VOL. 133 | NO. 35 | Friday, February 16, 2018
This is Not a Squirrel
DISTRACTION. Spoon hated squirrels. Every so often, I would yell, “SQUIRREL!”, and Spoon would charge the window from wherever she was in full and frantic bark mode, whatever she was doing forgotten in the urgency of the moment. Sometimes there actually was a squirrel, but most of the time I did it for the reaction.
Before I can join Spoon in the afterlife, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to atone for that.
A friend and fraternity brother called the other day to talk about the state of this and that. He spent a number of terms in Congress in the House and after retiring he now splits his time between home and Washington where he does some consulting. Before leaving office, he rose pretty high in NATO civilian ranks and sat in the meetings when pretty heavy things were on the table. How high and how heavy and his name aren’t the subject of this column, because that would just be a distraction. Distraction is the subject of this column. Suffice it to say he’s a credible source.
He told me a story. In 2010 … 2010, people … he sat in a NATO intelligence briefing about Russia’s plans and priorities. He told me it boiled down to three:
1. Disrupt the European Union and “weaken long-standing Western alliances.”
2. Undermine bedrock American institutions and beliefs, “specifically the free press and an independent judiciary.”
3. Employ cyber attacks to aid in all of that, and to target the electoral process in Western democracies. “When they started in on this one, I had no idea what they were talking about. We all know now.”
Well, it’s Russia-3, us-0.
When we jerked to the window to look at email squirrels in the basement in a private server, Russia was in our social media like hashtags in Twitter. When we were being told past president squirrels were spying on current presidential candidates, Russia was up in our private business like Julian Assange in a WikiLeaks staff meeting. When deplorable squirrels and small-hand insults were breaking out on every side here, Brexit was actually breaking away in Europe and Russian hackers were breaking in everywhere.
When we were told by every U.S. intelligence agency what Russia was up to, we were then told that it’s just fake news about squirrels in the attic.
When there’s more evidence of Russian involvement in our election than Russian dressing on a Reuben, we’re asked to swallow a tin foil hat memo claiming that it’s all deep state squirrels in the FBI and Justice Department.
This is Russia. You remember Russia, right? As in James Bond and Lotte Lenya and that poison blade in the boot thing. As in Khrushchev, Kennedy and missiles in Cuba. As in Putin in the KGB, in Ukraine, and evidently in your inbox.
This isn’t about squirrels. This is about a hungry Russian bear. He’s really out there and he’s not playing.
I’m a Memphian, and this is a threat to all of us.
Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at email@example.com.