Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Republic Of Georgia: Hypocrisy

The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline

...and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden croft,

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

---John Keats

Yield to the willow

all the loathing

all the desire of your heart.


Shadow owes its birth to light.

---John Gay

I was watching the Opening Ceremonies from the Beijing Olympics. I confess to remaining ignorant of what time and what day it is in China, but NBC was broadcasting it last Friday night at 8:00 Eastern Time. About half an hour into the spectacle, there was footage of President Bush and spouse in their box seats. The President had his suitcoat off and sleeves rolled up in the 85 degree heat of the open-air stadium. Matt or Bob commented that Russian Prime Minister Putin was calling to Bush, and we were seeing a shot of Putin, 3/4s turned away from the camera, shouting something the 10 or 20 feet between them. Bush turned around, scowling, and shouted back clearly, "NO!" The significance of the interchange became clear about an hour later when the commentators announced the Republic of Georgia had launched a missile attack upon the "breakaway province" (whatever that means exactly) of South Ossetia.

I had gotten to know a very little bit about Georgia because our town had been visited by a touring folk group from there last November. The program for the Zedashe Ensemble told us, "These songs have been forged by the flames of centuries of war and oppression, baptized by the free-flowing blood of our ancestors, blessed by the tears of our saints, who pray constantly for their burning motherland, and raised like a phoenix from the ashes by a nation that passionately seeks to preserve its voice." Sure enough, there was some very primitive, yet harmonically complex, music, somewhat Eastern European but with a Far Eastern mix, climaxing with a sword fight dance that had sparks flying literally from the clash of heavy metal. The language was Georgian, and they were adamant about it.
A couple days later there were news reports of fighting going on in that country, and I was worried as to whether the troupe would be stuck over here. We had a Georgian exchange student at the high school, and I had come to think of the place as remote but with great variety of mountains and the Black Sea. Indeed it is the crossroads between Asia and Europe. It is said winemaking originated in the Caucasus. It looks like a wonderful spot to explore. So besides the strategic location, what did these people have to fight about?
The day following those Olympic Ceremonies the Russian army marched in. Its jets attacked Georgian military bases, and President Saakashvili announced the 2 countries were at war. There were hundreds of casualties. Surely Bush and Putin, those good ol' pals of eyegazing trust, weren't negotiating these matters in the stadium. We're aware the Bush administration has been working on both Georgia and The Ukraine to join up with NATO---right there on the Russian border. We know Bush and Saakashvili had some friendly talks a couple years ago. We know there's something about a BP pipeline going right through the country (and Turkey) out to the Mediterranean, carrying Asian oil to the rest of the world. Georgia has been revived by the pipeline which promises to completely replace Russian oil with a cheaper BP price. With all those developments, would Georgia undertake military operations without some communication with us or them?
Bush gave it a few days to straighten out, but Cheney immediately called for punishment of those Russians. There's quite a bit of history here and some treaties, and here's some of it in a dispatch from the London Financial Times on August 7th.,dwp_uuid=66e078d0-66ca-11dd-808f-0000779fd18c.html With everybody in Beijing, did Saakashvili figure he just had to go it alone? Or was it planned that way? I'm sure both Bush and Putin like a good alibi.
How much support the Georgian president actually has among the people is open to question. The "democratic" elections both there and in The Ukraine were contested. Saakashvili's public statements about US support first sounded disappointed, but with Bush's announcement of "vigorous and ongoing" humanitarian aid delivered by American troops he's much more upbeat. “'We already saw U.S. Air Force landing in Georgia despite Russians controlling the airspace,' he said, after a C-17 had touched down. 'And we will see U.S. military ships entering Georgian ports despite Russians blocking it. That we will see.' He added, 'These will be serious military ships.'”
The Russian view was presented well in the Financial Times on Tuesday, by the Russian Foreign Minister. With the announcement Secretary of State Rice and the troops are on the way, Sergei Lavrov yesterday warned the US choice of Georgia over Russia is a sacrifice of the "real partnership" our countries have forged since the fall of the Soviet Union. Of course there's also feeling in Russia the US has been walking all over that reeling state while it's been down. Missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland and now NATO expansion hardly seem the stuff we thought would happen after Putin in the Rose Garden.
Furthermore, Robert Scheer found it interesting on Tuesday that John McCain's chief foreign policy advisor was a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government until just 4 months ago. Prior to that Randy Scheunemann was a director of the Project For A New American Century and after 2000, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion. Scheer believes what we have here is an August Surprise, specially calculated to give McCain the steam he needs and muddy the waters for Barack Obama.
All of that of course is a horror to contemplate. But what gets me is how righteous the US is sounding against Russia's response to a call for help in defense of its citizens and sympathizers. I don't support such incursions but isn't this precisely what the US said it was doing in Iraq, to liberate those poor beseiged people? Is it what we said in Kuwait, Panama, Granada? When the Soviet Union chugged its way toward Cuba with missiles onboard in 1962, we shouted about our "sphere of influence." I remember well, as I was prime pickin's at 1-A draft status. Are other countries allowed such a sphere? We hear about "territorial integrity." That's a pretty hazy category. Surely we look like hypocrites once again, spinning the world and all the people in it our way.


jazzolog said...

