One of the mythologies of US politics is that the first duty of the president is to keep Americans safe. This fiction was kept alive by Barack Obama, who never hesitated to declare that America’s security was the last thought he went to bed with and the first he woke up with every morning. But as in so many endeavors, Obama was different from his predecessors, and he will most certainly be from his successor. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney gave the order to invade Iraq, the former to avenge an assassination attempt on his father and the latter to create business opportunities for Halliburton. They didn’t make America safer, but instead created ISIS and veterans like Esteban Santiago, who came home mentally ill after a tour in Iraq and in the end believed that something was telling him to start shooting at travelers in the luggage area of Fort Lauderdale’s airport. His victims ultimately are victims of the Iraq war and should be seen as such, just like Sam Siatta should have been treated like a victim of the senseless war in Afghanistan, where the US has no other option but to fail.
This week president-elect Donald J. Trump was confronted with the fact that Russian intelligence operatives, directed by Putin personally, hacked into US information systems and used the emails they gathered to weaken Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and boost the Republican candidate. As a pathological narcissist, the only thing Trump could be concerned about was whether the information he received from the CIA, FBI and NSA would discredit his victory, while it would have been more appropriate for him to be concerned about the state of the US democracy, if foreign powers had such an easy time playing with the outcome of elections. The intelligence report stated that it was the goal of the Russian hackers to denigrate Hillary Clinton and harm her electability and future presidency, but they got a lot more than they gambled for. Not only did Donald Trump get elected, which put their puppet in the White House, but by insulting and alienating the US intelligence services he all but guaranteed that as president he’ll be flying deaf and blind, giving America’s enemies a free hand.
Even after he had received a confidential briefing about the hacking, its perpetrators and its objectives, Trump continued to question and distort the information he had received. He tweeted that the report showed that the outcome of the election had not been affected by the hacking and subsequent release of emails by Wikileaks, which the report explicitly stated had not been investigated, and he continued to express his affection for ‘V. Putin.’
It is a crucial question how much Trump knew about the hacking before the election. Malcolm Nance, one of the best informed intelligence experts in the US, suggests that there is more here than the eye can see. Trump’s tax returns have not yet been released, and probably never will, so we have no idea how much Russian money is circulating in the Trump organization.
It’s obvious that Trump is moving towards a complete re-set of US-Russia relations. We don’t know why, and we don’t know how many US allies he is willing to throw under the bus. We can only hope that relatively sane majorities in the House and the Senate will stop him.