Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 19, 2008

Who Started the Georgian Five-Day-War?

Saakashvili's splendid little war in early August was accompanied by a lot of propaganda. But it still it was obvious to most people that Saakashvili started the war with an artillery barrage against civilians and Russian peacekeepers. Only some 12-15 hours later Russian troops from outside South Ossetia arrived to help their besieged comrades. After two days the outcome was obvious. Georgian troops were beaten and the Russian Federation forces had won the fight.

NATO analysis, the OECD observers and 'western' intelligence agencies confirm this view of the events. The Georgians attacked in mass first, then the Russian Federation moved troops and beat them.

But on August 26 a new Georgian version crept up. The Georgian government started to assert that regular Russian troops rushed into South Ossetia before the Georgians attacked.

We have now undisputable judgement on who is correct here.

Michel J. Totton, a right wing will-write-whatever-for-money 'journalist' was flown to Georgia and sat down with Saakashvili official media adviser. On August 26 he then published The Truth About Russia in Georgia asserting, as he was payed to do:

Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia.
Virtually everyone is wrong. 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 sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

Totten quotes Saakashvili's media adviser:

"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. It was time to act."

There are 34,600 Google links to Totten's piece, mostly from rightwing U.S. sites who swallowed that story hook, line and sinker.

But somehow that was not enough to convince the relevant people and the public attention was  moving on. Last week the Georgian government made new attempt to establish a false history by using a more prestigious propaganda organ than Totten.

On Tuesday the New York Times headlined: Georgia Offers Fresh Evidence on War’s Start:

A new front has opened between Georgia and Russia, now over which side was the aggressor whose military activities early last month ignited the lopsided five-day war. At issue is new intelligence, inconclusive on its own, that nonetheless paints a more complicated picture of the critical last hours before war broke out.
Georgia claims that its main evidence — two of several calls secretly recorded by its intelligence service on Aug. 7 and 8 — shows that Russian tanks and fighting vehicles were already passing through the Roki Tunnel linking Russia to South Ossetia before dawn on Aug. 7.
Vano Merabishvili, Georgia’s minister of interior, said he was told of the intercepts by Georgian intelligence within hours of their being recorded. The information, he said, was relayed to Mr. Saakashvili, who saw them as a sign of a Russian invasion.

Pressed as to why more than a month passed before the conversations came to light, Mr. Merabishvili said the file with the recordings was lost during the war when the surveillance team moved operations from Tbilisi, the capital, to the central city of Gori. Georgian intelligence officers later sifted through 6,000 files to retrieve copies, he said.

There are now some tapes of alleged phone calls of dubious origin and the NYT seems to believe the story. But the last quoted graph throws up a serious follow up question the NYT did not ask:

Why would Georgia move its surveillance operation, that 'lost' the recordings to find them a month later, in the middle of the war from the safe capitol Tbilisi to the city of Gori which was near the front and a day later under Russian control? Beats me.

Neither the account dictated to Totten, nor the new 'tape' story the NYT published seem believable to me. But that is just this leftwing blogger's opinion. But some unfortunately relevant people seem to to support my take.

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State Rice revealed the official U.S. administration version of the start of the Georgian war in a speech to the German Marshall Fund (the same speech she asserts that Russia is on the way to 'international irrelevance'):

On August 7th, following repeated violations of the ceasefire in South Ossetia, including the shelling of Georgian villages, the Georgian government launched a major military operation into Tskhinvali and other areas of the separatist region. Regrettably, several Russian peacekeepers were killed in the fighting.

These events were troubling. But the situation deteriorated further when Russia’s leaders violated Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – and launched a full scale invasion across an internationally-recognized border.

Here we have the official version from the U.S. Secretary of State:

  1. The Georgians attacked.
  2. Further, the Russian Federation responded.

As reality is now even acknowledged by the Bush administration isn't time for Totten, the NYT and other propaganda organs to give up on the issue?

Posted by b on September 19, 2008 at 19:00 UTC | Permalink


Condi's giving us frogspawn truth - a pinpoint of reality surrounded by enough slime to deter close inspection.

Posted by: Tantalus | Sep 19 2008 19:14 utc | 1

Saakashvili is scheduled to complain loudly at the UN next week, calling for help against unprovoked Russian imperialist aggression.
Considering who makes the biggest part of the General Assembly and who heads it right now, I wouldn't be totally surprised if he's laughed out of the building.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Sep 19 2008 19:25 utc | 2

It will be time when they're told (by their masters) that it is time. That is, probably never. Why should facts be allowed to get in the way of a propaganda campaign?

Posted by: Dick Durata | Sep 19 2008 19:33 utc | 3

New Prez of General Assembly - incredible speech

If only words, meant something on the lips of a politician..

Eris Says:Being good at being stupid doesn't count.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Sep 19 2008 19:43 utc | 4

And Palin keeps repeating that Russia's attack on Georgia was "unprovoked". The sad part is, most of the public hears only the rights version. Even Obama hasn't been interested in the truth of the matter. Guess that's really no surprise, since most all of the poloticians work for the same folks.....And that's not us.

Posted by: Ben | Sep 19 2008 20:17 utc | 5

inner city press: Afghanistan Resolution Slowed by Civilian Deaths Raised by Russia, Cold War in UN

UNITED NATIONS, September 19, updated -- The mystery of the delay this week in considering Security Council's draft resolution to extend approval of the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan has been explained to Inner City Press by involved diplomats: Russia is attempting to introduce language about the type of civilian casualties recently caused by U.S. missile strikes.

Russia last month introduced a draft Press Statement on the topic -- in the wake of criticism of its military activities in Georgia by the U.S. and others. The Press Statement appeared to die on the vine, but its spirit lives on, now delaying the ISAF extension. The item was on the Council's schedule, and then disappeared. Neither Russia nor the U.S. is publicly discussing the issue.

Update of 3:15 p.m. -- in closed consultation in the Council, Italy has proposed to put the draft into "silence procedure" until 7 p.m., then vote on it on Monday. Russia has countered that they must go back to their capital. Developing.

What some call the new Cold War is gathering strength, but not all the moves are in public.

For example, in the closed meeting of the UN General Assembly's General Committee this week, sources tell Inner City Press that the U.S. and Russian representatives got into a dispute so heated that security had to be called.

transcript of d'escoto's sept 16th Opening statement upon assuming the presidency of the 63rd session of the General Assembly

inner city press: At UN, Russia - US Dispute Triggered Call for Security Officers by Nicaraguan Priest

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- The mounting tensions between Russia and the U.S. resulted in security officers being called to restore order to a closed meeting of the UN General Assembly's General Committee this week. Responding to a heated dispute between the U.S. and Russian representatives on the Committee, the new General Assembly President, Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, called UN Security. Since it was a closed meeting, attempt have been made to keep the incident quiet. Inner City Press, however, has been told the same story by numerous witnesses, and now reports it.


Posted by: b real | Sep 19 2008 20:34 utc | 6

Great catch, b real. It will be interesting to see if and how this is covered by the NYT, WaPo, etc.

Posted by: Dick Durata | Sep 19 2008 21:11 utc | 7

Read Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, back in September 9, 2008. He a) lays out the correct sequence (i.e. Georgia's move into South Ossetian capital provided the Russians a pretext for a response..."), b) specifies the entire six-point agreement, etc., all points you have made, but then surrounds the truth with a 'bodyguard of lies.'

So, unfortunately Saakashvili is responsible for a few (undefined) "democratic deficits"; Georgia acted in the face of "repeated provocations" (invoked at least twice); "Georgia declared a ceasefire, but it did not hold" (nice use of the passive tense!); "The Georgians told us...." (evades specifying if true or correct); we had "bluntly" warned the Georgians not to be provoked (but apparently they are free to ignore our 'advice' with no ramifications to them from us); no justification for Russian actions; HRW " said Russians dropped cluster bombs in populated areas" (again, evades taking a position on the truth of the assertion); even though they were follish enough to agree "While awaiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures" this is defined in the narrow sense of the letter to Saakashvili (no Russian agreement); and plenty of hyperbole e.g. "outrageous and irresponsible action" Of course, the media only repeat the more hyperbole , whuile ignoring the 'whispered' truths...