I've been enjoying some family time these last couple days...just prior to students and us school workers returning to our desks next week. I see in the meantime peace has not broken out.

To the contrary, while the conflict in the Caucasus has not increased casualties considerably, Russian troops have captured some US Humvees and 20 mercenaries---er, contract workers---all wearing Georgian army uniforms. There had been a meeting planned between Russia and NATO, but Russia called it off yesterday. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he wasn't in the mood to go to a lecture. Not to be outdone, at the same time NATO declared it has frozen all contact with Russia for the immediate future.

Over the weekend it was the United States getting the lecture. The Sunday New York Times published the most complete analysis and history I've seen of the situation. It's not perfect I'm sure, but if you missed it it's still available . The UK seemed particularly dismayed with recent Bush foreign policy toward Georgia and the Ukraine. In The Herald Iain MacWhirter wonders why we got it so wrong over there . Even before Pat Buchanan came up with it yesterday, MacWhirter reminded his readers that if Bush had succeeded in getting Georgia into NATO this year, all the countries of the alliance would be at war right now. The Bush view of things, however, is that were Georgia in NATO Russia never would have dared send in troops. Matthew Bryza, identified as a special envoy, was quoted in The Independent's Sunday comment entitled Why Are We Pretending We Would Fight For Georgia? . Another report yesterday contends Saakashvili is not allowing the Red Cross into South Ossetia.

Well-argued Russian viewpoints have been available in the Western press. The International Herald Tribune gave us Dmitry Rogozin's opinion of Washington's Hypocrisy. He is, or was, Russia's ambassador to NATO. Former USSR Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev writes in this morning's New York Times.

Through it all Americans seem to continue beaming positive, happy smiles at each other as if there were no great problems any of us can do anything about. The temperature and prices are soaring...well, maybe there is something we can do about that: Americans want to drill, drill, drill. So it was something of a relief to hear about a book that's out, written by an English teacher wouldn't-you-know, called Against Happiness. Here's a sample~~~

"At the behest of well-meaning friends, I have purchased books on how to be happy. I have tried to turn my chronic scowl into a bright smile. I have attempted to become more active, to get out of my dark house and away from my somber books and participate in the world of meaningful action. I have taken up jogging, the Latin language, and the chair of a university English department. I have fostered the drive to succeed in my career. I have bought an insurance policy, a PalmPilot, and a cellphone. I have taken an interest in Thanksgiving and Christmas, in keeping my hair trimmed short, and in meticulously ironing my clothes. I have viewed Doris Day and Frank Capra movies. I have feigned interest in the health of others. I have dropped into the habit of saying 'great' and 'wonderful' as much as possible. I have pretended to take seriously certain good causes designed to make the world a better place. I have contemplated getting a dog. I have started eating salads. I have tried to discipline myself in nodding knowingly. I have tried to be mindful of others but ended up pissed as hell. I have written a book on the hard-earned optimism of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have undertaken yoga. I have stopped yoga and gone into tai chi. I have thought of going to psychiatrists and getting some drugs. I have quit all of this and then started again and then once more quit. Now I plan to stay quit. The road to hell is paved with happy plans.

"My basic instinct is toward melancholia — a state I must nourish. In fostering my essential nature, I'm trying to live according to what I see as my deep calling. Granted, it's difficult at times to hold hard to this vocation, this labor in the fields of sadness. But I realize somewhere in the core of my bones that I was born to the blues."

Eric G. Wilson explained himself further in an article last January for the Chronicle of Higher Education. In his Defense of Melancholy he reminds us Keats thought along similar lines. Give it a try, you might end up feeling a lot better actually.

jazzolog said...

Some of you pre-1950 kids may remember the radio show It Pays To Be Ignorant. We loved quiz shows maybe more then because Mom still could do the ironing while you colored in your Red Ryder coloring book. This was a spoof on the more learned quiz shows, and featured dumber-than-a-post panelists who nevertheless gave hilarious answers to real questions. ("Do married men live longer than single men?" "No, it only seems longer.") You can hear the shows free at a number of sites, including this one.

