American Democracy Is Organized Bribery On A National Scale…How Does Russia Interfere?

It’s not Russia that’s damaging American democracy – it’s money

 

 Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

It’s not Russia that’s damaging American democracy – it’s money
It is estimated that over $5.2 billion will be spent on the US midterm elections and it’s no secret that hundreds of millions of those dollars are supplied by billionaire donors. This system is incompatible with real democracy.

In a piece for The Guardian last week, Chuck Collins wrote that the three wealthiest families in the US — the Waltons of Walmart, the Mars candy family and the Koch brothers — own a combined fortune of $348.7 billion — a sum which is 4 million times the median wealth of a normal American family.

recent study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University found that despite the popular narrative of the so-called ‘philanthropic’ liberal billionaire in the style of Bill Gates, most of these super rich mega-donors are “extremely conservative” in their political views. They believe in cutting taxes for the rich and abolishing the estate tax. They are opposed to banking and environmental regulation — and they aren’t overly enthusiastic about social programs upon which millions of Americans rely.

Instead of being loud and proud about these views, however, they practice what the study authors called “stealth politics” — in other words, they rarely speak publicly on politics, but spend massive amounts of money lobbying politicians on the quiet.

This is not to imply that conservative billionaire donors are bad and liberal billionaires donors are good, which is what mainstream liberal media would seemingly like us to believe when they promote the likes of George Soros as a paragon of goodness while lamenting the influence of the Koch brothers. It is, however, a simple fact that America’s wealthiest billionaires are overwhelmingly conservative — and very rarely are they interested in creating a society that is fairer and better serves the average working American.

But, regardless of the politics of those doling out the dosh, this is a rotten and corrupt system of legalized bribery and one that is completely incompatible with true democracy. How could it be? Politicians are beholden not to the people, but to wealthy donors and special interests. Don’t just take it from me. Former congressman Mick Mulvaney, who is now the White House budget director, was remarkably candid about all this during a speech back in April.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Rich donors and lobbyists shovel obscene amounts of money into political campaigns knowing that politicians will serve their interests in Congress. Conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson, for example, has funneled more than $100 million into the 2018 midterms. If you’re wondering why people like Adelson, who have billions in hoarded wealth, would even bother with elections the answer is simple: abject greed. As Collins wrote in the Guardian, they are “spending millions to save themselves billions” down the road. Meanwhile, normal Americans, despite how politically active they may be, have a near-zero impact on public policy.

Yet, getting money out of politics and taking back control of their democracy does not seem to be as big a focus as it should be for most Americans. Instead, super-rich elites, aided by the mainstream media, have been massively successful in distracting the population with conveniently constructed narratives.

For the Democrats, so-called Russian ‘collusion’ and ‘interference’ has acted as a successful distraction tactic since Donald Trump was elected. For Republicans and Trump himself, over-the-top fear-mongering about immigration while ignoring its root causes (often destabilizing US foreign policy) has been a wonderful distraction tactic.

READ MORE: #ICYMI: How to spot Russian interference in the US midterm elections (VIDEO)

When Americans are talking non-stop about Russians and migrants coming to get them, they’re not focused on the fact that the political system in which they are operating is corrupt to the core and serves only a tiny minority of mega-rich citizens who reside in ivory towers. Actress Marsha Warfield summed it up perfectly in a tweet last week:

“Why the hell are you mad at immigrants seeking a better life and not the tiny percentage of greedy f*cks hoarding the world’s resources while we fight amongst ourselves for crumbs?”

In 2016, about $6.5 billion was spent on presidential and congressional campaigns. That’s about enough to give every teacher a $2,000 pay rise. Aside from the many ways such money could clearly be put to better use, there’s also the fact that money is a huge barrier to entry for any American trying to get into politics. If you can’t raise the money, you can’t run a campaign — and if you do manage to raise the money (thanks to wealthy donors), you are beholden to them later. Only very rarely does a candidate manage to build a successful grassroots campaign without accepting big donor and corporate money. Democrats often pay lip-service to the idea of getting money out of politics, but in reality, they’re just as happy as Republicans to take money from anyone who wants to throw it at them.

More than $1 billion has been spent by outside groups (independent of and not coordinated with campaigns) to influence the midterm elections. Nearly $128 million has been spent by “dark money” groups which do not disclose who their donors are. And, consider this: Only 0.42 percent of Americans have given $200 or more to elections this year. Yet, miniscule as that number is, those people account for more than 66 percent of all campaign donations.

