Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

Two things come together at the United Nations:

UNITED NATIONS: Russia, at odds with the United States over Georgia, tried unsuccessfully to push the UN Security Council on Tuesday to condemn US-led air strikes in Afghanistan that killed dozens of civilians.

The Russian delegation had drafted a statement that would say the council’s 15 member states are “seriously concerned” about the US-led coalition attacks on August 22, which the UN mission in Afghanistan says it believes killed 90 civilians, most of them children. The draft statement, which several diplomats said had no chance of getting the unanimous backing it would need for approval, also says council members “deplore” the fact that this has happened before in Afghanistan.

Note to the U.S. government – if you are going to complain *at all* about civilian deaths in other conflicts, you have to stop blowing people up. Otherwise, this sort of embarrassing thing will happen all the time. The Russians know this document will never be adopted at the U.N., but introducing it serves its purpose: undermining the moral authority of the United States. Or, more correctly, highlighting how the U.S. government has undermined its own moral authority.

David Axe points out the cause of incidents like Herat:

The alleged incident comes at a time of increased air activity by U.S. and NATO forces: in June and July as many bombs were dropped as in all of 2006. This “air surge” is intended to partially compensate for chronic shortages of U.S. and NATO ground troops.

This bit of information is important for any U.S. Christian still clinging to the idea that the war in Afghanistan is a “just” war. Joe Blow on the street might be able to claim blithely that we are “justified” in our war in Afghanistan because “they attacked us,” but the Christian appropriation of just war tradition is much, much more stringent than that. It requires more than a just cause…it also requires just means, which, among other things, must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants (which, by the way, puts it totally at odds with Jesus’ admonitions to love your enemies, but I digress). Out of expediency, the U.S. is intentionally using means that recent events – despite the hype – show do not discriminate. In other words, from the most permissive of the Christian ethical perspectives on war, our war in Afghanistan is not a just war and has not been a just war for some time, if ever.

Accordingly, no matter what your perspective on the nonviolence of Jesus Christ, if you are a Christian fighting in Afghanistan, you should lay down your arms and refuse to kill for the U.S. government.  You’ll be in good company:

“Maximillianus, a young Numidian Christian, just over 21, was brought before Dion the proconsul of Aficia at Teveste (Numidia) as fir for military service.  This was in 295 A.D. during the reign of Maximillianus.”           

“Maximillianus answered, ‘But why do you want to know my name?  I dare not fight, since I am a Christian.’  ‘Measure him,’ said Dion the proconsul; but on being measured, Maximillianus answered, ‘I cannot fight, I cannot do evil;  I am a Christian.’  Said the proconsul, ‘Let him be measured.’  And after he had been measured, the attendant read out ‘He is five feet ten.’  Then said Dion to the attendant, ‘Enroll him.’  And Maximillianus cried out, ‘No, no, I cannot be a soldier.  I am a soldier of m God.  I refuse the badge.  Already I have Christ’s badge…If you mark me, I shall annul it as invalid…I cannot wear ought laden on my neck after the saving mark of my Lord.’  To the proconsul’s question as to what crime soldiers practiced, Maximillianus replied, ‘You know quite well what they do.’”  Maximillianus was beheaded.            

Unknown to most Roman Catholics, Maximillianus has been honored as one of the canonized saints of the church, though he died as a conscientious objector!

Advertisements

Everyone knows that war in general and the Iraq war specifically has meant big money for defense contractors, but a new congressional report puts it in stark relief:

…[T]he scale of the use of contractors in Iraq is unprecedented in US history, according to a new congressional report that may be the most thorough official account yet of the practice.

As of early 2008, at least 190,000 private personnel were working on US-funded projects in the Iraq theater, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) survey found. That means that for each uniformed member of the US military in the region, there was also a contract employee – a ratio of 1 to 1.

“It is … exceptional the degree to which the military’s currently relying on such contractors,” said CBO director Peter Orszag at an Aug. 12 press conference.

In the Korean conflict, the ratio was 2.5 uniformed personnel for each contractor. In Vietnam, the comparable figure was 5 to 1.

The Balkans conflict of the 1990s provided a glimpse of the future, as it also featured a 1-to-1 military-to-civilian worker ratio.

But in the Balkans, the overall deployment numbers “were of a much smaller scale than what we are seeing in Iraq,” Mr. Orszag said.

