By Mark Ames
August 13, 2008
Five days after Georgia invaded and seized the breakaway separatist region of South Ossetia, sparking a larger-scale Russian invasion to drive Georgian forces back and punish their leaders, Russia surprised its Western detractors by calling a halt to the country's offensive. After all, the mainstream media, egged on by hawkish neocon pundits and their candidate John McCain, had everyone believing that Russia was hellbent on the full-scale annihilation and annexation of democratic Georgia.
But then came Tuesday's cease-fire announcement--and we're now forced to ask ourselves serious questions about the recent conflict: what really started it, how dangerous was it and what, with serious careful consideration, could be done to prevent it from turning into a worst-case scenario?
Up until now, this war was framed as a simple tale of Good Helpless Democratic Guy Georgia versus Bad Savage Fascist Guy Russia. In fact, it is far more complex than this, morally and historically. Then there are two concentric David and Goliath narratives here. The initial war pitted the Goliath Georgia--a nation of 4.4 million, with vastly superior numbers, equipment and training thanks to US and Israeli advisers--against David-Ossetia, with a population of between 50,000-70,000 and a local militia force that is barely battalion strength. Reports coming out of South Ossetia tell of Georgian rockets and artillery leveling every building in the capital city, Tskhinvali, and of Georgian troops lobbing grenades into bomb shelters and basements sheltering women and children. Although true casualty figures are hard to come by, reports that up to 2,000 Ossetians, mostly civilians, were killed are certainly believable, given the intensity of the initial Georgian bombardment, the wanton destruction of the city and surrounding regions and the generally savage nature of Caucasus warfare, a very personal game where old rules apply. --MORE--