Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Allies must put fairness before their alliances.
The fact that the western countries are standing behind this imposition of Georgian sovereignty on these two regions will rightly infuriate the Russians, who will see this as one more proof that the west is against them. This will only accentuate the deep division and distrust that these last years (since the invasion of Afghanistan) have brought us.
The double standards on Yugoslavia and Georgia (just like in the case of an isolated nuclear Israel) will provide fuel for conflict for generations to come. Well, the show must go on I suppose.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
It has absolutely no worth beyond the social limits of human interaction. (It is a fiction, whose power arises with our belief in it, just like property or words.)
On the other hand, and following McCain's speech, Bush's speech also tries to focus the "damaged Russia's standing in the world". It might now be as elegant as McCain's speech, but it works good enough.
We should also mention the gaffes. The first is a tribute to President's Bush ability to render everything into a more comical setting: "It now appears that an effort may be underway to depose Russia's duly elected government." Obviously, it should have been said "Georgia"! Let's hope it will not help into complicating matters further. The second gaffe is the removal of an "if". The text reads "If these reports are accurate, these Russian actions would" etc. But in his reading Bush simply eliminates the "if". On the whole these gaffes give the American speech a much more stronger tone than it was intended to have.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the gaffes is the sense of urgency of the speech. If Bush could not be allowed to lie down and rest from his trips, then it seems obvious the speech was intended to give some muscle to Kouchner and Stubb's Moscow mission tomorrow (presenting Saakashvili ceasefire pledge).
But, being this the most important reason (at least apparently), there are a few others who might be playing a part as well:
1) the upcoming elections: this speech underlies McCain's and puts it into an even better light. If Bush had not talked there could be doubts about the valor of McCain's speech, instead of that, McCain can now easily been seen as an expert who anticipated what the "national security team" would say. Besides McCain's speech is even better, by adding Nato into the mix and by its overall style. In fact Bush's speech seems designed to be poor, for instance: "Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century." (what?, was it acceptable before? and if so, what makes it unacceptable now?)
2) satellite imagery and privileged information? There must be a lot of surveillance equipment in the area (after all we are talking about a region close to Iran and Iraq and where a good deal of smuggling in weapons and forbidden technology must be checked for), this should give the US a very strong ability to monitor Russian's forces advances and numbers in a very accurate manner. Perhaps it was not only tiredness that helps to explain the absence of the "if" we pointed out before.
3) actual friendship with Georgia and past agreements and true ideals seem not to be at the root of this. We are in the "pragmatics" territory, since such ideals would have had its consequences well before. (even in Iraq)
4) A sensed division between Medvev and Putin. It is not entirely clear that these two men have the same vision for the area. Although it's Medvev that controls the army in theory, it is Putin that has been taking the front role in this crisis. The threat of sanctions might give Medvev the internal momentum to separate from Putin.
Obama's first serious speech about the situation is also interesting by it's backing on Saakashvili and the talking about non-military retaliatory action against Russia (WTO) and the need for further steps (UN peace keeping force). It's certainly a step forward.
Another note on Mr Putin comparison with Iraq, a comparison that certainly applies. Iraq was a much more illegal action.
«But Mr Putin said the US was wrongly viewing Georgia as the victim instead of the aggressor.
He said: "Of course, Saddam Hussein ought to have been hanged for destroying several Shia villages. And the incumbent Georgian leaders who razed 10 Ossetian villages, who ran elderly people and children with tanks, who burned civilians alive - these leaders must be taken under protection."» (source)
There is a point here, for in both cases, facts were taken out of context to the point of distorting their meaning. Now, with which moral record is Bush going to preach to Russia about self determination and people's right to non-interference when he has had such a poor record in respecting these? In fact it would seem, there is not much difference between the West and the East in their preparedness to interfere with others. But obviously, the west, in its own history and internal progression, was able to create much more open societies. So far it was unable to expand this culture either to outside nations, or even to inside individuals coming from these cultures (Muslim immigrants in the UK for instance).
In any case it is curious how the public in Russia and the West is seeing events in a similar light. In both cases there is an aggressor, with evil and strange intents, which must be stopped. War is closing by...
