Why Right-Wing Critics Are Wrong About Russia

Conservatives who attack President Obama over the "reset" are echoing Georgian propaganda and not addressing the real problem

5-days-of-war001-body.jpgProduction still from Five Days of War, a film about the 2008 South Ossetia War / Georgia International Films

Heritage scholar James Jay Carafano endorses the Georgia propaganda film "5 Days of War."

The film ends with testimonies from Georgians who lost family members in the war. "After I met a lot of refugees," Harlin said last night during a post-screening discussion of the movie at Washington's Landmark Theater, "I felt I had to tell their story. That's why we added the testimonials."

The liberal blogosphere is already attacking Harlin's film for being "anti-Russian." Though mainstream Hollywood embraced "Hotel Rwanda," a similar motion picture, it will likely turn its back on "5 Days of War." The difference: the latter implicitly calls into question Mr. Obama's decision to make nice with Moscow.

So, let's ignore the questionable moral equivalence of a five-day war that killed far fewer than a thousand people to a genocide that killed more than a million people during four horrifying months of systemic murder. We can probably safely assume Renny Harlin did not interview any Ossetians or Abkhazians for his film's recounting of horrors -- nor did he consult the sections of the Human Rights Watch report which also accused the Georgians of committing war crimes and illegally shelling Tshkinvali before the start of the war (an action which killed several Russian troops and which was the casus belli for a Russian response).

In other words, Carafano is starting his review from a pretty fundamentally dishonest perspective (he could have mentioned that Renny Harlin's film was actually sponsored by the government of Georgia, but that might get in the way of his narrative).

But it doesn't stop at the film. Carafano brings up the bombings in Georgia:

For example, recent allegations that the Russians engineered last year's bombing outside the U.S. Embassy in Georgia (at the same time the White House was pushing for ratification of a U.S.-Russia arms control treaty) quickly produced a squad of predictable skeptics. Writing for The Atlantic, Joshua Foust (a fellow at the American Security Project) suggested the whole thing may have been a frame-job by the Georgians. "[T]hey have a vested interest in blaming everything on Russia," he points out.

Here, however, is what Foust doesn't explain. It looks like the Georgians had been trying to keep the whole story quiet -- and work back channels in the U.S. to get the Russians to back off. The story was actually "outed" here in the U.S.

Yes, to a point. However, since Carafano is apparently aware of my analysis of reporting on the Georgian bombings (and not, let us assume, just filching links from another dishonest Weekly Standard freakout about it), then he might have thought to reference the additional reporting I highlighted that casts doubt on the CIA's assignment of blame to the GRU. Or that, contrary to his portrayal, Georgia has been pushing this bombing story since December. In fact, since we're going there, here is the letter the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been emailing reporters and embassies since June:

Presented by

Joshua Foust is a fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. He is also a member of the Young Atlanticist Working Group. More

Joshua's research focuses on the role of market-oriented development strategies in post-conflict environments, and on the development of metrics in understanding national security policy. He has written on strategic design for humanitarian interventions, decision-making in counterinsurgency, and the intelligence community's place in the national security discussion. Previous to joining ASP, Joshua worked for the U.S. intelligence community, where he focused on studying the non-militant socio-cultural environment in Afghanistan at the U.S. Army Human Terrain System, then the socio-cultural dynamics of irregular warfare movements at the National Ground Intelligence Center, and later on political violence in Yemen for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Joshua is a columnist for PBS Need to Know, and blogs about Central and South Asia at the influential blog Registan.net. A frequent commentator for American and global media, Joshua appears regularly on BBC World, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua is also a regular contributor to Foreign Policy's AfPak Channel, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor.


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