Wouldn’t this constitute a war crime, if deliberate? The Russians dropped bombs on the city of Gori today, killing civilians, while announcing that they had taken the capital of South Ossetia back from Georgia. Meanwhile, the US struggles to find a response that will contain the aggression and hostilities, but Georgia has war on its mind:
Russian air attacks over northern Georgia intensified on Saturday morning, striking two apartment buildings in the city of Gori and clogging roads out of the area with fleeing refugees.
Russian authorities said their forces had retaken the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, from Georgian control during the morning hours. They reported that 15 Russian peacekeepers and 1,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict.
Georgian forces shot down 10 Russian combat planes over the last two days, according to Alexander Lomaya, secretary of the Georgian National Security Council.
Shota Utiashvili, an official at the Georgian Interior Ministry, called the attack on Gori a “major escalation,” and said he expected attacks to increase over the course of Saturday. He said some 16 Russian planes were in the air over Georgian territory at any given time on Saturday, four times the number of sorties seen Friday.
The US received howls of criticism for its targeted strikes on insurgents who deliberately hid among civilians in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Even Barack Obama criticized American tactics in the latter, saying that all we were doing was “air raiding villages and killing civilians”. Israel got the same criticism during its war with Hezbollah, which also hid among civilians.
So when will we hear criticism from Obama, MoveOn, and the rest of the critics over these tactics by Russia? Georgia is fielding a uniformed army, clearly identifiable and operating under command of the state. Why does Russia need to bomb civilian centers under these conditions?
The US, meanwhile, has tried talking with both sides, but unsurprisingly have not gotten far with either. Georgia claims that Russia started the war by supporting the separatist attacks and then escalated with their own attacks on Georgia proper; Russia claims that they are only fulfilling their role as peacekeepers and would stop if Georgia withdraws from South Ossetia. The Russians claim that the US got taken aback by Georgia’s actions, praising our efforts to defuse the crisis but noting that those efforts proved fruitless.
We need to get both sides to stop fighting long enough to come back to the table. Clearly, the Russian involvement in South Ossetia and Abkhazia has proven too much of a provocation for peace to return in the long term. John McCain’s idea of a foreign force might be a better plan, if we can negotiate that with Russia and Georgia. However, with our support of Kosovo’s independence, we had better be prepared for Russian support of independence for these two states, a complication I warned about in March. We set the precedent, and the Russians followed suit.
Update: Here’s the video of Obama ripping American tactics in Afghanistan:
I await with bated breath his swift and merciless condemnation of Russian tactics.