So the U.S. govt has told the truth re the sequence of events from the beginning - it's more a matter of how they shade it by choosing what to emphasize and what to de-emphasize, what to highlight and what to slide by, etc.

P.S. Oh, and a real giggle - he claims that "the United States does not believe in or recognize "spheres of influence."

Posted by: Tosk | Sep 19 2008 21:16 utc | 8

For the US, its sphere of influence is 'die ganze Welt'. Other country's spheres are limited to their borders, if they're lucky.

Posted by: Dick Durata | Sep 19 2008 22:39 utc | 9

The Guardian published an article about Putin and Bush's meetings in Beijing and how Bush while opposed to the fighting seems to have done nothing to have stopped it which seems to have gained little traction in the US press.

"They [Georgian military forces] launched their attacks at 23:30 [on August 7]. I learned about it the following morning. I spoke to Bush. He said 'No one wants war.' We expected something would happen," Putin said, suggesting that he expected the US to rein in its regional ally in Tbilisi.

"I met him again at the stadium. I can't tell you in detail the content of the conversation, but I had the feeling that his administration wouldn't do anything about stopping the conflict," Putin said. Russian tanks were then ordered to move on the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali.

It is the first time that Putin has blamed the US for allowing the crisis to erupt. He was polite about Bush, saying he respected his integrity, but he suggested that the president's advisers had taken the key decisions. "It's a court which makes a king. Maybe the court thought the king shouldn't intervene," he said.
Putin made clear that Russia could easily have occupied Georgia and toppled its president, Mikheil Saakashvili. "Our forces were 15 kilometres [nine miles] from Tbilisi. It would have taken four hours to capture Tbilisi. We didn't have that goal."

Most interesting of all is this Der Spiegel article which gives an independent account of the start of the war and questions how much longer Saakashvili will last - maybe not long if some people have their way.

Posted by: blowback | Sep 20 2008 0:43 utc | 10

The stuff about security being called in the UN meeting reminds me of that great line in Dr Strangelove when the George C Scott character, a rabid anti-commie air force general, hits the russian ambassador who was at the meeting by the invitation of the prez.
When the russkie and the redneck are laying into each other the prez shouts out:

"Gentlemen, please! No fighting in the War Room."

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 20 2008 1:36 utc | 11

All very interesting, and here's another tidbit. The nuclear carrier USS Ronald Reagan costs $25,000,000 per day to operate around the world, 24x7x365¤'s, or about 10¢ per American per day, every day, rain or shine, the same 10¢ you'll be begging for, for a cup of coffee from your backpack and cardboard perch at the nearest freeway offramp. Wait, I forgot, wages haven't gone up, but coffee costs a whole lot more than 10¢!!

"Peace Through Strength!" Hoo-ahh!

Posted by: Hew Wa | Sep 20 2008 4:15 utc | 12

The task of polishing the army boots with rewritten history requires commentators with a special type of mind set. Luckily they are found in large numbers throughout all sections of the media circus, which has always marched obediently to Washington’s tune. It’s been their trademark for decades.

Georgia, the youngster who wanted to join the local NATO gang, had to first prove itself by passing a test of courage, like popping someone off. US and Israeli whispers in Saak's ears while handing him a set of high tech military gadgets, painted him a flowery picture of how jubilant the victory march down Tbilisi’s main street will be. Go Mikheil go, you can do it, shoot the Russian bear like Putin shot the Tiger and the NATO membership card will be on its way.

