August 28th 2008 04:47:04 PM
Rather satirically, when the Russia-Georgia crisis erupted, John McCain and Barack Obama both interrupted their inconsequential campaigning to separately speak with Georgian President Saakashvili and call “for the protection of Georgian sovereignty.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice likewise demanded that Russia “respect Georgia’s territorial integrity.” But then, she recently cited secessionist Kosovo’s “territorial integrity” when ruling out any partition of the province — echoing, incidentally, one of the leaders of the UN-designated terrorist group Albanian National Army as well as Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu — both of whom we get our marching orders from. So Rice was citing “territorial integrity” in order to avoid giving Muslims anything less than the whole of the territory they demand from a sovereign state whose territorial integrity is precisely what we violated. Rice also demanded that NATO allies “punish” Russia.
Cheney chimed in on Ossetia as well, saying that Russian aggression in Georgia “must not go unanswered.” Which makes him yet another comedian, given that the Russia-Georgia conflict over South Ossetia is the answer to our aggression against Serbia. Cheney press secretary Lee Ann McBride added, “The vice president expressed the United States’ solidarity with the Georgian people…in the face of this threat to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
What makes this a satire even Jonathan Swift couldn’t top — and commentators have been pointing this out — is that in the South Ossetia scenario, Russia is doing nothing more than what NATO did when it swept into Kosovo to support separatist Albanians against a sovereign Serbia. There was no concern for a state’s sovereignty then, so for these loons to be defending sovereignty when sovereignty is precisely what they assaulted irreparably — paving the very way for Russia in South Ossetia and more — is preposterous. That they are not embarrassed to utter the word “sovereignty” defies decency.
The laughs kept coming, with a NATO spokesperson saying that no less than the NATO chief himself, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said he was “seriously concerned” about Russia’s “lack of respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia,” according to the UK Guardian. That would be the same NATO that bombed all of Serbia for cracking down on separatists in Kosovo in 1998-99.
Enter George W. Bush: “I was very firm with Vladimir Putin,” he told NBC Sports during the Olympics. “I expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia.” (Emphasis mine.) For good measure, he added that Russia can’t touch South Ossetia and Abkhazia because they lie within internationally recognized borders. I’ve met compulsive liars who are more consistent.
Saying we should avoid taking sides militarily, former secretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns offered the following punch line: “We must not be part of the redrawing of lines in Europe.” But the jester wasn’t through. He called Kosovar independence “fundamentally different” from South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence. Why? The answer came from special envoy to the Caucuses Matthew Bryza, whom the Washington Post recently reported was aware of the Georgian military operations before they started: “We support Georgia’s territorial integrity. That means that the leaders of the Abkhaz and South Ossetians are not on the same legal grounds as the democratically elected leaders of Georgia or the leader of Russia.”
You learn something new every day!
In a Dallas Morning News blog titled “Remember Kosovo?” writer Rod Dreher put it well:
I’m not going to defend Russia’s invasion of Georgia, but look: it’s more than a little rich for our UN ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, protesting Moscow’s aggression as an attempt at ‘regime change.’ So we’re against that now? How convenient. What’s more, I seem to recall that when Serbia moved militarily to prevent Kosovo from breaking away, NATO launched a military assault against Serbia, even bombing Belgrade, the Serbian capital. So on what moral grounds does the US object to Russia’s attacking Georgia allegedly to defend the breakaway status of South Ossetia?
One can actually trace the origins of our shifting rules for Balkan border integrity/national sovereignty — in addition to the rule that says whatever applies to everyone else doesn’t apply to Serbs — to the first Bush administration. Here is an excerpt from a February 1993 article in the Hamilton Spectator, a Toronto publication, titled “War Propagandists for Hire: Croatia, Bosnia use Western public relations firms to win support”:
All the combatants have hired Western firms to get their message out and portray the others as bloodthirsty killers. Jim Harff, president of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, which represents Kosovo and Croatia, says the public relations battle is as important as what’s happening on the ground.
Documents filed with the U.S. Justice Department show Croatia is paying Ruder Finn $10,000 a month plus expenses to present “a positive Croatian image to members of Congress, administration officials and the news media.”
Trying to counter public relations gains by their rivals, Serb representatives were canvassing Canadian firms this week, hoping to find a company willing to work for them despite the United Nations economic sanctions imposed on the country.
Ruder Finn, which has decades of experience in representing foreign governments in Washington, scored another coup in the final days of the Bush administration when the White House warned Belgrade it would not tolerate aggression against Kosovo.
