Cyber War - From Trifle to Catastrophe
By Ernest Partridge
November 06, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - Hillary Clinton tells us that all seventeen intelligence agencies agree that the Wikileaks hack comes from the Kremlin. Those agencies proclaim this with a rock-solid conviction that I have not heard since Vice President DIck Cheney told us all that "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." Add to that, the rock-solid evidence of Saddam's treachery that Colin Powell presented to the UN Security Council. The mainstream corporate media bought it whole.
However, as all know today, these were lies. Saddam had no WMDs, and there were no Iraqi chemical weapons "Winebagos of Death" vividly described by Colin Powell.
Now we are told, "with high confidence," that Vladimir Putin's Kremlin has launched a cyber attack to disrupt our presidential election. Never mind that, as MIT expert Theodore Postol has written that there is, "no technical way that the US intelligence community could know who did the hacking if it was done by sophisticated nation-state actors."
The lies that launched the disastrous Iraq war have had lasting consequences to the credibility of the United States Government. The last time that government cried "wolf," there was no wolf. Why should we believe it now?
So no, I am not convinced. There is good reason not to believe the "Kremlin hack" story.
A crucial distinction is in order: First, there is the actual content of the hacked emails. Second, there are the consequences of the general media assumption and public belief that the emails were a Kremlin plot to disrupt the presidential election.
As for the content, it was trivial and still worse, not credible. There is nothing remarkable in the disclosed content of the hacked emails. They might, if believed, cause John Podesta some embarrassment. In addition, they might reveal that the Democratic National Committee is controlled by a political elite. But we already know that.
But why should we believe any of that content? If, as claimed, the leaks came from the Kremlin, there is not, and cannot be, any authentication of the hacked emails unless the original sources (e.g, John Podesta) produce the originals. And why would they? Accordingly, the leakers (whoever they might be) are free to concoct forgeries at will. And of course, it follows that we, the intended audience, are advised to ignore all of them.
Furthermore, , why would Putin want to use these emails to "rig" our election? To tilt the election toward Trump? If that is his motive, it has backfired spectacularly. That alleged "disclosure" of the hacking has benefited Clinton far more than Trump. It is one of her favorite talking points, as we discovered in the final debate.
So we are left with two alternate conclusions: The Russian government likely had no part in the leaking. Or if they did, the leaks will have little or no effect on the election, except to provide Hillary Clinton with a talking point and to embarrass John Podesta.
In short, the Wikileaks hacks, whatever the source, appear to be a just a prank: A trifle, blown hugely out of proportion by a scandal-hungry media.
However, even though the content of the hacked emails may be trivial and not credible, the consequences of the accusation of Kremlin connivance could be catastrophic.
First of all, as we are finding out, the neo-cons and the media are using the hacks to intensify the demonization of Putin and to heat up the renewed Cold War.
Still worse, as Joe Biden stated recently on Meet the Press, the accusation that Putin is behind the hacks and their release might provoke a cyber retaliation from the United States.
A Kremlin spokesman has called Biden's threat a a "virtual American declaration of war on Russia."
If, as Biden warns, the United States retaliates, then the Russian response might, unlike the present alleged leaks, be devastating to the US economy.
Be assured that a "cyber-war" entails infinitely more than leaked emails. It might include the shutdown of the internet and emails. Also, the disruption of business and financial communications and utility grids. The world today runs on silicon and microprocessors. Imagine returning home to no electric power, phone service or access to the internet. Add to that, no restocking of the local supermarket or gas stations. And no capability of the government to make prompt repairs. The result: Total economic shutdown.
We can do this to Russia, and be assured that Russia can do this to us.
The reality of cyber attacks is no mere speculation, we have seen them at work. The Iranian nuclear weapons program was severely damaged and set back by a CIA implanted computer virus. And this past month, large regions of the United States temporarily lost internet service. The cause remains unknown.
Has Joe Biden thought through the implications of his threat? Is this the horror that Biden wants to unleash on us and the world in response to an essentially harmless prank? To what purpose? Some kind of capitulation by the Russians? No chance of that.
A far more likely result would be an escalation from cyber to military combat. And then what?
Where are the cool-headed grownups, now that we need them?
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org). His book in progress, "Conscience of a Progressive," can be seen atwww.igc.org/gadfly/progressive/^toc.htm. Send comments to: