A Clear Voice

The United States is not speaking with a forked tongue about Russian atrocities in Georgia before the United Nations Security Council.

Russia and the U.S. traded hot accusations at the Security Council over Moscow’s aggressive handling of its military operation in Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia and the bombing of Georgia proper.

Georgian diplomats at the U.N. asked for “immediate diplomatic and humanitarian intervention to protect georgian from russian ongoing aggression.” A U.S.-European resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire is pending but Russia is certain to veto it.

I am not sure how much U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad was freelancing before the Security Council on Sunday and how much administration policy he was voicing:

“We must condemn Russia’s military assault on the sovereign state of Georgia, the violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the targeting of civilians and the campaign of terror against the georgian population,” Khalilzad told the council.

Which brought an angry retort from Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin:

“This statement, ambassador, is absolutely unacceptable, particularly from the lips of the permanent representative of a country whose actions we’re aware of, including with regards to civilian populations . . .”

Churkin was obviously about to discuss U.S. atrocities in Iraq, including indiscriminate bombing of civilian population in that country over the course of the last several years. But, as we know that American ears are too delicate for truth about their own country, CNN U.N. Correnspondent Richard Roth broke in at this point, speaking over Churkin’s voice, with a useless observation about this being the most heated confrontation between the two superpowers since the cold war.

It is a useless observation because it sought to obscure how the Iraq war has degraded America’s moral standing the in the world. In the past, America could speak with moral authority on an issue such as this, and have the world pay attention. No more. Russian laughed in our face and told us to butt out.

It did not stop Khalilzad, of course, from speaking out forcefully. Khalilzad was famously reprimanded by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for appearing on a panel alongside the Iranian foreign minister at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland at a time when the Bush administration was not talking to Iran.

Rice has contented herself with working in the background on the Russian-Georgian crisis. George W. Bush, meanwhile, has been strangely mealy-mouthed in public statements about the crisis.

Khalilzad told the Security Council on Sunday that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had told Sec. of State Rice in a phone conversation that Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, must go. He then turned to ambassador Churkin and, dramatically, asked:

“Is the goal of the Russian Federation to change the leadership of Georgia?”

Churkin waved away the question inside the council but told journalists outside the chamber that some leaders, meaning Saakashvili, should contemplate how useful they’ve become to their people.

“Regime change is purely an american invention, purely an American invention,” Churkin, nevertheless, insisted. “We never apply this terminology in our political thinking.”

Khalilzad persisted that Russia’s overreach in Georgia could undermine the relationship of the two powers

“We want to make sure our Russian counterparts to understand that the days of overthrowing leaders by military means in europe, those days are gone,” he said.

Churkin, sly and charming, told reporters the truth:

“I don’t think we’re in danger of somehow jeopardizing our relationship with the United States.”

He is right.

No one, not the U.S., not the Europeans, will do a damn thing to help Georgia. Georgia is dead and gone, hors d’oeuvre, to Russia’s insatiable appetite for territory. In a time not too far in the future, all that will remain of the nation we now know as Georgia will be comprised of a desert, a couple of gas pumps, and oil pipelines leading out to the Black Sea.

Who will stop Russia?

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