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‘TelephoneGate’ and its discontents

ZOLTAN ZIGEDY reports how the drive to impeach Trump has masked the sinister dealings of the Democrats in Ukraine

ONLY a person who embraces her or his historical short-sightedness could be aghast at Donald Trump’s self-serving phone call to the President of Ukraine. Actually, it is not people in the US who are shocked and appalled by Trump’s heavy-handed, supposedly “unprecedented” attempt to undermine a political rival; it is the cable TV chatterboxes, the Democratic Party hitmen, and their addicted acolytes who self-righteously recoil from Trump’s brazen, ham-fisted corruption.

How soon they forget Richard Nixon’s sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks in order to hurt his presidential rival, Hubert Humphrey. Or Reagan’s deal with the Iranians to hold the hostages and deny James Carter in the 1980 election.

Even more recently, our news media shrugged its collective shoulders at the audacious and successful effort of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign to derail Bernie Sanders’s 2016 primary run. And, of course, the Fusion GPS “research” organisation contracted by the Clinton team and targeting Trump drew not only foreign operatives into the effort, but the corrupted leadership of the intelligence agencies.

Trump brought his customary vulgar directness and childlike simplicity to the phone conversation (“…very bad people…”). Lacking any finesse, he directly asks President Zelensky to investigate the role of Joe Biden and his son in Ukrainian affairs, offering the sleazy Rudolph Giuliani as an enabler.

For his part, Zelensky shows himself to be the fawning puppet of the US: “We are trying to work hard because we wanted to drain the swamp here in our country…You are a great teacher for us.…”

Sharing the spirit of political retribution with Trump, Zelensky asks “the great teacher” to punish the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich: “Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the former president and she was on his side.” Tit for tat — Biden for Yovanovich. And don’t forget we need more sanctions and Javelin missiles to combat the evil Russians.

It’s more than curious that the purveyors of fast-food news do not identify Zelensky as an Eastern European Trump wannabe. Their dishonest portrayal of Ukraine as a bastion of democracy will not permit them to read the phone-call transcript as revelatory of the legacy of corruption and US intervention in Ukrainian affairs.

Zelensky, like his predecessor, owes his position to a US-engineered coup that brought Ukraine firmly into the US sphere of influence. As adamantly as the media wants to portray Zelensky as “Mr Smith Goes to Kiev,” the transcript suggests a different interpretation.

Lost in the impeachment flurry is the unsightly, corrupt role of presidential aspirant Joe Biden. Biden has postured as a modest friend of the working man and woman, a commoner drawn to public service.

In fact, Biden is a corporate Democrat through and through, with a nasty history of opposing affirmative action and supporting the militarisation of the police and the growth of the incarceration industry. His foreign policy views are taken from the chicken hawks and the generals.

Along with Victoria Nuland, Biden was the leading figure in conducting US intervention in Ukrainian affairs during the Obama administration. His fingerprints are on the ousting of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

And then a curious thing happened. Two months later, Hunter Biden — Joe’s ne’er-do-well son — was appointed to the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest energy company, Burisma Holdings, at a reported $50,000 per month. The head of Burisma had apparently been impressed with Hunter Biden’s deep experience in business, especially the oil and gas business.

But Hunter had no experience in business, any business. He was fresh from expulsion for cocaine use from a very brief and privileged entry into the Naval Reserve, hardly a sterling qualification for a big-time job on the Burisma board.

Could it have been that Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, saw Biden as a free pass for his being on the wrong side of US-written history? Was Hunter Biden’s appointment a down payment on forgiveness for Zlochevsky’s support of the deposed Yanukovych, given vice-president Joe Biden’s key role in shaping US policy toward its client state?

Certainly those possibilities never occurred to our then apparently somnambulant media. No-one saw a hint of impropriety, a scent of influence peddling, or the stench of corruption in the halcyon days of 2014.

With one exception: James Risen, writing in The Intercept, acclaims that he, in fact, anticipated the dust-up about Joe and Hunter way back in 2015 when Risen was a writer for the august New York Times. Risen assures us, however, that Joe Biden’s intervention in Ukraine affairs had nothing but the most noble motives, an assertion that proves that some NYT writers actually found the paper’s editorial line to be credible.

Astonishing that Risen and others can actually defend Biden’s role in Ukraine without acknowledging that he and other US officials were actively and effectively interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign country, a despicable sin that has singularly, but one-dimensionally occupied the US media obsessively for the last two years. Interference is only interference when it is alleged against the US or by a self-perceived foe of the US. That’s the kind of twisted logic employed by a government intoxicated with its own sense of moral infallibility and sold by a compliant media.

“Still,” Risen assures us, “when Joe Biden went to Ukraine, he was not trying to protect his son — quite the reverse.” Why would anyone think differently?

Would it come as a surprise if the “whistleblower” in this sordid affair turned out to be — not a disgruntled intelligence officer afraid of retribution — but the highest echelon of the intelligence apparatus bent on keeping Zelensky securely under its thumb and on board with its anti-Russia programme?

Whistleblower protection was supposedly meant to protect the employees, not the employers. It is undoubtedly abused in this case.

An examination of the nine-page “whistleblower” letter and appendix directed to the Senate and the House intelligence committee chairpersons reveals a remarkable access to numerous high-level “officials,” a wealth of intelligence information and impressive analytical and research resources.

The brief would constitute a difficult, Herculean task for any low or mid-level intelligence officer following the lead of hearsay or water-cooler gossip. Likely, the secret service leadership has contrived a composite “whistleblower” to exploit the anonymity guaranteed by existing legislation.

Unlike the Watergate “deep throat” leaker whose identity obsessed the media for decades, news people have a puzzling lack of interest in uncovering the anonymous “whistleblower.” Maybe they know there really isn’t one?

The “whistleblower” document is a point-by-point response to any counter-narrative that some, including many sceptics on the left, might construct to the bipartisan, “colour” revolution, regime-change programme of US imperialism. It is, in essence, an expression of US unilateralism and the US’s attempts to isolate its rivals.

Trump is the target of the exercise only because his own narrowly focused, personal objectives clash with the ruling class’s perception of its own interests and the calculated mythology of US moral authority; his MAGA vision is at odds with the global vision embraced by most of the ruling class establishment.

For the “news”/entertainment industry, an impeachment process is Christmas come early. The corporate moguls know well the jacked-up ratings that have followed past presidential impeachment hearings and the high drama of political manoeuvres that ensue. They have stoked the fires of outrage to put pressure on a Democratic Party leadership reluctant to follow the impeachment path.

Like RussiaGate, TelephoneGate is a double-edged sword aimed at the populace. On one edge, it attempts to conjure Trump criminality without suggesting that his behaviour represents the general lawlessness of the capitalist class.

And on the other edge, it promises to distract US voters from the real crisis facing most citizens. With impeachment unfolding over the next year, TelephoneGate will accomplish that task.

Even a cursory examination behind the media curtain demonstrates that the sordid affair tarnishes all who have participated: Trump, his team, Biden and his DNC promoters, Biden the younger, the intelligence establishment, the political cabal, the monopoly media, and the rest of that for which the disingenuous Trump and his junior partner Zelensky use the nonetheless useful term, “the swamp.”

For well over a decade, confidence in the swamp and the institutions populated by the swamp rats has sunk in every opinion poll.

Over the next months, we will be asked to pick sides in a contest with charlatans and scoundrels dominating both sides. There will be no winners beyond the charlatans and the scoundrels.

If, paraphrasing the oft-quoted Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire, the Nixon impeachment was a tragedy and the Clinton impeachment was a farce, what is the Trump impeachment?

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