“That was quite a change from the previous year when the emphasis was on the integrity of the borders. Getting (former secretary of state Lawrence) Eagleburger to name names and talk of war crimes trials was obviously a breakthrough,” says Mr. Harff, who had worked for three congressmen over an eight-year period. It is those kinds of successes, some of which could drag a third country into war, that encourage voiceless nations and factions to hire the lobbying pros.
But back to the current exposure of the artifice of U.S. foreign policy, namely South Ossetia. In the analogy that many have by now made (naturally, everyone is a genius now instead of when all this was still preventable for nine years) — and assuming one buys the Western-propagated storyline in Kosovo: Georgia is Serbia (except far less careful with civilian life than Serbia was as it rooted out terrorist separatists guilty of crimes greater than an Ossetian can even imagine), and Russia is NATO defending the ostensible underdog in the crackdown. One difference, however, is that Russia has actual national interest in such an action, particularly since Ossetians are Russian citizens, whereas the Albanians we were so compelled to “rescue” were Muslims assisted by bin Laden, and a horde with whom Americans have less in common than we do the aliens who visited Texas in January.
In another analogy, Georgia is behaving as Croatia did in the infamous, deadly ethnic cleansing Operation Storm, wherein Croatia decided it was going to forcefully assert its rule over a Serb-majority territory called Krajina which was contemplating secession from Croatia as it illegally declared independence from Yugoslavia. As Russian analyst Boris Smelyov put it to the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti: “Back then, the Croats took an incredibly brutal action and killed many civilians, but the West pretended they did not see it. [Actually, the U.S. helped plan and equip the genocidal operation.] Now, the Georgians have done the same, while using the heavy artillery and ‘grad’ missile systems.” The paper paraphrased Smelyov that “the difference is that then-President Slobodan Milosevic did nothing to help Serbs in Croatia, while the Russian authorities ordered their army to enter South Ossetia.”
Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitriy Rogozin, reminded the West of a few things:
NATO’s communiqué about the excessive use of force in the South Ossetia makes Moscow remember the operation of the Alliance against Serbia…In 1999, NATO assessed that Slobodan Milosevic’s policy is bad towards Kosovo-Metohija Albanians, but it decided not to bomb only the Serb troops in Kosovo, but the entire territory of Serbia, including bridges, hospitals, TV stations and state institutions… Thousands of Serbian civilians were killed in those attacks. That is the major difference between NATO and Russia, which limited its actions in Georgia strictly to military targets. I’m horrified when I hear those who were silent before thousands of Serbian victims in 1999 giving themselves [the] right to deliver moral lessons now.
And here is an interesting tidbit, from a Washington Times article last week: “South Ossetians began seeking more sovereignty in 1989 for their autonomous republic in north-central Georgia, but the Georgian Parliament abolished South Ossetia’s autonomous status.”
Where is the uproar over the “brutality” of the Georgian president stripping the poor oppressed Ossetians of their autonomous status thereby necessitating South Ossetian independence — where is that fury we witnessed over “Milosevic” having done the same?
That the Ossetia flare-up is an outgrowth of the Kosovo illegality is apparent even to those who had never paid attention to either region before, as this Reuters blog post would suggest: Was South Ossetia’s fate sealed in Kosovo?
…When the Serbian province seceded from Belgrade in February, South Ossetia was quick to reassert its own claim to international recognition. As a spokeswoman for separatist leader Eduard Kokoity told Reuters at the time: “The Kosovo precedent has driven us to more actively seek our rights.” Those remarks will not have gone unheard in Tblisi and could well have added some urgency to Georgia’s desire to impose its rule over breakaway South Ossetia.
Essentially, we swallowed Kosovo and shat out Ossetia. And Abkhazia, to name just the ones that are agitating this year. (Abkhazia launched air and artillery strikes on Georgian troops amid the chaos.) Indeed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov personally issued a millionth warning to Secretary of State Rice and EU diplomats during a Kosovo meeting in Brussels earlier this year that “if they recognized Kosovo, they would be setting a precedent for South Ossetia and other breakaway provinces,” the NY Times reported. “Bush administration officials in turn stated that Kosovo was a unique case,” Paul Saunders wrote in US News & World Report this month, “apparently believing that they could define what Kosovo’s independence meant to others.” A commentary in The Age publication seconded this nicely: “If the US opts not to respect the principle of sovereignty, it encourages other powers to do the same, thus undermining state sovereignty the world over.”
