Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 07, 2008

Who Ordered The Slow News On Georgia

It took the New York Times three month, four reporters and lots of expenses to provide news that I provided here within hours after the war over South Ossetia started.

One wonders why the Times needed so long.

Who gave the orders to hold the truth back and who allowed it to be printed today?

The New York Times sells this news today, November 7 2008:

Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

Instead, the accounts suggest that 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.

Moon of Alabama provided this news for free on August 8 2008, 8:00am est:

Despite yesterday's announced ceasefire, the government of Georgia today launched an all out military attack on the breakaway South Ossetia region in northern Georgia.

NYT on Nov 7:

Two senior Western military officers stationed in Georgia, speaking on condition of anonymity because they work with Georgia’s military, said that whatever Russia’s behavior in or intentions for the enclave, once Georgia’s artillery or rockets struck Russian positions, conflict with Russia was all but inevitable. This clear risk, they said, made Georgia’s attack dangerous and unwise.

MoA on Aug 8, 8:00am est (headlined: Saakashvili Wants War - He Will Get It)

For internal reasons as much as on foreign policy ground Russia will not allow Saakashvili to take over South Ossetia. It will either support the Ossetians with weapons which may lead to a prolonged guerrilla war, or it may even invade on its own.

NYT on Nov 7:

[A]ccording to observations of the [O.S.C.E] monitors, documented Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, Georgian artillery rounds and rockets were falling throughout the city at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between explosions, and within the first hour of the bombardment at least 48 rounds landed in a civilian area. The monitors have also said they were unable to verify that ethnic Georgian villages were under heavy bombardment that evening, calling to question one of Mr. Saakashvili’s main justifications for the attack.

MoA analysis on Aug 12:

On the evening of August 7 the Georgian President Saakashvili went on TV and announced a cease-fire. This came after some small tit for tat fire exchanges on the border between Georgia and South Ossetia. A few hours later Georgia launched a massive artillery barrage against the South Ossetian city of Tskhinvali. It used Grad multiple-launch rocket systems. Such weapons are effective against area targets, like large infantry clusters, not against pinpoint aims.

NYT on Nov 7:

Civilians repeatedly reported resting at home after the cease-fire broadcast by Mr. Saakashvili. Emeliya B. Dzhoyeva, 68, was home with her husband, Felix, 70, when the bombardment began. He lost his left arm below the elbow and suffered burns to his right arm and torso. “Saakashvili told us that nothing would happen,” she said. “So we all just went to bed.

MoA on Aug 12:

The attack hit people at sleep in their homes.

NYT on Nov 7:

At 12:15 a.m. on Aug. 8, Gen. Maj. Marat M. Kulakhmetov, commander of Russian peacekeepers in the enclave, reported to the monitors that his unit had casualties, indicating that Russian soldiers had come under fire.
Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that by morning on Aug. 8 two Russian soldiers had been killed and five wounded.

MoA on Aug 12:

The Russian peacekeepers in South Osssetia had less than a battalion of mechanized infantry between the border and Tskhinvali. This batallion was attacked by a multi battalion Georgian tank and armored infantry forces.

and so on ...

Posted by b on November 7, 2008 at 08:37 AM | Permalink


Time flys
Maybe a little bit OT...but maybe not!

Posted by: vbo | Nov 7, 2008 9:03:31 AM | 1

It is important to remember that the NYT, at the time, was charged by the Bush Administration with the task of bringing public opinion onto the side of Mr. Saakashvili, should said administration decide to enter their self-created fray in any substantial and/or military material sense. After all, this is the way the NYT played the game over Iraq, and in numerous other instances where they, understandably, left themselves sufficient wiggle room to bring it all back, without serious damage to reputation, should they be found out.

Sadly, it seems I'm always "finding them out". If and when I avail myself of the NYT, it is limited to the crossword puzzle and, sometimes, the art section. The balance is fish-wrap of otherwise damaging utility.

Posted by: stumblewire | Nov 7, 2008 9:05:03 AM | 2

Yeah, I noted the "late news" too, and like you I wonder about the "deeper meaning".

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Nov 7, 2008 9:39:35 AM | 3

McCain was a strong supporter of Georgia. Now that he has lost his bid for the presidency, it's okay to tell the truth without appearing to throw votes to Obama.

Posted by: Ensley | Nov 7, 2008 9:43:42 AM | 4

Bernhardt, this was just one of many breaking stories that you have consistently done ground-breaking work on. Today's comparison/compilation is really excellent.

Of course there are huge questions as to why the NYT did not run the readily available news (including material from these professional OSCE monitors) at the time. Was it these reporters, "not knowing who to trust", or otherwise infected by a bad case of clientitis with their Georgian sources-- or was it their editors back home suppressing accounts the reporters had submitted? (If the latter, why didn't the reporters protest volubly, including by resigning?)

