In the first two parts of this series, posted on Monday and Tuesday, I described John McCain supposed expertise on and experience with foreign affairs, and the results of the Middle East policy of the Bush administration that he has so strongly supported. In this article - the last of the series - I take a look at McCain's foreign policy advisors and their backgrounds.
As the president, McCain would, like any president, have a national security team that he would appoint to various positions, in the State, Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security Departments, the intelligence agencies and the National Security Council. It is the team that will act as the brain for the McCain administration's Middle East policy. Thus, the question is, how much brain does his team have, anyway? Let us take a look at the "brain."
Stephen Beigun: He is acting as the foreign policy advisor to Sarah Palin. He worked in the National Security Council from 2001-2003, and was an advisor to Bill Frist, the former Republican Senate Majority Leader. He is also a vice president for Ford Motor Company.
Beigun's chief role has been protecting Palin against charges of inexperience when it comes to foreign policy, justifying the inexperience, and supporting the notion that, as Governor of Alaska, she has gained foreign policy experience. He told the Newsweek, "Governors don't have the same opportunities or the same responsibilities that Senators have. They are different, but they're not inferior."
When Palin made the infamous remark about Vladimir Putin "rearing his head" and "coming into the airspace of the United States" through Alaska as her foreign policy credentials and was ridiculed for it, Beigun insisted that Palin's position was correct. He said, "Governor Palin told me that when Russian aircrafts buzz American airspace and U.S. aircrafts are mobilized at Elmendorf Air Force Base, she is informed by her National Guard commander." But a spokesman for the Alaska North American Aerospace Defense Command said that, "She doesn't have any role in that process."
Max Boot: He is a super hawk neoconservative, a senior fellow for national security studies at Council on Foreign Relations, and a military historian. He is the chief cheerleader for McCain, the tough guy. In an article in the Los Angeles Times in February he wrote, "Ask yourself which presidential candidate an Ahmadinejad [of Iran], Assad [of Syria], or Kim [of North Korea] would fear the most..." to which he responded - surprise! - McCain. Yeah right! Say that to commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards who believe that they should have been killed during the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s; that they have lived at least 20 years beyond their "natural" life, and thus are ready for anything that the U.S. might throw at them.
Boot has declared with straight face that, "the United States should unambiguously embrace its imperial role." He has forcefully advocated military intervention in the Middle East, has criticized diplomatic efforts there, and has claimed that the U.S. would be fully justified to attack Iran now. He has also favored targeting Saudi Arabia, and has declared that, in the worst-case scenario, the U.S. might end up "occupying the Saudi's oil fields and administering them as a [self-appointed] trust for the people of the region." He has also attacked reputable organizations, such as the Human Rights Watch, and has dismissed protests against torture of war prisoners.
Niall Ferguson: He is a professor of history at Harvard University, and a senior fellow at conservative Hoover Institution. He has consistently advocated war on Iran, saying that, "if we don't attack Iran, there'll be nuclear war."
In a January 2006 article, he predicted a nuclear war between Iran [which does not have any such weapon, is not close to having it, and there is no evidence that it is trying to make it] and Israel [which is known to have at least 200 nuclear warheads] happening in August 2007, which he called the Great War of 2007, and suggested that it would last for four years. It was not clear how a nuclear exchange could last that long!
According to another article of his in October 2007 in the Los Angeles Times, he received a huge number of heated responses from around the world for his prediction. Therefore, he "clarified" himself by saying that, "my aim in writing the column was not to soothsay but to alert readers to the seriousness of the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program - and to persuade them that the United States should do something to stop it." He published this article and "clarification" right before publication of the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in November 2007 that declared that, Iran stopped its nuclear weapon program in 2003 (although there is no concrete evidence that Iran even had such a program before 2003).
He then went on to once again advocate attacks on Iran. Even worse, he "predicted" - more accurately, he fantasized - that, "one strike, and Iran could be out," if the "safe U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan" are used. I need not say more about Ferguson. The man clearly lives in a parallel universe disconnected from ours.
Robert Kagan: He is a "leading foreign policy advisor," according to McCain's campaign, apparently because he is married to Victoria Nuland, who was the U.S. ambassador to the NATO until July 2. He worked at the State Department Bureau of Inter-American Affairs from 1985- 1988, during the Contra scandal when Elliot Abrams was the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American affairs (Abrams was later convicted for his role in the scandal). He is supposedly a Middle East expert, although he does not speak Arabic or Persian, knows very little, if any, about that part of the world, and has never lived there.
