A Dirty Adventure — Part 1

For most Americans, the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia, and the Russian military response, is akin to an obscure murder mystery. In a post-9/11 world, the media no longer covers events in the Caucasus, with the vicious conflicts that erupted in the 1990s a distant memory. Most will probably uncritically accept the mainstream media narrative that the current violence is explained by reference to the ethnic turmoil of the recent past and competition between the US and the Russian Federation for Caucasian and Central Asian hydrocarbons. The Russians have described the Georgian action as a dirty adventure, a pretty good shorthand description that discourages further inquiry.

Georgia invades South Ossetia:

Georgia launched a major military offensive Friday to retake the breakaway province of South Ossetia, prompting Moscow to send tanks into the region in a furious response that threatens to engulf Georgia, a staunch U.S. ally, and Russia in all-out war.

Hundreds were reported dead in the worst outbreak of hostilities since the province won defacto independence in a war against Georgia that ended in 1992. Witnesses said the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali was devastated.

“I saw bodies lying on the streets, around ruined buildings, in cars,” said Lyudmila Ostayeva, 50, who had fled with her family to Dzhava, a village near the border with Russia. “It’s impossible to count them now. There is hardly a single building left undamaged.”

And the Russians respond:

The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday afternoon that it would protect Russian citizens in the territory and Russian peacekeepers who came under fire in Tskhinvali.

“The Georgian leadership has unleashed a dirty adventure,” the ministry said in a statement, posted on its Web site. “The blood shed in South Ossetia will remain on the conscience of these people and their entourage. We will not allow anyone to do harm to our peacekeepers and citizens of the Russian Federation.”

But are Georgians solely responsible for this dirty adventure? One wonders, especially in light of this passage from the Associated Press article, a fact conveniently omitted from New York Times coverage:

More than 1,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers were at the base last month to teach combat skills to Georgian troops. Georgia has about 2,000 troops in Iraq, making it the third-largest contributor to coalition forces after the U.S. and Britain.

The White House on Friday urged Russia and Georgia to peacefully resolve their dispute over South Ossetia.

“We urge restraint on all sides — that violence would be curtailed and that direct dialogue could ensue in order to help resolve their differences,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters.

Curiously, the US is not capable of condemning a Georgian invasion and Guernica like air attack upon Tskhinvali, but then, that would be expecting a lot after US Marines just got done training Georgian forces. Instead, the White House just urges restraint, which is what it usually does when an ally has launched an attack and the other side moves to defend itself.

The Russians have been angry for quite awhile about proposals to admit Georgia into NATO. Now, Georgian troops have attacked South Ossetia after having been trained by the US. The Russians no doubt believe, with good reason, that the US greenlighted the invasion. If I were Georgian, I’d be very concerned, because it is probable that the Russians are about to teach them a terrible lesson about the consequences of hubris.

Richard Estes lives in Northern California, and co-hosts a radio program, with an emphasis upon peace, civil rights, labor and environmental issues, on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, CA. This article was originally published by American Leftist. Read other articles by Richard, or visit Richard's website.

25 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas said on August 10th, 2008 at 6:45am #

    it does seem that US is using georgia. i also conjecture that georgia will be severely punished. south ossetia belongs to north ossetia.
    georgia cannot change this fact; it can only oppose it.
    but not by warfare.
    now that israel is also involved on behalf US/georgia, it also can only lose. thank u

  2. heike said on August 10th, 2008 at 7:21am #

    Your article comes right out of George Orwell. How can a country “invade” its own internationally recognized territory? How can you have a sovereign country if it can’t control its borders, or control what comes into the borders it has under its control from regions occupied by a foreign army?

