Cross posted from the The European Tribune

My letter to the Editor on the South Ossetia crisis was published by both the Irish Times (today) and as the featured Letter in Saturday’s Irish Independent, the largest circulation newspaper in Ireland.

It has also drawn a vituperative response in today’s Irish Independent.

Another case of America-bashing – Letters, Opinion –

…the letters by Frank Schnittger and John Gunning attempting to link America to the catastrophe were ludicrous.

The former’s insinuations about a supposed role played by the McCain campaign in fomenting unrest in the region, would be laughable if they weren’t so serious.

Both letters are reproduced in full below.  Perhaps Booman readers might like to suggest an appropriate response.
Firstly, my letter:

Aftermath of war in the Caucasus – The Irish Times – Tue, Aug 19, 2008

Madam, – Randy Scheunemann, Senator John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser, is a friend of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and was for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government. He ended his official lobbying connection only last March, months after starting to work for McCain. He also worked on McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, after which he headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the US Iraq invasion.

In 2005, while registered as a paid lobbyist for Georgia, Scheunemann worked with McCain to draft a congressional resolution pushing for Georgia’s membership of Nato. A year later, while still on the Georgian payroll, Scheunemann accompanied McCain on a trip to that country, where they met Saakashvili and supported his hard-line views toward Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Now, at a time when McCain’s presidential election campaign is floundering, Saakashvili launches an attack on South Ossetia, killing hundreds if not thousands of civilians and drawing the inevitable Russian military response. McCain has now recast his entire campaign around “Russian aggression” and the need to return to Cold War vigilance and values — drawing attention to Barack Obama’s lack of experience and grounding in those values in the process.

It is not necessary to be a conspiracy theorist to ask, “Cui bono?” regarding the invasion of South Ossetia and the ensuing deaths. – Yours, etc,


Secondly, the response in today’s Irish Independent to the same letter published there on Saturday:

Another case of America-bashing – Letters, Opinion –

After a week in which Russia repeatedly violated the sovereignty of a small neighbour, targeted civilian infrastructure, occupied several towns and villages in Georgia proper, ordered their tanks to within 20km of Tbilisi, and topped it all off by threatening a nuclear strike on Poland, the letters by Frank Schnittger and John Gunning attempting to link America to the catastrophe were ludicrous.

The former’s insinuations about a supposed role played by the McCain campaign in fomenting unrest in the region, would be laughable if they weren’t so serious.

For his part, Mr Gunning claims to despise war — a noble sentiment no doubt, yet one that seems in his case to be surpassed by a virulent anti-Americanism.

His assertion that we are witnessing, not a Russian invasion of a sovereign state, but an “American war by proxy” exposes a somewhat casual acquaintance with reality.

It seems that he is concerned, not with the suffering of the people in the region, or with the brutal contempt shown by the Russians for international law, and the sovereignty of its neighbours, but with using the conflict as a means to spread his anti-American innuendo.

Mr Schnittger asks ‘Cui bono from the invasion of South Ossetia?, to which I would answer that both he and Mr Gunning seem determined to spin the appalling situation in an effort to benefit and further their own anti-American agendas.

Indeed, concern or solidarity for the ordinary civilians caught up in the conflict are conspicuous only by their absence in both letters.

While both men are entitled to their opinions, they have very little to do with being anti-war, and I would ask that they, and others who espouse the same views, would cease masquerading as such.



I haven’t been able to locate the letter by John Gunning which also draws Emmett Dunphy’s ire, so I will leave that part of Mr. Dunphy’s response to one side.

In my own defence, I would note the following:

    1. My letter drew attention to the close links between the McCain presidential campaign and President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili – and said nothing, good, bad or indifferent about the US as whole.
    2. My letter said nothing about Putin’s intentions or whether the Russian intervention can be construed as over-reaction – that scenario is still unfolding in any case.
    3. Given that almost all commentators, from all sides, seem to agree that a Russian response to the Georgian attack on South Ossettia was forseeable, if not inevitable, it seems reasonable to ask why Mikheil Saakashvili would engage in such an adventure.
    4. Mr. Dunphy then claims that I am a beneficiary of the invasion of South Ossetia in that it enables me to spin my “anti-American” agenda and that “concern or solidarity for the ordinary civilians caught up in the conflict are conspicuous only by their absence in both letters” and that we should “cease masquerading” as anti-war.  
    5. I would have thought that concern for the innocent civilians caught up in this conflict was obviously the primary concern expressed in my letter together with a fear that their misfortune might have been occasioned, at least in part, by the dynamics of the US Presidential campaign.

That is the nub of my letter which Emmett Dunphy dismisses as “ludicrous” and “laughable if they weren’t so serious”.  Yet he does not challenge any of the facts which I listed in support of my argument.

Blanket accusations of anti-Americanism masquerading as anti-war are of course the stock in trade of apologists for the neo-con project of the “New American Century”.  Perhaps I shouldn’t even bother responding.  However I feel that Emmett Dunphy articulates a widely held view – often reflected in, or created by the MSM – and I feel we should challenge it at every opportunity.

For the record I do feel that it seems likely that Putin seized on the opportunity created by Saakashvili’s stupidy or naivity to over-react and lay down a marker for other former Soviet Republics who are seeking membership of Nato or allowing the siting of American bases on their territory.  I would be surprised if that were not the case.  However the reasonableness or otherwise of Russia’s actions in this enfolding tragedy are a different matter entirely, and one not touched on in my letter.

I feel it is important that the causes of this conflict – and particularly any attempts to gain political/economic/personal advantage from a re-kindling of Cold War tensions need to be highlighted and exposed before they are lost in the welter of the usual “tit-for-tat” over-generalised arguments that are characteristic of the neo-con project.

So once again, I feel like asking the question, which has not been addressed by Emmett Dunphy’s response: Did members of McCain’s campaign staff use their connections in Georgia (for which they have been handsomely paid) to foment a crisis that would highlight McCain’s perceived strengths just when NcCain’s campaign seemed to be floundering?

Why can’t we just stick to the facts on this and leave generalised arguments about “anti-Americanism” to the rhetorical dustbin to which they belong?

Perhaps, rather than engaging in defense, I should go on the attack and accuse Mr. Dunphy of mindlessly parroting phrases like “anti-American”, ludicrous, and laughable, whilst not being in a position to rebut any of the facts in my letter?

Your advice would be much appreciated.

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