Is it hypocritical for the US to condemn Russia for influencing our election?

This image graced the cover of Time on July 15, 1996 [JP Graphic via Time]


The New York Times reported Friday that the Central Intelligence Agency had “high confidence” that Russian hackers infiltrated US computer systems in order to influence the presidential election. This has led to outrage from both Democratic and Republican politicians, who are unaccustomed to powers foreign tampering in domestic affairs. “That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer. It’s a rousing call to action, but it’s all important to keep in perspective that this is something the US does literally all the time.

Back in July, Ryan Grim and Arthur Delaney provided The Huffington Post with a solid overview of some of the most important US interventions in foreign affairs, including famously disastrous instances like Iran, where the Central Intelligence Agency, led by Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson Kermit, propped up the undemocratic shah in the 1950s, leading eventually to the Islamist revolution in 1979.

But we’re not just talking about incidents in the far past. The State Department under Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton became involved in several other country’s elections. In Honduras in 2009, the US refused to acknowledge what was clearly a military coup–and was condemned as such by the United Nations–in order to sustain status quo relations with the state.

Then there’s Afghanistan. Of course, we waged a war beginning in 2001 to topple their undemocratic government, but we’ve interfered with their democratic processes as well. As Grim and Delaney put it:

The election in 2014 didn’t go as the U.S. intended (like the one in 2009, shot through with fraud that gave it to Hamid Karzai). So the U.S. declared it a tie and created a new position not in the Afghan constitution called Chief Executive Officer.

Which we guess is better than assassinating the other guy.

Back before the election, JP Updates covered an Observer piece detailing a 2006 audio recording in which Clinton says that the US should have done more to influence Palestinian elections.

“If we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win,” Clinton said.

You may have also seen this image circulating on social media, of a Time cover from the 1990s with a humorous caricature of one-time President Boris Yeltsin that promises to tell “The secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win.”

That description is a little misleading–it’s about advice given by unofficial advisers to the Yelstin campaign and doesn’t feature a quote from Yelstin or any other high-ranking official–but still, the language of the cover indicates that Americans don’t generally think it’s a problem to interfere with other countries. It’s only a problem when they interfere with us.


12/12/2016 6:02 PM by David Kinzer

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