A final note: no one is talking about the need to safeguard the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Amazing how we want to have control and deem it fit even when it is undesired by the controlled.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Listen far, listen deep, listen good, connect with the all.
Well, first of all you must make sure he is defenseless, not only must he not have any way to defend himself or to attack, he must have no way out, and no friends must be around to help him.
Then you'll have the perfect crime setup. In this case it's not a pigeon, only a state with four million people inside. It's called Georgia, and aside from Sweden and a few other neighbouring states (like Lithuania) no one is around to help. The USA, NATO and all the big players just say: have sense, cease hostilities. But in fact there is only one side to this hostility, and a very stupid group of military commanders on the the other side, stupid enough to reply to the hostility, when they are in a position of incredible frailty. They might have understood that they were falling into a trap, but like a mad dog, angered and the spite, they just go and attack, forgetting that Ossetian "terrorists" have a very big friend around, that the stage has been well mounted, they the only thing left for them is to fall into the trap.
Among the desire of a powerful military demonstration from Russia (Putin certainly, what about Medved, just trapped in it?), and the pride of Georgean officials, a conscious victim sees its end approaching, its Mikheil Saakashvili. He knows he has no chance of a military victory over the giant. And yet, he can't avoid the war. The Russians have been smart to the point of asking for a special UN meeting, all meticulously synchronized with the beggining of the Olympic games in Beijing! Amazing. The perfect crime!
Here is the deafening speech from Mikheil Saakashvil: (source, while it is still there!!)
My dear fellow citizens!It seems as if he is really serious. The beautiful man and his beatiful wife, and all their beautiful plans to raise a free country, well...
I would like to address South Ossetia, I want to address all of Georgian society, all of our multi-ethnic Georgian society. I want to address ethnic Georgians and ethnic Ossetians, ethnic Russians and ethnic Jews, living in the conflict zone-all citizens of our country, regardless of their ethnicity.
My dear fellow citizens!
The situation in and around Tskhinvali has just worsened. In recent days, the permanent provocations, violations, murders, and other offenses to which we have become accustomed now have escalated dangerously and threaten the peace.
I myself do not understand why the separatists became so aggressive exactly at this time. First, they attacked several times the Head of the Provisional Administration of South Ossetia, Dimitry Sanakoev, who was one of the former separatist leaders and who opted for peace. Then, they began attacking Georgian police, peacekeeping posts, and mobile patrols. During the last few days, they undertook large scale attacks and are continuing to attack peaceful civilians in villages.
Sniper assaults on civilians in Georgian villages are still underway. Even at this moment, as I speak to you, intensive fire is coming from artillery, tanks, and other weapons-such as mortars and grenade launchers-that have been illegally deployed in the conflict zone.
We have been in constant contacts with the leadership of the local Russian peacekeeping forces.
Several hours ago, they told us that they have completely lost control over the actions of the separatists.
I dispatched to Tskhinvali Mr. Temur Iakobashvili-the State Minister for Reintegration and the Special Representative of the President in the negotiating process-in order to conduct direct talks regarding a ceasefire.
The separatists refused to accept him and sent him back from the conflict zone without any results.
We are in constant contact with the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry tells us Russia is trying to stop the separatists from engaging in armed action, but without any success.
I would like to directly address those people who are at this moment shooting peaceful civilians and Georgian police forces.
You have been shooting during the last several days and especially in the last several hours.
I want to declare with full responsibility and confess that several hours ago, in my capacity as Commander in Chief of Georgia, I issued a very painful order directing all Georgian police forces and other units under our control not to return fire, even if they face intensive bombing.
I did this very deliberately.
However, I would like to state that in the hours since, during which time our forces and civilians have fallen victim-there are many casualties and many wounded, many houses have been destroyed and damaged-I did this deliberately in order to have the possibility to stand before you and call for an immediate ceasefire and immediate negotiations.
I continue to support the peace plan for South Ossetia that I introduced three years ago, a plan that has been developed over the course of many years. It includes practicaly unrestricted autonomy and local governance for South Ossetia, special safeguards for the human rights of every ethnic Ossetian, autonomy under international guarantees, an autonomous structure created according to EU standards.
