View Full Version : Anglo-America's ludicrous commentariat lied about Georgian assault on South Ossetia

Paul Rigby
10-01-2009, 07:42 PM

Glenn Greenwald

Thursday Oct. 1, 2009 08:02 EDT

Georgia/Russia: how our political discourse works

Just a timely reminder of the deceitful methods that permeate our political discourse, especially when it comes to demonizing America's Enemy du jour:

British Telegraph, today:

EU blames Georgia for starting war with Russia

An EU investigation into the roots of last August's conflict has reserved its harshest criticism for Georgia's military assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia and its capital Tskhinvali.

"Open hostilities began with a large-scale Georgian military operation against the town of Tskhinvali and the surrounding areas, launched in the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, the report concluded.

"There is the question of whether the use of force by Georgia in South Ossetia was justifiable under international law. It was not."

Heidi Tagliavini, the Swiss diplomat who led the EU "mission", rejected Georgian claims that it was defending itself from an imminent Russian attack or violence from Moscow sponsored South Ossetian militias.

"None of the explanations given by the Georgian authorities in order to provide some form of legal justification for the attack lend it a valid explanation," she said.

Her report stated: "There was no ongoing armed attack by Russia before the start of the Georgian operation. Georgian claims of a large-scale presence of Russian armed forces in South Ossetia prior to the Georgian offensive could not be substantiated by the mission. It could also not be verified that Russia was on the verge of such a major attack."

Russia's military response to Georgia, the EU investigators found, was initially defensive, and legal, but quickly broke international law when it escalated into air bombing attacks and an invasion pushing into Georgia well beyond South Ossetia.

Sarah Palin, ABC News interview, September 10, 2008:

PALIN: For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we have to keep...

GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.

PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there.

Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, October 24, 2008:

The second test was Georgia, to which Obama responded instinctively with evenhanded moral equivalence, urging restraint on both sides. McCain did not have to consult his advisers to instantly identify the aggressor.

John McCain, presidential debate, October 7, 2008:

[Putin] has exhibited most aggressive behavior, obviously, in Georgia. . . .We have to make the Russians understand that there are penalties for these this kind of behavior, this kind of naked aggression into Georgia, a tiny country and a tiny democracy.

Washington Post Editorial Page, August 28, 2008:

Those in the West who persist in blaming Georgia or the Bush administration for the present crisis ought to carefully consider those words -- and remember the history in Europe of regimes that have made similar claims. This is the rhetoric of an isolated, authoritarian government drunk with the euphoria of a perceived victory and nursing the delusion of a restored empire. It is convinced that the West is too weak and divided to respond with more than words. If nothing is done to restrain it, it will never release Georgia -- and it will not stop there.

George Will, The Washington Post, August 17, 2008:

Now McCain's rejuvenated hopes rest on his ability to recast this election, focusing it on who should lead America in a world suddenly darkened by Russia's war of European conquest. . . . He should ask Obama to join him in a town meeting on lessons from Russia's aggression. Both candidates favor NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, perhaps Vladimir Putin's next victim. But does Russia's behavior cause Obama to rethink reliance on "soft power" -- dialogue, disapproval, diplomacy, economic carrots and sticks -- which Putin considers almost an oxymoron? . . . Until Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, it seemed that not even the Democratic Party could lose this election. But it might if McCain can make it turn on the question of who is ornery enough to give Putin a convincing, deterring telephone call at 3 a.m.

Washington Post Editorial Page, August 14, 2008:

YOU MIGHT think, at a moment such as this, that the moral calculus would be pretty well understood. . . . Yet, in Washington, the foreign policy sophisticates cluck and murmur that, after all, the Georgians should have known better than to chart an independent course . . . Part of the blame-the-victim argument is tactical -- the notion that the elected president of Georgia foolishly allowed the Russians to goad him into a military operation to recover a small separatist region of Georgia. Mr. Saakashvili says, in an article we publish on the opposite page today, that the facts are otherwise, that he ordered his troops into action only after a Russian armored column was on the move. . . . Moreover, the evidence is persuasive and growing that Russia planned and instigated this war.

