The comments section after an article is for me the most honest indicator of the bias of the publisher. In comments, one can see the type of readers using the site, their intelligence and level of analysis. Also, other aspects not included in the article are brought to light, including critical insights.
On occasion I learn much more about a subject from the comments, than from the original article. Below, I have posted some uniquely lucid comments found while reading background material on the Georgia-Russia conflict. http://www.newstatesman.com/europe/2008/08/georgia-russia-ukraine-cheney
Of course, these comments are chosen through my own bias.
14 August 2008 at 13:49
I am sure the EU must take a very, very dim view of the US playing electoral poker in its vicinity.
Is this not a very good reason that the EU should have its own military force and own military alliance apart from NATO, since its interests, in terms of defence, now diverge so strongly from those of the US?
Surely Georgia and the Ukraine are countries that one day might join the EU (though probably not very soon) so American intervention here is ultimately very destabilising for Europe.
The other option is for the EU to ask for NATO to be put under control of the UN Security council, but with no countervailing military power in the world, pigs will fly before that happens...
15 August 2008 at 17:13
There are some very "interesting" and telling attitudes revealed in some of the above comments towards the inhabitants of South Ossetia, which verge close to something very unpleasant indeed and explain how a regime that purports to embrace freedom and democracy and respect for human rights, can launch such a brutal and deadly attack against it's own people.
This is because the people being bombed and bombarded in South Ossetia aren't really "true" Georgians at all, they are legally foreigners, with no right to self-determination within Georgia or settle there, only in Russia, because they are aliens!
Apart from the absurdity of this kind of argument and it's almost total lack of any real foundation in international law relating to the treatment and status of ethnic minorities, it's also morally repugnant. That people who have lived in a region for centuries can suddenly be arbitrarily defined as "alien" and unwanted, and that this then is used as justification for bombing them, reminds one of some of the darkest periods in European history.
The Caucasus in a patchwork quilt of differing peoples. Peoples with there own histories, languages, cultures, songs, myths, poetry, heroes and illusions. It's also an region where rival empires have confronted each other for thousands of years, much like the Balkans.
This rich cultural tapestry should be a source of pride and strength, but these cultural and etnic differences can also easily exploited and perverted by unscrupulous politicians, which light the torch of nationalism not to lighten our way in the darkness, but as a weapon to burn down the homes of the "others".
At the same time as they use, abuse and prostitute national symbols and feelings, they also make power grabs that have distinct aims, mostly robbing their own ethnic group that they say they care so much about. Nationalism seems to be cover story designed to obscure the fact that they are robbing the treasury and steeped in corruption.
Who really gains from the fighting and destruction? It certainly isn't the ordinary people, who are duped into believing, and killing and dying, for a myth or an illusion, the myth of the pure nation state where one can be "free" and the others, those who one believes are responsible for all ones woes, have been excluded, dominated or "taken care of" in some other way.
Perhaps the biggest lie of the last hundred years, certainly the bloodiest, and most dangerous, has been the lie about the importance of "blood" and "land" and the illusion that the creation of an ethnically "pure" state was the answer to all ones problems. Just give us our own country, no matter how small, no matter the cost in blood and destruction, and the land of milk and honey is just around the corner. What childish rubbish! Only an idiot or a person totally lacking in knowledge could believe such a fairytale. Yet people are fed this nationalist nonsense, over and over again, by corrupt leaders, and they die and kill for a lie.
Nationalism isn't a blessing, it's a curse, and we've had way too much of it in Europe. We've almost drowned in rivers of blood, and for what exactly? For whose real benefit and profit? Certainly not the unhappy dead!
Fortunately in Western Europe, finally after so much war, slaughter and wasteful destruction, we appear to have tamed the monster of brute nationalism. We didn't have much choice as we'd almost destroyed ourselves in two terrible, barbaric and insane wars.
It would be tragic if the people in the Caucasus learnt nothing from our suffering and history. First one has to reject unconditionally the use of violence and military force to settle ethnic differences on all sides, and people have learn to negotiate and compromise. What they can't be allowed to do is go to war. Instead of the great powers selling arms and training new armies in Georgia and elsewhere, they should do the opposite. Fighting wars should be made as difficult as possible and economic sanctions should be imposed on any country that uses violence to compel any ethnic group to remain part of a central state.
My personal feeling is that the United States is using Georgia for its own purposes and doesn't give a damn about the Georgian people or how much they suffer or bleed. The US government doesn't care about "democracy" or "freedom" for the Georgian people, God they don't even care about these things for their own people in the United States, so why would they care about foreigners? The Americans want Georgia as a stepping-stone or military base on their way towards the energy reserves of the Caspian Basin, nothing more. The ordinary Georgians mean nothing to men like Bush. The Georgians have value only as long as they serve a usful purpose for the American ruling elite. This is the harsh truth about the nature of imperialism and how great powers regard their vassal states. Pawns have little value in the Great Game. The sooner the people of Georgia realise this and learn to live together imperfectly, the better in will be for them.
