Ray O. Light Newsletter #50
Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
October-November, 2008

The Georgia-Russia Conflict, the U.S. Presidential Election and the Decline of the U.S. Empire

Introduction: “We are all Georgians.”

A few weeks before the Republican National Convention that was scheduled to nominate him as its candidate for President of the USA, John McCain declared in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal on the Georgia-Russia conflict that “we are all Georgians.” The central theme of the Republican Convention, as evidenced by the hundreds of identical, well produced placards repeatedly flashed by the rich, white delegates, turned out to be “Country First.” One could legitimately ask: was McCain running for President of Georgia and was the Republican Party promoting Georgia as the country that the people of the USA should be putting “first?!”

Of course, the many loud and seemingly spontaneous chants of “USA, USA” served to dispel any notion that McCain and the Republicans were putting Georgia “first!” Indeed, the content of the Republican Convention, with its poisonous great nation chauvinism reflected in its “Country First” placards, was reminiscent of the fascist “America First” movement of 1940 and even more of its German Nazi sponsors.

Why, then, did McCain so dramatically declare his identity with the small and somewhat obscure former Soviet republic of Georgia? The answer to this question is largely to be found in the other chant which filled the Republican convention hall most often during that week: “Drill, baby, drill!” This slogan, especially given its irrationality from the standpoint of representing no lowering of home heating oil or gasoline prices and real ecological danger to the USA, underscores the tremendous strategic importance of oil and natural gas for the maintenance of the crumbling U.S. Empire. And Georgia provides a vital alternative territory for oil and natural gas pipelines over which to transport these precious energy sources from the resource rich former Central Asian Soviet Republics to the West, without crossing Russian territory.

Keeping Georgia in the camp of U.S. imperialism is thus key to keeping Russia from attaining an ever more prominent position in relation to the European Union economies based on its own vast oil and natural gas reserves as well as on its strategic relationship to the tremendous oil and natural gas deposits in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In the 1990’s, this Caspian Sea Basin was viewed as the most promising new source of oil and gas. And western energy firms, including Chevron, BP, Shell and Exxon-Mobil wanted to get their hands on these fields. However, the Caspian is landlocked and all existing pipelines passed through Russia and were hooked into Soviet-era supply systems. It was U.S. President, Democrat Bill Clinton, who conceived of turning Georgia into an energy corridor, bypassing Russia altogether. The biggest achievement of this plan has been the construction of the BTC pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia to Ceyhan in Turkey.

The new Georgian energy corridor passed through or near several major conflict zones, including the Russian-backed breakaway states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In this light, Clinton converted the Georgian army into “a military proxy of the United States, equipped and trained by the Department of Defense.” (“Putin’s Ruthless Gambit,” Michael Klare, 9-5-08) It is no wonder that, in 2008, the tiny country of Georgia had more occupation troops in Iraq than any country in the so-called “coalition of the willing” other than the USA and Great Britain.

Continued U.S. domination of the Georgian government today is vital to holding back Russia from asserting itself as one of the key regional powers in the important region of Europe on the basis of its huge oil revenues in this period of swollen oil prices and profits. Furthermore, if Russia is able to flex its economic muscle, the imperialist powers of Western Europe, including France and Germany, will also be much more independent of U.S. imperialism – economically, politically and militarily. Thus, Georgia is a key to defense of U.S. imperialist hegemony, to defense of the U.S. Empire. A pro-U.S. imperialism Georgian government, hostile to and aggressive against Russia is in line with the Bush Doctrine, enunciated at West Point in June of 2002, that the USA would allow for no “peer competitor” even at the regional level.

Georgia’s Unprovoked Attack on South Ossetia and Russia’s Response

On August 7, 2008, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a U.S. educated lawyer, sent the Georgian military to invade South Ossetia and attack its capital city, Tskhinvali. More than 1400 civilians were killed by the U.S. trained Georgian troops in Tskhinvali and hundreds more were wounded. Prime Minister Putin and Russia’s current President, Dimitri Medvedev, refused to accept this Georgian and U.S. aggression. Russian troops moved into Georgia, handily defeated the Georgian military and occupied much of the area of the two former Soviet autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both regions have declared their independence and quickly received Russian recognition.

