Israel lobby hypes a new Cold War with Russia

Ken Silverstein has a very interesting piece in Salon magazine on the lobbyists for Georgia who “wine and dine eager Washington journalists in a campaign to undo Obama’s ‘reset’ on Russia.” Silverstein, a contributing editor for Harper’s magazine, explains how Randy Scheunemann’s Orion Strategies creates a media echo chamber on Georgia and Russia:

Essentially it works like this: Tbilisi’s lobbyists generate contacts and information that they feed to sympathetic journalists. Orion frequently arranges interviews with Georgian officials and, not infrequently, stories centering on their charges magically appear soon afterward. Orion has wined and dined some reporters on its tab or picked up their travel expenses. There’s certainly nothing illegal about that but it’s worth noting that lobbyists are barred from maintaining these sorts of relationships with members of Congress because it so clearly presents, as we say in Washington, at least the appearance of impropriety.

Orion is friendly to and works with government officials and politicians who its reporter friends regularly cite (especially [John] McCain). Orion also works very closely with experts and organizations cited by these reporters, like the Foreign Policy Initiative, whose board of directors includes William Kristol, Robert Kagan and other neocons from the PNAC and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

The journalists pick up on and spread each other’s work and [Orion’s Michael] Goldfarb, naturally, hawks their stories at his Twitter feed. Just last week, he called a new [Eli] Lake story a “must read.” The piece  at the Newsweek/Daily Beast, featured an exclusive interview with Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who alleged that the bombing at the U.S. Embassy was “ordered at the most senior levels of the Russian government.” He was quoted as saying that Putin “is crazy about planning the individual details of special operations … I cannot imagine somebody touching a topic as sensitive as Georgia is for Russia, especially for Putin, without Putin having firsthand knowledge or command of it.”

Orion helps create a collective media reality that policymakers have to respond to. Other foreign governments  also play this game, as do liberal and conservative interest groups, but rarely as well or so brazenly.

Silverstein notes that when Eli Lake alleged on the front page of the Washington Times on July 22 that a bomb blast near the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, the previous September had been “traced to a plot run by a Russian military intelligence officer, according to an investigation by the Georgian Interior Ministry,” Senators Mark Kirk, Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and John McCain — the latter duo he aptly dubs “Senators Echo and Echo” — sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding intelligence briefings on the incident. As observers of the Israel lobby know only too well, the famous five are among AIPAC’s most reliable mouthpieces on Capitol Hill.

Among Orion’s other friends in the media, Silverstein names the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, formerly of Commentary magazine; the Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper and Matthew Continetti; James Kirchick, an assistant editor at the New Republic; and Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin. Like Orion’s friendly senators, these pro-Georgian journalists are also well known for their staunch pro-Israeli views. While Silverstein doesn’t mention this, he does note that Rubin’s attendance at this year’s Herzliya Conference was paid for by the Emergency Committee for Israel with which Kristol and Goldfarb are associated.

To his credit, Silverstein admits that he “found it unpleasant to write this story” because he knows and likes some of the people involved. Moreover, he acknowledges that Orion also represents an organisation affiliated with George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, which funds some of his current research — “though not this article.” Silverstein doesn’t say anything, however, about the key role that Soros’s “philanthropy” played in fomenting the “Rose Revolution” that brought the billionaire financier’s not-so-democratic protégé to power. Or about how Saakashvili’s subsequent provocations of Moscow are hardly unconnected to Soros’s and the neocons’ grievance against Putin over his opposition to the looting of Russia by the predominantly Jewish oligarchs, some of whom have since fled to Israel.


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