A good friend and I were discussing the whole Trump debacle the other night with all its Russian connections. At some point, he admitted he was exasperated about a certain and perhaps common progressive ambiguity with Russia and blurted out:
“I know we’re supposed to be against Russian of course and all of its meddling in our election, but – in some sense, Trump is right, the US has intervened in other countries and manipulated their elections, too.”
He rattled off a litany of countries and nations where the US has interfered – Iraq, Chile, Guatemala, Ghana, Iran, … it was a long list.
I offered a few: Vietnam, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Mexico. And even Russia itself during its civil war in the early 1920s.
He continued: “I don’t want to be hypocritical – but isn’t it hypocritical for the left to be so anti-Russia?”
Of course, as a leftist for progressive change, I had to agree with the list, for I knew most of the stories where US diplomats, military attaches, CIA agents, generals, corporate businessmen had intervened with money and military might over the decades in those countries my friend had ticked off – American interventions that often changed the outcome of elections and who’s on top and who isn’t.
Maybe it was the beer or the hour, but I didn’t have a quick response for my friend who had opened up a possible blind spot in the progressive narrative. But I did the following morning once I had coffee in hand.
Well, I reasoned, it is all about the right to resist foreign intervention. The right of peoples and nations to resist foreign meddling, sabotage, hacking, manipulation into their elections, their economies and their civil societies.
Yes, our country has intervened in all those places my friend and I ticked off on that long list the other night. And those peoples and nations had and have the right to resist our intervention.
And many did.
And American leftists and progressives supported many of those in other countries who resisted American intervention. During our war and military intervention in Vietnam, American progressives developed the largest anti-war and anti-imperialist movement in history against that intervention.
During both the Iraq wars this century – Americans created anti-war movements that marched and rallied in every city in the country. Americans supported liberation movements against US interventions in El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s, and in Africa in the 1970s. Nearly 2,000 Americans went to Spain during its civil war in the 1930s against the fascist General Franco and his foreign allies and their interventions.
For us Americans, the right to resist foreign intervention goes back a long way, of course, to the dawn of our nation-state – to the rebellion and revolution of 1776 against the British and their mercenaries (remember Washington’s troops crossing the Delaware River and defeating those Hessians at Trenton?)
Yes, it’s true not too soon after we kicked the Brits out, we ourselves started intervening in other countries – including a bunch of Native American nations and then Canada, our neighbor to the north, during the War of 1812 – where we got our ass whooped.
Now, we as a nation are facing foreign intervention again. The whole Russian thing.
It’s almost like the Russian government employed a coordinated 3-prong attack on our system; First, the attempts at gaining access to the different electronic voting systems of more than twenty states; second, the fake news efforts and other uses of social media to manipulate the American public; and third, all the hacking and use of hacked Clinton campaign material to aid Trump and disrupt the Clinton campaign.
So we modern Americans still have this right to resist foreign intervention. And we have the right to resist their domestic collaborators – those Americans who have colluded with a foreign government to manipulate and sabotage our electoral system.
Which means Russia, the Russian government, Putin, the dictator. And his friends here.
Yes, my friend is right, there is a certain ambiguity among progressives about Russia – even to this day. The Russian revolution of 1917 inspired people around the world, including in America. So, even despite the growing militarized and authoritarian state that did develop in Russia over the decades, there was always a soft spot in the hearts of lefties for that country. Many Americans – not all – also appreciated the role that the Russian people played during World War II (D-Day would have been a lot bloodier if it hadn’t been for the Russians killing off a few million Nazi soldiers on the Eastern Front).
Many lefties didn’t buy into the whole red scare and anti-Russian hysteria of the Cold War and the period of McCarthyism. So, there’s been this lingering empathy for Russia among leftists over the decades. Many of us were inspired by the events that toppled the old Soviet regime and that led to democratic elections in the new Russia. However, we started to lose track after Yeltsin – the first democratically-elected Russian president – appointed Putin as prime minister or something like that after he dived into the vodka bottle. Putin has been at the top ever since.
Now, along comes Trump with all the Russian government connections, collusion, monies, and conspiracies. And like most Americans, leftists and progressives are repulsed by what has happened with the new, totally unprecedented level of foreign intervention that we have witnessed unfolding before our very own TV screens. (Not all leftists have given up on Putin, as some still see something positive in the Putin-Trump “Bromance.)
So, given our right to resist Russian government interference, both past, present and future, just who is watching the store? Who is watching out for the country to challenge future Russian government interventions and future hacking and who knows what else? Who’s going to lead this resistance?
It certainly isn’t the White House. Trump still calls it all a hoax and witch hunt and fake news. Trump denied Russian involvement while in Europe on the very eve of his first, big meeting with Putin – the same 2-hour meeting where he allegedly pressed the Russian dictatorship twice on whether the Ruskies did it.
We cannot rely on this administration to protect our cyber and electoral security if that very administration even denies the threats – past and future.
So, it turns out, we have to rely on ourselves to lead this resistance. And that’s exactly what we have been forced to do ever since Trump’s election. It’s been the grassroots mobilizations that have sprung up coast-to-coast, holding town halls, staging sit-ins in Congressional offices, and changing the narrative.
And of course, we need to rely big time on the mainstream media and press to uncover these shenanigans, even as some in the mainstream press are beginning to acknowledge their own role in the early days of the rise of Trump with all that free airtime.
And importantly, we need ourselves to acknowledge that our resistance to the Russian government and Putin is not a fight with the Russian people. Far from it – for many of them are staging mass marches and rallies in the streets of their own country against Putin. They know that Putin has hoisted himself up into a 17-year autocratic regime surrounded by oligarchs, who imprisons, poisons and even murders political opponents, journalists, and oligarchs out of favor. Our anti-Putin resistance is indeed not a continuation of the pattern of US history of being anti-Russian, the Red Scare, the Cold War. This is way different.
Maybe our resistance actions should be coordinated with those actions by Putin’s many opponents in Russia. Wouldn’t that blow Trump and Putin’s minds?
The good thing is that now millions of Americans are mobilized and are learning this is what democracy looks like.
Here’s a nifty graphic:
Originally posted at OBRag