Thursday, September 18, 2008

dipsticks and lipstick

Remember that little war between Russia and Georgia a few weeks ago? I didn't think so. We should be thinking on it though in light of the ABC interview with Sarah Palin and her eagerness to please her neo-con tutors on the national stage. When asked about the conflict she said she's ready to go to war with Russia on behalf of Georgia, We better take that seriously before any levers get pulled in November. World War III is not my New Year's resolution for 2009.

What are the political games being played inside the McCain camp that would not only turn Georgia into Chechnya, but put so many lives at risk? What is the real story of Mikheil Saakashvili, and why is it that the US Taxpayer has to now rebuild his military for the bargain price
of $5 billion?

The Nation's Mark Ames looks at the troubling questions and more.

On August 14, just as the Georgians and Russians signed their ceasefire, the pro-McCain neocon rag The Weekly Standard published an article "The Pain Game: A military response to Russia's aggression?" calling for the Pentagon to refit Georgian forces to fight a protracted, Chechnya-style guerrilla war against Russia. The author, an old cold war goon named Stuart Koehl, admitted that pushing Georgia into a Chechnya-style guerrilla struggle against Russia would result in a "long and difficult war" and would be "messy," because the Russians "will probably respond to this as they did to the bloodletting in both Afghanistan and Chechnya"--in other words, by killing tens or hundreds of thousands of Georgians. But that's no skin off this neocon's back, because if Georgia managed to hang in as long as it takes for such a war, victory over Russia could be achieved "in a way that would not directly involve US or NATO forces." In other words, Koehl and the rest of the neocons are ready to fight Russia to the last Georgian. And that might literally mean the last Georgian, if you look at what the Russians did to Chechnya.

The idea seems to be gaining traction, as an anonymous defense analyst told a military reporter a couple of weeks ago that America should convert the Georgian armed forces into a "Hezbollah" guerrilla force for the same purpose--bleed the Russians into defeat, while we sit back and chant "Hoo-ah!"

Lost in all of these apocalyptic plans for "helping" Georgia is what the Georgian people themselves might think. How do they feel about the McCainites' plans for turning their ancient, charming country into one of the world's bloodiest hellholes--Chechnya meets South Lebanon by way of Afghanistan, according to the neocons' own words. As the popular war blogger Gary Brecher explained: "Starting a guerrilla war means sentencing most of the people in your address book to a very nasty death." Do Georgians really want that?

Regarding Saakashvili he offers this:

In our conversation, Kochladze raised the most important issue that no one in America will talk about: Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili's anti-democratic credentials. The false spin on Saakashvili as the Jefferson of the Caucasus has driven the hysterical talk of going to war with Russia. Maintaining this false image of Saakashvili has also been key to McCain's candidacy, given McCain's tight relationship with the controversial Georgian strongman.

Jefferson he is not. A former senior US diplomat who served in the former Soviet Union and the Balkans told me, "What Saakashvili has done since coming to power--controlling the television media, rigging elections, attacking opposition protesters and driving his opponents out of the country and now launching a war against an ethnic minority--I've seen this before. Saakashvili is just another Milosevic. He's the kind of guy who will do anything to stay in power for life." It's not like Saakashvili's authoritarian credentials are the world's biggest secret. Freedom House this year downgraded Georgia's freedom rating to the lower end of the "partly free" category, placing it on par with such beacons of democracy as Venezuela--yes, that's right, Hugo Chávez's Venezuela--and Guinea Bissau.

Georgia's freedom index dropped below even such basketcases as Sierra Leone and Papau New Guinea, where nearly a third of the registered voters for last year's heavily-criticized elections were found to have been long deceased. What's more, Georgia's slide towards authoritarianism has only gotten worse, as Freedom House reports:

Georgia's political rights rating declined from 3 to 4 due to the restrictions placed on political opposition following the November 2007 emergency declaration, and the civil liberties rating declined from 3 to 4 due to the circumscription of media and expression in the aftermath of the November protests.

Georgians took to the streets to oppose President Mikheil Saakashvili in October and November 2007, turning out in the largest numbers since the 2003 "Rose Revolution," which swept Saakashvili to power. The authorities violently dispersed the demonstrators, causing hundreds of injuries, and imposed a state of emergency on November 7. The next day, Saakashvili called a snap presidential election for January 5, 2008. The state of emergency, which remained in place until November 16, banned all news broadcasts except state-controlled television and restricted public assembly. Also in 2007, former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili, a onetime Saakashvili ally who subsequently emerged as a principal political rival, was charged with corruption, jailed, and then quickly released.
Chilling, but read the whole article which will have the active links. Also, if you are interested in the developments in Georgia and now Ukraine, I have found Paul Goble's blog a universe of information, history and grounded perspective. WindowonEurasia is a daily read. Paul Goble is director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy.

image: Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove

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