When Resistance Becomes Capitulation: A Response to an Open Letter in The Nation
Editor’s note: The Nation contributor Norman Solomon, who has written for Truthdig, drew our attention to the magazine’s publication Wednesday of an open letter signed by multiple scholars, diplomats, politicians, writers and activists calling for “secure elections and true national security.” Here is Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer’s response to the letter, followed by its full text.
While The Nation deserves credit for this important effort, and I am a huge fan of the magazine’s editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, I find this statement to be an inadequate response to the jingoistic blather of the Democratic Party, and of course the GOP leadership.
What the statement’s opening paragraph woefully ignores is the harsh reality that the U.S. political system is far less vulnerable to hacking attacks from any foreign source than the rest of the world’s nations are from such attacks by the United States—including surveillance of world leaders, such as the Obama administration’s tapping of Angela Merkel’s personal cellphone. The NSA probably gets an alert every time Putin snores.
You can go back to the post-World War II elections in Italy and France in the 1940s for the start of our modern era of imperial meddling in free elections. There was the toppling of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, the prevention of agreed-upon elections to unify Vietnam in 1956, the overthrowing of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973—the list goes on and on.
When it comes to meddling in other nations’ histories, we wrote the book. Surely, the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee know that. Ask some of the experts who signed this letter about the U.S. attempts to undermine Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform efforts that led to the coming to power of the ever-drunk Boris Yeltsin, who in desperation later picked Vladimir Putin to be his vice president and then to succeed him.
Yes, Putin—who had the startling virtue of being a teetotaler in a nation drowning in vodka even more than in crony socialism—was back then the preferred alternative frontman for the army of liberal American advisers preaching the virtues of a crony capitalism that savaged what remained of the Russian economy.
The rape of Russian resources by a new class of billionaires was an American export conflating virulent capitalism with freedom, and it proved once again to be the devil’s bargain. Most ordinary Russians seem to think that Putin has played that bad hand as well as could be expected.
Not so the ever-self-righteous leaders of the Democratic Party, who offer Putin-bashing as an alternative to coming to grips with their own failure to provide sound leadership to our country.
Instead of acknowledging their own responsibility for the angst in America, the Democrats have countered the demagogue in chief’s long list of scapegoats to blame for our problems, beginning with immigrants, with an even more absurd and much shorter “list” of their own: Putin did it!
Thus was born the red-baiting revival of the Cold War—but without a Red to attack, desperately offering up Putin, a born-again Russian Orthodox and Peter the Great clone, to explain away the Democratic leadership’s own well-deserved repudiation in the last election. Trump ruthlessly exploited the pain in America; the Clintonistas blindly ignored it. End of story.
Except it isn’t. The Democrats are now the party of warmongers, and no clearer evidence is needed than the tweet from their Senate leader, Charles Schumer, issued as Donald Trump was en route for his eventual meeting with Putin, saying Trump “is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies … his duty is to protect the American people from foreign threats, not to sell out our democracy to Putin.” This is bizarre behavior on the part of the top Democrat in the Senate and reason enough never to trust the Democrats to be a “lesser evil” restraining force. Not back when Truman dropped those bombs, or when Johnson killed millions in Vietnam, or when both senators from New York endorsed George Bush’s regime change orgy. The same two senators—Schumer and Hillary Clinton—confused Wall Street with Main Street, ending the progressive tradition of their party and leaving aspiring neofascist Trump to harvest the populist discontent that resulted.
Yes, it is a wickedly dangerous development when these enablers of the unleashing of Wall Street greed and the wild neocon and neoliberal schemes for worldwide regime change now blame Putin for our nation’s political instability. But how can the signers of The Nation statement in good conscience issue a warning about this turn of events that omits any reference to the overwhelming intrusive power of the greatest empire the world has ever experienced—our own—or pathetically plead for the old guard politicians of both parties to come to their senses? Predictably, the GOP is proving that it can always be better at playing the red-baiting card than the Democrats, as Trump just demonstrated by declaring that Germany is “captive to Russia” because of their natural gas pipeline deal. Once again, Democratic Party “resistance” will prove to be abject capitulation.
Editor’s note: The full letter from The Nation is reprinted below.
An open letter by Gloria Steinem, Noam Chomsky, John Dean, Governor Bill Richardson, Walter Mosley, Valerie Plame, and others.
Many Americans remain deeply concerned about reports of Russian interference with the 2016 election. Meanwhile, relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest and most dangerous point in several decades. For the sake of democracy at home and true national security, we must reach common ground to safeguard common interests—taking steps to protect the nation’s elections and to prevent war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.
Whatever the truth of varied charges that Russia interfered with the election, there should be no doubt that America’s digital-age infrastructure for the electoral process is in urgent need of protection. The overarching fact remains that the system is vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere. Solutions will require a much higher level of security for everything from voter-registration records to tabulation of ballots with verifiable paper trails. As a nation, we must fortify our election system against unlawful intrusions as well as official policies of voter suppression.
At the same time, the U.S. and Russian governments show numerous signs of being on a collision course. Diplomacy has given way to hostility and reciprocal consular expulsions, along with dozens of near-miss military encounters in Syria and in skies above Europe. Both sides are plunging ahead with major new weapons development programs. In contrast to prior eras, there is now an alarming lack of standard procedures to keep the armed forces of both countries in sufficient communication to prevent an escalation that could lead to conventional or even nuclear attack. These tensions are festering between two nations with large quantities of nuclear weapons on virtual hair-trigger alert; yet the current partisan fixations in Washington are ignoring the dangers to global stability and, ultimately, human survival.
The United States should implement a pronounced shift in approach toward Russia. No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false. Concrete steps can and must be taken to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.
Andrew Bacevich, Professor Emeritus, Boston University
Phyllis Bennis, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
Noam Chomsky, Professor, Author, and Activist
Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics, NYU and Princeton University, and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord
John Dean, Former Nixon White House Counsel
Phil Donahue, Journalist and Talk-Show Pioneer
Thomas Drake, Former NSA Senior Executive and Whistle-blower
Daniel Ellsberg, Activist, “Pentagon Papers” Whistle-blower, and Author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
Jack Matlock, Former US Ambassador to the USSR and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord
Walter Mosley, Writer and Screenwriter
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–Winning Novelist
Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, CUNY Graduate School
Valerie Plame, Former Covert CIA Operations Officer and Author
Adolph Reed Jr., Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico
Patricia Schroeder, Former Congresswoman
Norman Solomon, National Coordinator, RootsAction.org
Gloria Steinem, Writer and Feminist Organizer
Adlai Stevenson III, Former US Senator and Chairman, Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy
Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation
Alice Walker, Writer, Poet, and Activist
Jody Williams, Professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute
Signers have endorsed this Open Letter as individuals and not on behalf of any organization.