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Fake news all along: Confidence game with ‘Russian bounties’ story shows one shouldn’t trust spies & self-serving media

So convoluted was the phrasing of the not-quite-admission of wrongdoing on Thursday, that some media outlets – looking at you, The Hill – actually took it as proof the claim Russia had offered Taliban money to kill US troops was true! 

“The US intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against US coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019, including through financial incentives and compensation,” is how an anonymous official put it on a background call with the press.

From the White House podium, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki insisted Russia still had to explain itself, and dodged questions about congressional Democrats and their presidential candidate acting as if the claim had been 100% proven fact, back during the 2020 campaign.

Yet even the most hyper-partisan press had to concede that Thursday’s revelation amounted to “walking back” the original claim, used incessantly to accuse former President Donald Trump of insufficient patriotism or inappropriate ties to Moscow.

Biden used it repeatedly to accuse Trump of “betraying” the troops. This was later amplified by the unsourced Atlantic story accusing Trump of insulting the fallen, just to be 100% sure. The “bounties” claim also gave the neocons and hawks within the GOP a pretext to side with Democrats and block Trump’s efforts to withdraw from Afghanistan.

It didn’t matter than the director of national intelligence himself told Congress the allegation was unconfirmed, or that the top US general in Afghanistan said the military had found nothing to corroborate it. The claim was politically useful, so the corporate media intended on seeing Trump ousted from the White House went all in on it.

Yet one didn’t have to be especially clever to realize the original story was nonsense – merely sufficiently observant. First of all, it cited no sources, only phantom “officials briefed on the matter.” Secondly, it relied on an all-too-familiar set of weasel words and phrases, such as “linked to,” or “closely associated with” or “believed to have.” Buried deep inside the story was the admission that the whole thing was based on US-backed Afghan police interrogation of criminals, who spun a tale of Taliban and Russians under torture. 

Like a shawarma, the whole thing was then wrapped in the already established body of lies – that Russia was conducting a “hybrid war” against the US through fake news, hacking attacks and secret spy operations, even bringing in the “highly likely” alleged poisoning of ex-spy Sergey Skripal in Salisbury with a chemical agent – for which no evidence has been presented to this day.

A “spy fantasy,” I called it at the time. Except it was something worse: a literal con game, perpetrated upon the American public by con artists in the intelligence community, the media and political establishment circles. No doubt for the purpose of “fortifying” the election, we may find out some day. 

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” famous American astronomer Carl Sagan used to say. So what is one to make of the “party of science” – as Democrats have styled themselves – offering no evidence whatsoever for any of their outlandish claims, and treating the assertions as proof enough? Perhaps that one ought to be far more skeptical of spies, politicians and the media peddling such self-serving accusations going forward. 

Thing is, they believe their lies have worked – for them, and in the short run, at least – so that’s not highly likely to happen, is it?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

© 2021, paradox. All rights reserved.

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