Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gori: How do you turn a trench into a mass grave?


Answer: Just keep digging.

“You started it!”

“No, you started it!”

“Liar! You started it!”

“Criminal scum! You started it!”

“Genocidal butcher! You started it!”

Such is the essence of the claims being slung safely back and forth between the Russian and Georgian political leaders. Safely for them, that is. They’re nowhere near the shitty end of the stick. Putin may well be with his troops, but he’s definitely holding the neatly varnished extremity. Others aren’t so lucky. The picture below could be a South Ossetian mother and child, or a Georgian mother and child, or just another La Pieta of the twentieth century. I say twentieth because genocide as a term was coined then. Genghis Khan massacred the entire population of Turkey (give or take a handful) but that wasn’t new even then. Labelling it as a crime was, and that happened in 1945.

Which was timely for a Georgian who had caused the deaths of more than 20,000,000 Soviet citizens in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, Joseph Stalin, born in Gori, Georgia in 1878. As a boy he was first drawn to radicalism by the oppression of Georgians by the Russian Imperialist rulers. A policy he adopted himself when he rose to power, punishing Georgian nationalists ruthlessly. Oh, by the way, the picture shows a Georgian mother and child in Gori following Russian bombing yesterday. Who knows if they’re still alive today?

Plausible deniability.

Russia’s new man of steel, Vlad ‘the Impaler’ Putin, is following the same ruthless line of repression. While Georgian soldiers have undoubtedly murdered Ossetians and Russian soldiers have undoubtedly murdered Georgians genocide has so far been largely rhetoric. Georgian President Saakashvili accused the Russians of it a few days ago and a furious Putin threw the same charge back at Saakashvili earlier today. But today’s news contains a small but important snippet. The Russians are recruiting ‘amateur militias’: young, angry, un-trained men supplied with weapons, vodka and cash to buy a uniform, then let loose on the Georgian population.

It’s a policy the Nazis employed in Russia and Baltic States as part of the mass-murder of Jews. ‘Outrages’ or ‘excesses’ could be blamed on ‘local militias’ outside of German control. Now known as ‘plausible deniability’ it’s a tool of modern realpolitik that’s used universally by politicians in the twenty-first century.

It’s a cynical term when used for any purpose.
It’s evil when used to avoid responsibility for genocide.

There will be a bloodbath in Georgia.
Putin and his thugs will deny all responsibility.

If necessary scapegoats will be found.
By then it will be too late for the Georgians.

Not 1938, 1950.

The invasion of Georgia has been likened to the takeover of Sudetenland by the Nazis, which they followed by swallowing up the rest of Czechoslovakia piecemeal. While Ossetia and Abkhazia could certainly fit the image it’s the wrong historical parallel. A better example is China's conquest of Tibet in 1950.

Military invasion was followed by mass immigration of ethnic Chinese to swamp the local population and reduce them to a minority in their own country. It’s still going on in Tibet today. This is what will happen next in Georgia, or whatever the broken up remnants are called after the war. It won’t be too difficult, there are only 4.6 million Georgians, including Ossetians and Abkhazians. After the war this number will be significantly lower.

Stalin tried it in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia leaving a sizeable Russian minority there that still provides Russia with an excuse to interfere in their internal affairs. Now a small and relatively free democracy will be crushed and reduced to a vassal state of the new Russian Empire, whoops, Federation. And Moscow will host an Olympic games.

President Saakashvili wrote in The Wall Street Journal Europe: "If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union." He may be right, he may be wrong. What’s very clear to countries like Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and others is that Putin and Russia will use any means to force them to toe the Moscow line.


PS: A big thankyou to all those readers who wrote in (0) to point out our “deliberate mistake” in assigning Putin the initials V.I. rather than the official V.V. This was, of course, a tribute to the original V.I. – better known to the world as Lenin.

1 comment:

Maozze said...

And a special prize for the person who can spot the difference between Gori and Guernica - an indefinite stay at Club Med Guantanamo Bay.