READ MORE: From dumpster fires to deportation buses: The midterms’ craziest campaign ads

This is not democracy in action. Until Americans realize that choosing between corporate Democrats and Republicans is like choosing between a slap in the face or a punch in the nose, nothing will be any different. When the ballots are counted on November 6, whether it’s a victory for the Democrats or Republicans, it will still be a tiny minority of elites who hold all the power.

Trump said the military was building migrant detention facilities along the border. The Pentagon Said “NO”

Exclusive: Pentagon balked at U.S. border troops building detention facilities – officials

Pentagon says troops won’t ‘come in contact’ with caravan migrants at Mexico border

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump said last week the army was building “massive tent cities” to house more migrants detained along the border. The Pentagon said he was wrong.

The Trump administration pushed the U.S. military to build facilities to accommodate migrants detained under Trump’s new “catch but don’t release” policy, federal officials tell Reuters. But the Pentagon reportedly refused, and last week, an official told reporters no detention centers were slated for construction.

Last Thursday in a freewheeling speech, Trump said he’d soon require the detention of anyone caught illegally crossing the southern border. Even migrants seeking asylum would be detained while waiting for their asylum hearing, Trump added. Seeing as a massive “migrant caravan” was weeks from arriving in the U.S., Trump said he had ordered the military to build tent cities to house them all.

Despite the Trump administration’s request, “the U.S. military declined a draft proposal … last month to build housing for detained migrants,” officials told Reuters. General Terrence O’Shaughnessy confirmed last week that the Pentagon was only working on requests to build facilities to support border patrol personnel and members of the military deployed to the border. And with 15,000 troops headed south to meet the much smaller — and shrinking — caravan, the Pentagon-sanctioned project will likely keep the military plenty busy. Kathryn Krawczyk

Pentagon Spins Taliban Defeat of ISIS As Its Own Victory

US military continues to spin a Taliban victory against Islamic State as its own

In the Department of Defense’s latest quarterly report on Afghanistan, the US military claimed the Taliban’s victory against the Islamic State Khorasan Province in Jawzjan over the summer as its own. The US military’s claim highlights just how desperate it is to report success in Afghanistan, and how infrequent those successes are in reality.

At the end of July 2018, the Taliban massed its forces and targeted a large cadre of Islamic State fighters that were based in Darzab district in Jawzjan. The Taliban operation was decisive; the Islamic State was routed. More than 150 of the 600 Islamic State operatives based in the district were killed and an estimated 100 more were wounded. Another 134 were captured by the Taliban. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban says Islamic State has been ‘completely defeated’ in Jawzjan.]

Following the drubbing by the Taliban, more than 250 Islamic State fighters and a handful of leaders, including the group’s military commander for the north, surrendered to the Afghan government to prevent being captured by the Taliban.

At the time, both the US military and Afghan government spun the surrender as a successful operation. General John Nicholson, then the commander of US Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support, touted the Taliban’s dominance over the Islamic State Khorasan Province as evidence that the security situation Afghanistan is improving.

“I want to highlight a recent success since we last talked, when over 250 ISIS-K fighters and their family members surrendered to the Afghan security forces in Jowzjan, which eliminated one of the three pockets of ISIS in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said at a press briefing in August.

Fast forward to Oct. 31 and the Special Investigator General for Afghan Reconstruction’s {SIGAR} release of the latest quarterly report on Afghanistan. Nicholson’s appropriation of the Taliban’s victory in Jawzjan as a success for the US and the Afghan government is repeated in the report. And it is at the top of the list of so-called counterterrorism successes over the quarter.

“However, counterterror efforts against Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) scored some successes this quarter. In early August, 250 IS-K militants surrendered to Afghan security forces in Jowzjan Province, a development that General Nicholson described as ‘eliminat[ing] one of the three pockets of ISIS in Afghanistan,’” the SIGAR report noted.

Again, the surrender of the Islamic State cadre in Jawzjan was not the result of a successful counterterrorism operation, but the result of a Taliban victory. Additionally, the Afghan government’s treatment of the Islamic State fighters who surrendered has enraged many Afghans, including members of the military. The Islamic State fighters were evacuated using helicopters, while Afghan soldiers, who during the same timeframe were besieged by the Taliban at bases in the north, could not receive critical resupply. Government officials spoke of amnesty for fighters who brutally murdered, raped, and enslaved civilians in Jawzjan.

In fact, the Jawzjan incident highlights just how weak and ineffective the Afghan security forces actually are in the Afghan north. The Taliban did what the Afghan government and military could not do: mass its forces and conduct a decisive military operation against a nest of Islamic State fighters.

The US military’s repeated attempts to spin the Taliban’s victory in Jawzjan as its own only serves to demonstrate just how eager it is to manufacture successes in Afghanistan when they are few and far between.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.