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Marching Through Georgia V: U.S. Forces Moving Into Putin's Powderkeg

by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
McCain is clearly on board the War-Whoop Express. No surprise there. But Obama is also pledging to wage war on Russia whenever a Georgian leader decides he needs to goose his poll numbers by killing some Russians. With "progressives" like this, who needs PNAC?

Militarist Machinations

Here's a great idea: Why not send U.S. military forces to Georgia, one of the most volatile places on earth at the moment? That way, American troops, ships and planes can go eyeball-to-eyeball with Russian forces on a war footing?

Sound like a good plan? It does to ole Butt-Thumper Bush, who made another one of his squinty appearances outside the White House on Wednesday to announce that American military forces are going to Georgia to carry out a "humanitarian mission." [Let's hope it doesn't turn out like the "humanitarian mission" that Daddy Bush sent into the volatile war zone of Somalia back in 1992.] Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili, who has been pleading for America to come and rescue him from the bloody hash he has made, immediately seized on the announcement and proclaimed that the United States would be taking military control of Georgia's ports and airports.

Bush, aka
Bush, a.k.a. "butt-thumper"

Of course, Saakashvili, like his Kremlin counterparts, has been given to outrageous exaggerations and falsehoods throughout the crisis -- and for now, the Pentagon is denying any intent to take over the facilities in Georgia. But in any case, the introduction of American military forces into this extremely tense and explosive situation seems a remarkably stupid move -- unless, of course, one is trying foment conflict and tension in order to advance one's long-held, openly-stated agenda of militarism and geopolitical dominance.

Robert Scheer thinks that could well be in the case. In an article at Truthdig, he zeroes in on John McCain's top foreign policy adviser, lobbyist Randy Scheunemann. This hired mouthpiece was pocketing fat checks directly from Saakashvili until March, while his two-man firm went on raking in the Georgian dough until May, when Scheunemann officially (and no doubt very temporarily) left the lobbying shop. Scheunemann has long been guiding McCain toward the most bellicose stances on behalf of his Georgian paymaster, and is obviously crafting the clueless candidate's latest fierce belches against the Russkies.

Scheer excavates some very interesting facts about Scheunemann, including his key role with our old friends, the Project for a New American Century -- you know, the Cheney-Rumsfeld outfit that in September 2000 declared that only a "new Pearl Harbor" would allow them to implement their plan for gargantuan increases in military spending at home and aggressive expansion of America's military empire abroad. And as we've noted here often, those lucky duckies got just what they wanted a year later, on September 11, 2001.

Scheunemann, a long-time McCain advisor (even while shilling for foreign powers) was also instrumental in the rabid PR campaign to foment war fever for the invasion of Iraq. Now Scheer sees the possibility of a similar attempt to manipulate the United States into another conflict that would tap a vast new seam of war profiteering while boosting the political fortunes of his patrons. Scheer writes:

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?

...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.

...Scheunemann is at the center of the neoconservative cabal that has come to dominate the Republican candidate’s foreign policy stance in a replay of the run-up to the war against Iraq. These folks are always looking for a foreign enemy on which to base a new Cold War, and with the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, it was Putin’s Russia that came increasingly to fit the bill.

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...

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.

Butt-Thumper's announcement is a strong indication that the PNAC-neocon gambit -- if deliberate gambit it is -- might work, despite their local boy's slapdown. The military move into Georgia is certainly consonant with the aggressive militarist agenda advanced at every step by the Bush Administration, which has followed the PNAC plan as if it were holy writ.

However, at this point, it is still unlikely that Butt-Thumper and the gang will actually take a pop at the Russians. But they don't have to, not right now. The racheting up of tensions, the resurrection of the mega-profitable Cold War tropes, and the convenient burial of the huge, fetid mountain of Bush Regime crime -- torture, aggression, corruption, tyranny -- by a juiced-up media with a new conflict to play with: all of these will serve the militarists very nicely, thank you.

Of course, if it does come to live fire, and the deaths of some of the American cannon fodder that Bush is throwing into the Caucasus caldron -- well, so what? As we noted here the other day, there is and always has been a powerful faction within the American elite that longs -- with a deep, strong, pyschosexual yearning -- to drop the Big One. And Russia has always been their favorite target, because the Russians have long represented the most powerful balk to their openly stated ambitions for "unipolar domination" over world affairs. And it was not the Soviet political system they objected to, anymore than they care what kind of authoritarian regime Putin and his cronies impose in Russia. After all, they avidly support regimes far more repressive than Putin's, or the later Soviet Union for that matter, such as Saudi Arabia. It's the competition that a strong Russia represents, and the lack of kow-towing, that our unipolar dominationists can't stand.

None of this should be taken as an endorsement of the Putin regime, or of the Russian military action in Georgia...although it doubtless will, because many people -- such as 97 percent of the American media and political establishments, for example --  simply cannot, or will not, accept anything but the starkest binary view of any situation. Somebody must be the "good guy" (the one that the American government supports) and somebody must be the "bad guy." And anyone who speaks ill of "our" guy, or even tries to understand the viewpoint of the "bad" guy, is, obviously, one of the "bad guys" too. This is one of the most durable, and tedious, and corrosive dynamics in American political discourse.

Where's Barry?

McCain is clearly on board the War-Whoop Express. No surprise there. But what of Barack Obama?

The candidate for Hope and Change interrupted his vacation long enough this week  to line up squarely with McCain, Butt-Thumper, Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol and the whole war-whooping crew in declaring his support for fast-tracking Georgia's entry into NATO. As many others have noted, if Georgia had succeeded in its earlier Bush-backed attempts to join the military alliance, NATO's other members would have been obliged by treaty to wade in on Georgia's side in this week's war with Russia. Thus the remarkably foolish decision by  Saakashvili to launch a brutal military assault on South Ossetia -- provoking a brutal Russian response -- could have quickly led to World War III.

(No, wait; it would have been World War V, right? Because the war-whoopers tell us that the Cold War was World War III, and their Terror War is World War IV. But is the War on Drugs in there somewhere? Then that would make the next big thing World War VI, wouldn't it? It's so hard to keep up.)

So Obama is now pledging to wage war on Russia whenever a Georgian leader decides he needs to goose his poll numbers by killing some Russians. With "progressives" like this, who needs PNAC?


Oh, by the way: Butt-Thumper took the opportunity of the Georgian mission announcement to condemn the Kremlin once again for invading a sovereign nation and occupying it with military forces. And once again -- inexplicably -- the earth didn't immediately crack open and swallow him up out of sheer embarrassment that such a blood-soaked, mass-murdering hypocrite is allowed to walk around in comfort and safety and privilege and power.

photo of Chris FloydChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.

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This story was published on August 14, 2008.