I am proposing that Russia act as a guarantor of South Ossetian autonomy within Georgia. I act with full responsibility, so that Russia, Georgia, and European countries can participate in the peacekeeping process. The local population must feel that they are defended by the international community, by people who deserve their trust.
I want to say, that despite the fact that many people have been killed and robbed, have had their possessions absolutely destroyed, we are offering full amnesty to everyone who has committed such criminal acts punishable under Georgian law, if they immediately cease fire. I am willing to take even such a consequential step. The Georgian government is ready to forgive the crimes committed in recent years in order to secure peace, to continue the peacekeeping process and negotiations.
We offer all of you partnership and friendship, despite your violations against Georgian state and the local population, no matter what acts you committed, acts that are punishable under Georgian and international laws. Because peace is a greater value, more vital than anything else. We are ready for any sort of agreement in the interest of peace.
But I once again would like to address you.
My dear people, my dear fellow citizens!
I love Ossetians as a President and as a ordinary citizen of this country.
I admire and respect Ossetian history and culture.
Every ethnic Ossetian has been an inseparable part of Georgian history for centuries.
We are proud of you and our unity. Georgia is strong for its diversity. Georgia has never been and will never be a mono-ethnic country. Georgia belongs to all of us regardless of our ethnicity.
Let’s take care of our country together. Let’s together avoid the violence. Let’s work together for a better future. Let’s forget everything negative that has happened in the past and let’s together think about our common future.
I would like to address the international community. Nobody should try to present the Georgian government as a supporter of any kind of violence. For so many days, we have been reaching out to our partners-today we have spoken to several world leaders-to help us stop the escalation of violence. We ask that you help us conduct direct negotiations, to guarantee the autonomous status of South Ossetia, and to internationalize the peace process. We also ask for your assistance in holding a more results-oriented dialogue.
We are doing everything to avoid escalation of the violence.
I would like to address the Russian Federation as well.
Georgia is a natural ally of Russia.
Any president of Georgia-and myself above all, since I know well what Russia means for Georgia-will always be committed to good relations with Russia, assuming that Russia respects the territorial integrity of Georgia, the sovereignty of Georgia, and the inviolability of the state borders of Georgia.
In recent years, South Ossetia, for all intents and purposes, is directly administered by the Russian Federation.
There are ministers in the separatist government in Tskhinvali, for instance, who also are officials of the Russian government and who have been sent to South Ossetia on mission.
I request from Russia and the separatists to pull these ministers out; they have nothing to do in South Ossetia; they do not contribute to the historic friendship between Georgians and South Ossetians. To the contrary: They hamper the restoration of our traditional allied relations.
We need true mediators, and we offer the Russian Federation an important role in resolving this conflict.
We can accomplish many things together. But for now, we must return to the situation as it stands today.
Georgia is undertaking an immediate, unilateral cease fire. We do not have the will to respond to violence with yet more violence.
We have been tolerating this for so many years. We have not responded to so many provocations throughout the years, to countless violations. No other state would have shown such restraint. Please, do not test the Georgian state’s patience. Because this is your country, which is willing to defend each of you.
Let’s stop this spiral of violence. I address everyone: Let’s do everything to stop the escalation-today, tomorrow, or the day after-and return to the negotiating table. Let’s use every possible format-direct, multilateral, and other formats-to overcome this absolutely critical situation, to come out of this unacceptable deadlock in which we all find ourselves.
My dear people!
I rely on your wisdom, on your historical experience, that lies in our shared past and in our genes.
This is the Caucasus, where violence harms everyone.
Let’s give peace and dialogue a chance.
I really believe in you!
Will they be just rocks tomorrow? Not even memories, perhaps. (at least not undistorted ones!)
The fact that only Sweeden had a proper reply makes us think what the world would be like if all the nations had proper governments.
