U.S. and Coalition Aid to Iraq Is Ungenerous and Self-Interested

anna cartoon

By Pamela

At the donor conference for the “post-ISIL reconstruction” of Iraq which just ended in Kuwait, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked about Iraqi corruption and insecurity, which he claimed had to be tackled for rebuilding investments to be feasible.  He said nothing about donations or reparations for the immeasurable damage the U.S. inflicted on Iraq since the first Gulf war in 1991, let alone since the invasion in 2003.  I do not recall reading that Iraq had been successfully rebuilt before ISIL struck in 2014.  And let’s recall that ISIL was largely the result of L. Paul Bremer and assorted US generals’ disastrous policies.

The US “aid” offered by Tillerson is a financial package from the U.S. Export-Import Bank in the amount of $3 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and insurance funds to American firms investing in Iraq.  Compare that paltry sum to the post-WWII Marshall Plan to Western Europe — including defeated enemy Germany and its allies — which amounted to about $140 billion in today’s dollars. Without going into the increasingly disputed purpose and even effectiveness of that aid, it amounted to more than the totality of Iraq’s needs as estimated at this moment.  And only some 10-15% of it were loans; the rest were grants, even if most of these had to finance goods imported from the U.S.

After Saddam’s capture in 2003, the U.S. apparently promised some $20 billion in reconstruction money in the form of credit against Iraq’s future oil revenues.  Whether this ever materialized I do not know, and there may well have been similar pledges, but there is no reason to assume that any of it was a grant without major strings attached.

The U.S. government is not the only hypocrite in this matter.  The overwhelming majority of the $30 billion in reconstruction pledges concerns credit and investments.  Is this simply donor fatigue?  How come the U.S.-led coalition had no trouble spending untold billions on the destruction of Iraq and its people, but cannot afford to help them rebuild their country?

The only governmental exception seems to be the nearly half a billion in donations from the European Union, but I wonder how much of this is dedicated to purchases from the EU.

I doubt my own government [Poland] will contribute anything but a token investment — if anything — while it enthusiastically joined the unholy coalition in 2003 for three candidly stated reasons: gain more importance in NATO, train its military in field conditions (!), and benefit from economic off-sets.  We do not even have the vibrant veterans-against-war associations which in the U.S. fight to prevent more of such wars from happening.  One such admirable initiative is We Are Not Your Soldiers, with veterans visiting high schools to harness kids against the propaganda of military recruiters, by explaining what war really looks like and what damage it inflicts on both victims and perpetrators.

In sum, American “Shock & Awe” doctrine destroyed Iraq, initial reconstruction efforts were haphazard and insufficient, and now in 2018 Iraq is sure to end up with a debt noose around its neck and ever greater dependence on the whims of foreign investors.

With respect to foreign investors, consider this quotation: “Iraq also is Opec’s second-largest crude producer and home to the world’s fifth-largest known reserves, though it has struggled to pay international firms running them.”

As for the Iraqi government, this is how it was described by New York-based Iraqi poet and long-term exile Sinan Antoon:  “The Iraqi government and the entire political class are beneficiaries of the U.S. and its wars. They recognize and commemorate the crimes of Saddam Hussein and the Baath regime and now ISIL and exploit them for their narrow and sectarian political purposes.”

Antoon’s critique of the Iraqi government should be kept in mind when reading Prime Minister’s Haider al-Abadi’s glowing appreciation of our “generous aid.”

Pamela, a former aid worker with a decade’s worth of on-the-ground experience in Afghanistan, worked with the Afghan people in relationships characterized by trust and friendship.

21 thoughts on “U.S. and Coalition Aid to Iraq Is Ungenerous and Self-Interested

  1. Big Pharma (US) was enabled by US government in Iraq to reap profits and, truth be told, some of the profits went to “protection” money for various terrorist groups who in turn were attacking and killing US troops in Iraq. Talk about the ned for an honest, objective Congressional investigation of this whole criminal episode. Really disgusting but am not holding my breath.

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    1. Speaking about our proliferating wars for the reaping of profits, how about some:

      Hardly Heroic Corporate Couplets

      Buy some Republicans, they’ll shout “GAWD bless!”
      Then rent some Democrats, they’ll lose for less.

      Every two years, either one or the other,
      Then set them squabbling like sister and brother.

      Put on a puppet show, charge for admission.
      Make fortunes building bombs, fusion and fission.

      Hedge funds and Goldman Sachs, cut their taxation.
      Fed has a name for it: “debt relaxation.”

      “Right to work” laws in force, much unemployment.
      No right to unionize, low-wage “enjoyment.”

