Barack Obama and the Democrats are heading towards trouble in November
because of a new cold war with the Russians triggered largely by a top
John McCain adviser and the same neoconservative clique who fabricated
evidence to lobby for the Iraq war.
This is not a conspiracy theory but a conspiracy fact, stated as boldly
as possible before it is too late.
Because they are still mired in what Obama himself calls "old thinking,"
the Democratic hierarchy and the mainstream media will have to be
challenged by the faithful and clear-headed rank-and-file and the
blogosphere to recognize the Georgia Conspiracy.
Here are the short-term essentials:
* After border skirmishes similar to the 1964 Tonkin Gulf affair, on
August 8, Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili invaded the autonomous
breakaway region of South Ossetia with his US-trained army. The Russians
responded with massive force, quickly routing Saakashvili's forces.
* McCain has traveled to Georgia, nominated his close friend
Saakashlivi for a Nobel Prize in 2005, and was the first American leader
to blast Russia last April, when Vladimir Putin issued a sharp warning
against NATO membership for Georgia and the Ukraine, supported by the
* The Bush Administration was divided along familiar lines, with the
foreign policy "realists" around Condoleezza Rice opposite the
pro-Georgia hawks centered in Dick Cheney's office and allied with
McCain--enthusiasts for spreading "democracy" from Iraq to the Russian
* Randy Scheunemann, McCain's foreign policy adviser, was a
registered foreign agent for Saakashlivi's government from at least
2004, when Saakashvili came to power, until May 15, 2008, when he
technically severed his ties to Orion Strategies, his lobbying firm. At
that point, Orion had earned at least $800,000 in lobbying fees from
* Saakashvili, with Scheuneman advising him, campaigned on a
platform of taking back South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
*Schuenemann was Georgia's lobbyist when Saakashvili sent troops to
retake two separatist enclaves, Ajaria in 2004 and the upper Kodori
Gorge in Abhkazia in 2006, over strong Russian objections.
* Saakashvili tarnished his democratic credentials by sending
club-wielding riot police against unarmed demonstrators protesting his
abrupt purging of the police, civil servants and universities in 2007, a
replay of Paul Bremer's decision to privatize Iraq in 2003.
Until now Scheunemann has been less visible but no less important than
any of the top neoconservatives who drove America into Iraq and now are
lobbying for a new cold war and a McCain presidency.
He was the full-time executive director of the Committee for the Liberation of
Iraq. He helped draft the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which authorized
$98 million for the "Iraq lobby" led by Ahmad Chalabi, which
disseminated bogus intelligence in the lead-up to war. He also worked
for Donald Rumsfeld as a consultant on Iraq. He joined the board of the
Project for the New American Century.
Scheunemann traveled with McCain to Georgia in 2006. Seeking to repeat
his 1998 Iraq jackpot, he lobbied for an unsuccessful measure
co-sponsored by McCain that year, the NATO
Freedom Consolidation Act, which would have sent $10 million to
He claims to have invented the phrase "rogue state rollback" for a 1999
McCain speech, an echo of the right-wing cold war strategy of rolling
back the Soviet Union. He has been a paid lobbyist or consultant for
such presumed beneficiaries of "rollback" as Latvia, Macedonia and
Romania, as well as Georgia. Not to miss another opportunity, his firm
has represented the Caspian Alliance, a consortium of oil
and gas producers in the region.
It is unclear at this writing what links Scheunemann, as Georgia's
lobbyist, may had to the Western oil interests who in 2005 built the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline through Georgia, a project intentionally
designed to bypass Russia and implement what a recent New York
Times report described as an "American strategy to put a wedge
between Russia and the Central American countries that had been Soviet
republics." The BTC consortium includes BP, Chevron, Conoco and the
state of Azerbejian. As conceived, according to Ha'aretz, the
system also would attempt to link eventually with Israel's pipeline
system as well. Using the justification of pipeline protection, US
Special Forces in 2005 reportedly trained 2,000 Georgian troops in
anti-terrorism techniques. Scheunemann has been a lobbyist for BP
America; Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, of course, has longstanding
ties with Chevron, which even named a super-tanker after her.
But as evidence of the serious tensions within Republican circles,
Schuenemann attacked Rice for appeasement of Russia over Georgia as
recently as 2006. Now it appears that the Shuenemann-McCain faction has
succeeded in pulling the United States into an unwinnable military
situation, which is overflowing with political dividends for McCain and
In a nutshell, here is what should be said: the same Republican neocons
who fabricated the reasons for going to war in Iraq are back, and now
they have been paid to trigger a new cold war with Russia that benefits
John McCain. These are dangerous, expensive unwinnable games being
played with American lives to benefit Republican politicians and their
oil company friends.