    Don’t you think it’s the Russians who are the ones with hubris right now? Let’s see: last year they tried to overthrow the Estonian government because it had the temerity to interfere in its own internal affairs. Their president asserts the right to intervene in any country to protect the rights of Russian citizens, whose presence is a convenient Fifth Column in many countries. The Russians openly use economic and cyber warfare against any country that dares to cross them. They unceremoniously threw Georgian citizens out of their country in 2006 after the Georgians had the “hubris” to arrest Russian spies on their territory. Guernica? Tell what you have written about Grozny, not far from the scene of events. That doesn’t qualify as a Guernica? Russia maintains an army in Transdniestr to occupy a rebel region governed by local Mafias to make sure that Moldova couldn’t run its own affairs. Putin himself has called the breakup of the Soiuz the “greatest tragedy of the 20th century.” Russians are openly agitating to “return” the Crimea to their rule, although they use proxies in the Duma to make that point. Go read about the agitation of the “Ruskiy Blok” in this regard. The head of the Moscow-dominated Ukrainian Church recently refused to participate in a prayer service in honor of the upcoming anniversary of Ukrainian independence.

    So, whom are you kidding? You really have your head in the sand. Go learn the facts before you start pontificating.

  3. Richard Estes said on August 10th, 2008 at 8:36am #

    yes, the Russians have a notorious record in the Caucasus going back to the mid-19th Century, if not earlier, but Georgia has its own history of abuse in South Ossetia, which was confirmed on Friday when the Georgians shelled a city of South Ossetian civilians and killed hundreds, if not over a thousand of them

    this tragic episode is clearly one instigated by the US, Europe and Israel through arming and training the Georgia military, and opening the door to possible NATO membership

    such acts emboldened a provincial, nativist Georgia leadership to believe that they would be supported by the US when they launched the attack

    and one can understand why they might have thought so, the US and Israel either greenlighted the Georgian attack, or sat by and did nothing as preparations for it moved forward, thus destabilizing a situation of relative calm in South Ossetia

    certainly, the Russians are going to be merciless, and try to destroy the military capability created by the US and Israel, but the no one in the Caucasus is being served by a US/Europe/Israel intervention motivated by competition for access to hydrocarbons and broader imperialistic geopolitical interests associated with the “war on terror”

    that is the true lesson to be learned from this tragic incident, that further militarization of the antagonisms there by the “West” will lead to even more violence and death

    in the short term, the Russian victory over the Georgians, is, from a left perspective, a good thing, much as the Hizbullah victory of Israel in 2006 in Lebanon was a good thing, because it checks the expansionist aspirations of the US in creating a global neoliberal order enforced by the US military and US client states

    but the left should not mistake tactical responses for a social and theoretical approach to these situations, for example, in the Caucasus, a truly liberatory politics necessarily involves understanding the malign alignment of ethnic tensions inflamed by former participants in the Soviet apparat, regional intellectuals, radical Islamists and Western military and intelligence services, all of whom share the same interest in discouraging, if not suppressing the creation of a civil democratic society, as a means of achieving their ends, and developing a means of overcoming it

  4. heike said on August 10th, 2008 at 10:22am #

    You have an Israel fixation. You are hallucinating if you think a Russian victory over the Georgians is a “victory for the left.” The Russians are today’s neo-imperialists and all your verbal gymnastics won’t change the reality one iota. Who has the interest in insuring that a civil democratic society doesn’t take root in those countries? What do you think Putin did with the remnants of civil society that he inherited from Yeltsin? Is any country that is allied with the U.S. a “U.S. client state”? Maybe France is our client state as well? You write like a neo-Stalinist, with your claptrap about “imperialist geopolitical interests.” It’s as clear as daylight that Putin has his own “imperialist geopolitical interests.”

    And please tell me what was progressive about the destruction of Grozny, and why should the Chechens not enjoy the right of self-determination?

  5. Richard Estes said on August 10th, 2008 at 12:11pm #

    ah, another neoconservative, I see

    no doubt you think that Khodokovsky is a victim, too

    as for the Chechens, I agree with Tony Wood of the New Left Review, they should enjoy the right of self-determination, about the only situation I know where the left, or at least one leftist, and the neoconservatives agree

    anyone who considers the Russians today’s “neo-imperialists” must have a globe that starts with Turkey and ends with Uzbekistan, and leaves out Iraq and Afghanistan

    the Russians seek, wrongly, in my view, to continue to dominate contiguous regions that it seized over 300-400 years of territorial expansion

    by contrast, the US and its allies seek to impose a neoliberal capitalist system on the entire world, policed by the US military

    you’d think that the neoconservatives would be chastened after defeats in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, but, apparently not, they are searching for new opportunities for failure and the Caucasus offers plenty of them

