Informative analysis of how the military industrial complex and the neocon think tanks they fund profit from the demonization of Russia
This article originally appeared at RT
First, a no-brainer: What would happen if a neoconservative think-tank teamed up with some of the biggest names in the defense industry to produce reports that targeted Russia and the Russian media? The safe guess is there would be a wholesale hijacking of the written word, together with a ratcheting up of tensions between the world’s largest nuclear superpowers.
Incredibly, that is the exact business model now being employed at dozens of US think tanks, and perhaps nowhere more conspicuously than at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which has among its boosters a veritable army of defense contractors, including Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and DynCorp International – the very companies that limp and bleed profits at the first sign of planetary peace.
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin © Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
As America’s military industrial complex wields the mighty sword of corporate sponsorship, impressionable young analysts are under no illusion as to which way the wind in Washington is blowing, not to mention the cash.
Consequently, readers are forced to fish from a polluted stream of propaganda hit pieces against Russia - the empire’s latest enemy of the moment – from an assortment of sold-out analysts, like Maria Snegovaya, a Ph.D student in political science at Columbia University, whose extra-credit work on Russia, “Putin’s information warfare in Ukraine,” speaks volumes about corporate thought-control methods permeating the halls of US academia.
As Snegovaya’s piece shows, the age-old art of disinformation is not always a matter of peddling bald-faced lies and untruths; disinformation is oftentimes half-truths served up cold to a public with a notoriously short memory span. In fact, the reader need go no further than the very first line of Snegovaya’s thesis, which immediately betrays her anti-Kremlin sentiments: "The more aggressive strain of Russian politics first appeared openly in February 2007, when Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his famous Munich Speech.”
The fact is, there was nothing “aggressive” whatsoever about Putin’s Munich Speech, and to suggest otherwise is simply distorting the historical record. Russia at the time was the only country willing to question Washington’s model of unilateral intervention, which has proven to be an unmitigated disaster (best exemplified by the hoard of refugees now streaming towards Europe’s border).
Popularity of Putin reaches record highs with almost 90% of the people approving his handling of events. Another NATO success story!— George Galloway (@georgegalloway)July 23, 2015
Snegovaya’s slap-dash description of Putin’s speech as “aggressive” - which must ultimately forfeit any pretensions she may have aspired to as an unbiased Russian expert - is exactly the bad attitude now fueling the West’s propaganda campaign against Russian media, which is regularly vilified for ‘meddling in America’s affairs’ - affairs, we must add, that have become international, criminal and blood-stained. A bit like a Mario Puzo novel on steroids.
In another article, originally featured in Vedomosti, and reprinted in English courtesy of The Moscow Times (incidentally, the only foreign-owned English language newspaper in the world, as far as I know, that slams its host and its government on a daily basis), Snegovaya demonstrates how anti-Russian commentators breezily cross-reference each other’s articles in a bid to add some much-needed veracity to their allegations.
Snegovaya reminds the reader about the “numerous publications” put out by reporters Michael Weiss and Peter Pomeransev who, in one particular paper, wrote: “Feeling itself relatively weak, the Kremlin has systematically learned to use the principles of liberal democracies against them in what we call here ‘the weaponization of information, culture and money,’ vital parts of the Kremlin’s concept of ‘non-linear’ war.”
Sounds spooky, right? Once again, however, it must be remembered who these so-called experts are writing for. Their primary audience is not the average person on the street, but rather the policy makers inside of NATO countries that may feel compelled after perusing such outlandish rubbish to bolster their military spending.
That is what these ethically compromised writers are hired to do: Demonize Russia to such a degree that defense contractors – their very financial contributors! - reap the harvest as Eastern European countries boost military spendingagainst a ‘Russian threat’ that exists only in the hyperactive imaginations of these so-called think tanks.
This is a state of affairs that Stephen F. Cohen, the leading US scholar on Russian studies, admitted in one of those rare examples of candidness in a world suffering the consequences of academic dishonesty.
“American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War,” Cohen wrote in The Nation (“Distorting Russia,” February 11, 2014).
"Since the early 2000s, the media have followed a different leader-centric narrative, also consistent with US policy, that devalues multifaceted analysis for a relentless demonization of Putin, with little regard for facts."
Perhaps future contributions by ISW should carry a full-disclosure statement that their studies are paid for by the biggest names in the defense industry. Or better yet, why not demand that its analysts report to work in NASCAR outfits, sporting the decals of the defense contractors that essentially write their paychecks?
That would be far more honest than just pretending that such anti-Russian sentiments are not conceived by some ulterior motive, like the profit motive.
