They say that truth is the first casualty in war. But, I would think the further away you are, and the less involved your country is, the more objective the information available on a conflict. I have been sadly disillusioned on this with the coverage of the South Ossetian/Georgian/Russian war by our news services. While there have been a few alternative reports on Radio New Zealand the coverage on New Zealand TV has been completely one sided. It seemed that Russia was the only aggressor and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and his fellow Georgians were the only victims.
Sadly, here is where one has to resort to the internet. Even so there can be problems. Georgia claims that some of their web sites had been disabled for a period because of DDoS attacks. Three Russian news services I consulted (Russia Today, The St. Petersburg Times and RIA Novosti were frequently down in the last week. Russia Today reported numerous DDoS attacks often made it unavailable.
No one innocent
It doesn’t take much searching to realise that no party to this conflict is innocent. They all have their own agendas and they have all participated in the skirmishing that has gone on for some time. However, their are a few important facts that news coverage in this country seem to gloss over.
1: The main victims by far are the South Ossetians. Russian news sources reported 1,600 civilians had been killed and more than 30,000 had fled South Ossetia during the Georgian offensive (although some of these appear to have returned to participate in the war).
2: The war was initiated by massive Georgian escalation of skirmishes into a rocket attack which was the main cause of civilian loss of life and destroyed much of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali .
3: Despite initial attempts to restrain Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili the US did play a role in the war (transporting almost 1000 Georgian troops from Iraq directly to the battle front). US spokespeople are now glossing over the Georgian aggression and have launched a strong anti-Russia propaganda campaign. Georgian military capability had previously been built up from US and Israeli arms supplies and training.
One wonders at Saakashvili’s motives for the attack. He seems to have a desire to embroil the US in this regional conflict and US neo-conservatives seem willing to go part way in this. I can’t help speculating that the impending change of guard in the White House may be encouraging some sort of last ditch stand on their part. The propaganda offensive and US actions barring cooperation with Russia display a willingness to stoke the flames of a new Cold War.
And this is what concerns me. Russia is big enough to look after itself. There are many conflicts in the region and, despite the different agendas, they can be managed without threatening the security of the rest of the world. But this is not helped when an external nuclear super-power declares interests extending to the Russian border – as they appear to have in the case of South Ossetia. Given their role in this conflict it’s understandable that Russia will see US military presence on their borders, incorporation of neighbouring states into NATO and the establishment of a missile defense system in neighbouring countries as hostile acts. The Cuban missile crisis comes to mind as an analogy.
Most people welcome the end of the cold war at the beginning of the 1990s. This enabled lifting of many restrictions on politics and information in both east and west. Contact between people has flourished. And this is important if humanity is to solve the global economic, environmental and climatic problems it faces.
A new cold war is not in our interests. The biased reporting of the South Ossetian conflict is just one example of what could happen. Let’s not go there.
Media war against Russia
Common enemy lifts Saakashvili, but his support base remains fragile
Sabre-rattling S Ossetia defiant
When Mikhail Saakashvili’s plans misfired
South Ossetia war
Timeline of the 2008 South Ossetia war
The war is over
We had no choice – Mikhail Gorbachev
Georgia loses the fight with Russia, but manages to win the PR war