Defense contractors, especially those that manufacture weapons, plan to use recent events in Georgia to push even more resources into the military-industrial-congressional complex. From Noah over at Danger Room:

In 2006, the U.S. Army ran a number of war game scenarios, to see how effective their planned array of networked tanks, robots, and fighting vehicles might be in the conflicts of tomorrow. The battles the Army chose for were “major combat operations” — full-scale fights between two major armies. And the location Army planners picked was the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

At the time, these so-called “Caspian Sea scenarios” seemed oddly out of sync, for a military engaged in a pair of counterinsurgencies. But that was before Russia sent troops into Georgia, Azerbaijian’s neighbor to the west. Before, supporters of the Army’s $200 billion “Future Combat Systems” told the public…those robots and tanks were really meant to kick butt in small wars, they insisted. Now, backers of…high-price military hardware programs are pointing to the Russian threat, as the new justification for their gear.

“We’ve spent so many resources and so much attention on Iraq that we’ve lost sight of future threats down the road. The current conflict between Russia and Georgia is a perfect example,” Rep. John Murtha, the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chair, tells the Wall Street Journal.

The military-industrial complex thanks Vlad the assailer,” Neptunus Lex quips. “Relevancy is such a valuable commodity.”

Air Force Association president Michael Dunn…said that if U.S. F-16 and F-18 fighters were carrying out combat missions over Georgia, they would be in grave danger from highly advanced Russian surface-to-air missiles on the border that a newer plane like the F-22 can evade. “The debate has got to shift as a result of this war.”

In other words, “We gotta have more cash for weapons! The Russians are coming!!!”

The idea that the U.S. needs more money for “defense” is ludicrious. The U.S. spends about $750,000,000,000 yearly on defense. That’s more than all of the other nations of the world combined. For the amount of money the U.S. government will spend just on the Iraq war, you could desalinate enough seawater to give every African fresh, clean drinking water until 10,000 AD; launch everyone from South Ossetia into outer space; or cover New Hampshire and Vermont in gold leaf, just for the fun of it. The government throws so much money at the Pentagon and private contractors that just last year they could not account for more than $150 billion of it. The Defense Department’s financial records are in such a mess that they cannot even fail an audit. And just in the case of the Navy, this is some of what we’ve got for the money:

Nuclear weapons have been mishandled; major contracts — including one for a fleet of new tanker planes — have been botched; the Air Force’s civilian and military leaders have been ousted by the Secretary of Defense; a top general apparently committed suicide.

All of this is totally unbelievable when you consider that the State Department has fewer Foreign Service officers right now than the military has band members. (I’m not kidding.) There is absolutely no way the Defense Department or the war-profiteers like KBR, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing need a budget increase.

This “defense” largesse, though, should be a wakeup call for Christians who waver on whether to fully embrace the nonviolent, self-sacrificial love of Christ as a viable solution to evil and injustice in the world. One nation on the planet, just one, is spending $750,000,000,000 a year on the paraphanelia of violence and have seen the prime challenges and adversaries they’ve identified in the world grow more threatening, not less. If that price tag, which represents huge resources that could be put to work instead ending poverty, feeding the hungry, etc., is not sufficient resources for proponents of violent solutions to achieve their end, I offer that no amount of resources will ever be enough.

Resource nonviolent solutions if you want to end violence.

I feel like I woke up this morning in a time warp:

Moscow — Russia warned Poland on Friday that it is exposing itself to attack — even a nuclear one — by accepting a U.S. missile interceptor base on its soil, delivering Moscow’s strongest language yet against the plan.

American and Polish officials stuck firmly by their deal, signed Thursday, for Poland to host a system that Washington says is meant to block missile attacks by rogue nations like Iran.

Moscow is convinced the base is aimed at Russia’s missile force, however, and the deal comes as relations already are strained over the fighting between Russia and U.S.-allied Georgia over the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia.

“Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike — 100 percent,” Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff of Russia’s armed forces, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

This is not a new kind of dispute. The United States is trying to build a better shield. That prompts the Russians to up the use of their spear or build a better spear. Only now, if someone does manage to poke someone with the spear, we all die. The U.S. government has been trying to reassure the Russian government that the shield – long a pet project of hawkish officials – was aimed at Iran and not Russia.

Whoops:

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans think they can use Russian aggression in Georgia to bludgeon the Democrats into supporting the deployment of an American “missile shield” in Eastern Europe, according to a story by CQ’s enterprising Josh Rogin:

In September, lawmakers will resume their debate over the missile sites — this time amid fresh concerns over Russian threats to U.S. allies in eastern Europe. Though the administration has presented the missiles sites as a defense against Iranian attack, missile defense advocates say they now plan to cite the Russian threat as a way to get Democrats to let construction begin…

“Russia’s actions represent compelling data that should be convincing to Democrats that we don’t want to delay this thing,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a leading missile defense champion.

