Leftist malarky on Georgia: exhibit A

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.


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.

See our last posts on Georgia and the idiot left.

  1. IWPR on Russian troops in Gori
    N.B.: I recall WW4 getting flack for posting stuff from IWPR. On their website, it says they receive funding from the EU, and the Dutch and Danish Governments. On Sourcewatch, the only critique comes from Ed Herman on the Balkans. Also, they take Soros money. IWPR claims its mission is to train local reporters to report on their respective countries. The UK Guardian’s Martin Woollacott, who is on IWPR’s board, wrote this defense of the NGO, “We are not instruments of US power.”

    Here’s a Aug. 14 report from Gori by an IWPR-affiliated Azeri Journalist, Idrak Abbasov:

    Gori: Russian Allies Triumphant as City Burns

    An IWPR journalist, allowed into Gori on a Russian tank, witnesses exultant pro-Moscow fighters rampaging through the blazing city.

    “The Georgians have to understand that we’re not afraid of [United States President] Bush….threatening us with his marines and paratroopers,” insisted the Russian soldier who called himself a commander, tank captain and a member of what he says are Russia’s peacekeeping troops.

    His tank was standing outside the Georgian town of Gori.

    Russian president Dmitry Medvedev announced on August 12 that what he described as a peace enforcement mission in Georgia had ended. But Russian troops, assisted by North Caucasian irregular militias, have continued to rampage through Georgian territory.

    On August 15, there were reports that the Russian military remained in the Black Sea port of Poti, the western town of Senaki and the central town of Gori.

    The previous day, I was able to get into Gori and saw terrifying scenes of exultant pro-Russian fighters rampaging through a city apparently empty of civilians.

    I got in quite by chance. A Russian tank commander I spoke to befriended me because we both come from the same city, the Azerbaijani capital, Baku.

    That afternoon, I took my chances walking past the last Georgian roadblock on the road to Gori. I was stopped by Russian soldiers and brought to their commander.

    The commander checked my documents and learning that I was from Baku said he was born there himself. He returned me my documents and my camera and told the soldiers, “Don’t touch him, he’s my compatriot.”

    The officer asked me about Baku, how life was there and how the city had changed.

    Then he escorted me into Gori on his tank and warned not to wander off.

    The city was burning and the firing was continuous. There were lots of Russian soldiers there and even more irregular fighters with white armbands.

    I was told that soldiers had been brought here from Chechnya. There were fighters of several Caucasian nationalities. I didn’t see a single civilian. All around was smoke and the smell of gunfire. Everyone was celebrating victory, congratulating one another and asking each other loudly when they should advance.

    My mobile phone rang. My editor was calling from Baku. Because of the non-stop firing and rumble of tanks, I couldn’t hear anything and I moved away from my protectors in the tank by 20 or 25 metres to talk to him. I sheltered in some bushes and began to talk to my editor.

    At that moment, some men with white armbands seized my phone. They threw me on the ground and levelled their guns at me and shouted, “Who are you? Whose side are you on?”

    I was saved by my minder from Baku who arrived on the scene and told them that I was “one of us”. A few seconds later and it might have been too late.

    After that I was released, my attackers turned friendly, returned my phone and even asked to borrow it to call home. They thanked me by treating me to Pepsi and giving me cigarettes and a lighter.

    One of them was a well-built tall North Caucasian in his thirties with white armbands on both arms. He was unshaven and unwashed and spoke with a strong accent. He told me, “The Georgians say we are raping women in Gori – but there aren’t any here! If they had been here, we’d have done it with pleasure!”

    Then my new friend from Baku took me back out of the town on his tank to the road back to Tbilisi.

    My attempts to reach the city had begun the day before. You could hear shooting coming from there and it was hard to get access to the town.

    Around midnight that night Georgia’s security council said that the road to Gori was now open. The next morning I decided to try again.

    The road into the town was closed and Georgian soldiers advised journalists not to go any further. But we took the decision to try and see with our own eyes what was going on.

    Gori is only 70 kilometres from Tbilisi in the centre of Georgia. On the road north out of the capital, we saw Georgian police and soldiers but armed only with automatic weapons and without any heavy weaponry. I counted 12 Georgian checkpoints.

    The last Georgian post was three km from Gori. On the morning of August 14, the road was opened for a short time and journalists and international officials from the OSCE and UNHCR were allowed through.

