Doug Thompson

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Marching through Georgia
By Doug Thompson

The United States never sticks its neck out for Eastern Europeans.
The Russians know that better than most.
And that settles that for Georgia. Russia has control of much of that small country. By the time this article comes to print, Georgia might not exist. Even if there is a viable Georgia left, it will be a lot less viable and a lot more cowed than before.
There’s been a lot of finger pointing about who’s to blame for this war between one of the world’s great military powers and a country that has about as many people as Alabama. The Russians are to blame. Sure, Georgia attacked to suppress some pro-Russian separatist groups. Those groups never would have mattered much without Russian support. You know, the kind of support that would have infuriated the Russians had someone provided the same thing to Chechnya.
More important, Russia declared economic war on Georgia years ago. It cut off air flights and closed the border. It started issuing Russian passports to “citizens” of the breakaway provinces. Georgia, worried about its security, wanted into NATO. Earlier this year, NATO said it could happen someday. Guess how the Russians reacted.
Economic warfare didn’t work. The Georgian economy grew by almost 9 percent last year.
Russia’s determined to show Georgia and other former provinces of the Soviet Union what cuddling up to the West will get you. More important, they intend to show how little the West cares.
It’s working. It would probably have worked in any circumstances. However, having the United States bogged down in Iraq, broke financially and led by a discredited president didn’t hurt Russia’s actions one bit.
Georgia provided some 2,000 troops to U.S. operations in Iraq, helping us claim the war there was a multi-national effort. That force is — or rather, was before those troops were rushed home by U.S. transport to defend what’s left of their country — one of the largest non-U.S. contingents still there. In gratitude, Georgia received direct military assistance over the years, including arms and training.
The result: We have a de facto military alliance with a country that is now being crushed while most of the U.S. military is stuck in a sandbox.
I’m not arguing that we should fight for Georgia. I’m merely spelling out why we won’t — assuming we wanted to.
In 1992 I briefly met the wife of the much-mocked Vice President Dan Quayle. I covered Marilyn Quayle’s speech to a loyal Republican enclave in Hot Springs Village. She rhetorically asked who could have believed that the Iron Curtain would fall “without a single drop of blood” being spilled.
That struck me as a rather curious remark, considering that a significant amount of blood had gushed already and was still spurting at the time. The bloodletting included a rather bloody coup and counter-coup in Georgia, no less. Russia then, as now, also saw a need to knock some former provinces around. I asked about her comment when she met with the press after the speech and started listing a couple of those conflicts that were going on at the time. She interrupted me: “I meant American blood.”
I lack the nerve and the imagination to make that up.
“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”
Why, sure you do. It just doesn’t matter. Only American blood matters. After all, we haven’t even kept count of Iraqi civilian deaths.
We should tell the Georgians the truth. Nobody’s going to war with Russia for their sake. Sue for peace. Hopefully, Russia doesn’t want street-by-street battle in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi followed by an insurgency.
Second, we should not let this attack achieve its real goal. We should get the Ukraine and what’s left of Georgia into NATO as fast as possible — assuming they still want in.
Or we should drop the pretense.
Make them allies and draw the Russians a clear line or drop the pretense and tell the former provinces they’re on their own.

One Comment

Manyhats August 19, 2008 at 10:01 am

A Response To Marching Through Georgia – by Al Vick

I read with interest Doug Thompson’s recent article entitled Marching Through Georgia. Interest doesn’t indicate agreement however, and after finishing Mr. Thompson’s article, I had to come to the conclusion that perhaps, he should have balanced his perspective by paying a bit more attention as to how both the international and independent media have reported on the situation in Ossetia and Georgia; both are reporting from an entirely different perspective than that of the mainstream media in the United States.

As a case in point, Mr. Thompson concluded his article by giving the following advice: “We should not let this attack achieve its real goal. We should get the Ukraine and what’s left of Georgia into NATO as fast as possible – assuming they still want in.”

