Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo
In the wake of the war for Kosovo, potential sites of U.S. military intervention are multiplying faster than any one person can keep up with. Like suitors beseeching a beautiful debutante, they call out to Washington: "Choose me! Choose me!"
Notoriously fickle, capricious to a fault, imperious mistress of all she surveys: America, the sole superpower, takes seriously her role as global arbiter: which one will she choose? Anyone who pretends to know is likely as not deluded: the lady does not know herself. As long as the Democrats are in power, Kosovo, that jewel of the Balkans, will be first in her affections; the US is pledged to a committed relationship, which should last the next fifty years or so. Billions in treasure and thousands of American soldiers will be lavished on our beloved Kosovo but the mistress of the world is not the monogamous type, and her eye is already roving.
Her promiscuity in the era of Clinton has been prodigious, indulging in some 30 interventions in the course of a mere 7 years. (Compared to 10 during the Cold War era.) Torn between East and West, between Europe and Asia, America pauses for a moment, resting between conquests. She will not tarry long. Restless and eager to prove her stature as global hegemon (or is that hegemoness?), the mistress of the world is being wooed by several potential suitors, and their rivalry is fierce. Each has his lobby in Washington, his immigrant amen corner, his friends in the media, his allies among the various business groups that compete for government contracts and other subsidies. A veritable rogues' gallery of gentlemen callers, a motley bunch of obsequious supplicants, all clamoring for attention and US tax dollars.
For sheer clout in Establishment circles, the Azeri and Georgian lobbies are hard to beat. Several prominent figures in the Bushian wing of the Republican party stand to make a substantial profit through their investments in companies doing business in the region, among them: James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, Dick Cheney and John Sununu; the Secretary of State, National Security Adviser, Secretary of Defense and chief of staff respectively for George (Herbert Walker) Bush.
But this is not a club for Republicans only: other prominent profiteers in the Caspian oil sweepstakes include Lloyd Bentsen and Zbigniew Brzezinski. With a $5 trillion pool of oil sitting in the middle of the Caspian Sea, all the nations that border it have been staked out by the various oil companies, with Amoco, Exxon, Unocal, and Mobil all vying for franchises and favors from the chieftains of the Caucasian "republics." On the home front, the Caspian oil lobby is shepherding legislation through Congress to ensure that the Export-Import Bank and other federal slush funds for Wall Street come through with a lush package of loan guarantees and other government subsidies. They are working day and night to repeal Section 907 of the "Freedom Support Act," which forbids military or economic aid to one-party "republics" such as Azerbaijan, the richest prize of the Caucasus.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee last February, Clinton's special ambassador to the Caspian region, Richard Morningstar, reiterated the position of the US State Department on Section 907, which has been trying to get rid of this pesky provision for years. In league with the Clintonistas on this question is Caspar Weinberger and the Center for Security Policy. In an op ed piece, Weinberger argued that "Open access to the Caspian is critical if the United States is to diversify its energy sources and reduce its dangerous reliance on Middle Eastern supplies. Oil in the Caspian region is now channeled principally through pipelines to Russian Black Sea ports, and Moscow wants to keep it that way, because that means it controls the flow." In other words, the Caspian pipeline must be guarded by US gendarmes, and if this means war with Russia then so be it. Amazingly enough, the battle-cry of the Caspian lobby is "free markets" and "free trade" but there is nothing "free" about the markets that Big Oil is scheming to dominate. As is customary in the "Open Door" school of American diplomacy, the costs of these mega-projects (like the Caspian Sea oil pipeline) are socialized, in the form of loan guarantees, Ex-Im Bank subsidies, and foreign aid (including military aid), while the profits to be had are "privatized." This is not capitalism of the laissez-faire variety, but mercantilism pure and simple.