It's important to stress how widely these OSCE evaluations were available-- and cited in MSM publications in Europe-- at the time. OSCE has huge credibility, not least because it is the child of the 1974 Helsinki Agreement, and an organization that represents the best in inclusive, pan-European cooperation security. Oh, maybe that's why the neocon ideologues didn't want to give it any credibility... Even, in today's NYT story, they don't mention its name till very low down in the story.

To me, the strongest quote and the big "story" in today's NYT article is this:

Georgia’s account was disputed by Ryan Grist, a former British Army captain who was the senior O.S.C.E. representative in Georgia when the war broke out. Mr. Grist said that he was in constant contact that night with all sides, with the office in Tskhinvali and with Wing Commander Stephen Young, the retired British military officer who leads the monitoring team.

“It was clear to me that the attack was completely indiscriminate and disproportionate to any, if indeed there had been any, provocation,” Mr. Grist said. “The attack was clearly, in my mind, an indiscriminate attack on the town, as a town.”

Military attacks that are indiscriminate and disproportionate constitute war crimes.

The NYT account continues:

Mr. Grist has served as a military officer or diplomat in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. In August, after the Georgian foreign minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, who has no military experience, assured diplomats in Tbilisi that the attack was measured and discriminate, Mr. Grist gave a briefing to diplomats from the European Union that drew from the monitors’ observations and included his assessments. He then soon resigned under unclear circumstances.

It strikes me the circumstances of his resignation warrant a lot more investigation. Are there any MoA readers in Europe who could follow up on this?

Posted by: Helena Cobban | Nov 7, 2008 9:44:52 AM | 5

I meant to write that the OSCE "represents the best in inclusive, pan-European cooperative security." Sorry about the typo/mistake.

Posted by: Helena Cobban | Nov 7, 2008 9:46:41 AM | 6

It strikes me the circumstances of his resignation warrant a lot more investigation. Are there any MoA readers in Europe who could follow up on this?

Well that stroke me too. I googled for about an hour but couldn't come up with an information of/about his firing.

Posted by: b | Nov 7, 2008 9:48:43 AM | 7

I think the timing of the article could be linked to this. Maybe some powers in DC wanting to throw Saakashvili under the bus. Or at least wanting to make sure he'll stay quiet for the next months and won't try to annoy Russia once again.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Nov 7, 2008 10:07:57 AM | 8

Ah, but the months of false news did their job. My double-thinking Republican mother called me up this morning to gloat about the 'irony' of Russia's placement of missiles being Obama's first foreign policy challenge (forgetting about the financial crisis, apparently) when her fav Palin was so experienced on the matter. And she said that honestly! I tried to explain to her that we've been ringing Moscow in missiles for a couple of years now, and tearing up every agreement we've had with them to accept border countries into NATO, and she promptly started screaming at me about how I hate America. 'Cause, nothing shows your love for America quite like running headlong into a nuclear war. *sigh*

Posted by: Li | Nov 7, 2008 11:17:47 AM | 9

@CluelessJoe - yep - demonstrations in Tbilisi - fits the NYT piece. Did Soros order the rose revolution to go into reverse mode

Posted by: b | Nov 7, 2008 11:30:40 AM | 10

I can't wait for the NYTimes to blow the lid off the July 2006 war in Lebanon.

Posted by: biklett | Nov 7, 2008 11:48:58 AM | 11

I can wait, comfortably, forever for the official propaganda rag to not show up in my mailbox. Got enough trouble with our local paper, which printed their full front page on Nov. 5 in BLACK with the headline Obama Wins. And here's the best part: the paper was delivered in a plastic bag with large block letters saying "BEAT OBAMA" courtesy of NRA.

Posted by: rapt | Nov 7, 2008 12:27:35 PM | 12

I can't wait for the NYTimes to blow the lid off the July 2006 war in Lebanon.


b, it never amazes me anymore how you cut thru the bs and provided us w/up to the minute REAL news.

the timing is intriguing. kind of makes one think the war was designed to influence an election and it makes sense now to nip the upcoming cold war in the bud.

Posted by: annie | Nov 7, 2008 12:54:59 PM | 13

Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all your hard work, MOA posters, Helen, Juan Cole, and hundreds of other bloggers.

We would not have real news with which to inform ourselves, otherwise.

Posted by: Jimbo | Nov 7, 2008 1:12:01 PM | 14

Maybe this is why:

The Bush administration wants talks with Russia soon on proposals to limit strategic nuclear warheads and address Moscow's concerns about a U.S. missile shield in Europe, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

Time to make nice?

Posted by: Dick Durata | Nov 7, 2008 1:17:22 PM | 15

Thanks to Clueless Joe @ 8 for the BBC link! I had totally missed the time sequence here:

BBC Oct 27 - Saakashvili fires the Prime Minister

BBC Oct 28 - The Beeb discovers evidence of Georgian war crimes

How timely for Gurgenidze to jump ship before the barrage began... Is he the rose blossom-in-waiting now, hoping to replace the too volatile Saakashvili somewhere down the line?

