Neocons and Hollywood Liberals Go to ‘War’ on Russia
The promotional video of the Committee to Investigate Russia features actor Morgan Freeman in what is ‘probably his worst role since Driving Miss Daisy,’ says AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal
AARON MATE: It’s the Real News. I’m Aaron Mate. The special counsel investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election is increasing its focus on President Trump. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House for extensive documents related to Trump’s time in office. Mueller’s probe runs parallel to three Congressional investigations into the Trump campaign and Russia.
Outside the government, there’s a lot of going on, too. Media outlets and liberal organizations have devoted extensive time and energy to Russiagate. This week, a new group joined the fray. It’s called the Committee to Investigate Russia. Its board includes Rob Reiner, the well-known actor, producer, and liberal activist, and several right-wing pundits, including David Frum, the man who coined George W. Bush’s infamous phrase, the “axis of evil.”
The committee’s kickoff video features the actor Morgan Freeman.
MORGAN FREEMAN: We have been attacked. We are at war. We need our president to speak directly to us and tell us the truth. We need him to sit behind the desk in the Oval Office and say, “My fellow Americans, during this past election, we came under attack by the Russian government. I’ve called on the Congress and our intelligence community to use every resource available to conduct a thorough investigation to determine exactly how this happened. The free world is counting on us for leadership. For 241 years, our democracy has been a shining example to the world of what we can all aspire to, and we owe it to the brave people who have fought and died to protect this great nation and save democracy, and we owe it to our future generations, to continue the fight.”
VOICEOVER: Join the Committee to Investigate Russia. Join the fight.
AARON MATE: Joining me is Max Blumenthal, bestselling author, journalist, senior editor of AlterNet’s Grayzone Project, and cohost of the new podcast Moderate Rebels. Max, welcome. I’m going to predict that you’re not joining this fight.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: This is sad. It’s sad for Morgan Freeman, and I think whatever you think about Russia, you can agree with me that this is probably his worst role since Driving Miss Daisy. Now he’s driving, basically, the PNAC train, Project for a New American Century, driving the neocons. This is highly unusual for me, maybe I’m wrong here, to hear a black American say that America has been a shining example of democracy for 241 years. It sounds like something a neocon would write in a script and put for Morgan Freeman in a teleprompter. 200 years ago, or longer, he would have been scrubbing Thomas Jefferson’s chamberpot, so this is just deeply disturbing American exceptionalism.
Beyond that, Morgan Freeman has basically been brought into this by Rob Reiner, who’s been brought in by a cast of neocons, not just unindicted Iraq War criminal David Frum, who crafted the axis of evil phrase, which has helped spread instability and death around the world, but Max Boot, the neoconservative pundit and self-styled historian who’s never met a war he didn’t like. We also have James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence and NSA director affiliated with this group, the Committee to Investigate Russia. Max Boot is a fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, which is run by Kimberly Kagan, who’s part of the neoconservative Kagan dynasty. The Institute for the Study of War is funded primarily by the arms industry and surveillance industry, and their job is basically to gin up wars and consult for generals, and make a windfall profit in the process.
That’s what the Committee to Investigate Russia is about. It brings this Hollywood element to it. Rob Reiner’s involvement helps get David Frum on CNN and a host of radio and MSNBC programs. It almost makes a neocon like him seem likable, although he and Max Boot were welcomed with open arms by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, so in many ways we’re experiencing still the toxic alluvia of the Clinton camp with this bizarre initiative.
We have to first ask, what is the Committee to Investigate Russia? It reminds me of the Committee on the Present Danger, which was a Cold War collection of neoconservatives, as well as the Project for a New American Century, which was a larger conglomeration of neoconservatives looking to take advantage of the post-Cold War atmosphere to gin up a war on terror. What they said in their initial document was that, “Short of a catalyzing event, we won’t be able to realize our goals.” Three years later, 9/11 happened, and that was the catalyzing event.
They are attempting to manufacture a catalyzing event through the narrative of Trump-Russia collusion in order to ramp up hostilities with Russia, not just in Russia’s near abroad in Ukraine, but also in Syria and across the world. This is an incredibly dangerous prospect.
AARON MATE: There was a piece today in the Daily Beast picking up on this Facebook story, which you and I haven’t discussed yet on the Real News, but it’s gotten a lot of attention. A few weeks ago, Facebook disclosed that some $100,000 was spent on Facebook ads by suspected Russian accounts that may be tied to the Kremlin. It was a bit ambiguous. Most of the ads were in 2015, a year before the election, and most of the ads, Facebook said, were not even directly to do with the election but about divisive social issues. This was taken as another new level of Russian influence in the U.S.
Just today, on the Daily Beast, which has been all over this story, there’s an exclusive story written by four reporters. A team of four reporters writes, “Exclusive. Russians appear to use Facebook to push Trump rallies in 17 U.S. cities.” Subheading is, “Being Patriotic, a Facebook group uncovered by the Daily Beast, is the first evidence of suspected Russian provocateurs explicitly mobilizing Trump supporters in real life.”
