Georgia (sadly) On My Mind
We have been neo-conned again, big time.
While those who try to follow the machinations of the Bushcheney crowd were keeping an eye on the maneuvering and threats against Iran, the shrewd madmen of Cheney's wrecking crew slipped Georgia in on us. I don't know of anybody who saw it coming.
Thousands of blameless human beings already have suffered death, terrible injury and loss of homes and livelihood in a crisis centered on two little states between
The evidence of deliberation is powerful. Despite the slavish posturing of NATO and some European politicians in support of the surge of Washington-fomented anti-Russian rhetoric, most of the world's population is aware of facts the corporate-owned “news” media of the United States have withheld or buried under piles of White House propaganda.
The Georgia action, with its revival of the Russian bogeyman, doesn't mean that the right wing has given up on Iran, by the way. They still obviously believe they can directly rule the Middle East's oil fields.
Simply, as is clear in hindsight, Georgia was much easier to pull off before the November election and, anyway, there are very strong business reasons for reviving the cold war.
Even some of the Limbaugh-listening, might-is-right ex-marines I know were finding it increasingly difficult to argue that we need new multi-billion dollar war planes and tanks or, ye gods, missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic, to battle ragged, though hate-filled and dedicated, shepherds and peddlers whose most powerful weapons are home made bombs costing about $20 apiece. Iraq as an excuse for massive war spending is wearing thin for the American public.
But Russia now: that's a different story.
To the vast majority of Americans, Russia still is the Soviet Union. It's an emotional, rather than logical, stance. More than half the present U.S. population was raised in the belief that “godless Russia” was the embodiment of all that America is against, the foe of all that democracy-loving America is for.
Countering Russia, mistrusting everything Russian, taking automatic opposition to the Russian position on any issue seems normal and correct to a great many Americans, including politicians of the Democratic party, who were as enthusiastic as cold warriors as their Republican counterparts.
The neocons, Dick Cheney and his followers, and the great corporate elite must be fairly drooling at the prospect of all those blood-soaked, juicy billions of tax dollars that can be vacuumed up with the approval of the ignorant American public once the heyday of anticomoonism is well and truly revived.
It was most gracious of Vladimir Putin to show himself more plainly over the past year or so as the cold, unrepentant ex-KGB officer he always has been. That's enormously helpful to the plotters.
Here, in fairly short form, are facts reported all around the world, but either blacked out or deeply buried and made to appear unimportant by this country's media barons and their toadies:
* Ask anyone in this country who started the shooting in Georgia -– or, rather, what our press occasionally referred to, without explanation, during the first week of the current fight as the “breakaway states” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- and more than nine of ten are sure to tell you that Russia invaded those regions.
That's what everybody on television says, that's what every newspaper has reported. It's what the entire White House crew is claiming and what John McCain is thumping his chest about. Virtually all of the mass-media “pundits” are competing to be the most compelling in berating Russia for its outlaw invasion.
The thing is, the Russian invasion story as told to Americans is, in all important respects, a lie.
(In a weasel-worded report that filled almost two full pages in the Aug. 18 New York Times, three of that newspaper's reporters pretty much acknowledged that the Russian “invasion” tale is false and suggested that the Bush administration bumbled it's way into the situation, though nothing was stated so clearly. At least the report made it clear that the present state of affairs in the area of South Ossetia would not exist without White House involvement.
The very next day, after haltingly admitting that the supposed Russian invasion was not that, the Times again talked about “the Russian invasion” in the second paragraph of a story about Georgia's chances for joining NATO. It has used the phrase several times since.
As has been widely reported from London to Alexandria, from Tokyo to Capetown, the vast majority of residents in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are and always have been adamantly against absorption by Georgia. South Ossetia was promised independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but after that conglomerate went belly up, Georgia grabbed Ossetia and Abkhazia, and a couple of other little semi-independent states. It did so largely because the region came with terminals for two major oil pipelines –- keys to economic health for otherwise broke Georgia.
The facts are widely available, and have been covered by many news agencies worldwide. You can find them in clear form in a recent article by retired U.S. Army Col. Byron Richards carried on Newswithviews.com and in an Aug. 14 article on the Web site of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, an outfit I've found to be reliable. Also check out The Guardian and other United Kingdom newspapers.
There has been much push-pull for 16 years between Russia and Georgia over the two smaller states, which were granted –- supposedly granted -– almost complete autonomy. Some of South Ossetia's population is ethnically Russian, but about 60 percent of its people are Muslim. Georgia is 80 percent Orthodox Christian, and not what you would call sympathetic to Islam.
