The New York Times does not just discriminate against Israel. Apparently, it just has a general aversion to self-defense. On Saturday, it came out with a feature article accusing Georgia of more than just provoking the August war with Russia, but with actually starting it:
Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.
Michael Totten, in his prize-deserving piece on the conflict, has actually done the legwork, and unsurprisingly, came up with drastically different conclusions regarding who’s at fault.
Georgia didn’t start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili [the Georgian president] sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.
The New York Times, no longer a publication known for its pursuit of the truth, decides to start with what was really the second day of the conflict.
According to the monitors, an O.S.C.E. [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] patrol at 3 p.m. on Aug. 7 saw large numbers of Georgian artillery and grad rocket launchers massing on roads north of Gori, just south of the enclave.
What is the problem with amassing artillery and rocket launchers in response to an armed uprising, supported by the invading Russian military?
The night of August 7, Saakashvili did, however, make a severe public relations mistake, by claiming the Georgian actions were intended “to restore constitutional order” in South Ossetia. Thomas Goltz, speaking with Totten, explains that this phrase, “in the post-Soviet mindset is what Boris Yeltsin was doing in Chechnya.” Considering what the Russians did in Chechnya, that is not exactly something that would calm the tensions in the region.
According to O.S.C.E. monitors, “the attack was completely indiscriminate and disproportionate to any, if indeed there had been any, provocation.” Anyone who has follows the Middle East knows that international monitors are rarely, if ever, to be trusted, especially when accusing a state of acting “disproportionately.” This term is extremely overused, most of the time incorrectly.
Writing two years ago about the Second Lebanon War in The New Republic, Michael Walzer, the widely respected expert on modern Just War Theory, did a great job of explaning exactly a proportional response means. “[P]roportionality must be measured not only against what Hamas and Hezbollah have already done, but also against what they are (and what they say they are) trying to do” (Sorry, TNR’s website is acting up, as usual). In other words, a proportional response must be proportional to the threat the enemy poses, not to the attacks already carried out.
Concerning the conflict in the Caucasus, Russia poses an incredible threat. In the same discussion with Michael Totten, regional expert Patrick Worms explained:
Starting in mid July the Russians launched the biggest military exercise in the North Caucasus that they’ve held since the Chechnya war. That exercise never stopped. It just turned into a war.
On the evening of the 7th, the Ossetians launch an all-out barrage focused on Georgian villages, not on Georgian positions. Remember, these Georgian villages inside South Ossetia – the Georgians have mostly evacuated those villages, and three of them are completely pulverized. That evening, the 7th, the president gets information that a large Russian column is on the move. Later that evening, somebody sees those vehicles emerging from the Roki tunnel [into Georgia from Russia]. Then a little bit later, somebody else sees them. That’s three confirmations.
Another member of the O.S.C.E. team made the same mistake about the justification of an attack. Referring to Georgian claims of the Russians shelling villages in Georgia, Wing Commander Stephen Young said, “If there had been heavy shelling in areas that Georgia claimed were shelled, then our people would have heard it, and they didn’t.”
First, as I’ve already said, I do not trust “independent” monitors almost ever. All one has to do is look at UNEF, UNTSO, and of course, UNIFIL, to lose any trust in international peacekeeping or monitoring. These organizations are not just biased. Often, in order to protect their lives, they actively aid the aggressors in various conflicts, thereby defeating their very raison d’être. I have no reason to believe these, either, especially considering Russian actions as the conflict progressed (which include completely ignoring ceasefire agreements, claiming full compliance while actively occupying a sovereign state).
Second, as previously mentioned, a Russian column was moving through the Roki Tunnel into Georgia. How is that not a threat that deserves a response? That is more than a mere threat, that is an act of war.
In order to really gain more of an understanding of the conflict, go read Michael Totten’s piece. Then read the NYT’s a poor excuse for journalism. Compare the two, and you won’t understand why the NYT is still held in such high regard. The New York Times, if it hasn’t already, is moving fast towards becoming nothing more than a partisan rag, as it continues to come down on the wrong side of the truth, time and time again.