It was a touching, powerful and embarrassing piece of media. In fact, it was enough to make the average, newspaper-reading U.S. citizen blush. There stood the president of the United States speaking passionate words into a Rose Garden microphone. He was excoriating Russia’s “dramatic and brutal escalation” of violence toward Georgia, “a sovereign neighboring state,” in retaliation for Georgia’s suppression of Ossetia, its breakaway province. The action, George Bush said with properly restrained indignation, has “substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world.”
It was a stupefying moment. In response to Russia’s troop movements into Georgia in defense of South Ossetia ,a province on Russia’s southern border, George Bush, architect of the invasion of the still embroiled and desperately damaged “sovereign nation of Iraq” declared to the world that ” such action [as Russia took] is unacceptable in the 21st century.” Yo, George! Aren’t you forgetting something?
Indeed, Bush had apparently forgotten that just weeks before his dramatic condemnation of the brutality of Russian foreign policy, the brutality of our own foreign policy in Iraq had been clearly and repeatedly exposed by our own Senate Intelligence Committee as also unacceptable. This was “a pot calling a kettle black,” as my grandmother liked to say as she dismissed the rantings of political figures in full election array.
After years of stalling by Republican members of Congress, on June 5 the full report of the committee was finally released. But not to worry. The bet is that no one is paying any attention. Least of all George Bush whose distorted justifications for the invasion of that country trumped everything the rest of the international community either knew or knew they didn’t know about the ethical exoneration of a maneuver that has killed more than 4,100 U.S. soldiers, 350 of the “coalition of the willing” and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, most of them civilians.
What’s more, the report is clear: The top administration officials who made the decision to take this country to war knew they were not telling the country the whole truth about what they knew or the reasons why they themselves were so intent on the invasion, despite overwhelming doubt about the legitimacy of it.
So how is it that a president can make such an officious display of condemning – demonizing – another. it seems, presidents lie to themselves, to the world, to us to such a degree that truth has taken a misty and shapeless turn. “What is truth?” another politician, Pilate, asks Jesus. It’s a question to which we need an answer now more than ever.
Hello- does anyone realize that we opened the door here? Our invasion of a soverign nation gave this long condemned action some cover. “We can do it, because that great paragon of democracy – the USA does it!”
Can imitation be an affront? It is said to be the sincerest form of flattery. And it’s hard to escape the reality that the Russian invasion of Georgia is a bad imitation of the American invasion of Iraq.
Once more a powerful nation is invading a weaker country. Once more, the power employs “shock and awe” bombing to stun the invaded country. Once more, it spurns international law and international opinion. Once more, oil politics lie at the center of the matter.
It appears that the more things change, the more they remain the same. It would appear that the irony of this current invasion is lost on our president as Bush criticizes Russia’s military action as “disproportionate” to the situation. America’s invasion of Iraq was, and continues to be, far more heinous and has certainly had very serious repercussions and consequences for America.
“Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher” wrote Justice Lewis Brandeis, one of our greatest Supreme Court justices. “For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law.” It is hard to escape the sense that the Bush administration’s unfounded war of choice on Iraq provided precedent for the Russian treatment of Georgia.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, of course. The neoconservatives surrounding Bush and Cheney touted America as the new “unipower.” They scorned the “reality-based community,” because as one told Ron Suskind, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality . We’re history’s actors . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Welcome to that new reality. When the leading power in the world scorns international law and opinion, others “study what we do.” The neoconservative assumption, of course, was that other nations wouldn’t dare because the U.S. military was so powerful that it could police the world. The debacle in Iraq put the lie to that. Now our military is overstretched and depleted; it’s short of troops for Afghanistan, much less for taking on the Russians in Georgia. Even neocons like Bill Kristol settle for urging international sanctions, and arms aid to the Georgians. Good luck with enforcing economic sanctions on Russia, Europe’s vital source of natural gas and oil. Despite all the loose talk of making Georgia a NATO ally, Georgians are discovering that they are on their own.
Putin, Russia’s strongman, has systematically eroded democratic freedoms inside Russia. As oil revenues have improved Russia’s fortunes, he has started to reassert pressure on the former republics of the old Soviet Union – with a particular eye to consolidating Russia’s oil economy. He is now taking advantage of America’s exhaustion. And he’s demonstrating that he, like George Bush, is prepared to trample international law to assert his power.
Once more, innocent civilians will bear the cost of this “demonstration.” Once more, lawlessness makes all of us less safe. Thank you Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin.