Monday, August 18, 2008

McCain and Scheunamann and the Georgia Fiasco

Hans Heiner Buhr
digital collage 2007
- image courtesy the artist

As the small country of Georgia continues to pay the price for taking on the Bush administration's seemingly overt dare, "Go poke that big bear in the eye!" - word has gotten out that McCain's chief foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann was paid "just short of a million dollars" to represent Georgia. On the same day that Scheunemann signed his most recent contract, John McCain had a lengthy conversation with the President of Georgia.

I quote Robert Creamer's insightful article at length below:

"The Georgia conflict has shined a spotlight on McCain's chief foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann.

Scheunamann was a major organizer of the campaign to get the U.S to invade Iraq. He was a board member of the Project for a New American Century that circulated the now-famous manifesto signed by key Neo Cons that first called for the Iraq invasion. He was a founder of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. More recently he has been a paid lobbyist for a number of foreign governments including Macedonia, Taiwan and, most importantly, the Republic of Georgia.

According to records from the Justice Department's foreign agents registration office, Scheunamann's two-person firm has received $830,000 from Georgia since 2004. Though Scheunamann now claims to have taken a leave of absence from lobbying, his latest contract, with Georgia's National Security Council, was signed as recently as April 17th. According to the Los Angeles Times, McCain spoke by phone with Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili that day and then issued a statement denouncing Russian moves to "undermine Georgian's sovereignty."

The paper also cites lobbying forms filed by Scheunamann's firm Orion indicating that McCain sponsored or co-sponsored four Senate resolutions on behalf of Georgia and other Orion clients: Latvia, Macedonia, Romania and Taiwan.

The poor judgment McCain showed by appointing a man who was serving as a paid foreign agent to be his chief foreign policy adviser is simply breathtaking. It is even more so because of the history of the current conflict.

There is more than appearance of conflict of interests. Before Georgia's President Saakashvili sent Georgian troops to reassert control in the semi-autonomous region of Ossetia, even the US State Department says it repeatedly warned him against precipitous action that might provoke a Russian response. He did it anyway. In other words, the government of the United States and Georgia had different agendas, different interests, and different policies with respect to the Ossetia conflict.

Where were Scheunamann's loyalties? Did he represent the position of the government of the United States, or of his old client Saakashvili. Do the actions and statements of McCain represent his independent judgment of what is in the best interests of the United States, or the views of a top adviser who made just short of a million dollars representing a foreign power?

What's more, if Scheunamann and McCain did encourage Saakashvili to send troops to Ossetia, it once again calls into question their simple strategic judgment. Saakashvili's action has been a disaster for the Georgian government that has lead to the rout of the small Georgian army, and increased the likelihood that he will ultimately be replaced by someone more acceptable to Russia. This is exactly the kind of poor strategic judgment that McCain and Scheunamann used to lead America into the War in Iraq. Americans don't want more of that kind of judgment.

Odds are, the more we learn about the involvement of McCain and Scheunamann in the Georgia fiasco, the more that McCain's foreign policy judgment will be called into question. Many Republicans have prayed for a foreign policy crisis that could refocus voter attention on foreign affairs and away from the domestic economic disaster. Sometimes you should be careful what you wish for."

A note to Hans:
As a citizen of the US, I abhor McCain and Scheunamann's involvement in the current mess in Georgia as I abhor McCain's support for the invasion of Iraq. We are doing our best over here to get a new leader, Obama, that will look at the world from a larger, more intelligent and more nuanced vantage point. I hope you and the other members of the Art Club Caucasus International are well. Take care.

Hans Heiner Buhr
Logo of the Art Club Caucasus International
website at
- image courtesy the artist

"No, its one of our Georgian Elephants, we have them here too..., the so-called Blue Caucasian Dwarf Elephants, living in the area around Kazbegi on altitudes between 1800 and 3000 m."
-Hans Heiner Buhr

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