Firstly, my letter:
Aftermath of war in the Caucasus - The Irish Times - Tue, Aug 19, 2008
Madam, - Randy Scheunemann, Senator John McCain's senior foreign policy adviser, is a friend of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and was for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government. He ended his official lobbying connection only last March, months after starting to work for McCain. He also worked on McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, after which he headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the US Iraq invasion.
In 2005, while registered as a paid lobbyist for Georgia, Scheunemann worked with McCain to draft a congressional resolution pushing for Georgia's membership of Nato. A year later, while still on the Georgian payroll, Scheunemann accompanied McCain on a trip to that country, where they met Saakashvili and supported his hard-line views toward Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Now, at a time when McCain's presidential election campaign is floundering, Saakashvili launches an attack on South Ossetia, killing hundreds if not thousands of civilians and drawing the inevitable Russian military response. McCain has now recast his entire campaign around "Russian aggression" and the need to return to Cold War vigilance and values -- drawing attention to Barack Obama's lack of experience and grounding in those values in the process.
It is not necessary to be a conspiracy theorist to ask, "Cui bono?" regarding the invasion of South Ossetia and the ensuing deaths. - Yours, etc,
Secondly, the response in today's Irish Independent to the same letter published there on Saturday:
Another case of America-bashing - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie
After a week in which Russia repeatedly violated the sovereignty of a small neighbour, targeted civilian infrastructure, occupied several towns and villages in Georgia proper, ordered their tanks to within 20km of Tbilisi, and topped it all off by threatening a nuclear strike on Poland, the letters by Frank Schnittger and John Gunning attempting to link America to the catastrophe were ludicrous.
The former's insinuations about a supposed role played by the McCain campaign in fomenting unrest in the region, would be laughable if they weren't so serious.
For his part, Mr Gunning claims to despise war -- a noble sentiment no doubt, yet one that seems in his case to be surpassed by a virulent anti-Americanism.
His assertion that we are witnessing, not a Russian invasion of a sovereign state, but an "American war by proxy" exposes a somewhat casual acquaintance with reality.
It seems that he is concerned, not with the suffering of the people in the region, or with the brutal contempt shown by the Russians for international law, and the sovereignty of its neighbours, but with using the conflict as a means to spread his anti-American innuendo.
Mr Schnittger asks 'Cui bono from the invasion of South Ossetia?, to which I would answer that both he and Mr Gunning seem determined to spin the appalling situation in an effort to benefit and further their own anti-American agendas.
Indeed, concern or solidarity for the ordinary civilians caught up in the conflict are conspicuous only by their absence in both letters.
While both men are entitled to their opinions, they have very little to do with being anti-war, and I would ask that they, and others who espouse the same views, would cease masquerading as such.
I haven't been able to locate the letter by John Gunning which also draws Emmet Dunphy's ire, so I will leave that part of Mr. Dunphy's response to one side.
In my own defence, I would note the following:
- My letter drew attention to the close links between the McCain presidential campaign and President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili - and said nothing, good, bad or indifferent about the US as whole.
- My letter said nothing about Putin's intentions or whether the Russian intervention can be construed as over-reaction - that scenario is still unfolding in any case.
- Given that almost all commentators, from all sides, seem to agree that a Russian response to the Georgian attack on South Ossettia was forseeable, if not inevitable, it seems reasonable to ask why Mikheil Saakashvili would engage in such an adventure.
- Mr. Dunphy then claims that I am a beneficiary of the invasion of South Ossetia in that it enables me to spin my "anti-American" agenda and that "concern or solidarity for the ordinary civilians caught up in the conflict are conspicuous only by their absence in both letters" and that we should "cease masquerading" as anti-war.
- I would have thought that concern for the innocent civilians caught up in this conflict was obviously the primary concern expressed in my letter together with a fear that their misfortune might have been occasioned, at least in part, by the dynamics of the US Presidential campaign.
That is the nub of my letter which Emmet Dunphy dismisses as "ludicrous" and "laughable if they weren't so serious". Yet he does not challenge any of the facts which I listed in support of my argument.
Blanket accusations of anti-Americanism masquerading as anti-war are of course the stock in trade of apologists for the neo-con project of the "New American Century". Perhaps I shouldn't even bother responding. However I feel that Emmet Dunphy articulates a widely held view - often reflected in, or created by the MSM - and I feel we should challenge it at every opportunity.
For the record I do feel that it seems likely that Putin seized on the opportunity created by Saakashvili's stupidy or naivity to over-react and lay down a marker for other former Soviet Republics who are seeking membership of Nato or allowing the siting of American bases on their territory. I would be surprised if that were not the case. However the reasonableness or otherwise of Russia's actions in this enfolding tragedy are a different matter entirely, and one not touched on in my letter.
