Friday, August 15, 2008

Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia: the propaganda war and the real war

Airforce Amazons: They're all the bloody same takes on the "Georgia is no saint"/"plague on both your houses" meme that I've slightly contributed to, as well as rethinking the oil issue.

Kellie also cites a NYT report on a Human Rights Watch ivestigation that shows that our media has swallowed Russian propaganda lies about Georgia atrocities. Far from the 2,000 dead in SOuth Ossetia claimed by Russia, HRW has found evidence for only ("only") a twentieth of that number.

On the other hand, as I accepted here, The Exile* made a strong case that the Western media swallowed Georgian propoganda lies about Russian excessive force. Our news outlets reported as fact that Russia had ground troops in Gori when it seemed that in fact they had only ("only") bombed it. Subsequently, of course, Russian ground troops have entered Gori, after the cease fire, although they might now be withdrawing again.

And they have said they are "near" to Senaki, which, like Gori is part of "Georgia proper" south of Abkhazia (the other Russian-controlled breakaway region). The Georgians reported the Russians had taken it, which the Russians ignored, then denied, and seem now to be admitting.

A propaganda war is still raging over whether the Russians have taken the port of Poti (near Senaki), as was reported to a Reuters reporter in Poti (who had not himself seen them) by two eye-witnesses, both with managerial roles in the harbour. The Russians deny it, but say it would be legitimate if they were there. Al-Jazeera has video footage of what they say are Russian-sunk ships at Poti, but no real evidence that this is the correct story.

Similar propaganda wars continues over whether various other Georgian sites have been taken or not. What is clear is that the Western media is not simply accepting Georgian lies, but accepting lies from both sides, to satisfy our thirst for news, in the context of a lack of decent coverage on the ground.

*Can't link, because the internet cafe I'm in says this site has spyware on it! If you dare, follow link from my original post, and find out if The Exile has modified his view now that reality on the ground has changed.


kellie said...

Thanks for the link Bob. My initial reaction to the headline on Marko's piece was similar to yours, and the firmness of my position in the above post only came about later later as I read more, and as the situation developed.

I hope it's clear that I don't think that problems with Georgian democracy should be ignored, but rather that they're best solved by responding with the strongest possible solidarity and not ambiguity in the face of the threat from Putin & Co.

Rather than the mild caveat that you expressed in that early post, I wrote the above more in response to Gene's post on Harry's Place and some of the comments which followed.

Gene's primary target was John McCain, and it always bothers me if it looks like someone is approaching the fate of another country primarily in terms of domestic politics. That is after all what we saw so much of over Iraq.

I notice Andrew Sullivan seems to have fallen even deeper into a similar trap, arguing on Georgia based on Bush & Cheney's record in Iraq. This seems hopelessly confused to me.

Of course the far left, kitsch left, tankie left, whatever it's called, is even worse, but it's less influential I hope.

bob said...

Thanks Kellie. Have fleshed out the post since you commented. (Am about to go off-line for the weekend.) I completely agree on the domestic politics issue. Many of the comments have been over-determined by the Obama-McCain debate, from both sides.

By the way, I never read Harry's Place posts, unless directed there by others, because I figure they have enough readers without me! So I notice Gene's post makes similar points to mine a whole day later, pointing to exactly the same November news story to justify the "Georgia's no angel" line. I also notice that they noticed the historic agreement between Palestinian and Israeli trade unions six days after I did. If they started reading my blog they'd get their act together! ;)
(Although I also notice they beat me by a day to the Orwell blogging story, so maybe I need to read them more often.)

mah29001 said...

I often compare this crisis between South Ossetia and Georgia to how the Nazis established an "independent" Sudentenland. Where Adolf Hitler, along with members of his National Socialist German Workers' Party painted the Czeches as the "aggressors" in a conflict between "Sudenten Germans" and Czech police.

World War II's events began to gather with the Nazi conquest of the Czech Republic and Central Europe. Most likely, World War III's events would converge with Russia's invasion, and total occupation of Georgia.

The weak military performance by Georgia left a vacuum for Russian forces to plan future invasions. There have been reports that Russian troops have been allowed into Armenia and other neighboring countries to mount an invasion for total occupation. In my personal opinion, I say even the "pro"-Western leaders of Georgia are following a party line of being weak.

Exile said...

The spyware problem is probably a geographically based advert system that checks which country you live in before serving the adverts. Sorry about that.

About Gori, I did a further posting on the 14th and wrote that the Russian incursions into Georgia proper were a big mistake. However, you commented on that, Bob, so I am not clear why you want me to do it again.

Besides, today is the 20th August, so for obvious reasons it's my day to remind bovine Trots of what happened in this City of Mexico back on this date in 1940!

Exile said...

Eh? Germany didn't create an independent Sudetenland, they annexed it to Germany, along with Austria the same year.

They got away with it because in 1938 folk still thought that Germany had a rational leadership that would be happy if the old German speaking Hapsburg lands joined the rest of the country.

That was a point made at Versailles, and the only reason it was shot down was that it would have left Germany larger after the war than before. The Frog wasn't having that, so 18 years later all that was seen as tidying up old business.

kellie said...

Quite a contrast between the Georgian propaganda that is turning out to be true, and the Russian propaganda that even the Russians have given up trying to sustain.

From AP, August 11th:

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, said more than 2,000 people have been killed in South Ossetia since Friday, most of them Ossetians with Russian passports

Today, nine days later, BBC News reports:

Russia has issued new, reduced casualty figures for the Georgian conflict, with 133 civilians now listed as dead in the disputed region of South Ossetia.