  6. heike said on August 10th, 2008 at 1:10pm #

    You know SOO little about people! I am far away from the “neoconservatives.” Did we impose a neoliberal capitalist system on Russia, policed by the U.S. military? How about China’s experiment in capitalist restoration? Was that our doing as well?
    My globe starts with Finland, goes through Estonia, and all the “borderland” states. Khorodovsky was imprisoned because he posed a political threat to the Russian political system. You haven’t responded to all the case studies I pointed out. You simply are bereft of any answers.

    My criticism of Russian policy is not meant to whitewash the Bush administration, whose policies have been disastrous in many ways.

    Your problem is that you have a red-colored view of the world where the U.S. is the root of all evil (along with its “client states” ) and everyone else gets a free pass. You are so blinded by your “evil America” obsession that you fail to see the evil that lurks elsewhere.

  7. brian said on August 10th, 2008 at 3:08pm #

    ‘Your problem is that you have a red-colored view of the world where the U.S. is the root of all evil ‘

    Israel is the Iago in the modern world, and so more nearly the root of all evil. But US has been doing in Georgia what it claims Iran has been doing in Iraq.

  8. cg said on August 10th, 2008 at 3:49pm #

    An American in Georgia tells it like it is.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRl3qArJO-o#

  9. MrSynec3 said on August 10th, 2008 at 4:04pm #

    TROLL ALERT: “heike” is the newest RTOLL ON THE BLOCK.

    We had “evie”, then “michael kenny” and now we have “heike”.
    Please do not waste time and energy with those TROLLS.

  10. bozhidar balkas said on August 10th, 2008 at 5:12pm #

    i am a strong socialist but i affirm that chechnya has the right to be independent. ossetians have that right too.
    yes, all empires are evil. that includes russian, chinese, iraqi, afghani, pakistani, indian empires.
    however, US has slain/maimed more people post ww2 than any other empire.
    in expalestine, US approbates some of the worst crimes against humanity.
    eg, it approbates/demands child-, woman-, and manhunting. this crime is now an israeli nat’l sport.
    also, one may or may not take into account that canada and US relative to their econo-military-diplomatic might and secure geographic position have less need/ right to attack weaklings than most other evil empires.
    because of what i write i’ve been kicked off jerusalem post, haaretz, truthdig, the jewish dily Forward, and alternet.
    i think that most people most of the time can handle lies better than the truth and that is why i’m not permitted to post in the above web pages.thank you.

  11. Brian Koontz said on August 10th, 2008 at 7:21pm #

    We only have so much focus to go around. It makes more sense to focus on the greatest evil than on lesser evils. There are many imperial states other than the US. Every state by it’s nature has imperial ambitions – it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s able to achieve those ambitions.

    The American state is ridiculously dangerous, to the point of having the potential to annihilate the world. That can’t be said about any other, even Russia and Israel. If that reality changes, the left will change it’s focus.

    For those on the left with a focus on the future, the dangers seem to be China and India. Russia not so much. Most of the left leaves the future to the future and deals with the present now.

  12. mary said on August 11th, 2008 at 12:55am #

    There’s always a Shlomo somewhere in the deal.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3580136,00.html

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3580522,00.html

    and MrSynec3 you left out the prolific ‘Jaime’ in your list of trolls. Where do they go when they retire?

  13. bozhidar balkas said on August 11th, 2008 at 5:57am #

    heike,
    you say, “bush’s policies are disastrous”. was it an oversight not to say to whom it is disastrous?
    invasion of afghanistan, palestine, and iraq i evaluate as ‘brilliant’ successes.
    but for whom? for uncle sam and his longstanding domestic and foreign policies!!!
    the domestics are controled by lies/punishment and alien pops by missilles, bombs, invasions, etc.
    personalizing a state policies, russian, american, and others’ is to me a waste of time.
    thus it is not yeltsin, stalin, putin, truman, kennedy, clinton, bush, et al that we should dwell on as much as we do but study the histories of the two evil empires for the protreptic value of their respective policies .
    for some raqis, US invasion is a criminal action and catastrophic for most of them.
    for US citizens, it may be an annoyance. it is opposed on perception, wishes, prediction, rationalization, etc., and not on any panhumanly recognized principle. thank u

  14. evie said on August 11th, 2008 at 6:56am #

    “Where do they go when they retire?”