One might think that while America is in the midst of confronting the real-life consequences of its Kosovo policy and finds itself between a rock and a hard place in Georgia, that our Albanian clients would show us and the allies we dragged into the Balkans a bit of patience and sympathy. One would be wrong:
Separatist official threatens War to UNMIK, August 8 — “Bajram Rexhepi, a so-called mayor of Kosovska Mitrovica, said that Albanians will self organize and put Serbs in the city under the control if UNMIK will not do that. Kosovo separatist paper Epoka e Re has termed this statement as ‘war’ on UNMIK…Rexhepi said that he is convinced that only ‘with UNMIK’s departure from Kosovo, processes would move forward positively.’”
The U.S. president then underscored the need for the UN-to-EU transition to happen “immediately” just a day or two later, saying it wasn’t moving “fast enough.” This was clearly a response not only to the usual fire he felt under Western feet in Kosovo, where Albanian impatience morphs rather scientifically and quickly into violence, but also to the fact that the South Ossetia crisis was shining a bright global light onto the implications of our otherwise shadowy maneuverings in Kosovo, threatening to slow further international recognition of the U.S-sponsored mafia terrorist state.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, our so-called leaders were bent on fighting not the Islamic takeover underway, but the Cold War. It’s just easier. The title of Diana West’s column last week “Roars About Russia, Bare Whispers About Islam,” says it all:
Amazing how quickly the punditocracy switches maps, time zones and histories, simultaneously mastering new combinations of consonants and vowels, to report and react to a “surprise” conflict in Georgia…Since the sight of tanks rolling usually has a way of concentrating the media mind, the question has become: Whither Russia?
Historical memory somewhat refreshed, Western media were ready with the headlines — “The evil empire is back”; “Welcome to the 19th century”; “The Russian bear’s new teeth” — to promote the main thrust of most stories: namely, that Russia is reverting to tsarist, expansionist, Soviet-style, empire-amassing type.
…What’s noteworthy about this narrative consensus, however, is that the invocation of Russia’s historical and cultural record is being made so frankly and without hedging. That is, no one’s blaming “Russian extremists,” “tsarismists,” or “hijackers of a great history.” On the contrary, the implication behind most Russia-versus-Georgia stories is that the Russians’ world-stage behavior as they smash Georgia is something that this same historical and cultural record tells us that Russians do.
…British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the invasion was “a reversion to not just Cold War politics, it is a 19 century way of doing politics.” At home, John McCain explained the Russian strike against Georgia as a part of the same historical continuum: “I think it’s very clear that Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian empire. Not the Soviet Union, but the Russian empire.”
…I realized there was something free-wheeling about the style of expression that made it different from what has been the norm. I first wondered if there was a somewhat perverse trace of nostalgia in dealing again with the Russians. And then it hit me. In the nearly seven years since Islam has wholly dominated current events, neither our media nor our leaders have ever, not even once, looked at similarly characteristic behavior from the Islamic world and labeled it accordingly.
In other words, no pattern of avowedly Islam-inspired violence in the world has ever earned a headline nearly as straightforward as “Islamic jihad is back.”…Would any British foreign secretary of the postmodern age look at, say, last year’s trial of a British teacher in Sudan for “blasphemy” in naming a teddy bear “Muhammad,” and conclude: “It’s a reversion to not just post-colonial politics. It is a seventh century way of doing politics”? Hah.
Poetically, for all of America’s efforts in using Kosovo to buy Muslim/Arab good will, with the embarrassment we’ve just faced in the Ossetia showdown, we get the following item:
Russia’s military intervention in Georgia in the face of Western protests is being viewed by some in the Arab world as evidence of American weakness, with media commentators voicing barely-disguised delight at what they see as a defeat for Washington.
“The return of Russia portends a shift in the balance of political forces in the Middle East that for the moment at least appears to weaken the American and pro-Western side of the balance and to strengthen the Iranian side,” said Cairo’s Middle East Times in an editorial. It noted that Russia supplies Iran with weapons, is completing its new nuclear reactor and “ensuring the U.N. sanctions are not too burdensome.”
The son of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi…said the Arab world welcomed [Georgian troops’] pullout [from Iraq].
“All Arabs are mad at Georgia because it sent its troops to Iraq and took part in the occupation of that Arab land,” he said. “If it weren’t for Russia, Georgian forces would still be in Iraq.”
Enter Iraq. Iraq invites Russian oil major back
An Iraqi Cabinet minister invited Russia’s Lukoil on Wednesday to renew its bid on the lucrative West Qurna-2 oil field and urged Russian companies to seek roles rebuilding dilapidated power plants as Iraq searches for foreign investment to revive its oil industry and infrastructure.
