Sunday, August 10, 2008

Spin, Tragedy, Spin !

As the whole world now knows, there’s a state of war between Georgia and the Russian Federation. The Bush Administration, unsurprisingly, is calling upon Russia to stop its unwarranted, savage aggression of a sovereign country. And of course, most of the western capitals are following suit. Of course.

The Big Bad Russian Bear is on a rampage. What are free, democratic and civilized countries to do, but rally to the defense of the poor, gentle David being trampled under evil Goliath’s mighty foot?

What else can we do, when evil Russian Commies^H^H^H^H^H^H ooops, erm, bad guys are threatening the free world? What, I ask you? Parallels with the cold war are drawn, with the invasion of Czechoslovakia…a general recasting of the cold war and its “Communist menace upon the free world”(*) is being re-enacted before our eyes, courtesy of the TV networks, kindly fed by governmental agencies.

One thing is true in all this: there’s a war going on there, and as in all wars, those who’re paying the price are the innocent, the civilians, played as pawns on the chessboards by people who have no soul, no heart, and no dignity. No honor.

As for the rest…if you read the newspapers, if you listen for dissonant voices, you’ll get quite another story. And if you strain your memory, and focus on remembering news that are now around 4 years old, you’ll start wondering.

So, let’s go back 4 years. In Georgia, the elections renew the presidential mandate of Mr. Saakashvili. However, his election was a very close thing, instead of the plebiscite he’d been hoping for. Who’s Mr. Saakashvili? Well, again, focus on the past, and you’ll remember this man came straight from the US, so closely intertwined with the US interests that there was no hiding he was a US creature. He was first elected because people believed his American connections would help rebuild their country, depleted by generations of USSR rule. But this didn’t happen. Saakashvili used his contacts and connections to get American and Israeli instructors for his military…oh, and weapons and equipment as well, of course.

In the meantime, as these things go, and went in the Balkans, regions of Georgia where a majority of Russian population lived started wanting out of Georgia, for many reasons: growing intolerance toward them, toward their language, etc. Obviously, there’s oil in there somewhere as well. If there wasn’t, you’d never have had the US send military instructors and waste time on such a “backwater” place as Georgia. So, Abkhazia and South Ossetia severed themselves from Georgia. South Ossetia declared independence. There was strife, there were battles. The UNO settled the matter, and Russian peace soldiers were sent to the South Ossetia region under UNO mandate.

Time passed. The promises of riches of Mr. Saakashvili didn’t happen. People started grumbling, discontent flared. To be re-elected in 2004, Mr. Saakashvili promised he’d retake Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He played on nationalism. And he won. Narrowly. We were now almost to the end of his presidential term. None of the promises of regaining lost territory had been kept. People’s discontent caused this “democratic leader” to start taking authoritarian measures, to turn democratic Georgia into an autocratic state. Still, it wasn’t enough to crack down on freedom there. Promises had to be kept, at least one of them. Abkhazia was too difficult to retake. South Ossetia, on the other hand….

And then came the Olympics, and the opening ceremony. And the world’s eyes turned toward China. And Mr. Saakashvili decided to play his card: he sent his army to retake South Ossetia. His hope was that the world’s attention being focused elsewhere, Vladimir Putin being in Beijing, by the time Russia would react, it would be too late: he’d have retaken enough of the South Ossetia region to force negotiations, truce, and to haggle his way into regaining South Ossetia as a whole.

But there were two mistakes in Mr. Saakashvili’s plan (never mind that it would imply the deaths of innocent civilians, after all, martyrs are good things for a cause):
  • he underestimated Russia’s capacity to react quickly, and the fact that even though Putin was in Beijing, his right arm was in Moscow.
  • Mr. Saakashvili’s army was stupid enough to kill Russian peace soldiers, there under a UNO mandate, thus forcing the hand of Russia. Even if Russia had wished to delay its reaction, the death of its soldiers forced it to react at once as it has done.

And so here we are. We’re watching a war unfold. We’re watching innocent being murdered, because a man, pawn of the US and “champion of democracy”, is a dictator like all the others, and will not relinquish power. Because his own people are nothing but chess pieces, because Mr. Saakashvili knew that once he started the mess, the bloodshed in South Ossetia, all his western allies would rally, the US first and foremost among them, to call off the Big Bad Russian Bear. There’s too much at stake:
  • appearances, first. After all, Mr. Saakashvili is the US champion and a very tainted flag of democracy (but it doesn’t matter, as long as the American citizens remain ignorant of the truth of what’s happening in South Ossetia).
  • oil, second. Because the Caspian sea is to Georgia’s East, while the Black sea is to Georgia’s West. And it’s a crucial path to get oil from the Caspian sea to the Mediterranean sea and the West, through the Black sea. A path that avoids Russia.

There, now you have the whole picture. People are dying, innocent people, for the power of a dictator hiding between a veneer of democracy that’s so ripped and stained everyone can see through it, and also for oil. And Mr. Saakashvili and his goons started it, Russia continued it. And people are dying. As always, the innocent pay the price for war. As always, none of the two sides are innocent. There’s no black and white. Everyone is at fault.

And now that a power-hungry autocrat named Saakashvili has foolishly rattled the Big Bad Russian Bear, and given a it the perfect pretext to come playing in Georgia, where will it stop? Where will Russia stop, now that it's been invited in to play, and that it's standing inches away from gaining not only South Ossetia but also Abkhazia? and what if Ukraine starts wanting to play as well, and starts rattling the Big Bad Bear some more by threatening to prevent the return of its warships to Sebastopol? Where does it stop, Mr. Saakashvili? Where? When? How many deaths for your ambition? It's oh, so very nice to shout that you're ready to negotiate a cease-fire, and that your troops are withdrawing out of Ossetia. It's too late. And you knew it would be. You knew, and yet you gambled. You played with your pawns, with people's lives. And you might as well have killed them all yourself. And all that happens from now on, all the pain, all the damage, all the sorrow, all that will be on your bill, Mr. Saakashvili. I hope you'll be ready when they come to collect.

But then, maybe this isn’t important. After all, the Olympics have started, and what matters is the number of gold medals we get, right? Not the dead. Not the maimed. Not the raped. Not the freedom of Chinese people. Not the respect of Chinese people who were put to work to build the Olympics facilities for wages so low you wouldn’t live a day off them, and then chased away because they’d stain the games if the tourists or the athletes, or the world laid eyes upon them. The Earth’s damned. We had them in the 19th century. China has them now, and it keeps them fettered, in close control. After all, they’re the key of its economic miracle. Slaves, serfs, are the key of capitalism’ success. But then, there’s nothing new here.

Good night, and good luck.

(*) when you compare the harm, grief, sorrow, deaths caused by the “Communist menace” and those caused by the overwhelming, crushing rise of unfettered capitalism and neo-liberalism, I find myself hard put to get a winner in terms of damage, pain and evil. One (the “Communist” thingy) was openly dictatorial, sent its people to gulags and tortured or killed them if they didn’t comply. The other (capitalism) has selected a few nations to be on top, happy, free and rich thanks to the sweat, blood, pain and death of billions of other people. These other people aren’t deported to gulags. They’re starved in their own countryside, until they’re forced to march to where factories are, than forced to accept labor conditions only slaves and serfs of the middle-ages knew. Those other people die before they reach retirement (and anyway there’s no pension for them, no doctors, no health care, nothing). Their kids are put to work as well, be it in factories or brothels. And we prosper. So, really, when comparing, I don’t know which is worse between the two evils that are Communist dictatorships and triumphant capitalism—wait, no I think I know what’s worse: a power that combines both.

That’s China.

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