    Perhaps they just stand back and watch the circle jerk.

  15. Shabnam said on August 11th, 2008 at 10:26am #

    People must expose Israelis’ role in this war between Georgia and Russia which is beneficial to Israel. Israel is making billions of dollars by selling it’s WMD to serve puppet of the US, Georgia. People must know that Israelis’ goal is to establish “the greater Israel’ from Mauritania to the Central Asia and this is part of its plan to achieve that. The involvement of Israel in Africa especially in Sudan, Somalia, Congo and Ethiopia is aligned with this goal as well. Israel benefits from more than 5.5 millions deaths in Congo where is rich with natural resources including Diamond, Gold, Uranium, Cobalt, Cupper and other valuable natural resources. Israel has monopoly over Diamond. Israel began selling arms to Georgia since 7 years ago. The military cooperation between the two countries is strong and it is good to know that Davit Kezerashvili, a former Israeli who knows Hebrew was helpful to facilitate this cooperation. On the other hand, Israel has close relationship with Russia through its fifth column, the Zionists inside Russia. The Israelis operation in Georgia was designed to convince the Israeli Aerospace industries to sell different systems to Georgian air force, but they were turned down. The reason is the ‘special’ relations between the Aerospace industries and Russia. It was the sale of three RPVs, in the past three months which made Russian worried. But in any case, in May Israel decided to approve future deals with Georgia only for the sale of non-offensive weapon systems, such as intelligence, and other related materials so Israel to keep Russia in its pocket as well. Once again Israel tries to use every side in the conflict. No country should trust Israel because Israel advances only its own position towards ‘World Government’ with the Zionist leadership on expense of others. This is very clear since Israel using its fifth column, Jewish lobby, the Congress and Senate in the US to wage Zionist war in the Middle East and Africa especially Sudan for ‘regime change’ through destabilization by proxy. The Kurds must realize that their services to Israel does not go well with the interest of the region and will be backlashed. American people must wake up and force out the Zionist fifth columnists who are sitting in the driving seat of the American empire.
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3580136,00.html

  16. mary said on August 11th, 2008 at 11:19am #

    I agree with what you are saying Shabnam and by the way I have already posted that YNet link, together with one other, three posts gack.

  17. Brian Koontz said on August 11th, 2008 at 3:39pm #

    ““Where do they go when they retire?”

    Perhaps they just stand back and watch the circle jerk.”

    Rational arguments against the “circle jerk” are fine. That’s not what trolls do. Rational argument is the bane of trolls.

    Trolls are like evangelical christians, on a mission to save the heathen circle jerkers from themselves. The end result is much like when the US military went into Iraq.

  18. evie said on August 11th, 2008 at 4:57pm #

    One thing I have noticed at DV is that argument is only “rational” when opinions are supportive of what, apparently, seems to be the same handful of writers and their followers – others, if they post more than a couple of contrary opinions are labeled trolls.

    Personally, I agree with poster heike, – but to be politely progressively “dissident” and attempt to avoid the label of “troll” – I must spout that Russia is not so much a threat – it’s the evil doer US, and of course the Zionists/Israel.

    Better yet, I will just continue to read and keep silent. Such sites as this do offer insight into the motives and thought behind what is culturally considered “dissent” in the US.

  19. cg said on August 11th, 2008 at 7:15pm #

    Evie, I always thought your comments were honest, realistically informed through personal relations and real life situations far more so than the common speculations of book and article inspired philosophers and intellectuals.
    Kinda like the difference between someone who really has milked a cow and someone who hasn’t but knows more about it than you do..

