The River

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

South Ossetia victim of war crimes

I have to go back to the U.S. media coverage of Georgia. It is indicative of a system that can alter public consciousness at will, and will do so to whitewash the crimes of the state. (Sept. 11, anyone?)

To cover their ass, organs such as the Washington Post will publish the occassional truthtelling piece on its editorial pages. But to let something so passe as truth inform their reporting (what little there is), that would be counter to state interest. One must stay in lock step to the (corporate) party line, even if it means reliquishing your humanity.

Here's Mikhail Gorbachev laying down the truth in the Washington Post on August 12:

What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against "small, defenseless Georgia" is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.

And here's an excerpt of a good piece by Justin Raimondo at

Mikheil Saakashvili: War Criminal

A politician's hubris causes untold human suffering

by Justin Raimondo


Amid all the geopolitical analyses and ideological posturing on the occasion of the Three-Day War between Russia and Georgia, we are losing sight of the very real human costs of this conflict: thousands of civilians killed and grievously wounded, a city, Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, in ruins, and the hopes and dreams of the inhabitants of this largely overlooked backwater dashed on the rocks of a politician's hubris.

That politician is Mikheil Saakashvili, the all too glib president of Georgia, whose slickness is so apparent that it seems to leave an oily residue on every word he utters. The decidedly apolitical, non-ideological Web site Reliefweb put it this way:

"The place that has suffered most is South Ossetia which is home to both ethnic Ossetians and Georgians, the latter accounting for about a third of the population. The destruction there has been appalling and it looks as though many hundreds of civilians have died, in the first place as a result of the initial Georgian assault of August 7-8. Gosha Tselekhayev, an Ossetian interpreter in Tskhinvali with whom I spoke by telephone on August 10 said, 'I am standing in the city center, but there's no city left.'

"Ossetians fleeing the conflict zone talk of Georgian atrocities and the indiscriminate killing of civilians."

They may be talking of Georgian atrocities, but we in the West have not heard them – nor will we, given the bias of our media, which is in thrall to the Georgia lobby and its U.S. government sponsors. The "mainstream" has already settled on a narrative to explain events in the Caucasus, and nothing short of a South Ossetian holocaust will wake them from their hypnotic state. The Russians, in their view, have got to be the bad guys, i.e., the aggressors. Anything that doesn't fit into that storyline is cut from the script. Yet, as Reliefweb reports:

"On August 7, after days of shooting incidents in the South Ossetian conflict zone, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made a speech in which he said that he had given the Georgian villagers orders not to fire, that he wanted to offer South Ossetia 'unlimited autonomy' within the Georgian state, with Russia to be a guarantor of the arrangement.

"Both sides said they were discussing a meeting the next day to discuss how to defuse the clashes.

"That evening, however, Saakashvili went for the military option. The Georgian military launched a massive artillery attack on Tskhinvali, followed the next day by a ground assault involving tanks.

"This was a city with no pure military targets, full of civilians who had been given no warning and were expecting peace talks at any moment."

As if to underscore the utter indifference of Western media to the suffering of anyone politically incorrect enough to be pro-Russian, CNN broadcast footage of war-torn Tskhinvali even as its news announcer solemnly "reported" that the Russians were wreaking devastation on a city in Georgia proper, a classic case of the Orwellian media manipulation techniques that pass for journalism in the West. An unintended irony: the footage was a few feet from the spot where Russian peacekeepers had been slaughtered, the first victims of the Georgian assault. Or was it intended?

The tragicomic aspects of this media-induced cognitive dissonance came to the fore on Fox News the other day, when the announcer was interviewing a 12-year-old American girl who happened to be sitting in a café in Tskhinvali when Georgian bombs started raining down on her head. The announcer's eyebrows shot up when the girl thanked the Russian soldiers. After the girl and her aunt finished their recounting of Georgian atrocities, the announcer capped off his report by intoning: "There are gray areas in war."

UPDATE: I was going to say something about media adherence to a narrative in this post. Clicked on the latest piece by Justin and, well check it out: The Narrative Versus the News: Journalism in the age of perpetual war

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