Russian activists call for international law

by Greg Moses

OpEdNews / Red State Rebels / Dissident Voice

First they called on Georgia to stop the military assault on South Ossetia, then they denounced Russian aggression in Georgia. Human rights activists in Russia are speaking up for peace and justice in the Caucasus region.

Writing for the August 11 edition of the Eurasia Daily Monitor, Jonas Bernstein reported that, “Some veteran Russian human rights activists have criticized Russia’s attack on Georgia unequivocally.” Bernstein sourced his report to the Russian news site grani.ru, which may be the most balanced news agency to report on the conflict.

Working backward from the reports at grani.ru, we find an August 7 statement posted at memo.ru, the website for the Memorial International Society founded by Sergei Kovalev. The statement was apparently composed in the first hours of military outbreak, while the Georgian army was advancing northward toward the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali.

The Memorial statement reminded readers that the territory of South Ossetia was officially under the peacekeeping purview of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

“Georgia, as an OSCE member, has an obligation to resolve conflicts with peaceful measures,” said the Memorial statement. “Restoring the territorial integrity of the government cannot be grounds for the dismissal of such responsibilities. War operations in South Ossetia should be rapidly halted. The path of negotiations will be long and difficult, but this is the only way can lasting peace be attained.”

Of course, the statement did not stop the Georgian attack, and Russia soon entered the battlefield of South Ossetia from the north.

As soon as Russia expanded its military operation beyond South Ossetia, Kovalev joined a coalition of human rights activists in Georgia to denounce the aggression in strong terms.

“We call for the immediate stop of aggression against Georgia,” said the statement of August 10, translated into English two days later by theotherrussia.org. “We consider that Russia’s leadership, having set another bloody stain to the country’s reputation, finally made its presence in the Group of Eight unacceptable from a moral point of view.”

On August 11, another statement denouncing Russian military actions came from a Russian opposition party led by Garry Kasparov.

“Today, it is short-sighted to concentrate solely on criticism of [Georgian President] Saakashvili,” said the statement by the United Civil Front (again translated by theotherrussia.org). “To demand an immediate cease-fire and start of talks is correct, but insufficient. If we want to eliminate the risk of repeating similar tragic situations in the future, the Russian authority must bear responsibility for its actions before its citizens.”

Kasparov’s party wants to hold Moscow accountable for longstanding policies that have served to perpetuate a conflict in South Ossetia.

“As a first step,” says the party statement, “the president and prime-minister would do well to explain why the government is issuing tens of thousands of Russian passports in the territory of a neighboring country, with which we maintain normal diplomatic relations? Why are the key posts in the South Ossetian government and security services occupied by career Russian civil servants and military personnel? Why, after an attack on Russian peacekeepers by the superior forces of the opponent in Tskhinvali, did the official establishment stand in a state of stupor for several hours, and didn’t rush to provide military assistance? What does the Kremlin want to achieve by escalating the conflict with Georgia and expanding the theater of military operations?”

These critical words from Russian human rights activists offer a framework for peace activism in the USA. As we read the Russian activists’ recollections of Russian mistakes and crimes, we may find ways to join grievances against the misadventures and illegalities of our own aggressive state.

As the USA prepares to introduce a militarized humanitarian mission into Georgia, the words of Russian dissidents apply: “Historical experience shows that the interference of our country in someone else’s affairs inevitably, and contrary to any claims of ‘assistance,’ leads to innumerable misfortunes.“

Isn’t there an eerie echo for American activists in the following paragraph by Russian human rights activists?

“The incursion into Afghanistan led to many years of unceasing widespread violence and human rights abuses, as well as flare-ups of war again and again. The historical development of Afghanistan turned completely around: from a secular government it turned into a theocratic one. The actions of the Soviet leadership led to a sharp rise in the popularity of Islamic fundamentalism not only in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan and Arab countries as well. (Remember the alliance between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda).”

As our nationalist media on both sides whip up the fighting spirit in terms of either/or, Russia or USA, the level voices of Russian activists remind us: “Politics not based on the principles of international law does not serve the true interests of the Russian people and can in no way work to resolve national-territorial conflicts in this region.”

From a perspective of USA peace activism, can’t we say “ditto” to much of this?

So this is what WWIII looks like?

By Greg Moses

OpEdNews / Dissident Voice

On Sunday Michel Chossudovsky reasoned that the US-backed attack on the capital of South Ossetia was designed to produce a humanitarian crisis. On Wednesday, President Bush declared that the US military would spearhead a humanitarian mission to Georgia, which the Russians had better not bother.

Now Chossudovsky is concluding that the South Ossetia operation, by putting Russian troops in check, is one last step in the encirclement of Iran. All pieces are practically in place for a blockade, including plans to use a warship from Brazil. The anti-Iran coalition, which is global and bi-partisan, will be considering the use of pre-emptive nuclear strike.

And because of Iran’s strained relations with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which continues to express worry about Iran’s “transparency and full disclosure,” Iran now finds itself not only encircled but virtually friendless.

Markets, they say, hate uncertainty. Since this is what WWIII looks like, Dow futures this morning were up.

But speaking of “transparency and full disclosure” where is the international agency that will demand an answer to this question: were the civilian populations of South Ossetia and Georgia deliberately sacrificed to achieve these military ends?

Who will unwind the nuclear spiral?

By Greg Moses

The USA President makes loud threats about how he’s going to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Yet last week in Iran’s back yard an American-backed invasion proved that a nuclear arsenal may be the only deterrent to war that the USA President truly respects.

If the people of the USA want a less dangerous world, let them first demand less dangerous leadership. As long as USA propagandists continue to drum up the image of Russia as the lone aggressor, we should not stop demanding that journalists pursue the
question of who stood behind last week’s provocative and bloody military incursion into South Ossetia.

