Category Archives: Russia

The Soviets in Cuba

Another piece they left out of your history books…
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady (WSJ 11/13/2017)

Most Americans have never heard of the anti-Castro uprising in Cuba’s Escambray Mountains, which began in 1959 and took Fidel and the Soviet Union six years to put down. At the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, the episode is worth revisiting. If not for 400 Soviets sent to Cuba under the command of the Red Army and the KGB in 1961, it is unlikely that Castro would have prevailed.

What happened in the Escambray pokes a giant hole in Castro’s narrative that his revolution was a justified power grab supported by workingclass and rural Cubans. The fact is that when Cubans began to understand that Fidel planned to replace Fulgencio Batista as the next dictator and to impose communism, many rebelled. None fought harder than central Cuba’s guajiros — small land owners and tenant farmers.

Forty years after Castro took power, a protégé named Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela and allowed to consolidate power. Today that once-rich country is an authoritarian hellhole where toilet paper is a luxury and malnutrition is widespread.

Venezuelans did not see what was coming in part because of the failure of histori- ans, journalists, lawyers, academics and politicians throughout the Americas to expose the atrocities committed in the 1960s against the guajiros and other dissidents.

Castro understood the importance of controlling the press, foreign as well as domestic. He used that control to popularize his version of events. He framed the resistance— those who rejected his communist takeover—as a white, urban aristocracy unhappy because it was losing its privilege under his new justice. Meanwhile, he wiped out whole farming communities with Stalinesque ruthlessness, and he did it with guidance from the Kremlin, which exported its experience in intelligence gathering and repression.

Agapito Rivera was born in 1937 in central Cuba, one of seven children in a poor family that cut sugar cane on a large estate. He told me in an interview in Miami earlier this year that when he first started cutting cane he was so small that his older brother had to throw the shoots onto the cart for him. By the time Castro took power, Mr. Rivera was 22 and married. That year a daughter was born. The young family lived in a small house Mr. Rivera had built himself.

Many peasants opposed Batista. When he fled, they celebrated. But they quickly recognized Castro’s ambitious plan to betray the revolution. Ironically it was the takeover of a large sugar plantation called Sierrita that confirmed their worst suspicions. Sierrita had been an excellent employer. The owners paid well and treated workers with dignity. Yet it was the first property seized in the area.

I wondered why Mr. Rivera had objected, since Castro was promising “social justice” for the poor. “I looked at that,” he said, referring to the confiscation of Sierrita, “and I said to myself, if he can do that to them, what future do I have?”

Mr. Rivera went into combat with other guajiros and alongside former Castro guerrillas who had fought in the Sierra Maestra to restore the constitutional democracy.

In his 1989 book, “And the Russians Stayed: The Sovietization of Cuba,” Cuban-born Nestor Carbonell uses the testimony of a former Castro intelligence officer to describe how the Soviets crushed the Escambray rebellion, which at one point numbered 8,000 insurgents. Castro had sent 12,000 soldiers and 80,000 militia to the region in late 1960, but they’d made no headway. So in January 1961 the Kremlin stepped in. It sent a contingent of Soviet coaches to a military compound near the city of Trinidad. That compound became a “KGB redoubt,” Mr. Carbonell explains. “From there, the Soviets secretly directed a major offensive to quash the insurgency.”

The operation mobilized 70,000 Cuban soldiers and 110,000 militia. They “uprooted most of the peasant families living in the area, and dragged them into concentration camps” in the far western part of the country. More than 1,800 prisoners were executed, according to Mr. Carbonell. “The obsessive goal was total extermination,” so the government forces “destroyed crops, burned huts and contaminated springs as they systematically combed the region for rebels or suspects.”

The U.S. made secretive attempts to get supplies to the resistance, but poor coordination hampered operations. When President John F. Kennedy withdrew support for the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961, the U.S. also abandoned the Escambray. The rebels were outnumbered and outgunned but they did not give up easily. It wasn’t until 1965 that they were entirely defeated.

Mr. Rivera was captured in 1963, spent 25 years in prison, and was exiled in 1988. And the story of the Soviet campaign in Cuba to annihilate farmers and peasants—who rejected the collectivization of agriculture just as they had in Russia


Bob Mueller’s Sideshow

The main-stream press will not focus on material issues and information.
WSJ 10/31/2017

The best way to think of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Monday-morning indictments is as a compliment— backhanded as it may be—to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes.

Like the special prosecutor, Mr. Nunes and his committee have been investigating the 2016 presidential campaign. Unlike the special prosecutor, Mr. Nunes has unearthed hard evidence about both Russian influence on the election and domestic spying on Trump campaign officials. And if the committee gets the documents it has been demanding for months about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of the salacious Christopher Steele dossier, this week may end even more explosively than it’s begun.

Right now that’s hard to imagine, given how Washington has been overwhelmed by Monday’s indictments of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates, as well as news that another former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. Though a court will determine whether Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates are guilty of the crimes they are accused of, surely it is worth noting that those charges, serious as they may be, have little to do with what Mr. Mueller was supposed to be investigating when he was named special prosecutor, to wit: “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.”