      Poverty Draft in place, “jobs” for the willing.
      “Wars” for the rich while the poor do the killing.

      Bottom line, quarterly, stock-prices soaring,
      Until they drop one day. Hear the bears roaring.

      Then print those paper bills, trillions and counting.
      Pay no attention to deficits mounting.

      Gamble and always win: Ponzi-scheme bubbles.
      Donors get profits and voters get troubles.

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2018

      Best that a short-order poet can do on the second day of Chinese New Year.

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      1. “Debt relaxation” and “right to work” — I picture porcine politicians in a smoke-filled room laughing maniacally at the Orwellian words they come up with. Except it’s probably just a high=paid wordsmith who’s chuckling quietly on his way to the bank.

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  2. I am sorry this is off topic but our govt has waged war against its own people and this is shocking and heartbreaking but true and those do nothing elected officials must be _____ out unless they act.
    I do not expect them to help countries they have destroyed when they have done NOTHING to prevent loss and devastation of lives in our country.
    http://theweek.com/speedreads/755768/boston-globe-chillingly-bold-front-page-statement-about-gun-violence-america

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    1. Yes. It would behoove American proles to recognize whom their own government considers its greatest enemy. As George Orwell explained in THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM (The ‘Book within a Book’ from Nineteen Eighty-Four):

      The war … if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. … But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War … is now a purely internal affair. … The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.”

      The International Corporate Oligarchy that now operates the United States like a wholly owned subsidiary fast-food franchise regards Orwell’s novel not a work of dystopean fiction but as an operations manual. The American working-class would do well to understand this, but, currently, little in the way of organized opposition exists to promote the necessary dismantling of the Corporate Oligarchical Collective. Ending the cynically contrived state of permanent Orwellian “war” must come first. After that, other reforms can proceed in peace.

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  3. “In an interview with Pham Van Dong, one American asked the North Vietnamese foreign minister how he could call the Saigon government an “American puppet” when it acted with such consistency against American interests. “Ah,” replied the minister, “it’s a puppet, all right. It’s just a bad puppet.” Frances FitzGerald, Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

    Another in a sequence of bad-puppet Saigon regimes has taken root in Baghdad. The U.S. corporate-militarist junta knows how to install and then fall victim to no other kind. Once the bad Shia puppets in Baghdad have lined their own pockets and manipulated the American yokel generals into obliterating their Sunni sectarian rivals, then look for the Americans to receive another invitation to leave Iraq so that the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians can step in and help get something like a genuine rebuilding underway. After decades of psychotic pooch-screwing by ignorant, duplicitous Americans, I rather doubt that anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan would trust them to “rebuild” a slit-trench latrine in the waterless desert. As with the U.S. military itself, so with all its works: “Always rebuilding, just never built.”

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  4. Michael Murry > “Always rebuilding, just never built.” Ahh, Michael this is the supreme beauty of the Corporate Oligarchical Collective system, cost plus, no bid contracts and no congressional oversight. It is a perpetual motion machine.

    The Puppets and Stooge leaders are paid off, some of the dollars will trickle down to the indigenous guards, but with no loyalty to the leadership. Some over decorated AmeriKan Generals and Admirals will point with pride to the progress made and the bobble heads in Congress will nod approval and heap on the praise.

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    1. “… cost plus, no bid contracts and no congressional oversight. It is a perpetual motion machine. ”

      Yes, ML, but even worse, a perpetual Rube Goldberg machine, constructed not to do any useful work, but to consume vast inputs of expensive energy clanking and shrieking, and grinding gears so as to appear all-intimidating-and-stuff to those with little knowledge of the proper design and functioning of machinery.

      At the risk of mixing metaphors, I suggest adding to this image a claque of operator-attendant Cargo-cultists imported on H1B visas from the South Sea islands (or West Point), their grass shirts decorated with brightly colored sea shells, certain that with their in-depth knowledge of how to simulate airplanes and radio-control towers with coconuts and palm-tree logs they can magically induce the Lunatic Leviathan to disgorge military and consumer goods from 1945 at a price that increasingly impoverished Americans can afford. Yes. Rube Goldberg meets the Cargo Cult explains the contemporary United States quite adequately.

      On the other hand, much of the world sees America — accurately — as a deranged monkey with a hand-grenade, which leaves civilized nations like Russia, China, and Iran with no option but to try and quietly humor the suicidal simian until someone can get the grenade out of its clutches before it pulls the pin, killing everyone in the room.