14 August 2008 at 13:59
Mr Gleny's article demonstrates the dangers we all face when power is given to a bunch of lunatics and ideological fantasists - even in a so-called democracy like the United States.
14 August 2008 at 17:24
The West, or rather the USA and its neocon lapdogs, has pretended that some kind of old Cold War tank battle could be fought and won and that would be the end of it. Forget it!
Treating Russia like another Iran or Pakistan is buying trouble. America has been doing that since 9/11 but the NATO countries are having to 'take delivery', uhh. Half of Europe will freeze in the dark this winter if they don't learn to be polite.
The days of gunboat diplomacy and forcing terms of trade onto others is now over. Russia has aligned itself with China and India and the Shanghai Co-operation Group will supersede the IMF, etc etc. The balance of power has shifted along to the side of USA's creditors.
'taghioff.info' makes an interesting point about the EU but they have actually been following an expansionists agenda themselves for some time. They must give up their dreams and illusions about their missile shields too. Being friendly with your neighbors is important.
With global warming and climate change upon us, continuing to play the old "great game" of Machiavellian politics is childish when more extensive co-operation is needed. Fighting over shrinking resources is also fatal in the nuclear age.
The West can't just pretend that Georgia is another Tibet and rant and rave endlessly. Both are dishonest and ploys to continue the illusions of faded empire and delusions of the now spent "American century". International affairs can no longer be entrusted to the thugs and crooks of the world's military-industrial complexes.
15 August 2008 at 07:52
Message form Russia.
I'm russia nad really proud that at alst we kicked this fu..r Saakashvili ass, belive me everyone hates him in giogjia and you know why. I'll tell you. Giorgia is for 99% percent is Christians only 1% are muslims, so he represents this very small group of people, he is a muslim.... all those electionsthat there were are totall fake.. lots of places for elections never at all were opened esprsially far away from Tbilissi..
Russia becomes stronger and stronger and 99% in russia very happy about that.
15 August 2008 at 21:46
This legalistic approach is tangentally interesting and mildly entertaining, but hardly relevant to the current situation on the ground. It reminds me of the endless debates in the medieval church about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, or whether Jesus Christ was an aristocrat or a commoner.
In the world we live in now, since the destruction of Yogoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the neutering of the United Nations; there really is no international law left standing that's any use anymore. When one systematically shreds and shows contempt for international law, as the United States has done repeatedly, one can hardly appeal to international law without raising howls of laughter. Even the Americans, who think of themselves as exceptional, cannot have it both ways, but of course this is what they demand. They want to dictate and define what parts of international law apply in various circumstances, and they reserve the right to pick and choose which parts international law are "relevant", only that international law doesn't apply to them and cannot be used against them. The hypocracy and double-standards involved in this perverse attitude are obvious and absurd.
The point is that powerful nations, great powers can really do whatever they want regardless of international law, this is the reality of the situation. The entire concept of international law, is in itself, highly debatable and controversial. Today, international law is a device used by powerful countries to punish weaker countries and stigmatize them for propaganda purposes.
For example, it is almost impossible to contemplate the United States allowing one of it's generals or politicians to be tride for their various war-crimes and crimes against humanity, even though there is a veritible mountain of evidence against them, such trials are for the weak and the vanquished, not the powerful and strong.
You go into great detail in relation to the law yet your interpretation of Georgian law is highly debatable and interpreted in partisan fashion which wouldn't stand up to qualified rebuttal in a court of law, something I have no intention of getting into here.
You do seem, in my opinion, to illustrate an attitude towards the people of South Ossetia which is disturbing in its implications. You mean that they have voluntarily chosen to change their nationality and alligance and consequently have not rights, human or otherwise inside Georgia anymore, that they have almost become outlaws with all that implies.
I've questioned your interpretation of Georgian law, which I find flawed and illogical, your partisan twisting and interpretation of international law in relation to the rights of ethnic minorities of whatever nationality, is even more problematic and just plain wrong, though it is, perhaps unintentionally, highly informative.
My main point is that the hapless Georgian people have been led towards disaster by a crazed and corrupt ultra-nationalist gang, who are basically puppets of the Americans, who couldn't care less about what happens to the Georgians as long as they are usful in their struggle with Russia. What's ironic is the gang in charge of Georgia are backing the wrong horse. The United States is an empire that is on it's way down, whilst Russia is a power with a future. When the United States is finished with Georgia it wil be abandoned like a used Kleenex.
16 August 2008 at 08:51
In the words of a famous proverb; you can't see the wood for the trees.
Great and powerful nations, like people, do not generally observe laws that constrain their actions and interests. They use the "laws" as they see fit. International law is really a system of conventions that nations agree, up to a certain level, to abide by.