Meanwhile Mr. Nunes and the Republicans on his intel committee plod on. They do so in the face of mockery and contempt from the Beltway press corps, and sabotage and obstruction by Democrats, especially those on the committee. The obstruction includes a manufactured ethics charge against Mr. Nunes that has deliberately been kept unresolved in the House Ethics Committee as part of an effort to keep a cloud hanging over Mr. Nunes so long as he continues to ask real questions about not only the Russians but our own government.

So what has Mr. Nunes’s committee found? Turns out that in the Obama years, especially in 2016, officials made many requests to unmask the identities of Americans, including Trump campaign officials, who were caught up in foreign surveillance.

When asked about it by PBS’s Judy Woodruff back in March, Obama national security adviser Susan Rice claimed she was “surprised” and told Ms. Woodruff “I know nothing about this.” Under oath before Mr. Nunes’s committee, Ms. Rice’s memory returned, and she admitted of unmasking senior figures in the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile the committee learned that Ms. Rice’s colleague at the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, had made hundreds of unmasking requests. During Ms.

Power’s appearance before the committee, she oddly claimed others were doing much of the asking—even though her name was on these requests. Did anyone outside the House committee think to ask why a Democratic White House was so free with such sensitive info in an election year?

Then there’s the Russian question. The Steele dossier is at the heart of the narrative that Mr. Trump had colluded with Moscow to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. Now the same people who pushed this narrative have lost all interest in the document that helped fuel it. When two of Fusion’s three partners invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination rather than reveal who paid for the dossier, it looked as though we might never find out.

But the committee didn’t give up. It subpoenaed Fusion’s bank records, ultimately forcing the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to acknowledge they had paid for the dossier, notwithstanding earlier Clinton campaign denials. On Saturday the committee announced a deal over Fusion’s bank records it said would “secure the Committee’s access” to what it needed for its investigation.

Big questions remain for the FBI. The main one requires a simple yes-or-no answer: Did the FBI use the information in the Steele dossier to spy on Trump campaign associates? If so, did it first verify the information in the dossier?

And why would the FBI want to pay for more information from a man doing opposition research for Mrs. Clinton?

Here’s another way to put it: As all eyes remain on Special Counsel Mueller and the men he’s indicted, it may be well to pay more attention to a much-maligned committee on Capitol Hill. Because after months of stonewalling and the public intervention of House Speaker Paul Ryan, the FBI has agreed to provide the documents Congress asked for. Mr. Nunes’s office confirms that the FBI documents it has long sought are supposed to arrive this week.

Messrs. Manafort and Gates may well be guilty of everything they’ve been charged with. But this week, thanks to a congressional committee’s persistence, we may find out the answer to what surely is a much more combustible question: whether a presidential campaign was able to leverage opposition research based on Russian disinformation to bring about an FBI investigation into its rival’s campaign.

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Democrats, Russians and the FBI

None of this in the mainstream [liberal] media. If you don’t see that the Democrats are willing to take the United States of America toward becoming a “banana republic”  in order to save their skin,  I am truly sorry for you.
WSJ – 10/27/2017

It turns out that Russia has sown distrust in the U.S. political system—aided and abetted by the Democratic Party, and perhaps the FBI. This is an about-face from the dominant media narrative of the last year, and it requires a full investigation.

The Washington Post revealed Tuesday that the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee jointly paid for that infamous “dossier” full of Russian disinformation against Donald Trump. They filtered the payments through a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie), which hired the opposition-research hit men at Fusion GPS. Fusion in turn tapped a former British spook, Christopher Steele, to compile the allegations, which are based largely on anonymous, Kremlin-connected sources.

Strip out the middlemen, and it appears that Democrats paid for Russians to compile wild allegations about a U.S. presidential candidate. Did someone say “collusion”?

This news is all the more explosive because the DNC and Clinton campaign hid their role, even amid the media furor after BuzzFeed published the Steele dossier in January. Reporters are now saying that Clinton campaign officials lied to them about their role in the dossier. Current DNC Chair Tom Perez and former Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz deny knowing about the dossier arrangement, but someone must have known.

Perhaps this explains why Congressional Democrats have been keen to protect Fusion from answering dossier questions—disrupting hearings, protesting subpoenas and deriding Republican investigators. Two of Fusion’s cofounders invoked their Fifth Amendment rights last week rather than answer House Intelligence Committee questions, and Fusion filed a federal lawsuit on Friday to block committee subpoenas of its bank records.

The more troubling question is whether the FBI played a role, even if inadvertently, in assisting a Russian disinformation campaign. We know the agency possessed the dossier in 2016, and according to media reports it debated paying Mr. Steele to continue his work in the runup to the election. This occurred while former FBI Director James Comey was ramping up his probe into supposed ties between the Trump campaign and Russians.

Two pertinent questions: Did the dossier trigger the FBI probe of the Trump campaign, and did Mr. Comey or his agents use it as evidence to seek wiretapping approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Trump campaign aides?