  20. heike said on August 11th, 2008 at 7:49pm #

    Yes, Evie, one could write a very interesting article about message boards. People are very often insular in their approach and loudly reject anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy. I actually think there is more tolerance on right wing outlets like Frontpagemag.com than on this one. I have had some experience with stock message boards and some people get so emotionally attached to their investment that anyone who challenges their orthodoxy gets put on “ignore,” a kind of cyber equivalent of being sent to Cannosa. I’m waiting for the “peace and social justice” crowd to react as a small country is methodically destroyed. If the U.S. were to do the same thing as Russia is doing now, there would be howls, “solidarity” meetings, protests, calls for boycotts and everything else. But if you think this is bad, try one of the Russian sites like http://www.ossetia.ru You can get a general sense of it from a machine translation site but it doesn’t give the flavor of the vulgar slang. If Comrade Estes can’t get himself to understand that what the Russians are doing in Georgia is a “dirty adventure,” then he has lost his moral compass.

  21. evie said on August 11th, 2008 at 9:21pm #

    cg, thanks much.

    heike, thanks to you too.

  22. Richard Estes said on August 11th, 2008 at 10:32pm #

    for anyone who is interested, a post on my blog about the domestic insights to be gained from the conflict in the Caucasus:

    http://amleft.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_amleft_archive.html#5445581529712923549

  23. Hue Longer said on August 11th, 2008 at 11:16pm #

    not all opinions are equal and if we can establish definitions, truth finding is just a matter of proper debate. It’ very common for the uncritical mind to actually believe in subjective truth as a means of staving off a threatening education to their ego… “opinions are like assholes”, “that’s just your opinion”, “we should agree to disagree”, and “3 +3 = 5 is a contrary opinion which is just as rational as as 3+3 =6″. But I do like talking to Evie, and don’t think she fits the bill for being a troll.

  24. bozhidar balkas said on August 12th, 2008 at 6:16am #

    i generally don’t read posts of the people after they say about other people, You think such and such and that makes you a troll or, You’ve said this and that and that makes you stupid, immoral, neocon, etc.
    in other words, namecalling merely fills space but conveys no info let alone enlightenment.
    of course democrats can be called dems and republicans whatever for identification but even these labels obnubilate the situation.
    a democrat maybe a tad left of hitler; a republican a tad left- right of mussolini or the other way around. thank u

  25. Aidan said on August 12th, 2008 at 1:48pm #

    You know, sometimes I wonder how we can consider ourselves ‘progressives’ and still attack anyone who suggests a point of view that does not conform to our own. I mean, all moral reasons aside, at least we should have learned from our defeat in the last century that repressing ideas leads to a political dead end. An intelligent counter argument is the only proper response when one disagrees with a point.

    So help me, I’m beginning to sound like I agree with John Stuart Mill. I’d better shut up on this point.

    On the matter of Georgia and Russia, I am opposed to Russia’s invasion of Georgia, just as I am opposed to Georgia’s invasion of Ossetia. (which, I’ll add for heike, is only internationally recognised as part of Georgia because most of the rich and powerful of the world prefer Georgia over Russia). It don’t matter which side started it, both have reacted with the expected slaughter of civilians.
    I don’t think that Ossetia or Abkhazia should be independent but only from the rational point of view that they would not be economically viable states, especially after this war business leaves them in rubble. But only if the people of the regions wanted to join Russia instead (and really wanted to, not bullied into an annexation by Putin (wait, it’s Mededev now… yeah right…).
    Mostly, though , I watch with dismay (but no surprise) as I see Europe and the U.S. rushing to demand that Russia respect Georgia’s territorial integrity. Good grief, it’s only been half a year since it was Serbia that was being cut up and the big powers were in the reverse seats! Do they really take us all for idiots!? I suppose so…
    I used to think that George Orwell was just a bitter, depressed old sod, but it seems that all of the powers involved – on both sides – have this ‘doublethink’ thing down pat.
    The silver lining on this whole affair is that it might mean the end of that prat Sakashvili. That’d be good for anyone who cringes when they hear their national leaders calling men like Sakashvili democratic. It’s not democracy when the election campaign boils down to ‘vote for me or I bash your kneecaps’. But that’s another discussion entirely.

    -Aidan.