19 August 2008

Why was Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili so stupid to start this war?

This is the question being asked.

The answers range from 'Saakashvili was mad to go and bomb a town in the middle of the night' (I mean just check out these videos on YouTube to see whether Saakashvili is a nutter or not - looks pretty serious whatever his problem is...

to 'Saakashvili and Russia were both set up' by a neo-con plot to put McCain in the White House.

This is all part of the 'New Great Game', the battle to control Caspian Sea hydro-carbon resources and its outlets to the West - controlled by the West, or as Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar, a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service (his assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey) puts it over at the Asia Times: "The geopolitics of energy lies at the core of the conflict in the Caucasus". The geopolitics of energy is otherwise also called: petro-politics.

Published in 1997, Brzezinski's 'The Grand Chessboard' helps to understand the mindset of American ruling elites. One only has to go to Chapter 5, suitably entitled 'The Eurasian Balkans' to read "In Europe, the word 'Balkans' conjures up images of ethnic conflicts and great-power regional rivalries. Eurasia, too has its 'Balkans', but the Eurasian Balkans are much larger, more populated, even more religiously and ethnically heterogeneous."

Bzezinski explains that while the Eurasian Balkans are "truly reminiscent of the older, more familiar Balkans of southeastern Europe...they tempt and invite the intrusion of more powerful neighbours, each of whom is determined to oppose the region's domination by another."

Brzezinski describes it as "a potential geopolitical prize" (see Peter Fainton's blog for an excellent description of Geopolitics and the Heartland Theory and Oil - The New “Great Game),.

However, Brzezinski goes much further stating: "But the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals, including gold.""

There is even a subheading in Chapter 5 "The Ethnic Cauldron", so elite planners in the US are very aware of the ethnic problems in the region.

There is another interesting view that deserves to be included in the mix of reasons (incidents are caused when various different elements all come into play at the same time): this was an attempt at 'ethnic cleansing'.

I first came across this theory in the Media Lens Forum, from a piece posted by the Editors forwarded "to us on August 11 by Ed Herman who had received it from Noam Chomsky with this brief note attached: "Attaching an interesting piece, from someone I don't know, but seems sensible." "

Sergey Alekseyev, the author of the piece writes: "Saakashvili's central goal is not to win - it is to drive as many Ossetians out of South Ossetia as possible (and kill some in the process). The nighttime first-strike usage of area-attack Grad systems against Tskhinvali, the quick withdrawal of Georgian troops once Russia entered the conflict, the almost instant Saakashvili request for ceasefire after their attack, are very clear indications for that. There are only about 70000 or so Ossetians actually left in South Ossetia after the repressions of the '91 war led to massive refuge streams into North Ossetia. With 30000 of them having fled the same direction already now, more sure to follow if the fighting continues, and the capital in ruins, Saakashvili can be fairly certain that South Ossetia as an ethnic province will simply cease to exist - thus solving all Georgian problems with it. It is just plain and simple ethnic cleansing. Soon, there will simply be no point for Russia to defend this foreign territory - when no Russian citizens will even live there anymore...the whole conflict undoubtedly serves as a good measuring stick for the Pentagon planners behind Saakashvili for the ability of the Russian military to respond to such events...Another potential goal of his may be to counter his recent drop in inner-Georgian popularity and the weak results and poll falsification accusations for the 2008 election, which is not so different from the old US strategy of inciting external conflicts to distract from deficiencies in inner politics. "

Must be Russian, I hear you mutter.

But this point of view is backed up by Charles King, Ion Ratiu Professor of Romanian Studies and Professor of International Affairs in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He's also the author of several books on the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe and has an op-ed in this morning's Christian Science Monitor regarding the conflict between Georgia and Russia. In an interview with Glen Greenwald over at Salon.com, Profesor King states

"Well, I think there is some doubt about who fired first, who moved first, and certainly what was in the mind of President Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, that would have pushed him towards some sort of all-out assault on South Ossetia, this secessionist province that was at the core of this dispute. Really, for the last six months or so, folks in the United States who have been watching this, and in Europe, who's been watching developments in Georgia, have been very worried that Georgia would seek some sort of military solution to the secessionist struggles that have been plaguing the country now for the better part of two decades. And what seems to have happened is that Georgia decided to move quickly and decisively, hoping I think that they would be able to take South Ossetia and that Russia would be unable or unwilling to respond.
Again, I think there was probably a degree of miscalculation and miscommunication in fact between Georgia and the United States.
Georgia for a long time, and in fact Georgians and the political elite and elsewhere have talked about an incident now 13 years ago, but 13 years ago actually this month in August, something called Operation Storm, when the Croatian military moved into a region of its own territory called the Krajina, to oust a local secessionist Serb entity. That military operation went forward with a green light from the United States after the Croatian army had in fact been trained and equipped by the United States military, succeeded.
Now, it lead to about, hundreds of thousands of Serbs being pushed out of the area, but it allowed Croatia to reassert control over its own territory, it lead directly to the agreement, the Dayton Accords on Bosnia, and I think the Georgians had become convinced that if they could do this kind of lightning strike, and succeed, they would create a situation on the ground that the Russians would have a very difficult time countering. In the end the Georgians did not succeed militarily and now we're seeing the result of that failure

I recommend reading or listening to whole interview.

As Prof. King points out when we look back at Operation Storm we can see that the Croatian Amy was "trained and equipped by the United States military". This is what has happened in Georgia too, with the Georgian Army having just finished military exercises with the US.

