by Felix Quigley
August 16, 2008
On Thursday August 6 appeared an article in The Guardian with about 600 comments from Seamus Milne. We go part way with Milne with serious differences. (comments in brackets, in heavy italic)
[begin article from Seamus Milne here]
The outcome of six grim days of bloodshed in the Caucasus has triggered an outpouring of the most nauseating hypocrisy from western politicians and their captive media. As talking heads thundered against Russian imperialism and brutal disproportionality, US vice-president Dick Cheney, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown and David Miliband, declared that “Russian aggression must not go unanswered”. George Bush denounced Russia for having “invaded a sovereign neighbouring state” and threatening “a democratic government”. Such an action, he insisted, “is unacceptable in the 21st century”.
Could these by any chance be the leaders of the same governments that in 2003 invaded and occupied – along with Georgia, as luck would have it – the sovereign state of Iraq on a false pretext at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives?
(Milne is correct. Iraq was a sovereign country. Bush and Blair did lie. The end result was to increase the power of Iran and Islam in the Middle East. What the US and Britain will leave behind is Sharia. Note Milne does not deal with this because he is friendly to Islam and to Iran)
Or even the two governments that blocked a ceasefire in the summer of 2006 as Israel pulverised Lebanon’s infrastructure and killed more than a thousand civilians in retaliation for the capture or killing of five soldiers?
(And Milne is led into his hatred of Israel distorting completely the position of Israel and the rights of Jews to a Homeland)
You’d be hard put to recall after all the fury over Russian aggression that it was actually Georgia that began the war last Thursday with an all-out attack on South Ossetia to “restore constitutional order” – in other words, rule over an area it has never controlled since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nor, amid the outrage at Russian bombardments, have there been much more than the briefest references to the atrocities committed by Georgian forces against citizens it claims as its own in South Ossetia’s capital Tskhinvali. Several hundred civilians were killed there by Georgian troops last week, along with Russian soldiers operating under a 1990s peace agreement: “I saw a Georgian soldier throw a grenade into a basement full of women and children,” one Tskhinvali resident, Saramat Tskhovredov, told reporters on Tuesday.
(Correct. The big problem is the disparity between the Western US and British led Media and the Russian. Like Serbia they are unable to get the message out as it happens)
Might it be because Georgia is what Jim Murphy, Britain’s minister for Europe, called a “small beautiful democracy”. Well it’s certainly small and beautiful, but both the current president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and his predecessor came to power in western-backed coups, the most recent prettified as a “Rose revolution”. Saakashvili was then initially rubber-stamped into office with 96% of the vote before establishing what the International Crisis Group recently described as an “increasingly authoritarian” government, violently cracking down on opposition dissent and independent media last November. “Democratic” simply seems to mean “pro-western” in these cases.
(Correct. We covered this a short time ago. See our recent articles)
The long-running dispute over South Ossetia – as well as Abkhazia, the other contested region of Georgia – is the inevitable consequence of the breakup of the Soviet Union. As in the case of Yugoslavia, minorities who were happy enough to live on either side of an internal boundary that made little difference to their lives feel quite differently when they find themselves on the wrong side of an international state border.
(The history needs to be understood, especially these factors 1. what makes Ossetian culture and nation 2. how they fared under the Bolsheviks 3. the critical deep disagreement between Lenin and Stalin on Georgia 4. the administrative separation of North and South Ossetia by Stalinism 5. the more recent developmenbts and how their situation is effected by drive of US Governments against Russia under Putin)
Such problems would be hard enough to settle through negotiation in any circumstances. But add in the tireless US promotion of Georgia as a pro-western, anti-Russian forward base in the region, its efforts to bring Georgia into Nato, the routing of a key Caspian oil pipeline through its territory aimed at weakening Russia’s control of energy supplies, and the US-sponsored recognition of the independence of Kosovo – whose status Russia had explicitly linked to that of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – and conflict was only a matter of time.
(He makes good points)
The CIA has in fact been closely involved in Georgia since the Soviet collapse. But under the Bush administration, Georgia has become a fully fledged US satellite.
Georgia‘s forces are armed and trained by the US and Israel. It has the third-largest military contingent in Iraq – hence the US need to airlift 800 of them back to fight the Russians at the weekend. Saakashvili’s links with the neoconservatives in Washington are particularly close: the lobbying firm headed by US Republican candidate John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has been paid nearly $900,000 by the Georgian government since 2004.
(Good point. But the role of Israel needs independent examination. Milne is biased against the right of Israel to exist. This is a separate and independent matter.)
But underlying the conflict of the past week has also been the Bush administration’s wider, explicit determination to enforce US global hegemony and prevent any regional challenge, particularly from a resurgent Russia. That aim was first spelled out when Cheney was defence secretary under Bush’s father, but its full impact has only been felt as Russia has begun to recover from the disintegration of the 1990s.
