Barbaric Russian Cowards on the Rampage in Georgia
Human Rights Watch has released what looks to be the definitive report on the use of cluster munitions by Russian forces in their August 2008 invasion of Georgia. It concludes that Russia carpet-bombed the Georgian city of Variani twice and hit the city of Gori once, using cluster weapons all three times and in total killing 12 Georgian civilians while wounding 38. For its part, Georgia killed only four civilians and wounded just eight using cluster bombs — one third the Russian totals.
HRW’s investigation discovered remnants of Russian cluster munitions in or near nine different Georgian villages, meaning that the casualty tally could well be higher than HRW was able to conclusively document.
Let’s be clear: “Russia definitely violated international humanitarian law with its use of cluster munitions.” Those aren’t our words, they’re the words of HRW researcher Bonnie Docherty, author of the report. Russia still denies even using the weapons, much less killing any civilians. Georgia, at least, admits using them, though it claims only military targets were selected.
The use of cluster weapons by Russian and Georgia would not be comparable even if the casualities they inflicted were the same. Georgia does not pretend to membership in world leadership organizations like the UN Security Counsel or the G-8. Russia does, and therefore Russia must actually show leadership if it wants the respect that comes with it. It doesn’t show that leadership. Moreover, Russia is an enormous country with a vastly stronger military, and it was Russia that crossed the border of Georgia proper. Georgian forces never set foot in Russia proper. Given this, it’s perfectly predictable for Georgia to use any means at its disposal to defend its territory from unprovoked invasion. Any other civilized country would have used cluster bombs if they were the only weapon left in its arsenal. Russia’s use of the weapons, by contrast, was entirely gratutious.
But the fact that Russia killed three times more civilians with those weapons than Georgia did is definitive. It bespeaks the barbaric attitude of the Kremlin that we have so often documented here on this blog, and it cries out for international sanctons. Already, there are rumors of a second Russian assault on Georgia this summer, and Russia also eyes Ukraine and other former Russian slave states in post-Soviet space. If the world does not send Russia a clear message that this barbaric conduct will not be tolerated, it will be repeated. If it is repeated, next time far more civilians will perish.
It’s as simple as that.