Mon Aug 11th, 2008 at 02:57:02 AM EST
The South Ossetian government is claiming that the Georgian government employed mercenaries in their attack on the city of Tskhinvali.
Authorities in the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia claim that dark-skinned mercenaries took part in the attack on Tskhinvali, reports RIA Novosti, citing representative of the South Ossetian president in Russia Dmitry Medoev. He said there were bodies of many Georgian soldiers on the streets on Tskhinvali. "There were blacks among the dead, who were probably either mercenaries or instructors in the Georgian armed forces," Medoev said.
Wait, it gets better.
Old Blackwater keep on rollin'?
In a phone interview with Russian media, the South Ossetian representative in Moscow indicated that the Georgian government has been employing foreign nationals in the fighting. In addition to the two black soldiers described above, they are suggesting that the lead tanks in the attack were crewed by Ukrainians.
If either of these charges is accurate, then the its likely that the conflict is going to grow more complex. The involvement of Ukrainian soldiers would threaten to involve that country in the fighting. Much of the eastern third of Ukraine is ethnically Russian and desires greater ties with Moscow not the West. One of the most visible aspects of that is the use of Russian, not Ukrainian as the language they prefer to communicate in. The map below shows the results of a 2003 KIIS (Kiev Institute of International Sociology) survey of language preference in the country.
There's a Russian speaking swath here that extends from Kharkov and Donetsk in the East all the way west to the Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria. The Ukrainian government looks on Moscow with a wary because of this, and ethnic intrigue is a core part of Ukrainian politics. The have a reason to avoid allowing the Russians to set a precedent that they may act to protect ethnic enclaves in CIS states.
While the last thing that the world needs is a conflict in which the former Soviet Republics form into rival, armed blocs, I'm much more concerned about the possibility that Blackwater might have been involved in the Georgian attack. While the the South Ossetian representative in Moscow suggests that the bodies of dead soldiers were black, an interview by Russian media with a first hand observer suggests that there was a misunderstanding.
(Skip to 10 min 30 secs, and yes I have to give Alex Jones a hat tip for a lot of the info in this section of my diary.)
In the video above a women being interviewed in Tskhinvali tells the reporter that:
There are also bodies over there. People that have been killed, mostly Ossetians, but also Georgians that had American emblems on the forearms and they were in black uniforms.
I was suspicious when I first heard this story, because it came from Infowars. However this checks out. It seems very, very likely that there are Blackwater personnel fighting in Georgia against Russian soldiers. This is so wrong in so many ways.
First, this has the potential to involved the United States in a fight against the choosing of our elected government because a bunch of fuckwits want to go play soldier of fortune. If they are in fact Blackwater, why they hell are they wearing American emblems. What right do they have to claim the protection of the US government while fighting in a war to which we are not a party?
Actually, this sort of makes me happy, because at this point thy officially meet the legal definition of something that we've always know them to be: Mercenaries.
Let me explain.
The privatization of military force is one of my areas of interest. It's another symptom of the horrible type of capitalism that our society has been infected by. As the title of one book title called it "Everything for Sale."
There is no room for the sacred, and the use of lethal force is such a great threat to the preservation of human life that there must be strict limits on its use. There must be rules, not the vague incentives of the market. And ultimately it' a small twist of the law that has turned the Blackwater corporation into a criminal entity. The same twist of the law that allowed them to avoid the fate of Sandline, Executive Outcomes, and the other mercenary organizations that operated in Africa during the 1990's.
International law is very specific in defining whom is a mercenary and thus does not have the rights of a lawful combatant. Article 47 of
Protocol I (1977)to the Geneva Conventions
Art 47. Mercenaries
(a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
- A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war.
- A mercenary is any person who:
(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.
Blackwater and the other Private Security Corporations operating in Iraq have only been able to avoid designation as a mercenary organization as the result of a very specific section of this definition. Article 47 (2) d: "is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict."
At the beginning of the Iraq War, Blackwater and other firms got themselves into trouble because they had hired a bunch of ex security forces guys from South Africa and Chile. Those individuals met the definition of mercenaries, but the firm itself being American (yes, I know that they aren't officially headquartered in the US) was in the clear.
The US was a party to the Iraq War. If it is in fact true that Blackwater is sending US nationals to fight in Georgia on behalf of the Georgian government, then they've crossed the line. They have become mercenaries, because they are "neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict."
Maybe old Blackwater ain't going to keep on rolling away after all.
In opening itself to the charge of being a mercenary organization it may become what is none as Hostis humani generis.
Hostis humani generis (Latin for "enemy of mankind") is a legal term of art, originating from the admiralty law, and referring to the peculiar status, before the public international law, of maritime pirates, since time immemorial, and slavers, since the 18th century. It is also used in the present to describe the status of torturers....
It is considered an offense of universal jurisdiction, such that any state may board and seize a ship engaged in piracy, and any state may try a pirate and impose sanctions according to that state's own law. Piracy is defined in Article 101 of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the 1958 Convention on the High Seas also regulates this exercise of jurisdiction. Under the same principles, these treaties, as well as the customary international law, allow states to act similarly against slavers on the high seas.
This has been the legal justification offered by the Bush administration for why prisoners at Guatanamo are not to be afforded the status of prisoners of war.
If Blackwater is operating in Georgia, their personnel are not going to have legal status are combatants. Being mercenaries, they are unlawful combatants, and thus hold the same legal status that the US applies to Al Qaeda.
And while I don't think that there's case law against a mercenary firm, I think that a strong case can be made that the Blackwater corporation must face the same charges that apply to those they appear to have sent to fight in Georgia.
Do you think that the Bush Admnistration will take appropriate action?