At DANGER ROOM and in The Economist‘s online debate series, I have taken the position that Georgia provoked Russia into attacking South Ossetia, and then tried to lure the West into helping defend Georgia via a concerted propaganda campaign.
That makes me a “Kremlin dupe,” according to Pajamas Media. But what’s more befuddling is Pajamas’ attack on my credentials. Writes Kim Zigfeld:
Axe has made a few freelance trips to Iraq and calls himself a “military correspondent,” with his main claims to fame being that he (a) often writes about Iraq for Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times and The Village Voice and (b) he writes graphic novels about war. It doesn’t appear that he has any expertise in Russia at all, or any military or national security credentials.
Actually, that’s EIGHT trips to Iraq, plus trips to Afghanistan, East Timor, Lebanon, Somalia, Chad and Nicaragua — plus countless Stateside reporting enterprises. I have written not just for The Times and The Voice, but for literally hundreds of other publications. Therein lies my “military or national security expertise.” Yes, I write books, including graphic novels. I also play Xbox and eat frozen pizzas and partake in other activities that, in fact, have nothing to do with my reporting.
Further proof that I’m not qualified to have an opinion about Russia, according to Zigfeld, is that I hold a degree in creative writing. She quotes a 2001 story in my old graduate school newspaper. She never really bothered to see what I’ve been doing since 2001. Seven years is a long time when you’re only 30 years old.
But really, all this boils down to a disagreement over Russia. I am no starry-eyed Russian apologist. It’s a backward, corrupt and, for journalists, extremely dangerous country. But that doesn’t mean we should blame Russia for the South Ossetia war and punish her accordingly, when it’s clear that Georgia fired the first shot, and followed up with intensive disinformation that itself has provided the backbone of many Western pundits’ opinion on Russia.
For perhaps the first and last time, I’d like to endorse a statement by Vladimir Putin, quoted in The New York Times:
As for the criticism that has cascaded down on his government, Mr. Putin expressed only bafflement that those in the West did not accept Russia’s explanation that it had simply acted in defense of its citizens. How did they expect Russia to respond to the shelling of its peacekeepers in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, he asked — with “slingshots?” Did they expect him to “brandish a penknife?”
(Photo: via Navoine.ru)