FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What About the Ossetians?

by SHELDON RICHMAN

If Russia exited Georgia — as it should — and the Bush administration dropped its wish to expand NATO to Russia’s border — as it should — there would still be an issue to be dealt with: the secessionist ambitions of the majority in South Ossetia — the Georgian military response to which was the immediate cause of the current war. They are the forgotten party in the current conflict. When President Bush says the “territorial integrity of Georgia” must be respected and GOP presidential candidate John McCain declares, “Today we’re all Georgians,” they are putting politics above justice.

One need not side with Russian Prime Minister Putin, a cynical opportunist if ever there was one, to understand that the Ossetians south of the Russian border are an aggrieved party. Defenders of liberty will sympathize with the Georgian victims of Russian brutality, but they should also champion the cause of the brutalized Ossetians, who (like the Abkhazians) demand independence from Georgia. (This is in no way a defense of Ossetian crimes against peaceful ethnic-Georgian inhabitants of South Ossetia.)

“These regions are a part of Georgia,” Bush said of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, “and the international community has repeatedly made clear that they will remain so. There’s no room for debate on this matter.”

What could be more arrogant? Who is this “international community” and why should it have any say in who governs the Ossetians and Abkhazians?

When it comes to separatist movements, the American and Russian governments have no principles whatever. They take whatever side advances their political interests at the moment. When ethnic Albanians in Kosovo sought to break from Yugoslavia, the Russians sided with ally Serbia and opposed independence, but the United States backed the separatists and unleashed its bombers. Something similar happened when the Bosnians did the same thing. (The United States gave mixed signals when the Russians moved against separatists in Chechnya.) Yet when the Ossetians and Abkhazians want to be free of Georgia, the big-power roles are reversed.

If you hold your breath waiting for a sign of integrity from any government, you will turn blue.

Things are not always what they seem. Apparently-united countries often comprise disparate groups that do not wish to be ruled by others. When people speak of “Georgia,” what do they mean? The Ossetians and Abkhazians have different languages and cultures from Georgia and have wanted independence ever since Georgia won its independence from Russia in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union.

“It soon became clear to me that the Ossetians viewed Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence,” writes the Washington Post’s Michael Dobbs. “I was there in March 1991, shortly after the city was occupied by Georgian militia units loyal to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first freely elected leader of Georgia in seven decades. One of Gamsakhurdia’s first acts as Georgian president was to cancel the political autonomy that the Stalinist constitution had granted the republic’s 90,000-strong Ossetian minority…. I discovered that the town [Tskhinvali , the capital of South Ossetia] had been ransacked by Gamsakhurdia’s militia. The Georgians had trashed the Ossetian national theater, decapitated the statue of an Ossetian poet, and pulled down monuments to Ossetians who had fought with Soviet troops in World War II. The Ossetians were responding in kind, firing on Georgian villages and forcing Georgian residents of Tskhinvali to flee their homes.”

Do Americans really want to be in the middle of this conflict? While decent people wish the Georgians well in their efforts to stay free of the Russians, we should balk at supporting Georgian President Saakashvili — who is no defender even of the Georgians’ liberties — and his determination to hold the breakaway regions against their will.

Enough big-power politics, client states, and cynical Orwellian lies! Innocent people have suffered too much to let this go on another moment. Bush presumes Americans will take him at his word, not bother to do any fact-checking, and support his provocative agenda in the South Caucasus. If they do, more injustice will be committed in America’s name.

The moral alternative to Putin is not Bush or Saakashvili, but rather condemnation of all the governments involved. Freedom should always take precedence over “territorial integrity.” Secession is the indispensable check on government power.

SHELDON RICHMAN is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of The Freeman magazine.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail