Wednesday, September 03, 2008

By Gordon Fairclough and Gregory L. White
Word Count: 1,313

GUANGZHOU, China -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said he suspects that U.S. agents provoked last month's brief war in Georgia.

The Kremlin's Exhibit A? Russian soldiers say they found a passport belonging to Michael Lee White, a U.S. Army veteran from Texas, in an outpost used by Georgian special forces last month to attack pro-Russian separatists. On Thursday in Moscow, military spokesman Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn brandished a blowup of the passport at a news conference and declared that Mr. White's presence on the battlefield "together with Georgian commandos is a fact."
Mr. White, it turns out, is ..

Passport controversy

On August 28, 2008, a Russian General gave a news conference in Moscow[3] where he produced a photocopy of an American passport[4] with the name of Michael Lee White born in 1967 who lived in Texas. Subsequently internet bloggers tried[5]to locate Mr. White. The Wall Street Journal did locate and interview Mr. White in Guangzhou, China, and issued a front page article on September 3rd.. Mr. White told the Journal that he was in Texas caring for an ailing father during the period when Russia alleged that he was in Georgia. The Wall Street Journal says that Smith showed reporters two U.S. passports in his possession, 1 issued in 2005 and 1 issued in 2008 ( US passports typically have a 10 year validity). No explanation is given (in the Wall Street Journal article) for why he has 2 in his possession.[1] The Associated Press also interviewed Mr. White in China on September 3rd. and reports that White said he couldn't show his passport to the AP because university officials who are helping him apply for a work permit have the document.[6] The Central Intelligence Agency denies that Mr. White works for it (present tense) but the Office of National Intelligence, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies, refused to comment.[1] Mr. White claims, and the United States State Department confirms, that he cancelled the passport in 2005. Mr. White said that he left it in a seat pocket on a Moscow to New York flight in October 2005.[1]His current passport shows he left China July 18th,2008 and returned there on August 28th. The Wall Street Journal says there is no entry stamp in the passport from U.S. authorities to show that he returned to the U.S. during those 41 days, but that sometimes US authorities do not mark the passports of returning Americans.[1] White also told the Associated Press that he had once applied for a Russian visa.[7]

Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said that Russian military discovered a passport in a building where Georgian Interior Ministry forces had been fighting. Nagovitsyn said,

What was the gentleman’s purpose of being among the special forces and what he is doing today, I so far cannot answer..there is a building in Zemonekozi - a settlement to the south of Tskhinval that was fiercely defended by a Georgian special operations squad. Upon clearing the building, Russian peacekeepers recovered, among other documents, an American passport in the name of Michael Lee White of Texas...I do not know why he was there, but it is a fact that he was in the building, among Georgian special forces troops.

White is the co-author of the book, Nationality in World History, which might be considered appropriate reading to understand the Georgian conflict, Nation-State vs Sovereign Government. The book states,

A similar fate is overdue for the ethnicist construct nation-state. ‘Nation’ in that term, to repeat, means ethnic group. ‘State’ means sovereign government. Together they represent what amounts to a moral imperative- as per Herder, "nationalism," and "self-determination"- that each ethnic group should possess its own sovereign government. So popular is the term and so widespread the wishful thinking attached to it that not only the faithful, but the public in general have come too often to apply this ethnicist term to sovereign governments, including even governments that make no ethnicist claims. There are major problems in doing so. First, hardly any of the world's sovereign governments encompass people of only one ethnicity (Connor, 1973; 1978; Smith, 1991). Nearly all include people of more than one ethnic group. Furthermore, globalizing tendencies, as indicated at the outset, almost guarantee that in the future most sovereign governments will see still more ethnic intermixture, not less.

There is a resume [8] published with a Chinese/English Teacher service for Mr. White. Within the resume is a listing of U.S. Army experience including "graduated from ‘Air Assault’ airborne training school 1993". The Air Assault handbook for that training [1] includes: "The school also trains and qualifies military SPIES(sic) masters in the application of infiltration and extraction techniques."

On August 31st., an Austin Texas newspaper reported that on August 29th. the U.S. State Department had phoned Austin resident, John White, the younger brother of Michael Lee White, asking where they could contact Michael.

The State Department official said: "It's urgent that we speak with him," according to John White. When asked why, the official said that he could not discuss the matter. John White said his brother is a world traveler who went to China on August 27, 2008, and that he contacted his family Saturday evening by e-mail.

"He appears to be fine. And he's certainly not a thug training Georgian troops," John White said. The newspaper also reported that Michael Lee White has dual citizenship in Kazakhstan. The Wall Street Journal reported that he married, and later separated from a Kazakh citizen.[1]

According to the Austin newspaper, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Joanne Moore, confirmed on August 30th. that a passport for "Michael Lee White" of Texas, with the date of birth 7/12/1967, (which is incidentally the same birthday as John White's brother) was cancelled after being reported lost on a flight from Moscow to New York in 2005. "Until we can contact Mr. White, I can't give additional comment," Moore said.

The newspaper also reported that it had email conversation on August 30th. with Michael Lee White who is apparently in Guangzhou, China lecturing at the Guangdong University of Business Studies. He said that his passport was stolen during a flight from Moscow to New York in 2005 and that he had no idea how the passport ended up in South Ossetia.[9]

Alexei Kondaurov, a KGB verteran and critic of the Kremlin is quoted as saying that 'using a 'found' passport to expose the Americans seems really small-time." He added, "the Soviet Union's secret services never stooped that low.