Friday, 15 August 2008

Georgia: what's in their minds?

War is, by any reasonable definition, an ugly business. But its grotesque human consequences are regularly shrouded and clouded by the dual language of the political elite and their media proxies.

Beyond the sanctimonious denunciation of Russia's presence in Georgia, this less palatable truth remains: a despotic Washington satellite, brought to power in a CIA-backed coup, has acted on instruction of its patrons to promote 'strategic conflict' in the Caucasus.

The current crisis is also an object lesson in how Western politicians and their satellite media respond in synchronised fashion. Thus, while David Miliband, Jim Murphy and other New Labour clones beautify Georgia as a 'bullied little democracy', the BBC spotlights claims of Russian 'atrocities' in Gori, asking, in partisan tones, when the tanks will depart Georgia. In stark contrast to the chorus citing Russian aggression, the actions of Georgia's leader, Mikhail Saakashvili, have been conveniently muted.

In a welcome departure from other Guardian posturings, the paper's Seumas Milne puts the issues in proper perspective:

"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.

"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.

"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. That a stronger 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. If so, it has spectacularly backfired, at savage human cost."
So, what lies in the minds of those behind this doomed attack on South Ossetia? Three words underlie US-Georgian motives for this seemingly crazy action: provocation, destabilisation and escalation.

As Michel Chossudovsky's excellent analysis shows, 'plucky little Georgia' has been involved in a wanton act of mass killing, designed by their Washington planners, all with calculated intent:

"US-NATO military and intelligence planners invariably examine various "scenarios" of a proposed military operation-- i.e. in this case, a limited Georgian attack largely directed against civilian targets, with a view to inflicting civilian casualties. The examination of scenarios is a routine practice. With limited military capabilities, a Georgian victory and occupation of Tskhinvali, was an impossibility from the outset. And this was known and understood to US-NATO military planners.

"A humanitarian disaster rather than a military victory was an integral part of the scenario. The objective was to destroy the provincial capital, while also inflicting a significant loss of human life. If the objective were to restore Georgian political control over the provincial government, the operation would have been undertaken in a very different fashion, with Special Forces occupying key public buildings, communications networks and provincial institutions, rather than waging an all out bombing raid on residential areas, hospitals, not to mention Tskhinvali's University."
With their systematic dismissal of international law, most notably, of course, in Iraq, Bush and Cheney have fuelled the potential for blatant unilateral invasions and coups around the globe. Thus, while Saakashvili feels licensed to act with impunity, at his sponsor's direction, condemnation of Medvedev's/Putin's military response and 'delayed' presence in Georgia is ringing increasingly hollow.

Despite having signed a bilateral agreement on NATO protocols, Georgia is not an official partner. The now almost-free movement of Russian tanks around Georgia provides the immediate rationale for Georgia to become a formal part of the NATO club. Signing-up would provide full-member 'cover' to Tblisi and an expanded presence for the US/NATO in a key outpost with a vital oil pipeline and Western-laden arms and surveillance infrastructure.

But, as Chossudovsky shows, the US-NATO-Israeli axis is also about ratcheting-up tension in the region as part of a deepening strategy to break Iran. Israel itself is now a firmly-established and central player in this game plan to control the Caucasus' oil and gas rich resources. It's supply of arms and high-tech equipment to Georgia, coupled with its military advisers to Tblisi, illustrates the kind of quid pro quo relationships Israel is forging in relation to its own border agenda, not least, of course, in securing support for its 'peace demands' with the Palestinians. And Iran has become a critical target in that geopolitical and energy-securing project.

All this should be reasonably apparent to a 'professional' media supposedly dedicated to imparting context and truth. But where are we likely to hear from the BBC that the forging of US-Georgian-Israeli interests serves a geopolitical purpose in expanding the Western political, arms and energy complex? Where is the analyses showing that the fomenting of conflict and instability is really about serving military 'needs' and the 'stability' of selected oil profiteers?

But there's another kind of gross omission here: any true media reading and dissemination of the human politics.

So much of this is legitimated and filtered through the supposed 'hard analysis' of foreign affairs journalism, a 'sober vernacular' complemented by political, academic and other policy-informed, 'realist' discourse. Military correspondents, arms experts and defence commentators weigh-up the relative strengths of each sides' 'capabilities.' Maps are pored-over, while people become demographic statistics. Weapon stockpiles and the latest tank design are given fetish-like attention, encouraging viewer fascination. Mark Urban's in his glory. The logistical becomes the story.

The plight of civilians is, of course, covered. But still in a mainly number-counting way; a cost-accounting take on the conflict. And, of course, the human cost factor is always inversely-related to how the BBC and its political peers view the victimised state or people in question.

Rarely do we hear the issue primarily contextualised as the madness of war and the despicable actions of the powerful. It's glaringly obvious that Bush et al are up to their necks in planning and executing this villainy. The Russians have also shown their own readiness for ruthless life-taking here, in Chechnya and elsewhere. Again, the political and media response varies according to which particular villain 'we' support. Yet, state-directed murder is still treated, in generic terms, as, somehow, the respectable prerogative of state leaders.

Bush, Cheney, Saakashvili, Olmert and their political coteries all conspired to initiate a military action which, by any rational logic, they knew couldn't be won and which would lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians.

Bush sat in his seat at the opening day of the Beijing Games, having handed-down a sermon on China's human rights record (the hypocrisy should have wowed the media as much as the opening ceremony) almost certainly knowing that a bloodbath was about to unfold that very same day in South Ossetia.

What, one wonders, lurks in such minds? It's a dark question, with serious psychological import. Yet, in similar 'couch-probing' vein, what can we say about a system of politics and its media messengers that gives formal respect to such psychopaths – a term offered here in its common usage, but which could never be contemplated in addressing or describing 'our' dutiful, if 'mistaken', leaders. Saddam and Karadzic, yes. Bush, Cheney and Blair, don't be absurd.

It all points-up the need for a more humane politics and a recasting of the journalism used to read it. One which begins from an analysis of care and compassion for the lost and suffering rather than a fascination for the bombs and armaments lined-up to inflict such misery. A politics and reportage ready to indict and denounce 'our' warmongering crazies as well as 'theirs'. A media concerned with exposing the 'ethical' contortions of Bush, Brown and their fellow hypocrites in a dutiful, dual effort towards journalistic integrity and peaceful resolutions for those oppressed by politicians in respectable suits. An encouragement of zenpolitics before a career in geopolitics.


1 comment:

John Hilley said...

Another informative critique here: