Georgia-Russia Fight Over South Ossetia: ‘the plot sickens ….’

by on August 12, 2008 · 2 comments

in Civil Rights, Media, Peace Movement, War and Peace

Editor: The more we understand the context and sub-plots of the six day war between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia, the more we see our own government’s underhandedness and complicity in Georgia’s military attack on the autonomous region. Georgia attacked Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, without warning, – right after it had just signed a peace agreement with the Ossetians. The plot sickens. Here is a compilation of a few articles that you should be aware of:

A Week Before It Invaded South Ossetia, Georgia Hosted 1000 US Troops In War Exercises

Georgian soldiers gather during the opening ceremony of “Immediate Response 2008? at the Vaziani military base, outside Tbilisi, Georgia, July 15. David Mdzinarishvili / ReutersOn July 15, MSNBC announced that one thousand U.S. troops were beginning a “military training exercise” in Georgia on that day. And the report offered that the exercise was “against a backdrop of growing friction between Georgia and neighboring Russia” over South Ossetia. The exercise, titled “Immediate Response 2008”, lasted for two weeks, involved 600 Georgian troops, and took place at a military base near the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The article concluded with this interesting tidbit:

Close cooperation
Georgia and the Pentagon cooperate closely. Georgia has a 2,000-strong contingent supporting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and Washington provides training and equipment to the Georgian military.

Georgia last week recalled its ambassador in Moscow in protest at Russia sending fighter jets into Georgian airspace. Tbilisi urged the West to condemn Russia’s actions.

Russia said the flights were to prevent Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili from launching a military operation against the separatist South Ossetia region.

Moscow accuses Saakashvili of preparing to restore Tbilisi’s control over South Ossetia and the second breakaway region of Abkhazia by force. Tbilisi says that is a pretext for Russia to effectively annex large chunks of Georgian territory.

Go here for the July 15, 2008 MSNBC report.

4 Days Before It Launched Its Strike Against South Ossetia, Georgia Was Involved in a War Exercise With the US at Sea

U.S. military planes transported Georgian troops from Iraq to deploy against Russians in conflict over South Ossetia.Not only the land exercise with US troops on Georgia soil, but Georgia was also involved with the US and other local nations in a sea war exercise, “Exercise Sea Breeze 2008.” It concluded on August 3rd, only days before Georgia launched what it hoped was a blitzkrieg like strike against the government of the autonomous South Ossetia. Go here for a report on Exercise Sea Breeze.

Israeli Military Advisers With Georgia’s Army When It Invaded South Ossetia

“Georgian tanks and infantry, aided by Israeli military advisers, captured the capital of breakaway South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, early Friday, Aug. 8, bringing the Georgian-Russian conflict over the province to a military climax.” See this report.

Claims of Atrocities On Civilians By Georgian Troops Being Verified

The Times of London’s online newspaper reported from the war-ravaged capital of South Ossetia that it was receiving claims that civilians were targeted in last week’s assault by Georgia. These claims, some of them unverified, included that Georgian troops had killed women and children. Reporters on the scene, however, reported that parts of the capital of Tskhinvali were still in flames several days after the Georgian attack last and the Russian counteroffensive. One claim alleged that Georgian troops deliberately killed civilians as they went along the a major road trying to escape from South Ossetia. The Georgians have denied any of these claims.

One woman who ran a children’s center that became a meeting place for refugees told a reporter that she had witnessed a plane from Georgia try to bomb fleeing civilians. Thousands of refugees came through the center and many had stories of attacks against civilians. “I am ready to cry at the whole of the world. I am ready to go to Europe to tell,” said Ms Nativa Gogichaeva, 33, slamming Western newspapers for not covering the Georgian assault on South Ossetia.

A nurse working in Tskhinvali, told The Times that she had treated many civilians with bullet wounds.A Reuters journalist who visited the town reported that more than 200 wounded in the fighting were being treated in the hospital. Doctors had to work in the basement under unhealthy conditions as the hospital itself had been hit by Georgian artillery strikes on the first day of the conflict.

The article reported that “there were also reports of violence directed at ethnic Georgians. In villages once populated by Georgians on the outskirts of Tskhinvali, South Ossetian fighters reportedly set fire to Georgian houses, and carried out searches in the villages.” See this news report.

Neo-Conservatives Use Conflict to Call for War With Russia

On Monday, August 11, 2008 the New York Times reports that Russia is escalating its war with Georgia, “moving tanks and troops through the separatist enclave of South Ossetia and advancing toward the city of Gori in central Georgia” and even bombing parts of Tibilisi, the Georgian captial.

Russia’s increasing aggression is putting a spark into American neoconservatives. Today on the Times op-ed page, one of their leaders, William Kristol, claims the U.S. must “defend” Georgia’s sovereignty as a reward for its participation in Iraq, while the conservative Washington Times is calling for “maximum pressure” on Russia:

Bill Kristol: [Georgia] has had the third-largest military presence — about 2,000 troops — fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq. For this reason alone, we owe Georgia a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. Surely we cannot simply stand by as an autocratic aggressor gobbles up part of — and perhaps destabilizes all of — a friendly democratic nation.

Washington Times: It is in America’s interest to exert maximum pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops and halt the interference in Georgian territory. This latest act shows the need for greater resolve in establishing a European security system that can be an effective check on Russian power

Writing in the Washington Post today, Robert Kagan goes even further, suggesting that the Georgia-Russia conflict may be the start of World War III:

Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia? Of course not, because that morally ambiguous dispute is rightly remembered as a minor part of a much bigger drama. […]

The mood is reminiscent of Germany after World War I, when Germans complained about the “shameful Versailles diktat” imposed on a prostrate Germany by the victorious powers and about the corrupt politicians who stabbed the nation in the back.

Like a good neoconservative, Kagan also links the Western response to the conflict and its wider policy towards Russia as “appeasement.”

Matthew Yglesias asks of Kagan’s World War II analogy: “If we launch a war with Russia — which would seem to be the point of busting out the analogy — then how are we going to find the time to launch wars with Iran and China?”

For original post, go to ThinkProgress here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dickie August 13, 2008 at 1:33 pm

The OB Rag is doing some of the best reportage (or summaries of reportage) and commentary on the South Ossetia crisis anywhere!! I can’t help think about US support for other “democratically elected” governments, like El Salvador in the 80s, where torture and slaughter was what the “enemies” got. Our support for Georgia’s provocative and brutal move on South Ossetia may be just as bad for prospects. . . . except that El Salvador at least was within our sphere whereas Georgia is thousands of miles away and borders on Russia . . . where is this going?
Thanks, OB Rag, for all the info and help understanding.


Frank Gormlie August 15, 2008 at 8:22 am

Dickie – thank you kindly for your warm comments. You’re right though, scratch the surface, and voila! – guess what? Our own government is involved. Yesteryear, it was Central America, today it’s Euro-Asia.

There really was an absence of coverage of the unfolding events in South Ossetia/ Georgia among progressive blogs and alternative newsites on the net at the beginning of the conflict.

Your appreciation means a lot to us.


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