8 years ago
The Times brings us a report on Georgian troops who were transported back from Iraq to engage the Russian attack on their homeland.
The young soldier’s desert fatigues looked distinctly out of place on the Georgian front line facing the Russian advance. “I have just come from Iraq. Now I am here to drink Russian blood,” he said with a cheery smile, encapsulating Georgian bravado against an overwhelmingly superior opponent.
His presence was living proof that the United States has given at least some assistance to the beleaguered Georgian Government. Courtesy of the US Air Force and a fleet of C17 transporters, about 800 Georgian soldiers were airlifted from service in Iraq to the defence of their country. In some cases the men were taken straight from the runway to the front line, easily recognisable in their sandy uniforms against the dark green of the Georgian countryside.
Bryan Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, described the US military assistance as “transportation”. But the move prompted an angry response from Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, who accused Washington of giving direct military assistance to his Georgian enemies. “It is a shame that some of our partners are not helping us but, essentially, are hindering us,” he said.
Let’s stop there to offer up a few observations. TCJ would like to see the Georgian troops “drink the blood” of the Russians, but the U.S. assistance thus far is pathetic and embarrassing, regardless of the troop transport. As for Vladimir Putin, The Captain’s Journal considers his charge that we are “partners” with him to be an insult. Putin is a thug, murderer, thief and criminal. We aren’t partners with him in anything. Continuing with the report:
The Georgian troops made up the third-largest contingent in Iraq after those from the US and Britain. President Saakashvili of Georgia had calculated that his country’s contribution to the “coalition of the willing” would secure Washington’s help if he needed it. Unfortunately for him, the gamble failed to pay off once Georgia found itself at war with its mighty northern neighbour.
Although America kept its promise to return the troops at a time of crisis, that is as far as its assistance went.
In spite of the confidence displayed by the young soldier, and other veterans of the Iraqi campaign, their experiences of fighting Iraqi insurgents and guarding the Baghdad green zone were of little value against the tanks, artillery and air bombardment of the Russian Army. Dug in 17 miles outside Gori with orders to blunt any Russian assault, the troops soon found themselves under attack. At one moment two Russian MiG fighters wheeled overhead before sending bombs in the direction of Georgian positions.
On the ground a group of Georgian soldiers were anxiously replacing all six tyres on their military transport as the enemy jets circled under the baking sun above them. They told The Times that the vehicle had been hit in an ambush outside the next village to the border, killing a 22-year-old soldier and wounding another.
A burst of machinegun fire in nearby fields sent everyone scattering for cover. Nukri Koshovidze, 47, a veteran of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, looked defeated and felt betrayed. “The Russians are killing many people in the villages, even old women, and the West doesn’t want to hear their screams,” he said.
“If big countries like America and England said something more strongly then they may stop. But Russia is showing its muscles and we are all being forced to bow before it.”
Within a few hours his prediction came true. He and his troops were not bowing before the Russians but fleeing before them in an undignified rout, abandoning their positions to the advancing Russian forces. By nightfall the Iraqi veterans had joined their comrades on the outskirts of Tbilisi.
Baghdad might have seemed attractive by comparison.
It’s easy to make too much of the Georgian retreat, especially when one considers the force strength by the numbers. Regardless of armor and artillery, the bottom line here is air power. Air superiority doesn’t ensure a victory, and lack of it doesn’t guarantee a loss. But it’s impossible to wage a conventional war against a larger armed forces without at least air equivalence.
If Georgia had air power it’s more than likely that the Georgian troops would indeed have had the chance to drink the blood of Russian troops. A Squadran of A-10s (to cut Russian armor into little pieces) and fighter protection would have gone a long way towards neutralizing Russian air power. But then, that would have required being true to friends who have given their utmost to our campaign in Iraq.
This is a commitment that the U.S. was not willing to make, and our “friends” in the future will likely remember this sad event. Would Russia have responded with an increase in force? Would the mere threat to cut the armor columns into small pieces have forced a retreat back to Russia without having to fire a shot? We’ll never know. TCJ misses Ronald Reagan.
The Captain’s Journal also salutes the brave Georgian troops and asks for God’s blessings on their efforts.