The Big Problem currently is that the United States has systematically undermined international law, a whole raft of treaties, demands exceptonal treatment for itself, and has emasculated the United Nations. The United States has also become a very and openly agressive state, ready to invade weaker states to pursue its national interests. One can substitute the words "freedom 'n' democracy" for "oil and gas" and that is basically the rationale behind their actions.
What this means is that the entire structure of international law has been undermined and has lost the minimal importance it had. Clearly other nations have watched and learnt from the Americans. The Russians certainly have. The American idea that they can dictate and define what international law is and who has to obey it, is, hypocritical, absurd, arrogant and counter-productive.
The current crazed gang which is leading Georgia towards disaster, seems to believe it can turn Georgia into a valuable and indispensible ally of the United States, similar to Israel. I believe this is a fundamental miscaculation and mistake which the Georgian people are going to pay a very high price for, whilst the leadership will go into exile and enjoy their millions in the sun.
16 August 2008 at 15:32
Mostly I feel sorry for the ordinary people in the Caucasus and Georgia who are caught-up in a deadly "game" between great powers, like two monsterous devils playing chess with real people on the board.
The Georgian people are being used by the Bush administration, and the Georgian government is perfectly content to allow their people to suffer, die, bleed and serve the interests of a foreign power. This I would argue is really a form of high treason or treachery, serving a foreign government before one's own people. But then this is the traditional role of the vassal state leader, to betray his own and serve his imperial master. Some of these "leaders" so stupid and ignorant of the obscene game they are merely pawns in, that they appear to actually believe their own nationalist rhetoric, that they are saving their countries, whilst in reality they are leading them towards disaster and destruction.
16 August 2008 at 17:48
While I'm at it perhaps the "pawns" in the game would be better off breaking out of their allotted roles and chalenging the very "rules" of the game itself? Given the utter contempt their, oh so patriotic, leaders really have for them, maybe they should rise up like a mighty wind, and instead of killing each other turn their anger on their real enemies, their masters, sitting way behind the lines, manipulating, pulling the strings, making all the money. Smash the board, wipe out the squares, turned the whole damn thing over and start again!writeon
17 August 2008 at 22:06
Countries, states, great powers, are not people, they don't have "friends". Turkey is not a "friend" of Georgia and will not be using its large army to help its little "friend" against the big, bad, bully to the north.
Great powers don't have permanent friends, they have only have permanent interests, and their own interests come first. Great powers use smaller nations and when they no longer find them useful, they are caste aside. Empires as large, rich and powerful, like the United States, don't have "allies", they don't need them. What they have is states that serve their interests to varying degrees or one doesn't, then one is effectively the enemy of the United States and then one had better watch out.
The world functions pretty much like the movie "The Godfather" only on a even bloodier and bigger, global scale. For centuries the West, in its accendancy, has resembled a group of Mafia families carving up "territory" between them.
The European Union is an attempt to replace the rival Mafia clan model with something else, to stop them launching eternal "turf wars" over territory, wars that risk burning everything down so there is nothing left of any value to fight over anymore.
Russian tanks are not going to role over the borders of Germany heading for the English Channel, not only would this be insane, it would, more importantly, be unproductive and unprofitable. Who would then buy Russia's oil and gas? It makes no sense for kill one's best customer. Why bother to take over Western Europe with tanks when one can just buy it?
Germany is building a longterm strategic alliance with Russia not confronting Russia. In the last couple of years alone German exports to Russia have boomed, Russia is now one of Germany's best markets. The Russians have the money and Germany has the manufactured goods. The idea that Germany would sacrifice it's relationship to Russia for Georgia is ridiculous. This is not the way the world works, at least not as long as one can keep the nationalist lunatics and their dangerous mythology under control, which is fundamentally what the European Union is all about.
Europe can become even wealthier and successful in an integrated economic partnership with - Russia, which has a vast storehouse of resources which we need. However, the United States doesn't want this mutually beneficial relationship to happen, because this will mean Power moving away from the United States and towards Europe and Russia.
The United States is trying to split Europe in two, it has mobilized it's most loyal vassal states; notably Great Britain, Poland, Georgia, in a cold war aimed at Russia, talk to people in Bruxelles in private, off the record, and they will tell the same basic story. A new cold war aimed at Russia isn't in Europe's interests, but it is in the interests of the United States. At least that's the attitude of powrful groups in the ruling elite, the most ignorant, the most nationalistic, the most dangerous.
The desire to confront Russia is also echoed in right-wing nationalist groups in some parts of Europe, though especially in "new europe". These groups don't have much else to sell but the nationalist myth and Russia is an easy target for them. But none of this has anything to do with democracy, or freedom or human rights. It's about power and wealth and who has it and who doesn't.
What's gratifying is that there are powerful elements in the European elite; in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Holland, Sweden, who realize what's happening and why, and have no intention of joining the American confrontation crusade against Russia. A crusade that will eventually lead to war. A war fought in Europe, wiping out Europe once and for all.