Cathy Young, Reason, October 24, 2008:

Last Friday, Salon.com columnist and blogger Glenn Greenwald, one of the Bush presidency's harshest critics, blasted both major party presidential candidates for perpetuating the "blatant falsehood" that Russia launched an "unprovoked attack" on Georgia last August. . . . There is something puzzling about the sympathy for Russia evident in many quarters of the American left-from Greenwald to Noam Chomsky to Alexander Cockburn and Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Nation (not to mention numerous commenters at sites like Salon.com and The Huffington Post). . . . Why the sympathy, then? A knee-jerk reaction that equates hostility to Russia with red-baiting? Or could it be that to some on the left, the cause of sticking a finger in America's eye is progressive enough?

John McCain, August 12, 2008:

Today, we are all Georgians.


War in South Ossetia: Georgia started it

Editorial, The Guardian, Thursday 1 October 2009

The responsibility for a war between Georgia and Russia in August last year in which 850 people were killed and over 100,000 fled their homes turns on one key point. Was a Russian invasion of the breakaway province of South Ossetia already under way on the night of 7 August when Georgia opened fire? Had Russian tank columns passed through the strategic Roki tunnel, between North and South Ossetia, as Tbilisi claimed? Or did Georgia fire first, with an artillery and rocket barrage on Tskhinvali, as Russia maintained?

In more than 1,000 pages of analysis, documentation and witness statements, an exhaustive investigation by the European Union yesterday found in Russia's favour. It laced its judgment with caveats. It found that there had been an influx of volunteers and mercenaries through the tunnel in early August, and that the Russian air force attacked targets outside the disputed zone long before they admitted to doing so. But on the central issue the report found there was insufficient evidence for a large-scale Russian incursion before the morning of 8 August. Nor could it be verified whether Russia was on the verge of a major attack, and nor could Georgia's actions be justified under international law.

The fact-finding mission, headed by the Swiss diplomat and old Caucasus hand Heidi Tagliavini, was not one-sided. It condemned Russia for its disproportionate response to the Georgian assault, for allowing the ethnic cleansing of Georgian villages, and for attacking another disputed territory well away from the conflict, the upper Kodori valley in Abkhazia. These findings are important, and not just because the conflict is still continuing: more than a year on, around 35,000 people have yet to return to their homes, and they probably never will. They are important because they chronicle an event that does not have a single cause, and therefore not a single solution. At the time, Russian military action was taken as exhibit A in the orthodoxy that an oil-rich Moscow could not accept retreat from empire and was destined to impose its will on its weaker neighbours by recreating a mini-USSR. Former victims of Soviet power such as Poland and the Baltic states argued then that Nato should stand up to a reassertive Russia, by accepting Georgia and Ukraine into the western military alliance. They still do.
The Caucasus is more complicated than that. The ability to jump in front of a CNN camera does not confer on the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, the gifts of a democrat. Nor is Russia the sole aggressor in a region of ancient disputes. This report should induce caution among those who come to premature judgments about Russia's relationship with its near-abroad.

A discredited MI6/FO mouthpiece writes:


Putin in the firing line

While Medvedev isn't currently presenting a serious challenge, Putin faces looming problems that could be his undoing

Simon Tisdall

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 October 2009 14.05 BST
Article history
Intense speculation in Moscow that greenhorn president Dmitry Medvedev is positioning himself to run against his mentor and long-time patron, prime minister Vladimir Putin, in the 2012 elections seems to have little substance. But Putin's personal hegemony faces other formidable challenges that could more plausibly dislodge him. His continued dominance is not inevitable.