As befits an imperialist power, Russian President Medvedev, the former chief of Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas supplier, outlined a five point foreign policy. “Among its tenets were claims that Russia would protect Russia and their business interests ‘wherever they may be’ and that Moscow claimed ‘privileged interests’ in the traditional sphere of influence around its borders. Of course, he emphasized that Russia rejects the notion of U.S. primacy in the current world order.” (Time/CNN, 9-4-08)

These events have served to undermine western confidence in Georgia as a reliable energy corridor alternative to the Russian pipelines. For its own big power objectives, and in line with U.S. imperialism, the European Union had announced plans for a $10 billion dollar natural gas pipeline from the Caspian, to be called Nabucco, that would run from Austria to Turkey linking up with an expanded South Caucasus gas pipeline that already extends from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Erzurum in Turkey. The Nabucco pipeline has been intended to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas. It has thus been supported by the Bush regime, attempting to maintain its hegemonic position in relation to Western Europe. In the aftermath of the recent warfare in South Ossetia and Georgia, both the BTC and South Caucasus pipelines are within range of the Russian army, clearly strengthening Russia’s economic position vis-à-vis the oil starved powers of Western Europe, as well as U.S. imperialism.

Economic and Political Motives for the Georgian Attack

Saakashvili’s Motive: As Professor Jose Maria Sison, founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, stated, “It is very clear that Georgia would not have gone on its military adventure without backing from the US … Emboldened by US and NATO support and the US promise of NATO membership for Georgia, Saakashvili has long undertaken provocations against Russia and angled for the fortification of Georgia as a base of US military and economic power… To stay in power, he has been subservient to and dependent on US imperialism and has frenziedly drummed up Georgian nationalism against other nationalities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia … autonomous regions within the Georgia Soviet Socialist Republic in the Soviet era.”* (Quoted in May-August 2008 special issue of Liberation International)
* Even bourgeois experts grudgingly admitted that the Soviet Union, under Lenin-Stalin leadership had done an outstanding job in dealing with the nationality question there. For example, in his textbook, “A History of the Modern World,” R.R. Palmer wrote: “… the U.S.S.R. within the framework of the over-all Soviet system seemed to have found a constructive solution to its nationalities question, and is the best example afforded by the twentieth century of a multinational state.”
Michael T. Klare, a U.S. bourgeois expert on energy politics, points out that Georgian “President Mikheil Saakashvili was not content to play the relatively modest role of pipeline protector. Instead, he sought to pursue a megalomaniacal fantasy of recapturing the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with American help.” It is certainly possible that Saakashvili was trying to use his almost unprecedentedly close relationship with the Bush Regime and the McCain Campaign to consolidate his Georgian state rule at the expense of the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

McCain’s Motive: But even more striking is the fact that Randy Scheunemann, chief foreign policy advisor to John McCain’s Presidential campaign, simultaneously served as key political consultant to none other than Mikheil Saakashvili(!) for an eighteen month period leading up to the Georgian attack on South Ossetia! So the McCain Campaign has had an unprecedentedly close relationship to the Saakashvili government in Georgia. During this period Scheunemann’s two man consulting firm was paid almost three times as much by the Georgian President as he was paid by U.S. presidential candidate McCain! “We are all Georgians,” indeed!!

We should not forget that the breakout of hostilities in the Georgian region provided the backdrop for McCain’s Republican Party Convention focus on “the dangerous world we are living in.” This also led to McCain’s first lead over Democrat Obama in the presidential campaign polls!!! So the McCain Presidential campaign had a strong motive and a strong connection to Saakashvili that could also account for the provocative Georgian attack on South Ossetia which produced the Russian backlash.

