Leftist malarky on Georgia: exhibit B

Robert Scheer uncovers an interesting piece of the puzzle as to what transpired in Georgia over the past week. But he can’t resist the temptation to portray it as the entire explanation for the war—in further evidence of the current hegemony of the Conspiracy Theory of History in dissident (and even not-so-dissident) discourse these days. From AlterNet, Aug. 13, emphasis added. Our commentary follows.

Was the War in Georgia a Neocon Election Ploy?
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.

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.

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.

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.

It should also be mentioned that the post-Communist Georgians have imperial designs on South Ossetia and Abkhazia. What a stark contradiction that the United States, which championed Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, now is ignoring Georgia’s invasion of its ethnically rebellious provinces.

For McCain to so fervently embrace Scheunemann’s neoconservative line of demonizing Russia in the interest of appearing tough during an election campaign is a reminder that a senator can be old and yet wildly irresponsible.

Note two Ugly American assumptions at work here. First is that it’s always all about us. The Georgian conflict has been brewing for 15 years (if not way longer), but Scheer thinks it was all instrumented by one guy with an agenda to influence the 2008 presidential race in the US of A. Second, that war is not rooted in political economy, but is the work of wiley Jews and their “diabolical” designs. In addition to Scheunemann’s conveniently Jewish last name, note the barely coded anti-semitism of the construction “neoconservative cabal,” a phrase that should have been laughed off the stage years ago.

As for supposed Georgian “imperial designs” on South Ossetia and Abkhazia—that’s like saying the US has “imperial designs” on Iowa and New Jersey. Everyone is forgetting that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia’s national territory! Hello?! It is also rather perverse to refer to Georgia as “imperial,” when it is a small state in the “near abroad” of one of the world’s Great Powers. Russia’s designs on Georgia are far more accurately termed “imperial.” You’d have a hard time finding Georgians (or Poles or Czechs or Hungarians) who are as dismissive as Scheer about the “garbage issue” of Russian “revanchism.” Opposing Washington’s imperial designs in the Caucasus does not mean closing our eyes to those of Moscow. And in any case, it’s pretty perverse in a piece written when the Russian bombs were still falling on Gori…

See our last posts on Robert Scheer, Georgia and the idiot left, John McCain, the neocons, and Jewish scapegoating.

  1. IWPR Caucasus editor on this
    Thomas van de Waal is the Caucasus editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. This is an article he wrote last May 15 about Russian and Georgian maneuvering over Abkhazia and is worth a read: Bullies of the Caucasus

    Even better is his Aug.11 piece: South Ossetia: An Avoidable Catastrophe

    Georgia and Russia have stumbled into a war that need not have happened, and civilians are paying the price. […]

  2. Blaming the Jews
    Here’s Georgian Pres. Saakashvili on the Israeli — and Jewish — role in this fracas. From Ha’aretz, Aug. 14:

    “The Israeli weapons have proved very effective,” he said at a press conference at his office. When asked whether the Israeli arms played a role in the military successes he claimed the Georgian army had achieved, he joked: “Are you asking me as a representative of Elbit or of Israel Aerospace Industries?”

    To a reporter’s question about Jews who have fled the fighting and come to Israel, he said: “We have two Israeli cabinet ministers, one deals with war [Defense Minister David Kezerashvili], and the other with negotiations [State Minister for Territorial Integration Temur Yakobashvili], and that is the Israeli involvement here: Both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews.”

    Ha’aretz goes on to point out that Yakobashvili is not actually an Israeli citizen, but rather is a “former Zionist leader who speaks fluent Hebrew:”

    Georgian minister slams Israeli suspension of aid

    Earlier Wednesday, Yakobashvili told Haaretz that Israel has joined in the West’s betrayal of Georgia. As the official in charge of bringing Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the fold, Yakobashvili oversaw negotiations with the Russians to end the fighting there. He warned the world that the situation would escalate into war, but the West ignored him.

    “They said the Georgians are exaggerating again,” he charged.

    A former Zionist leader who speaks fluent Hebrew, Yakobashvili credited Israeli defense companies with “enabling us to train our army and giving us the possibility to withstand the Russians,” but termed the Israeli government’s decision to stop arms exports to his country “a disgrace.”

    He said the West should have responded by “deploying NATO troops to defend Georgia’s vital infrastructure,” and that “Israel is betraying us, along with the European countries and the United States.”

