Backtalk, August 19, 2008

The Real Aggressor

Close, Justin, but no cigar. The real aggressor in the Russia-Georgia fight is the fight promoter, the U.S. Our government trained, armed, and equipped the Georgian army to be among the strongest, pound for pound, in the world. We coached them to bomb the population center of Tskhinvali. And the U.S. had advisers in the country, naively assuming that Russia would not attack a country with U.S. troops in it.

At the very least, the U.S. should learn to bring a country into NATO before stationing troops there, not after. Best of all, the Bush administration should get out of the bear-baiting business. Bush won’t do this, but his successor (if it’s Obama and not the rabid Russia-hater McCain) should restart the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) with Moscow. This would be nonproliferation by example, and it would mark a return to treating Russia as if they matter.

~ Tikhon Gilson

Mr. Raimondo doesn’t seem to acknowledge that in a some conflicts, neither side might be in the right. His basic approach is: America is always wrong when it tries to intervene in a conflict. Since the side America supports is wrong by definition, the other side must be right. So since America intervened on the behalf of the Kosovar Albanians, the Serbs must be right. But since America opposes Russia’s intervention on behalf of the Ossetians, the Georgians must be wrong, even though in other respects the relationship between Serbia-Kosovar Albanians-Kosovar Serbs is pretty close to the relationship between Russia-Georgia-South Ossetia. So while stories about Serb atrocities against Albanians are downplayed or denied, stories about Georgian atrocities against Ossetians are accepted uncritically; Mr. Raimondo is simply inverting the propaganda of the American interventionists.

The fact is both the Serbs and the Albanians are nasty pieces of work, just as both the Russians and the Georgians are nasty pieces of work. Of course, this also supports an anti-interventionist position for the Americans, who should know better than to get involved in such brawls. Mr. Raimondo is in the end right, but for the wrong reasons.

~ Jonathan Gress

Out Damn Blot: A Letter to Powell

I really liked Colin Powell and said several times that I would vote for him if he ran for president, but when my husband and I saw the UN speech that evening we looked at each other in shock and said what the heck is he suggesting? I was stunned as I watched the rest of his speech, and we both decided that he had been threatened by someone in power to give that speech (because he was so credible?) and that everyone who heard it would believe it. We realized right away that he was being used as a stooge by this administration, and it was a sad thing to see. Colin, how could you have let them use you in that horrible way? Think of all the lives that could have been saved if only you had told them this is wrong and stick it in your ear. If you don’t come forward with the truth I am sure that millions of us will never look at you the same way again. Please do the right thing for all the dead from our country and all the innocent civilians killed in Iraq.

~ Linda Walden

What is there to say? Except: ultimately the president is responsible for his decisions. People lied and dissembled because he wanted them to.

Why did they do it? Why did they condone error? Because they were human and not independently wealthy – their jobs, i.e., their self worth depended on their jobs. Most of us most of the time derive our estimate of our value from our jobs. That sense is our schwerpunkt – the thing we must defend. The most concrete way to do it is to hold onto our job because the job pays for everything else – cars, good addresses, theater tickets, invitations, etc., etc.

What should one feel toward those who succumbed? Anger, pity, sympathy, empathy?

The moving finger has written and having written has moved on. We should also, but trying to end/reduce the ongoing damage of the choices we made.

I guess you can add depressed to my answer about how we should feel.

~ Fred Feer (Agency alum, 1964-1979)

Hi George,

Nice letter to Powell, but it won’t move him one bit. Remember My Lai? He hasn’t lost any sleep over that incident. Didn’t even learn from it. Why does the public continue to believe that Powell “once” had integrity, if only Bush hadn’t ruined him? More likely, Bush would not have picked him if he thought Powell had an ounce of integrity. Let’s stop giving Powell the benefit of the doubt that we would deny any other member of the Bush cabal. Powell is a liar, a warmonger, and a coward. And I’m also from the Bronx.

~ J. Contursi

Crisis in the Caucasus

“Although Russia is unfortunately moving back to autocracy and Georgia is an imperfect democracy…”

Both Russia and Georgia are members of the Council of Europe, as are all 27 EU member states and other European democracies, for a total of 43 countries. All are parties to the European Convention on Human Rights and all are subject to the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, before which any individual can bring an action if he believes that his human rights have been violated.

