Thu 14 Aug, 2008 03:11 am
My Wifes Uncle sent this. He is an Englishman married to an Abakazian woman. He is also a professeor of langauges at a major English university.
Sent: Monday, August 11, 2008 7:19 PM
Subject: From Ochamchira & Sukhum (Abkhazia)
Though we got an internet-connection working with my mobile here in Ochamchira 2 yesterday (Saturday), it stopped today. We re-established contact via my daughter's phone, but it proved extremely temperamental: I thought I'd sent about 4 messages that way earlier on, but it seems that not one got through " maybe someone not too far away (from Ochamchira) was blocking it…
I doubt that operations in the Kodor will cease until the Georgian military there are expelled. Whether the forces massed along the Ingur will initiate, or be forced to respond to, some action from the Zugdidi side is anyone's guess " maybe by the time I get to a Net-connection to send this all will be clear.
Yes, indeed, people might say (as virtually all the reps at the UN Security Council debates have been saying) that Russia's response was excessive " personally, I think they've done exactly the right thing in taking measures to prevent Georgia continuing its campaign against their problem-neighbours, and, yes, I would indeed say that the 1994 accords were broken in 2006 by the introduction into the Gorge of those forces who need to be expelled.
One of the messages I thought I'd sent today was to the FCO, saying how disgusted I was at our rep's statement at the UN's 2nd discussion of events: her main point was to call for respect for Georgia's territorial integrity and for Russia's withdrawal " why not simply say that we wish to grant Saakashvili 'carte blanche' to slaughter as many of the troublesome Ossetians and Abkhazians as he wishes in order to 'establish constitutional order', as he himself justified his actions at the start of this business, or, in the words on the BBC's World News of Georgia's deputy ambassador to the UK on Friday, to demonstrate how 'only with Georgia can the rights of the ethnic minorities be best guaranteed'!!! Frankly, I have no idea what Gt. Britain stands for these days. By the way, while on the topic of the UN, did you know that the father of Georgia's UN ambassador, Alasania (no doubt vying with Katie Melua for the status of 'most prominent Mingrelian on the international stage since Beria'), was killed by the Abkhazians during the war of 1992-93?
I have never been a supporter of Russia's historical role in the Caucasus, but in this matter I find myself in total support of their actions " what were the Abkhazians meant to do? Sit and wait for the Georgians themselves to open a 2nd front, suffer hundreds/thousands of deaths, watch the destruction of what they have been slowly restoring over the last 15 years, and then only to watch the UN Security Council ring its hands in mock-sympathy and shed crocodile-tears whilst ever stressing that it continues to support Georgia's territorial integrity? I think not, and nor would I have remained passive in their situation.
As I have said numerous times, Georgia should NEVER have been recognised in its Soviet borders by a precipitate and ill-considered decision of the international community, led by Major and Hurd. A Russian commentator I met last week stated that the dissolution of the USSR did not stop in 1991, and we see Georgia's further fragmentation before our eyes. How anyone can possibly argue that the S. Ossetians (and the Abkhazians) can be expected to live with this nation, which has now given yet another perfect demonstration of its commitment to minority rights defeats all logic " 3 post-Soviet presidents and 4 post-Soviet wars (in S. Ossetia after Zviad Gamsakhurdia's error in thinking he could walk all over them; in Mingrelia between Zviadists and Shevy's supporters; in Abkhazia after Shevardnadze's miscalculation that the Abkhazians would be seen as the common foe bringing the Zviadists under his 'national' banner; and now again in S. Ossetia after the new 'Wunderkind' and America's blue-eyed boy (after the total failure of their first blue-eyed boy) Saak'ashvili's stupidity in thinking either that there'd be no Russian reaction or that his Western friends would rally to his aid and sort out his mess for him). This is now surely enough for anybody to appreciate the nature of Georgians' views of those peoples incorporated by their most famous son, Stalin, in his native land's Soviet borders " these borders have to change, and, if Russia is to be the agent of that change, so be it. I might add how impressive have been the press-conferences given over the last 2 days (one in English, today's in Russian) by the former Russian ambassador to the UK, Grigorij Karasin " he's absolutely right when he says that you can't believe a word the Georgians say (about Soviet Georgia's ethnic minorities, at least); as a Georgian specialist, who first came to this political mess by reading what they were saying about them in their own language back in 1989, I've been saying the same for years.
In addition, when I get back in contact with the world, a complaint will be sent to the BBC about its shewing of destruction caused in Tskhinval by the Georgian bombardment against commentary suggesting that it was the result of Russian action. This infringement of a media-outlet's duty to present accurate information was not committed by the BBC alone. We have just been visited by an Ossetian friend, who now lives in Petersburg but who spends only her summers here in Ochamchira after the death of her Abkhazian husband. She was visited recently by her brother's children and sent them back to Tskhinval less than 48 hours before the Georgians began their shelling (and she assures me on the basis of info received by phone from Tskhinval that that's who started it). Her relatives have survived and will be evacuated to Vladikavkaz tomorrow. However, her observation was how annoyed she was that the destruction of the local hospital and university in Tskhinval was being presented by some channel as though this were the centre of Tbilisi!
I had the misfortune to have to wade through some 70 pages last Monday night, which was the latest treatise produced on the Georgian question by David Phillips (of the Atlantic Centre). For a couple of days I was musing on how to frame, and what to include in, my reply. Then S. Ossetia exploded. I have to say that I fully share what I heard today from not only Churkin at the UN but also Salome Zurabisvhili in Tbilisi that the USA bear part (I would say a large part) of the blame for this renewal of bloodshed, (along with others, such as, indeed, the UK, who have given not only military equipment and training to the Georgians but also, and here I have in mind such persons as Phillips, the even more execrable David Smith, Ronald Asmus, and even John McCain on his visit here in 2006, extremely reckless advice)
The international community's position towards the problems in this part of the Transcaucasus over the last 19 years has been nothing short of a shameful abdication of its duty to play a constructive role in helping to form the basis for a viable peace in the region.
I think some influential but (if it's possible to find one) neutral organisation should arrange for a pan-Caucasian conference, with representatives of as many of the peoples living here as feasible (given the complicated patchwork of nations concerned), to discuss their aspirations and how best they might be attained in the context of the North Caucasus belonging to the Russian Federation and the existing structures south of the mountains as an initial step to getting the international community involved in a positive way in the region (in cooperation, of course, with Russia). Such a forum MIGHT help to defuse the tensions that have developed here over the last 2 decades.
While I'm here, and I don't intend to leave until the date on our ticket to Moscow (24 Oct), I shall be giving what help I can to the Abkhazians to make their case against a largely blind and deaf (non-Russian) world.
Back in Sukhum now. Two nephews were called to the front yesterday, and one brother-in-law (well experienced from the war of 1992-93) goes to the local HQ today. The initial reports circulating in the market yesterday of a Georgian vessel being sunk were dismissed as typical Caucasian rumour-mongering, but it proved to be true. What a wonderful irony if it would be if the vessel concerned was the 'General Mazniashvili', who with his troops caused such mayhem in both S. Ossetia and Abkhazia in 1918… Apparently 4 boats were trying to get to the Abkhazian coast, but, when one was sunk, the others turned back to Poti.
Travelling up from Ochamchira, I couldn't help thinking of the trip we made when leaving Abkhazia on one of our visits in the 1990s. It was a time when Mingrelian groups operating in the region were attacking buses on the highway. The local administration gave us an official jeep to get us to Sukhum; the driver drove the whole way with a Kalashnikov across his knees.
Have just watched an interview on Russia Today with an Italian member of the European Parliament, called Chiesa. What a surprise to hear a Western European politician presenting an accurate assessment of events " no-one seems to blame Saak'ashvili for launching such a heavy attack on a peaceful population, but everyone comes out with all guns blazing in criticism of Russia, when it responds.
He called for an international tribunal to investigate the actions of the Georgian government and even went so far as to say that S. Ossetia and Abkhazia should have the same right to independence as Kosovo. I wonder what the advocates of NATO membership for Georgia are saying when they see how the government treats those whose interests it claims to be best able to represent.
Just off to the Foreign Ministry to see what help I can give with their statements in English.
Interesting, thanks dadpad.
Thanks again for this personal report from the spot.
Just because on the new site, the long-running threads about a subject, however "long and deep", seem to be buried a bit deeper in the site, and the newly started ones appear on top, dont mind if I put the link here to the thread on which we've been discussing Georgia for, well, years:
For those new to the site or to the topic, there's a lot of valuable information, in-depth outside reports as well as plenty of opinion of course, on there, from a variety of view points, and the thread's been very alive since this new war started of course.
(I've also been so free as to add what I thought was important context to a previous report like this passed on by Dadpad - not to disrespect the personal experience at all, just to add some necessary context.)
Very interesting. Thanks, dadpad!
Thanks, very intereresting!
Agree with all, that is a good letter, very interesting. Thanks, dad.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has accused the United States of a "serious blunder" in pursuing its interest in the Caucasus region.
He also said the US charge that Russia was committing aggression in Georgia was "not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity".
"By declaring the Caucasus, a region that is thousands of miles from the American continent, a sphere of its 'national interest,' the US made a serious blunder," Gorbachev said in an opinion piece for the Washington Post.
He said Russia was not seeking territorial expansion but had "legitimate interests".
The outcome of six grim days of bloodshed in the Caucasus has triggered an outpouring of the most nauseating hypocrisy from western politicians and their captive media. As talking heads thundered against Russian imperialism and brutal disproportionality, US vice-president Dick Cheney, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown and David Miliband, declared that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered". George Bush denounced Russia for having "invaded a sovereign neighbouring state" and threatening "a democratic government". Such an action, he insisted, "is unacceptable in the 21st century".
