’s military forces, across all sectors.
A military force is only capable if it has the will to fight a clearly identified enemy, whom it views as a threat to their country and compatriots.
For decades the American military has been abused with official lies and debased to conduct heinous crimes against humanity. But increasingly it seems the only enemy the US armed forces are up against are the rulers in Washington, with their imperialist schemes of world domination.
More than 80 years ago, the most decorated American soldier, Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), came to the stark conclusion that "war is a racket" – at least American wars are. Butler described his 34 years of service fighting wars in the Philippines, South America, the Caribbean, and China as being "a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."
One might conjecture that this realization is dawning on more and more serving US personnel. Their operations, sacrifices and violence against others is not for any just cause. This realization inevitably leads to flagging morale among ordinary servicemen, whether they are riding in a Humvee in the Middle East, installing missile systems in NATO countries on Russia’s border, or sailing ships that threaten nuclear war with North Korea and China.
Sooner or later, the lousy paycheck and missing family at home no longer makes sense or morality. To hell with it, as Smedley Butler declared.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
The only thing that the two groups have in common is a Salafist ("Islamist") ideology, but apart from that, any other comparison is superficial and ignores the many differences between them.
Trump's "new Afghan strategy" was really a formalization of the ongoing Hybrid War on CPEC, which at this stage seeks to drive the Taliban (banned in Russia) out of the Afghan-Pakistani border and replace them with ISIS-K terrorists, after which the US plans to manufacture a "plausible" "anti-terrorist" pretext via false flag attacks and cross-border infiltration for striking CPEC and later sanctioning it. The renewed global attention on Afghanistan as the staging ground for this grand operation has also brought the Taliban back into focus, seeing as how it's the most effective anti-government fighting force and already controls or influences approximately half of the country's territory, if not more.
The US has been fighting against the Taliban for 16 years now, yet it's been unable to defeat them, and it's doubtful that a paltry 4000 extra troops will make much of a tangible difference in the overall battlefield dynamics. In any case, the US is once again emphasizing the supposed anti-terrorist origins of the War on Afghanistan, bearing in mind that it and many other countries have classified the Taliban as a terrorist group. Be that as it may, however, the Taliban is nothing like Daesh (which is also banned in Russia), and the two regularly fightagainst one another in Afghanistan. In fact, despite their shared Salafist ideology, there's actually quite a lot that differentiates these two groups and contradicts any superficial comparison between them.
Critics of this approach claim that both were "created by the US", but that's not true in the case of the Taliban. The US did in fact provide military, material, and managerial support to their Mujahedeen forerunners from mid-1979 onwards with the intent of provoking the Soviet intervention that would later take place by the end of that year, but this doesn't mean that it created the Taliban movement that emerged from that conflict. While it's responsible for crafting the structural conditions of chaos that gave rise to what eventually came afterwards, one shouldn't get confused and automatically believe that this simplistic "cause-effect" relationship means that the Taliban is, therefore, an agent of American hegemony.
It's not, and the reality is that the Taliban is emblematic of perhaps the greatest example of blowback in American history, so let's take a closer look at what makes this group so different from Daesh:
Indigenous vs. Foreign
For starters, the Taliban is comprised of indigenous Afghan fighters, not the foreign jihadists who flocked to the battlefield to join Daesh.
Genuinely Popular vs. Unpopular
This makes the Taliban genuinely popular in Afghanistan, compared to the unpopularity of Daesh in "Syraq".
Historical Roots vs. New Creation
The Taliban embody the millennia-old Afghan nationalist tradition of resisting foreign military forces from as far back as the time of Alexander of Macedon, whereas Daesh formed just a few years ago.
No Foreign Support vs. Heavy International Backing
There have been speculative but unverified reports that Pakistan supports the Taliban, but that's it, while Daesh enjoyed heavy international backing prior to becoming the "pariah" that it is today.
Insurgency vs. Conventional Tactics
Because it has no external backing, the Taliban have been forced to wage an insurgency, but Daesh's foreign support allowed it to develop into a semi-conventional army with tanks and Humvees.