I feel it is important that the causes of this conflict - and particularly any attempts to gain political/economic/personal advantage from a re-kindling of Cold War tensions need to be highlighted and exposed before they are lost in the welter of the usual "tit-for-tat" over-generalised arguments that are characteristic of the neo-con project.
So once again, I feel like asking the question, which has not been addressed by Emmet Dunphy's response: Did members of McCain's campaign staff use their connections in Georgia (for which they have been handsomely paid) to foment a crisis that would highlight McCain's perceived strengths just when NcCain's campaign seemed to be floundering?
Why can't we just stick to the facts on this and leave generalised arguments about "anti-Americanism" to the rhetorical dustbin to which they belong?
Perhaps, rather than engaging in defense, I should go on the attack and accuse Mr. Dunphy of mindlessly parroting phrases like "anti-American", ludicrous, and laughable, whilst not being in a position to rebut any of the facts in my letter?
Your advice would be much appreciated.
An edited version of my response has now been published in todays Irish Independent
Stick to facts in Georgia debate - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie
Emmet Dunphy (Letters, August 19) accuses me of being "anti-American", and making "ludicrous" and "laughable" claims about the links between the McCain presidential campaign and the South Ossetia invasion -- while not being able to refute any of the facts contained in my letter (August 16).
For the record, I am not anti-American or pro-Russian, but let me note that:
1. My letter drew attention to the documented close personal and financial links between the McCain presidential campaign and the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili -- and said nothing, good, bad or indifferent, about the US as whole.
2. My letter said nothing about Mr Putin's intentions, or whether the Russian intervention can be construed as reasonable or opportunistic over-reaction
3. Given that almost all commentators, from all sides, seem to agree that a Russian response to the Georgian attack on South Ossetia was forseeable, if not inevitable, it seems reasonable to ask why Mikheil Saakashvili would engage in such an adventure.
4. Mr Dunphy then claims that I am a beneficiary of the invasion of South Ossetia in that it enables me to spin my "anti-American" agenda and that "concern or solidarity for the ordinary civilians caught up in the conflict are conspicuous only by their absence" in my letter and that I should "cease masquerading" as anti-war.
I would have thought that sympathy for the innocent civilians caught up in this conflict was the obvious primary concern expressed in my letter, together with a fear that their misfortune might have been occasioned, at least in part, by the dynamics of the US presidential campaign.
That is the nub of my letter which Emmet Dunphy dismisses as "ludicrous" and "laughable if they weren't so serious".
Yet he does not challenge any of the facts which I listed in support of my argument.
BLESSINGTON, CO WICKLOW
A LTE Response drafted by ARGeezer has not yet been published
Re: Revised LTE in response to Dunphy (4.00 / 3) A letter by Emmet Dunphy on the 19th said "the letters by Frank Schnittger and John Gunning attempting to link America to the catastrophe (in Georgia) were ludicrous", that "insinuations about a supposed role played by the McCain campaign in fomenting unrest in the region, would be laughable if they weren't so serious" and implied that such concerns expressed "a virulent anti-Americanism." As he offered no substantive arguments in support of these statements, I presume you enjoyed the overall tone of his response.
Mr. Dunphy seems to argue that the ferocity of the Russian Bear's roar and bite when provoked some how constitute a justification for that provocation. Curious logic that. Rather like the small boy who goes running to his mommy crying that the dog growled, barked and bit him when he stomped on its tail. Bad dog! The little boy is obviously upset. BBC recently showed him, (Saakashvili), on TV chewing on his necktie!
As a citizen of the USA whose most recent immigrant ancestors were the parents of my great, great grandmother, America McInnis, from northern Ireland, I will inform you that there are very many other US citizens who are equally disgusted with the crude and destructive uses to which foreign troubles are put by US politicians for domestic US political purposes.
It is the civic duty of a citizen of a true democracy to speak out and oppose actions by his country that he sees as detrimental to that nation's good name and to the prospect for the survival of democracy in that nation. Mr. Dunphy obviously disagrees.
Mr. Dunphy's tone seems more appropriate to a loyal subject of an imperial monarchy than to a citizen of a republic. He wants everyone to fall in line and not question the alliance leader. Ireland and Europe are entitled to look to their own interests, especially when those interests are put at risk by US politicians posturing for purposes of domestic US politics.
Georgia had been a member of the Soviet Union and a province of the Tsarist Russian Empire before that, for almost a century longer than has Puerto Rico been a US territory. Both Georgia and Puerto Rico were obtained by force from previous empires in decline, Georgia from the Persian Empire and Puerto Rico from the Spanish Empire. Imagine the response from the US should the Governor of Puerto Rico try to use a local militia to seize US military bases and/or corporate facilities.
