“Written to enlighten, guaranteed to offend”
A Publication of Seth J. Frantzman
August 19th, 2008
1) Witness to Betrayal and Cowardice: The EU and the Georgian war: The most fascinating aspect of the Georgian war has been the European hypocrisy and betrayal of Georgia. Georgia put her faith in the West and her president evoked Hitlers assault on Czechslovakia in 1938 as a comparison. Perhaps Georgia forgets history. The Europeans abandoned the Czechs in 1938. They abandoned the Georgians in 2008. In seventy years very little has changed.
Witness to Betrayal and Cowardice: The EU and the Georgian war
Seth J. Frantzman
August 19th, 2008
When Whittaker Chambers published Witness in 1952 he believed that he was publishing the Epitaph of Western Civilization. Having been an activist in the Communist party in the 1930s he had 'witnessed' the corruption of the Wasp Anglo elites and the subversion of them to Communism and he had witnessed the degree to which intellectual society was unable to confront this threat. Whittaker Chambers was wrong. His book helped influence many people to stand astride history and fight against the linear timeline of Communism.
But when I found myself in a hotel room in Tunisia watching the BBC report from South Ossetia in Georgia I felt a similar feeling as must have overcome Mr. Chambers. Yet today we speak not of the fall of Western Civilization, for there is no longer such a thing, but we speak of the cowardice and betrayal of the Europeans.
As usual when dealing with modernity and the response of the West and its media and people one deals with two separate issues. First there is the issue of the thing itself. Thus there is the evil of terrorism and Islamism. Thus there is the issue, in Georgia, of a small semi-democratic state attempting to assert its control over its own country and the 'breakaway' region of South Ossetia. There is the 'reaction' of Russia and the subsequent invasion and bombing of Georgia by the Russian army. When one deals with the aggressive response of the Russian army or Islamism one admits that indeed these things are natural. Islam is naturally a chauvinistic religion and the outcome of religious Islam is war, intolerance, the suppression of women and terror. But since it is natural it is not hypocrisy. It is genuine. Thus it is not palatable but it is understandable and it is easier to fight. With the Russian bombing of Georgia one can understand the Russian mentality, the desire to assert Russian power and embarrass the West. The Russians tongue-in-cheek use of words such as 'ethnic-cleansing' to describe the situation in South Ossetia was a brilliant ploy to poke a finger in the eyes of the West and reveal the hypocrisy of the Kosovo adventure whereby bullying Western states had pried away Kosovo from Serbia. Thus Russia was playing at the game of the Westerner in her 'humanitarian intervention'. Bombing Gori and Tblisi was no different than the Nato bombing of Belgrade. One understands the Russian.
But the second issue that always pops up whenever one deals with modernity is the issue of the western elitist leftist reaction. This is always encapsulated in the reporting of the BBC and the reactions of the Western European. These reactions are not genuine or 'authentic'. They are 'critical' and 'thought provoking' and always the opposite of what logic might dictate.
Thus while the BBC described the Israeli bombing of Lebanon as 'disproportionate' the Russian bombing of Georgia was described as Russia's reaction to a 'gamble' carried out by Mikhail Saakashvili in South Ossetia. The BBC continues its legacy of reporting the Lebanon conflict by having reporters amidst the propaganda. Thus BBC reporters had Hizbullah minders in Lebanon and in South Ossetia they dutifully follow around the Russian army and meet the 'right' Ossetians and see the 'dead children' and the 'old women'. It is the classic presentation that one is used to from the Middle East: the weeping old woman and the crying children. Men are, as a rule, excluded from pictures and media reports by white European westerners because the male, especially the 20-40 year old male is not a sympathetic character in the West. The classic statements of propaganda are reiterated by the BBC: 1,600 dead civilians. "We want to be with Russia". The BBC usually finds it can do best in reporting propaganda by sending a female reporter. Its reporter in South Ossetia who is 'escorted by the Russian military' is Sarah Rainsford. The European women reports accurately her role in the propaganda: "we met no Georgians at all on this trip." This is the way of the European. It is the way of the Western media. The idea of journalism, once something that prided itself on sending western reporters to combat regions in order to find out the truth through observation by westerners, now prides itself on sending western reporters to conflict areas to find out what the authorities on one side of the conflict will tell the reporter. It is a fascinating digression of the logic of reporting. If one is going to report only one side and quote only one side and be shown around by minders then why not just let the Russian Ministry of Information provide the details since the BBC is only parroting those details and passing it off as 'journalism'. Perhaps the reason to have the BBC along is to provide the editorial at the end, the Western viewpoint of "This conflict has already destroyed any trust between Georgian and Ossetians. It now looks like any chance there was of reconciliation is burning along with the houses." One can understand when a Russian provides his view of the conflict, what one cannot understand is the way in which the European becomes a propaganda piece for the Russian government.