Medvedev's recent comments that he might seek a second term caused surprise, given the widespread assumption that Putin will return to the presidency in 2012 and that his protege is merely keeping his seat warm. "If I work well, if people trust me, why not run?" Medvedev asked. In another interview he said: "I am not ruling anything out." But after Putin stepped in brusquely, saying he and Medvedev would "figure out between ourselves" who would stand, the younger man backed down.

"I am ready to work in a different job. I do not want to look into the future but I am ready to work at any post. The president's job is difficult, the premier's job is also difficult. The main thing is to be useful to the nation," he said last week. Nor was his sudden bout of humility wholly surprising. For Russian voters, Medvedev, Putin's former St Petersburg aide and campaign manager, is seen very much as second fiddle. Lacking a party base, he is bound by Putin's agenda, they say.

A Levada Centre poll last month found that only 20% of Russians believe Medvedev pursues independent policies. Despite striking statements from Medvedev bemoaning Russia's weak democratic institutions, decrepit economy, and widespread corruption, 81% said he was Putin's creature, doing Putin's bidding. Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister, dismissed talk of a succession battle. "I am convinced Putin will run in 2012 for two, six-year terms. A suitable function will be found for Medvedev."

Writing in the Moscow Times, analyst Vladimir Frolov said significant differences were nevertheless discernible and that mutually hostile camps were forming around the two men. "Despite assurances of political and personal closeness, they already have ideologically diverging teams who would hate to see their boss yield the right of way Putin is already in full campaign mode. Medvedev is busy building his own support base and projecting the image of the nation's moderniser and agent of change."

The US is trying, not very subtly, to exploit such tensions as do exist. "I think it's important, even as we move forward with President Medvedev, that Putin understand that the old cold war approach to US-Russian relations is outdated I think Medvedev understands that," Barack Obama said at July's Moscow summit. Part of Washington's strategy to "reset" relations with Russia is encouraging a post-Putin generation of leaders free of cold war prejudices.

But while winning plaudits abroad, Medvedev does not seem to be benefiting much at home from Russian foreign policy "successes" on missile defence and nuclear arms cuts. Inside Russia, Putin's hand is seen in such developments. And while Moscow feels largely vindicated by this week's EU report on its 2008 war with Georgia, this verdict is also likely to accrue to the credit of the Georgia-baiting, ostentatiously macho Putin rather than the nerdy, technocratic Medvedev.

Yet while Medvedev currently presents no serious challenge, Putin faces looming problems that could be his undoing. Foremost among them is Russia's mismanaged, mostly state-controlled economy and its over-reliance on energy exports that are set to dwindle in the coming decade. After the boom years that artificially boosted Putin's popularity, the prime minister is in the firing line as unemployment soars and retail sales, industrial output and wages all continue to fall.

Russia's GDP in 2009 is predicted to shrink by a startling 8% while its cash reserves, previously swollen by oil and gas revenues, are declining. Economists suggest any recovery will be painfully slow. This has potential implications for the 2012 election year.

Russia also faces significant domestic security challenges, especially in the Caucasus where violence in predominantly Muslim Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya is again on the rise. On Sunday a campaign of assassinations in Dagestan reached Moscow itself, with the shooting dead of a senior official on a visit to the capital. The unrest undermines Putin's claims to have settled Russia's Caucasus problems through the immensely bloody second Chechen war. The Georgia time-bomb, meanwhile, remains un-defused.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this summer, Joe Biden, the US vice-president, offered a crushing verdict on Putin's Russia. "They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable."

US officials subsequently spent much time trying to soothe hurt feelings in Moscow. For Putin, Biden's remarks reportedly amounted to an outrageous slur. Medvedev's reaction, on the other hand, is not recorded. He would not dare say so but it's possible he agreed with every word.

Do read the readers' comments in response to Tisdall's childish "attack is the best form of defence" tripe.

Peter Presland
10-08-2009, 03:01 PM
Only just gotten around to this thread Paul.

Those comments are a tonic indeed.

I wonder who 'anotherevertonian' might be ?

Nice one