Obama’s Cheney

The office of the Vice President has surely undergone a transformation in recent years: from Dan Quayle to Dick Cheney is a long way to travel. The role of the VP, with Cheney acting as the eminence grise of the Bush regime – and, some would say, the real President – has been amplified to the nth degree, and it looks like the administration of Barack Obama is going to continue this ominous tradition.

Joe Biden on the ticket with Obama, as we said on Monday, is a big victory for the War Party, which will not, as a result, be shut out of power if the Democrats take the White House. Today Biden denounces the Iraq war in passionate language, and yet it seems like only yesterday that he bloviated on the need to invade with equal if not more passion. Indeed, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden prevented any and all antiwar voices from being given a podium at the Senate hearings.

Aside from that, however, he was one of the earliest proponents of the "revanchist Russia" meme that glides merrily along on the strength of pure alliteration, and now has gained a lot of momentum since Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia was magically turned into Russia’s "invasion" of Georgia. He just couldn’t help himself, in his speech to the Democratic convention, in bringing up the alleged Russian "threat":

"For the last seven years, this administration has failed to face the biggest forces shaping this century: the emergence of Russia, China and India as great powers; the spread of lethal weapons; the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water; the challenge of climate change; and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front against terrorism.

"In recent days, we’ve once again seen the consequences of this neglect with Russia’s challenge to the free and democratic country of Georgia. Barack Obama and I will end this neglect. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we’ll help the people of Georgia rebuild."

Russia must be held "accountable" for defending the militarily helpless statelet of South Ossetia under attack from the US-armedand-trained Georgian military – accountable for avenging a merciless assault on the Ossetian capital city of Tskinvali. Naturally, the U.S. is never to be held accountable for any of its actions anywhere. The U.S. government, you see, is not accountable, not even to its own citizens.

Biden sees the Russian "invasion" as a game-changer, a pivotal event that perhaps marks the beginning of a new cold war – and a new bout of U.S. meddling in the region. Upon his return from a trip to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, Biden averred:

"The war that began in Georgia is no longer about that country alone. It has become a question of whether and how the West will stand up for the rights of free people throughout the region. The outcome there will determine whether we realize the grand ambition of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace."

The man-who-would-be-Dick-Cheney is not going to allow the conflict to be contained: no, it must ripple outward, with a little help from the U.S. government and its regional satraps, like a tsunami, flooding the region with inter-ethnic strife and violence.

Biden is going to put our money where his mouth is, proposing a $1 billion "emergency" aid package for Saakashvili’s regime to do with as it pleases. That the greater part of this will go to revamping the Georgian military – which has already received billions from the U.S. – rather than the long-suffering people of, say, Abkhazia (the scene of repeated Georgian invasions), goes without saying.

Obama, say the "national security Democrats" (i.e. warmongers of the "left"), has to appear "tough." That’s why he chose Biden, and why he’s now in a virtual competition with John McCain to see who can antagonize the Russians the quickest, as this pathetic story in the Los Angeles Times blog makes all too clear:

"When the war between Georgia and Russia first broke out, Democrat Barack Obama was in Hawaii, on vacation. He interrupted his holiday to issue a statement of support for Georgia. But his words were more measured – and came later – than either the White House response or Republican John McCain’s."

Measured words – what a sissy! And they came too late: in the rapid-fire world of the War Party, the early war-bird gets the worm! Ah, but not to worry, here comes Obama making up for lost time:

"This week, Obama beat the White House by more than an hour, and McCain by two. Could it be that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joe Biden, newly added to the Obama team as his running mate, has added some muscle?

"The speeded-up Obama response came after Russia recognized two breakaway regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – as independent countries.

"In his statement, issued around 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Obama said the White House should call for a U.N. Security Council meeting to condemn Russia’s action. About 45 minutes later, the White House issued a statement from President Bush, vacationing at his ranch in Crawford. He too condemned the Russian ploy, saying, ‘We expect Russia to live up to its international commitments.’

"McCain weighed in around 4 p.m. EDT, nearly two hours after Obama and more than an hour after the White House. In some ways it was the most tempered of the three statements, saying Moscow’s action ‘deserves condemnation from the entire international community.’"

The UN should condemn Abkhazia and South Ossetia because they don’t want to live under a regime that has bombed them on several occasions, killing thousands? Obama, who reportedly is "advised" by over two-hundred foreign policy mavens of various stripes, ought to dump that crowd and commune with his own conscience, if he has one.

As ships from NATO countries make provocative incursions into the Black Sea – right at Russia’s doorstep – and Bloviator Biden waxes rhetorical over the prospect of confronting Vladimir Putin, it looks like we’re going to go head-to-head and nose-to-nose with Russia no matter who wins the White House this time around.

Why don’t the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have the right to live under the government of their own choice? What is it with these exporters of "democracy" – why is it we never hear any talk of holding a plebiscite in these disputed regions. Oh, wait, they did hold a plebiscite – several, in fact, but the West refused to recognize the results.