Setting up post-Soviet Russia as the principal enemy of the US, Weinberger avers that "at the center of the new Great Game is Moscow's effort to put the squeeze on Azerbaijan, a secular Muslim state whose President, Heydar Aliyev, once a member of the Soviet Politburo, welcomes Western investment." This about a man who, as David Remnick put in his "Lenin's Tomb," "ruled Azerbaijan as surely as the Gambino family ran the port of New York. The Caspian Sea caviar mafia, the Sumgait oil Mafia, the fruits and vegetables Mafia, the cotton Mafia, the customs and transport Mafia they all reported to him, enriched him, worshipped him."
The Azeri lobby is nothing if not star-studded: Brent Scowcroft pulls in $130,000 dollars for advising Pennzoil and the multinational Azerbaijan consortium. Sununu's management consulting firm, JHS Associates, has also generated considerable business in Azerbaijan. Lloyd Bentsen recently compared Azerbaijan's struggle for independence to that of his home state of Texas, implicitly likening the neo-Stalinist Aliyev to Sam Houston a bizarre analogy if ever there was one. Perhaps Bentsen's enthusiasm for Aliyev's authoritarian regime is explainable at least in part by his financial holdings: he is a shareholder in Frontera Resources, an oil services company working in Azerbaijan.
The personal and professional relationship between James Baker and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, the last Foreign Minister of the USSR, is a key link in the Caspian network. Baker now has his own law practice, with his clientele heavily weighted with Houston oilmen; his Georgian buddy comes in real handy, and vice versa. Georgia is instrumental in the scheme to transport Caspian oil to market. With Shevardnadze beset by separatist rebels in Abhazia, and Russian troops policing the spreading conflict, the Georgian President has called on NATO to intervene, and compared Belgrade's aggression against the Kosovars to Georgia's refugee problem after the war with insurgent Abkhazia."Genocide and ethnic cleansing are unacceptable and should be punished," Shevardnadze recently declared. The Abhazians rose up and threw off the regime in Tbilisi, and nearly chased Shevadnadze out of his own capital city: naturally he wants them punished, but lacks the military resources and prowess, and that is where NATO comes in.
In the name of "humanitarianism," Schevardnadze demands that NATO intervene, and his call is echoed by the government of Azerbaijan: "I believe that a NATO operation in the Caucasus would be desirable," says Azeri foreign policy aide Vafa Gulizade. "Azerbaijan has undergone its own ethnic cleansing. Thanks to a NATO operation, the Kosovo refugees are returning home. I think that if NATO forces were brought into the region, the Armenians would be forced to leave our occupied territories." Yes, and the oil pipeline could then be run safely through the Caucasus, with NATO troops guarding the oil company's profits and propping up Schevardnadze's shaky regime: a sweet deal for everyone but the Russians, the Abhazians, and the Armenians, who will sit still for this massive appropriation of territory and resources or else face NATO's bombs. Perhaps the International Tribunal for the Investigation of War Crimes in the Caucasus could be organized in time for the planned invasion, and CNN brought in to sniff out any "ethnic cleansing" in the disputed regions of Abhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
While Secretary General Javier Solana, in consultations with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, denied that NATO had any such intention, the Azeris confidently predict that the West will soon come to realize the justice of their cause. "I know that today, a NATO troop deployment is not real. I know that tomorrow it isn't real. But to say that it will never happen would be stupid," said Gulizade. "We should be speaking not of beliefs, but of principles. If the conflict isn't resolved, NATO needs to get involved. We don't have to speak of how long it will take." With the Washington "wise men" of both parties like Baker and Bentsen pushing for US intervention in the region, Gulizade may not have long to wait.
While the Caspian lobby has plenty of clout inside the Establishment, the more populist wing of the War Party has its heart set on the coming conflict with China, as the title of a recent book summarizes their argument. The recent announcement by the Chinese government alleging that it can now make neutron bombs has the Hate China lobby in a frenzy. The gleefulness with which they hail the news as a confirmation of their conspiracy theories makes one wonder how seriously they take their own accusations.