      As an aside on the subject of hysterical insanity in the United States, I read this morning on the Huffing-and-Puffing-Post and Saloon Magazine websites how wannabe-Kenneth-Starr special persecutor Robert Mueller had “indicted” thirteen “Russian nationals” for not affecting the [50 individual state] elections in 2016 and for having no Americans “collude” with them about anything. From my admittedly jaundiced dirty-fucking-hippie anti-war Vietnam veteran viewpont, I ask: “So?” I mean, if only thirteen “Russian” people tried to do something to three-hundred-and-twenty million “American” people (half of whose eligible voters do not vote) and still failed to influence the vote count, then why should any American voter give a shit one way or another? In fact, if these thirteen “Russian” people abjectly failed to achieve their goals, shouldn’t we Americans wish such failure on even more “Russians”? I mean, shouldn’t the American government encourage such incompetence rather than attempt to punish it?

      On the other hand, if these thirteen incompetent “Russians” actually achieved their goals by not influencing our elections, then that would imply an astounding economy of means; an incredible efficiency. Wouldn’t any candidate for elective office wish to hire these thirteen cheap geniuses instead of spending years groveling for money from billionaire donors whose pet consultants managed to run the vastly unpopular candidate, You-Know-Her, who lost to a rookie real-estate con-man and tv game-show host — and spent a billion dollars doing it? I mean, doesn’t every political campaign attempt to influence the outcome of elections? As a matter of fact, doesn’t voting attempt to do that? How on earth could thirteen “Russians” who can’t even vote, somehow overcome the 330 million Americans who did? And did thirteen “Russians” in 2016 invent the Electoral College which effectively disenfranchises millions of American voters for living too close to other American voters on the continent’s coastlines, or did some slave-owning American oligarchs in the eighteenth century do that?

      The United States does not deserve the appelation of “democracy,” or even “republic.” And blaming thirteen “Russians” for America’s own corrupt militarist oligarchy has to rank among the most desperate and pathetic pleadings ever proferred by a “prosecutor.” And to think that a grand jury could swallow such unadulterated horseshit rather diminishes the meaning that one normally associates with “grand,” to say the least.

      And will somebody please get that hand grenade out of the gibbering monkey’s clutches?

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      1. If we really want to focus on vote influencing/election tampering, let’s look at gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and other efforts at voter suppression right within our own borders.

        Speaking of voter suppression, Hillary did a great job of that when she took all that corporate/banking money while putting the little people into her basket of deplorables.

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  5. Operation Iraqi Freedom converted Iraq from an Iran enemy to an Iran ally, a fact that the US is finally coming around to accepting. Give financial aid to Iran or its ally? Forget it.

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    1. Thanks for chipping in, Don.

      The last two stanzas of a poem I wrote twelve years ago I think pretty much cover the subject:

      Who Lost Iraq?
      Where did it go, and how to get it back?

      “Who talks of loss at all?” ask the Mullahs in Iran.
      As far as we’re concerned George Bush is just The Man.
      He stumbles and he bumbles then he gives away
      For nothing everything for which we’d gladly pay.
      Dick Cheney writes the crap for him to catapult
      Who never met a thought that he could not insult
      The Shiites in Iraq will get our help, indeed,
      To end the occupation that they do not need.
      We won Iraq
      Who let Bush do the work while we sat back.”

      Who lost Iraq?
      Where did it go and how to get it back?

      “Who said you ever owned us?” cried the people of Iraq.
      “Who asked you for your bloody war and unprovoked attack?
      You seemed to think that killing us and wrecking all we had
      Could win elections for George Bush and make him look less bad.
      Our oil we’ll sell to whom we please. Why don’t you find your own?
      And get yourselves a president at least a little grown.
      In case you haven’t noticed, he’s the one that you should fear
      Whose words smell like the noisome gas escaping from his rear.
      Please leave Iraq
      Then see if you can win your own souls back.”

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006

      As no less a war criminal than Henry Kissinge explained U.S. policy back during the Iran-Iraq war: “Let them kill each other off.” That policy — driven by the Zionist Occupation of Palestine (or, ZOP) — has not changed in decades, and anything euphemistically called “aid” by the U.S. government has no other purpose than “helping” both sides of a needless fight continue it in perpetuity. As the late Sri Lankan Ambassador, Ananda W. P. Guruge, told me many years ago when I asked him why his government had declined the U.S. military’s offer of “assistance” with the local Tamil insurgency: “If the Americans come, they will just draw an arbritrary line through a temporary probliem and make it permanent.”

      The problem of U. S. “aid,” therefore, becomes not how to receive it but how to refuse it. Wise governments will choose the latter. Only the hopelessly corrupt or foolhardy would choose the former. I suspect that Iraqi and Iranian governments both know this and will act accordingly. The Chinese and Russians will then no doubt provide the actual aid that aids. American irrelevance mounts with every passing month. A good thing, too.

