Wag the Dog

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a gritty, straight-talking 30-minute interview with CNN this week in Russian. It was not translated or reported on widely in the US media, which is a shame. He charged that US military personnel were in South Ossetia during the attack, and lectured about such topics as Ossetia’s long membership in the Russian empire (since 1801) and Ossetians’ age-old resentment of Georgian chauvinism, especially following the 1917 Russian revolution and the 1990 declaration of Georgian independence. A South Ossetian legislator has already mooted the possibility that it will eventually become part of the Russian Federation.

When asked by CNN if he would stop threatening neighbors now that the Ossetian crisis was over, he angrily dismissed the question as preposterous, saying it was up to the US and its new Eastern European clients to stop threatening Russia. It is the Polish and Czech missile bases and Ukrainian and Georgian pretenses to join in the nuclear-tipped encirclement of Russia that are the destabilizing developments forcing Russia to batten the hatches. The Russians see the bases as a precursor to a much larger system that would undermine the already seriously eroded Russian nuclear deterrent. “For the first time in history — and I want to emphasize this — there will be elements of the US nuclear capability on the European continent. It simply changes the whole configuration of international security. Of course, we have to respond to that,” said Putin at a press conference last year, which was also not reported in the mainstream US media.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underlined Putin’s words Monday, referring to “the reality of the post-America world” and warning that, “in the absence of a reasonable multilateral dialogue we will be forced to react unilaterally.” Europe’s inability to produce a new collective security system, “open for everyone and taking into account everyone’s interests,” was to blame for the Georgia crisis. He added: “There is a feeling that NATO again needs frontline states to justify its existence.”

As if to make his point, the Russian military carried out a successful test of a Topol RS-12M nuclear capable stealth rocket from the Plesetsk space centre. Analysts are already speculating that Putin (OK, Medvedev) may well “take out” the Polish missile site. “He has no other option. The proposed system integrates the entire US nuclear arsenal into one operational-unit a mere 115 miles from the Russian border. It’s no different than Khrushchev’s plan to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba in the 1960s,” writes Mike Whitney at Online Journal. At the very least he “will be forced to raise the stakes and send warplanes over the construction site. That is the logical first-step that any responsible leader would take before removing the site altogether.” So if Cold War II keeps accelerating and something like this happens later this year, what should we make of it? Is this Russia threatening and even invading its neighbor, or is it a justifiable warning to the US to back down from its attempts to instigate WWIII?

Is it possible that all this furfural is really just an early “October Surprise”, in the US electoral tradition that both Reagan and Bush II made such masterful use of? Recall that Ronald Reagan’s advisors orchestrated a delay in returning US hostages from Iran in 1980, tipping the balance in his favor in the elections that year. President George W Bush got a letter purportedly from Osama bin Laden weeks before the elections in 2004, conveniently reminding Americans that he is their defender against terrorists. This was the inspiration for the 1998 movie “Wag the Dog”, where a few weeks before the elections, a presidential advisor hires a Hollywood producer to fabricate and market a war in an ex-socialist bloc country (Albania) and ensure the incumbent’s re-election.

In the current “reality show” version, discretion is thrown completely to the wind, with a certain Randy Scheunemann playing both doctor and advisor to Republican “incumbent” Senator John McCain. Scheunemann’s two-man Orion Strategies lobby firm has been advising Latvia since 2001 and more recently, Georgia. Georgia hopes to following Latvia’s success in joining NATO and — why not? — the European Union. It has already paid Orion Strategies $300,000 to this end.

Putin firmly declared in his CNN interview that the attack on Russian peacekeepers by Georgia was given the green light by US officials as part of an US election campaign ploy. He was most likely referring to McCain, a personal friend of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and Scheunemann, McCain’s chief foreign policy advisor. Or possibly Joseph Wood, Cheney’s deputy assistant for national security affairs, who was in Georgia shortly before the war began. Or both.

But Putin is caught between a rock and a hard place in this US election year. Even if he’s right about Scheunemann, McCain’s advisor has his counterpart in Senator Barack Obama’s chief foreign policy advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who while being no fan of Bush, is rubbing his hands in glee over the Russian move to protect Ossetia . So whoever wins in November will undoubtedly push CWII into high gear, come what may.