Think peace is going to break out when the multi-culti messiah puts his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office? Well, I hate to disappoint all you loyal Democrats – and optimistic sorts – out there, but you had better think again ….

Biden’s connections to the region are suspicious, to say the least. When lobbyist Stephen Payne was caught on tape saying he could arrange for the rehabilitation of a certain Central Asian ex-dictator for a hefty "donation" to the Bush library, he also mentioned that Biden could be brought along – presumably for a price. Bruce Ettinger, formerly Biden’s director of legislative affairs, is Payne’s business partner.

Biden’s dubious involvement in the politics of the region is underscored by his most recent moral crusade: a bid, in tandem with the Heritage Foundation and other neoconservative groups in Washington, to publicize the plight of "democrats" in the oil-rich nation of Kazakhstan. His recent letter to the President of that country, chiding him for his country’s lack of democracy, may have something to do with Kazakhstan’s recent decision to consider pumping its oil through Russian pipelines, rather than through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan route that U.S. and British investors have such a major stake in.

Kazakhstan has so far only had to endure Borat‘s ridicule: the future, however, looks increasingly problematic. That country is a veritable caricature of Asian despotism, with a very thin "democratic" veneer covering up the core of corruption, venality, and violent repression at the heart of what is essentially a family-run dictatorship. The Bush administration, which purportedly wants to "export democracy" to the Middle East – and indeed the whole world – has made a notable exception in Kazakhstan’s case.

The repressive nature of the regime won’t necessarily stop the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe from allowing the Kazakhs to take the rotating presidency of united Europe’s nascent military-diplomatic arm. Of course, it beggars belief that Kazakhstan could even be admitted to the OSCE, never mind being awarded the presidency – after all, the country isn’t even in Europe! (Then again, neither is Georgia …)

But no matter. While the OSCE lectures the Russians about their lack of commitment to "democracy," Kazakhstan is going to be inducted into the anti-Russian popular front of "democratic" countries, alongside Poor Little Georgia and Azerbaijan (which neoconnnish right-wingers like Andrew Breitbart and Rob Long have recently flocked to, always a bad sign).

The Republicans, for once, are relatively soft-core, compared to the Democrats, when it comes to putting pressure on the Kazakhs and others in the region – up to and including the threat of regime-change – to get with the program. That’s because the Democrats have just as much if not more invested in opening up the "silk road" to riches, transporting the vast oil and natural gas deposits waiting to be uncovered beneath the Caspian Sea and exported to the West: Bill Clinton’s administration devoted an entire sub-agency to realizing this get-rich-quick scheme cooked up by Western oil companies and corporate lobbyists. Millions of taxpayer dollars were poured into this project, and, today, it is a reality that is threatened by the Russians, the prospect of strife in the Caucasus, and the wave of resurgent nationalism sweeping through the region.

A lot of money has been invested in this deal – too much for the oil companies to just get up and walk away from. Using the U.S. Treasury as their private piggy bank – and, ultimately, the U.S. military as their private security force – the investors have bought themselves a lot of influence on Capitol Hill, in both parties. Not only the owners and the oil companies, but also the big investment bankers betting on the success of the BTC pipeline, have a direct interest in getting us even more involved in the region than we already are.

One possible reason for Biden’s sudden interest in the politics of Kazakhstan is that the Kazakhs have been making trouble, lately, demanding a bigger share of the profits, and blaming the oil companies for delays in actually implementing the project. Could this be why Biden is suddenly making noises about that country’s lack of democratic institutions? Funny, that didn’t stop Biden and others from voting millions to subsidize the BTC pipeline, which benefits the Kazakh government, as well as enriching the fulsomely anti-democratic regime in Azerbaijan, another oil-rich neo-Soviet tyranny through which the pipeline passes. And of course Georgia, too, is supposed to be "democratic," which, by regional standards, it is: never mind that President Mikheil Saakashvili accused his election opponents of "treason," had them arrested, and closed down the major opposition television station run by the opposition. Saakashvili’s thugs intruded right on to the set and pulled the news anchors out of their chairs! In Azerbaijan, on the other hand, they might have shot them on the spot …

Under a Democratic administration, we will see increased U.S. intervention in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The encirclement of Russia, a project begun by the Bush administration, will be continued and perhaps completed by the Obama administration – if there is one. We may be out of Iraq, but we could very well be knee-deep in Georgia (and Kazakhstan, god forbid). Of course, in true Democratic style, we’ll do it with the full cooperation of our European allies, in the spirit of sharing the loot – and there’s a lot of loot to go around.

In America, crony capitalism is in full bloom, and there is every indication that it will luxuriate and even reach full flower no matter who wins the next presidential election. In Obama’s America, like Bush’s, the system will be fully in place, and Biden’s ascension to the number two spot on the Democratic ticket assures the ruling elite that they will endure.

What is it about the office of the vice president? Is there a curse on it? Seems like it…

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is editor-at-large at Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].