It is Doug Thompson’s above conclusion that is, in the opinion of this writer, currently at the crux of the problem in Eurasia. In spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90’s, the NATO alliance has continued in its efforts to push itself right up to Russia’s doorstep. The question must be asked, for what good purpose? During the 1990’s the United States and the Russian Federation experienced a thawing in their relationship. The former icy cold-war relationship, which had previously existed between the two countries evolved into one of a more open and cooperative nature.

Things changed however, with the ascension of George Bush and the so-called neo-cons to the seats of power in Washington, D.C. Since the time of President Reagan, the implementation of a missile-defense system has been the dream of militaristic Republicans. Make no mistake about it; Russia and most of the international community view this so-called defense system to be an offensive weapon. In spite of this worldwide perception, President Bush commenced with his efforts to resurrect this Republican dream. Overtures, or perhaps out-right pressure, were brought to bear upon some of the countries of Eastern Europe such as Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic; this, over the objections of then Russian President and now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. George Bush, ever lacking in any ability to cover his transparency, explains away his desire for a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe as a deterrent against an attack from Iran. The U.S. president’s explanation would be laughable if one could simply forget the fact that he has been literally, threatening one of the most powerful nations on Earth.

The Republic of Georgia, now a U.S. client state, is a former member of the Soviet Union. To describe this nation as being on Russia’s doorstep would be an understatement. Yet, Russia has not violated its national sovereignty, at least not until August 7. In order to understand the roots of the conflict now taking place in both Ossetia and in Georgia itself, a few facts must be brought to the fore.

Georgia’s current president Mikheil Saakashvili, ascended to the office of the presidency in 2003. His becoming president was achieved with help from the CIA. As president, he has grown increasingly unpopular, as his administration has been rocked by corruption scandals. In part, U.S. interest in supporting Saakashvili exists because of a vital oil pipeline that runs through the Republic of Georgia. The other reason may exist in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1996 book entitled The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives. I would strongly suggest that the reader learn more about Mr. Brzezinski and his book, as he is a former National Security Advisor and is currently an advisor to Barak Obama.

South Ossetia itself lies in part of Georgia’s northern region. It is bordered by North Ossetia, which is literally a part of Russia. The population breakdown in both provinces is almost identical; like its northern cousin, South Ossetia has long wanted independence from Georgia. The vast majority of its citizens are Russian. In November of 2006 a referendum on independence from Georgia was held in South Ossetia. With about 96 percent of its citizens voting, 99 percent favored joining with North Ossetia. Yet, the referendum was virtually ignored by the Georgian government, the Bush Administration, and Western European countries.

During July of this year, the Georgian/U.S. Immediate Response 2008 Military Exercise was held. Up to 1,000 U.S. military advisors and contractors were involved with the exercise. According to a report by Pepe Escobar for The Real News, the exercise was likely, a dry run for that which occurred shortly after its conclusion on July 31.

After announcing peace talks on the morning of August 7 in order to stifle shooting incidents taking place in South Ossetia, President Saakasvili gave the order for a massive attack against the rebellious province. Hospitals and civilian villages were targeted while Ossetians, having virtually no military of their own, watched helplessly as much of the capital city of Tskhinvali was laid to ruins. At least ten Russian peacekeepers were killed in this attack against a province that is for the most part, ethnically Russian. We need to be clear about this. Contrary to what the U.S. media and politicians are saying, it was Georgia that launched an unprovoked attack upon the civilian population of South Ossetia – not Russia.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in an August 12 article published in the Washington Post, put it this way:

“What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against ‘small defenseless Georgia’ is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.”

Reports coming from the European media tell a very different story than that of the American press. An August 13 story published in The Guardian, one of London’s top news agencies, tells of the horror Ossetians experienced at the hand of the Georgian military. I’ll leave it to the reader to further investigate the facts as they are being reported from the ground. Of course, it’s quite likely that reports of Russian brutality in that area are also true. That country’s military has earned a reputation for ruthlessness and plunder against civilian populations.

My point here is not so much to paint one side or the other as the good guys; but rather, to urge readers and writers, such as Mr. Thompson, not to merely form their opinions based upon information coming forth from the U.S. Mainstream media. It would appear that there is a lot more going on in the world than meets the eye. I’ve come to believe that they would rather that we don’t know about it.

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