Ted Grimsrud—March 29, 2019
One of the glimmers of hope for those who were horrified with the installation of Donald Trump as president has been that his presidency would be hindered and perhaps even ended by the investigations into his malfeasance. It has, unfortunately, seemed fairly clear for some time that nothing too bad for Trump was going to come to light—and this week’s completion of the work of Mueller Commission has confirmed that.
Problems with Russiagate
From the beginning of the Mueller Commission’s investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russians, four things have particularly bothered me:
- I have been concerned that this investigation would heighten tensions between the US and Russia and rekindle Cold War-like dynamics between the two nations.
- I have a sense that we never actually have been shown evidence that Russia, even if involved, had an impact on the election that went beyond simply helping to publicize the misdeeds of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in using undemocratic means to tilt the scales in ways that favored Clinton and hurt the chances of Bernie Sanders. I think it was a good thing for those subversions of democracy to be revealed and if blame is to assessed it lies a lot more with Clinton and her campaign for their misdeeds than with the Russians.
- I have worried that the corporate media would not cover this story with careful scrutiny of all claims and would not practice objectivity and balance and would instead let sensationalism and the need to confirm preexisting biases govern how the story would be covered. I also worried that we would not see balance in the coverage of Russiagate with other elements of Trump’s and the Republicans’ in general corruption and destruction of democracy.
- I feared that this investigation might be a diversion from the need to create a more wide-ranging movement of resistance to the efforts by Trump and the Republican Party more generally to subvert democracy and aggrandize America’s corporate sector.
Part of why these concerns have been especially alarming is the sense that if indeed the Mueller inquiry did not result in a clear condemnation of Trump’s malfeasance, these four problems (and numerous others) would result in the entire process actually being a positive thing for Trump and his party. And it appears that we will in fact be finding out just how hurtful to the cause of peace on earth this diversion will prove to be.
So far this week, there have been numerous analyses from progressives that have made the kind of points I am making here—Ralph Nader, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, Branko Marcetic, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Caitlin Johnstone, Aaron Maté, Jeff Cohen, Alex Shepherd, Abby Martin, Jonathan Cook, and Stephen Cohen are just the few I have noticed. However, even these insightful commentaries have tended not to lift up the issue I am most concerned about—that is, how, shall we say, the mainstream liberal hostility toward Trump has actually significantly enhanced the forces of warism in the US.
One of the most problematic outcomes
One of the central assumptions in Russiagate from the very beginning has been that Russia is our enemy. I tend to think that this Russia-as-enemy motif was chosen by Trump’s liberal opponents (most of whom were strong Clinton supporters, in part because of her warism) because they thought that it would be the most effective way to stir up hostility toward Trump—not because they genuinely feared a Russian threat. “Let’s get at Trump by playing up his connections with Putin and other Russians, and let’s couch this as a threat to national security.”
This approach was effective in only one way, the worst way. Hostility toward Russia was expanded significantly. But this didn’t cost Trump himself much support. It did push Trump to be more hostile toward Russia, though, in potentially disastrous ways as he has ratcheted up tensions in spite of being labeled a “Russian asset” (or perhaps because of those labels, in order to counter them). The people surrounding Trump now are some of the worst warists in the American leadership class.
Keeping peace central
It is the standard rhetorical strategy at this point to suggest what American leaders should do instead of accelerating the momentum towards a new Cold War. I certainly agree that our leaders should try to change the dynamics in the relationship between the US and Russia to be more respectful, more focused on finding ways to move toward peaceable styles of relating. But true as that may be, such suggestions are little more than wishful thinking in our current setting.
So, I want more to focus simply on the disposition toward our leaders on the part of those of us who care about peace and are outside the circles of power. I think we can start on a personal level simply with a vow to use our convictions about peace as a basis for a critical evaluation of the positions espoused by people we might tend to be supportive of, in part because they share our antipathy toward Trump.
We should reject any effort to paint Russia as the enemy of the United States. We are not at war—and we should desperately want never to be at war—with Russia. Certainly we should support efforts to critique unjust actions by Russia—as we should support efforts to critique injustice on the part of “allies” such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel. I tend to think the injustices of that latter group of nations deserve even more scrutiny and opposition than those of Russia because the US is so complicit in so many of them. The reality that “in the real world there is so much injustice” is no justification for the kind of selective “moral outrage” that condemns those considered as enemies while turning a blind eye to our “friends.” To do so is deeply problematic because surely the US could more easily affect what our friends do—if we wanted to.
We should also be deeply suspicious toward rhetoric and posturing that serves to further policies that enrich the US military-industrial-complex. So far in the Trump years, there has been virtually no pushback to efforts to expand an already obscene pouring of wealth into the war machine and its corporate beneficiaries. Part of the terrible irony of Russiagate is that the Democratic Party’s “resistance” to Trump has mainly taken the form of increasing the adversarial dynamics that lead to ever more expansion of warism.
I believe that it is proper and necessary for people of good will in this country to seek to resist the efforts of Trump and the Republicans to destroy the remnants of our democratic tradition and to further expand the already devastating power of corporate America. However, that so much of the energy has gone into the effort to saddle Trump with the charges of collusion with the Russians seems to have had the actual impact of enhancing his agenda.