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Elections & Voting Last Updated: Aug 21st, 2008 - 00:33:58

A McCain administration could result in more wars in Middle East
By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 21, 2008, 00:18

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What would a John McCain administration look like if the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee were elected President of the United States in November?

Although McCain insists he is no George W. Bush, his campaign is stacked with advisers who played key roles in shaping the Bush administration�s Middle East policies, including the disastrous plan to launch a preemptive strike against Iraq that has cost taxpayers nearly $1 trillion, resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 US soldiers, and 1.2 million Iraqi civilians.

With these hardcore neoconservatives now directing McCain�s foreign policy there is every reason to believe that a McCain administration would continue to try its goal of implementing a Pax Americana in the Middle East through preemptive military action.

One of McCain�s chief foreign policy advisers, Randy Scheunemann, has come under fire in recent weeks for his lobbying work on behalf of the government of Georgia, which is ensnared in a military conflict with Russia, while advising the McCain campaign.

While Scheunemann�s acceptance of $750,000 from Georgia as recently as May has been scrutinized largely because McCain has vowed not to allow his campaign to employ lobbyists, its Scheunemann�s position on Iraq and Iran that is the real cause for concern and one that the mainstream media have totally avoided deconstructing. The fact that McCain is taken seriously on Iraq policy when his chief foreign policy adviser was credited with funneling bogus prewar Iraq intelligence to the Bush administration prior to the March 2003 invasion is disturbing.

Scheunemann, who also worked on McCain�s failed bid for the White House in 2000 and was a top adviser to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, believes one area of U.S. foreign policy that needs immediate review is the ban on assassinating leaders of foreign governments.

�It makes no sense to regularly target command and control nodes with precision-guided munitions, while denying highly capable sniper teams the ability to attack individual targets,� Scheunemann told conservative author Bill Gertz in the book Breakdown. According to the book, Scheunemann believed the CIA should have been given the authority to assassinate Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.

Scheunemann has said publicly that the Bush administration has not been tough enough in dealing with rogue nations such as Iran, and has characterized the current state of U.S. foreign policy as �little more than a semi-secret version of the State Department, relying on dinners with host country intelligence services, passing out specialized equipment and rewarding favorites with free trips to the United States.�

�The messy business of back-alley tradecraft has taken a back seat to the much simpler business of �liaison� with foreign intelligence services,� Scheunemann told Gertz, adding that he would radically change that approach if and when he returns to government work.

Scheunemann got a second chance to overthrow Saddam Hussein when, in the fall of 2002, he received a green light from the White House to launch the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an organization whose mission was to promote regime change in the region and to gather support from European countries to back a preemptive strike. The co-founder of the committee was former CIA Director James Woolsey, who is now one of McCain�s top energy advisers.

�The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq was the brainchild of the Bush administration,� the Financial Times reported on Dec. 16, 2002. �It was inspired by a lobbying committee designed to sway US public and political opinion in favor of expanding the NATO alliance.

�It is said that, once the Saddam regime has been overthrown, the CLI will act as a �shadow government� for Baghdad. But it will limit itself to policy matters and will not deal with details. It will, eventually, press for a �competitive petroleum production-sharing regime� which could make OPEC irrelevant to Iraq�s oil output or supply decisions.�

As president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, Scheunemann worked closely with the White House Iraq Group, which was headed by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and charged with selling the war to the public. In November 2002, The Washington Post reported that Scheunemann�s group would push for regime change in Iraq through �sessions with opinion makers, contacts for journalists and mass marketing when the time is ripe.�

Scheunemann was also an early supporter of Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress (INC) and housed the committee�s offices at the same address as Chalabi�s INC. In 1998, while an advisor to Republican Senators Bob Dole and Trent Lott, Scheunemann drafted the Iraq Liberation Act and got the federal government to funnel $98 million to Iraqi exiles associated with Chalabi�s organization. The INC provided faulty information on Hussein�s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and his ties to Osama bin Laden.

According to documents, books, and news reports, President Bush enlisted Scheunemann, who was employed as a lobbyist for Soviet bloc countries such as Romania and Latvia, to get his clients to become part of the �Coalition of the Willing.�

In October 2002, President Bush had considered naming Scheunemann as a special envoy to the Iraqi opposition. Instead, Scheunemann worked in an advisory capacity and brought together the �Vilnius 10� group of East European nations that included Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia, that joined the �Coalition of the Willing.� Croatia, however, did not end up committing troops to Iraq.

�Considering the nations -- including the Baltic states -- signed on [to] the group at the expense of creating a schism in the European Union, the Scheunemann initiative was unanimously regarded as a diplomatic triumph for Washington and a coup d�etat in Brussels,� The Baltic Times reported in August 2003.

Scheunemann had advised these foreign governments that they would receive lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts as well as US support for their entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in exchange for their support.

�With NATO now set to enlarge from 19 members to take on seven East European nations, including the three Baltic states, it is said that both the Bush team and the [Committee for the Liberation of Iraq] want the political mechanism of the Atlantic alliance to replace the UN Security Council in giving multilateral legitimacy to any major US action outside North America,� The Financial Times reported on Dec. 16, 2002. �This is because, unlike the UN Security Council where the French or Russians might block American action, NATO�s political decisions do not require consensus. The NATO military decisions only require consensus.�

Scheunemann had close ties to Bruce Jackson, the chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, who, prior to the U.S. invasion, was also chair of the U.S. Committee for NATO. Scheunemann�s close ties to the White House earned him hundreds of thousands of dollars from countries like Romania, who paid him $175,000 just for providing advice to the government on reconstruction deals in Iraq.

Scheunemann was also listed as a lobbyist for Latvia�s Defense Ministry. Five months after the U.S. invaded Iraq, Scheunemann met with Peteris Elferts, Latvia�s parliamentary secretary in the Foreign Ministry and ambassador-at-large for Iraqi policy, and Valdis Birkavs, chairman of the Latvian Builders Strategic Partnership, a consortium Scheunemann helped form, about constructing an information technology system in Baghdad. Elferts and Birkavs said Latvia was in the running for the multimillion reconstruction contract because of Latvia�s support of regime change in Iraq.

On Jan. 28, 2003, the day that President Bush delivered his State of the Union address that included the now debunked claims that Iraq had tried to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger, Scheunemann tapped McCain and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a staunch McCain supporter, as honorary co-chairmen of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

�By joining our efforts, Senators McCain and Lieberman highlight their commitment to ending the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and freeing the Iraqi people,� Scheunemann said in a statement issued by his committee.

Between February and March, McCain and Lieberman heavily promoted the committee�s goal of regime change via a preemptive strike.

In an April 13, 2003, op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, a few weeks after the start of the war, Scheunemann wrote how a �democratic Iraq� would impact the Middle East, an opinion that has become a focal point of the McCain campaign and one that will surely be implemented if McCain is elected.

�There is an insidious subtext in the debate over whether democracy can grow and flourish in Iraq,� Scheunemann wrote. �Even though a democratic Iraq may be feasible, goes the argument, it is not desirable. This view has adherents in the U.S. State Department and among some foreign-policy elites, in Middle Eastern studies departments of major universities and in Arab capitals. For Arab rulers, the reason is obvious: Democracy in Cairo, Damascus or Riyadh would mean statues tumbling there.�

Jason Leopold is the author of �News Junkie,� a memoir. Visit for a preview. His new website is The Public Record.

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