Georgian invasion of South Ossetia sets the stage for a wider war
by Justin Raimondo / antiwar.com / Originally posted August 11, 2008
The anti-Russian bias of the Western media is really something to behold: “Russia Invades Georgia,” “Russia Attacks Georgia,” and variations thereof have been some of the choice headlines reporting events in the Caucasus, but the reality is not only quite different, but the exact opposite. Sometimes this comes out in the third or fourth paragraph of the reportage, in which it is admitted that the Georgians tried to “retake” the “breakaway province” of South Ossetia. The Georgian bombing campaign and the civilian casualties – if they are mentioned at all – are downplayed and presented as subject to dispute.
The Georgians have been openly engaging in a military buildup since last year, and President Mikhail Saakashvili and his party have been proclaiming from the rooftops their aim of re-conquering South Ossetia (and rebellious Abkhazia, while they’re at it). Avid readers of Antiwar.com saw this coming. In a column entitled “Wars to Watch Out For,” I wrote:
“As President Mikheil Saakashvili deflowers his own revolution and shuts down the opposition media, he could well try to divert attention away from his political problems by ginning up a fresh conflict with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are protected by Russian troops and regional militias.”
That’s what Western reporters aren’t telling their readers: the South Ossetians (and the Abkhazians) have had de facto independence since 1991, when they rose up against their “democratic” central government, which had banned regional parties from participating in elections. They beat back the Georgian army, which, nonetheless, inflicted a lot of casualties and damage. A low-level war has been in progress ever since, with Saakashvili and his ultra-nationalist party using the rebels as a foil to divert attention from their repressive domestic policies and Georgia’s sad status as an economic basket case. As I wrote way back at the beginning of this year:
“Saakashvili, the great ‘democrat,’ is busy charging anyone who opposes him with being a pawn of the Russians (and therefore guilty of treason), but the West is calling on him to restore civil liberties – and, in an apparent effort to propitiate his Western benefactors, he has lifted some restrictions and called new elections. Widespread and growing opposition to his strong-arm tactics, even among many of his former supporters, spells political trouble for Saakashvili and his corrupt cohorts, however – and an appeal to Georgian ultra-nationalism (which was always the real ideological motivation of the Rose Revolutionaries) would bolster him in the polls and provide a much-needed distraction, at least from the ruling party’s point of view.”
What’s particularly disgusting is the spectacle of the fraudulent Saakashvili’s smug mug all over Western television – the BBC and Bloomberg, for starters – invoking his great love of “democracy” and “freedom” and calling on the U.S. to intervene in the name of supposedly shared “values.” What drivel! Up until very recently, Saakashvili has been busy rounding up his political opponents and charging them with espionage, as his police beat demonstrators in the streets. When this happened, even our somnolent media sat up and took notice, but they seem to have forgotten.
Saakashvili uses the Western media as a platform to broadcast his great love for “freedom” and make the case against the Russian “aggressors,” comparing the present conflict with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s – and even the bloody 1956 repression of the Hungarians! This is nonsense. Russia is not the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain has long since been melted down for scrap metal, and, if anything, Saakashvili resembles the Hungarian satraps of the Kremlin rather than the heroic freedom-fighters, given his absolute fealty to his foreign masters in Washington, to whom he appeals for help in putting down an internal rebellion.
In any case, it wasn’t too hard to have seen this coming a mile away, or to predict the American government’s response. As I wrote in “Wars To Watch Out For”:
“In the event of an outbreak of hostilities, expect the U.S. to do what they have done for the duration of Georgia’s political crisis: proffer unconditional support to Saakashvili. With Russia aiding and giving political and diplomatic support to the Abkhazians and the Ossetians, and the Americans letting loose a flood of military aid to Tbilisi, this could be the first theater of actual conflict in the new cold war.”
Which is precisely what has occurred. The United States is denouncing the Russians as aggressors in the UN Security Council and accusing the Kremlin of engaging in a policy of “regime change,” in Ambassador Khalilzad’s phrase. The Russian response: “regime change” is “an American invention,” but, hey, in Saakashvili’s case, it might not be such a bad idea.
They have a point. The Georgian strongman is a thug and an opportunist who does an excellent imitation of George W. Bush-times-10: whereas GWB merely implies his political opponents are traitors to the nation, Saakashvili comes right out and says it – then drags them into court on trumped up charges of high treason. GWB has presided over a regime that has legalized torture, but only for foreign “terrorists” (José Padilla excepted). Saakashvili, on the other hand, throws his domestic political opponents – whom he labels “terrorists” – in jail and tortures his own countrymen. Georgia’s notorious prisons are chock full of political dissidents. GWB justifies his aggression by invoking “democracy” and the doctrine of “preemption,” while Saakashvili doesn’t bother with such theoretical niceties, denying his aggression against South Ossetia in defiance of the plain facts.
In short: if you love GWB, you’ll love President Saakashvili. Therefore it’s no surprise John McCain is portraying the Georgians as the good guys and demanding that Russian troops leave “sovereign Georgian territory” without preconditions or delay. After all, when your chief foreign policy adviser has up until very recently been a paid shill for the Georgian government, what else could we expect? As I’ve pointed out on a few occasions in this space, Mad John has been spoiling for a fight with the Russians – in the Caucasus and elsewhere – for years, going so far as to travel to Georgia to proclaim his sympathy for Saakashvili’s cause.
What’s really interesting, however, is how Barack Obama has taken up this same cause, albeit with less vehemence than the GOP nominee. As Politico.com reported:
“When violence broke out in the Caucasus on Friday morning, John McCain quickly issued a statement that was far more strident toward the Russians than that of President Bush, Barack Obama, and much of the West. But, as Russian warplanes pounded Georgian targets far beyond South Ossetia this weekend, Bush, Obama, and others have moved closer to McCain’s initial position.”