Georgian soldiers returning from that failed invasion of South Ossetia were reportedly quite vocal in disappointment that the USA had not backed them up more forcefully. But why has the USA declined to get more involved?

According to retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, last week’s little war was the closest the world has come lately to nuclear combat.

“Let me just say,” said Col. Gardiner to Amy Goodman, “that if you were to rate how serious the strategic situations have been in the past few years, this would be above Iraq, this would be above Afghanistan, and this would be above Iran.”

On Col. Gardiner’s account, military strategists for the USA would have known that for the past two decades Russia has embraced a published policy that if they were ever directly threatened with an American-style assault of precision weapons, they would have to resort to a tactical nuclear response. Last week, the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia tested that policy up against the Russian border.

Sharing the widespread assumption of retreating Georgian soldiers, Russian strategists last week believed that the USA very likely “was going to intervene,” said Col. Gardiner. “At a news conference on Sunday, the [USA] deputy national security adviser said we have noted that the Russians have introduced two SS-21 medium-range ballistic missile launchers into South Ossetia.” And since those missile launchers could deliver tactical nukes, they became a very likely reason why further USA involvement has been deterred.

In other words, the armored push toward the Russian border was a kind of military dare: show us your nukes, or else! And, if I follow Col. Gardiner’s line of analysis, it was only Russia’s willingness to call that nuclear dare that saved South Ossetia from becoming one more lasting theater of reckless adventure backed by the USA.

True enough, Russia has done more than was necessary to repel the Georgian attack. They pushed back further than they had to. They killed more people than had to be killed for purposes of defending the attacked populations of South Ossetia (a population whose pain does not count for much in Western media reports – we have much preferred to share stories of the Georgians clear and present horror). In the end, however, the Russians have done less than they were dared to, because the military question put to them had virtually demanded a tactical nuclear answer.

Don’t count me opposed to condemning or prosecuting Russia’s military excesses this week; what the Georgians are suffering is wrong. Just make sure that any lineup for suspects of thuggerdom in Georgia begins with the smirking mug of the President of the USA for not discouraging in the strongest possible terms the Georgian military assault on the people of South Ossetia and their local militia.

In the end, thanks to our mainstream media, the lesson of South Ossetia remains quite hidden from the people of the USA. If we want a world where nuclear proliferation is less likely, we cannot settle for anything less than an immediate demand for leadership that will advance the world toward peace through peaceful means.

If democracy is as democracy does, then the people of the USA will have to lead their leaders in ways that will be marvelous to see.

CounterPunch Readers on South Ossetia

Responses to South Ossetia Question Marks

Excellently written, excellently phrased. I enjoyed this immensely. Thank you for writing it.

–Sunnyvale, CA

************

Sir, thanks for this commentary today.

As a former US Marine/Vietnam vet, I hope they start a vets against war group and stop any further expletive wars before the expletive politicians can start more wars.

If the US of A sends troops (where will they find them) to this new hell hole, there ought to be an armed revolution right here in America. Regardless of who is the idiot president or “decider” in chief. That means the expletive sell out Obama included there in.

Enough of wars. Tell the expletive Zionists if they bomb Iran, we will bomb them for their war crimes.

Pull out EVERY American military person from every foreign country. The ONLY exception would be the Marine guards at our embassies, as they are there for minimal security and show.

Just the personal opinion of an aged veteran of an earlier imperial war, who woke up today with more than the usual physical pain that I have lived with since 1989.

End ALL wars. NOW.

Thanks for your commentary sir. Thanks also for your time reading my humble (and not so polite) rant of a reply.

–Glenmora, LA

************

Nice job of press criticism! Thanks.

–Dallas, TX

************

excellent, thank you, my feelings exactly. I wrote to several “reporters/journalists” at nytimes this weekend telling them that they suck and should work for Fox.

Peace

–Montana

************

Great piece, but who else, other than me and you, are interested, concerned, and informed? Only if the masses get organized and energized will change be possible.

************

what we can expect is that georgia, the so-called ally of america, will now consider joining russia again, because they were betrayed by nato and the u.s. beautiful foreign policy again by the folks in washington.

************

I really wonder what can have been in the Georgian government’s mind. They know better than anyone that the Russian armed forces have all the information collected by their Soviet predecessors – and of course many of them are the same people – who were based in Georgia for decades. They must know every inch of ground, every defensive position, every building. And all the defence plans, too. The only thing the Russians lacked, and could not possibly get without helpful Georgian cooperation, was a provocation. So the Georgians gave them one – and how!

As for expecting US help, what form did they think that might take? Even Dubya would hardly threaten to nuke Moscow over something like this. Georgia, USA – maybe. Georgia, Asia – never. But what else? The US Navy cannot get at Georgia without going through the Black Sea. Ever wondered how one of those big CVNs would react to a nice big missile hit? I bet the Pentagon isn’t keen to find out.

Any long-range missile or bombing activity is ruled out with so many Georgians and Russians mixed up together – and all on Georgian territory now. So that leaves sending in the Army – or maybe the Marines. Excuse me while I roll around laughing helplessly. Those guys are all tied up not winning their wars against two impoverished, ruined Muslim countries with no regular armed forces to speak of. And besides, there is the distinct possibility the Russians would beat them, which again the Pentagon would not like to risk.

I attach a link to today’s cartoon (Aug. 12, 2008: “You and Whose Army?” by Morten Moreland) in The Times of London. Neat, huh? I think it sums things up pretty well.

Best wishes
Basingstoke, England

************

also see comments posted at Dissident Voice