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.
Yield to the willow
all the loathing
all the desire of your heart.
Shadow owes its birth to light.
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. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6e29e178-6498-11dd-af61-0000779fd18c,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.'” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/14/world/europe/14saaka.html?th&emc=th
The Russian view was presented well in the Financial Times on Tuesday, by the Russian Foreign Minister. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7863e71a-689e-11dd-a4e5-0000779fd18c.html?nclick_check=1 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. http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/08/13/us.russia.diplomacy/index.html?iref=hpmostpop 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. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080812_georgia_war_a_neocon_election_ploy/
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.