Congressional investigators need to focus on the FBI’s role, and House Speaker Paul Ryan was correct Wednesday to insist that the bureau comply with Congress’s document demands “immediately.” Mr. Sessions has recused himself from the Justice Department’s Russia probe, but he and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein can still insist on transparency. Mr. Ryan should also reinstall Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes as lead on the Russia investigation, since it appears the Democratic accusations against him were aimed in part at throwing him off the Fusion trail.

All of this also raises questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The Fusion news means the FBI’s role in Russia’s election interference must now be investigated— even as the FBI and Justice insist that Mr. Mueller’s probe prevents them from cooperating with Congressional investigators.

Mr. Mueller is a former FBI director, and for years he worked closely with Mr. Comey. It is no slur against Mr. Mueller’s integrity to say that he lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe of the bureau he ran for a dozen years. He could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil over that conflict of interest.

The American public deserves a full accounting of the scope and nature of Russian meddling in American democracy, and that means following the trail of the Steele dossier as much as it does the meetings of Trump campaign officials.


The Trump Dossier Dam Is Breaking

WSJ- 10/28/2017

’Tis the season of tossing out nondisclosure agreements. Victims and employees of Harvey Weinstein clamor to be released from their NDAs so they can talk about his abuse. Perkins Coie, the Washington law firm for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign, showed the way by voluntarily releasing Fusion GPS from its duty to remain mum on Democrats who funded the notorious Trump dossier.

May the example catch on.

Journalists who investigated the Trump dossier now say their Democratic sources lied to them. That’s already a start. Please, Democrats, release journalists from their confidentiality agreements so they can tell us more about your lying.

The revelations provide new context for Harry Reid’s “October surprise,” his attempt 10 days before Election Day to lever the dossier’s allegations into the press with a public letter to then-FBI Director James Comey accusing him of withholding “explosive information.”

Mr. Reid knows how the responsible press works. Implausible, scurrilous and unsupported allegations are not reportable, but a government official making public reference to such allegations is reportable.

Mr. Reid, though, failed to mention his party’s role in concocting the allegations, much less that the manner of its doing so left him no reason to suppose the charges were anything but tall tales spun by Russian intelligence officials in response to danglings of Democratic money.

This is a completely novel tactic in U.S. politics, applying to a hostile foreign power for lurid stories about a domestic opponent. Mr. Reid, please tell us more about your role.

Let’s also hear from Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

He claimed on TV to have “circumstantial” and “more than circumstantial” evidence of Trump collusion with Russia. In the event, what he delivered in a committee hearing was a litany of routine, innocuous business and diplomatic contacts between Trump associates and Russian citizens, interspersed with claims from the Trump dossier. He failed to mention, though, that the Trump dossier was manufactured by Democrats paying a D.C. law firm to pay a D.C. “research” firm to pay a retired British spook to pay unknown, unidentified Russians to tell stories about Mr. Trump, in reckless disregard for whether the stories were true.

Mr. Schiff, a Harvard Law graduate, will know the phrase is not our coinage. “Reckless disregard” is the standard by which the Supreme Court says, even in a country that bends over backward to protect the press at the expense of public figures, the press can be held liable for defamatory untruths about a public figure.

Even so, journalists are presumed to know their sources, not to have paid a long chain of surrogates to elicit sensational claims from perfect strangers, let alone anonymous agents of a foreign regime with a known habit of disinformation. It is impossible to exaggerate how reckless Democrats have been under this standard. If they found the Trump dossier on the sidewalk, they’d be in a better ethical position now. Let’s hear what Mr. Schiff knew and when he knew it.

Finally, let us hear from James Comey.

The Trump dossier was reckless and irresponsible in the extreme, but only consequential after Election Day. It didn’t prevent Mr. Trump from becoming president.

In the new spirit of non- non-disclosure, it’s time for Mr. Comey to tell us about the Russian intelligence scam that may really have changed the election outcome.

In closed hearings, he reportedly acknowledged that his intervention in the Hillary Clinton email case was prompted by what is now understood to have been planted, fake Russian intelligence. The fake Russian intelligence purported to discuss a nonexistent email between then-DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz and George Soros-employed activist Leonard Benardo.

This led directly to Mr. Comey’s second intervention, reopening the case 11 days before Election Day, a shocking development that appears now to have moved enough votes into Mr. Trump’s column to account for his win.

At the time, the press was all too happy to blame Bill Clinton for his wife’s loss when Mr. Comey, for nonclassified consumption, cited Mr. Clinton’s tarmac meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch as the reason for his intervention.

The press is silent now. The new story satisfies nobody’s agenda, and only makes the FBI look foolish. Mr. Trump is not eager to hear his victory portrayed as an FBI-precipitated accident. Democrats cling to their increasingly washed-out theory of Trump-Russia collusion.

And yet, if Mr. Comey’s antic intervention in response to Russian disinformation inadvertently led to Mr. Trump becoming president, this was the most consequential outcome by far.

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.