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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

McCain's Georgian August Surprise?

Robert Scheer raises a very interesting question over at truthdig, namely whether Georgian lobbyist and McCain senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann had any role in stoking the current crisis in a misguided (one can hope) attempt to boost McCain's hawkish stature by giving him the opportunity to bluster against the good old Russian Bear.

I know the media narrative has been dutifully doing its part, framing this as a conflict between the freedom and democracy loving Grorgian people and the aggressive power-hungry Russia of Vladimir Putin. While there's some truth to that portrayal of Russia's interests, it totally misses the nature of the Georgian-Western (particularly American) relationship. It also raises some questions right off the bat.

Consider the many people who are scratching their heads and wondering why in the world the Georgian army would march on South Ossetia, knowing there were Russian peacekeepers based there and knowing also what Russia's response would be. Why would they provoke such a fight, one they were all but sure to lose? Unless, of course, they were under the impression they'd have back-up should they do so.

And there were also those who puzzled over McCain's reaction ("I know I speak for every American when I say to him (President Mikheil Saakashvili), ‘Today we are all Georgians.'"), seeing a knee-jerk bellicose reaction to a situation calling for a thoughtful, reasoned approach. But jerk his knees most definitely did.

Consider also the tactic (used with nearly immeasurable success by bin Laden and al Qaeda against the Bush administration, not to mention our own long, but shadowy, history in this regard) of provoking a desired response from the enemy in order to further your own long-term strategic goals. The more we learn about the interconnecting points of the McCain campaign, the neoconservative machine, and the Georgian government, the more possible, if not likely, such a scenario seems to be, with more than enough reason to wonder if it was coordinated in order to influence the American elections:
Is it possible that this time the October surprise was tried in August, and that the garbage issue of brave little Georgia struggling for its survival from the grasp of the Russian bear was stoked to influence the U.S. presidential election?

Before you dismiss that possibility, consider the role of one Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government who ended his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser.

Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

There are telltale signs that he played a similar role in the recent Georgia flare-up. How else to explain the folly of his close friend and former employer, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in ordering an invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, an invasion that clearly was expected to produce a Russian counterreaction? It is inconceivable that Saakashvili would have triggered this dangerous escalation without some assurance from influential Americans he trusted, like Scheunemann, that the United States would have his back. Scheunemann long guided McCain in these matters, even before he was officially running foreign policy for McCain’s presidential campaign.

In 2005, while registered as a paid lobbyist for Georgia, Scheunemann worked with McCain to draft a congressional resolution pushing for Georgia’s membership in NATO. A year later, while still on the Georgian payroll, Scheunemann accompanied McCain on a trip to that country, where they met with Saakashvili and supported his bellicose views toward Russia’s Vladimir Putin

Yes, it sounds diabolical, but that may be the most accurate way to assess the designs of the McCain campaign in matters of war and peace. There is every indication that the candidate’s demonization of Russian leader Putin is an even grander plan than the previous use of Saddam to fuel American militarism with the fearsome enemy that it desperately needs.

McCain gets to look tough with a new Cold War to fight while Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, scrambling to make sense of a more measured foreign policy posture, will seem weak in comparison. Meanwhile, the dire consequences of the Bush legacy that McCain has inherited, from the disaster of Iraq to the economic meltdown, conveniently will be ignored. But the military-industrial complex, which has helped bankroll the neoconservatives, will be provided with an excuse for ramping up a military budget that is already bigger than that of the rest of the world combined.

What is at work here is a neoconservative, self-fulfilling prophecy in which Russia is turned into an enemy that expands its largely reduced military, and Putin is cast as the new Josef Stalin bogeyman, evoking images of the old Soviet Union. McCain has condemned a “revanchist Russia” that should once again be contained. Although Putin has been the enormously popular elected leader of post-Communist Russia, it is assumed that imperialism is always lurking, not only in his DNA but in that of the Russian people.

How convenient to forget that Stalin was a Georgian, and indeed if Russian troops had occupied the threatened Georgian town of Gori they would have found a museum still honoring the local boy, who made good by seizing control of the Russian revolution. Indeed five Russian bombs were allegedly dropped on Gori’s Stalin Square on Tuesday.
This certainly does seemed to be feeding into John McCain's angry old warmonger strategy, and we all know the GOP would give their eyeteeth to have the Soviets back to rail against (Now that was a moneymaker!). Of course, getting the American public to see this in a wider light would require a functioning and active press. Most folks only get there news in bite sized chunks, pre-chewed for easy digestion (wee little birds are we).

No, getting the American public engaged on this matter would require an honest and objective look at the situation, one which would take into account the deliberately provocative moves of the Georgian government and the web which connects this event to so many other ill-founded foreign policy ploys by the very same players. And that won't sell soap.

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