I doubt the quiz show creators ever thought "It Pays To Be Ignorant" would replace "In God We Trust" on our currency, but perhaps we're ready for a new motto. By now hopefully you've read Terrence MacNally's (I believe the famous playwright's name is spelled "Terrance") interview at AlterNet with Susan Jacoby, author of The Age Of American Unreason. It starts out with Barack Obama's comment, "It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant."

OK, at first it was nice to have all this information available to us average guys 24/7 at the click of a button. Add "spin" to it though, and I suppose the Rovians have succeeded in burning a lot of us out. Some guys have jumped on it as a way to brag that they don't read anything or know anything. I think we've been having a President like that---but of course the rich know better than to read their own press. Others walk around frustrated and dazed because they just can't keep up. I was at a church meeting last night where a man of my own generation (so he should have known better) requested we pray for Russia to stop all it's doing in recreating the Cold War. When met with a chorus of groans, he looked like he didn't know where he had gone wrong.

If you, dear reader, still are a lifelong learner---and relieved you don't know everything yet---you may find valuable a few reviews and articles that have shown up since this Georgian crisis erupted during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The (London) Times Literary Supplement carried an excellent review last week of a new book over there entitled The Ghost Of Freedom: A History Of The Caucasus. On a single page, quite simply, one at least can discover why things are so complicated in the region---and have been for 2000 years.

Then there's F. William Engdahl's The Puppet Masters Behind Georgia President Saakashvili, at his website also from last week. The article takes us back to how Saakashvili came to power. Guess whose hand is showing more and more obviously. Mr. Engdahl has written about energy, politics and economics, particularly surrounding oil, for more than 30 years. That would take us back to the 1973 oil embargo by OPEC, when they declared they wouldn't sell oil anymore to backers of Israel during the Yom Kippur War against Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, he's been watching Zbigniew Brzezinski for a long time, and certainly knows whereof he speaks.

Think all that's too radical? OK, how about a solid member of the Wall Street Journal's Digital Network, good ol' ? Forbes lists it as one of the best stock trackers on the web for your portfolio. One of the analyists there, Paul B. Farrell, posted a bombshell on Monday entitled "America's Outrageous War Economy! Pentagon can't find $2.3 trillion, wasting trillions on 'national defense'". I think maybe I want to preserve this one~~~

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Yes, America's economy is a war economy. Not a "manufacturing" economy. Not an "agricultural" economy. Nor a "service" economy. Not even a "consumer" economy.

Seriously, I looked into your eyes, America, saw deep into your soul. So let's get honest and officially call it "America's Outrageous War Economy." Admit it: we secretly love our war economy. And that's the answer to Jim Grant's thought-provoking question last month in the Wall Street Journal -- "Why No Outrage?"

There really is only one answer: Deep inside we love war. We want war. Need it. Relish it. Thrive on war. War is in our genes, deep in our DNA. War excites our economic brain. War drives our entrepreneurial spirit. War thrills the American soul. Oh just admit it, we have a love affair with war. We love "America's Outrageous War Economy."

Americans passively zone out playing video war games. We nod at 90-second news clips of Afghan war casualties and collateral damage in Georgia. We laugh at Jon Stewart's dark comedic news and Ben Stiller's new war spoof "Tropic Thunder" ... all the while silently, by default, we're cheering on our leaders as they aggressively expand "America's Outrageous War Economy," a relentless machine that needs a steady diet of war after war, feeding on itself, consuming our values, always on the edge of self-destruction.

Why else are Americans so eager and willing to surrender 54% of their tax dollars to a war machine, which consumes 47% of the world's total military budgets?

Why are there more civilian mercenaries working for no-bid private war contractors than the total number of enlisted military in Iraq (180,000 to 160,000), at an added cost to taxpayers in excess of $200 billion and climbing daily?

Why do we shake our collective heads "yes" when our commander-in-chief proudly tells us he is a "war president;" and his party's presidential candidate chants "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," as if "war" is a celebrity hit song?

Why do our spineless Democrats let an incompetent, blundering executive branch hide hundreds of billions of war costs in sneaky "supplemental appropriations" that are more crooked than Enron's off-balance-sheet deals?

Why have Washington's 537 elected leaders turned the governance of the American economy over to 42,000 greedy self-interest lobbyists?

And why earlier this year did our "support-our-troops" "war president" resist a new GI Bill because, as he said, his military might quit and go to college rather than re-enlist in his war; now we continue paying the Pentagon's warriors huge $100,000-plus bonuses to re-up so they can keep expanding "America's Outrageous War Economy?" Why? Because we secretly love war!

We've lost our moral compass: The contrast between today's leaders and the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 shocks our conscience. Today war greed trumps morals. During the Revolutionary War our leaders risked their lives and fortunes; many lost both.

