Sunday, August 10, 2008

While the Russian Cat's Away ... the Georgian Mice Start a HOT WAR!

Under cover of the allegedly spectacular (missed it!) opening ceremony of the Olympic Games (on purpose!), and with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in China, the former Soviet "Republic" of Georgia, now a "friend" of the USA, has opened a new hot phase in the allegedly "former" Cold War.

Chris Floyd, one of the very few writers I read every day (hint, hint!), lived for several years in Moscow, where he reported on world affairs for the English-language Moscow Times.

Me, I've been east of Cincinnati a couple of times. A mighty world traveler. So who are you gonna believe on this one?

In the past few days Chris has put together two excellent posts, which I hope you will read in full (and I hope you will make it a habit of reading Chris in full every day). I'll give you the links in a moment; first please read a few excerpts:

from Friday:
With the world distracted by the glitz and glam of the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing -- where George W. Bush (after some entirely rote criticism) nestled down with his long-time family business partners and fellow crony-capitalist authoritarians in the Chinese leadership -- the new Cold War fuelled by the old Cold Warriors in Washington took a sharp and bitter turn in Georgia.

Yesterday, Georgia's American-educated, pro-NATO president, Mikhail Saakashvili sent a heavy force into the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which has enjoyed de facto independence since the early 1990s. Georgian forces shelled the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, and sent thousands of refugees fleeing north into Russia. Several Russian peacekeepers, which have been stationed in South Ossetia for years as part of earlier ceasefire agreements, were killed in the attack. Saakashvili announced that his invasion had "liberated" much of the region.

Today, in retaliation, Russian troops and tanks began moving into South Ossetia (where up to 90 percent of the population hold Russian passports) and reportedly bombed some installations in Georgia proper. Saakashvili immediately appealed to his chief patron, George W. Bush, to step in and save him from the Russian bear: "It's not about Georgia any more," he told CNN. "It's about America, its values. We are a freedom-loving nation that is right now under attack."
and on Saturday:
... at the Guardian, David Hearst provides an excellent analysis of the current conflict. Here's an excerpt:
Observers had little doubt the operation to take South Ossetia back under Georgian control bore the hallmarks of a planned military offensive. It was not the result of a ceasefire that had broken down the night before. It was more a fulfillment of the promise the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, made to recapture lost national territory, and with it a measure of nationalist pride.

The assault appears to have been carefully timed to coincide with the opening of the Olympic games when the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, was in Beijing. Tom de Waal of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and an expert on the region said: "Clearly there have been incidents on both sides, but this is obviously a planned Georgian operation, a contingency plan they have had for some time, to retake [South Ossetia's capital] Tskhinvali.

"Possibly the Georgians calculated that with Putin in Beijing they could recapture the capital in two days and then defend it over the next two months, because the Russians won't take this lying down."
... the fighting is rapidly spreading [...] with Russian planes bombing targets in the Georgian city of Gori (Stalin's birthplace), killing several civilians. This brutal assault -- including a murderous airstrike on an apartment house -- only underscores the savagery that awaits if the conflict cannot be tamped down quickly.

It seems clear at this point that Georgia has taken an enormous gamble in launching the initial attack into South Ossetia, hoping for a quick knock-out blow and then strong support from Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's Terror War pals in Washington ...

Saakashvili's tenure in Tblisi -- which began as a self-proclaimed reformist revolution -- has deteriorated into a regime marked by much of the same kind of corruption, cronyism and repression that it puported to overthrow. One of Saakashvili's partners in the revolution, Irakli Okruashvili, had a dramatic falling-out with the boss last year. When he announced he was running for president against Saakashvili, he was arrested "and taken to Tbilisi’s notorious Isolator Number 7, the scene of well-documented torture of political prisoners since 1991," as Mark Almond of Oriel College, Oxford, noted in an article last year. After subjection to "strenuous interrogation techniques," Okruashvili "recanted" his charges against the president, and coughed up $6 million in shakedown "bail" money to win his release.

And what were Okruashvili's charges? Almond provides this quote from the former defense minister in Saakashvili’s government:
“The style of Saakashvili’s governance … has made dishonesty, injustice and oppression a way of life. Everyday repression, demolition of houses and churches, robbery, ‘kulakization’, and murders, I would stress, murders, have become common practice for the authorities.”
You can see why George W. Bush has embraced Saakashvili so enthusiastically. Saakashvili is also a war criminal, albeit at a much smaller level than his patron Bush or his enemy Putin. Saakashvili has eagerly taken part in the greatest war crime of our still-young century (I'm sure we ain't seen nothin' yet): the war of aggression against Iraq, which has already led to the slaughter of at least a million innocent people. No one forced Saakashvili to be an accomplice to this horrendous crime; he chose to do it willingly, and he cannot escape the guilt. ...

Saakashvili ordered the heavy bombardment of the South Ossetian capital just hours after declaring a supposed "cease-fire" ... Georgian forces targeted and killed several Russian peacekeeping troops that had been stationed in the region for years. These brutal and boneheaded moves provided the perfect excuse for the Kremlin to flex its muscles and secure an even tighter hold on Georgia's breakaway regions...

The ultimate outcome of this war will be, as always, death and ruin for multitudes who have nothing to do with the violent aggression of corrupt elites on every side.
I agree completely with the last bit. And as for all the preceding details, it's beyond my capacity to comment. I'm still learning. And there's a lot to learn.

Chris Floyd's coverage provides much more depth than these short excerpts can convey; you should read these pieces in full (and follow the links too!):

Marching Through Georgia: Cold War II Proxy Conflict Turns Hot

Marching Through Georgia II: The Kremlin Surge

Then bookmark the site, and/or add it to your list of favorites, and/or subscribe to Floyd's site feed.

You can thank me later, but that won't be necessary. Once again, virtue is its own reward.