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Maybe it’s true. Maybe these four reporters found something that might be true, but if you read into the ninth paragraph of that article, like so many articles about Russiagate, these four reporters, the finest minds of the Daily Beast, including Spencer Ackerman, who wrote the foreword to Russiagate huckster Malcolm Nance’s book on how the election was stolen, and I think his book might have come out before the election was decided, if you read into the ninth paragraph that the story is not confirmed, that Facebook explicitly states that it cannot confirm that any of these accounts are Russian accounts. Throughout the article, the authors are forced to refer to them as suspected Russian accounts. I don’t know how this got past an editor, except that there is so much zeal at the Daily Beast to keep up the Trump-Russia collusion narrative that generates clicks.
That’s the same, I would assume, mentality that prevails among the producers among Rachel Maddow’s show, which you wrote about really clearly and effectively. I think it’s not just the narrative that’s driven by political zeal but also the desire for ratings and clicks. At no point in this piece do they ever establish that these are Russian accounts. It is possible that this Facebook accounting question, was a Facebook account turned to a Russian bot farm, that’s what a lot of accounts do. They pay some bot farm to boost their profile on Facebook. One of the things that bot farms do is they’ll direct users to political ads, political hot button issues, because that’s what gets people engaged.
Again, there’s no evidence here. What I found really interesting about this article, and this is true for the previous Daily Beast article that Spencer Ackerman published about Facebook suspected, alleged, possible Russian bots, is that he turns to a fake Russia expert named Clint Watts, who’s a former FBI agent. If you actually look at Clint Watts’s work, and you’re just remotely informed about politics in the U.S., I think you’ll realize that character is a complete crank. If we actually lived in an actual meritocracy that relied on real experts, he would be out with a metal detector looking for loose change on the beach or in some public park, but instead, he was testifying before Congress.
He testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Clint Watts, that the chaos of Black Lives Matter was spawned by RT and Sputnik. He links to an RT article about Black Lives Matter as his evidence. Along with the Bundy ranch chaos. This too was a Russian active measure. Yeah, the Bundy ranch. Russia had a huge hand in that. This is someone testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Even worse, he goes on to talk about an article he wrote with Will McCants and Mike Doran, who are these Beltway think tankers presented as terror experts. He wrote it in Foreign Affairs, which is the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. It was an article lobbying the U.S. government, the Obama administration, to send arms to Ahrar Al-Sham, which is a Salafi jihadist rebel group in Syria. The teaser of this article, it’s unbelievable, is, “An Al Qaeda-linked group we can be friends with.”
The article comes out. Clinton Watts gets mocked heavily on Twitter. I think I might have been among the people mocking him, but again, I’m a Russian bot. [Inaudible]. I’m malfunctioning right now. No, actually, real people mocked Clint Watts on Twitter justifiably. He was calling for supporting an Al Qaeda alliance in Syria. He goes before the Senate and says that, “This is when I noticed that there were Russian active measures and an influence campaign, because I was being mocked on Twitter for this article.” He doesn’t say what the article is. He covers up the content.
This testimony elucidates the kind of Russia experts that are being relied on to prove that there’s this vast information warfare campaign, this Gerasimov doctrine, employed by Russia. Clint Watts is part of a larger initiative spun out of the failed Clinton campaign. It includes people like Laura Rosenberger, who was a former policy advisor of Hillary Clinton. This should scare anyone. Consider that these people would have been involved in foreign policy decisions. Andrew Weisberg I think is another, and then there’s J.M. Berger, who’s part of the terror jihadology industry. He never really established himself as much of a major expert there, but now the hype is all around Russia, so he’s rebranded himself as a Russia expert.
They have an initiative called the Alliance for Securing Democracy. If you go on the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s website, it’s almost as entertaining as the Committee to Investigate Russia. They have a chart that shows the Russia information threat matrix. They’re addressing all of the different websites, including the National Review, maybe they’ll name the Real News today, that are echoing Kremlin propaganda. How do they determine what the Kremlin’s propaganda is? They not only look at RT and Sputnik, they have a list that they’ve refused to release of 600 Russian bots or Russian-controlled social media accounts. As I said, they refuse to name what these social media accounts are.
Scott Shane, the New York Times reporter, he published another one of these exposes that exposes nothing, and by the ninth paragraph, you realize the whole thing is unconfirmed and it’s based on suspicions and speculation. He determined that a lot of these supposed Russian bots he was supposed to be looking at were actually real people, one you can look it is Marcel Sardo, real people who just simply don’t believe in a unipolar world, and they support Russia as a counterhegemonic force. I know this is impossible for Beltway insiders and coastal elites to believe, but there are people who actually think that way and are on Twitter.
You’re basically looking at a gigantic scam. Scams are bad as they are. Amway’s bad. It rips a lot of people off and makes money for right-wingers. This is a pro-war scam that has effectively deep-sixed diplomacy with Russia, which could have been effective in establishing stability in certain areas. 1.4 million people are displaced in Ukraine. Syria’s a complete mess. The U.S. has to work with Russia there to defeat ISIS. This is just dangerous on a global scale, and so it’s important to call out these scam initiatives and to completely scrutinize and hound the fraudmeisters and neocons behind it.
AARON MATE: All right, that’s going to wrap part one of this discussion with Max Blumenthal. Stay tuned for part two.