Q: Is Putin Really Planning To Bomb Saudi Arabia?
Mark Ames | 09.09.2013
(A: In 2008, Cheney Really Did Plan To Bomb Russia)
One of the wildest rumors about the Syria War going around last week claimed that Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military chiefs to draw up plans for a full-scale military attack on Saudi Arabia if US-led forces bomb Syria.
I initially ignored the rumor as it made the rounds on Russian websites and some dicey English-language conspiracy sites. But then I got a note forwarded to me written by a retired French intelligence officer making the same claim: that Putin has ordered his forces to prepare for full-scale war on Saudi Arabia.
The only other time this source had communicated to me (through a longtime mutual friend) was in the early days of the 2008 Georgia-Russia war in South Ossetia. He had rightly identified the Georgians as starting that conflict at a time when all the Western media and political leaders claimed the opposite, that Putin had invaded Georgia unprovoked.
Last month was the fifth anniversary of that war in Georgia. Most people in the West have forgotten about it by now, but it’s a good time to refresh your memories. Western media and political leaders got that war completely wrong, blaming it on an allegedly aggressive, imperialist Russia out to "punish" Georgia for the crime of being a "Jeffersonian democracy" in Russia’s backyard, as Georgia’s spindoctors put it. What’s even more frightening is how that war, misreported and mischaracterized as Russian aggression, brought us dangerously close to World War Three.
A couple of years after the Georgia War ended, it emerged that Vice President Dick Cheney and "several senior White House staffers" had wanted to start a war with Russia to stop their counter-offensive against Georgia. Cheney’s idea had been to launch "surgical strikes" and/or to bomb Russian land forces using the Roki Tunnel, the only land link between Russia and South Ossetia, thousands of feet up in the Caucasus mountains.
I traveled through that same Roki Tunnel a few times while reporting on that war from the Russian side of the conflict, basing myself in North Ossetia and traveling into South Ossetia with the small Western press pool. Nearly all the American journalists reported from the Georgian side, and just about all of them were in Saakashvili’s pocket, embeds for the neocon side of the story. The false narrative that came out of that war from the Georgian side was that Putin launched the invasion himself in a bid to recreate Stalin’s empire, and that Putin was planning to invade Ukraine next in order to take back the Crimea. There was no evidence of that; and Russian forces didn’t even get into South Ossetia until about three days after the Georgians invaded. Nevertheless, it was taken as undisputed fact during the war, and for several months afterwards, that Putin was a war-mad imperialist, and if we didn’t stop Putin’s aggression in Georgia, the West was risking another Munich, another Stalin, another Hitler...
This false framing almost allowed Bush Administration neocons to drag America into a war with nuclear-armed Russia. On August 10, 2008, just as Russian forces were pouring through the Roki Tunnel to push Georgian troops out of South Ossetia, American military C-130 transport planes were ferrying hundreds of US-trained Georgian soldiers and heavy equipment out of Iraq — where they had served as a loyal backup contingent for Bush, the third largest after the US and Britain — and into battle against Russian and Ossetian forces. That alone could’ve sparked war with Russia. Imagine if Russians started ferrying hundreds of Taliban fighters and heavy armor into Afghanistan to fight US troops.
By August 11, the Russian counter-offensive was turning into a rout, sending Georgian forces fleeing to the Black Sea. That was when Cheney and other Bush Administration officials decided it would be a good time to launch a "limited war" against Russia — "surgical strikes" or something even stupider, as reported in Ronald Asmus’ book "A Little War That Shook The World":
"The sheer scale of the Russian attack did lead several senior White House staffers to push for at least some consideration of limited military options to stem the Russian advance. The menu of options under discussion foresaw the possibility of bombardment and sealing of the Roki Tunnel as well as other surgical strikes to reduce Russian military pressure on the Georgian government."
Luckily for the rest of us, Bush’s neocon national security advisor Stephen Hadley retained enough sense to realize that the Russians would respond militarily to any "surgical strike," and that would be the end of everyone’s retirement golfing plans. Knowing how Cheney works on the sly, Hadley decided that the only way to stop him and the other neocon loons was to make Cheney’s plans known to Bush, and to force Bush to take a clear position on war with Russia. According to Asmus’ book:
"[Hadley] concluded that it was necessary for Bush to know what his closest advisors, Cheney in particular, thought and for the president to have an open discussion with his key cabinet members for the record on whether the United States should consider using its military power to help the Georgians. At a meeting of the Principals Committee on Monday, August 11, Hadley therefore put the military option on the table to see whether there was any support for such steps to help the Georgians repel the Russians. There was not. The president recognized that if the United States started down the path of anything military, they had to be prepared for an escalation and thus, in the end, for fighting Russia."
Crazy and unimaginable things tend to happen during wars, and we don’t always get lucky. It’s inconceivable today that the most powerful vice president in history seriously considered launching World War Three over South Ossetia, but that’s what happened.
Part of the reason it got to that point is that we knew so little about what was really going on, relying instead on bad caricatures and reckless neocons and lobbyists like the bad folks from Orion Strategies, who were also foreign policy advisors for Candidate John McCain in 2008, whose dangerously conflicted relationships I wrote about during the Georgia-Russia war. When the bombs were flying in 2008, the American public had been misled into believing that Putin was Stalin, that Russia invaded defenseless little Jeffersonian Georgia because Putin was a very bad man hell-bent on recreating Stalin’s empire, and that Ukraine was next on his list.
Original post here.