Dick Cheney’s Motive: Other U.S. imperialist motives for provoking the conflict between Georgia and Russia involve the sinister and powerful U.S. vice president, Dick Cheney. Cheney rarely makes public statements even in the USA; and he rarely makes programmatic speeches on foreign affairs. Yet, in the aftermath of the Russian military-political victory in Georgia, Cheney visited Georgia (as well as Ukraine and Azerbaijan) and announced a $1 billion dollar aid package for reconstruction of Georgia, a thirty fold increase in aid at one jump! (Only Israel and Egypt get more U.S. “aid” in any given year than Georgia will receive this year.) Signaling clearly the Bush Regime’s priorities, Cheney held his first meetings of the trip in oil rich Baku with representatives of two international oil companies, BP of Azerbaijan and Chevron. Cheney then attempted to rally the support of the EU countries against Russia. Interestingly, on the same day as Cheney was visiting the countries of the former Soviet Union, back in the USA, the first Halliburton Company top official was convicted of corruption charges for multimillion dollar bribes and kickbacks arranged with Nigerian government officials involving a billion dollar oil infrastructure construction contract in that oil rich country in Africa. Much of the corruption the Halliburton official admitted and was convicted for took place while Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton! So it was certainly convenient that Vice President Cheney could wrap himself in the U.S. flag in a conflict with Russia at this moment when his legal status may well be in question!*
* Cheney’s Halliburton has been the company that received the largest no-bid contracts for rebuilding Iraq, many of them even before U.S. imperialism had used its war machine to destroy Iraq! As many returning U.S. military personnel have reported, for them Iraq is Halliburton/KBR; and, while these soldiers were being paid by U.S. taxpayers they were actually employed by Halliburton/KBR, helping to produce its obscene war profits that saved Cheney’s giant corporation from bankruptcy. Scheunemann is the former Director of the Project for a New American Century – a neoconservative think tank that engineered the war in Iraq. After working on the McCain campaign in 2000, he then headed the “Committee for the Liberation of Iraq” which championed the U.S. invasion. Quite a team!
Bush’s Motive: Of course, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are “joined at the hip.” However, as the Commander in Chief, Bush in his own right is now experiencing the lowest ratings of any U.S. President since polling began and is often being described as the worst President in U.S. history. This political situation has been driven by the conjunction of Bush’s failed war policies with the growing economic crisis, featuring massive home mortgage foreclosures and the subsequent crisis in consumer credit.*
* This was already occurring prior to the current rapidly unfolding economic collapse that over the past week or so has seen several of the biggest financial services corporations in the USA dissolve or be swallowed up whole, prior to Bush and Congress projecting the biggest corporate bail-outs in U.S. history.
In this regard it is noteworthy that Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Saakashvili on July 9th, promising, among other things, strong U.S. backing for Georgia’s “fast track” entry into NATO, and that Bush’s key political strategist, Karl Rove, met with Saakashvili as well in the weeks leading up to Georgia’s provocative invasion of South Ossetia. Furthermore, immediately prior to Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia, the U.S. and Georgian military forces had been involved in joint military exercises that included U.S. Army, Marine and National Guard troops. And following Russia’s counterattack, the U.S. military transported the two thousand Georgian troops stationed in Iraq back to Georgia in an effort to shore up their forces.

Taking a “tough stand” against Russia, after provoking Russia to take military action, driving toward a major war, even an inter-imperialist war with Russia, may well be a useful vehicle for U.S. imperialism to use in order to maintain “stability and order” in an increasingly impoverished and divided U.S. society.