Will this “Wag the Dog” Part II bring in the votes for McCain? That is far from certain considering his admiration for the now-despised Bush, his endless gaffes and his patent lack of intelligence. However, the key to US elections — the Israeli lobby — is not happy with Brzezinski, and could scuttle Obama’s candidacy, despite Obama’s choice of self-proclaimed Zionist Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. Recall that Brzezinski was foreign policy advisor to ex-president Jimmy Carter, whose Camp David accords forced Israel to give the Sinai back to Egypt.

Enter Scheunemann. He has no such skeletons in his closet. And he is a big fan of the current Middle East makeover designed to ensure Israeli supremacy. As director of Chalabi’s Committee for the Liberation of Iraq he pushed for the invasion in 2003. Mission accomplished, he found his new warrior prince in Tbilisi. Scheunemann is just one of dozens of US and Israeli advisors to the trigger-happy Georgian president. Israel has been actively supporting Saakashvili, eager to see the Georgian pipeline project bypassing Russia completed. Georgian Defence Minister Davit Kezerashvili and Minister of Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili are both Israeli citizens who returned to Georgia to enter politics.

If in fact the US Israeli lobby has decided on McCain for president, and passed the word on to Sheunemann, this could well account for the green light that Saakashvili clearly thought he had to attack Russian peacekeeping troops and Ossetia civilians, killing hundreds if not the 1,500 claimed by Russia. And what better way to force both candidates to shore up Bush’s policy of war and death, just in case by some fluke the suspicious Obama overcomes the many hurdles to a candidate not enjoying the full confidence (i.e., control) of “the lobby”.

You can’t fault Obama for trying to please them, short of firing his patron Brzezinski. Already, he has dropped his willingness to talk to “the enemy”, which clearly means Russia these days, every bit as much as Iran. Under him, Iraq will keep its US bases and Afghanistan will absorb any troops who leave Iraq. Whether or not Washington succeeds in bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO is the only moot point in all this, and this really depends more on Russia than on who inhabits the White House for the next four years.

This is all very much like Brzezinski’s scheming as advisor to president Carter. He now boasts that by orchestrating US funding of Islamic extremists like bin Laden from 1979 on, he was responsible for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. This did nothing to wag Carter’s dog back into power in 1980, but that is of little consequence to these shadowy advisors, who are never without work in the higher echelons of US politics, just as Scheunemann will not suffer in the least if his candidate is found to have Alzheimer’s and forgets to show for his inauguration next January. And if Obama wins, he will merely cede his White House pass to Brzezinski and continue advising world leaders such as the hapless Georgian president.

It’s quite possible that this ratcheting up of tensions in the Caucasus is intentional. It clinched the Polish missile deal in a hurry and put Russia in a bad light, giving succor to those planning to make the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline the key link in a network bypassing Russia. But the Georgian pipeline was shut down by BP during the recent conflict, and it is far from clear that spin doctors and tweaking the Russian bear’s nose will bring the US any closer to cutting Russia down to size. What this episode and Putin’s steely evaluation did was to further expose the poison at the heart of American politics and confirm the world’s suspicions that Russia is not afraid to stand up for itself.

Eric Walberg is a journalist who worked in Uzbekistan and is now writing for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo. He is the author of From Postmodernism to Postsecularism and Postmodern Imperialism. His most recent book is Islamic Resistance to Imperialism. Read other articles by Eric, or visit Eric's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas said on September 2nd, 2008 at 8:28am #

    as far as i know, dems and repubs have approved of the invasion of s.ossea.
    the question arises did they know that the invasion was planned? by whom? the time?
    we may never find out. be it as it may, neither party cld lose or gain anything politically since dems and repubs stances appear similar or the same.
    perhaps, saak, yakob (ashvilis) surprised US; feeling/knowing that US wld back them up regardless what occurs. thank u

  2. Michael Kenny said on September 2nd, 2008 at 8:57am #

    The weakness in Mr Walberg’s argument is the classic American one: he postutlaes US omnipotence and the eternal continuance thereof. If the US was omnipotent, Russia would never have dared to stop Georgia upsetting the political status quo in South Ossetia! What the Georgia crisis has shown is not merely that the US is NOT omnipotent but that it is a paper tiger that talks big but runs for cover when the crunch comes! Remember the old saying about a bully taking on someone his own size!

