Friday, August 29, 2008

Is Putin right that Georgia's South Ossetia adventure was a U.S. election ploy?

The Bush administration, chiefly through its spokesperson Dana Perino, is having a lot of fun debunking Russian "Prime Minister" Vladimir Putin's suggestion that Georgia's recent actions were a put up job to help John McCain look like a tough leader. Putin does not seem to have any real evidence for the claim, and it does seem unlikely, at least in the way Putin imagines it.

But the flap serves to obfuscate a more important question, one that many asked some weeks ago but has not been answered, at least to my knowledge: Did the Bush administration and/or John McCain know in advance about Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili’s plans to try to retake South Ossetia, and did they approve of them? We do know that both Dick Cheney and John McCain have close ties with Saakashvili, and some might find it hard to believe that they were not aware of such a dramatic move--as well as the likely reaction by Russia.

Indeed, anyone who tacitly approved the Georgian incursion would be guilty of very bad judgement, even if it did give McCain the opportunity to sound "tough" aftewards. As I said at the time, Obama missed an opportunity to clearly distinguish his foreign policy approach from McCain's.

Speaking of Obama vs. McCain: I agree with those who think his acceptance speech in Denver was one of the best in many decades, and it may well do the job of getting his campaign on a more aggressive footing. But while he did more than before to draw the line in the sand between himself and McCain, he and other Democrats at the convention largely missed a very big opportunity to hammer Bush-McCain one one crucial point, as Glenn Greenwald argues in his Salon column: The extraordinary attempts of the Bush administration to ride roughshod over the U.S. Constitution since 9/11. For example, Obama could have made much out of the different reactions that he and McCain had to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Boumedienne v. Bush, which upheld the right of habeas corpus for prisoners held at Guantanamo. As you will recall, Obama praised the decision and McCain condemned it, calling it "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country"--that is, McCain, in essence, took the position that the President of the United States has the right to put people in jail and throw away the key, with no right of redress or court review. Obama could have put himself forward as the candidate devoted to protecting American freedoms, had he wanted to and had he dared to.

My next post will be from Boston, in the belly of the beast.


Richard said...

Boston - in the belly of the beast?

It's on the left tit.

terryt said...

I read this accusation a while back (on a conspiracy website I think). The claim there was exactly a "tacitly approved ... Georgian incursion". But they also claimed the invasion was a month early. Would have suited the McCain campaign better.

This "tacit approval" certainly seems to have been what got Saddam Husein into trouble all those years ago.