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It's an Oily Night in Georgia for McCain

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The aggressive tone of McCain’s condemnation of the recent Russian invasion of Georgia should come as no surprise given the historic roots of McCain’s bellicose ideology rooted in his founding role in the neoconservative initiative known as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).  Nor should it come as any surprise that McCain’s chief advisor, Randy Scheunemann, who has echoed McCain’s bellicosity, is not only a lobbyist for Georgian President Saakashvili, but also the former Co-Director of PNAC.  Nor, therefore, should we be shocked to find oil to be at the bottom line of McCain’s obsession with Russia.

PNAC was founded in 1997 to advance the main tenets of the manifesto known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, which was produced in 1992 under the direction of then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.  McCain’s long-time association with PNAC began when he was President of PNAC’s parent organization, the New Citizen’s Project.  Founded in 1994, the main purpose of this organization was to raise funds for PNAC.

The ideology driving PNAC was to dramatically expand and restructure America’s military defenses for purposes of fighting multiple simultaneous wars aimed at permanently establishing the United States as the world’s sole superpower, and to “prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”  According to the Wolfowitz Doctrine,

“In the Middle East [which includes Iraq] and Southwest Asia [which includes Georgia], our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil.”

The Wolfowitz Doctrine was quite clear that the areas of the former Soviet Union would be a “primary concern to the U.S. in the future,” and that Russia might pose a future threat to U.S. oil interests in this region.  Almost as though he were reading from this doctrinaire playbill, McCain recently took aim at Russia as a threat to U.S. access to oil flowing through Georgia.  In prepared remarks to the 109th Annual Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States National Convention, McCain stated,

As I have long warned, Russia under the rule of Vladimir Putin is becoming more aggressive toward the now democratic nations that broke free of the old Soviet empire….Russia also holds vast energy wealth. And this heavy influence in the oil and gas market has become a political weapon that Russia is clearly prepared to use. Georgia stands at a strategic crossroads in the Caucasus. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which brings oil from the Caspian to points west, traverses Georgia. And if that pipeline were destroyed or controlled by Russia, global energy supplies would be even more vulnerable to Russian influence with serious consequences on the world energy market.


Just as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, with its emphasis on controlling the world’s oil supply, has dictated American foreign policy for almost eight years, and, since 2003, has cost hundreds of thousands of lives in an Iraq War, we now have new sprouts of this aggressive war machine emerging in another “region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”  The megalomaniac, bellicose drive for power and world domination that has nearly bankrupted this nation may now be escalating in concert with the “prophetic” paranoia of PNAC.


The PNAC/Wolfowitz plot thickens when it is learned that Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s defense and foreign policy coordinator and former PNAC Co-Director, is also a lobbyist for the Georgian government and an executive of Worldwide Strategic Energy (WSE), a firm that seeks oil and gas leases in “politically complicated” and “misunderstood” countries. According to a company document obtained by freelance journalist, Lindsay Beyerstein, WSE, through its “strong business and political ties… has the unique ability to navigate the geopolitical spectrum and inherent risks associated with these politically complicated and sometimes misunderstood countries…as well as with the “turbulent suppliers” of oil to the western world…”


In its bibliographies of the WSE team, the document states,

Randy Scheunemann is a registered representative of the Government of Georgia in the United States. Accordingly, Mr. Scheunemann has developed a very close relationship with President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and many senior Georgian officials. The WSE team has also begun negotiating possible deals with the Georgian state-run oil company, National Oil Company of Georgia, to assist in the development of Georgia’s hydrocarbon industry.

According to Beyerstein, the document explains how each of its well-connected WSE members (which includes Scheunemann) can leverage their influence to get developing countries to provide oil and gas leases in exchange for favors from WSE's team, including millions and sometimes billions of dollars in military and development aid for countries in their sphere of influence.   

This paints a consistent picture of a possible McCain administration linked to big business, aiming at power and control over the oil resources of disadvantaged nations, and which will use its military strength to stamp out competition, and permanently establish itself as the preeminent superpower.

This should sound familiar as it is the same ideology that has largely defined the past two terms of the Bush administration.  So, if Americans are looking for a maverick in McCain who will lead this nation in new and stable directions, then they may want to reassess their priorities.  McCain is part of an established war machine that aspires to be the world’s dominatrix.  His willingness to snap the whip every time he thinks our interests are threatened is not the mark of a rational agent but of the town bully whom others may fear but not respect. This is the ideology that has driven the invasion of Iraq.  It is likely the same one that will lead to war with Iran if McCain gets his way.  And it is presently, without a doubt, what drives McCain in his volatile response to Russia.


The well timed invasion of Georgia by the Russians (and their timely apparent withdrawal) has given McCain a reason to crow about the need for a president with his foreign policy experience and unflinching willingness to offer sticks rather than carrots.  However, there may well be two sides to the story.  The Georgians under Saakashvili were the first to have sent troops into South Ossetia, a separatist region of Georgia consisting largely of Russian citizens, and the Russian invasion was a direct result of this military action by Georgia.  According to Eduard Kokoity, President of South Ossetia, 1,400 people have been killed by Georgian shelling. “It is the third genocide of the Ossetian people from the side of Georgia,” said Kokoity, “and Saakashvili is the main murderer.”


The situation may therefore be more complex than what McCain/Bush would want Americans to believe.  As was true in Iraq, justifying military interventions or “relief” on grounds of protecting human rights is more convincing than saying bluntly we are in it for the oil.  Thus McCain has attempted to soften his “crude” motivation with the high-mindedness of stating, “When young democracies are threatened or attacked, and innocent civilians are targeted, they should be able to count on the free world for support and solidarity.”  However, reading between these lines, the innocent civilians, of which McCain speaks, might well be but pawns of a war machine that he helped to build, and which has one, all-consuming, overriding interest:  the unadulterated, blind quest for power and control.

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Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D. is a political analyst and media critic. His most recent book is Technology of Oppression: Preserving Freedom and Dignity in an Age of Mass, Warrantless Surveillance(Palegrave Macmillan, 2014.) He is a Fellow at the (more...)

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