As David Horowitz, whose role as chief agitator for war with China I have previously detailed in these pages, triumphantly rants: "While the Chinese claim that they developed the technology themselves, the Cox Report makes it clear that Beijing's protracted espionage campaign resulted in the theft of neutron-bomb secrets, among others, from the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in the late 1970s. If this latest development is not clear proof to President Clinton's leftist defenders of significant damage to America's nuclear advantage, then only a nuclear blast from a Chinese ballistic missile will do the job. Let's hope it never comes to that." Typically, the idea that the Chinese could have produced something akin to a neutron bomb without stealing the technology from the US is dismissed out of hand by Horowitz: how could those Chinks have done it by themselves? His visceral hostility to the Chinese is underscored in his bromidic manifesto, The Art of Political War, in which he argues that the Republican party must "reach out" to blacks and Hispanics, who, we are told, must be "empowered." Somehow, he neglects to mention Asian-Americans, and one can't help thinking that this is because he believes their "empowerment" might endanger national security.
Also typically, Horowitz characterizes all skeptics of the "Chinagate" espionage allegations as "President Clinton's leftist defenders." But what about the Cox Report's right-wing critics, such as Jack Kemp? In a report widely distributed by Kemp's office and authored by Dr. Gordon Prather, a nuclear weapons expert with long experience in the field, the theory that the neutron bomb "secret" was "stolen" by the Chinese is thoroughly and convincingly debunked. It turns out that the Taiwan-born scientist accused of passing alleged "nuclear secrets" to the Chinese, Peter Lee, was not even involved in research that had anything remotely to do with neutron bomb research. Prather writes: "As in the case of Wen Ho Lee, it appears that the Security [DOE & FBI] officials have attempted to define the crime to fit their suspect. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists at the ICF facility where Peter Lee worked were surely attempting to achieve 'zero-fission fusion,' but not to make a weapon. [In any case, accusing Peter Lee of stealing the "secret" of the neutron bomb at the ICF facility where he worked is a bit like accusing the grounds keeper at Wimbledon of 'stealing' the 'secret' of Pete Sampras' serve.]"
Peter Lee was involved in "clean fusion" research, a realm not even tangentially related to neutron bomb technology. The Cox Report's charge that the Chinese stole the alleged "secret" of the neutron bomb is a technologically implausible the huge systems and power grid required for fusion experiments could not be miniaturized to fit in the tip of a missile's warhead and politically motivated fantasy. As Prather puts it: "The Cox Committee (p.86) and others have identified the W-70 as both 'enhanced radiation warhead' and the 'neutron bomb.' In my lexicon, those are not the same things at all. An 'enhanced radiation' warhead is just what it says, a nuclear weapon where the design has been 'tweaked' so that a larger fraction of the energy release from fission/fusion comes out of the bomb case as radiation. And, although scientists at Livermore and elsewhere were hard at work at it, so far as I know we have never developed a true 'neutron bomb,' that is, a 'zero-fission fusion' weapon." Not only did the Chinese not rip off the blueprint for making neutron bombs from the US, but these dreaded weapons do not even exist except in the imaginations of the Cox Committee and Chinese government propagandists who hope to scare Taiwan away from separatism.
In short, Cox, Horowitz, and the rest of the professional Sinophobes don't know fusion from fission or their asses from their elbows and, what's more, they could care less. They don't care that their charges have no basis in science, or in fact; they don't care that innocent Americans of Chinese descent are being hounded out of their jobs; and far from caring about the possibility of war, they positively revel in predicting a military confrontation with China. Horowitz (or one of his clones) opines that "only a nuclear blast from a Chinese ballistic missile will" wake America up to the great Truth contained in the Cox Report, but "let's hope it never comes to that." Yet clearly they believe and hope it does come to that or else how will they ever "wake up" their fellow citizens to the Yellow Peril's plans to nuke Los Angeles? There is the ugly secret of the Hate China lobby: they pine for war the way others pine for love, or money.