I can imagine that should the war have ended differently, the Roki tunnel not surviving and Russia been given a humiliating bloody nose, some of the European NATO members like France and Germany, who after the fiasco and confronted with an assertive Russia are now reluctant to bring Georgia into NATO’s fold, would have embraced Saakashvili as their latest gang member, a proven bear wrestler worthy of joining the evil commie fighting establishment. But it didn’t. Georgia not only didn’t win, it lost - two breakaway regions, both reaching significantly into Georgian territory, and large chunks of its military hardware destroyed.

Should NATO admit Georgia, it would be the official declaration to the world that its goal is principally to be an anti-Russian alliance, forget about that North Atlantic stuff. Its charter speaks of a Military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America, and Georgia is part of neither. As a matter of fact, it is thousands of miles from anywhere but Russia, as Saakashvili and his fellow Georgians have just found out. Georgia is that bit of land between the US hammer and the Russian anvil.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Sep 20 2008 5:44 utc | 13


This is totally OT but I post the link here hoping to attract attention.

This could be the ad that sinks Palin-McCain.

Needs donations and wide viewing, I think.

Posted by: Hamburger | Sep 20 2008 9:59 utc | 14

No NATO for Georgia: Gates">">Gates Says West Should Avoid Extremes of Force

Mr. Gates delivered a strong caution to those who argue for quickly making Georgia a NATO member to protect its sovereignty from another Russian attack.

He noted that Article V of the NATO charter required all allies to defend the territory of any member that came under attack. And he implied that a full reckoning must be made before the United States and other allies obligated themselves to military action by allowing Georgia into NATO.

We need to be careful about the commitments we make, but we must be willing to keep the commitments once made,” Mr. Gates said, without specifically mentioning the debate over NATO membership for Georgia.

Posted by: b | Sep 20 2008 10:01 utc | 15

William Pfaff agrees

The Georgian government continues to talk about rearmament and revenge. It ought to talk about a special arrangement with the European Union which would be politically and economically advantageous, and give them an international association to which the Russians would have no reason to object, and would indeed find reassuring. NATO membership now is closed, and was – as they have found out, at heavy cost to their people – always a snare and delusion.

Posted by: Hamburger | Sep 20 2008 10:50 utc | 16

It was Saakashvili, in the conservatory, with the wrench.

Do I win? Does anybody?

I too wonder if the poodle press (wasn't that one of Billmon's terms?) can be bothered to go back and even discuss it. Sound bite come, sound bite go....but always time for more lip stick on a pig.

You can get away with almost anything 6 weeks before a national US election! Genocide anyone?

Posted by: Diogenes | Sep 20 2008 12:52 utc | 17

don't know what Hew Wa's game is but every place I looked had annual operating costs for Nimitz class carriers at around 160 million per year. that works out to around a half million per day.

please provide link for 25 million a day

Posted by: dan of steele | Sep 20 2008 15:28 utc | 18

Sorry, OT but a major economic event of the last 75 years:

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

I suppose parliaments have voted in dictators before....

Posted by: | Sep 20 2008 17:22 utc | 19

US to invade Iran any day now?

September 12, 2008

A few weeks ago the Russian newspaper Izvestia, a well-known and authoritive daily published nationwide and abroad, came forward with something that would have been looked upon as a conspiracy theory if published by a tabloid.

The paper suggested that by attacking South Ossetia, the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had badly damaged a planned U.S. military operation against Iran. In the newspaper's opinion Georgia was supposed to play the role of another "unsinkable aircraft carrier" for the U.S., i.e. an operational and tactical base for U.S. aircraft that would be making bombing raids into Iran. Something akin to what Thailand was in the Vietnam war.

Posted by: a | Sep 23 2008 9:46 utc | 20

The kikes are the primary criminals in the Georgia war. As usual, joo fingerprints all over the situation. They set up other people to fight and run like the cockroaches they are! Russia should drop a nuke on the jizzreal! Kikes are the maggots of the human race!

Posted by: walt235 | Sep 24 2008 8:41 utc | 21

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