Monday, December 12, 2016

GOP: Playing High Stakes Poker (all in) or Russian Roulette With 6 Bullets

GOP on Russian Hacking and Election Tampering: All in or Not

Find the Final Piece and Tell the Public

Trump's View is Well-Known: “A-Okay, No Problemo”
(My pal Vlad is not involved)

This post is not sarcasm, cynicism, an “Onion” media spoof, parody, and for sure, not “fake” news despite my Trump label above… this is very serious stuff, so bear with me. This is long but easy to follow.
First, this from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) before the two updates below.
Key part: Other senators, including James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), have expressed support for a broad Senate investigation. But Lankford said on Sunday that he has seen no evidence of Russia tampering with election results. Other Republicans may be reluctant to support a wide-ranging investigation of Russia’s election-related activities given that Trump has dismissed the CIA claims as “ridiculous.” Trump went on to say: “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it . . . No, I don’t believe it at all.” (Spoken on “Fox News Sunday” re: the CIA Russian hacking allegations).
At the same time, Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway echoed her boss on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” saying that such allegations from the intelligence community were “laughable and ridiculous.”
Then in typical fashion, Trump emphasized his disbelief with two Tweets on Dec 12:
“Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card? It would be called conspiracy theory!” @realDonaldTrump
“Unless you catch hackers in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?” @realDonaldTrump
(I note: is there anyone Trump trusts or believes, other than himself)?
Now the two major stories I mentioned: from the Guardian in the UK and from  the Duluth News Tribune here.
Last week, President Obama ordered the CIA to review evidence that Russia was behind a series of cyber-attacks that compromised Hillary Clinton’s campaign and may have helped Donald Trump win the presidency. There is also a strong consensus that Trump’s businesses and advisers have extensive connections to the Russian government. In short, the Kremlin appears to have directly interfered with an American election in order to boost a presidential candidate with a Russia-friendly foreign policy.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Vladimir Putin would want to interfere in US politics to advance Russia’s foreign policy goals – from curtailing NATO to ending sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine and preserving Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
And as many critics of U.S. foreign policy have noted, Washington has its own long history of meddling in foreign elections, including in Russia and its closest neighbors. Maybe the turnabout is fair play.
But what should surprise and disturb all Americans is that our political institutions, and above all the Republican Party, are so vulnerable to Russian interference. The Republican Party, traditionally associated with a hawkish stance toward Moscow, threw its support behind a presidential candidate who openly called on Russia to hack his opponent’s campaign.
According to CIA sources who spoke anonymously to the Washington Post, GOP Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told Obama and leading Democrats that he would regard any effort to release evidence of Russian interference before the election as partisan. In other words, he put his own party’s interest in electing Trump and gutting the welfare state ahead of the national interest.
Neither McConnell, GOP House speaker Paul Ryan, nor any other leading Republican seems the slightest bit apologetic about the Republican’s all but open alliance with Putin.
Before 2016, it would have been unthinkable that Russia, or any foreign power, could exert this kind of influence on the U.S. political process. That’s because no national politician before Trump would ever have been comfortable aligning so shamelessly with a rival governmentTrump has obliterated this norm, along with so many others, and his party has gone along with him. 
The Republican’s contempt for the democratic process and the national interest have created an opening Putin never could have created himself.
Besides the Republicans, America’s weakness can be seen in what appears to be an escalating war between our domestic intelligence agency, the FBI, and our foreign intelligence agency, the CIA.
The FBI released damaging information about Hillary Clinton shortly before the election, which may have swung the outcome in key states and allowed for the election of Trump on a law and order platform. Meanwhile, the CIA is belatedly undermining Trump by releasing information about his foreign ties. This is not the sign of a healthy democracy.
(I note: Putin surely must love that kind of turmoil, too).
America’s political system is as broken as that of 18th-century Poland. Our territory may not be under threat, but our ability to govern ourselves without outside interference is.
Our antiquated electoral system has yielded a president-elect who is unqualified and temperamentally unstable, and who is openly building a kleptocratic state closely modeled on Putin’s, to whom he arguably owes his victory. Given America’s vast arsenal and international commitments, a government that can be so easily swayed by outside powers represents a danger to the entire world.
A lesson from our own history: In an 1838 speech in Illinois, a young Abraham Lincoln considered how the United States might fall, asking: “Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never!”
Then Lincoln warned:If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”
(My note: My Dad always told me that same thing in essence saying: “If we ever fall it will be from the inside by our own hands not from the outside.” Truer words were never spoken).
Today, Russia may be a transatlantic giant, but the author and finisher of America’s destruction is weeks away from the White House, with Lincoln’s party firmly behind him.
In recent weeks, the Syrian military, backed by Russian air power and Iran affiliated militias, has swiftly retaken most of eastern Aleppo, the last major urban stronghold of rebel forces in Syria where tens of thousands of besieged civilians are struggling to survive and escape the fighting, amid talk of a rebel retreat.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth, the city of the Silk Road and the Great Mosque is poised to fall to al-Assad and his benefactors in Moscow and Tehran, after a savage four-year stalemate. Syria’s president, who has overseen a war that has left hundreds of thousands of his compatriots dead, will inherit a city robbed of its human potential and reduced to rubble.
This is a story of the influence foreign powers can have on civil wars. Al-Assad would not be winning without the support of Iran and Russia, which launched its military intervention in Syria a year ago. 
This also shows what happens when foreign powers, the U.S. chooses not to exercise their influence in civil wars.
1.  President Obama gradually withdrew military aid to what it considers moderate rebel factions in Syria, some of which are currently losing ground in Aleppo.
2.  Conversely, Donald Trump will probably cut off all U.S. assistance to these groups as part of his effort to partner with Russia in the fight against terrorism.
3. Others opposed Syrian actions, like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, haven’t come to the rescue of those fighting al-Assad either like Russia and Iran have.
4. The U.S. is concentrated on ISIS elsewhere in the country, and Gulf countries are also distracted by their war in Yemen, while Turkey is focused on its fight with ISIS and Syrian Kurdish militias.
5.  Aleppo’s anti-Assad rebels are therefore, essentially, on their own, with tens of thousands already killed; mostly civilians with no places to escape to.

If al-Assad reclaims Aleppo, he will achieve his most significant victory yet in Syria’s long war — a victory that would also belong to Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Iran. The fall of Aleppo will likely usher in a new phase of the conflict rather than end it with al-Assad then controlling all of Syria’s major cities: Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, and Hama. This would allow him and his allies to go on the offensive in other parts of the country like Idlib where Russian strategy is stated simply this way:
“Get them all in Idlib (next city for Russian and Syrian assaults) and then all the rotten eggs are in one basket,” it is an easier target for our warplanes. With all that, it would take months for al-Assad to turn attention to ISIS. Any brokered peace agreement would be on al-Assad’s terms.
The bottom line in all this is simple in my mind and is based on over 40 years of experience: “We do not know all the details, but we need to.”
Stay tuned … the hype and propaganda from many angles and corners and political circles are just getting warmed up; and, keep in mind, that too is calculated strategy, too:
For example, two competing elements: (1) That we must ensure and shore up our democratic system and our way of life to maintain our standards, or (2) to further allow and see all that we stand for undermined from outside forces (any outside forces, not just Russia in this case, or even from inside with the raw, narrow-minded forces we have seen over the past several years.
Number 2 must be totally exposed and rejected. Thanks for stopping by. 

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