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Column: Failure Of Western Media Fuels Georgian Conflict

This story was written by Will Caron, Ka Leo O Hawaii

Everyone who pays attention to the news knows what's happening in Georgia right now: the big bad Russians are occupying poor little democratic Georgia after demolishing the Georgian defense force...right?

What many people don't seem to realize is that the whole premise of Russian military aggression against the Georgians is a shallow, lazy explanation provided by the Western media, a group that is content to jump at a story that offers even the slightest hint that small, democratic Georgia is not at fault.

According to information one might hear on CNN, BBC, Fox News and The New York Times, Russia is the bad guy in this situation and Georgia is the victim. Sure they might mention that Georgia happened to attack first, but what of that?

Georgia is tiny and weak and Russia is a power-deprived bully with a penchant for neo-imperialistic tendencies, so we'll focus entirely on the role of the Russian military bombing Gori and failing to leave South Ossetia on time. We don't need to mention that, if Russian forces leave now, the South Ossetians would be at the mercy of the Georgian army.

Listening to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, it is easy to be swayed by his passionate defense of his nation: "Georgia did not seek confrontation, Georgia was not the aggressor and Georgia will not give up its territories. Georgia will not renounce its freedom and sovereignty."

The overwhelming Russian military force and the utter defeat of the Georgian forces also lends itself nicely to the image of a bullying Russia stepping on the fingers of the democratic Georgians, clinging for life the precipice of sovereignty. Even the fact that Georgia is "democratic" - which simply means that Saakashvili, during the Georgian "Rose Revolution" of 2003, won his election to replace the corrupt Eduard Shevardnadze - fuels this notion.

Of course, Nixon won his election fair and square, too, and helped to open up China to the West, but he wasn't exactly a mascot for the American presidency.

It is true that the roots of the problem can be traced back to the Soviet era and the poor drawing of Georgia's borders, the result being the inclusion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two regions inhabited by people much more loyal to Russia than to Georgia. But the basic fact remains that the immediate predicament was started by Georgia itself.

It is also true that for years, Russia has been trying to aid the South Ossetians in gaining a certain level of autonomy successfully and peacefully, I might add. However, Saakashvili had other plans for the semi-autonomous South Ossetia.

Upon election, Saakashvili said, "Standing at David's tomb, we must say Georgia will unite, Georgia will become strong and will restore its integrity."

King David being the great unifier of Georgia, the message is clear: end that autonomy. This was exemplified by the Georgian attack on the South Ossetian capitol of Tskhinvali, which resulted in an unconfirmed amount of deaths and injuries. (Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch, however, cited a Tskhinvalli hospital report of 273 wounded and 44 dead.)

Both sides accuse one another of committing genocide - Russia against the ethnic Georgians living in South Ossetia, Georgia against the Ossetians and ethnic Abkhaz. The fact remains, however, that it was Georgian forces that attacked first.

Not that the Western media tells us anything of value or anything that doesn't have to be questioned before any value can be acquired. But the coverage of the Ossetian War seems especially egregious.

Condoleezza Rice's comments, comparing the Russian "invasion" of Georgia to the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and bloody put-down o Alexander Dub?ek's "Prague Spring" were misguided, unintelligent and embarrassing and, at worst, hate-filled and fear-mongering.

In this case, what keeps the Bush Administration happy is the media keeping their great friend Mikheil Saakashvili looking like the good guy in all this. As long as Saakashvili is their great democratic buddy, a negative report will never appear on Fox News.

I'm not saying WWIII is imminent, but let's consider the consequences of believing blindly in any single source of information, something that has gotten ordinary people, kings, nations, disciples and the people we call terrorists into all kinds of trouble. Let's also consider the consequences of biased, small-minded reporting from people who should know better and learn to think for ourselves about our media, as well as our nation's future.