This story is a little more complicated than we thought. And when I got back to the USA and started digesting all that I had seen and heard in Russian and the Ukraine and started looking into our own State Department involvement I was surprised to find Congressman Ron Paul in the middle of it.
And I can tell you that Ron Paul is right again. Take a look at this…
Like most Americans I accepted the conclusions of our famous “keep it simple” national media and their instant interpretation of the Russian “invasion” of Georgia. The big bullies were imposing their will on a tiny democracy that dared become an American friend and the Ukrainians were next. Or so we were told.
Pundits took to the airwaves to say that the Russians obviously were trying to preempt the new oil pipeline across Georgia and maybe get access to the Black Sea. They surely had an eye on Ukraine next, to regain their breadbasket and to retake Sevastopol, the deep water naval port. But my six trips to Russia and Ukraine, trips that have taken me from one end of both countries to the next, and allowed me to talk to Georgians, Russians and Ukrainians, have given me an entirely different perspective.
A poll in the Ukraine got my attention. It showed that 70% of all Ukrainians thought that the Russian invasion of Georgia was needed and justified. It didn’t sound to me like they considered themselves threatened, next in line, the next domino to fall, as good old, John Foster Dulles, might say. What did the Ukrainians know that I didn’t?
Well, it turns out that Georgia and Ossetia and Abkhazia have been fighting each other for centuries. Joseph Stalin, who hailed from Georgia, settled it once and for all, cutting Ossetia in two and declaring that South Ossetia and Abkhazia would henceforth be under the thumb of his old Georgian homeland. That was that. The war was over. Georgia and Stalin won. Call it the perks of a dictatorship; you can settle old scores from childhood.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union the Ossetians and Abkhazians demanded autonomy. All through the communist era they had suffered job and power sharing discrimination. Now it was their turn to unravel a mistake from the Stalinist era. But the first leader of the newly independent Georgian Republic, President Gamsahurdia, would not have it. His slogan “Georgia for Georgians” set the tone for what was to come. But President Gamsahurdia ended up murdered and discovered days later, like a common citizen of the street. The former KGB operative and later Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze mysteriously came to power. And he, in turn, was overthrown by the popular President Saakashvili in the “Revolution of Roses.”
But the so-called “Revolution of Roses” has turned instead into a “Revolution of Thorns.” The opposition press has been squashed. Promised reforms were delayed and then cancelled altogether. And then there was the action against the South Ossetians and Abkhazians. The reason the Ukrainians cheered on the Russian invasion was because for days they watched on television as Ossetian civilians were shelled and bombed by Georgian forces. Imagine the American Air Force and army, bombing and shelling an American city, say Houston or Atlanta, and you get the idea. Even the Georgians I spoke with were embarrassed by what their government had done.
For days the Russians watched and did nothing. Hoping that by moving troops to the border they could get the Georgians to stop the slaughter. When the Georgian army moved to block a tunnel leading into the region, a tactical move which would have blocked any hope of Russian rescue, the Russian forces finally acted and invaded, ending the attacks on the population of the troubled region.
Now, the American news media has long sense abandoned any pretence at serious, objective news gathering. The budgets are limited. They have to find news where they already have a bureau close by with cameras and staff. The point is that they simply didn’t have the interest or the money to get into Ossetia to show the destruction by the Georgians. We missed that part. What we got were the Russian tanks rolling in afterwards. Ahhh, what theatre. It was October, the same month that they had rolled into Budapest in 1956. We thought we knew this story.
But the world is a different place today. And if we haven’t figured that out in the United States yet, they surely have in the old former Soviet Union. Communism is dead. But leadership is not. Russian Premier Putin is a man of action. People and governments may massacre each other with impunity all over Africa and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. But not on Russia’s border. That won’t be allowed. And the whole region, except for Georgia, which got its hand caught in the cookie jar this time, is grateful.
There is a bumper sticker on cars in the Ukraine, the country our television experts told us was next on the Russian list of invasions. The slogan says…. “loan us your Putin.” Frustrated by a resurgence of street crime, deteriorating infrastructure and general disorder Ukrainians don’t want a reunion with Russia but they wouldn’t mind borrowing a leader for a few years to get things back on track.
Here are some YouTube stories that offer the other side of the story.
Laughing Georgian soldiers shooting up South Ossetia.
A visiting American gets caught in the middle.
Even though trying to be supportive of the Georgians, a Fox TV reporter is suddenly shot at by Georgian troops. The Fox reporter tries to explain why this has happened so we will understand and not blame them.
Fox TV cuts their own story on Georgian attack that traps girl now safe in San Francisco.
Of course, you can find sensational video on all sides of this issue. In any conflict, once the killing starts, reprisals follow. But the thing to keep in mind is the date of each incident. Who started the shelling and bombing and when and why? What was the provocation or justification?
And the point that Congressman Ron Paul is making is sound. American involvement in these conflicts does not make us safer. It not only makes the world more dangerous, it makes us hated by millions of new people who might have been our friends. And it is all costing us billions of dollars which we are borrowing from China.