Today it's the opposite: Too often our leaders' main goal is not public service but a ticket to building a personal fortune in the new "America's Outrageous War Economy," often by simply becoming a high-priced lobbyist.

Ultimately, the price of our greed may be the fulfillment of Kevin Phillips' warning in "Wealth and Democracy:" "Most great nations, at the peak of their economic power, become arrogant and wage great world wars at great cost, wasting vast resources, taking on huge debt, and ultimately burning themselves out."

'National defense' a propaganda slogan selling a war economy?

But wait, you ask: Isn't our $1.4 trillion war budget essential for "national defense" and "homeland security?" Don't we have to protect ourselves?

Sorry folks, but our leaders have degraded those honored principles to advertising slogans. They're little more than flag-waving excuses used by neocon war hawks to disguise the buildup of private fortunes in "America's Outrageous War Economy."

America may be a ticking time bomb, but we are threatened more by enemies within than external terrorists, by ideological fanatics on the left and the right. Most of all, we are under attack by our elected leaders who are motivated more by pure greed than ideology. They terrorize us, brainwashing us into passively letting them steal our money to finance "America's Outrageous War Economy," the ultimate "black hole" of corruption and trickle-up economics.

You think I'm kidding? I'm maybe too harsh? Sorry but others are far more brutal. Listen to the ideologies and realities eating at America's soul.

1. Our toxic 'war within' is threatening America's soul

How powerful is the Pentagon's war machine? Trillions in dollars. But worse yet: Their mindset is now locked deep in our DNA, in our collective conscience, in America's soul. Our love of war is enshrined in the writings of neocon war hawks like Norman Podoretz, who warns the Iraq War was the launching of "World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism," a reminder that we could be occupying Iraq for a hundred years. His WW IV also reminded us of the coming apocalyptic end-of-days "war of civilizations" predicted by religious leaders in both Christian and Islamic worlds two years ago.
In contrast, this ideology has been challenged in works like Craig Unger's "American Armageddon: How the Delusions of the Neoconservatives and the Christian Right Triggered the Descent of America -- and Still Imperil Our Future."
Unfortunately, neither threat can be dismissed as "all in our minds" nor as merely ideological rhetoric. Trillions of tax dollars are in fact being spent to keep the Pentagon war machine aggressively planning and expanding wars decades in advance, including spending billions on propaganda brainwashing naïve Americans into co-signing "America's Outrageous War Economy." Yes, they really love war, but that "love" is toxic for America's soul.

2. America's war economy financed on blank checks to greedy

Read Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes' "$3 Trillion War." They show how our government's deceitful leaders are secretly hiding the real long-term costs of the Iraq War, which was originally sold to the American taxpayer with a $50 billion price tag and funded out of oil revenues.
But add in all the lifetime veterans' health benefits, equipment placement costs, increased homeland security and interest on new federal debt, and suddenly taxpayers got a $3 trillion war tab!

3. America's war economy has no idea where its money goes

Read Portfolio magazine's special report "The Pentagon's $1 Trillion Problem." The Pentagon's 2007 budget of $440 billion included $16 billion to operate and upgrade its financial system. Unfortunately "the defense department has spent billions to fix its antiquated financial systems [but] still has no idea where its money goes."
And it gets worse: Back "in 2000, Defense's inspector general told Congress that his auditors stopped counting after finding $2.3 trillion in unsupported entries." Yikes, our war machine has no records for $2.3 trillion! How can we trust anything they say?

4. America's war economy is totally 'unmanageable'

For decades Washington has been waving that "national defense" flag, to force the public into supporting "America's Outrageous War Economy." Read John Alic's "Trillions for Military Technology: How the Pentagon Innovates and Why It Costs So Much."
A former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment staffer, he explains why weapon systems cost the Pentagon so much, "why it takes decades to get them into production even as innovation in the civilian economy becomes ever more frenetic and why some of those weapons don't work very well despite expenditures of many billions of dollars," and how "the internal politics of the armed services make weapons acquisition almost unmanageable." Yes, the Pentagon wastes trillions planning its wars well in advance.

Comments? Tell us: What will it take to wake up America, get citizens, investors, anybody mad at "America's Outrageous War Economy?"

Why don't you rebel? Will the outrage come too late ... after this massive war bubble explodes in our faces?

Nine hundred and sixty-four comments so far. Hopefully you're not sorry you still aren't ignorant. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of National Defense....

This news just in:

All of the Wal-Marts across Birmingham sold out of ammunition as of yesterday.

A reliable source said that one purchaser declared that, while Russia may have invaded Georgia, they sure as hell ain't doin' it to Alabama.