The tough stand on Russia is in keeping with the saber rattling that the Bush Regime has continually promoted with its military incursions into Pakistan without the knowledge and permission of its Pakistani government ally, and with regard to Iran, as U.S. imperialism seeks to widen a war it cannot win in Iraq and in Afghanistan. In fact, Saakashvili’s attack on South Ossetia, in an effort to consolidate the Georgian regime, may well have been an integral part of a Bush-led strategic plan to attack Iran. UPI reported that “a secret agreement between Georgia and Israel had earmarked two military airfields in the south of Georgia for use by Israeli fighter-bombers in a potential preemptive strike against Iran.”*
* Note the key role that Senator Joseph Lieberman, the chief political representative of the U.S.-Israeli alliance is playing not only in the U.S. presidential election but in the promotion of the “hard line” stance against Russia on the question of Georgian “sovereignty.” Recall also the nightmarishly humorous singing of “Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran” by Lieberman’s presidential candidate, John McCain.
Motive of the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex: To the extent that the corporations that make most of their profits from the production of machines of war, from jet engines to bullets, can be classified as the driving force in the U.S. military-industrial complex, as distinct from the Executive Branch and Congresspeople over whom they exercise so much influence and control, these corporations have also had a huge stake in provoking warfare between Georgia and Russia. Certainly, one reason the U.S. may have provoked this war, is reflected in the title of a Wall Street Journal article of 8/16/08, “Attack on Georgia Gives Boost to Big U.S. Weapons Programs.” As the article points out, “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has spent much of the year attempting to rein in some of the military’s most expensive and ambitious weapons systems – like the $143 million F-22 Raptor jet – because he thinks they are unsuitable for the lightly armed and hard to find militias, warlords and terrorist groups the U.S. faces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been opposed by an array of political interests and defense companies that want to preserve these multibillion dollar programs and the jobs they create. … If the conflict in Georgia continues and intensifies it could make it easier for defense companies to insure the long term funding of their big-ticket items.”  

Of course, in the current U.S. environment, which includes rapidly growing unemployment, as well as serving the “defense contractors” insatiable drive for profit at any human cost, such a stimulus for war contracts becomes more palatable if not attractive to the increasingly desperate general U.S. population.

Republican Admission of Guilt

According to Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California, U.S. intelligence confirmed that Georgia started the latest military actions in South Ossetia and that Russia’s position in the conflict was correct. “The Russians are right! We’re wrong! Georgia started it; the Russians ended it.” Ominously, Congressman Rohrabacher said that the situation reminded him of the Tonkin Gulf incident, used by the USA as a pretext for beginning its war in Vietnam. A month after the events, the Bush Regime’s Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried lamely testified that U.S. intelligence was still working on an exact chronology of events, i.e. trying to get the facts to fit their man Saakashvili’s version of events. Fried admitted that the Bush Administration had repeatedly warned the Georgians against beginning military actions against Russia and was unable to explain why Georgia chose to ignore the advice. Nonetheless, Fried insisted that it was in U.S. interests to support Georgia even if it considers the country’s actions “foolish.”

Obama and McCain Both More of the Same

Along with “third party” candidates, including Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate who is receiving critical support from the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA, Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul has exposed the fact that the Republican and Democratic candidates for President and Vice President have almost identical positions on all the important questions – including those involving war and peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.* Now we can add to this list their positions on the Georgia-Russia conflict.
* Incredibly, Obama has accepted the McCain-promoted “surge” in Iraq as “successful beyond our wildest dreams,” when the reality of the surge is far more problematic for U.S. imperialism. Likewise, McCain has been forced to take a more aggressive stand on the need for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan and for unilateral U.S. military incursions into “sovereign” Pakistan because of Obama’s promotion of this naked imperialist aggression.
Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, gained that nomination largely on the basis of his early opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the Republican Bush Regime and Republican presidential candidate McCain have their bloody hands all over the recent violent events in Georgia and that it has, in addition, been a setback for U.S. imperialism, Obama has uttered not one word of criticism of Bush’s man Saakashvili, nor of Saakashvili’s cozy relationship to the McCain campaign!! Like McCain and the Bush Regime, Obama has placed all blame for the Georgian violence on Russia and has called for Russian peacekeepers to be replaced by “a genuine international peace-keeping force.”

Contrary to the statements of Republican Congressman Rohrabacher and of Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State, Obama has insisted that “there is no possible justification for these [Russian] attacks.” Obama has threatened multilateral and bilateral arrangements with Russia, including the idea of blocking Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization. He has raised the specter of undermining or blocking the 2014 Winter Olympics scheduled to take place in Sochi on the Black Sea.

Like McCain and the Bush Regime, Obama is promoting the placement of Georgia on the “fast track” to NATO membership. This, in effect, would represent a declaration of war against Russia. McCain’s running-mate, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, in her support for the admission of Georgia (and the Ukraine) to NATO, has pointed out its implications; namely, “…the U.S. should be prepared to go to war if Russia invades Georgia again.” (Wall Street Journal, 9-12-08)

Of course, there should be no surprise that the Democratic Party candidates as well as the Republican Party candidates are so similar since they are vying for the right to be the number one defender of the crumbling U.S. Empire.

