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.