Commentary: Indignation about possible Russian meddling in the U.S. election rings a bit hollow.

Even if the worst of these scenarios turns out to be true, why is it being treated as some sort of unprecedented scandal?

A Facebook ad linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process and stir up tensions around divisive social issues, released by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, is photographed in Washington, on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. The ad, with the words "Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is" was listed as an excerpt of political advertising in the indictment charging 13 Russians and three Russian entities in an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

For more than a year now, the U.S. public has been subjected to often speculative yet highly publicized claims about “Russian meddling” in the 2016 presidential campaign. In a recent Salt Lake Tribune commentary, Scott Bell goes so far as to say, “There is no doubt Russia manipulated our 2016 elections, and influenced the outcome.”

Whether such claims are true or not remains to be seen. But even if the worst of these scenarios turns out to be true, why is it being treated as some sort of unprecedented scandal?

During the Cold War – now being revved up again, it appears, by many in the U.S. power establishment – efforts to influence elections in other countries were a routine activity, with the United States outdoing the Soviet Union by far.

According to Carnegie Mellon researcher Dov H. Levin, between 1946 and 1991 the U.S. meddled in 70 elections in other countries including, for example, Argentina (1946), Israel (1949, 1992), Japan (1952, 1953, 1958, 1960, 1963), West Germany (1953, 1957), Iceland (1956), Somalia (1964), Bolivia (1964, 1966), Sri Lanka (1965), Guyana (1968), Uruguay (1971), Malta (1971), Iran (1980), El Salvador (1982, 1984), Grenada (1984), Panama (1984, 1989), Costa Rica (1986), U.K. (1987), Chile (1988), Nicaragua (1990), Romania (1990), Haiti (1990) and Albania (1991).

The Soviet Union, by the way, was no innocent, interfering in 33 elections during that same Cold War time frame — including two in the United States (1948 and 1984). (In return, we later meddled with the 1996 Russian elections.)

Post-Cold War, the United States has continued to meddle in other countries’ elections including, for example, Israel (1992, 1996, 1999), Yugoslavia (1992), Cambodia (1993), Ukraine (1994) — and Russia (1996). More recently, the U.S. has interfered with elections in Moldova, Ukraine, Lebanon, Kenya, and Afghanistan, to mention just a few.

Then there are all the military coups and regime changes the U.S. has perpetrated. At least 33 countries in the past 70 years have experienced the heavy hand of American military/economic power, including for example Italy (1947-48), Greece (1947-1950s, 1964-74), Vietnam (1950-73), Iran (1953), Indonesia (1957-8), Guatemala (1960), Ecuador (1960-63), The Congo (1960-64), Chile (1964-73), Panama (1969-91), Zaire (1975-78), Jamaica (1976-80), Nicaragua (1978-90), Bulgaria (1990), El Salvador (1980-94), Haiti (1986-94), Serbia (2000), Venezuela (2002), Iraq (2003), Honduras (2009) and Libya (2011).

So our righteous indignation about possible Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election rings a bit hollow, to say the least. Such tampering by the two countries has long been a common practice, with the United States being far and away the most active practitioner.

Incidentally, most if not all of these efforts at subverting democracy in other countries were orchestrated by the CIA. On March 14, at 11 AM, former CIA Director John Brennan will be giving an invited lecture at the University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Hopefully those in attendance will question him about this tawdry history of ours and what we can expect in the future.

Tom Huckin. Photo by Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune 9-20-2005.

Tom Huckin is professor emeritus of writing and rhetoric studies at the University of Utah, specializing in the study of contemporary propaganda. He is a founding member of the Utah chapter of Move to Amend, one of many grassroots efforts to restore democracy in America by getting big money out of politics.

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