Newly released accounts by the independent observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperaton in Eruope (OCSE) of this summer's Georgian war, reported in today's Times, emphasize three conclusions:
- Georgia's shelling of the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali was not preceded by large-scale South Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, as claimed by Georgia. "According to the monitors...no shelling of Georgian villages could be heard in the hours before the Georgian bombardment. At least two of the four villages that Georgia has since said were under fire were near the observers’ office in Tskhinvali, and the monitors there likely would have heard artillery fire nearby."
- The shelling was indiscriminate - " Georgian artillery rounds and rockets were falling throughout the city at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between explosions, and within the first hour of the bombardment at least 48 rounds landed in a civilian area."
- While hitting civilian areas throughout the city, the attack also targeted Russian outposts. "Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that by morning on Aug. 8 two Russian soldiers had been killed and five wounded. Two senior Western military officers stationed in Georgia, speaking on condition of anonymity because they work with Georgia’s military, said that whatever Russia’s behavior in or intentions for the enclave, once Georgia’s artillery or rockets struck Russian positions, conflict with Russia was all but inevitable. This clear risk, they said, made Georgia’s attack dangerous and unwise."
None of this proves that the Russians did not draw the Georgians into this suicidally foolish assault, or that Ossetians did not shell Georgian villages at some point prior to the attacks. But it does highlight the dangerous absurdity of John McCain's Manichean pronouncements and saber rattling in the wake of the Russian attack. (McCain has a long history as Saakashvili's enabler-in-chief. ) Here's Christian warrior McCain at Saddleback:
I'm very saddened here to be with you and talk about a Russian re-emergence in the centuries-old ambition of the Russian empire to dominate that part of the world -- killings, murder. Villages are being burned. People are being wantonly ejected from their homes. The latest figures from a human rights organization is 118,000 people in that small country. It was one of the earliest Christian nations. The king of then-Georgia in the third century converted to Christianity. You go to Georgia and you see these old churches that go back to the 4th and 5th century.
My friends, the president, the president, Saakashvili, is a man who was educated in the United States of America on a scholarship. He went back to Georgia, and with other young people who had also received an education, they achieved a revolution. They had democracy, prosperity and a great little nation.
And now the Russians are coming in there in an act of aggression. And we have to not only bring about cease-fire, but we have to have honored one of the most fundamental rights of any nation, and that is territorial integrity. We must respect the entire territory of Russia -- excuse me -- the Russians must respect the entire territorial integrity of Georgia. And there's only 4 million people in Georgia, my friends. I've been there. It's a beautiful little country. They're wonderful people. They're suffering terribly now.
And parrot Palin, distilling McCain's take to its essence:
"For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we have to keep...
GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.
PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there.
Palin, following McCain's logic to its apparent conclusion, pledged faith even unto World War III:
GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty [if George were admitted], wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?
PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.
The airing of the OSCE observers' inconvenient truths should drive home what we've been spared by rejecting a McCain presidency -- policy driven by wishful thinking, reflexive posturing, Manichean polarization--not to mention cozy lobbyist relationships. McCain may well have made Cheney look like Gandhi, as Pat Buchanan forecast.