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      1. “Let them kill each other off’, is what I remember thinking the UK rationale must have been for the 1917 Balfour declaration, when I learned about in high school.
        Sri Lanka sadly did cave in to some extent, as a few years ago notorious ‘development’ consultancy firm DAI got a huge contract there to train government staff.
        They’re one of the well-oiled cogwheels in post-Shock&Awe situations. Their website has become less boasting, possibly as a result of their offices having been attacked in ungrateful host-countries and staff members having been expelled from other ones.

        Your poem hits the nail on the head. As for the prose conclusion, those who accept the aid are not just the most corrupt and/or foolhardy ones – even if they often indeed are. The crux is dire need and lack of a bona fide alternative. How could war-ravaged countries rebuild exclusively by their own means, when even the very basics of the power grid and water & sanitation are destroyed? If your house has been destroyed, unless you’re pretty rich you’d have the choice between keeping your family in a tent forever, or accepting the outrageous conditions of whoever offers to ‘help’ you to build a new house. Even an exceptionally honest government when faced with a destroyed infrastructure would be stuck between its population demanding restoration of normal living conditions asap and the demands of (foreign) governmental & corporate war profiteers.

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  6. Read this on the Internet > Why are there no coups in the US? It is the only country without a US embassy. (heard from a Brazilian friend)

    Tell your Brazilian friend that it is because we build them into the system. Anyone rich or powerful enough can buy an election or go broke trying. Our coups are bloodless and regularly scheduled.

    Or there is this: Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide’s lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami. He began his talk with a riddle: “Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?” The answer: “Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C.” This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well.

    America’s Coup Machine: Destroying Democracy Since 1953 https://www.alternet.org/world/americas-coup-machine-destroying-democracy-1953

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    1. So very true. Wish more people remembered this – or even realised it – when wasting endless time, energy & taxpayers money to investigate Russian meddling in US elections. Of course they did it, like the US no doubt does systematically in those countries where it cannot outright overthrow the sitting government.

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      1. “Of course they did it.”

        With all due respect, when the day comes that someone — after a year-and-a-half of failing to do so — provides actual evidence of what “it” means, to the extent “it” means anything (which I seriously doubt), I’ll refrain from passing judgement on the Russian Federation, its government, and its people. The so-called “Democrats” still believe that they can run to the right of the right-wing Republicans by posing as even-more-tough-and-stuff towards the “Russians” (meaning the imaginary hobgoblin and not the actual country and people). For their part, the established right-wing Republican varsity will never let the nouveau-right-wing Democratic junior varsity get into the “all tough and stuff” game until the score has become so lopsided in the last minutes that nothing the Democrats do can possibly make any difference.

        As a matter of indisputable fact, presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama enthusiastically turned the Democratic party into wannabe “moderate” Republicans, and not very good ones at that. Pathetic. The American people want Peace and Jobs and the Democrats keep screaming “Russians!” “Russians!” If I remember correctly, the Democratic party’s candidate, You-Know-Her (because everybody does), tried that run-to-the-right “strategy” in the 2016 presidential elections while her rookie Republician opponent: a right-wing billionaire, real-estate con-man, and cable-TV game-show host ran to her left, promising Peace and Jobs. “All About Him” won. “You-Know-Her” lost. Apparently, the Democratic party hasn’t figured this out yet and thinks that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer can out-right-wing the far-right Republicans while the far-right Republicans cynically poach what little remains of the Democrats’ once-working-class identity. Pathetic.

        So, always remember the corporate oligarchy/junta’s operative slogan:

        “Buy some Republicans, they’ll shout ‘GAWD bless!’
        Then rent some Democrats, they’ll lose for less.”

        Oh, yes. And the unreferenced pronoun “it” means “anything that anyone associated in any way with the word “Russian” might possibly have done at some undetermined time just because they wanted to and they could.” There. I think that about covers “it.”

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  7. To Michael Murray’s latest reply :-). I absolutely agree about ‘it’ not being defined, let alone proven. But being roughly the same age as you are, I assume that over the years we both have lost most of our illusions, replaced them with common sense and realise that there is nothing sacred in politics, certainly not other sovereign countries’ governments and therefore also elections. So we can assume that they all to some degree spy, infiltrate, provoke, vilify, spread lies, etc in other countries. That is, all those which can afford it financially and technologically, so to the US and Russia we can no doubt add the UK, France, Germany, Israel, Canada, China, Australia, etc etc. And they all have discreet counter-intelligence agencies to limit the damage.