These are not words you are going to hear from Barack Obama or anyone in
the Democratic hierarchy. Looking back, they agree that the Iraq
invasion was a colossal misjudgment. Privately, most of them feel that
Georgia's adventurism provoked the current conflict. But politically,
they are pledged to be positioned as tough against terrorism and
communism, tougher than the Republicans.
This should be a red line for peace movement supporters of Barack Obama.
We can live to fight another time on his proposals on Afghanistan and
Pakistan. We can learn to set aside his espousals of sending more troops
into those quagmires down the road. After all, we cannot play into
McCain's game plan, not with the Supreme Court at stake and a
stronger-than-Obama Democratic majority poised to take over Congress.
But this new cold war is now heating up by the day, and Obama is likely
to be its first political victim. It is even possible that McCain,
alerted to the danger, will propose a "diplomatic solution"--after he has
squeezed as much benefit out of the cold war revival that he can, to be
resumed after he becomes President and tries to incorporate the Ukraine
Until a leading Democrat summons the courage and vision, the peace
movement and netroots will have to lead the battle against this attempt
to reward the very people who brought us Iraq with another lease on
First, it will be necessary for millions of people to re-educate
themselves in the history and perils of the cold war. Fortunately, we
don't have to repeat the communism/anti-communism debates that divided
America and defeated Democrats for decades. The question is as old as
1917 or 1945: can and should the US attempt to strangle Russia through
reckless pro-Western privatization schemes, combined with installing
military bases--now including Patriot missiles--on its western and
southern borders? And the question is as old as 1967: why was John
McCain bombing Vietnam in the belief that it was a pawn of the Soviet
Union? Why did our government and a majority of Americans fall for the
same misleading pretext for that war?
The Republicans and neoconservatives should be asked this puzzling
question: whatever happened to your triumphal claim that Ronald Reagan
won the cold war by destroying the "evil empire"? Evidently they were
seeking nothing more than Russia's natural resources and complete
subjugation by NATO. There was no limit to what their superpower
mentality thought possible.
Among those who caused this current debacle were also the Democratic
Party's humanitarian hawks, who promoted the NATO military intervention
in the Balkans with the dream of creating an independent Kosovo in
Russia's historic sphere of influence. That war would have been a
disaster if the United States (under Clinton) had sent ground troops.
But Russia pulled back its support of Belgrade after three months of US
bombing. That was perceived as a sign of Russia's weakness and the birth
of a new unipolar world. Then came the giddy enlistment of former
Soviet-bloc countries in NATO--the "new Europe," as Rumsfeld hailed
them. The Russians were clear in warning that they could recognize
places like South Ossetia if the West could carve out Kosovo, but the
superpower was deafened by the delirium of success. It was to be the new
American century, a resumption of the march to the free-market
millennium first announced on the Time cover at the beginning of
the cold war.
The initial goal of the principled rank-and-file peace movement should
be to devise a persuasive message against the reckless adventurism of
the resurgent McCain/neoconservative crusade and bombard the "realist"
foreign policy school, from think tanks to editorial boards to senior
members of Congress, with questions that widen the current climate of
If Obama had a paid lobbyist for a foreign country on his Senate staff,
what would the Republican outcry be?
If John McCain is above the special interest lobbies, why is he
harboring Scheunemann? Is it enough to go off the Georgia payroll and
over to the McCain campaign payroll during a regional war you helped set
Is Scheunemann as reckless as Saakashvili and McCain, in his own way?
Besides his work for the Iraq lobby and the Georgia government,
Scheunemann was the lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and the
Sporting Arms and Ammunitions Manufacturers, and just nutty enough to be
arrested for possession of an unregistered shotgun
in the US Capitol--after a duck-hunting trip, of course.
Obama supporters should step up their criticism of his hawkish mimicry
of McCain, and consider lessening their support--though still voting for
him--unless he distinguishes himself from McCain on the immediate
At the very least, Obama can stop going out of his way to celebrate
McCain as a great American war hero, which only reinforces McCain's
strongest rationale for victory. And Obama's surrogates might delicately
suggest that McCain shoots before he thinks. McCain was the pointman
pushing the neoconservative war against "Islamo-fascism," centered in
Baghdad, months before the Bush Administration revealed its intentions.
While Obama urged caution about a "dumb war," McCain was supporting
Ahmad Chalabi's misleading assertions about weapons of mass destruction
and Iraq-Al Qaeda ties that didn't exist.
The broad peace movement has to awaken a burning memory from below.
Everyone recalls George Bush declaring "Mission Accomplished," but does
anyone recall John McCain standing on another aircraft carrier on
January 2, 2002, yelling to young Navy pilots like himself during
Vietnam, "Next up, Baghdad!"