There seems to be wide agreement that Georgia's attempts to control the smaller states have been ugly, with residents routinely brutalized. South Ossetians, at least, fought back. In the fighting, some nearby towns in Russia received artillery fire from the Georgians. Russia didn't like that for some reason, and sent troops into South Ossetia and told Georgia to back off and stop firing on Russian cities.
At that point an international peacekeeping force, including Russian soldiers, was set up to keep things calm and stop Georgian aggression in the area.
And that's where things stood until Aug. 7 when Georgia invaded South Ossetia.
Reports in European and Middle Eastern newspapers say the Russians quickly dived in to stop the killing and protect its interests and people in the region. That pushback is the “Russian invasion” you've been told about 20 times a day since early August.
I have yet to see or hear a news story about the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia in the so-called mainstream media in this country, although it was sort of backhandedly referred to in the Aug. 18 Times story.
On Wednesday, Aug. 20, I was at a dinner party that included a woman who had recently arrived from her small town in Finland for a visit with relatives in this country. Someone mentioned Georgia, and she muttered something about how she could hardly believe the things our press was telling us.
“Georgia actually invaded South Ossetia,” I said. “Yes,” she replied. “Every one knows, except here.”
(Finns, you should know, are not generally fond of Russia. The two countries fought a brief but ferocious war in the winter of 1939-40, with the Finns successfully defending their border against their giant neighbor.)
* The ruination of Ossetian towns and the civilian casualties you've heard ascribed to Russia's troops? Reports by news organizations from around the world, other than the United States, generally ascribe the vast majority of the casualties – some estimates put civilian deaths at 2,000- plus – to Georgian military actions, not Russians.
Just by the by, the Georgian invaders apparently overshot their marks and, again, shelled two small towns in Russia; I haven't seen any casualty or damage estimates on those towns.
* Earlier Wednesday, Aug. 20, I saw John McCain on television talking about how the young president of Georgia, eager to further democracy and protect “his” people, had been blindsided by evil Russia.
Whoooeeee. There's a whopper.
The facts, known around the world, are somewhat different, but the facts don't work in the scenario written by the neocons, Bushcheney and the McCain campaign for the sake of winning elections and sucking our country's wealth through the straw of “defense” expenditures.
The “democracy loving” Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, won office in an election in which he got 96 percent of the vote. Sure he did.
More recently, he has been widely accused of corruption, brutal treatment of his political opposition and other antidemocratic crimes.
After Russia entered the current mess (which was after Georgia invaded, remember), only two or three American newspapers and no broadcasters that I've been able to find gave even short mention of the fact that after his coronation (excuse me, election) Saakashvili quickly and harshly shut down dissent and effectively silenced Georgia's independent media.
And then there are the widely reported acts of brutality against the non-Georgian people of South Ossetia, apparently aimed mainly at halting indigenous opposition to his attempt to take full control of the region.
The U.S. State Department's own 2007 Human Rights Report, released a few months ago, found “serious problems” with Georgia's human rights record. The report cites “excessive use of force to disperse demonstrations.” Not incidentally, our press hasn't reported that there is much opposition to our “friend's” rule in the country.
Also mentioned in the State Department report are police officers beating Saakashvili's political opponents “with impunity,” and a decline in respect for democratic principles, including actions against free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and political participation.
In Georgia, organizations such as the country's Young Lawyers Association, have reported in detail on how Saakashvili has empowered the executive branch of his government at the expense of parliament. (Does that have a familiar ring?) And they've shown how the president has “stifled political expression, pressuring influential media and targeting vocal critics and opposition leaders,” sometimes through use of police agencies.
The New York Times' big Aug. 18 story noted that “Dick Cheney and his aides and allies, who saw Georgia as a role model for their democracy promotion campaign, pushed to sell Georgia more arms...”
It would be hard to deny that Saakashvili favors Cheney's kind of democracy.
* In case you missed it, which would be easy to do, McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randall Scheunemann, lobbied for Saakashvili's Georgia in Washington until March of this year, when he took a “leave of absence” from his two-man lobbying firm.
Estimates of how much Scheunemann's firm was paid by Georgia vary. An Aug. 8 report by the much-respected Greg Gordon of McClatchy Newspapers pegged it at $900,000 from the end of 2004 until Scheunemann began the temporary pause in his work for Georgia, to which he will return immediately after the November election, unless he gets a cabinet post under a President McCain. I saw another report claiming the total figure is closer to $3 million, but Gordon doesn't often make serious mistakes.
The McClatchy reporter also documented McCain's reliance on advice from Scheunemann and his partner, Mike Mitchell, for positions on Georgia before the present presidential campaign. There were literally several dozen contacts between the two lobbyists and McCain. And McCain enthusiastically acted as an advocate for Georgia in the Senate, starting in the mid to late 1990s. It's on record.
