There has been a great deal of disinformation, ignoring of facts and downright lying on the part of the Bush Administration and members of the media this week pertaining to events in the Caucasus region. The Russo-Georgian War has really brought out the worst in the president and certain members of the so called “mainstream” media.
For starters, as far as I can tell from my vantage point in Zambia, the western media generally has been remiss in detailing the historical facts as they relate to the conflict. The history behind a crisis is vitally important to ultimately determine who started the problem and what should be done to rectify it. Contrary to the views of President Bush and his media buddies, the Georgians, not the Russians, are clearly at fault in this situation. As recently as yesterday, the president said that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are a part of Georgia. Historically, both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have never been a part of Georgia except at times when they were made so by the force of an oppressor. This happened twice to South Ossetia - in the 18th Century, when it was absorbed into Russia through an agreement with the Ottoman Empire, and in the 1920s, when the communists under Joseph Stalin made it a part of Georgia. As for Abkhazia, historically, it was a separate entity until Stalin incorporated it into Georgia in 1931. Now, I don’t expect this president to know this, since it would involve reading what he probably considers ancient history, but Bush should know that in the early 1990s, after the Soviet Union fell apart, there were two wars fought over South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence. Both peoples sought to rid themselves of the oppressive yoke placed upon them by their Soviet masters. A ceasefire agreement brought de facto independence to both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A peacekeeping force largely made up of Russian troops was left responsible for maintaining order in the territories.
With minor exceptions, order was in place until the night of August 7th 2008. On that night Georgian peacekeepers turned on their Russian comrades, killing 10 and wounding dozens, as Georgian president Saakashvili’s army invaded South Ossetia. According to the international news network Russia Today, the Georgian army began perpetrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing by assassinating clergy, shooting women and children in the streets and throwing grenades into random houses. These reports came complete with televised pictures of the carnage. As the Russians reacted to the aggression of the Georgians by coming to the aid of the defenseless South Ossetians, President Bush and his media cronies stirred up old Cold War sentiments in the U.S. by blasting the Russians for disproportionate use of force and imperialistic actions toward Georgia. In particular, Bush criticized Russian bombing of strategic locations inside Georgia even though this was precisely the same strategy his father pursued against Iraq to extract its army from Kuwait 17 years ago.