"That Was No Small War in Georgia -- It Was the Beginning of the End of the American Empire
by Mark Ames, Radar.
December 13, 2008
The war in Georgia will be remembered as the place where the American Empire fell on its face.
(This article was published in the final issue of Radar magazine, which was bought out and shuttered just as this issue went to print. This is the first online publication of this article. It has been updated by the author.)
Tskhinvali, South Ossetia -- On the sunny afternoon of August 14, a Russian army colonel named Igor Konashenko is standing triumphantly at a street corner at the northern edge of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, his forearm bandaged from a minor battle injury. The spot marks the furthest point of the Georgian army's advance before it was summarily crushed by the Russians a few days earlier. "Twelve Georgian battalions invaded Tskhinvali, backed by columns of tanks, armored personal carriers, jets, and helicopters," he says, happily waving at the wreckage, craters, and bombed-out buildings around us. "You see how well they fought, with all their great American training -- they abandoned their tanks in the heat of the battle and fled."
Konashenko pulls a green compass out of his shirt pocket and opens it. It's a U.S. military model. "This is a little trophy -- a gift from one of my soldiers," he says. "Everything that the Georgians left behind, I mean everything, was American. All the guns, grenades, uniforms, boots, food rations -- they just left it all. Our boys stuffed themselves on the food," he adds slyly. "It was tasty." The booty, according to Konashenko, also included 65 intact tanks outfitted with the latest NATO and American (as well as Israeli) technology.
Technically, we are standing within the borders of Georgia, which over the last five years has gone from being an ally to the United States to a neocon proxy regime. But there are no Georgians to be seen in this breakaway region -- not unless you count the bloated corpses still lying in the dirt roads. Most of the 70,000 or so people who live in South Ossetia never liked the idea of being part of Georgia. During the violent land scramble that occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the South Ossetians found themselves cut off from their ethnic kin in North Ossetia, which remained part of Russia. The Russians, who've had a small peacekeeping force here since 1992, managed to keep the brewing conflicts on ice for the last 15 years. But in the meantime, the positions of everyone involved hardened. The Georgians weren't happy about the idea of losing a big chunk of territory. The Ossetians, an ethnic Persian tribe, were more adamant than ever about joining Russia, their traditional ally and protector.
The tense but relatively stable situation blew up late in the evening of August 7, when on the order of president Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's army swept into South Ossetia, leveling much of Tskhinvali and surrounding villages and sending some 30,000 refugees fleeing north into Russia....
We have entered a dangerous moment in history -- America in decline is reacting hysterically, woofing and screeching and throwing a tantrum, desperate to prove that it still has teeth. Which it does -- but not in the old dominant way that America wants or believes itself to be. History shows that it's at this moment, tipping into decline and humiliation, when the worst decisions are made, so idiotically destructive that they'll make the Iraq campaign look like a mere training exercise fender-bender by comparison.
Russia, meanwhile, is as high as a Hollywood speedballer from its victory. Putting the two together in the same room -- speedballing Russia and violently bad-tripping America -- is a recipe for serious disaster. If we're lucky, we'll survive the humiliating decline and settle into the new reality without causing too much damage to ourselves or the rest of the world. But when that awful moment arrives where the cognitive dissonance snaps hard, it will be an epic struggle to come to our senses in time to prevent the William Kristols, Max Boots and Robert Kagans from leading us into a nuclear holocaust which, they will assure us, we can win against Russia, thanks to our technological superiority. If only we have the will, they'll tell us, we can win once and for all.