Sweden's (Carl Bildt's) reply: "The way in which the situation in South Ossetia has deteriorated is cause for profound concern. It is extremely important that all those involved show restraint and play their part in bringing about a political solution," ... "I am particularly concerned about the impact of the conflict on civilians. Georgia and Russia are dangerously close to war and there is a great risk of this spreading to other parts of the Caucasus." Bildt further stated that the crisis is due to "provocations from the South Ossetian side" and that the Georgian forces are trying to "restore the constitutional order".  and that the Russian bombing of Georgia is "very worrying and will demand a forceful reaction from the United Nations and the European Union." " (Wiki)
Forceful? Yeah, right! Fifty years ago, when the traces of war were still implanted in us, we would have a forceful response. We would know what could and could not be tolerated. We would value upholding democracies rather then upholding cheap oil. But all the memories of war seem to have been forgotten. In ten or twenty years we should be heading for a new one, to remind us, once more, that there are things to which we simply cannot close our eyes to.
For another similar look check this bbc article.
UPDATE August 11: Well, the most unlikely figure stepped up to help Georgia. In fact, his statement is almost everything a worthy US presidential statement should be at this time: John McCain (notice that I would generally prefer Obama, but not in this particular instance). You can see the video here. The lonely voice from the west that does more than "strongly condemn" or "call Russia to...". This is the kind of response we need! But I would also add to this speech the need from South Ossetia to be officialy independent from Georgia. South Ossetia had two referendums, in 1992 and 2006, which undeniably expressed their want to separate from Georgia! They should have that right, to self-determination, as soon as possible, and that should be apllied to every region in the world. People, ethnic groups, communities, etc, should belong to larger states because they desire to (like in the EU or the USA), because it is in their best interest to belong, not because they are forced to (like the kurds in Turkey and Iraq, or what is still happening in ex-Juguslavia). Let people be free, without freedom there will be no peace, oppression leads to revolt. Without this addition of the need for the self-determination of South Ossetia, McCain's speech can actually bring more tension. But his guts are severly need in the political scene!
Here is an interesting article from the iht, I just don't agree with the phrase "Saakashvili had acted rashly". I believe it was not his decision to retaliate. He offered a cease fire and a general amnesty, but I believe somewhere in the chain of command the military simply did not obey him. Seeing everything being destroyed around, having immense immediate firepower and simply not responding is something a military man has difficulty in doing. The art of non-reaction is not encoraged in those parts.
Monday, August 4, 2008
From the moment we are born to the moment we die: each living string of events that give shape to our consciousness can be full of detail or vague, large and wide in scope or focused in a small part of reality.
As animals, as human beings, as biological minds born of the struggle for physical survival, our mental objects are always narrow minded. There is only so much we can put in a homo sapiens brain. These texts and landscapes, and even the great works of science and art than mankind as achieved in the peak of its effort and inspiration, is only a shallow picture of what is. Today our best pictures of the world (like M theory, history (from the big bang to the 21st century), molecular biology, computation, mathematics, futurology, etc) point to the incongruence and incompleteness of our knowledge.
One thing seems very clear: we are very small animals in a very vast universe. We are very rare and precious, but at the same time we know almost nothing of what surrounds us. We are the first beings in our planet of which we are aware, that have started to look beyond food and mating and rearing and playing, we have started to look at the stars and rivers and rocks and tried to see what they really are. Not only as tools, as instruments to our well being, but in themselves.
What must have seemed clear, a million years ago and today, is that the world is huge and we only know a very small part of it. When we look at the huge universe that surrounds us, with it billions of billions of stars, we can only understand that, through the course of our entire life we will only see a very small part of the whole world that spreads its wings in space, time and scale.
It is as if we will only see a single music, or a single face, and, from that, we must try to imagine what lies beyond, the whole multitude of faces with their histories and problems and wants and fears, the whole multitude of melodies, from Bach to The Doors, passing through Regina, Vangelis, Nirvana, Satie and others.
Likewise, what we can see in our human societies, or even in this planet, with its gigantic history, much richer than we will ever be able to imagine, is just a minute part of what there is, and even less of what there will be. If we have the hope, the desire, to know what the universe is like, what what it is is like, if we want to be able to have the widest pictures in our mind, with the most amount of detail, then we must understand that we are small, that the world is unimaginably bigger than what we can conceive, that there is no end to our growing in vision and understanding.
Man has just begun, and the road seems infinite, at least as far as we can see...