Thus claiming that Russia is “moving back to autocracy” while Georgia is, however imperfectly, a democracy is absurd. What is true of one Council of Europe member state is true of all of them. If hyper-authoritarian Britain, with its spy cameras on every street corner, for example, is a democracy, so is Russia and so is Georgia! If any one of those is not a democracy, then the others are not also.

It is precisely this sort of pathetic ignorance of reality on the ground that has made Americans the laughingstock of the planet and has got the U.S. into so many of its current messes, Georgia included!

~ Michael Kenny

Ivan Eland replies:

Some countries are more authoritarian than others. (I think the Council of Europe is largely a joke, and so is the European Convention on Human Rights. They are somewhat symbolically helpful, but, really, who cares?) Empirically, it has little to do with aggressiveness in their foreign policies. I don’t even understand your point.

There are organizations that measure political and economic freedom empirically, and the U.S. and Britain do score much higher than Georgia and Russia. But my only reason for bringing up the degree of democracy or freedom in a country was to say that it doesn’t matter with regard to foreign policy or the crisis in Georgia. So what does this have to do with my larger theme? You are nitpicking.

‘Poor Little Georgia’ – Not!

Dear Mr. Raimondo,

I am one of the readers of your articles and often admire them. But as a Georgian scholar, who lives there, knows the history of the old country, I should say that you are wrong! I am not going to speak about George Hewitt, his anti-Georgian views are well known, but as for Zurab Avalishvili, have you read his book to the end? Do you consider it an anti-Georgian book? And do you really think that only social democrats lived in Georgia at that time? Or now only neocons and their followers are Georgian citizens?

I myself do not like neocons, and I am against forceful, global, revolutionary “democratization” of the world. I was not happy with the U.S.-backed Rose Revolution in my country, but while criticizing U.S. policy are you favoring Russian imperialism? Do you really think that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are independent countries? Do you really think we are fighting with them? (I do not mean the recent war.) We are a small nation, and we have been fighting against Russia for our independence for two centuries. I would be glad to talk with Abkhazians and Ossetians about the problems if they were independent and were not Russian puppets. You will say now that our president is a puppet of the U.S. government, but he is at least a president of the sovereign nation and he is not the whole Georgia. Tell Russia to give them independence, and we will negotiate with our neighbors, sovereign nations.

I know you will not respond, and I know you have no time to look deeply into the Georgian and Caucasian history and find out what Tskhinvali means in Georgian, or Sokhumi, Abkhazia; you do not love neocons and I do not love them, you are criticizing Bill Kristol and I am criticizing my president, but when you are denouncing U.S. policy and favoring Russian imperialism, you are wrong!

~ Dr. Paata Chkheidze, Tbilisi, Georgia, Fulbright visiting scholar, 2005-2006, The Catholic University of America

Krajina, Not Kosovo

In his article, “Krajina, not Kosovo,” Nebojsa Malic compares the Georgia conflict with the Krajina. Although I mostly agree with the article, I would like to make two notes:

  1. Georgia is seen by Russia as the main supply route for the Chechen uprisings.
  2. The U.S. does have something to win. First of all we get a Cold War climate that usually helps the Republican presidential candidate. Besides that, we already see the conflict being used to advocate Georgian NATO membership and other support for Georgia in the conflict.

~ Wim Roffel

The US Government Is the Real Bioterror Threat

So now it is almost clear that the anthrax hysteria was the make of a mad American scientist, so why did our government capitalize on it? Why did our government paint it as a terrorist threat coming from Iraq? Oh well, I guess it would take a genius to figure out the puzzle if you do not know anything about our long-practiced tactics in fabricating, exploiting, and twisting information. We need our mission accomplished, and it was. … We ought to be proud of our intelligence community, which betrays us every time to the benefit of our elites who have been the sole beneficiaries of the war on terror. Heck, they have sold enough oil at premium prices, sold enough war machinery, sold security devices and services at the taxpayers’ expense. They need not go to work for another 50 years. Now they can go on long vacations while we bury our dead, treat our wounds, pay more taxes to rebuild our budget, and spend more time learning our history lesson on how to be better prepared for the next episode to come. I am sorry, I forgot this episode is far from being over yet. I guess we are still being screwed!

~ Abraham Dalis

Ivan Eland replies:

Yes, and it continues to happen in war after war. Intelligence usually likes to please the policymakers – it keeps money flowing into the intel agencies.

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