One of the most disheartening things in the world is how quickly Americans — supposedly a free, independent people — swallow whatever line the government wants them to believe about foreign affairs. From local boy James K. Polk lying to "justify" the Mexican War, to LBJ's Tonkin Gulf fantasies that made his "case" for escalating the war in Vietnam, to Dubya's manufactured b.s. about Saddam Hussein, a majority of Americans have invariably believed their leaders' lies about whoever is designated the latest boogeyman and fallen in line, ready to march off to the next deathtrap. Now here we are again, chomping at the bit to smack Russia around for their invasion of Georgia, with hardly a whiff of public doubt. Not one American in ten could find Georgia on a map, but all of a sudden that country's "freedom-loving" government (i.e., a former thug who now wears suits and welcomes U.S. corporations) is of great importance to our national security. Bullshit. The situation in Georgia, pure and simple, is about access to oil and our contemptuous treatment of Russia in the post-communist era.
As arch-conservative Pat Buchanan wrote last week, Putin and the Russians have every reason to dislike the U.S. government. When the Soviet Union collapsed, to summarize Buchanan, Russia sought real alliances with the United States. Instead, we broke our pledge to Gorbachev and moved our military into Eastern Europe and beyond, the result being that six former Soviet allies, as well as three former Soviet republics, are now NATO members, in effect surrounding Russia.
BushCo then announced plans to site anti-missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic, supposedly to defend against nuclear missiles from Iran -- a country with no intercontinental missiles nor nuclear weapons. When Condi Rice rushed to Poland last week to sign a deal to build a missile defense base there (and no doubt line the pockets of the Bush cronies who will build it), it was transparent which country was being given a warning. (Hint: it wasn't Iran.) In case those moves weren't enough to bait The Bear, we also built a crucial oil pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to cut Russia out of the deal, as Buchanan noted correctly, though inconveniently, for the Bush/media version of reality. It's no secret that the Bush administration is overrun with old Cold Warriors like Cheney and Rice who can't get Russia out of their heads, but to deliberately antagonize a country that, until recently, was politically unstable and does have enough nuclear firepower to kill us all, was nuts.
With Democrats as gutless as usual, waiting with fingers in the air to judge the political winds before saying anything, it has been up to the likes of Buchanan and other "old school" Republicans such as former Reagan administration official Paul Roberts to point out that the emperor's new clothes are fictional.
Imagine for a minute, Buchanan and Roberts say, that after the end of the Cold War, Moscow had established military bases in Mexico and Latin America, installed missile defense systems in Cuba and Canada, sent military advisers to train Latin American armies, and constructed a pipeline to send Mexican and Venezuelan oil to Pacific ports, and cut us out of the deal. Would we like it? Do you think we'd put up with it for a minute?
So we turn Georgia into a U.S. client state; we help install the famously unstable Mikheil Saakashvili as leader; and we use his country to shift oil away from former Soviet soil. When South Ossetia and Abkhazia, who have more cultural affinity with Russia than Georgia, decide to break away, Saakashvili attacks Ossetia, killing hundreds of what he claims are his own citizens and sending thousands of refugees running into Russia. And we're supposed to be shocked -- shocked! -- that Russia reaches its limit and decides to bring the hammer down?
A side note: It's gotten little notice in the mainstream American media, but Condi Rice and Karl Rove both visited Georgia two months ago, within a week of each other; then, immediately after Russia whacked Saakashvili's army, Sen. John McCain huffed and puffed, dramatically intoned that "we are all Georgians now," and made it clear he considered the new crisis a big plus for his campaign -- a campaign whose top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, just happens to have been a lobbyist for the Georgian government. Needless to say, these coincidences have led to much speculation about the Republicans trying to pull off an "August surprise" in order to help McCain. I have no way of knowing whether these suspicions are warranted, and I'm wary of most conspiracy theories, but considering the revelations of BushCo malice, deceit and dirty tricks during the past eight years, nothing would surprise me from that bunch.
For now, the media is full of BushCo bluster and dire warnings about the evil Russian bear. And, sad to say, most Americans are once again falling in line, swallowing our government's version of events, and continuing our odd national assumption that America's destiny is to be the world's policeman. I'm sure the Bushies are happy that, if nothing else, their bear-baiting is taking Americans' minds off the failing economy. I foresee a lot more saber-rattling in the near future, at least until after Election Day.