Sunday, August 10, 2008

As we go marching through Georgia? A WAR TOO FAR

"SO who would you support in this lot?", asked the man in the pub, a couple of days ago, excited at the sound of katyushas being fired in Georgia. I confessed I didn't know. Maybe I should have asked which side he favoured so I could take the opposite. I'd already gathered his views were reactionary on most subjects, and that he wasn't used to being contradicted.

On the other hand, judging from the glee on his face he might not have cared who was winning so long as there was killing. It reminded me of the time I saw a National Front supporter over the moon about news from Lebanon, having heard before I did of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila.

What had happened in Georgia and South Ossetia was not so clear, in terms of taking sides, though a friend and fellow-trade unionist was arguing yesterday that Georgia was a sovereign state defending its territory against Russian aggression. On the other hand I was not clear how his defence of the right of small nations to self-determination might apply to south Ossetia. Nor was I attracted last night by an invitation to join a Facebook group called "Europeans for Georgia

What did become clear yesterday was that the Russians decided to attack after Georgia had sent its tanks into the breakaway region, and that in bombing what might have been military targets they had managed to kill large numbers of innocent civilians. What also got mentioned was that, as I thought, a strategic oil and gas pipeline runs south through this region, avoiding Russian territory; and Georgia has applied to join NATO.

President George W.Bush denounced the Russians for bombing a sovereign state and killing civilians. Quite right. Who do they think they are, Americans?

On TV news a Georgian woman whose home had been bombed said her government had been stupid to provoke the Russians. It was reported that Georgia was having to bring troops home from Iraq, and today we heard they were withdrawing from South Ossetia. So who encouraged them to go in so recklessly?

With US and Israeli politicians and generals training their sights on Iran, and US forces already bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, you'd think they had enough on their plate, without getting involved in the Caucasus. But controversial Swiss-based Israeli journalist Shraga Elam thinks different.

"There is an obvious Israeli involvement in the present conflict between Georgia and Russia.," he says. "There are hundreds of Israeli military advisers in Georgia ..." We need not take his word alone. He quotes sources like military expert Yossi Melman in the daily Ha'aretz:

"Melman wrote on 25.6.2008 that Georgia became a real El Dorado for Israeli arms dealers and numerous representatives of the army and intelligence services. Some former generals like Israel Ziv and Gal Hirsh (with his company Defensive Shield) are very active there.

"Gal Hirsh and Israel Ziv are mainly training and consulting Georgian arm units. They are using the 'chain' method common among Israeli arm dealers: a main contractor wins a tender and employs then sub-contractors, in this case Israeli officers and former Shin Beth employees," wrote Melman.

According to him there was a project to sell Merkava tanks to Georgia, but allegedly the Israeli foreign ministry prevented the deal and a policy was outlined that only defensive weapons are allowed to be sold.

Just the same Russia protested agains the Israeli military support to Georgia after an Israeli produced UAV was shot down. On August 5 Israel reiterated its official policy that it allegedly sells only defensive and not offensive weapon systems to Georgia.

The daily Ma¹ariv points out that the Georgian defense
minister, David Kezerashvili, lived for a while in Israel and speaks Hebrew. It estimates military exports to Georgia as worth at least USD 300 million. An Israeli marketing expert told MaŒariv: "To every Israeli agent representing an Israeli defense company is attached a cousin of the defense minister, who opens the doors for him."

An Israeli website called News First Class (NFC) confirms the massive presence of Israeli advisers in Georgia and writes: "The Israeli military industries upgraded in recent years the Georgian air force, sold unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), advanced artillery systems and trained infantry units." (9.8)

Israel may have to consider whether arming Georgia is good or bad for it as it tries to persuade the Russians not to sell their advanced anti-aircraft missile system S-300 to Iran and Syria.

The Israeli website DebkaFile, which is inclined to sensational and conspiracy theory estimates that up to 1,000 Israeli advisers are active in planning and implementing the present Georgian military action That is more than giving "advice". But we remember how "advisers" began US involvment in Vietnam. Nowadays, in Georgia they may be called "consultants", and as in Iraq, be classed as "civilians".

Sharaga Elam notes that according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, there are 127 U.S. military trainers there, of whom about 35 are civilian contractors.

"In addition to the trainers, 1,000 soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command, along with Marine reservists with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines out of Ohio, and the state of Georgia¹s Army National Guard¹s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry participated in 'Immediate Response 2008'."

"Operation Immediate Response 2008 was held from July 15-July 30, with U.S. personnel training about 600 troops at a former Soviet base near Tbilisi, the largest city and capital of Georgia. The goal of this operation was allegedly teaching combat skills for missions in Iraq.
The Marines left the country already, but not the airmen.

Shraga Elam wites that "It is obvious that there are numerous Israeli and U.S. interests in Georgia and it is highly likely that they are behind the dangerous Georgian move".

I'm not so sure it is obvious why the Israelis should want to get involved in a war so far from their occupation frontline, or risk taking on Russia on top of spearheading a war on Iran. But it is obvious that some interests may be doing well for themselves from the Caucasus conflict, and they could have more influence on the present Israeli regime than the kind of reasonable Israelis that we know.

Especially if the rich uncle in Washington has given a wink of encouragement, along with the promise of benefits from that trans-Caucusu pipeline.

Meanwhile, "military intelligence" being as some say, a "contradiction in terms", it seems some US generals finding their forces in a mess are looking to dig further in, judging from two items spotted by the Information Clearing House(ICH):

Manufacturing Consent For An Attack On Pakistan:
Afghanistan accusing Pakistan of aiding insurgents

US commander in Afghanistan Thursday publicly accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of "some complicity" over time with militant groups fomenting violence in Afghanistan.

U.S. weighs pursuing militants into Pakistan:

Top Bush administration officials are urging the president to direct U.S. troops in Afghanistan to be more aggressive in pursuing militants into Pakistan on foot as part of a proposed radical shift in its regional counterterrorism strategy, The Associated Press has learned.

Having so long regarded Pakistan as a useful base and ally, used it as hinterland for mojahiddin fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, encouraged the Saudi-funded Taliban as a weight against Iran, and assisted the Pakistan military to acquire nuclear weapons, is the US about to turn on Pakistan?

One of the bombings was of an Indian consulate, and in the past Pakistan intelligence has been implicated in bombings in India. Now that US government no longer regards India as unfriendly, could it use such provocations to draw South Asia's other nuclear power into a horrific war?

It sounds mad. But with US economy, as well as foreign policy, in desperate straits, I would not put anything beyond the neo-cons and Bush's circle.

Like Munch's "Cry" painted before the First World War, that weeping Georgian woman whose neighbours had been killed by the madness of politicians may come to be a symbol of the warnings we should have heard.

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At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite a good analysis. Thanks for pulling together some of those numbers and details about trainers, deployments etc.

Modern post Cold War military-industrial-political complexes are such rewarding beasts to study.

The US/ Israel military/commercial hydra is in particular a fascinating one to observe as it evolves into FSU marketplaces and beyond.

It's in the news in Georgia today, but it has involvements in South Asia that are even messier.

Roll on gloabal militarocapitalism!


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