(Correct. Yeltsin was their stooge. Putin has become an independent nation leader. The US Empire cannot tolerate that.)
Over the past decade, Nato’s relentless eastward expansion has brought the western military alliance hard up against Russia’s borders and deep into former Soviet territory. American military bases have spread across eastern Europe and central Asia, as the US has helped install one anti-Russian client government after another through a series of colour-coded revolutions. Now the Bush administration is preparing to site a missile defence system in eastern Europe transparently targeted at Russia.
(All correct and unfortunately very alarmingly correct)
By any sensible reckoning, this is not a story of Russian aggression, but of US imperial expansion and ever tighter encirclement of Russia by a potentially hostile power. (Correct) That Russia has now used the South Ossetian imbroglio to put a check on that expansion should hardly come as a surprise. What is harder to work out is why Saakashvili launched last week’s attack and whether he was given any encouragement by his friends in Washington.
(Why speculate at this stage. What we know is the attack by Georgia. We do not know the figures of the killing of innocent Ossetians. We await the full truthful picture. But it seems very like a Krajina situation where Saakashvili was setting out to ethnically cleanse and end his Ossetian problem that way. The US was directly involved)
If so, it has spectacularly backfired, at savage human cost. And despite Bush’s attempts to talk tough yesterday, the war has also exposed the limits of US power in the region.
If Georgia proper’s independence is respected – best protected by opting for neutrality – that should be no bad thing. Unipolar domination of the world has squeezed the space for genuine self-determination and the return of some counterweight has to be welcome. But the process of adjustment also brings huge dangers. If Georgia had been a member of Nato, this week’s conflict would have risked a far sharper escalation. That would be even more obvious in the case of Ukraine – which yesterday gave a warning of the potential for future confrontation when its pro-western president threatened to restrict the movement of Russian ships in and out of their Crimean base in Sevastopol. As great power conflict returns, South Ossetia is likely to be only a taste of things to come.
(On the concluding points by Milne I feel he does not see the full counter revolutionary or reactionary essence of what the US and British Governments are doing re Georgia. It is too early to draw those conclusions. What Milne seems to leave out is the powerful role of the Western Media and their power to spread lies.
On this very point Jews should have come very strongly to the assistance of the Russians because thjey too have experienced the lies of the Western Media over Jenin, El Durra etc. That is very disappointing but is a feature of the struggle for leadership.
This is not over as Milne seems to suggest and Russia has not won. Everything depends on how strong is the Putin Government. If Putin yields the Western Imperialists will remove him and place a stooge in power. Putin must explain, explain and explain again exactly the truth about the war over South Ossetia.
He must prepare his people for war from the British and American Governments, if not directly now, later. It requires the mobilization of the masses in Russia behind a revolutionary programme to meet the threats from US Imperialism.
These threats are going to increase in the future and this is the case regardless of who is the next President, but especially if McCain gets into the White House. Putin is not a revolutionary socialist and alongside Putin there needs to be developed a revolutionary Trotskyist leadership which will fight in a United Front with Putin and against British and US Imperialism. In a real sense we are back to the period following the 1917 Revolution.)
(On the latter point I made re a Trotskyist leadership. We see Russia as the victim in the Georgia case. But the dogmatist argues, Russia is huge, Georgia is tiny. We answer that Georgia is a puppet of the most powerful Governments in the World, the US and Britain.
Our defence of Putin and of Russia against Georgia in those conditions is unconditional. This IS the Trotskyist position.
Read back on how Trotsky defended the Soviet Union, despite Stalinism, from attack by Imperialism, ALWAYS.
Ironically Milne’s side has always sought to distort the record of Trotsky. History is being telescoped into the present moment.
This becomes a matter of principle and as we have shown, see article on WSWS, we are alone in this position.
Small in our numbers sadly, but always principled. This may help us to grow. We do not wish to be correct and ineffectual. We wish as well as being correct to be able to change events.
We defend Georgian nationality. But not to have Georgia become a puppet for reaction against Russia by the US and British Governments.
The Georgian working class and youth in order to assert their nationalism have to defeat the puppet Saakashvili and, very like Israel, have to defend their real independence from the US and British Governments.
This will also mean learning to tell the truth to the world. The Saakashvili Government is riddled with CIA and we cannot believe a word it says…eg concentration a la Serbs they claim.
This is why a big part of our struggle is to explore what Saakashvili did to the capital of South Ossetia and the role of the US Government here.
Ossetia seems from our reading to be a very old people. The educated youth and workers of Georgia who are progressive can begin to learn that history. It is vital to move forward that they learn and appreciate that this is really and truly a very old people…like the Jewish people I might add. Peoples like this, very old, with deep tradition must be treasured by humanity. That cannot happen by a capitalist system in its death agony and driven by economic crisis)