Saturday, August 23, 2008
Are any US public figures or mainstream media asking whether Georgias Saakashvili was given a green light by US officials, White House intermediaries, or McCain intimates to attack North Ossetia?
Is there any evidence? Granted that the record shows mutual appreciation between Saakashvili and the current White House, and granted that McCains principal foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has been a paid lobbyist for Georgia, is there any evidence that the White House or McCains entourage [a] had prior knowledge of the forthcoming attack? [b] had an opportunity to counsel against it but did not do so? or [c] encouraged the attack? I have seen no such evidence. Let that be absolutely clear. But the question must be asked because responsible analysts are asserting, without adducing evidence, that there was either an explicit green light or an implicit wink & nod. Here are two examples from the Irish Times, a newspaper with serious European coverage and a high reputation for journalistic care.
[Condoleezza] Rice visited Tbilisi exactly four weeks before the war started, when some western residents of the capital suspect she gave Saakashvili the go-ahead. The French investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchâiné quotes French military intelligence as saying US advisers helped target Georgian mulitiple rocket launchers. [Note 1]
It is unclear who is deciding policy just now in Washington and Moscow. The US state department reportedly warned Georgian president Mikheil Saakasvilli against attacking South Ossetia, but that was not listened to. However, vice-president Dick Cheney and the hard-core Bush administration neo-conservatives spared no effort to encourage Saakashvili before hand . . .
The majority of EU governments believe the Tbilisi government, foolishly influenced by American neo-cons, fell into a carefully prepared Russian trap by launching its military offensive in South Ossetia. . . [Note 2]
These two quotes illustrate reliance on suspicion and belief, and even incompatible claims about US Department of State representations. This is not evidence. However, if Palmer is correct in summarising opinion among the majority of EU governments then it is important to establish, as best one can, what actually did or did not take place. To say did not reminds us of the enormous difficulty of establishing negatives in complex episodes.
Do you have germane evidence?
On 5 September 2008 EU foreign ministers ordered an inquiry into the onset of the August strife in Georgia. Press report:
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and other EU foreign ministers said an inquiry was needed to determine who was guilty of triggering the fighting and whether there were any human rights abuses during the five-day conflict. [Note 3]
Further Addendum [30 September 2009]
The New York Times reports [excerpts] that
MOSCOW — A much-anticipated European Union inquiry into the August 2008 war in Georgia concludes that Georgia ignited the conflict by attacking separatists in South Ossetia, but that Russia had provoked violence in the enclave for years and exploited its consequences.
The report finds no evidence that there was a Russian invasion under way on Aug. 7, when Georgia ordered the shelling of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. It says Georgia broke international law by using force against Russian peacekeepers stationed in the city, and that Russias army had legal grounds to defend the peacekeepers.
But the report says Russia went far beyond the reasonable limits of defense in undertaking a drive outside South Ossetia that violated international law and was not even remotely commensurate with the threat to Russian peacekeepers. [Note 4]
[Note 1] Lara Marlowe, Events in Georgia show Nato powerless to confront Russia, Irish Times, 22 August 2008.
 John Palmer, EU needs to find a way to close divide with eastern neighbours, Irish Times, 23 August 2008. Palmers is an op-ed piece; Palmer is not an Irish Times correspondent. He is, however, former European editor of the Guardian, now a visiting fellow at the Sussex European Institute, Sussex University.
 Associated Press. International Herald Tribune, 5 September 2008. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/09/05/europe/EU-Russia-Georgia.php
 Ellen Barry and James Kanter, European Report on Georgia War Faults Both Sides. The New York Times, 30 September 2009.
[Bruces Blog: 2008.08.23 Post: B01 Addendum: 2008.09.09. Further addendum: 2009.09.30. Short Link: P=25 Front Door Index: http://blog.learnworld.com Permalink: http://www.learnworld.com/BRUCE/uncategorized/❄-georgia/]