    I loved the bit about the “analysts” (not further identified!) who are “speculating” that Medvedev “may well” take out the Polish missile site. I don’t think a lawyer could have drafted a finer piece of doubletalk! It’s just gratuitous mischief-making. Trying to create the, wholly false, impression that there is going to be a war in Europe sometime soon. The Russians are well aware that the radars and missiles will never be operational, as does, I would imagine, the US! The present arrangement suits everybody in Europe. The US is in total panic and manpower and resources are being rushed to a wild goose chase in the Baltic, and thereby diverted from other US operations. The EU taxpayer is being saved a packet in development aid (think: infrastructure, roads, railways, housing, telecommunications, airports, sanitation and all the rest). The discrediting of the US and NATO will drive the EU Member States closer together. The discrediting of the Israeli lunatics who seem to be behind all of this helps the Palestinian cause enormously. Most of all, Russia has driven a wedge between the US and the EU and the more the US “ratchets up tensions”, the more Europe backs off. For Europe, this is win-win all round and nobody here, whether the EU or Russia is going to kill the goose that’s laying the golden egg by starting a war (or letting the US start one!).

    As for the Whitney quote, it is just plain laughable! It conjures up visions of WWI biplanes and pilots with handlebar mustaches! Nobody needs to send planes flying over anywhere nowadays (radar!) and nobody ever needed to send planes flying over a construction site at any time! Particularly one that doesn’t yet exist! This is the sort of idea that some annoying drunk would bawl out in a sleazy bar to anyone that will listen to him and to a great many people who have no wish to listen to him!

    October surprise? It was in August! The secret in this kind of stunt is for it to happen just before the election, before people have had time to think the thing through (remember the Madrid train bombs!). In late October, it might well have helped McCain. In August it will more likely help Obama because people have had time to think. They realise that Europe will not go to war for Georgia and will ask themselves why they should. War is only fun when other people’s kids are being killed!

  3. bozhidar balkas said on September 2nd, 2008 at 11:46am #

    may i please remind you that the word “omnipotent” hadn’t to my knowledge been used to describe US econo-military-diplomatic might.
    there is a limit to what US is able to obtain military-diplomatically.
    am i mistaken when i aver that the funni uncle knew/knows this, thus the forming of nato alliance.
    thus its alignments with all fascist states + s.korea, georgia, afghan warlords, taiwan, egypt, jordan and other muslim lands.
    thus its warning to all world plutos, You’re with us or against us. the warning, i educe, was meant not for working class but for plutocrats in all lands.
    it also seems to me that all or most eurolands are by tiny steps going fascist.
    thank u

  4. Deadbeat said on September 2nd, 2008 at 11:53am #

    Michael Kenny writes..,

    The discrediting of the Israeli lunatics who seem to be behind all of this helps the Palestinian cause enormously.

    I’m glad DV allows reader commentary because often you can learn more from the responses than from the original article. The Left has been awfully mum about Israel’s role in this crisis. Thanks Mike for your perspectives and overall analysis of the crisis.

  5. Israel did 9-11 said on September 2nd, 2008 at 1:24pm #

    Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Admits to Masturbating.


    Note the hypocricy of Republican evangelicals, they preach moralism, but are corrupted. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Admits to Masturbating. 44-year-old former beauty queen, Alaska Governor and newly announced vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin admitted in an unusually candid interview this afternoon that she has frequently masturbated during her term as governor.

    “My husband is frequently out of town on business”, Ms Palin stated in reference to her husband, BP oil executive Todd Palin. “During those times I have found ample opportunity to explore the pleasures of my own body”.
    Ms Palin stated that she sometimes feels conflicted between her insatiable desire to achieve orgasm and her Evangelical Christian beliefs. “I think God will forgive me for this one guilty pleasure”, she hoped.

