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Eric Margolis: This is not like the Soviet Union and Finland, this is the US trying to stick its nose into Russia’s backyard. The Democrats have not formulated their own position on this.

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Welcome back to the next and final segment of our interview with Eric Margolis on the situation in Georgia and Poland. Eric, the Bush administration, which has been taking these steps instigating Georgia as it’s accused, certainly, the Polish missile agreement [sic], has been backed by Obama and his foreign policy people. They haven’t tried to differentiate themselves at all on this question. Why?

ERIC MARGOLIS, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: The Obama camp is reading the polls that show that three out of one Americans [sic] think that McCain is a better war leader and commander-in-chief. He is afraid, and the Democrats are afraid, of getting on the wrong side of the patriotic issue. The war drums are beating in the US, the flags are flying, the media are taking a hard line towards Russia, and McCain is right out in front, taking a very hard line, calling for confrontation with Russia. If Obama contradicts this policy, he’s going to be accused of appeasement, of being soft on Russia and soft on aggression, and he’ll be killed. So what he’s doing is quietly tagging along. Does not look good on him. It doesn’t bode well if he does become president.

JAY: Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Carter and has been an informal adviser to Obama, has been more than tagging along. Brzezinski compares this to Russia’s attack on Finland. And Brzezinski’s been very hard in his rhetoric as well. Does this represent Brzezinski? Or does it represent, more than that, a section of the Democratic Party foreign policy establishment?

MARGOLIS: I hope it represents just Brzezinski. I have great, enormous respect for him. He’s been right about a lot about the old Soviet Union, but I think he’s wrong. This is not like the Soviet attack on Finland. This is America trying to stick its nose into Russia’s backyard and getting bitten in the nose by the Russians—and deservedly so. And the Democrats have not formulated a proper response to this. And beating the war drums is the last thing they should be doing; otherwise they’re going to end up like the Bush administration, getting stuck in unnecessary wars abroad.

JAY: Now, if you look on the Internet in the blogs, there’s a lot of speculation that this was the September surprise in August. Bob Scheer, who writes for, talks about Randy Scheunemann perhaps even directly instigating Georgia to get these dominoes going. What do you make of this speculation that this is a deliberately created crisis, to some extent connected to what’s happening in the US election campaign?

MARGOLIS: There are only two possible answers: either sheer stupidity on the part of the Georgians and their American and Israeli advisers to go and kick sand in the face of the Russians, or else there was some plan to create a crisis. This thought has occurred to me too. It is helping the Republicans, as we see it, and it’s helping Senator McCain. Even though he can’t pronounce the right name of Abkhazia, which is one of the provinces in question here, he is all for, you know, standing up and confronting the Russians. Confronting them with what? About the only thing America has to send to that region is half of the Iowa National Guard, if they aren’t in Iraq already.

JAY: Of course it’s all speculation, but the possibility of this being a manufactured crisis—both Georgia, the Polish missile deal, the counter-rhetoric from the Russians, either deliberately or not—I’m still completely struck by the fact that Putin and Bush can sit there watching the Olympics while all this is happening. They didn’t seem to think we were on the brink of something. Do you actually lend credence to the idea that this could be something somewhat manufactured to affect the outcome of US elections?

MARGOLIS: I’m very suspicious about it. I would say chances are fifty percent. But even a manufactured crisis may backfire, because while a lot of American flag-wavers may think this is just wonderful and we’re standing up to the horrible Russian, godless communists, that more thoughtful Americans—and there are some on both coasts—will start saying, you know, Bush looks like an idiot in this confrontation. America’s gotten a bloody nose, and America’s efforts to insert its influence into the Caucasus, into Ukraine, and into Central Asia has just been short-circuited for now.

JAY: Well, if Obama’s presidency really is going to be something about change, then maybe this would be a moment to define a voice of rationality, not just tagging along with the drumbeats of war.

MARGOLIS: I wish Obama would come out and say, “Mr. President, you’re dead wrong. You’re dragging the US into a dangerous and unnecessary crisis, and you’re antagonizing a country that has thousands of missiles pointed at us. Why are you doing it? What profit do you get? Are we going to trade Tbilisi for Tulsa? Are we going to watch New York blown up over this issue? Of course not. This is ridiculous.” And he’s going to say that NATO has gone too far east. It’s a bridge too far. You’ve swelled up the head of this Saakashvili with all these promises and things, made him think he was a little Saddam Hussein, he could attack his neighbor. It didn’t work that way. And NATO has been shown to be a paper tiger and the US has been shown to be a paper tiger in this crisis. I say score ten for Vladimir Putin, score zero for George Bush and his Republicans.

JAY: Thank you very much for joining us, Eric.

MARGOLIS: You’re welcome.

JAY: And thank you for joining us in this series of interviews with Eric Margolis.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Eric Margolis is an internationally syndicated columnist and renowned book author. He’s a veteran Korea-watcher who specializes in north Asian military/strategic affairs. He’s been all over the DMZ and produced his documentary there last year featuring a segment from Panmunjom on the DMZ. Two special areas of focus:  1. What would a war actually look like if one erupted?  2. The geopolitics of the region – the Koreas, Japan, China, Russia, the US.  Eric was a regular columnist for Japan's Mainichi Shimbun and is a long-time member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.