While calling for mediation and international peacekeepers, Obama went with the War Party’s line that Russia, not Georgia, is the aggressor, as the Times of London reports: “Obama accused Russia of escalating the crisis ‘through it’s clear and continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.'” While his first statement on the outbreak of hostilities was more along the lines of “Can’t we all get along?”, the New York Times notes:
“Mr. Obama did harden his rhetoric later on Friday, shortly before getting on a plane for a vacation in Hawaii. His initial statement, an adviser said, was released before there were confirmed reports of the Russian invasion. In his later statement, Mr. Obama said, ‘What is clear is that Russia has invaded Georgia’s sovereign – has encroached on Georgia’s sovereignty, and it is very important for us to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.'”
This nonsense about Georgia’s alleged “sovereignty” rides roughshod over the reality of the Ossetians’ apparent determination to free themselves from Saakashvili’s grip, and it’s the buzzword that identifies a shill for the Georgians.
“I condemn Russia’s aggressive actions,” said Obama, “and reiterate my call for an immediate cease-fire.” This cease-fire business is meant to feed directly into the Georgians’ contention that they have offered to stop the conflict, even as they continue military operations in South Ossetia, which have already cost the lives of over a thousand of that country’s inhabitants.
That didn’t stop the McCainiacs from attacking Obama as a tool of the Kremlin. Sunday the news talk shows were abuzz with rumors of Democratic discontent over Obama’s seeming inability to hit back at McCain’s viciously negative campaign, yet it’s much worse than that – it’s not an unwillingness, but an inherent inability to do so. I hate to cite Andrew Sullivan favorably, but he was one of the first to note the convergence of the Obama camp and the McCain campaign on such central issues as Iran, and the process continues with this confluence of opinion on the Russian question. While the Obama people have dutifully pointed out that Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s foreign policy guru, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for his public relations firm as a paid lobbyist for the Georgians, their own candidate’s position on the matter differs little from McCain’s, except, as the New York Times notes, in terms of “style.”
GWB recently assured Saakashvili that he would do his best to get the Georgians into NATO, but the Europeans – particularly the Germans – are balking, and this foray by the Georgian Napoleon into a direct conflict with the Russians seems to confirm their initial reluctance. The Euros are no dummies: they know Saakashvili’s recklessness could plunge the entire region into an armed conflict that would resemble World War I in its utter stupidity.
I’ve written at length about the economic and political interests that stand to profit from a war in the Caucasus, and I won’t repeat myself here except to note that the timing of this – with attacking Iran on the War Party’s agenda – should alert us to the importance of what is happening. Russia has not only been opposed to Iran’s victimization at the hands of the West, but Putin and his successor have taken up Tehran’s cause, selling arms and technology to the Iranians and running diplomatic interference on their behalf. This is Washington’s counterattack by proxy.
Please don’t tell me Saakashvili just woke up one day and decided to attack Ossetia, and that the Americans weren’t notified well in advance. Georgia depends on U.S. military and economic aid, and Saakashvili is a savvy operator: he is pulling a Lebanon, having learned from the Israeli example, and the Bush administration is more than glad to oblige him. Georgian tanks would never have rolled into South Ossetia without being given a green light by Washington.
Georgia has embarked on a very dangerous course, and it’s important to realize it hasn’t done so alone. Saakashvili has the implicit backing of Washington in his quest to re-conquer the “lost” provinces of Ossetia and Abkhazia (and don’t forget Adjaria!) – or else what are 1,000 U.S. troops doing engaged in “joint military exercises” with the Georgian military, just as the crisis reaches a crescendo of violence? (The Brits, to their credit, have thought better of getting dragged into this one…)
It’s too bad Obama is going along with the game plan, but then again, he was never good on the Russian question to begin with, so I can’t say I’m disappointed. South Ossetia is not now a part of “sovereign Georgian territory,” and it hasn’t been for nearly two decades, no matter what McCain and Obama would have us believe. If they, along with GWB, are going to stand by Saakashvili’s side as he mows down civilians and imposes martial law on a war-torn, dirt-poor, and much-abused people, then may they all be damned to hell – that is, if we can find a rung low enough for them.
It’s funny – if you like your humor black – but when Slobodan Milosevic was supposedly doing to Kosovo what Saakashvili is now doing to South Ossetia, the U.S. launched bombing raids and “liberated” the Kosovars from what we were told was to be a gruesome fate. There are many reasons to doubt that this attempted “genocide” ever took place, but given that something very bad was going on in the former Yugoslavia, one has to ask: why don’t the same standards apply to South Ossetia?
I’ll tell you why: because the victims, this time, are Russians, Slavs who haven’t achieved official victim status in the lexicon of Western “humanitarians.”
Imagine if, say, Colombia invaded Panama, and rained bombs down on the many U.S. citizens currently living there. Would the U.S. act to ensure their safety? You betcha! So somebody please tell me why Russia hasn’t the right to defend its own citizens, and even to deter and punish Georgian aggression.
The War Party has been running on some pretty low energy lately, and this revival of the Cold War will no doubt recharge its batteries. The warmongers need a new enemy, a fresh face in their rogues’ gallery, to get the masses excited again, and Putin’s Russia fits the bill. I’ve been warning of this possibility for what seems like years, and now the moment is upon us. What’s interesting is how many left-liberal “peaceniks” are falling for the War Party’s guff and lining up behind McCain, their hero Obama, and the neocons in the march to confrontation with the Kremlin. [Go here for original article.]
~ Justin Raimondo