“This is not just about missile defense; this is about demonstrating to Russia that America is still a nation of resolve . . . and we’re not going to let Russian expansionism intimidate everyone.”

[Hat tip to Noah for pointing this out.]

So, this shouldn’t surprise anyone:

Has Russia sent ballistic missile launchers into Georgia? According Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Jeffrey, the answer is yes. “The President was informed  immediately on Friday, when we received news of the first two SS-21 Russian missile launchers into Georgian territory,” Jeffrey said at a recent news briefing.

During any conflict of interests between the U.S. and Russia, nuclear weapons are always the elephant in the room. Events of the past couple of weeks point to a dangerous confluence of events and rhetoric that, if we’re not careful, could quickly get away from us. Take for example the one-sided sabre-rattling from Senator McCain:

McCain said earlier this week that “…I know I speak for every American when I say to him, ‘ Today, we are all Georgians.” Matthew Yglesias put it well when denouncing this sort of rhetorical gamesmanship:

The McCain campaign put something out yesterday about crowds cheering in Tblisi when President Shakashvili quoted McCain’s statement. I can’t read their minds, but it seems very plausible to me that they were cheering because they read this as a call for the United States to take practical steps to help Georgia not as a piece of hollow political sloganeering. And that kind of thing — Georgiaphilic statements by American elites that lead Georgians to dramatically overstate the level of practical support they could expect from the United States in a confrontation with Russia — was one of the contributing factors to the current crisis.

Georgia had quite a bit more encouragement from us that simple rhetoric, though:

The United States took a series of steps that emboldened Georgia: sending advisers to build up the Georgian military, including an exercise last month with more than 1,000 American troops; pressing hard to bring Georgia into the NATO orbit; championing Georgia’s fledgling democracy along Russia’s southern border; and loudly proclaiming its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity in the battle with Russia over Georgia’s separatist enclaves.

The point: as long as the U.S. and Russia continue to proliferate nuclear weapons and cling to the illusion that “power flows from the barrel of a gun,” even noble-sounding rhetoric and support for “righteous causes” can push the Doomsday Clock a second closer to midnight. The Yes to Violence will subvert even the best intentions, and this has implications even for Christian soteriology, “the study of salvation.”

Our understanding of that which Christians are saved from has progressed as we’ve swam through the intellectual developments and the hard lessons of history. Terrance Rynne:

Paul Fiddles reviews the historical record and finds, for example, that in the period of the New Testament church, sin was often seen as a kind of impurity or uncleanness that tainted life. People thus felt shut out of the sphere of the holy. Consequently, atonement was presented as sacrifice in which the blood of Christ was an agent of cleansing. …In the time of the early church fathers the human predicament was experienced as oppression by hostile heavenly powers. …Consequently salvation was presented as a victory of Christ over the powers and supernatural forces. …Under the influence of Platonic philosophy, people felt the immortal soul, destined for eternal life, bound down in the life of the body. Salvation therefore was explained as raising humanity to share in the life of God…In the Middle Ages, sin was understood to be the disruption of divinely ordered creation. Chaos resulted when loyalty and honor were not paid to the lord by his vassals. Salvation was consequently explained as satisfaction, paying the debts of honor. The period of the Reformation saw great political and social upheaval and the need to have the law enforced to guard the rights of those in power. Punishment of offenders was understood to be necessary for order to be restored. Consequently, salvation was articulated in terms of the demands of the law, with Jesus punished as a substitute for guilty humankind. (Gandhi and Jesus, p. 162)

Today, our powers of violence have reached titanic proportions. A group of people soaked in the myth of redemptive violence can literally end the life of a city, a nation, or all of humanity and all other life on the planet. We have begun, over the past half-century, to realize that what we are saved from by the nonviolent, self-sacrificing way of Christ may not be metaphorical or “merely” spiritual at all, but the literal, awful concrete destruction of humanity by our own violence. Christians, if they will listen, have been told the way out. Everything depends on our listening.

I agree:

We watch and read voluminous reports on this relatively small Russian war against its neighbor and former domestic province (Georgia was one of the SSRs in the old USSR), and meanwhile there is almost nothing being reported about the continuing five-year-old war launched by Bush and Cheney against Iraq. And certainly, over the course of five years we have gotten no visual depiction of that war even approaching the scenes that were on display from the front in Georgia.