Kagan was a director of the infamous Project for the New American Century, the neoconservative organization that advocated an American empire by declaring that, the United States must "accept responsibility for America's unique [read hegemonic] role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles." PNAC was a leading force in spreading lies and exaggerations about Iraq, and a forceful advocate of its invasion.
Kagan is a self-styled military "expert," although he has never served in the military. Like Dick Cheney who got five draft deferments during the Vietnam War because he had "other priorities," Kagan is a chicken hawk who is great at sending other people's children to war and death. Let us see whether his own son David will ever serve in the military.
An amusing statement that Kagan made goes to show how much knowledge he has about the Middle East. He claimed that Saddam Hussein "fancied himself the new Saladin." Of course! After Saddam gassed his own Kurdish citizens (and the Iranians) and murdered tens of thousands of them, it was natural for him to fancy himself as the new Saladin, the Kurdish warrior!
Kagan also "predicted" that, "obviously the [Bush] administration intends to publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find [in Iraq] - and there will be plenty." We now know how many WMDs were found.
In November 2006, Kagan declared, with as much certainty as he had about Iraq's WMDs, that the solution to Iran's nuclear energy problem "will have to be invasion, not merely an air and missile strike..." But, presumably after his in-house military expert - his wife - told him that Iran is a large country with a rugged landscape, 72 million people, and lots of experience with symmetric and asymmetric warfares, he changed his mind, became a man of peace, and now only advocates bombing of Iran.
Randy Scheunemann: The best description for this character is that he is a Chalabyist - after his close association with the Iraqi con artist Ahmad Chalabi. He was the president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which was created by the Project for the New American Century (of which he was a board member), which spread propaganda for invasion of Iraq. He promoted Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress as Iraq's "government in exile."
Scheunemann has been a lobbyist for anybody or any entity that pays him well, from governments of Georgia, Macedonia, and Taiwan, to military firms and oil companies. According to an article in the New York Times in May 2008, before McCain's campaign started, Scheunemann had actually met the Senator many times on behalf of his clients. In July 2008, the Sunday Times of London published an article that linked Scheunemann to Stephen Payne, a lobbyist who had been covertly filmed while he was offering meetings with Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and others, in return for donations to President Bush's Presidential library. He has presented himself as a "hawk," accusing many of having a "September 10" mindset.
R. James Woolsey: He was CIA director from 1993-1995. A neocon who claimed that anybody who did not believe in Al-Qaeda/Saddam Hussein connection was "illiterate," he has been advocating "World War IV" with Islamic nations, with "World War III" being the Cold War.
The number of lies and exaggerated stories that he told the public about Iraq's non-existent WMDs is simply too large to repeat them here. According to the website, Ignorance is Futile, at 2:26 am on September 12, 2001, Woolsey was the first person who linked the terrorist attacks of the day before to Iraq (watch him making the claim at http://ignoranceisfutile.wordpress.com/).
Woolsey now speaks with the same certainty about Iran's nuclear weapon program. He told students at Purdue University in November 2007 that, "If you don't think Iran is interested in nuclear weapons, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd be happy to offer you. Of course it's a nuclear weapon program." He had offered to sell the same bridge to his audiences in the run-up to Iraq's invasion. So, all he had to do to make this claim was changing Iraq to Iran in his pre-2003 declarations.
Woolsey also believes in UFOs. In fact, he claimed that he and his wife had seen a UFO in the 1960s. When he became CIA director, he even searched the CIA's secret files, looking for anything about UFOs. The CIA even published a report about this. So, his behavior at CIA was totally odd, which might explain his early departure from the Agency.
John McCain's campaign does list several career diplomats and academics, such as Richard
R. Burt (former U.S. ambassador to Germany and a veteran of nuclear arms negotiation), Kori Schake (who served in the National Security Council and has advocated a relatively realistic approach to Iran), and Richard S. Williamson (who has served three presidents and was the U.S. special envoy to the Sudan). But, with his principal spokesman on foreign affairs being the Chalabyist Scheunemann, and given what Senator Thad Chocran (R-Mississippi) said about McCain,
The thought of him [McCain] being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me,
how much can we trust a McCain administration to keep us out of yet another unjustified and catastrophic war?