Here’s the brutal truth. Vladimir Putin’s actions are an act of war against the United States. It needs to be called what it is, and needs an immediate response.
I’ve been privileged to call the United States home for almost a decade. It’s like no other country on Earth and I’ve lived in three others, each with their own unique attributes. What makes America exceptional is a sacred bond which not only unites its people to each other but to the ideals of justice, liberty and freedom from foreign aggression.
The founding fathers had the audacity and courage to put the pursuit of these ideals ahead of corruption and tyranny. They knew these ideals would lift a nation in the darkest of hours and inspire the world for decades to come. It’s a bond that has allowed America to dare greatly. A bond that expelled the British, defeated the Nazis and ended Communism. It’s why America attracts the best people in the world, leads innovation and invention and why the world turns to America at times of crisis.
The bond goes something like this: we’re in this together and we’re only as strong as our weakest link. We aspire to a more perfect and just union knowing that what unites us, is greater than what divides us, and when we and our values are attacked, we stand united against tyranny and foreign aggression. In this, and each other, we trust.
The FBI has announced an unprecedented investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and this investigation needs to be thorough and fair. It’s important we know exactly what happened and those responsible need to be brought to justice if they committed crimes. But we don’t need any more evidence to form a conclusion in the court of public opinion.
Here’s how I see it. Russia attacked the US to wrest control of the government from the American people. They did not act alone in this hostile act. They cultivated and maintained an extraordinary and complex network of political operatives within the Trump campaign, aiding and abetting the campaign with an equally complex covert hacking and cyber operation, until they had control of the White House, over one branch of our government. If this was conventional warfare, it would be akin to an enemy militia storming and occupying the White House. This is a silent and asymmetrical war but make no mistake, war it is.
If this was just a foreign state running a propaganda and influence campaign it would be worrying, but there’s enough evidence to show Russia helped orchestrate the campaign, groomed the candidate, and used criminal acts to take control of the White House. This is a difficult pill to swallow, but the myriad of facts about Russia’s involvement can no longer be denied.
Trump’s campaign manager from April to August 2016, Paul Manafort, has been working for Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin ally Oleg Deripaska since 2006 to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the US, Europe and the former Soviet Republic”. He was paid $10 Million for this 2006, according to new bombshell revelations just published by the AP. This is on top of allegations that he laundered money for Russia’s puppet regime in Ukraine, for whom he directly worked.
There’s absolute unanimity among 17 Intelligence Agencies that in July last year, Putin and his Kremlin cronies committed a felony when his GRU hacked the Democratic Party servers. It was the cyber version of the Watergate break-in. What makes it even more untenable now, is that we know Trump’s campaign manager at the time of the hacks, Paul Mannafort, was on the Kremlin payroll with instructions to influence politics in the US on behalf of Putin.
We’re also learning, a major Trump ally, Roger Stone admitted over the weekend to back-channel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and private direct messages with Guccifer 2.0, the hacker the FBI believes hacked the DNC and Wikileaks. And while Stone was direct messaging Guccifer and talking to his “hero”, Julian Assange, Russia picked up the hackers’ tab, paying him or them using a system Moscow uses to routinely pay thousands of Russian-American pensioners, according to the New York Times. Just how many US-based Russian operatives are on this Kremlin payroll bares investigation?
The FBI is now looking into the so-called “alt-right” news organizations like “Infowars” and “Breitbart” (both favorites of Donald Trump) and their connection to an elaborate Russian cyber-scheme which used bots to spam US social media accounts with content designed to discredit and libel Hillary Clinton. If “Breitbart” cooperated with Moscow to target Clinton supporters, it could soon add Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Bannon’s name to a list of Trump advisers already under investigated by the FBI for collaborating with Russia.
The others already being probed for proven contacts with Russian officials (some involving large payments): Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, foreign affairs adviser Carter Page, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Political adviser Roger Stone. Then there’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Vladimir Putin’s “closest friend in the West” who has turned American diplomacy into a “cloak and shadows” operation traveling without a press corps who can let Americans know what he’s doing.
As Donald Trump said “I love WikiLeaks” and “Russia, if you’re listening” during his campaign, he was signaling what we’re now discovering as fact. What we don’t know was Russia just doing the dirty work for Trump or did Russia orchestrate an entire campaign, staffed by loyal operatives, to install a friendly president using state-sponored criminality against Americans to win?
Now that we know Russia’s involvement included a criminal DNC hack, regular contact with well-placed operatives in the Trump campaign, a cyber-spam operation and a covert media disinformation campaign, I can no longer really buy the idea Russian intrusion into last year’s elections didn’t change the outcome.
Hillary Clinton may have run a poor strategic and tactical campaign but it’s clear there was a major initiative to undermine her which included criminality and direct collusion with an enemy of the state. We don’t know if those smaller counties which swung right with narrow margins, only did so because of Moscow’s criminal meddling on behalf of Trump.
Our sacred bond. We trust our government to have our interest at heart. We trust it to do the right thing, we trust it to uphold the constitution, we trust it to continue our moral leadership in the world, but most importantly we trust our government to keep us safe from foreign invaders. We’re all focused on the possible corruption inside the White House, but you don’t need indictments to tell this much: America is under attack by Russia. It’s as much an act of war as if Russian tanks were rolling down Main Street in any town in the USA. If Moscow was aided and abetted by Americans in their invasion, it needs to be called what it is, treason.
When Putin attacked our democracy, he stole all our votes, he subverted the will of the people to a dictatorial brand of criminality which are the hallmarks of his brutal regime. If our president had our interests at heart, he’d defend us against this foreign aggression. He won’t. He can’t. Instead, he’s coddling our greatest enemy.
When the founding fathers wrote America’s declaration of independence, they could not foresee a day when a tyrant could invade our shores through information technology. An information war is a lot harder to see and feel than a conventional war but its effects are just as capricious. If you value your freedom, your way of life, civil rights, a fair judiciary, press freedom and a vote that counts, these are the things at stake. I grew up under a authoritarian regime in South Africa, and I can tell you from my experience tyranny doesn’t arrive wearing a warning sign, it creeps in and slowly suffocates freedom like a snake denying oxygen to its prey.
Left unchecked, Russia’s violation of our independence will continue to erode our way of life. Vladimir Putin won’t be satisfied until he reduces America to Russia’s brand of kleptocracy and military rule.
President Obama in his farewell address said, “our constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power. We, the people, give it meaning. With our participation and with the choices that we make and the alliances that we forge. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms, whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. That’s up to us.”
It’s time for a divided country to unify, to demand the truth and accountability we expect from all our leaders. Russia’s attack was covert but its impact will be as real as having Russian troops marching down 5th Avenue or under the St Louis Arch. If the Trump campaign laid out the welcome mat to the Kremlin in their pursuit of power, we need to have full disclosure now. If the Kremlin orchestrated a campaign to install a friendly hand-picked administration, can we tolerate this occupation for even one more second?
America is the sum of its people: past, present and future. The dreams of generations to come are at stake. We owe it to them to stand up for freedom now. Can we really tolerate a United States President which answers to a Russian autocrat? We need to remind ourselves the United States was founded on the very basis of freedom from foreign tyranny. We don’t have the mechanism yet, but the declaration of independence, is clear:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.
Impeachment may not be enough to ensure the entire Russian operation is expunged from the system. While we don’t have a mechanism yet, it’s incumbent on congressional leaders from both parties to propose an appropriate amendment to the constitution which can return government to its people. And instead of turning on each other let’s focus on the real enemy. Vladimir Putin should be sent a clear and decisive message with the full economic and military might of American power that is our sacred bond.