    Near the entrance to the town stood Russian tanks and armoured vehicles and artillery. Nearby were burnt Georgian armoured vehicles and tanks.

    Suddenly a burst of firing came from the direction of the town and everyone on the road ran in panic.

    A few minutes later, journalists regrouped and gathered again 10 to 15 km from the entrance of the town.

    Not a sound could be heard from the town. Journalists began to talk to the Russian soldiers.

    Then three Niva vans came out of Gori, full of armed men with white armbands. They got out of the cars and ran towards the journalists, firing several shots in the air and even some at the journalists.

    Journalists began to run again. The militiamen stole three of the journalists’ cars. Tamar Urushadze, a correspondent for Georgian public television, had been talking live on air and was lightly wounded in the arm.

    The people in the UNHCR vehicles also ran away and hid in the wood not far away.

    All this happened in full view of the Russian soldiers who had introduced themselves as peacekeepers.

    A few minutes later, remembering their peacekeeping role, the Russian soldiers did finally intervene and stop the irregulars with white armbands stealing the UN vehicles.

    About an hour later, the Niva belonging to Imedi television channel was completely wrecked.

    Then everything was quiet for two hours.

    Around 4 pm, a group of Russian armoured vehicles suddenly moved out of Gori in the direction of Tbilisi, unimpeded by the Georgian military, which let them pass its checkpoints. Then, after passing several roadblocks, the vehicles suddenly stopped and went back in the direction of Gori.

    Later, IWPR was told by the Russian military that this sortie had been specially planned to provoke a Georgian attack.

    One Russian armoured vehicle broke down 150 metres away from their post. Journalists went up and began to ask questions. The Russian soldiers swore at them. Several of the Georgian women journalists answered back, saying, “What are you doing on Georgian territory, what do you need here? Go away, leave us in peace.” Then the Russian soldiers pointed their weapons at them, swore and shouted, “If you don’t go away and shut up, we’ll open fire.”

    Around 5 pm, five Georgian police cars came up to the Russian roadblock and negotiated for a humanitarian corridor to be opened up to Gori. Journalists listened in on the conversation and asked for permission to carry on. “We cannot guarantee your safety,” said one soldier.

    The Russians said that they did not control the town and there were irregular fighters there from Abkhazia and Ossetia. One Russian officer said that the Abkhaz and Ossetians were taking revenge on the Georgians. “They are doing just what you did in Tskhinvali and we cannot stop them,” he said.

    What I saw in Gori confirmed that.

    Idrak is a journalist with the Azerbaijani newspaper Ayna and a member of IWPR’s Cross Caucasus Journalism Network.

  2. Sarcasm
    In the chaos of switching to a new server, some comments got lost. To show our good faith, we retrieve this one:

    Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/15/2008 – 07:05.

    You know, if you want to be sarcastic and correct someone about being a year off as to when Georgia won independence you should make sure your numbers are correct. You may want to check again the statement in parentheses “1922 (that is, since the creation of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic)”

    To which I responded:

    I wasn’t being sarcastic
    Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sat, 08/16/2008 – 10:41.

    The Georgian SSR was first declared in 1921. The following year it became part of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (TSFSR) with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and South Ossetia became an autonomous oblast. It remained an autonomous oblast within Georgia when the TSFSR was dissolved in 1936 and Georgia again became an SSR. If you want to get technical.

  3. The return of Russia: A prelude to WWIII
    Georgia is the most dangerous flashpoint in Russia’s tense relations with the West. The Bible says: “At the appointed time [the king of the north = Russia] will return [will regain the influence, which it lost after the break-up of the Soviet Union] and come into the south [many indicate that this might be Georgia], but it will not be as the former [1921] or as the latter [2008]. For shall come against him the dwellers of coastlands of Kittim [the West], and he will be humbled, and will return.” (Daniel 11:29,30a)

    At that time, peace will be taken from the earth and the “great sword” – nuclear sword – will be used. (Revelation 6:4) However, it will be neither the great tribulation nor “the end of the world” (Armageddon). As Jesus foretold, that will be “the beginning of birth pains”. (Mathew 24:7,8)

    If the Heavens planned a full return of Russia (and much suggests this) the present economic crisis will deepen. Then also the European Union and NATO will not stand.