Look on the bright side: if those damned Chink spies succeeded in stealing the technology that will give them pinpoint accuracy, perhaps they could be persuaded to nuke Hollywood. In taking out the producers of "Ellen," "Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect," and other "cultural pollution " as the Chinese like to put it they will have done us all a favor.
The debate between the two parties in the foreign policy realm especially if George Dubya Bush is the GOP nominee will not be over whether we ought to go to war but where. If the Republican "Asia-lationists" prefer to throw their weight around in the straits of Taiwan, and the Brahmins of both parties prefer the steppes of the Caucasus, the Clintonian Democrats are still fixated on the Balkans. A recent article by the respected New York Times reporter Chris Hedges [July 10, 1999] opens with this ominous sentence: "The government of Montenegro, once careful not to provoke Big Brother Serbia in Yugoslavia, appears to be moving swiftly toward independence and seems ready to fight for it if necessary." I will not go into the details, since they have been covered in this column before, and elsewhere on this site: suffice to say that, if true, this prognosis means that phase two of the Balkan war is imminent.
The prospects for success in the ongoing negotiations between the Milosevic government and the Montenegrins do not look good, and both sides are already mobilizing their forces. A recent poll shows most Montenegrins oppose independence this is because the economic viability of tiny Montenegro is highly doubtful. But President Djukanovic is adept at fixing elections, as shown in the contest that brought him to power, and with NATO's help he would have little trouble doing a similar job on the proposed referendum on independence scheduled to take place in a few months. If and when push comes to shove in Montenegro, get ready for the bombs to fall on Belgrade yet again and the possibility of the war on the ground that John McCain and the Weekly Standard were so cruelly deprived of last time.
The importance of foreign policy in the domestic politics of this country is underscored by the fact that the three main political groupings are divided and defined over their choice of foreign enemies. The Democrats' favored villain is Slobodan Milosevic; they hold out the prospect of a crusade against fascism resurgent, with Slobo as Hitler II and the Serbian people as his "willing executioners." They "idealistically" look forward to a postwar "reconstruction" of Serbia along the lines of post-World War II West Germany, complete with show trials, bans on "hate speech," and massive reeducation campaigns. The more practical moderate Republicans of the Bushian faction look to the Caucasus as the next battlefield in the war for the "New World Order," for reasons detailed above. Led by such luminaries as James Baker, whose rationale for the Gulf war was "jobs, jobs, jobs," these are the foreign policy "realists" who openly advocate using the armies of the United States and NATO as a police force to enforce regional stability and not incidentally reap huge profits out of the Caspian Sea oil bonanza. The Hate China lobby, while hoping to influence Bush, has no real candidate at the moment, unless you count Bob Smith, who may go after the US Taxpayers' Party nomination, and Pat Buchanan, who may seek the Reform Party nod but has no chance in the GOP primaries. (I note with sadness that no candidate, aside from the nominee of the minuscule Libertarian Party, upholds the noninterventionist position.)
If I had to put money on where and when the forces of the Empire will next see combat, I would pick Montenegro, if only because Clinton is still in the White House and the unfinished business in the Balkans looms large. But the War Party does not always get to choose the field of battle: as the rulers of a global empire, the American government could be confronted by a "crisis" in any part of the world at any time. From the straits of Taiwan to the shores of the Caspian, the tripwires and flashpoints proliferate as America's alleged "national interests" expand to encompass the globe. As the great Old Right polemicist Garet Garrett put it in his trenchant pamphlet, Rise of Empire: "We are no longer able to choose between peace and war. We have embraced perpetual war. We are no longer able to choose the time, the circumstances or the battlefield." Writing in 1952, Garrett saw our fate and stated it with eerie clarity: "A time comes when Empire finds itself a prisoner of history." Moving zombie-like toward the abyss of world "hegemony," into the bottomless pit of Empire, wading knee-deep among the noble bones of Romans, Spaniards, and Brits, we are the prisoners not only of history but of our own delusions.
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