Posted by: Alamet | Nov 7, 2008 1:28:02 PM | 16

Actually, I see the threat of an escalation with Russia as more likely under and Obama Administration than a McCain Administration. Obama, like Clinton, will unite NATO, and a united and invigorated NATO, at this stage, is a severe threat to Russia. I think that's why Medvedev issued his warning post-haste.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Nov 7, 2008 2:14:45 PM | 17

Quotes from the first presidential debate. Scroll toward bottom, Russia was one of the last issues "discussed."

OBAMA: Well, I think that, given what's happened over the last several weeks and months, our entire Russian approach has to be evaluated, because a resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region.

Their actions in Georgia were unacceptable. They were unwarranted. And at this point, it is absolutely critical for the next president to make clear that we have to follow through on our six-party -- or the six-point cease-fire. They have to remove themselves from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

It is absolutely important that we have a unified alliance and that we explain to the Russians that you cannot be a 21st-century superpower, or power, and act like a 20th-century dictatorship.

McCAIN: It was very clear, the Russian intentions towards Georgia. They were just waiting to seize the opportunity.

So, this is a very difficult situation. We want to work with the Russians. But we also have every right to expect the Russians to behave in a fashion and keeping with a -- with a -- with a country who respects international boundaries and the norms of international behavior.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Posted by: catlady | Nov 7, 2008 2:29:10 PM | 18

T and T, discussing Laurel and Hardy:

"Now look what you made me do."

Act like a 20th-century dictatorship, respect international boundaries and the norms of international behavior.

Riiiiiiiiight. (Thanks, Oba'geddon, for the old Cosby meme)

Posted by: catlady | Nov 7, 2008 2:31:55 PM | 19

Looks like any chances for Richard Holebrooke in the new administration just went down the hole, with this.

Posted by: anna missed | Nov 7, 2008 2:35:45 PM | 20

Nader got it on September 4, suggesting empathy for both Georgia and Russia, and proposing UN mediators to promote dialogue between Russia and Georgia rather than provoking Russian paranoia.

"Georgia deserves to be independent, but it was taunting, the president was basically taunting the Russians. He moved into the autonomous regions, I think there were about 2000 deaths including quite a few Russians who were there.... Putin said enough is enough."

Posted by: catlady | Nov 7, 2008 2:41:18 PM | 21

Looks like Obama missed the NYTimes redo on its reporting of the Georgia mess.

He needs to get his staff up to speed--almost as embarrassing as his crack about seances. Except most Americans won't know about the Georgia/Russia mistake.

Posted by: jawbone | Nov 7, 2008 10:47:30 PM | 22

Oops. Misread the debate transcript as answer to question today. Please ignore comment #22.

However, I do hope Obama will now learn the truth about the Georgia mess/attack on Ossetia.

Posted by: jawbone | Nov 7, 2008 10:56:07 PM | 23

Obama always knew the truth about Georgia. There's forms and protocols in dealing with matters of the highest import and diplomatic double-speak is an integral.
Interesting that the Times has finally picked up on you,b.

Posted by: waldo | Nov 8, 2008 3:04:48 AM | 24


Diplomatic double-speak? How do "[the Russians'] actions in Georgia were unacceptable. They were unwarranted" and "It is absolutely important...that we explain to the Russians..." show that Obama always knew the truth about Georgia but was speaking to fulfill the forms and protocols?

I guess I don't get it. Can you explain in a way that makes what Obama said sound more integral, useful and truthful than what Nader said?

Posted by: catlady | Nov 8, 2008 3:43:01 AM | 25

test... typepad or military hacking?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 8, 2008 4:55:54 AM | 26

Shock and awe on Iraq because Saddam had WMD and was a threat to America - 2003.

Five years later the original touted pseudo-facts are still upheld as seen as true at the time; filtered today as a natural, comprehensible, genuine, misreading.

Or: the debunking is denied, shifted away, excused, as trivial, negligible.

We did the right thing.

And is seen as past its sell-date, irrelevant today:

Gotta move on - Deal with present - Would be a catastrophe if the US left Iraq, etc.

Posted by: Tangerine | Nov 8, 2008 10:33:27 AM | 27

I hope people here finally succeeded in finding Ryan Grist's traces... If not, here's a link to his interview on Aug 9:
Follow to #0741, click and listen


Compare with his recent BBC interview. Pity Ang-Soc prop.

He's no hero. Command has changed. Why/What???

Simple - anglo-saxon mercantilism: Western financial black hole became too obvious, and winter is coming. So, Russia with its $600 Bln in reserves and vast oil/gas supplies became desirable. And I guess Putin/Medvedev's directive to start oil/gas trade in RUbles, as well as recent long-term contracts with China on pipe/oil/gas made sure that US/UK became more soft (wet?)...

Posted by: EAKi | Nov 9, 2008 6:16:22 AM | 28

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