The song “Georgia On My Mind has been one of my favorites for many years. I have several versions of the song on CD. But lately it has been another Georgia on the far eastern shores of the Black Sea that I have been worried about. She does not bring me peace of mind.
The worry emerged from hearing and reading the official American media and newspapers go into one-sided rants about the “unprovoked” Russian military attack on Georgia last August. Unprovoked? It was almost as if we were right back in the middle of the Cold War again, and our old nemesis the growling Russian bear was back and the Americans and Georgians were the innocents strolling in the woods.
The Bush administration made hilarious hypocritical speeches about respecting other states territorial integrity in the 21st century. A slew of hostile and alarmist American rhetoric from both political parties was followed by the arrival of American warships carrying aid to Georgia. A US Navy warship anchored in the southern Georgian port of Batumi. Then the heavily armed guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived . The arrival of the warships came after a partial withdrawal of Russian military forces from Georgia. This after a Russian military invasion of Georgia – but only after Georgia itself had launched a bloody military incursion into Ossetia last month. The Georgian assault caused tens of thousands of South Ossetians to flee into Russia. Some observers claim that Russian-US relations are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
Like every American of my generation “I learned to hate the Russians throughout my whole life,” as Bob Dylan sang it in his song WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE. The evil and godless “communist” empire was seen as the source of all evil in the world and conversely America was the source of all good and light. In the face of such an evil enemy, every American intervention on every continent was blessed with the impeccable label of defense. All North/South conflicts were dressed up as East/West conflicts. American defense spending grew rapidly.
From the end of World War Two until the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US pursued a policy of “containment,” often using the very existence of the Soviet Union to wage counterinsurgency wars in the third world against popular liberation movements. In the process, it turned Latin America into what author Greg Grandin called in his book an EMPIRE’S WORKSHOP - a dark and violent history of the use of imperial power and the reality of US sponsored coups, support for Contra terrorists, death squads, and massacres. A sordid history indeed! Documents now show that the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which followed the botched CIA sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, nearly caused a nuclear war. We are lucky to be alive today because the Soviet Union ultimately backed down from the military confrontation.
In addition to numerous US foreign interventions (both covert and overt) and regime changes, the Cold War containment policy involved several components directed at the Soviet Union –surrounding the Soviet Union with US military bases and American friendly states or client states, maintaining an official “first strike” nuclear policy (and a concomitant “defensive” anti ballistic missile program known as Star Wars), and last but not least, the development and expansion of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in Europe.
As author Steve Breyman pointed out in an essay published in COUNTERPUNCH (September 12, 2008), the “benefits of NATO membership include hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of tanks and aircraft, hundreds of warships,” and “thousands of American, British, and perhaps French missiles and bombs” ready for members collective defense. Breyman gets to the heart of why Georgia is on my mind with the following assertion: “The threat to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict is the cornerstone of NATO defense doctrine.”
The end of the COLD WAR did not bring an end to NATO’S horrid first use policy. If Georgia is integrated into NATO, it automatically becomes part and parcel of the American first strike strategy.
One would think that NATO would have been disbanded after the breakup of the Soviet Union, as occurred with the Warsaw Pact. Instead, with US encouragement and direction, NATO expanded into the Baltic Region and the former Soviet Republics who were encouraged to join and become part of the US military alliance. The NATO military attack on the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990’s against strong Russian and UN objections must have stimulated Russian nationalism among ruling circles. They likely perceived it as an expansion of an aggressive American military power into their former sphere of influence. Additionally, it is not inconsequential that NATO is now heavily involved in America’s growing commitment to the intensifying war in Afghanistan.
The recent US efforts to place 96 Patriot Missiles in Poland (now a signed deal), and attempts to place the accompanying radar equipment in the Czech Republic, have increased Russian fears of being surrounded and being vulnerable to a first strike nuclear attack. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are members of NATO. Georgia’s integration into NATO is at the heart of the crisis.
It is also important to note that the crisis has occurred in the wider historical context of an official US policy of world domination and global military superiority, unilateralism, a loosely defined “global war on terror,” and a declared policy of the right to wage pre-emptive war and engage in the “first use” of nuclear weapons anywhere and everywhere.
It is the same historical context in which the US has essentially abandoned the Geneva Protocols, abolished the ABM treaty, tried to block the establishment of the International Criminal Court and refused to ratify its Statute after it failed. Currently, the US is involved in two bloody protracted and expensive “wars without exits” in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has been threatening military action against Iran in spite of Iran’s cooperation in stabilizing Iraq. Apart from Russia’s historical ties with Ossetia, and the issue of the oil pipeline through Georgia, the overstretched nature of US military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been a factor in the Russian decision to militarily intervene in the Georgia/Ossetia crisis. America’s convulsive domestic economic crisis and financial meltdown on the home front, partly caused by the long expensive wars, is another factor.
The recent Georgia crisis during the China Olympics showed just how shallow those old “hate the Russians” prejudices that Dylan sang eloquently about have been buried, and how easily they can bubble to the surface with the slightest stimulation.
It is also relevant that the crisis occurred in the context of the 2008 US presidential election and brought many moldy Cold Warriors to the surface yelping for McCain’s election bid. They were all screaming for blood and punishment. The established media provided the accompanying dramatic music and the dramatis personae. Nevertheless, it is important to look at the historical contextual realities and the power politics behind the crisis before passing judgment.