Sunday, August 17, 2008

McCain, Rove, the Caucasus, and the Crimean

Here's a quick rundown of the recent tragic events in the Caucasus.

August 8th - The Telegraph
Caucasus in crisis: Georgia invades rebel region

The Caucasus have descended into crisis after Georgian troops launched a full-scale military assault against Moscow-backed rebels in an attempt to wrest control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Georgian military commanders confirmed an invasion began in the early hours of Friday morning, raising fears of a serious diplomatic crisis between the country's western allies and Moscow.

The United States swiftly called for calm, but appeared to apportion more blame on Moscow and the separatist forces it supports for taking the volatile region to the brink of war.

"We're urging Moscow to press South Ossetia's de facto leaders to stop firing," a US State department official said. "We're urging Tbilisi to maintain restraint."

Just hours after Mikheil Saaskashvili, Georgia's pro-western president, declared a unilateral ceasefire, his armed forces began an artillery barrage against Tskhinvali, the rebel capital.
Okay, so what we've learned here is that Georgia in fact used its own army to invade Moscow-backed rebels. On virtually the same day, Russia invaded Georgia, as most of the ethnic Abkhaz and Ossetian people living in South Ossetia (and Abkhazia) are Russian citizens. This excellent blog goes into a great bit of background on the interesting history of the many small ethnic groups in the Caucasus region, but he sums up the position of the South Ossetians perfectly:
The Abkhaz and the South Ossetians have made their preference very clear by applying for and being issued with a Russian passport. That's right, the majority of the present native population of these two "separatist enclaves" are bona fide citizens of the Russian Federation with all the privileges appertaining thereto. Lacking any other options, they are happy to accept protection from Russia, use Russian as their lingua franca, and fight for their right to be rid of Georgians once and for all. One of the privileges of being a Russian citizen at this stage, when Russia has recovered from its political and economic woes following the Soviet collapse, is that if some foreign entity comes and shells a settlement full of Russian citizens, you can be sure that Russia will open one amazingly huge can of whoop-ass on whoever it feels is responsible.
Now, here's where things get interesting. Back on July 10-13, none other than Karl Rove was hobnobbing it up "on vacation," at the yearly Yalta Conference - a meeting of the minds hosted by a Ukrainian think tank, and including such invitees as the President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, oh and Richard Haass, the current head of the Council on Foreign Relations. You know, just a few of the guys from around the way, maybe talking a little shop. (It has been fascinatingly noted by the very intelligent minds at NotionsCapital that the Ukraine has no extradition treaty with the US, and that at the same time Rove was taking his quote "long planned trip" unquote; he:
"ignored a subpoena and failed to appear for testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee. According to Rep. Linda S├ínchez (D, CA-39), Mr. Rove’s lawyer, Robert D. Luskin (a partner in Patton Boggs LLP), “forgot” to tell committee staffers that his client had scheduled what Rep. Chris Cannon (R, UT-3) described as a “long-planned trip” abroad.")
Just a couple of days later, on July 15, the US and Georgia were conducting joint military exersizes. This was despite the rising tensions between Moscow and the Georgians. But it gets wilder. On the eve of the War itself, Mikhail Saakashvili goes down this road:
. . . Saakashvili is openly contemptuous of his counterparts in Russia. “You know them and their corruption,” he says; “you can imagine what horrible consequences there would be if we followed their political and economic model.” He says he cannot imagine the West not coming to Georgia’s aid. It would be like the betrayal of Hungary in 1956 or the then Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the Soviet Union’s aggressive repression of restive satellites was met with silence from the West.

This conversation take place late on Wednesday evening, as August 6 turns to August 7. On the following night, Aug. 7-8, Georgian troops launched their offensive against Tshkinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.
This background leads up to the very brief war itself, and of course, my favorite topic, the media reaction. At first, during the opening of the whoop-ass can, most of the traditional corporate media took the Republican narrative on this story: Big Bad Mother Bear Russia was invading South Ossetia, and the Georgians were the victims of their own, er, uh, that is to say the Russian invasion of South Ossetia . . . you know . . . the one that came after the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia. More-of-the-same McCain himself waxed eloquently and grandibulously that "Today we are all Georgians."

Neat . . . super. Today we're all from a tiny nation in the Caucasus.

It took roughly four or five days before this showed up, over at the Washington Post:
While Aide Advised McCain, His Firm Lobbied for Georgia

Campaign Dismisses Timing of Phone Call, Contract

Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.

The day of the call, a lobbying firm partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.

The McCain campaign said Georgia's lobbying contract with Orion Strategies had no bearing on the candidate's decision to speak with President Mikheil Saakashvili and did not influence his statement. "The Embassy of Georgia requested the call," said campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.