    If I were the ‘intelligence’ gathering institution, the last thing I would do is boast about having identified the meddlers and publish their names. Having secretly identified them would give me a clear advantage and would allow me to covertly keep on tracking them and thwart their meddling with my own counter-meddling. But this is about satisfying some politicians who want to see blood and spectacular PR, not about proving anything of importance, apart from showing the world how ‘bad’ Russia is and how much more clever the US is, as it managed to uncover the plot. So now it’s back to square one and having to uncover the new plotters who presumably will replace the uncovered ones.

    In short, I did not mean to vilify Russia, just to state a reasonable assumption :-). As they have Lavrov, who clearly is very intelligent, experienced and a shrewd old fox (did you hear his near-perfect English including jokes at a UN press conference last year ?), as opposed to amateur diplomat Tillerson whose Russian – if any – probably is limited to oil contract terminology, it seems to me that Russia is ‘winning’ this chess game anyway.

    Personally the only meddling that I would be interested to see elucidated, is the DNC’s in Bernie Sander’s campaign. If that indeed happened, it may have made a tremendous and potentially tragic difference. Sanders clearly has no experience in foreign affairs, but based on his steadfast domestic agenda and the admirable civilian experts he had surrounded himself with, I expect that he would have done the same in international affairs if he had been elected president. Sigh …

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      1. Thanks for the podcast link, Bill. I listened to the exchange between Glenn Greenwald and James Risen with some interest and took a few handwritten notes which I hope to verify once a transcript of the discussion — I wouldn’t call it a “debate” — becomes available. In addition, I followed links at the Intercept to the article by James Risen entitled “Is Donald Trump a Traitor?” I found it tedious and tendentious and, frankly, too much of a chore to wade through in its entirety. Too much trivia. I’ll just content myself here with commenting upon the first sentence of Risen’s article, which I found instantly risible:

        “Americans must live with the uncertaintly of not knowing whether Trump has the best interests of the United States or those of Russia at heart.”

        First: The Grammar Gestapo and Semantic Security Services — who closely monitor and record my telephone and internet communications — insist that I object to the needlessly verbose construction “the uncertainty of not knowing” on the grounds that, if “uncertainty” means anything, it means “not knowing.” So the construction constitutes a redundancy, a sure sign of sloppy writing, if not “blowhardism.”

        Second: the use of the conjunction “or” sets up a false dichotomy, which presupposes that the United States and Russia cannot have mutually beneficial interests upon the basis of which any competent American president — even President Donald Trump when sane — would want to reach agreement. Mr Risen, in fact, posits a fallacious “Zero-Sum Game” in which only one party can win while the other party must lose. As Genghis Khan reputedly expressed this kind of thinking: “It is not enough that I succeed. Everyone else must fail.

        On the other hand, replacement of the exclusive “or” with the inclusive “and” results in the notion of “win-win” agreements, again the sort of dealings that any sane and competent American president should want to pursue. Americans could certainly live with the prospect of President Donald Trump having the best interests of both the United States and Russia at heart. Mr Risen, for some reason, seems unable to conceive of this perfectly plausible possibility. Why should President Trump, or any other American, have anything against “the Russians” who have done nothing to harm us Americans?

        Mr Risen’s article, as with his discussion with Glenn Greenwald — suffers from two debilitating presuppositions: (a) that the Russian Federation, its people, and its government officials — taken as an undifferentiated collective entity — constitute an “enemy” of the United States (otherwise the notion of “treason” has no applicability whatsoever) and (b) that American voters cannot make up their own minds and vote upon the basis of their own perceived self-interest but, instead, can have their electoral decisions made for them without their knowledge or consent by shadowy foreign persons who understand American institutions and our corrupt 50 state electoral systems even better than Americans do. What a ludicrous imputation of powerless credulity leveled at the American people by, of all persons, someone who obviously considers hiself an “American.”

        I have many other criticisms of Mr Risen’s article and (piss-poor) performance vis-a-vis Glenn Greenwald in their discussion, but I’ll have to save those for some other time. Just getting through one of Mr Risen’s abstract and misguided sentences has consumed my available comment-energy for today.

        Thanks again to Bill Astore for the link. It would make a good starting point for an article on logic, language, and the psychology of political mob-hysteria.

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      2. Mike: Greenwald got the better of the debate by far.

        As near as I can tell, certain Russians played around with Twitter and Facebook. I don’t have a Twitter account and I don’t use Facebook for news. I think most Americans are not going to vote because of a tweet or something they saw some anonymous person say on Facebook, but who knows?

        Perhaps Russian interference went deeper, but my (somewhat) informed opinion is that Russian influence over the 2016 election was negligible. The more the Democrats play this up, the more they obscure the real reasons why they failed — and continue to fail.

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