While mainstream media coverage in the West has generally painted a once-sided picture of arbitrary Russian aggression against an innocent Georgia, much of the “alternative media” is merely inverting the equation—and arriving at similarly skewed perceptions. We hate to have to call out Bruce Gagnon, because his Space4Peace.org website is a vital resource. But just because he’s up to speed on weapons in space doesn’t make him politically astute about other things. His Aug. 12 blog post—highlighting the similarly faulty analysis of one Patrick Schoenfelder—is a case study in mere kneejerk reaction to mainstream portrayals as a substitute for actual thought. We reproduce it below with untruths and distortions in bold. Our commentary follows.
I spent a good deal of yesterday continuing to read various articles and reports out of Georgia. Some old sage once said we learn world geography by tracking American wars – or in this case American proxy wars. I am as certain as I can be that this is a proxy war. The U.S. and Israel have been arming Georgia heavily in recent years. The U.S. and Israel have been sending military advisers to Georgia. There is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. has been, at the very least, “encouraging” Georgia to make a grab for the independent territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia knowing that by doing so they would very well provoke Russia to respond. I am convinced the U.S. wants to confront Russia militarily and if they can get someone else to do it then why not. It’s the cold war strategy come back to life.
The corporate media in the U.S. is having a field day promoting Russian aggression against Goergia. One very interesting CNN-TV story detailed Russian destruction of the Georgian city of Gori but then the camera man who took the footage said the film he took was actually of Georgian destruction of Russian peacekeeper forces in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. You can see why the American people are so often confused and misinformed. We are being led with rings in our noses into a new protracted war.
Watch it for yourself at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVNblG9PJMk
A distant cousin of mine who lives in Massachusetts wrote me saying that when she went to work yesterday the folks there were convinced that Russia had bombed the American state of Georgia. “Why do we bother?” she asked.
Below is a really fine summary I read late last night that I wanted to share. I think it really lays out the key points in this whole situation.
MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA
By Patrick Schoenfelder
Maybe everyone is already up to speed on this, but if you are depending on the usual drumbeat of warlike bluster from the mainstream media (in the words of Paul Krugman, “real mean don’t think things through”) you are missing most of the news.
Therefore, a brief memo:
South Ossetia and Abkhazia are small areas on the border between Georgia and Russia where the majority of residents belong to ethnic groups other than Georgian. During the Soviet era, both of them were semi-autonomous areas under Soviet control.
In 1990, after Georgia became independent, Georgia claimed both areas as part of Georgia.
Russia opposed this claim as did residents of the areas, and Russia forced Georgia at gunpoint to allow autonomy to both regions in 1992, and both regions have been acting as de facto independent countries since then.
Peacekeepers from Russia commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been stationed in both countries since then.
After the so-called Rose Revolution and the overthrow of Edward Shevardnadze in 2003 it became a policy of the Georgian government to repudiate the independence of both regions and to work for re-establishment of Georgian control.
In 2006, a referendum was held under OSCE supervision with 34 observers from Poland, Germany, Austria, and Sweden. The referendum drew a 95% turnout and voted 99% in favor of full independence.
Georgia rejected the results, claiming that ethnic Georgians were intimidated out of voting, and arguing that the Russian peacekeepers actually were supporting the Ossetians.
Meanwhile, Georgia developed a close relationship with the Bush administration and cultivated a relationship with the EU, beginning application for membership in both the EU and in NATO. Georgia has the third largest number of troops in Iraq, after the US and Britain. The US has supplied the Georgian army with a large amount of war material.
In mid-July of this year, the US military held a joint war games training exercise in Georgia with the Georgian military.
The US left a number of “military advisers” in Georgia after the exercise.
On August 7, the Georgian army invaded South Ossetia in force, advancing rapidly across the area and killing both Ossetian soldiers and Russian peacekeepers.
On August 8, the Russians moved a large force into South Ossetia, including use of airpower for bombing and support. The Georgian army was rapidly crushed and began to retreat into Georgia. The Russians continued to pursue them into Georgia and used artillery and planes to bombard both military and civilian targets in Georgia as they advanced. They also declared that Georgian troops stationed in Abkhazia must leave or surrender, and sent troops into Abkhazia as well.
The Russians at this point seem to be determined to remove the Georgian leadership and establish independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The extent to which they will occupy or establish control in Georgia proper, and for how long, is not clear.
The Georgians, after starting the war, probably partly at the urging of the US, are now screaming for peace.
The US and the Europeans, while expressing dismay (“I am shocked, shocked I say!”) have exactly zero ability to do anything about the situation, since the area is well within Russian sphere of influence and away from any means of support (think of a US military action in Mexico.) They are hanging the Georgians out to dry (think of the Kurds under Reagan and Bush the elder.)
The Russians have been pointing out the similarity with Kosovo and US activity there. They have also pointed out that the US is in no position to complain about superpower military intervention or occupation of any place, given their record over the last eight years.
The possibility of any meaningful economic or other sanctions against the Russians is slight, since Russia is the number one supplier of oil and natural gas to Europe and an important trading partner, and the Russian bloc has the second largest oil reserve in the world (perhaps even the first, depending on the results of exploration in the Caspian region) and is a huge supplier of mineral resources from metals to diamonds.
IMPORTANT BLOOD FOR OIL FOOTNOTE: The largest pipeline between the Black Sea and Caspian oil fields and Europe and the only one not completely under Russian control is the 1 million barrel a day capacity BP line that passes through Georgia and parts of Abkhazia. Both the Russians and the Georgians would benefit hugely from ability to control this pipeline. Some observers suggest that war efforts on both sides are related partly to the issue of this pipeline.
Talk about not thinking things through!
The “independent territories” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia aren’t recognized as “independent” by the UN or any government on earth—including Russia.
If the US was egging Georgia on to attack the enclaves and “wants to confront Russia militarily,” why has Washington done nothing to come to Georgia’s defense (apart from sending some symbolic humanitarian aid after Russia had occupied nearly half of Georgia)? With the Pentagon already overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan, the last thing Washington wants is a military confrontation with Russia.
As for the YouTube exercise: Gagnon does not tell us that the source is Russia Today, the English-language TV station associated with Moscow’s state news agency RIA-Novosti. But even assuming that the deception is CNN’s and not Russia Today’s, and even assuming that it is an intentional deception and not sloppiness—so what? Does Gagnon really think Gori didn’t get bombed? Spend a few minutes searching for “Gori” on Google News and decide for yourself whether it is at all likely that Gori didn’t get bombed.
It is not true that Georgia “claimed” South Ossetia and Abkhazia upon independence from the USSR. They had been a part of Georgia under the old Soviet boundaries—since, respectively, 1922 (that is, since the creation of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic) and 1930. These fiats were based on the historic boundaries of the Georgian state. (By the way, Georgian independence was in ’91, not ’90.)
It has not been determined that Georgia “started the war.” Georgia says Russian/South Ossetian forces fired first. Russia says Georgia fired first. Was Patrick Schoenfelder there?
At least Schoenfelder (unlike Gagnon) gets it that the US is hanging the Georgians out to dry.
Sorry we had to do it, Bruce. We really are.