Time pressures preclude proper blogging today, but as our astute commenter Scott Douglas notes, Seamus Milne has an excellent commentary on Georgia and Russia in today's Guardian, so I'm just going to expropriate great swathes of it 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? 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?
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.....
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.
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.
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.
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...[See our previous post on this subject here.]
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 [more on this here], but its full impact has only been felt as Russia has begun to recover from the disintegration of the 1990s.
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.
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....
Ah yes, but "sensible reckonings" are in short supply these days, especially among the courtiers and scribes of the Potomac Empire. Bush's insertion of American troops into Georgia, ostensibly to deliver humanitarian aid, is a dangerous and completely unnecessary intervention. (Is it really not possible to get humanitarian aid into a European country without U.S. military assistance?) It is also a perfect illustration of Milne's observation of the obvious fact that American foreign policy is driven by the elite's compulsion for "unipolar domination" of world affairs, as we noted here yesterday.
You can see this in the braggadocio of a "senior Pentagon official" who inadvertantly gave the game away about the true nature of the "humanitarian" mission. He told the New York Times that the "relief effort" was meant to "show to Russia that we can come to the aid of a European ally, and that we can do it at will, whenever and wherever we want."
This is not the language of sober professionals guiding the affairs of a great nation, but the schoolyard bluster of two-bit bullies, seeking to allay their own weakness and anxiety with apish displays of force.
But while Bush and Co. strut and swagger with tough Cold War talk aimed at Russia, their ongoing destruction of the American Republic continues unabated -- assisted, as it has been every step of the way, by the very institutions that are meant to preserve American liberty and keep a check on tyranny.
Winter Patriot has the goods on a recent federal court ruling that absolves all government personnel of guilt for any crime they may commit on the public payroll. As WP notes, the ruling goes beyond the "Nuremberg defense" favored by Nazis and accomplices in crime and atrocity the world over -- "I was only following orders" -- to add a whole new line of justification: "I was only giving orders."
The ruling, by Appeals Court Chief Judge David Sentelle -- a long-time right-wing apparatchik -- must be seen to be believed. As Reuters reports:
Government employees who engage in questionable acts, such as abusing prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facility or engaging in defamatory speech, cannot be held individually liable if they are carrying out official duties, the court said.
"The conduct, then, was in the defendants' scope of employment regardless of whether it was unlawful or contrary to the national security of the United States," Appeals Court Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the opinion.
WP's excellent analysis of the ruling and its implications should be read in full. But here is a taste, from his conclusion:
So let's recap, shall we? A Federal court has ruled that some of the highest officials in our government are not accountable for their acts of treason, mass murder, war crimes, and crimes against humanity -- not because they were following orders (for surely some of them, especially Karl Rove and Dick Cheney [photo], were giving the orders); not because they thought they were doing something righteous or Blessed by God; but simply because they held positions in the United States government -- regardless of the fact that these actions violated the most serious federal and international laws, regardless of the fact that they all knew their actions were deeply illegal, and regardless of the fact that they were never legitimately elected to those government positions in the first place -- or legitimately re-elected in the second place.
Furthermore, the court decrees, this immunity applies not only to the principals in this case but to all manner of American government officials committing all manner of horrific crimes -- including torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Did you get that? Do you finally get it now?
And these are the people who preach to the world about democracy and freedom and rule of law.
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This story was published on August 14, 2008.