Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Neal Ascherson, "After the war: Recognising reality in Abkhazia and Georgia," openDemocracy, August 19,2008.

The best thing that the west can now do is to stop talking about "Georgian territorial integrity". It is dangerously absurd for politicians and the media (even the BBC) to describe South Ossetia and Abkhazia as "breakaway regions of Georgia", as if their "illegal secession" can somehow be reversed. It cannot.

The Russian soldiers are not the worst. They have won their victory, and now hang about Georgia mopping up. Much more terrible are the civilians and volunteers who come behind the soldiers, the big-bellied men with guns, knives and army jackets thrown over their T-shirts. They are doing the murdering, the looting and burning, the "cleansing" as they drive the last Georgians out of South Ossetia. The flight of the Georgian army has let them into Georgian territory as far as Gori, so they are following and killing them there.
They are Ossetians, helped by savage warriors from other nationalities in the northern Caucasus and by ultra-patriotic Russian "Cossacks". A year ago, most of these Ossetians probably lived in neighbourly peace with the local Georgians in the next village. But the spark of war ignites madness. The neighbours become "other": traitors, spies, saboteurs, snipers. They must be rooted out, exterminated.

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