Madness behind the missiles
Of course, it’s not just a simple case of giving the US military industrial complex what it so desperately craves, that is, the demonization of Russia in order to pry open the purse strings of NATO’s junior partners. There is also the matter of giving the Neocons in charge of these think tanks an argument – which has become an agenda in and of itself - for keeping US military operations in the Middle East and elsewhere in high gear.
Kimberly Kagan, the founder and President of ISW, was one of the leading voices in keeping US forces in Afghanistan. Thanks to the defense contractors who support her organization, Kagan was able to spend 15 months in Afghanistan during the war against the Taliban, advising none other than Gen. David Petraeus, then the highest ranking commander in the Central Asian theater.
According to an article in The Washington Post by investigative journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Kagan’s “proximity to Petraeus… provided an incentive for defense contractors to contribute to Kim Kagan’s think tank.”
Chandrasekaran cited anonymous sources who “expressed deep unease about their activities in the headquarters, particularly because of their affiliations and advocacy in Washington.”
Kimberly Kagan was accompanied on her lengthy trip to Afghanistan by her husband, Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which was accused in 2007 of offering cash to scientists "to undermine a major climate change report," the Guardian reported.
Meanwhile, Frederick’s brother, Robert, another shining Neocon star in his own right, is a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
And it's impossible to mention Robert Kagan without mentioning his wife, Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. After all, Nuland has been largely responsible for overseeing the rather bumpy governmental transition in Ukraine after former president Viktor Yanukovich was forced to flee the country after a mob seized control of Kiev.
Now say what you will, that’s a lot of neoconservatives in one family.
General Petraeus, for reasons we may never know, made Fred and Kimberly Kagan "de facto senior advisers, a status that afforded them numerous private meetings in his office, priority travel across the war zone and the ability to read highly secretive transcripts of intercepted Taliban communications,” Chandrasekaran reported, citing current and former senior US military and civilian officials.
The Kagans, who were also highly supportive of the disastrous and highly criticized Iraq War, as well as the surge that followed, said they continued to receive salaries from their think tanks while in Afghanistan. During Petraeus’s command in Kabul, Kagan reportedly “sent out a letter soliciting contributions so ISW could continue its military work,” the article said.
Kagan made no secret of the financial cooperation between her think-tank and the defense contractors.
“The ability to have a 15-month deployment in the service of those who needed some help and the ability to go at a moment’s notice, that’s something that you all have sponsored through your generosity to ISW,” Kagan told invited representatives of the contractors, who had been treated to a ‘President’s Circle’ dinner in Washington, D.C.
Kagan “was getting her paycheck through The Institute for the Study of War,” Chandrasekaran revealed. “That paycheck was in part funded by the Institute’s donors; some of the donors that were in attendance at that dinner included defense contractors and others with potential business interests in Afghanistan.”
Petraeus also spoke at the dinner, where he even accepted an award from Kim Kagan.
“What the Kagans do is they grade my work on a daily basis,” Petraeus said jokingly, prompting stifled laughter from the audience. “There’s some suspicion that there’s a hand up my back, and it makes my lips talk, and it’s operated by one of the Doctors Kagan.”
Imagine, US defense contractors subsidizing Kimberly Kagan and her husband to report on the conditions in Afghanistan for over a year, as well as advise military brass on what course of action to take, which has a strange way of always coming up "surge" - the best option if you are in the business of selling military equipment. Coincidence? Conflict of interest? Well, that would certainly seem to be the case, but apparently the US media had more pressing issues to report on than the"unusual arrangement" that existed between the Kagans and retired General Petraeus.
Today, the same warmongering think-tanks that got US forces bogged down in disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on a mountain of "bad intelligence" are now responsible for the slew of panic-inducing studies aimed at Russia for the ultimate purpose of hawking more military hardware across Eastern Europe.
All things considered, Neocon think tanks, like ISW, are the real source of the so-called “information warfare,” as well as the increased tensions between Moscow and Washington. And if war should break out somewhere in Eastern Europe because of their incessant fearmongering, they would only consider such a scenario as yet another business opportunity.
“The most determined push for war in 2015 will come from neocons and interventionists who want a US-Putin confrontation and regime change in Russia,” warned America paleoconservative commentator, Patrick J. Buchanan earlier this year.
Readers should understand exactly who sponsors think-tanks like ISW before they jump to any conclusions regarding Russia and its media organizations, because chances are the misguided message was delivered to them courtesy of a weapons producer.
Now that's what I call "information warfare."