Latest from Georgia

Human Rights Watch debunks claims of “2000 dead” in Georgian attack on Tskhinvali, and are being used by the Russians to incite violence against ethnic Georgians still in South Ossetia.
Russian tanks keep heading south from South Ossetia into Georgia proper, with gangs of “irrelguars” behind them burning, pillaging, killing, and kidnapping children.

1. Human Rights Watch says the Russian claim of 2000 South Ossetians killed by Georgian forces is bunkum. Actual count at the city morgue so far is 44. HRW also reports that the false claims are being used by the Russians to incite violence against ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia. I hope (but don’t expect) that all the media outlets that have been reporting the Russian propaganda as fact to justify the Russian intervention (while of course describing the intervention itself as “disproportionate”) are duly embarrassed.

2. Defying the cease-fire signed only yesterday, a column of Russian armor is advancing south from South Ossetia through Georgia proper. Behind that column are groups of banditti, reports Luke Harding of the Guardian:

Villages in Georgia were being burned and looted as Russian tanks and soldiers followed by “irregulars” advanced from the breakaway province of South Ossetia, eyewitnesses said today.

“People are fleeing, there is a mood of absolute panic. The idea there is a ceasefire is ridiculous,” Luke Harding, the Guardian’s correspondent, said.

Earlier, witnesses reported a military convoy heading towards the Georgian capital Tbilisi, but it later turned off the road and headed back towards South Ossetia. Russia denied any advance.

Harding, watching villages near Gori burn, said witnesses had told him Russian military, including at least 25 tanks, had moved from the Russian-controlled South Ossetia into the villages.

“They asked villagers to hang white flags or handkerchiefs outside their houses if they did not want to be shot, they say.”

The tanks had passed through the village of Rekha at about 11.20am local time. “Behind them (say eyewitnesses) is a whole column of irregulars who locals say are Chechens, Cossacks and Ossetians.

“Eyewitnesses say they are looting, killing and burning. These irregulars have killed three people and set fire to villages. They have been taking away young boys and girls,” said Harding, watching smoke rise from another village, Karaleti.

These are, of course, war crimes.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com