National Focus vs. Internationalism
The Taliban only care about regaining control of Afghanistan, which is totally unlike Daesh's plans to establish an international "caliphate" across most of the Eastern Hemisphere in Afro-Eurasia.
National Liberation Movement vs. Forcible Occupation
The above-mentioned factors advance the argument that the Taliban is actually a National Liberation Movement, which is a world apart from the forcible occupiers that Daesh is.
Anti-US vs. Pro-US
The Taliban have never willingly or inadvertently been a pawn of the US' geopolitical goals, but Daesh just so happens to always conveniently be corralled in the direction of the US' grand strategic interests.
Winning vs. Losing
And finally, the Taliban is on the upswing and is indisputably winning the war, which is the complete opposite of Daesh's rapid retreat and imminent defeat.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
In this 21st century Opium War, crops harvested in Afghanistan are essentially feeding the heroin market not only in Russia and Iran but especially in the US. Up to 93% of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan.
Contrary to predominant Western perception, this is not an Afghan Taliban operation. The key questions — never asked by Atlanticist circles — are who buys the opium harvests; refines them into heroin; controls the export routes; and then sell them for humongous profit compared to what the Taliban have locally imposed in taxes.
The hegemonic narrative rules that Washington bombed Afghanistan in 2001 in "self-defense" after 9/11; installed a "democratic" government; and after 16 years never de facto left because this is a key node in the Global War on Terror (GWOT), against al-Qaeda and the Taliban alike.
Washington spent over $100 billion in Afghan reconstruction. And, allegedly, $8.4 billion in "counternarcotics programs". Operation Enduring Freedom — along with the "liberation" of Iraq — have cost an astonishing several trillion dollars. And still the heroin ratline, out of occupied Afghanistan, thrives. Cui bono?
Have a SIGAR
An exhaustive Afghanistan Opium Survey details the steady rise of Afghan opium production as well as the sprawl in production areas; "In 2016, opium production had increased by approximately 25 times in relation to its 2001 levels, from 185 tons in 2001 to 4800 tons in 2016."
Another exhaustive report issued by the delightful acronym SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) even hints — discreetly — at the crucial connection; Operation Enduring Freedom feeding America's heroin epidemic.
Afghanistan is infested by contractors; numbers vary from 10,000 to tens of thousands. Military and ex-military alike can be reasonably pinpointed as players in the heroin ratline — in many cases for personal profit. But the clincher concerns the financing of US intel black ops that should not by any means come under scrutiny by the US Congress.
A Gulf-based intel source with vast experience across the Pentagon-designated "arc of instability" tells the story of his interaction with an Australian intel operative who served in Afghanistan; "This was about 2011. He said he gave US Army Intelligence and the CIA reports on the Afghan heroin trade — that US military convoys from the ports of Pakistan were being used to ship the heroin out of Afghanistan — much of it was raw opium — for distribution as their backhaul.
No one answered.
He then cornered the key army intelligence operations and CIA at a meeting and asked why no action was taken. The answer was that the goal of the US was winning the hearts and minds of the population and giving them the poppies to grow won their hearts. He was then warned that if he brought this issue up again he would be returned to Australia in a body bag."
The source is adamant, "CIA external operations are financed from these profits. The charge that the Taliban was using the heroin trade to finance their operations was a fabrication and a form of misdirection."
And that brings us to a key motive behind President Trump's going against his instincts and accepting a new Afghan surge; "In the tradition of the opium wars of perfidious Albion in the 19th century, in which opium paid for tea and silk from India, and the taxes on these silk and tea imports financed the construction of the mighty British Navy which ruled the seas, the CIA has built itself up into a most powerful agent based on the trillion dollar heroin trade. It is impossible for Trump to overcome it as he has no allies to tap. The military are working together with the CIA, and therefore the officers that surround Trump are worthless."