But ethics experts have raised concerns about former lobbyists for foreign governments providing advice to presidential candidates about those same countries. "The question is, who is the client? Is the adviser loyal to income from a foreign client, or is he loyal to the candidate he is working for now?" said James Thurber, a lobbying expert at American University. "It's dangerous if you're getting advice from people who are very close to countries on one side or another of a conflict."
Okay first off . . . Jesus Christ . . . is anyone who works for the McCain campaign NOT a lobbyist?* Okay secondly, doesn't it seem a little, I don't know . . . weird? . . . . that one of McCain's top advisors is also getting $200,000 from Georgia to support Georgian interests? I mean is this raising any red flags for ANYONE in our traditional corporate media?**

Then, this comes out over at ABC News.
President McCain Sends Secretary of State Lieberman and Defense Secretary Graham to Tbilisi
That's right, Candidate McCain is sending two of his official surrogates over to Georgia to help . . . for some reason.

This whole ridiculous and incidentally tragic disaster appears more and more to be some sort of election strategy for the Republicans. George W, the walking farce we have of a President, pretended to have some residual credibility, lamely insisting that Russia stop the bullying and intimidation. McCain, in a mode of high drama, was moved to unbe-fucking-lievably remark that "in the 21st century nations don't invade other nations."

Yet another instance of reality trumping satire, folks.

But of course, as a surprise to absolutely no one, all that talk ended up being just that . . . talk. What are Bush, More-of-the-same McCain, or anyone of these other jokers really going to do, besides issue a bunch of punk and bluster about "big bad Russia?" The US Government has decided to invade two nations on the other side of the planet from our home quarters, but Russia is condemned for interceding on behalf of its own citizens? Even if the Bush government did have a shred of moral standing or credibility . . . which - let us be clear - it does not . . does anyone really believe that we can do anything to stop Russia from protecting its interests? The idea that we could stop Russia from pursuing its plans down in the Caucasus is laughable, unless we wish to start an all-out thermonuclear suicide run. And in following the "policy" that these geniuses - these neocon keystone cops - have followed, they have now pantsed, punked, and made an idiot out of a friendly local power that was sympathetic to US interests . . . well . . . corporate interests at least.

At any rate, with so much of TurdBlossom's sausagy fingers stirring this incredibly dangerous pot, and McCain's unbelievable bellicosity running amok, the media have been predictably been floating the notion that all of this killing going on down in the Caucasus is somehow good for McCain. The old cold warrior appears to be on the warpath again, dying to re-fight the battles of the past. I think the jury is still terrifically "out" as to whether all of this is going to be good for RepubliCons or a disaster. But what's clear to me is that once again, the neocons are trying to manipulate international crises as an electoral strategy designed to win over their rabid, war-loving base, whom they're sure to keep absolutely paralyzed with fear, to such a point that they don't realize how the Corporate Machine is fucking them over every single day of their god-damned lives.

What's that?

There's enormously important oil pipelines running through the region? Well burn my biscuits I am shocked!!!

Look at McCain's pathetic campaign so far. He's a walking gaffe machine. No one is excited about the guy, and whomever he picks for a running mate, it's virtually guaranteed that at least one fifth of the Republican electorate is going to want to stay home, vote Bob Barr, or even for Obama. Compare this to the rock-star like Obama machine. It appears that starting up fake international crises that quickly metastasize into real ones, making it as difficult to vote as possible, keeping the actual candidate in as much of a bubble as possible, and raising gobs of cash from Big Oil is the only thing they have left.

Is it going to work?*

**No, not really.


justin reed said...

Dave, thank you for your articulate, well documented and remarkably thorough treatment of this situation.

The background into the South Ossetians desire to be Russian and Georgia's first strike seem to be one of most glaring silences (and distortions) from the US politicians and media.

A healthy skeptic dialog on digg in the days following the intitial conflict provided my first exposure to these facts. The pitfall I think in many of those posts and, to a lesser degree, here on your blog is the blindness to the Russian culpability here.

1. Has Russia been supporting and encouraging seperatist elements in S. Ossetia - YES
2. Did they lie about the damage done/casualties caused by Georgia's initial strike - PROBABLY
3. Was the intensity of their reaction out of scale and reflecting a larger intimidation and threat of Georgia - MOST DEF
4. Did Russian troops participate in and look the other way as Ethnic Georgian civilians were intimidated and killed and their homes in the conflict zone were burned - LOOKS TO BE THE CASE

I do understand the impulse to react against the bullshit by illuminating history and facts that are being willfully ignored and downplayed. The partisan trap is to exclude facts that are not helpful to your case.

great post!

Downtown Dave said...


I wouldn't make any particular arguments about the sainthood or the lack thereof as per the Russians, the Georgians, the South Ossetians, or the Abkhaz, generally.

I DO however, object the neocons trying to manipulate this situation so as to benefit their clunker of a Presidential Candidate, His Royal Pastyness John McCain.

justin reed said...

I understand yer point D and I thank you again for this post.
I felt that your thorough exploration of this quagmire/shitstorm and the media's reaction against Russia would have been well served by including the facts regarding Russia's actions on the ground where they are at fault.
oh well,
war is hell eh?

keep up the good blog...i'm a subscriber


Downtown Dave said...


You are the paradigm of even-handedness and balance. And you are dead right. The government of Russia generally (and Putin in in particular) is indeed "Red," because of all that blood, which is up to their necks.

My main angle here was to put the Republican muckety-mucks under the spotlight, here.

You know. . . those bastards.

My $.02 is that the real people who are suffering here is those in South Ossetia, and Georgia. No doubt.