The October Surprise that Failed

Throughout this election we were all waiting for the big October surprise to hit. Endless discussions went back and forth on what was going to happen, and when. With more evidence coming forward, it sure appears like the famed "October Surprise" was launched in August, and simply failed.

I am, of course, talking about Georgia.

And Randy Scheunemann is back in the middle of it.

Tom Hayden @ TPM has a great article detailing some of the new information, as well as Scheunemann’s Money Trail. Quote:

New revelations about Georgia’s August war with Russia should send a warning to president-elect Barack Obama about how a commander-in-chief can be manipulated into war.

It now appears that the same neo-conservatives who manipulated the US into the Iraq war on false evidence were directly involved in backing Georgia’s ill-fated operation on August 7-8, which eyewitness military observers have described as indiscriminate attacks by Georgia on Russian and civilian positions. The observers reports, first made in August and then October to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, were disclosed in the New York Times three days after the presidential election. [NYT, Nov. 7]

The new evidence increases the likelihood that the August 7-8 clash between Georgia and Russia was an "October Surprise" that would highlight John McCain’s greater foreign policy experience at the height of the presidential election.

The trail of evidence stats with Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s top foreign policy adviser and former director of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which secured some $90 million in federal funds to lobby for the fabricated agenda of Iraqi exiles like Ahmed Chalabi leading to the Iraq invasion.

Scheunemann became a registered foreign agent for Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgian government when it came to power in 2004, making $800,000 in fees for his lobbying firm, Orion Strategies, until the relationship on May 15 was formally terminated under McCain’s 2008 campaign rules.

Remember that this attack occurred while Obama was on Vacation, and McCain was immediately in front of cameras with prepared speeches and statements, even before Bush. Now with the information that the US was aiding and training Georgian troops since 2002:

Since early 2002, the U.S. government has given a healthy amount of military aid to Georgia. When I last visited South Ossetia, Georgian troops manned a checkpoint outside Tskhinvali — decked out in surplus U.S. Army uniforms and new body armor.

The first U.S. aid came under the rubric of the Georgia Train and Equip Program (ostensibly to counter alleged Al Qaeda influence in the Pankisi Gorge); then, under the Sustainment and Stability Operations Program. Georgia returned the favor, committing thousands of troops to the multi-national coalition in Iraq. Last fall, the Georgians doubled their contingent, making them the third-largest contributor to the coalition. Not bad for a nation of 4.6 million people.
Leaving aside the question of Russian interference (see below), the larger concern has been that Georgia might be tempted to use its newfound military prowess to resolve domestic conflicts by force.

As Sergei Shamba, the foreign affairs minister of Abkhazia, told me in 2006: “The Georgians are euphoric because they have been equipped, trained, that they have gained military experience in Iraq. It feeds this revanchist mood… How can South Ossetia be demilitarized, when all of Georgia is bristling with weaponry, and it’s only an hour’s ride by tank from Tbilisi to Tskhinvali?”

And with the knowledge that McCain’s close advisor was also in tight with the Georgian Government, it isn’t too hard to make the leap that a wink and a nod were given to go ahead with their shelling of Ossetia, with the mistaken belief that the US would come defend them against the Russians.

Doing it with Obama on Vacation was probably just a convenient bonus, but it worked out well for the McCain campaign to get their message out first and define the debate: Russian Aggression into Georgia. We all must arm and defend our allies!

Except that that didn’t happen. The US stayed out of Georgia, the Russians cleaned up, and McCain looked like he was jumping ahead of the election and playing president. He did succeed in painting Obama into a box however, and only now are we getting to the truth of what happened.

There is a good reason why they used to say "Politics ends at the water’s edge," had US troops come running to Georgia’s defense, we would have had yet another potential war started; based on manufactured, misleading information and lies. It could have thrown the election, and none of it was in this nation’s interest.

We dodged a bullet here. It would be good if we could get the folks at the Project for a New American Century (like Scheunemann) to quit shooting at our democracy.