Silber & Little, who recount the establishment narrative of the break-up of Yugoslavia appointing blame entirely to the Serbs and whose book was sometimes used verbatim by the Milosevic prosecution at the ICTY, wrote:

"For international consumption, the Croatian government would make great play of appealing to the Krajina Serbs to stay in their homes and live as citizens of Croatia. But these appeals did little to mask the real ambitions of the Croatian government., which was to drive the Serbs out of Croatia altogether and resettle the land they had lived on for centuries with Croats from elsewhere. After the fall of Knin, Tudjman even said this publicly, calling for Croats from the diaspora to return...Croation troops outnumbered the Serb defenders by five to one. It was not only the numerical superiority that favoured the Croats. It was a military expertise that could only have been derived from their increasingly congenial relations with the United States...Colonel Leslie, of the UN garrison at Knin, recognised the strategy immediately the Croats moved in Bosnia: 'It was a textbook operation, though not a JNA textbook. Whoever wrote that plan of attack culd have gone to any NATO staff college in North America or Western Europe and scored an A-plus.' Western governments turned a blind eye to the shelling. The diplomatic acquiescence in the storming of western Slavonia in May had, in effect, given Croatia the green light to take Krajina by force...It was the first stage in what would become, during the next few days the biggest single forcible displacement of people in Europe since the Second World War. Colonel Leslie estimated...'Knn fell from 35,000-40,000 to around 500 or 600 in less than twenty-four hours.'...The Croatian media broadcast details of safe routes though which the Serbs could leave for Serb-held parts of Bosnia...there was little doubt in the minds of those on the receiving end of Croatian artillery that the attack had more than a military objective...The Croatian army began hitting the very road that the refugees, escorted in places by UN troops, were using to flee into neighboring Bosnia...But the Croats had re-armed with the help of the West. Retired US generals helped them plan their operation. NATO was on side too. In fact, during Operation Storm, on August 4, NATO warplanes bombarded Serb communications sytems, ostensibly because the Serb radar had locked on to NATO jets. NATO airpower, in effect, joined forces with the Croatian army in support of Operation Storm. Western politicians kept quiet....The Croatians embarked on an officially sanctioned campaign of burning and looting which damaged over 20,000 houses owned by Serbs. During the weeks that followed, well after the Croatian army was firmly in control of the territory, elderly Serbs were still being killed. "We are still finding the bodies dumped on the roadside each morning." one UN official said more than two months later. "Elderly Serbs who stayed behind during Operation Storm are still being killed every day." In February 1994, American envoys had offered Tudjman a straight choice: abandon your war against the Muslims of Bosnia, and we, the US, will back your plans to take Krajina...Zagreb and Washington signed a pact on military co-operation."
(Silber & Little, 'The Death of Yugoslavia', Penguin Books/BBC Books 1996, pp. 356-360)

Further proof of US involvement in the ethnic cleansing of Croatia appears in Diana Johnstone's Fools Crusade in her account of the Gospic massacre of 1991 - ignored by Western media obviously - and which was "the first massacre carried out as a deliberate act of 'ethnic cleansing', designed to frighten the Serb population of Croata into fleeing":

"Agim Çeku, reportedly played a leading role in betraying the JNA garrison to the Croatian seperatists, this depriving local Serbs of protection...Çeku joined the new Croatian army and rose to high rank. In 1995, after undergoing training by "retired" US military officers on contract to the Zagreb Defense Ministry, Çeku helped command "Operation Storm" which emptied Krajina of its Serb population. Çeku gained a fearful reputation by leading particularly brutal massacres of Serbs in the Lika region."

The note here in the book quotes Christian Jennings of The Scotsman of 03 March 2001 "The Croats were trained for 'Operation Storm' by the Virginia-based Military Professionals Resources Incorporated (MPRI), described as an 'outfit of former US marines, helicopter pilots, and special forces teams', which went on to train first the Kosovo Albanan rebels and then their adversaries in the Macedonian army."

It should also be noted that during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, the chronology was as follows:

July 1990 - First Slovenia and then Croatia declare the "sovereignty" of their republican laws over Yugoslav federal laws.

21 Deecember 1990 - Croatia adopts a new constitution granting itself the right to secede from Yugoslavia.

23 December 1990 Slovene independence referendum shows 95% support for independence.

January 1991 onward Yugoslavia repeatedly instructed by the US and EC that the use of force by the JNA (Yugoslav Federal Army) internally for any purpose was unnacceptable.

12 May 1991 Krajina Serbs hold referendum on whether to "remain part of Yugoslavia with...others who want to preserve Yugoslavia." 90% vote to "remain part of Yugoslavia"

25 June 1991 The republics of Slovenia and Croatia declare their independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Armed clashes begin in both republics.

27 June 1991 Krajina Serbs declare the existence of an independent republic of Serb Krajina.

(Source: The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Glossary)by Edward S Herman & David Peterson October 2007 Monthly Review)

October 1991 Gospic massacre

So, to recap, we know that in Georgia, the political elite were talking about the 'Krajina solution' to South Ossetia. We know that Krajina was ethnically cleansed of Serbs from that area in a well-planned attack whose aim was ethnic cleansing, and the Croatian army was supplied and trained by the Americans and NATO, including the tactics.

We also know that the Georgian army has been trained and equipped by the US. We also know that it has been trained and equipped by the Israelis, the masters of ethnic cleansing. We know the Georgians launched an attack on South Ossetia.

The conclusions are obvious.

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