Apparently, in the view of our corporate news editors and managers, it is important for Americans to fully witness the bloody horrors of war when that war is being fought by Russia, but we are to be carefully protected from seeing such things when they are being perpetrated by our own centurions. We aren’t even allowed to see the grievous injuries and death being suffered by our own troops.

And, of course, don’t feel to good about the quality of the coverage of the Russian/Georgia conflict either. This too is biased. Indeed one reason we are shown all the carnage is that the US government has been backing Georgia, and there is evidence that the US even encouraged the Georgian attacks on ethnic Russians which provoked the invasion. The US also has obligingly airlifted Georgian troops back from Iraq to Georgia.

This is not news. This is propaganda, pure and simple.

This illustrates one of the problems with justifying war. For our democratic processes to make a good judgment, we need good facts. There are no do-overs when it comes to launching lethal adventures, and the extent to which American media fails us on pivotal issues is astounding. And get this from one of our presidential candidates, rebuking Russia and unequivocally supporting the not-so-clean-handed Georgians:

Georgia is an ancient country, at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and one of the world’s first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion.

This is blatant pandering, even if it only reflects a reflex to associate all things with the word “Christian” in them with all things good. Would that that were true. Christianity as an official state religion means its a chaplain of the state, period. I’d much rather see Georgian, Russian, South Ossetian and other participants adopt Christ’s ethic of nonviolent, self-sacrificing love for enemies.

But take a look at this:

Nearby, Tamuna Malania, a blond 20-year-old law student, stood in the road and forced a troop transport truck to stop. Then she threw a handful of anti-occupation leaflets at the truck.

Nice.

News report seem to indicate that violence continues sporadically across Georgia and the contested areas, and some reports indicate levels of violence well above the already-vile disgrace of Christians killing each other due to rival national identities.

“…[T]here is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!  As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord* has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” [Col. 3]

I’d repeat my call from several days ago:

Christians involved in the fighting should, as a bloc, cease participation in this back-and-forth immediately,  inform their commanders that they will not fire their weapons, and face the consequences. At the same time, Christian leaders should state in no uncertain terms that the behavior of the parties involved is anti-Christian, admonish their congregants to withdraw their consent from this chain of events, and use their moral authority to pressure the Russians, the South Ossentians, the Georgians, and everyone else involved to end hostilities.

Russia ends its push into Georgia, sort-of:

“President Dmitry Medvedev ended the onslaught against the former Soviet republic…But Russian forces had already kicked Georgian troops out of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, surged across the border on two fronts to seize Georgian towns, police stations and military bases, and pounded military installations deep inside Georgia with swarms of warplanes.

Before peace talks began, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would not deal with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvilli, a staunch U.S. ally, and said that Saakashvili should leave office.

In calling an end to the Russian assault, Medvedev told Russian TV, “The security of our peacekeepers and civilians has been restored. The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses.”

He also gave a blunt warning to Georgia by publicly ordering Russia’s defense minister to be ready to resume attacks, “If there are any emerging hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions, you should take steps to destroy them.”

The Russians want Saakashvili gone, as expected. The only problem – he’s a democratically elected president. The Russian may not like him, but unless his own people turn on him in response to his disatrous misadventure into South Ossetia, they are stuck with him.

File this in the “Not Very Helpful” file:

Vice President Dick Cheney called Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to express U.S. solidarity in the conflict with Russia and told him “Russian aggression must not go unanswered,” the vice president’s office said on Monday. 

The vice president’s admonition to Georgia’s president jerks readers back into the frame of the Cold War. One wonders what sort of answer Mr. Cheney has in mind, considering that the U.S.-trained Georgian troops could kill Russian troops but could not stop the advance of Russian forces. The U.S. is certainly in no strategic position for a direct confrontation with Russia for the defense of Georgia, so Cheney’s remarks amount to little more than “Stay strong, and kill as many as you can on the way down.” Statements like this only urge a mimetic spiral of violence. 

The only ray of light that I can see in this disaster is that it provides a teachable moment  for the Georgian government, which has been trying to compel consent through force in South Ossetia for a while now. Nonviolent solutions to the conflict are the only viable options. Christians in the region might want to reflect on their faith’s nonviolent roots for inspiration for a way out of another wreck brought about by using violence, rather than self-sacrificing nonviolent love, to participate in conflict.