Propaganda from Georgia and Russia

According to Der Spiegel, both Russia and Georgia have made extensive use of misinformation since the conflict began:

How truth lost the war (‘Wie die Wahrheit den Krieg verlor’)

The two most important points:

Russia claimed that the Georgians had killed 1,500 people in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali and turned 98 percent of the city into ruins during their initial assault. Yet, the field hospital near Alagir [in North Ossetie, Russia], where almost all wounded Russians and South Ossetians were brought to, accepted only about a dozen of them that night.

Georgia had claimed that Russian tanks were advancing towards the Georgian capital Tbilisi. But on Tuesday evening, there were still no tanks to be seen around the city, when the Russian President announced an end to the fighting

(I had to correct my initial translation in one point due to a misunderstanding, please see the update below).

Der Spiegel also refers to an article in the Moscow Times:

Russian television is flush with footage of misery left by the Georgian assault in the separatist district of South Ossetia, but few, if any, reports mention Russia’s bombing of Georgia.

William Dunbar, a correspondent in Georgia for English-language state channel Russia Today, mentioned the bombing in a report Saturday, and he has not gone on air for the station since.

“I had a series of live, video satellite links scheduled for later that day, and they were canceled by Russia Today,” he said by telephone from Tbilisi on Sunday. “The real news, the real facts of the matter, didn’t conform to what they were trying to report, and therefore, they wouldn’t let me report it.

“I felt that I had no choice but to resign,” he added.

Update: In my original translation, I had written about a field hospital near Tskhinvali, for the wording in the article had led me to believe that Alagir is located near the city. But in fact, Alagir is located in North Ossetia, Russia. This article from Reuters also would suggest that casualties are far lower than reported.

Georgia tries to regain South-Ossetia, risks war with Russia

Earlier today, Georgia attacked South-Ossetia in order to regain this separatist province. This will probably lead to war between Russia and Georgia, and Georgia is already claiming that Russian jets have bombed Georgian targets. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has vowed to retaliate against Georgia, for some Russian soldiers have allegedly been killed, and besides, most South-Ossetians have Russian citizenship.

The independence of South-Ossetia from Georgia is not internationally recognized, and neither are the referenda in which the overwhelming majority of South-Ossetians voted for said independence. Btw, North-Ossetia is a part of Russia.

We’ll have to see how this develops, but this might become very bad, if very recent history is anything to go by. Another separatist Georgian province is Abkhasia. In 1993, the Abkhasians won their own war against Georgia with some outside help. The non-Abkhasian population fled or was ethnically cleansed. Up to 10,000 people died, and up to 300,000 were forced into exile. There also is no telling how far Putin might go; the Second Chechen War also has been very bloody.

Meanwhile, some historical background (and very convoluted background at that):

The history of Georgia

The history of South-Ossetia

Also, don’t miss the Georgian Affair from 1922, it shows just how complicated things are in the Caucasus region, and no, nobody there thinks that there should be some kind of statute of limitations on revenge, claims to independence or respectively the reconstitution of former statehood as it had been in centuries past.

Update: Russian troops have entered South-Ossetia, two Russian jets have reportedly been shot down.

Update II: Now Abkhasia (or Abkhazia) is threatening to open a second front against Georgia
Their foreign minister points out that Abkhasia was forcibly integrated into the Georgian Soviet Republic when Stalin, a Georgian, led the Soviet Union.

R.I.P. – Alexander Solzenitzen

Solzhenitsyn’s toughness and courage can not be doubted; his death at 89 takes us back to the tragedies to which his voice gave witness and the courage that voice took to be heard.  A discussion of the way religious mysticism led him to both anti-semitism and a criticism of the liberal values we revere is discussed in Ilya Somin’s obituary on Volokh.  On the other hand, Steiner (and Applebaum’s analysis of him) is discussed at Judd Brothers, as are links to other remembrances.  Of course, A&L does this well. 


Read more

The Sermon to the Germans

Obama’s sermon to the Germans has been much discussed in the blogosphere. In this post, I’d like to focus on one thread of the speech: Obama’s words about the Berlin Airlift:

Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust – not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.

Actually, of course, a very large number of bombs had been dropped on Berlin and other German cities, just a few years earlier. Americans were in Berlin at all only due to the application of military force, without which, Berlin would have continued to be a Nazi city–and one in which a Barack Obama, if he were allowed to continue living at all, would certainly not have been allowed to give a political speech.

And Berlin–along with the rest of West Germany–avoided Soviet invasion and domination only because of American military force. The unarmed transport planes that supplied Berlin would not have survived had the Soviets not been aware of the armed fighters and bombers–and nuclear weapons–that were in American possession.

Read more