The reason for the European reaction is cowardice and the classic European act of betrayal. Mikhail Saakashvili compared the situation of his country today, after Russia began bombing it on August 10th 2008 to that of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Like Czechoslovakia both countries have ethnic-minorities. In Czech it was the Sudetenland Germans who agitated for German intervention to 'protect' them. Hitler complied. The West, led by the appeaser Neville Chamberlain relented and granted the West 'peace in our time'. Hitler got Czechoslovakia and the West received 'peace'. It was to prove to be an Islamic peace. Saakashvili evidently used the comparison because he believed the Europeans were of the 'never again' mindset. But Saakashvili obviously has not been paying attention to European history in the 20th century. Europeans have never defended their allies. The European way is to abandon small states to their fate. The European way is to mince words and ignore genocide. Thus it was in 1938 and nothing changed after. The threat of Communism and Soviet imperialism didn't steel the hearts of Europeans. They mostly appeased Communism and expected the U.S to protect them. Elites in many European countries joined Communist terror gangs such as the Red Brigades and the Red Army Faction (Baarder-Meinhof gang). Some of England's most well bred men spied for the KGB. Charles De Gaulle was no champion of freedom against Communism and set France on a 'separate path' while Willy Brandt reconciled with the East German regimes. All the while the 'arsenal of democracy' in the U.S had to protect the European so that his economy could grow and he could sip his latte and work his 35 hour work week and enjoy his 'social justice' welfare system. The EU economy of today was primarily founded on the back of the American taxpayer. But when Europe was rebuilt and it once again had armies it never used them to prevent genocide. It always hid behind America so that when America succeeded the Europeans could take credit and when America failed, as in Vietnam, the Europeans could protest and scoff. When 800,000 Tutsi tribesmen in Rwanda were hacked to death in 1994 with French supplied machetes the Europeans did nothing and then accused the Americans of 'lacking leadership'. Evidently the 500 million people of the EU could not have done anything themselves. Thus Mr. Saakashvili was walking a foolish road when he compared himself to Czechoslovakia. Most people do not even recall the president of Czechoslovakia in 1938. His name was Edvard Benes. Why would Saakashvili inadvertently compare himself to such an unmemorable person. Did Saakashvili forget what Czechs call the Munich agreement of 1938 which destroyed their country? They call it was the 'Western betrayal' (zrada spojenců or Mnichov Mnichovská zrada-Munich Betrayal).
The nature of the Betrayal is quite deep. The West courted the various former Soviet Socialist Republics after 1991. Some of them, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, were allowed into the EU and NATO. Georgia was one of the foremost candidates for the next round of expansion. It was seen as a bulwark of western decency in the Caucuses. On April 9th, 1991 Georgia had declared independence from the U.S.S.R. Zviad Gamsakhurdia became its first president. After being forced into exile by a coup he died during a bloody Civil War in 1993 that pitted him against the former Soviet Foreign Minister, western media darling and Russian supported Eduard Shevardnadze. Shevardnadze served as president until 2003 at which time the 'Rose Revolution' brought Saakashvili to power. During this chaos a number of separatist movements sprouted up in Georgia demanding independence for ethnic minorities including the Abkhaz (94,000 people), Ossetians (65,000) and Ajarians (Adjaria 376,000). Russia has worked since the 1990s to absorb the two northern enclaves, Ossetia and Abkhazia, sending Russian 'peacekeepers' into the areas (much as Nato did in Kosovo) and giving Russian citizenship to the locals. Thus when Saakashvili sent his army to crush the Ossetians in August of 2008 he was attacking 'Russian' citizens and when a few Russian 'peacekeepers' were fired upon the Casus Belli was upon the Georgians. Saakashvili played the game badly. He was not, as the Godfather notes, a 'Wartime Consigliere'. He was an emotional wreck within twenty-four hours of realizing that his gambit had provoked the hungry Russian bear on August 9th. Unlike Henry V at Agincourt he behaved more like Stalin, who was also Georgian, after the Nazi invasion of 1941 (Stalin had a breakdown, seems to have resigned and hid in his room for several days). Saakashvili seems to have rarely slept, perhaps not a surprise given the situation, and he made the strange decision to withdraw the Georgian armed forces from Ossetia and