The Current U.S. Economic Crisis and the Drive to Inter-Imperialist War

In the June 2008 issue of The Hightower Lowdown, the top fifteen donors to the campaigns of McCain and Obama (and Hillary Clinton) were listed. Not surprisingly, their lists were largely the same. All were dominated by Wall Street financial and banking interests (including a few that have disappeared in the past few weeks!). For example, at that time, Goldman Sachs was the number one contributor to Obama, number two among Clinton backers and number six on McCain’s gift list. Merrill Lynch was number one on McCain’s list and number fifteen on Clinton’s list. Morgan Stanley was fourth for Clinton, seventh for McCain and twelfth for Obama. And Lehman Brothers was seventh for both Obama and Clinton and tenth on McCain’s list.

Now, the whole parasitic U.S. economy is coming crashing down. The subprime mortgage crisis has precipitated a wider mortgage crisis as one and one-half million home foreclosures last year are expected to be exceeded by approximately two and one-half million home losses this year. There is no bail-out for the millions of homeless and destitute. Meanwhile, the crisis has continued to widen. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, private firms underwritten by the U.S. government because their mission has allegedly been to spread home ownership, had all their risky business paid off or covered by the taxpayers in the past few weeks, potentially to the tune of $200 billion dollars!

Three of the top five investment banks have failed this year, including two in the past week! Bear Stearns was basically given as a gift by the U.S. government to Morgan Stanley in March. Lehman Brothers was allowed to go into bankruptcy this week while Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America. Also, in the past week or so, AIG, the largest private insurance company, received an $85 billion dollar bail-out from Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress.
The largesse of the biggest Wall Street banks and financial institutions toward the two major parties’ presidential candidates has been well rewarded over the years as these companies have ripped off the people, while the people, through their taxes, have underwritten any risk the financial fat cats incurred. The fat cats owned the profits and the people own the losses, thanks to the Democratic-Republican political duopoly in power.

The fact that both the Democratic and the Republican Party are owned by the financial oligarchs can be clearly shown by the pronouncements of Obama and McCain on the financial/economic crisis. Neither candidate has any idea what to do about the economic crisis other than to bail out the biggest corporations and banks.

Meanwhile, the USA is the biggest debtor country in the world. The U.S. dollar has dropped precipitously in value against the euro, the pound, in relation to gold, etc. The tremendous increase in the price of gasoline in the USA over the past six months is largely connected to this fact. Indeed, if or when the Chinese sovereign wealth fund, and the Saudi and United Arab Emirates’ sovereign wealth funds and others are able to get out from under the dollar, the U.S. economy will be in a tailspin the likes of which we have never seen.

U.S. imperialism’s military setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, its military overextension and increasing isolation, and the recent setback to U.S. imperialist economic and military interests in Georgia indicate that its days of being the hegemonic imperialist power in the world are coming to an end.

War production to stimulate the economy in crisis, military mobilization, threats of war and wars against U.S. imperialism’s creditors, including its partner-rivals, as well as continuing wars against the oppressed peoples fighting for their national liberation from the enslavement of colonialism and neo-colonialism are the future of the U.S. imperialist empire as it moves off of the center stage of contemporary history.

The international working class and the oppressed peoples should have no illusions that an Obama-Biden presidency will represent anything different than a McCain-Palin presidency – except that Obama-Biden may have the qualifications to keep U.S. imperialism afloat atop the peoples of the world a little longer. Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, Colombia and now Georgia await the new U.S. president, whether McCain or Obama. Political and military aggression, occupation, quagmires, defeats and much more blood on their hands await U.S. imperialism and those who remain its allies and supporters.

The communist and anti-imperialist forces of the world, including those of us in the USA itself, will be challenged to combat the brutal, bestial U.S. imperialists in the death throes of the U.S. Empire. The struggle for the unity of the international working class and the oppressed peoples in the struggle for world socialism is the orientation that provides the only path to a healthy future for humanity.

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