"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Monday, August 11, 2008

Impeachment, Bush, Cheney: Things Only Get Worse By The Day!

Deep Impacts Monday, Aug. 11, 2008

The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox lead with Russia extending its assault on Georgia to cities beyond the breakaway region of South Ossetia. As Georgia pulled back its own troops and called for a cease-fire, Russia bombed sites in the capital, Tbilisi, and in Abkhazia, another breakaway region. Meanwhile, Russia's Black Sea fleet apparently imposed a blockade on Georgia's main port. The NYT highlights that Georgian officials also said Russian ground troops are advancing toward the city of Gori, which is a short drive away from Tbilisi. The United States and other countries continued to condemn Russia's "disproportionate response," as President Bush put it. But the WSJ notes up high that Russia's biggest international use of force since the collapse of the Soviet Union has made it clear that the United States and Europe have little influence in the region.

USA Today devotes much of its front-page real estate to the conflict in Georgia but leads with word that the Transportation Security Administration is planning to impose new security regulations on private planes. Some are worried that new security guidelines would take away from the convenience of eschewing commercial air travel, but some administration officials have voiced concerns that terrorists could get around security measures through private planes.

As Georgia claimed to be withdrawing its troops from South Ossetia, Russian officials said they didn't buy it and accused Georgia of merely taking the time to regroup and plan a counterattack. The LAT files its dispatch from Gori and says that this morning, "[d]ozens of Georgian tanks and vehicles carrying troops passed through Gori, heading north toward South Ossetia." Russian officials also dismissed claims that a proper cease-fire was offered and said peace negotiations won't begin until after Georgia unconditionally withdraws all its troops from South Ossetia and vows never again to attack the region.

At the United Nations, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad of the United States accused Moscow of seeking to depose Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili after noting that Russia's foreign minister told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Saakashvili "must go." "This raises serious questions about Russia's objectives," Khalilzad said at the Security Council. "This is completely unacceptable." Bush spoke in person with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Beijing and urged him to end the offensive. Underscoring the Bush administration's concern over Russia's offensive against a strong ally, Vice President Dick Cheney apparently told Saakashvili yesterday that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered." The White House said it would seek a U.N. resolution condemning Russia's actions, but, as the WP points out, "U.S. options may be limited, given Washington's need for help on a wide range of issues."

The NYT fronts a separate dispatch from Gori and says that as civilians trying to flee the violence encountered Western journalists, "they all said the same thing: Where is the United States? When is NATO coming?" Georgians, who are known for being staunchly pro-American, "Were beginning to feel betrayed," says the NYT.

The LAT talks to a Russia scholar who says Russia's strong response is meant to send a message not only to Georgia but to other former Soviet republics and the United States. "This is a signal to everyone that Russia is back—and Russia is going to try and dominate this region of the world," Michael McFaul of Stanford University said. "They are calling our bluff." USAT also says that the conflict may be Russia's way of testing what the United States and Europe are willing to do in order to defend Georgia. "This is the beginning of the re-emergence of the Russian sphere of influence in what was the former Soviet Union," an analyst tells USAT.

In a news analysis that provides some helpful background information for those trying to understand the conflict, the NYT says that while the intense Russian attack took many by surprise and didn't appear to be premeditated, "there had been signs for years that Georgia and Russia had methodically, if quietly, prepared for conflict." Some think that by training Georgian soldiers to fight in Iraq, the United States may have inadvertently emboldened Georgia "to enter a fight it could not win," says the Times. Many analysts had long warned that Saakashvili's strong alliance with the Bush administration would force the United States to get involved in regional arguments.

The WP's op-ed page has two pieces that say the conflict is full of historical significance and marks an important step in Moscow's attempt to impose its dominance in the region. "Historians will come to view Aug. 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell," writes Robert Kagan. In a separate piece, Ronald Asmus and Richard Holbrooke say Russia clearly wants "regime change in Georgia" in order to replace Saakashvili "with a president who would be more subject to Moscow's influence." More than anything, Moscow is trying to send a message to neighboring countries: "Being close to Washington and the West does not pay." Although military intervention in Georgia "is out of the question," the United States and the European Union "must make clear that this kind of aggression will affect our relations and Russia's standing in the West."

The WSJ takes a look at how the Russia-Georgia conflict quickly brought foreign-policy issues back to the forefront of the U.S. presidential campaigns. This gives John McCain a golden opportunity to contrast his experience with that of Barack Obama since foreign policy is one of the few areas where, according to polls, voters trust the presumptive Republican nominee more than his opponent. McCain will also no doubt take advantage of the fact that he'll have the campaign trail to himself as Obama enjoys his Hawaii vacation.

In a separate story, the WSJ notes that this might be one of those few times where McCain's close connection with lobbyists may actually help him. McCain's top foreign-policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was a lobbyist for Georgia until earlier this year. Obama's campaign quickly seized on this fact to say that it represented a conflict of interest, but now that Georgia is being widely seen as the victim of Russian aggression the connection could actually be seen as a strength. "In a major international crisis, what is their response?" Scheunemann said of the Obama campaign. "To take a cheap shot at me, as if helping a struggling democracy is somehow wrong."

The WP fronts a look at how money from the Commander's Emergency Response Program in Iraq that is supposed to hand out quick cash on an emergency basis is increasingly being used to fund large-scale projects without the usual government rules and little, if any, oversight. Of the $2.8 billion in U.S. funds spent so far on the program, about $1 billion has been devoted to fund projects that don't even fit the Army's definition of "small scale." Pentagon officials say that besides being a way to win over the hearts and minds of Iraqis, the emergency money should also be seen as a reconstruction program that is particularly concerned with creating local jobs.

On that employment front, the NYT takes a look at how the absence of a large private sector in Iraq means that the government has been trying to sustain the economy by adding more government jobs. Since 2005, the number of government employees nearly doubled. Government figures predict that by the end of this year, 35 percent of Iraq's labor force will be working in the public sector. This number may not be "atypical for the region, but it hardly indicates the free market state initially envisioned by the United States-led Coalition Provisional Authority," says the NYT.

World InactionRussia invades Georgia while the West watches. How did it come to this?

For the best possible illustration of why Islamic terrorism may one day be considered the least of our problems, look no further than the BBC's split-screen coverage of Friday's Olympics opening ceremony. On one side, fireworks sparkled, and thousands of exotically dressed Chinese dancers bent their bodies into the shape of doves, the cosmos, and so on. On the other side, gray Russian tanks were shown rolling into South Ossetia, a rebel province of Georgia. The effect was striking: Two of the world's rising powers were strutting their stuff.

The difference, of course, is that one event has been in rehearsal for years while the other, if not a total surprise, was not actually scheduled to take place this week. And that, too, is significant. The Chinese challenge to Western power has been a long time coming, and it is, in a certain sense, predictable. As a rule, the Chinese do not make sudden moves, and they do not try to provoke crises.

Russia, by contrast, is an unpredictable power, which makes a response more difficult. In fact, Russian politics have now become so utterly opaque that it is not easy to say why this particular "frozen" conflict has escalated right now. Russian sources said that Georgia had launched an invasion of South Ossetia, aiming to pacify the breakaway region. Georgia, meanwhile, said that its troops entered the South Ossetian "capital" in response to escalating South Ossetian attacks, which have been going on for a week—years, really—as well as the Russian aerial bombardment of Georgian territory.

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