    Palin’s husband Todd claimed that he had no idea of his wife’s masturbatory habit. “She never told me she did that!” he exclaimed. “Had I known by the will of Jesus I would have forced her to stop!”

    Ms`Palin claimed that she sometimes fantasizes about men of power such as Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and female German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    “I don’t consider myself a lesbian or bisexual but that Merkel is HOT”, Palin declared.

    Some sources believe that Palin came “out of the closet” with her masturbation habits to simply attract masturbating female voters.

    “I just think we should be honest with the American People”, she said later.

    Arizona Senator John McCain fully supports his running mates self-exploratory pleasures. “I did that myself once when I was in college”, McCain stated.

  6. Israel did 9-11 said on September 2nd, 2008 at 7:13pm #






  7. Josie Michel-Brüning said on September 3rd, 2008 at 5:10am #

    As an unknown German 64 years old woman
    – that means my mother and me survived a bomb attack on our house in its cellar in 1945 during the end of World War II while my father had been a soldier in Russia, having grown up within the ruins of my home town and having “profited” later on of the Marshall plan combined with education to capitalism in Western Germany for being a “bulwark against Russian communism” –
    I am ashamed of German and European policy not for the first time,
    this time occasionally their attitude against Russia (in Germany it has lasted for 3 weeks, until even our mass medias reported, that Georgia was the origin aggressor) and very grateful for this recalling and enlightening article, although some how bewildered about some of the comments …
    Yes, this kind of U.S. intervention in Georgia follows a certain sample practiced
    so much times after World War II in every corner of the world as one of your appreciated authors, William Blum, had already pointed out occasionally “9/11”.

    However, most European politicians don’t want to take it into account. There must be some personal fortune for them in it by ignoring the political U.S. machinations.
    Or do they regard the USA as omnipotent and they are just opportunists?

    Therefore, I am ashamed, for instance, how our chancellor, Angela Merkel, seems to be on permanent tour representing U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy instead of the global interest of peace.
    My only hope is just now the trade with Russia, for instance Russian gas, at which European economy seems to be depending on. Hopefully, this economical interest will keep Europeans peaceful and not interested in a war against Russia. Of course, our left party just now is representing the will of most of us, as long as they are in opposition. However, what is “left” or “right” regarding the fact that our globus is round, we will meet each other when consequently going in one direction. Meanwhile, occasions like hurricanes are reminding us we have to unite when wanting to survive.
    Meanwhile, it’s up to you, the U.S.citizens to tell your ” representatives” what you do really want.
    Some how, Obama’s slogan could be effective, when you could overcome typical individualistic handicaps and find the way to unite, you the people, yes, you can

  8. Shabnam said on September 5th, 2008 at 1:01am #

    Russia is playing a smart game with international community and has escaped criticism for a long time especially from the “left” which allows Russia to improve its position on expense of other nations and world peace. Since the demise of the Soviet Union the US has not given Russia much role in international politics, therefore, Russia has used other avenues to improve its position at the bargaining table. One of the cards that Russia holds is the ‘Iranian Trump Card’ according to Radzhab Safarov, General Director of the Russian Center for Iranian Studies. Iran has been under tremendous international pressure since the revolution. First, Iran was attacked by Saddam, where about 700,000 Iranian were killed. Since the end of the war, Iran like Iraq was under economic sanction through “dual containment”, a Zionist plan designed by Martin Indyke in the Clinton administration. Later with pretext of ‘uranium enrichment’ the US and Israel continued their economic strangulation of Iran and has repeatedly threatened Iran with military attack and nuclear holocaust to stop Iran’s legal nuclear enrichment program. Russia has benefited from Iranian strangulation and like Israel is eager to continue the present situation and like Israel wants McCain to be elected president. Russia has close relation with Israel and Russia has always supported ‘Israel’s security’ against
    ‘Palestinian terrorism’ like the United States. Russian position is closer to Israel than the US on Iran nuclear program but unfortunately the US foreign policy has been taken hostage by the Zionists. Both Russia and Israel want to have a weak and dependant Iran because Russia sees Iran as a competitor knowing that Iranian cultural influence goes beyond its present border into the central Asia and like Russia possess large amount of oil and gas with an educated labor force. I agree with Michael Kenny when he writes:
    “If the US was omnipotent, Russia would never have dared to stop Georgia upsetting the political status quo in South Ossetia”