* An interesting sidelight to the saga of Saakashvili, the supposed lover of democracy and humanity: Russia has been demanding recently that he be hauled off to the World Court and tried for crimes against humanity, or war crimes.
Despite my insistence on facing facts on the Georgia situation, I am not an admirer of Vladimir Putin and his lust for a return to Soviet-style power. He scares the hell out of me, in fact. But if Putin & Company believe they have enough on Saakashvili to advocate seriously for bringing him to trial, then I have to believe they can prove their claims. The World Court is not corruptible, as it has shown many times.
That some of Putin's crowd, or Bush's, for that matter, might also be found guilty in such a court doesn't negate the likely truth of charges against the Georgian president.
* Mikheil Saakashvili is a creature of the United States. He holds power because of massive support from the this country. Unknown to the American public, because it's rarely reported, we have been feeding him astonishing amounts of military aid. Even before our government began shipping him American troops to administer “humanitarian aid” a few days ago, it turns out that we had –- shades of Vietnam -– an unknown number of military “advisers” helping to train the Georgian army.
And, because they're much easier to plant off the books, without public knowledge, there are at least 1,000, and probably more, soldiers of Bushcheney's private army, Blackwater Worldwide (formerly Blackwater USA), in Georgia, according to at least a couple of foreign news agencies. I haven't been able to find anything about who's paying them, but if you want to bet the money for the mercenary thugs comes from your tax dollar, whether directly or through “aid” to Georgia, I won't bet against you, not even with odds of a million to one.
There also are Israelis helping to train and guide the Georgian military, according to several European and Mideastern news agencies, although none of the American press I've read has mentioned that. It's unclear whether the Israelis are, currently, active duty Israeli troops, but everyone agrees they are there on behalf of Israel's government.
The article by Col. Richards says the Blackwater mercenaries and the Israeli troops together number more than 4,000. I have not seen any other report that confirms that, however.
Many commentators and at least semi-official government leaks around the world maintain that because of his absolute reliance on the United States to maintain his hold on office and his military power, Saakashvili could not have launched his attack on South Ossetia without prior approval from the American White House.
That is a logical conclusion, even without confirming evidence, which almost certainly will show up some day if we retain something approaching a free news media (at least on the Internet) and some modicum of democracy.
Ergo: A neocon scheme.
* Israel has big dogs in this hunt. That country has a reported $1 billion, so far, invested in Georgian oil pipelines because its access to other oil sources, including those of Russia, are shaky. As noted above, it is deeply involved in building Georgia's military.
* The Bushcheney administration has been pushing at Putin and Russia for a long time now. The administration actions are akin to someone shouting abuse in your face and stabbing you in the chest with a finger over and over and over until you simply can't restrain yourself any more and smack the bastard in the chops.
Missiles to be put in Poland and the Czech Republic? To protect us from Mideastern terrorist organizations? Is there anybody in the world over the age of ten who believes that excuse?
In fact, the deployment of missiles in that region can have no other purpose than to provoke Russia.
And then there is the push to expand NATO by including countries near Russia that, like our nominee Georgia, have erratic and dangerous leaders. On an objective basis, they would make dangerous and unreliable members of the mutual defense organization, far more likely to drag us into needless conflict than to enhance the world's safety.
Oh, yeah. Let's rile Russia and get the cold war thing going again. Wonderful for the war businesses.
* There are many more facts that could and should be laid before the American people –- or at those who care about things beyond blockbuster movies, the latest in electronic gadgets and the behavior of juvenile entertainers. For now, I'll stop with one more point that, although obvious to all, has to be mentioned every time some jackass of the media or politics yaps about the “Russian invasion of Georgia:”
We have no moral or practical standing on which to base criticism even if the White House charges against Russia were entirely true.
The United States has since the 19th century repeatedly sent our military into other countries that we deemed to be acting against our “best interest.” In numerous cases, that interest was nothing more than threatening the profits of some giant U.S. corporation.
And the United States invaded Iraq, a country that posed no danger to us. We did so without provocation.
George W. Bush looked into Putin's eyes and saw a soul mate, so he told us in 2001. Putin had to have looked at George W. Bush and seen Bozo, complete with bulbous red nose, size 59 shoes and a head full of popcorn. We have to wonder whether Putin recognized immediately that when it comes to serious business, George is a cheap souvenir-stand hand puppet, or whether it took a few days to figure out who's really running the show in Washington.
I've been absent here for more than a month, and hadn't done much for quite a while before that. That's because it came to me some time ago that most of what absorbs politically active Americans, including what so many believe is the election of the millennium, no longer has much real significance. The horse is gone, the barn door is closed, I'm afraid. The questions that have absorbed me almost wholly for the past two or three months have to do with how to survive in a post-constitutional America ruled in all major respects by a corporate oligarchy. More about that in the near future.