    Referring to rioting by Russian militia groups in villages surrounding Gori, Yakobashvili said: “Today there was a Cossack pogrom against the local population. As a Jew that gives me a different feeling.”

    Yakobashvili blasted Israel’s decision to suspend defense aid to Georgia: “Israel did it at the Russians’ behest. It aided the terrorists, the Russians. It’s a disgrace. I don’t know what it received in return, I only see that Hezbollah continues to get Russian arms, and plenty of it.”

    “Israel should protect the interests it has here,” he continued. “There are many Israeli businesspeople who invested money, and a country should protect its citizens’ investments.”

    He ascribed Georgia’s feisty military ability to Israeli training, and said that Russian experts had told him “they never believed Georgia has such an army and that they would encounter such resistance.”

    Yakobashvili claimed the Georgian forces had destroyed Russia’s 58th army and downed 17 planes and three helicopters (data unsubstantiated by other sources). Eventually they had to retreat, he said, because “Russia deployed 30,000 soldiers and a thousand tanks. Our people are not suicidal — we don’t want our soldiers to remain in the field and be killed by Russian planes.”

    Being partly of proud Georgian Jewish heritage myself, one worries about the implications of the two ministers identified by their president as chiefly responsible for this conflict being Jewish & Zionist and/or Israeli. The Georgian Jewish community has existed, according to legend, for 2,600 years — after the fall of the first Temple. Historically there’s been “comparatively little antisemitism” in Georgia, in comparison to Eastern Europe & the former Soviet Union, according to FSU Monitor. However,historian Valery Dymshits, interviewed in an Aug. 14 article in the Forward says, “Remarkably, Georgian Gentiles and Jews both boast that anti-Semitism has never existed in Georgia, although historical facts attest to the contrary.”

    Commenting on Israel’s role in Georgia, Gabriel Ash notes on Jews Sans Frontieres:

    In a pattern that should be alarming, Israel’s “Jewish” politics is recreating a class of Jews that is lavishly paid to perform international pariah jobs for their masters. Instead of the medieval Jewish moneylender, Israel helps produce the Jewish arms dealer and war promoter as new emblems of the contemporary Jewish identity. Israeli politicians wouldn’t mind. Making the world dangerous for Jews simply confirms their Zionist worldview. What is more unfortunate is that Jewish community organizations and leaders outside of Israel are not at all alarmed. Watching how they jump to justify Israel is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

    Russia’s decision to cross the S. Ossetian “border” into Georgia “proper” seems to have allowed Saakashvili to portray himself as the victim, helping to deflect domestic criticism for his responsibility for this fiasco — at least for now. FSU Monitor in a report on anti-Semitism in Georgia, noted this foreboding bit in 1995:

    A group of Jewish men leaving a meeting of the Youth Association of Georgian Jews in Tbilisi were accosted and severely beaten by several Georgian nationals who yelled, “We’ll show you the next Holocaust! You dirty Jews! Instead of going to your meetings you should go and fight in the war as we do….Maybe you think that only Mkhedrioni (an ultra-nationalist Georgian paramilitary organization) should go and die.” The police arrested the Jewish victims and detained them for two days without food or medical attention. When the victims’ families asked the police why the aggressors were not detained, they were told, “These people are from Mkhedrioni and we trust them more than you because they fight for our country.” No charges were ever brought against the Georgian perpetrators.

    Israeli involvement in Georgia was also noted by Hezbollah. From Ha’aretz, Aug. 16:

    Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday asserted that “failed” Israeli generals had caused Georgia’s defeat in its current war with Russia.

    “Israel exported failed generals in order to train the Georgian armed forces, including general Gal Hirsch, and we all know that the Georgian army was defeated by the Russian forces,” Nasrallah said in a speech to mark two years since the end of the Second Lebanon War.

    Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gal Hirsch was the commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Galilee Brigade when reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were abducted by Hezbollah on the northern border, sparking the Second Lebanon War. He operates a privately-owned Israeli military contractors that recently trained Georgian security forces .

    Lastly, Yediot Aharanot columnist B.Michael, Aug. 12:

    No reason for pride

    We should be ashamed of Israeli military experts who sell their know-how worldwide.

