Five years before Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel to investigate the allegation that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and had conspired with the Trump campaign, the Pentagon had been waging secret cyberattacks against Russia’s electrical grid. The cyberwar against Russia began in 2012. The timing of the cyberwar against Russia is significant. It was thus not triggered by Russia’s intervention in Syria (2015) or the Crimea referendum in June 2014 that resulted in Crimea leaving Ukraine and rejoining Russia.
During the past year the attacks have accelerated “with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before,” according to a new report published by the New York Times based on three months of private interviews with Pentagon officials.
Officials in the Pentagon decided to conceal the details of the operation from Donald Trump out of fear that he might not allow the more advanced offensive attacks to take place. Barack Obama, according to the report, had initially not allowed a full out offensive cyberwar. Obama signed off on the less aggressive cyberwar tactics against Russia but feared that an escalation would make the U.S. infrastructure too vulnerable to counter-attack.
Was Bolton in the Pentagon’s loop?
Trump was kept in the dark but one could reasonably conclude that war lunatic Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the religious zealot who occupies the post of top diplomat, are fully plugged in by the military cabal that now functions as the real power in Washington.
“Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid,” two unnamed Trump officials told the NY Times [because] “he might countermand it…” Who are those two officials?
An important backdrop for this alarming revelation is the Pentagon new military strategy/doctrine announced in December 2017 that profoundly reorients U.S. military and foreign policy so as to prepare the country for “major power” conflict with Russia and China in the coming years.
This is offensive not defensive war
The New York Times article makes explicit that the cyberattacks against Russia are an offensive, not defensive, operation. They are an act of war. Using Orwellian language the commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, characterized the operation as a “defend forward” measure against Russia penetrating “deep in an adversary’s networks,” according to the Times.
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis President Kennedy barely held off the Pentagon brass who wanted to start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The world was at the brink. Those events should be studied. Kennedy told his closest advisors following the harrowing debates inside the government about how to deal with the crisis that the military leadership “was mad.”
Is it a democracy when the military makes the decisions?
The decision to not tell Trump that the Pentagon is waging offensive military operations against Russia’s infrastructure is one of the clearest signs, among many others, that the reins of power when it comes to matters of war and peace barely remain in the hands of the civilian government. The President is the commander in chief. This is the cornerstone of civilian rule demarcating democratic rule from a military regime. The conceit and arrogance of the uniformed brass’ decision to wage offensive operations against the infrastructure of a rival thermonuclear power – without informing the civilian commander in chief – indicates that they no longer fear accountability, much less retribution, for their seizure of powers that the Constitution insists belong to the elected representatives of the people and not unelected military strongmen.
Trump is such a vainglorious, insecure and ridiculous “leader” that he virtually invited this secret coup against his own authority. He surrounded himself with Pentagon generals in the Cabinet and green-lighted the “independence” of field commanders and their bosses in decision making about the issues of existential importance. “Mr. Trump issued new authorities to Cyber Command last summer, in a still-classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13,” according to the Times. Perhaps this buffoonish politician occupying the position of commander-in-chief didn’t expect or care those Pentagon commanders would make critical decisions, such as launching offensive cyberwar against Russia, without notifying him.
The Pentagon and Trump are not the only problem. The Democratic Party leadership too has done its part contributing to the looming debacle by spending the past three years whipping up the most vile hatred and demonization of Russia – even while the Pentagon was attacking Russia’s infrastructure — as a diversionary explanation for why such a scoundrel as Trump could win the electoral college. Meanwhile the craven politicians of both parties continue the looting of the national treasury for the enrichment and widening power of the U.S. war machine.
Before the Cold War there were real global wars
A crystal ball is not required to see that, unless the Pentagon war drive is stopped or curtailed, the future of the 21st century will look very much like the first half of the 20th century.
Venezuela is under attack. It’s electric grid crashed repeatedly and they accused the United States of sabotaging the system using its cyberwarfare capabilities. Cuba and Nicaragua are being targeted. Iran abided by an international nuclear deal only to see Trump shred the agreement and launch economic war against Iranians. The danger of another military conflict in the Middle East is threatened. And the Pentagon and all of its derivative D.C. think tanks are preparing the country for major power conflict – and it has already started. Congress is not a check nor is the so-called commander-in-chief.
“Major power conflict” is one of the mind numbing euphemisms used by the Pentagon to describe global conflict. This threat is real now and it has happened before. Capitalist powers prepared for such conflict and initiated it 1914-1918 and again between 1937-1945. The scourge of a third “major power conflict” has been avoided since 1945 largely because the Soviet Union developed a form of nuclear military parity that by the mid-1950s checked the Pentagon’s hyper-aggressive plans for unipolar domination.
When the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed in 1991, however, U.S. imperialism expected that the goal of uncontested global domination could be achieved without engaging in extensive ground operations and drawn-out occupations. As Russia got back on its feet in the last decade and as China emerged as a global power the Pentagon has returned to a game plan that is premised on defeating Russia and China through intensifying demonstrations of military threats in and around these countries and a campaign of systematic weakening of both countries on all fronts – both militarily and through a regime of sanctions and economic warfare. The stakes are high.
Militarism and U.S. capitalism are one and the same. The danger of catastrophic war emanates not from this or that politician but is rather rooted in the foundational structures of late-stage capitalism.
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Brian Becker is the National Director of the ANSWER Coalition.
Featured image is from Liberation News