Past examples abound. The most notorious concerns the Golden Triangle during the Vietnam war, when the CIA imposed a food-for-opium scheme on Hmong tribesmen from Laos — complete with a heroin refinery at the CIA headquarters in northern Laos and the set up of nefarious Air America to export the opium.
The whole story was exposed on Prof. Alfred McCoy's seminal The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia — which drove Langley nuts.
A contemporary counterpart would be a recent book by Italian journalist Enrico Piovesana detailing the New Opium War in Afghanistan.
The return of Air America
A Pakistani intel source with vast Pashtun/ tribal area contacts delves into even more incendiary territory; "According to our best information the CIA has brought in their al-Qaeda-Daesh proxies into Afghanistan to justify the additional American troops". That would neatly tie in with Trump being cornered by his generals.
And then, there's Moscow. Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry was adamantly denouncing "foreign fighters" transferred by "unknown helicopters" as the perpetrators of a massacre of Hazara Shi'ites in a northern Afghanistan province; "It seems that the command of the NATO forces controlling the Afghan sky stubbornly refuses to notice these incidents."
It does not get more serious than that; Moscow denouncing sectors of the US-trained Afghan Armed Forces side by side with NATO engaged in covert ops supporting jihadis. Russian intel has hinted — discreetly — for quite some time that US intel is covertly sponsoring Daesh — a.k.a. "ISIS Khorasan" — in Afghanistan.
Russian intel is very much aware of the Afghan chapter in the New Great Game. Russian citizens are "collateral damage" of the Afghan heroin ratline as much as Americans. The Russian Foreign Ministry is tracking how tons of chemicals are being illegally imported into Afghanistan from, among others, "Italy, France and the Netherlands", and how the US and NATO are doing absolutely nothing to contain the heroin ratline.
Well, Air America, after all, never died. It just relocated from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the arid crossroads of Central and South Asia.
Exclusive: The U.S. mainstream media is touting a big break in Russia-gate, emails showing an effort by Donald Trump’s associates to construct a building in Moscow. But the evidence actually undercuts the “scandal,” reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
There is an inherent danger of news organizations getting infected by “confirmation bias” when they want something to be true so badly that even if the evidence goes in the opposite direction they twist the revelation to fit their narrative. Such is how The Washington Post, The New York Times and their followers in the mainstream media are reacting to newly released emails that actually show Donald Trump’s team having little or no influence in Moscow.
President Trump discusses his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)
On Tuesday, for instance, the Times published a front-page article designed to advance the Russia-gate narrative, stating: “A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.”
Wow, that sounds pretty devastating! The Times is finally tying together the loose and scattered threads of the Russia-influencing-the-U.S.-election story. Here you have a supposed business deal in which Putin was to help Trump both make money and get elected. That is surely how a casual reader or a Russia-gate true believer would read it – and was meant to read it. But the lede is misleading.
The reality, as you would find out if you read further into the story, is that the boast from Felix Sater that somehow the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow would demonstrate Trump’s international business prowess and thus help his election was meaningless. What the incident really shows is that the Trump organization had little or no pull in Russia as Putin’s government apparently didn’t lift a finger to salvage this stillborn building project.
But highlighting that reality would not serve the Times’ endless promotion of Russia-gate. So, this counter-evidence gets buried deep in the story, after a reprise of the “scandal” and the Times hyping the significance of Sater’s emails from 2015 and early 2016. For good measure, the Times includes a brief and dishonest summary of the Ukraine crisis.
The Times reported: “Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, said he had lined up financing for the Trump Tower deal with VTB Bank, a Russian bank that was under American sanctions for involvement in Moscow’s efforts to undermine democracy in Ukraine. In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Moscow. ‘I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,’ Mr. Sater wrote.”
But the idea that Russia acted “to undermine democracy in Ukraine” is another example of the Times’ descent into outright propaganda. The reality is that the U.S. government supported – and indeed encouraged – a coup on Feb. 22, 2014, that overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych even after he offered to move up scheduled elections so he could be voted out of office through a democratic process.
