Thursday, September 18, 2008

New York Times' Witless Boobs

In the serial lying of Saakashvili, the latest chapter is perhaps the most revealing. Does the guy really take the whole world for witless boobs ? Well, it appears that at least The New York Times has been taken by the latest shenanigans of the hysterical Georgian president or willing to indulge a twit, who, standing next to the US Secretary of State, accused NATO of complicity in the deaths of innocent Georgians in his war with Russia.

So let’s look at the so called ‘fresh evidence’ that the paper famously sees fit to print.

Essentially, Saakashvili is trying to make us believe that a fighting force of Russian armour passed through the Roki tunnel early in the morning (before 4am on the 7th August), which information forced him to order twenty hours later an all-out onslaught on Tskhinvali held by Ossetian military units and a force of about 500 Russian peacekeepers manning 18 observation posts .

The critical elements of this information and its import are these:

1) When - at what time - did president Saakashvili learn of the armoured units entering South Ossetia ? How does this ‘fresh new information’ square with what president Saakashvili and people in his government publicly said and did on the 7th and 8th August ?

2) Did the two Georgian brigades which attacked and entered South Ossetia know about the large column of Russian armoured vehicles moving south ?

3) How does the president explain the delay in the deployment of the fighting armoured units which, according, to the timeline published by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia , were first deployed at 18:44, August 8th at Tskhinvali ?

18:44 A motorcade of Russian tanks, armored vehicles and trucks loaded with different kinds of weapons reach Tskinvali by the Dzara by-pass road, 2 kilometers west of Tskinvali. The Russians open intensive fire towards Georgian forces located in Tskinvali and on the neighboring heights. A second motorcade, which also came from Russia via the Roki tunnel, is stopped near the Georgian government controlled area of Dmenisi, 7 kilometers north of Tskinvali, and Russians open heavy fire toward Georgian forces.

And why does the MFA timeline record 05:30 of August 8th as the entry of the first Russian troops through the tunnel ?

5:30: First Russian troops enter through Roki tunnel South Ossetia, passed Java, crossed Gufta bridge and moved by Dzara road towards Tskhinvali.

Both texts are here .

To understand the issues and the gullibility of the NYT crew that prepared the report let us consult the timeline of major events in the war as prepared by professor Nicolai Petro of the University of Rhode Island.

There seems to be nothing in the public statements Saakashvili made either on the 7th or 8th August which would indicate his knowledge of the report of the ‘armor and men’ in the tunnel early on the 7th August. He appeared on Rustavi 2 TV, in mid afternoon of August 7th with a bizarre account of an assault by the separatists to which he was forced to react by ordering an immediate ceasefire. He promised an amnesty if the “separatists” lay down their weapons. He addressed the Russians as Georgia’s “natural ally”. He was merely asking that the “so-called ministers” of the South Ossetia government who were Russian return to Russia. He said he was in contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry: We are in permanent contact with the leadership of the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian Foreign Ministry is trying - as they say, they are trying but not managing - to get the separatists to cease fire. (Russian FM Lavrov denied such statements were made by his people.)

Not a word was breathed about Russia’s escalation of the conflict by moving combat troops into South Ossetia. The ceasefire was cancelled within three hours, ostensibly because the Ossetian militias broke it.

The next day (8th) on CNN evening news, Saakashvili first said that Russians were bombarding Georgia and “just” starting to move their armour into Georgia, then corrected himself saying that they actually began moving “yesterday”. He denied he was talking to Russian authorities, in direct contradiction to his public statement of the previous day. Evidently, even on the eighth, Saakashvili knew nothing about his forces only responding to Russia inserting combat troops into South Ossetia. He did say that Russia was looking for a “suitable pretext” to attack his country, which apparently they found "yesterday". He did not elaborate what pretext Russia actually used to move its armour from North Ossetia at the time it did.

The most damning piece of evidence against Saakashvili’s hopeless fumbling and dissembling, was the appearance of general Kurashvili, the chief of Georgia peacekeeprs, on Georgian TV (at 19:05, Aug. 7 accourding to Petro) announcing the cancelling of the ceasefire and the decision of the country’s leaders to “restore constitutional order” in the Tskhinvali region. This was – consistent with Saakashvili’s speech of earlier that day – an operation against the separatists, and against them only. The operation was code named “Clear Field” and was co-ordinated by the Interior Ministry.

There are also other indications that the Russians really were responding to Georgia’s attempt to reattach South Ossetia by force, rather than attacking for some obscure reasons. If they acted before he assaulted Tskhinvali then why ? What was the context ? And how does one explain that the Georgian troops did not expect to be attacked by the Russians ? Or at least this is what some have said.

The timeline of the Russian side supports their story. They say they were surprised by the attack, scrambled for response and went to the UN Security Council for a resolution. Only after they were rebuffed there (6:51 am 8th, see professor Petro's timeline) the first bombs fell on Georgia. The Russians claim that their first combat armour entered through the tunnel at 2:30 pm ( the 8th ) and indeed that squares with its first deployment about 50 km south four hours later, by Georgia's own account.

So far, the best theory why Georgia did not defend the Roki tunnel, came from the former Georgia’s Defence minister Irakli Okruashvili now exiled in Paris. Military plans to attack both South Ossetia and Abkhazia existed. The operation launched by Georgia on Aug 8th was different only in that it did not attempt to shut down the tunnel connecting the Ossetias. The over-confident President apparently believed Russia's use of the facility would be blocked diplomatically by the US. But much to Mikheil's chagrin, the Russians did not follow the script after being snowed by the Security Council.

The “early” appearance of the Russians at the tunnel, as reported by Tbilisi (per professor Petro timeline on the 7th and 8th ) simply does not look real, as the Russians, a day later passed through the facility and down the roads with minimum opposition. Saakashvili's self-correction on CNN on the time of the Russian armour deployment was interesting. I believe it relates to an early version of his lie, that was to make the Russians diplomats trying to stop him at the UN in New York, look like deceivers. This would also explain the 5:30, 8/8 "time stamp" issued by his Foreign Ministry.

The nutty theory that the Russian actions were “unprovoked” and that Saakashvili was simply forced to level Tskhinvali to intercept the neo-bolshevik hordes pouring out of the Roki tunnel, may not even originate with the Georgian authorities. The idea was making rounds weeks ago on the chat circuits after a Tbilisi blogger let out the trial balloon. Again, one would expect a team of professional reporters of The New York Times to be familiar with the facts and relevant events on which they are reporting and make use of them to put the would-be revelations in a proper context.

God bless the Internet.

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