There is no shortage of US media critics of the conduct of John McCain and the Bush Administrations' conduct in Georgia. Bush and McCain tell Saakashvili that they will stand behind him. In GWB's case he is standing behind him while on vacation in Crawford. He has and had no available troops to send. All he can do is bluster.
Who benefits? Possibly Mr. McCain, by raising the profile of US NATIONAL SECURITY during an election. Certainly not the US. When you have a weak hand and are overplaying it it is not a good idea to put your cards on the table. I cannot see how this debacle benefits Ireland or the EU. I will leave that to Mr. Dunphy. Perhaps Mr. McCain's advisors, such as Karl Rove or Randy Scheunemann, could explain those advantages to him. .
If sanity be culturally normative, then by the norms of this culture I claim insanity. by ARGeezer (email@example.com)
Meanwhile the Irish Times has also published a letter highly critical of my original missive:
Aftermath of war in the Caucasus - The Irish Times - Wed, Aug 20, 2008
Madam, - It seems that in a more and more desperate attempt to excuse Russian aggression against Georgia, some of your letter-writers are scraping ever harder at the bottom of the barrel.
Frank Schnittger (August 19th) tells us that - shock, horror! - Georgia has a paid lobbyist in the US. And that lobbyist is close to presidential candidate John McCain, thereby accounting for McCain's strong position on Georgia.
Well, it seems that in having a paid lobbyist in Washington, Georgian deviousness knows no bounds. What Mr Schnittger doesn't tell us, of course, is why a relatively impoverished country like Georgia feels the need to have a paid lobbyist in the US in the first place or why it feels the need to join Nato. Perhaps the television pictures of Russian troops bombing and looting Georgia and terrorising its citizens might answer that question.
As for Mr McCain, he has a long and honourable record of standing by smaller nations in eastern Europe. During the Bosnian war, when Russia openly flouted the UN arms embargo on former Yugoslavia to arm Serbia and let it slaughter Bosnia's largely defenceless Muslims, Senator McCain was foremost in calling for the lifting of the embargo so that Bosnia could defend itself. And he did this without prompting from a lobbyist.
I get the feeling that some of those justifying Russia's aggression still haven't recovered from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism. Perhaps that is why, once events move east of the Danube, their moral compass goes haywire.
Most East Europeans, by contrast, having endured decades of Communist dictatorship, overthrew their repressive governments and have repeatedly shown that they prefer Western-style democracy to the despotism of Vladimir Putin.
- Yours, etc,
SEAN STEELE, Kilfenora Road, Kimmage, Dublin 12.
My response (below) has not yet been published [SECOND UPDATE] has just been published after a complaint by me claiming a right of reply:
The Irish Times - Letters
Madam - Seán Steele (August 20th) accuses me of "scraping ever harder at the bottom of the barrel" in a "desperate attempt to excuse [ the] Russian aggression against Georgia" and claims that the Russian bombing of Georgia explains why Georgia feels the need to employ lobbyists in Washington.
He rather misses my point on both counts. I am not in the business of excusing Russian or any country's aggression against another, nor am I naive about the lobbying processes that go on in Washington.
Quite the reverse: the evidence indicates that Randy Scheunemann, Senator John McCain's senior foreign policy adviser, may have used his influence on Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili to persuade him that "Washington would have his back" if he invaded South Ossetia - especially during a US presidential election campaign.
In so doing, he handed his current employer, Senator John McCain, a badly needed boost to his floundering presidential campaign at the cost of another embarrassing defeat for "the West" in the battle for supremacy (or stability) in world affairs.
It is not in Ireland's or in Europe's interest to rekindle the Cold War just for some perhaps fleeting advantage in a domestic US political campaign. There is an ever-increasing economic, political, energy and environmental interdependency between western and eastern Europe (including Russia) and the fanning of Cold War embers by either Georgia invading South Ossetia supported by "the West", or by Russia invading Georgia , is the very last thing we need.
Already this has led to Poland and the US signing an agreement to site US anti-ballistic missiles on Polish territory, allegedly aimed at rogue states or Al-Qaeda, when, in practice, only Russia has ballistic missiles capable of reaching Europe.
The successful enlargement of the EU was achieved in large measure by the ending of the Cold War.
Why ever would we want to restart it - even if it does play well in some sections of domestic US politics and keeps the arms industry going strong? - Yours, etc,
My thanks to MillMan and martingale for their advice and guidance in drafting the above response (some of which I have taken on board!)
My original question was Cui Bono (who benefits) from the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia. As McCain takes the lead in some opinion polls after a week when not much else was happening in the campaign, I would have thought that the answer was increasingly obvious.
For more on the links between McCain, Scheunemann, and Mikheil Saakashvili see And None Dare Call It Treason, and Georgia War: A Neocon Election Ploy?, also McCain's Ties with Lobbyist Scheunemann, and RealClearPolitics - Articles - The Risk of McCain's Zingers