After Yanukovych’s violent ouster and after the coup regime dispatched military forces to crush resistance among anti-coup, mostly ethnic Russian Ukrainians in the east, Russia provided help to prevent their destruction from an assault spearheaded by neo-Nazis and other extreme Ukrainian nationalists. But that reality would not fit the Times’ preferred Ukraine narrative, so it gets summarized as Moscow trying “to undermine democracy in Ukraine.”
However, leaving aside the Times’ propagandistic approach to Ukraine, there is this more immediate point about Russia-gate: none of Sater’s boastful claims proved true and this incident really underscored the lack of useful connections between Trump’s people and the Kremlin. One of Trump’s lawyers, Michael Cohen, even used a general press email address in a plea for assistance from Putin’s personal spokesman.
The New York Times’ connect-the-dots graphic showing the Kremlin sitting atop the White House.
Deeper in the story, the Times admits these inconvenient facts: “There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises, and one email suggests that Mr. Sater overstated his Russian ties. In January 2016, Mr. Cohen wrote to Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, asking for help restarting the Trump Tower project, which had stalled. But Mr. Sater did not appear to have Mr. Peskov’s direct email, and instead wrote to a general inbox for press inquiries.”
The Times added: “The project never got government permits or financing, and died weeks later. … The emails obtained by The Times make no mention of Russian efforts to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign or the hacking of Democrats’ emails.”
In other words, the Russia-gate narrative – that somehow Putin foresaw Trump’s election (although almost no one else did) and sought to curry favor with the future U.S. president by lining Trump’s pockets with lucrative real estate deals while doing whatever he could to help Trump win – is knocked down by these new disclosures, not supported by them.
Instead of clearing the way for Trump to construct the building and thus – in Sater’s view – boost Trump’s election chances, Putin and his government wouldn’t even approve permits or assist in the financing.
And, this failed building project was not the first Trump proposal in Russia to fall apart. A couple of years earlier, a Moscow hotel plan died apparently because Trump would not – or could not – put up adequate financing for his share, overvaluing the magic of the Trump brand. But one would think that if the Kremlin were grooming Trump to be its Manchurian candidate and take over the U.S. government, money would have been no obstacle.
Along the same lines, there’s the relative pittance that RT paid Gen. Michael Flynn to speak at the TV network’s tenth anniversary in Moscow in December 2015. The amount totaled $45,386 with Flynn netting $33,750 after his speakers’ bureau took its cut. Democrats and the U.S. mainstream media treated this fact as important evidence of Russia buying influence in the Trump campaign and White House, since Flynn was both a campaign adviser and briefly national security adviser.
Green Party leader Jill Stein and retired Lt. General Michael Flynn attending a dinner marking the RT network’s 10-year anniversary in Moscow, December 2015, sitting at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But the actual evidence suggests something quite different. Besides Flynn’s relatively modest speaking fee, it turned out that RT negotiated Flynn’s rate downward, a fact that The Washington Post buried deep inside an article on Flynn’s Russia-connected payments.
The Post wrote, “RT balked at paying Flynn’s original asking price. ‘Sorry it took us longer to get back to you but the problem is that the speaking fee is a bit too high and exceeds our budget at the moment,’ Alina Mikhaleva, RT’s head of marketing, wrote a Flynn associate about a month before the event.”
Yet, if Putin were splurging to induce Americans near Trump to betray their country, it makes no sense that Putin’s supposed flunkies at RT would be quibbling with Flynn over a relatively modest speaking fee; they’d be falling over themselves to pay him more.
So, what the evidence really indicates is that Putin, like almost everybody else in the world, didn’t anticipate Trump’s ascendance to the White House, at least not in the time frame of these events – and thus was doing nothing to buy influence with his entourage or boost his election chances by helping him construct a glittering Trump Tower in Moscow.
But that recognition of reality would undermine the much beloved story of Putin-Trump collusion, so the key facts and the clear logic are downplayed or ignored – all the better to deceive Americans who are dependent on the Times, the Post and the mainstream media.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).