    While keeping one eye on our representatives at the Olympics, we were also watching, with pride and concern, our fine boys fighting in Georgia. Well, not exactly our fine boys, but rather, the students of our fine officers and soldiers, who traveled to Georgia to sell their war skills.

    In both cases, by the way, the Israeli ego had to make do (so far) with a frustrating “almost.” We almost won an Olympic medal, and Georgia almost won in South Ossetia.

    Yet this almost did not undermine the joy and pride. The media here reported heart-warming details regarding the impressive performance of the elite regiments trained in line with the imported IDF tradition, and many Israelis blushed when a grateful Georgian minister warmly praised the courage of soldiers instructed by former Israeli officers.

    In fact, we should have been ashamed. This is the customary thing to do when a country becomes a distinguished exporter of mercenaries.

    There will likely be some people who condemn the title “mercenaries.” They will probably prefer more euphemistic terms such as “advisors,”

    “security instructors” and all sorts of similar verbal smokescreens. Yet this won’t make a difference: All those hundreds (or is it thousands?) of soldiers, officers, Mossad agents and Shin Bet men who are traveling around the world and selling the violent and dark skills they acquired here – seemingly only to protect their own citizens – are mercenaries in every way.

    There is no other title that befits the employees of a government agency who quit and keep doing the same job for more money elsewhere.

    Those who doubt this are invited to look into the website of one of those companies. I won’t mention the name here, as I don’t wish to advertise mercenaries, but it’s not difficult to identify it and examine what it offers: Silencers and home demolitions, training “special units,” and recruiting collaborators, bodyguards, and infiltration experts. And all of this is offered in three languages only: The required English, and next to it Russian and Spanish – just so we know who the potential clients are.

    Shameful disgrace

    It is possible, even if barely, to accept a flourishing arms trade. We can say that everyone does it, and we need to make a living somehow, and we don’t know what exactly those arms are being used for, and all the other regular excuses. We can even accept that fact that professional soldiers put their skills at the service of some kind of ideology in a distant country or enlist in favor of a cause that seems worthy or noble to them.

    But to be a mere professional? Teach anyone to kill just to make money? Market the reputation and “profession” they acquired here at the expense of the blood of their own people and other people? This is a shameful disgrace. And also a dishonorable outrage.

    Once upon a time, Israel made a name for itself as the exporter of oranges and roses, irrigation systems and peppers. Today, we are distinguished exporters of assault rifles and sophisticated missiles, spy drones and silencers, instructors of “elite units” and secret services – and the most terrible thing: experts on assassination and thuggery. This is not quite something to be proud of.

  3. Not that it necessarily matters much…
    …because the context is clear in any case. But it has been pointed out to us by more than one reader that Scheunemann is the German spelling of the name, whereas the Jewish rendering would be Schoenmann. Is Scheunemann Jewish? Or was he the token goy in PNAC?

  4. wily israelis arm an advise despot Saakashvili
    ‘Second, that war is not rooted in political economy, but is the work of wiley Jews and their “diabolical” designs. ‘

    Well, do you deny Bill that the wily israeli jews arm and advise the georgian despot Saakashvili?

    And he is a despot:

    ‘he reality of political life in Georgia is far different than the media image.

    Only last November, in the midst of mounting protests against his regime, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili employed dictatorial methods against his opponents. On November 2, opposition demonstrations began in Tbilisi, demanding democratic reforms and the ouster of Saakashvili. These protests, while organized by billionaire media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, gave vent to grievances against government repression and the desperate living conditions of the population. They attracted tens of thousands to the streets of Georgia’s capital city.

    The demonstrations continued until November 7, when the state police, acting on orders from Saakashvili, used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and truncheons to disperse the protesters. More than 600 required medical attention after the crackdown. On the same day, Special Forces raided Patarkatsishvili’s broadcasting corporation Imeldi, beating journalists and disabling equipment.

    Saakashvili declared a state of emergency, suspending democratic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly. Independent broadcasting was halted even before the state of emergency was declared, and only the state-controlled television station was allowed to broadcast for a period of fifteen days. Imeldi was taken off the air indefinitely.’

    1. Do I deny it?
      Do I deny that Israel has supported Georgia militarily? No.

      Do I deny that this means the war was an Israeli or “neocon” design? Absolutely.

      And I certainly deny that “wily israeli jews,” even if we are to use such clichĂ©d rhetoric, should be rendered in the lower case.