War crimes wash off with West’s help

As top officials worldwide rally against Muammar Gaddafi's actions, their reaction looks pale as leaders in recent conflicts get away with their crimes - if they have the backing of the West.

The 08.08.08 war is long over but Georgia has kept on accusing Moscow of violating an international convention during the conflict in South Ossetia.

On Friday, the UN international court closed the case filed by Georgia against Russia. Hisashi Owada, the head of the UN’s top court, said that it has no jurisdiction in the case because Georgia did not attempt to solve the issue with Russia before filing the case.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili gets a warm welcome everywhere he goes – odd for someone who just three years ago gave the order that led to the death of hundreds of civilians in the republic of South Ossetia.

As the US billionaire Donald Trump puts it, “We’re dealing with one of the greatest leaders of the world.”

The Georgian president, with his fluent English, is a welcome guest on American TV shows, where he is never asked the question: why, in the middle of the night, in August 2008, did Georgia begin the major artillery bombardment of the sleeping city of Tskhinval and peaceful towns nearby.

The region, which Georgia wanted to bring under its control, was razed to the ground. Hundreds were killed in the attack.

Joe Mestas nearly lost his daughter in Saakashvili’s bombings, when she was visiting relatives in one of the towns in South Ossetia.

“I believe Saakashvili should be removed from office, I think he should be tried in an international court for war crimes,” Joe Mestas says.

Mikhail Saakashvili is still supported in the West, even though the EU fact-finding mission determined that he started the 2008 war and ordered the bloodbath in South Ossetia.

“They [the West] have no strategic interests in supporting his overthrow,” believes Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project. “The notion that decisions get made on the basis of humanitarian concerns is simply false: it does not, it is not the basis for the decision about Libya, it is not the basis for the decision about Georgia, about Palestine or about Kosovo,”

“The question who is held responsible and how, is very much a strategic question, it is not a legal question as it should be.”

To boost its strategic importance, among other things, Georgia dispatched 1,000 troops to join allied forces in Afghanistan and became the leading troop contributor, relative to Georgia’s overall population.

Saakashvili’s TV interviews usually are boundless, almost unstoppable praise of the US, and that is also believed to have played a role in the West supporting Saakasvili no matter what his crimes.

Now as the world has declared a no-fly zone over Libya to stop Gaddafi, many wonder why a no-fly zone was never on the table when the Georgian president launched his deadly campaign, or when Israel bombed Gaza for three consecutive weeks.

“On the question of Gaza, when you had a blatant act of aggression, clearly a massive violation of not only international human rights norms, but war crimes, crimes against humanity being carried out, more than 1,400 people have been killed, 900 of the dead were civilians, more than 300 were children,” Bennis recalled.

“It was a horrific situation that went on for days. The problem there is that Israel is [a] protectorate of the US and the US was not going to allow anyone, the UN or anyone else, to actually engage in a serious way, stopping that massacre.”

You would think if a leader commits atrocities, he would be treated like, say, Gaddafi, denounced, banned from travel, but history shows, that is not the way politics works: the Georgian president killed scores of civilians but was exonerated by the West. Politicians accept him as a friend, business leaders are looking to invest in his country and it seems the US is happy to continue turning a blind eye to the blood on Saakasvili’s hands.