Let’s Acknowledge US Interference in Foreign Elections

Last week, the Mueller investigative team indicted 13 Russian nationals for charges related to interference in the 2016 election. One of the individuals is a Russian billionaire, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is allegedly the financier of the "troll farm." This company that is solely dedicated to sowing political discord via fake news and false online identities is known as Internet Research Agency.

Meduza, a Latvia-based news organization that is critical of the Russian government, reported last October that Internet Research Agency has roughly 250 employees, with 90 focused on U.S. politics. In fact, the company hired 100 American activists, who were unaware of the origin of the funding, to lead rallies throughout the US

Americans certainly have a right to be upset about the organized dissemination of disinformation from a foreign nation. However, we also need to acknowledge the actions of our own government to fully understand this subject.

The Guardian reported in 2011 about the Pentagon’s psychological warfare program involving "sock puppets." In other words, our military also hires private contractors to use fake Internet identities to spin online debate toward pro-American talking-points on non-English language or U.S.-based websites.

This is all part of a much larger battle of information warfare conducted by both countries. For instance, the US government spent $748 million last year on foreign broadcasting with programs, such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Conversely, Russia spent slightly less than $400 million last year to fund Russia Today and Sputnik News.

As for the much more nefarious issue of election meddling, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations released a report last month concluding that Russia interfered in the elections of at least 19 nations over the last two decades.

On the other hand, US officials are active in the same capacity. Last week during an interview on Fox News, former CIA Director, James Woolsey, acknowledged the historical fact that the US has interfered in other countries’ elections.

Albeit, Woolsey countered that US interference was for the benefit of those countries to prevent communists from taking over. However, the non-answer by Woolsey when he was questioned if the US still interferes in elections is priceless.

The US has been involved with fixing elections and overthrowing democratically elected leaders long before the CIA came into existence. The Platt Amendment offers arguably the most symbolic example of this global hegemony.

The Platt Amendment of 1901 served as a treaty of sorts between the US and Cuba after the Spanish-American War. But, for all intents and purposes, it legitimized US dominance over the country’s governance. In fact, there was a provision granting the US permission "to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence."

It didn’t take long for those words to come to fruition. Five years later, then Secretary of War, William H. Taft, was instituted as the Provisional Governor of Cuba during the Second Occupation of Cuba. However, former US Marine General Smedley Butler (author of War is a Racket) probably summed up best whose interests we were protecting. "I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in," he said.

Nearly a century after the Monroe Doctrine was declared, Taft openly held the same ideals. In 1912, President Taft declared, "The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally."

Obviously, the US empire machine went into overdrive with the advancement of communism. To be specific, the antiwar author and historian, William Blum, once listed 55 instances after WWII in which the US government assisted an overthrow or attempted overthrow of a foreign country.

The blueprint for these coups came about with the 1953 coup that removed the democratically-elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh. Unlike the generalization offered by former CIA Director Woolsey, this coup didn’t protect the Iranians from communism. However, that pretense helped launch the coup as Mossadegh wanted to nationalize the country’s oil supply that had been monopolized by the Anglo-Iranian Company, present-day British Petroleum (BP). This coup brought about the brutal regime of the Shah over the next 26 years.

Another coup took place one year later, 1954. The democratically-elected President of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, was removed and another military dictatorship was installed. Once again, the motivations for the coup were clearly influenced by protecting US corporate interests, in particular, United Fruit Company.

The role of information warfare and propaganda reigned supreme in this coup. As noted in the book American Spy by E. Howard Hunt, former CIA officer and Watergate burglar, the CIA successfully pressured The New York Times to remove a reporter from his Guatemalan assignment because he was viewed as sympathetic to Arbenz.

However, it was the disinformation provided by "La Voz de la Liberacion," a CIA radio station, which helped secure the coup. The recordings of this anti-government propaganda were presented as opinions from disgruntled Guatemalans, but, in reality, they were actually recorded by CIA agents in Miami.

Anyhow, in the current era, the US has certainly remained active in undermining the democratic process of other countries. One of the vehicles for anti-democratic actions has a rather Orwellian name, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

NED is a private, nonprofit organization that receives extensive funding from the US government and, in turn, the organization provides funding to various activist NGOs worldwide. However, the late Robert Parry discovered that NED was the brainchild of former CIA Director, William Casey.

In fact, the President of NED, Carl Gershman, has often coordinated with top US officials to decide which NGOs should receive funding. Not surprisingly, the grant list of NED is filled with many of the same organizations that the CIA had funded in secrecy.

"A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA," said Allen Weinstein, a co-founder of NED. Now, with NED in place, this private organization essentially functions as a cutout that negates criticisms of covert activity by the CIA. Hence, William Blum has analogized NED as a money laundering hub for the CIA.

The problem is that many of the organizations funded by NED are seemingly acting on behalf of US interests, rather than a non-partisan quest for promoting democracy. For instance, the George H.W. Bush administration openly called for interfering in the Nicaraguan Presidential election of 1990.

Congress ultimately blocked this proposal by the Bush White House to provide Daniel Ortega’s opponent, Violeta Chamorro, with $3 million of campaign financing through NED. However, NED used the same money to fund Chamorro indirectly through organizations linked with her campaign.

That’s one of several elections in which NED has sided with a particular candidate. In even worse scenarios, NED has funded groups that participated in military coups. In particular, this organization indirectly helped finance the Venezuelan and Ukrainian coups of 2002 and 2014, respectively. Consequently, for that reason, among others, NED was banned in Russia as an "undesirable" international NGO.

All in all, most Americans are unaware of these aggressions by the US government against foreign nations. Hence, there will be no introspective period by the American Congress. In turn, you can rest assured that our leaders will only consider ways to best protect the electorate from the psychological warfare of foreign governments, even though the techniques were crafted by our government.  

To sum up, until our government ceases this aggression toward other nations, we don’t deserve to speak from the moral high ground on this issue.

Brian Saady is a freelance writer and author of four books. That includes his three-book series, Rackets, which is primarily about the legalization of drugs and gambling, and the decriminalization of prostitution. The series also details many issues, such as corruption and foreign policy. Visit his website. You can follow him on Twitter @briansaady.

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