“I hope Russia companies will take part in the bidding,” Iraqi Electricity Minister Karim Wahid told a news conference in Moscow. “Lukoil is welcome to bid for the service contract at the second or third stage of the tender in March or September.”
Wahid also called on Russian companies to bid in tenders to revive the country’s power plants and build new ones…Iraq is also anxious to reach out to partners in Russia, China and other countries to avoid relying too heavily on American and British companies. That could feed criticism that the 2003 invasion was aimed at seizing control of Iraq’s oil.
Janusz Bugajski of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. said that the timing of the Iraqi announcement was interesting given sharp U.S. criticism of the Russian military action against Georgia, but that who initiated the move was unclear.
“Did someone within the U.S. suggest that Iraq reach out to Russia as a show of good will, or did Russia want to show that they are indispensable in the Middle East, that they are a player?” he said.
Increased participation by Russia in Iraq could also be a benefit for the U.S., which has sought help in reconstruction efforts.
“The only danger is if there are deals to sell of some of that infrastructure to Russia, power plants and such,” Bugajski said. “That would come with greater political influence which would not fit in with our policies in the Middle East.”
The costs of Kosovo to the free world are still only unfolding. In US News & World Report Nixon Center executive director Paul J. Saunders wrote The United States Shares the Blame for the Russia-Georgia Crisis:
…America’s interests will suffer, not only in Georgia and the former Soviet Union but around the world.
America contributed to the war in Georgia in two important ways. First, together with its European allies, Washington established two precedents: use of force without approval of the United Nations Security Council and the division of a sovereign nation without U.N. consent. Both precedents emerged out of Kosovo’s quest for independence from Serbia, which led in 1999 to U.S.-directed NATO airstrikes against Serbia to drive Serbian military and police forces out of its Kosovo province. The Clinton administration and NATO conducted the strikes—both in Kosovo and in Serbia proper, where the attacks targeted not only security units but also civilian infrastructure, like power stations—over Russia’s strong opposition in the Security Council. Russia today is repeating NATO’s 1999 justification of its action in arguing that Georgia conducted ethnic cleansing and genocide in South Ossetia and that Moscow was obliged to respond because of its role as a peacekeeper.
What are the consequences?…Among some possible results:
Disillusionment with the United States in much of the rest of the former Soviet Union, where Washington will be seen as failing to protect Georgia after Tbilisi provided 2,000 troops in Iraq. This could encourage some governments to pursue closer ties with Russia.
Serious damage to the U.S.-Russian relationship, threatening cooperation on arms control, securing Russian nuclear materials, Iran, North Korea, terrorism, energy, and a host of other issues. Moscow’s nonreaction to White House statements that the conflict could damage bilateral relations reflects the degree to which Russian officials see little benefit to working with Washington and have moved beyond their previous focus on U.S.-Russian ties.
A suggestion to some countries, such as Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba, that with Russian support they can resist American pressure. Hamas and Hezbollah could be similarly emboldened….
As an above-cited NY Times article makes clear, “Washington needs Russia too much on big issues like Iran to risk it all to defend Georgia.” The article also notes a “growing feeling among some officials in the Bush administration that perhaps the United States cannot have it all, and may have to choose its priorities….” The article quotes a UN diplomat as saying that “if someone went to the Russians and said, ‘OK, Kosovo for Iran,’ we’d have a deal.”
So I guess that means we’re going to be friends with Iran now. Because something’s got to give and it won’t be Kosovo. That’s right, Folks. We’re making concessions on Iran in favor of that tiny, “insignificant” little province we’ve made a mess of over the past decade. Because if we give up on the Albanian agenda in order to regain our influence where it really matters, the Albanians will let us know who between them and the Serbs is a threat to us.
Here things get more interesting. Today, not only is the Bush administration no longer talking about striking Iran, but while it publicly defends Israel’s right to make its own decision about a preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it privately has been telling the Jewish state to back off. So wedded are we to promoting expansionist Islam in the Balkans that we have jeopardized even the Russia-assisted path with Iran, quite possibly enabling an attack against Israel.
So let’s see if betraying the Serbs gets the Jews nuked. Let’s see if the struggling, lone Jewish state will pay the price of American insistence on Albanians having two. That the price of the free world’s perpetual betrayal of the Serbs would be paid by Jews — in addition to the Serbs who have been paying all along — is a little too neat a historical parallel for my taste, given that these were the two most targeted groups of WWII.