Could these by any chance be the leaders of the same governments that in 2003 invaded and occupied - along with Georgia, as luck would have it - the sovereign state of Iraq on a false pretext at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives? Or even the two governments that blocked a ceasefire in the summer of 2006 as Israel pulverised Lebanon's infrastructure and killed more than a thousand civilians in retaliation for the capture or killing of five soldiers?
The myth of poor little Georgia, a newborn and promising "democracy" threatened, bullied, and battered by Putin-the-reincarnation-of-Stalin is bogus from beginning to end. It is a Bizarro World rendition of what is really happening in South Ossetia and the wider region: that is, a curiously and consistently inverted version of reality in which up is down, black is white, and the Georgians did not invade South Ossetia, killing thousands and driving many more northward.
The result is that there is no space in which to challenge the government's failures through intelligent debate, and conflict between government and opposition consists of insults and name-calling and is played out on the streets rather than in parliament. This could jeopardise the very real progress that the government has made in building a viable Georgian state. Georgia does not need another revolution - it needs consensus and compromise.
This is a war for the soul and identity of Georgia. Whatever the outcome in terms of territorial control or military-political arrangements, this war is one Georgia cannot afford to lose, and the west cannot afford to ignore.
OK, just a tiny critical note after all.
If your wifes uncle is the Honorary Consul for Abkhazia in the UK like you said in the other thread, I think it should also say so here along with his letters.
I mean I dont know, maybe I'm just being anal. I guess it would be clear enough to the readers here already that this is an account from the vantage point of one of the sides in the conflict, and very interesting source material as such, but also obviously inherently biased. (Biased as we all are by where we come from, it's just more important in some circumstances than in others.)
But still, if the writer is an Honorary Consul for one of the sides and, as you wrote in the other thread, can be "expect[ed] to reflect whatever political view is current with leaders in Abkazia", then that should have been a N.B. here of sorts.
Anyway, if you think that's too anal or defensive, please dont mind and ignore accordingly -- and if not, consider the N.B. made now after all. :-)
would you mind to clarify this paradox.
"Dei Zeit, Germany
The West’s Confusion
By Michael Thumann
The war in the southern Caucasus is the fourth since September 11, 2001 in a major area of the Middle East shaken by militant Islamists. But have you noticed something? Islamists, and Muslims in general, were completely absent from this conflict
"Washington’s bloody fingerprints are all over the invasion of South Ossetia. Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili would never dream of launching a massive military attack unless he got explicit orders from his bosses at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After all, Saakashvili owes his entire political career to American power-brokers and US intelligence agencies. If he disobeyed them, he’d be gone in a fortnight. Besides an operation like this takes months of planning and logistical support; especially if it’s perfectly timed to coincide with the beginning of the Olympic games. (another petty neocon touch) That means Pentagon planners must have been working hand in hand with Georgian generals for months in advance. Nothing was left to chance."
Welcome to the new Cold War and new Great Game, what a new administration will inherit next year, and the very worrisome thought that it will handle things no better than the current one no matter who's elected or which party controls Congress.
Despite its longstanding support for Shevardnadze, the Bush administration quickly embraced Georgia’s new president. Taking advantage of Georgia’s desperate economic situation, the United States successfully lobbied for a series of additional free market reforms and other neoliberal economic measures on the country, including a flat tax of 14%. Though official corruption declined, tax collection rates improved, and the rate of economic growth increased, high unemployment remained and social inequality grew.
With strong encouragement from Washington, Saakashvili’s government reduced domestic spending but dramatically increased military spending, with the armed forces expanding to more than 45,000 personnel over the next four years, more than 12,000 of whom were trained by the United States. Congress approved hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance to Georgia, a small country of less than five million people. In addition, the United States successfully encouraged Israel to send advisors and trainers to support the rapidly-expanding Georgian armed forces
And the Russian ground invasion of Georgia, while a clear violation of international legal norms, is far less significant a breach of international law as the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, authorized by a large majority in Congress.
This doesn’t mean that the Russia’s military offensive should not be rigorously opposed. However, the U.S. contribution to this unfolding tragedy and the absence of any moral authority to challenge it must not be ignored
Insult me if I were wrong and educate me if you have some valid views please
Spend some time and think deeply about the new-found artificial con flict which serves the interst of the haves while the have nots are dying .
here is a cut and paste which mirrors my views.
"Is it possible that this time the October surprise was tried in August, and that the garbage issue of brave little Georgia struggling for its survival from the grasp of the Russian bear was stoked to influence the U.S. presidential election?
Before you dismiss that possibility, consider the role of one Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government who ended his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser
It should also be mentioned that the post-Communist Georgians have imperial designs on South Ossetia and Abkhazia. What a stark contradiction that the United States, which championed Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, now is ignoring Georgia’s invasion of its ethnically rebellious provinces.
For McCain to so fervently embrace Scheunemann’s neoconservative line of demonizing Russia in the interest of appearing tough during an election campaign is a reminder that a senator can be old and yet wildly irresponsible.