order them to stand down in or around August 13th (an earlier ceasefire declared by him on August 7th before the Russian intervention had not stopped the fighting in South Ossetia). This allowed Russian soldiers to enter Georgia unopposed, takeover the Georgian city of Gori (Stalin's birthplace, the city was subsequently looted by Ossetians) and move towards the Georgian capital. Perhaps this is the Georgian way of fighting. Despite stories of Georgian 'knights' and an ancient history one is all too aware that for many centuries Georgia was the main supplier of slave women to the Ottoman sultan's harem and slave raiders targeted the country annually to reap the latest harvest of young Georgian girls up until the 19th century. Perhaps years of enslavement turned the nation into one of passionate men who, although calculating, clannish and temperamental, are not really the warriors they make themselves out to be). Whatever the case of Saakashvili's inability to carry through with his boastful words, his nation caved in the face of aggression much the way the Czechs caved in 1938. The western betrayal affected Saakashvili so deeply that he was unable to fight.
When the EU president Nicolas Sarkozy, who one might suppose would be a 'wartime Consigliere' given his tough stance against Muslim 'youth' rioters in Paris 2005, in fact signed the death warrant of Georgia. The 'six point peace plan' outlined by the EU ordered the Georgian army to return to its military basis while the Russian army would remain in Georgia under the ambiguous clause "Russian military forces must withdraw to the lines prior to the start of hostilities. While awaiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures." This is the European way of peace. It is the peace of Petain. Petain signed a similar treaty with Hitler in a railroad carriage in 1940, giving the Nazis access to most of France and setting up a Vichy regime which would actively collaborate. But Georgians are not Frenchmen. They are not collaborators.
In truth the Georgians have learned the hard way what many peoples have had to learn in the 20th century. Having a European friend is meaningless in the hard world of Realpolitic and war. European allies are not a guarantee of military aid. Europeans do not guarantee anything. Europeans offer two things: Cowardice and betrayal. Such is the epitaph of European civilization. To be sure, it was a civilization that produced much guts and bravery. It was not always this way.
But the modern European culture is the culture of critique and protest. It is the culture of the coffee-house intellectual, the poverty tourist and the protest tourist. Thus Europeans will be extremely violent after a football match, they will protest violently against the WTO and globalization. They will even throw rock and assault Chinese Olympians running with the Olympic torch in Paris. This is European bravado at its best: attacking things that cannot fight back. A European will sail on a 'free Gaza boat' from Cyprus to the Gaza strip, know Israel won't hurt his lily white skin, but a European will not go to Darfur. A European will protest China in Paris, but not in China. When ITN China coorespondent Nick Ray was covering a small protest by Chinese people during the Olympics he was pushed around by the police " the journalist's shoes were scuffed, his trousers and shirt dirty and some bruising was visible on his hand." "This was an assault in my mind. I am incredibly angry about this," he told AFP. This is the European mentality. Some scoffed shoes and a dirty shirt is a 'human rights violation', perhaps even an 'act of genocide' if it happens to a European. An entire country invaded, bombed and humiliated, such as Georgia. That is just something to call an unfortunate incident.
European Civilization is dead. It is not something to be fought for and passionate about. There is no strength of vitality in Europe. There is no faith or honor. There is betrayal and cowardice. The Georgian people were deceived and sold a bill of goods over democracy and free markets. They should have learned that democracy, despite the European talk, does not truly wrench he hearts of the European. Crying grandmothers, military minders, terrorism and crying children, and women in veils, that is what wrenches the European mind. A note to Georgia: If you want sympathy import some little black children, convert to Islam and then maybe you will get some sympathy. But you still won't get the military support you need. You are a small little unique country, like Israel and Serbia, and you therefore get the other end of the stick, the one that is useless, flaccid and rotten. You are on your own. It is unfortunate that Mr. Saakashvili does not seem up to the task of defending your country and he has instead put his faith in those who fled the Nazis and those who collaborated.