In a press conference at the Pentagon today US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was asked about reports that Russian troops were still engaged in activities in Georgia in breach of the ceasefire, that they had been blowing up airports in their retreat,had destroyed ports, blockaded roads and ports. The source of these reports that the Westernmedia has reproduced without question over the last 24 hours or so is, of course, the Georgian Government.
Gates echoed the strong attack against Russia that has come from George Bush in the last 24 hours, but in response to these reports said that the US survey teams having checked out these reports had found that they were not well how shall we say - accurate. They found no evidence of roads being blockaded by Russians, that the Russians had been forming themselves up for an orderly retreat as required by the casfire agreement, that they had not blockaded the ports, nor had they destroyed a port city as reported, nor had they blown up airports. In fact, the US were planning to use those airports to ship in humanitarian supplies. In short, the Georgian Government had been lying.
Nothing new there then. No doubt the Russians have been lying too, though the rush of some on the "Left" to blame the Russians in the main for the events of the last week also seem not to understand the strategic and diplomatic niceties of the region. For example, the AWL which thought in similar circumstances the far more serious and extensive bombing of Serbia by the US, in response to its incursion into Kosovo, was "good", was quick to decide that Russia was seeking to annex South Ossetia, and also ruled out any idea that Russia might agree to an independent Ossetia. But, in fact, earlier in the week the BBC's analyst commented that there was good reason why the Russians WOULD NOT want to annexe South Ossetia. For one thing, demanding the separation of South Ossetia from Georgia i.e. defending its right to self-determination would mean that Russia was in a weaker position to refuse that right to Chechnya. Secondly, one of th stumbling blocks to Georgia joining NATO - despite the profusion of EU flags which Georgia's Walter Mitty like President surrounds himself with Georgia has no chance of joining the EU - is its instability, and insecurity of its borders due to the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkahazia. As long as those disputes continue, and continue they will as long as they remain nominally part of Georgia, they not only act as a thorn in the side of Georgia, but they also mean there can be no chance of georgia joining NATO. Tat is why Russia's position is that they should be autonomous regions, but Russia does not argue for their separation from Georgia.
But what is also surprising is how any socialist could ever be taken in by the lies of the Georgian government in the first place. That bouregois Liberals such as those of the Guardian should take up a position of moral outrage against Russia is one thing, but why on Earth would socialists put themselves in the same Camp. Its amazing then that on Shiraz socialist ,in response to this piece by David Clark
"By any reasonable measure, the impact of Russian policy has been uniquely destructive in generating political divisions in the caucuses…Whatever his faults, Saakashvili is no Milosevic - and wild Russian allegations of genocide have no independent support.”
Jim Denham commented,
"somehow his comments seem to me a lot more convincing than the crazed anti-American conspiracy theories and pro-Putin triumphalism of people like Seymour and Nooman."
So at a time that all the world's press agrees that Georgia staged a massive attack on the people of South Ossetia, when the BBC, CNN and other news channels have shown masses of South Ossetians - according to News reports around 100,000 people - turned into refugees, when the South Ossetian Capital was destroyed by Georgia artillery on the first day, we are asked to go easy on Saakashvilli, because "he's no Milosevic". We are asked not to believe all those other pressreports, because they are not independently verified.
Just compare that reponse the very belated response that the AWL eventually gave, nearly a week after the invasion, - though it has to be said that the AWL's provisional statement is much more balanced than the position taken by Jim Denham - with their response to the much greater ferocity of attack that the US launched against Serbia, a response they beleived in stopping Milosovic was "good".
This is the ultimate consequence of the AWL's collapse into Stalinist Popular Front politics. They divide the world into Two Camps, on the one hand the Camp of "Democratic Imperialism", and on the other Fascism/Bonapartism. Against all the principles of Marxism they see the former as progressive and the latter as reactionary, and adopt a "lesser evil" stance accordingly. It led them to support Yeltsin's bouregois democratic counter-revolution in Russia, it led them to see the US bombing of Serbia as "good", it leads them to refuse to call for opposition to US Imperialism in Iraq, it leads them to announce that a US surgical bombing of Iran would also be "good", and leads them to argue that an attack by Israeli against Iran should not be condemned. They claim to be adherents of a Third Camp - the Camp of the Working Class, yet in each of these cases they demonstrated a complete disdain for the possibility of that working class having any kind of independent role other than as cheerleader in the First Camp, just as Stalin advocated during the later 1930's. That perspective led to disaster for the working class then, and were it the case that the AWL had any effect on the Labour Movement - fortunately its couple of dozen members have none - it would lead to disaster again.