Thursday, August 14, 2008

War of Words over South Ossetia (Part 2)

Analyzing reaction to the war has really flushed out for me which blogs/news outlets/pundits are credible and which ones are just full of garbage.
An issue I have with the "pro-Russia" blogs is the assumption that everything Russia is saying is true, and everything Georgia is saying is false. Here are some
outright lies that the Russians have been caught in:

1. The Russian government continues to state that the Georgian "genocide" claimed upward of 2,000 civilian lives.
Human Rights Watch is having problems confirming this. They've only confirmed 44 in Tskhinvali. However, the media on the ground is reporting that Ossetian irregular militias are currently burning villages, raping, and killing Georgians. ITV reporters showed the smoke drifting eerily up from Georgian villages as refugees fled in terror. HRW seems more concerned about that right now.

2. On Wednesday, ITV reporters recorded footage of Russian patrols in Gori. Hours later, the Russian government called rumors of their troops being in Gori a lie.
Ambulances from Gori are being barred from retrieving wounded in surrounding villages by Russian forces.

3. The Russians claimed that attacks on the BTC pipeline were "lies." The Daily Telegraph and the Wall Street Journal have reported otherwise, posting pictures of the bomb craters right near the pipeline-- far away from any civilian or military locations.

4. The Russians have violated the ceasefire to destroy Georgian military bases and sink Georgian ships. "Necessary" to support the peace. There are reports that Russia is even mining the base in Gori.

5. Not a lie, but now Russia may be in violation of the Geneva Convention due to their cluster munitions--which do a lot of collateral damage. Such weapons were outlawed under the 1977 addendum to the Convention, which the Soviets agreed to and Russia has not refused since.

How many lies does a government have to tell before the world stops believing them? For the "pro-Russia crowd" the answer to this question is quite possibly a several-digit number.

Fortunately, this is what a free press gets you: actual footage instead of government propaganda (on all sides). You can believe whoever you want to, but it's hard for me to believe that the people on the ground are lying or that their photos & video are fabricated.

In an attempt to show fairness fairness, on the Georgian side the lies I've seen have been:

1. An unwillingness to say "We fired first." There have been some speculation that armed Ossetian were heavily shelling Georgian villages, forcing their hand. And that Russia had the invasion pre-planned since July (see next to last paragraph). That's still suspect, however. As it stands now, Georgia attacked, and didn't let anyone in the West or their Western advisors on the ground know about it.

2. On Sunday, they claimed the Russians took Gori when they didn't. A seemingly moot point now that the Russians do have Gori. They claimed on Wednesday that Russians were moving toward Tbilisi, which they weren't, they were just patrolling southward.

Actually, looking back at the Georgian ministry press releases (they set up a Blogger account), most of what was once considered a Georgian "lie" has since been proved true (the bombing of the airports, the sinking of Georgian ships, attack on BTC, burning of Georgian villages, etc.).

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