    He has correctly noticed that the US is not in a position to act against Russian aggression due to US engagement in the Zionist war. Joe Klien has said:
    “In a TIME blog post that the “fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives — people like [independent Democrat Sen.] Joe Lieberman and the crowd at Commentary — plumped for this war [in Iraq], and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties.”
    Klien believes that the Jewish neocon were behind the war for the interest of Israel. Therefore, the slogan “No Blood For Oil” is not credible. Klein was a supporter of Iraq war in the beginning to turn against it later. Thus, Russia was looking for an opportunity to improve her international standing against the United states which has been weaken as the result of the war where has left NO CREDIBILTY for the US to face Russian aggression. The United States is not in a position to open another front with Russia, especially when Russia is cooperating with the US and Israel to impose illegal sanction one after the other on Iran to keep Iran weak and vulnerable. Stupid Bush does not understand a weak Iran is not in the interest of the United States. He is following the road map of the Zionist’s plan for ‘regime change’ using the pretext of nuclear energy program to prevent Iran having enrichment capability, which is Iran’s right, to help both Israel and Russia in keeping Iran weak despite the fact that Iran has great strategic position with vast amount of resources with cultural influence in the central Asia and the Persian Gulf. I strongly feel Russian and Israelis designed this crisis in Georgia using Mikhail Saakashvili to to be used as pretext by Russia. In return Russia will continue her cooperation with Israel to keep Iran under control through sanction but the US has to pay higher price and make better concessions to make Russians satisfied. The ‘left’ has given Russia a free ride for its aggression and even some viewed the invasion as ‘humanitarian aids’. The crises in Georgia could have been resolved through negotiation not military action. This war was not in the interest of the United States,
    according to Patrick Buchanan who wrote an article titled:
    “And None Dare Call It Treason” August 22, 2008. He attacked Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s advisor:
    “He is a dual loyalist, a foreign agent whose assignment is to get America committed to spilling the blood of her sons for client regimes who have made this moral mercenary a rich man.”

    And even Robert Gate, the secretary defense, was not expecting this war and he was angry and said: “President Bush assured us there will be no U.S. military response to the Russian move into Georgia.”
    Why did this war take place where no one expected to have it and who is the beneficiary? Saakashvili is not the beneficiary, he is the loser. In my opinion Russia and Israel are the sole beneficiary of this war. There is strong possibility that Israel provided the golden opportunity for Russia in exchange for Russian support of Israel’s position on Iran because Russia is on the rise and the US has lost prestige and credibility. The US conduct has created fears among many smaller nations and thus have forced them to seek security agreement with Russia, especially in the Arab world. The “left” only condemned the US but not Russia and have justified Russian act as:
    “In the absence of a reasonable multilateral dialogue we will be FORCED to react unilaterally.” As Mr. Walberg writes.
    Furthermore, a weaken Iran has embolden Russia to such extend that Safarov suggests using the Iranian Trump card to take Russia into the Persian Gulf, for the first time, through ‘security agreement’ with Iran, which requires Iran to allow Russia to occupy Iranian territory, in the name of ‘military base’ which is against the Iranian constitution, in the sensitive areas such as Azerbaijan, where it was occupied by the Soviet Union in WWII and did not want to leave Iran but later was forced to leave, and Qeshm Island to allows Russia, according to Safarov:
    “The deployment of a military base on the Island of Qeshm would allow Russia to monitor the United States’ and NATO’s activities in the Persian Gulf zone, Iraq and other Arab states.”

    Iranian people can not and will not allow such a risky business to take roots in Iran with Russia especially in the presence of the ongoing lack of completion of Bushehr reactor, 10 years behind the schedule, where has been postponed deliberately to get more concessions from the United States on Iranian expense.