Scott Horton

A Unique View on Georgia Conflict


The Other Scott Horton (no relation), international human rights lawyer and journalist and blogger for Harper‘s magazine, discusses his relationship with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the Rose Revolution of 2003, Saakashvili’s problems with Rupert Murdoch and ties with the neocons, George Washington’s policy against entangling alliances and its undoing since World War II, the value of American education and diplomacy over high explosives, Cheney and the War Party’s need for a steady supply of enemies, his view that the three day war earlier this month represents a power-grab by the Russians as revenge for Western recognition of the independence of Kosovo, some history behind various ethnic conflicts in the region, the need for peaceful resolutions to these conflicts, his view that the crisis was a consequence of the various promises made to Georgia by the neocons pretending to override State Department policy which boosted Saakashvili, combined with the criminal negligence and inattention of George Bush and Condoleezza Rice, amounted to a “yellow light” to Russia to go ahead, and the disgusting politics behind the Guantanamo show trials.

MP3 here. (41:42)

The Other Scott Horton is a contributor to Harper’s magazine and writes the blog No Comment. A New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law, especially human rights law and the law of armed conflict, Horton lectures at Columbia Law School. A life-long human rights advocate, Scott served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, among other activists in the former Soviet Union. He is a co-founder of the American University in Central Asia, and has been involved in some of the most significant foreign investment projects in the Central Eurasian region. Scott recently led a number of studies of abuse issues associated with the conduct of the war on terror for the New York City Bar Association, where he has chaired several committees, including, most recently, the Committee on International Law. He is also a member of the board of the National Institute of Military Justice, the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, the EurasiaGroup and the American Branch of the International Law Association.

8 thoughts on “Scott Horton”

  1. A few observations. I did not read the article the moderator Scott referred which Mr. Horton had written, so I am just going on what Mr. Horton said. He said our miltary engagement prevented the use of soft power. So Mr.Horton wants a miltary tha can act and project power all the way into the Georgia so America can use soft power???? Imagine if you will, the size and expanse of a miltary that can effectively project and fight all the way into Southern Russia. I guess Mr. Horton concieves of A miltary worhty of an Emprie but of course set on doing good. Isn’t this the neocon fantasy?

    As to how the incompetent Bush administration reacted. Mr. Horton reminds me of these neocons who very very very late in the war critized Bush’s handling of the war as a way of distancing themselves from the disaster, but not the policies which lead us there. Mr. Horton seems to want an aggressive foreign policy, but complains that it is not being handled properly by administration incompetents. Hey Condi was relaxing and Bush was patting arse. He seems to pine for an competent group of people to handle his confrontation with Russia.

    All the credibile reports I have read all seem to point that Georgia in fact initiated the bombing of its own citizens to gain terroritorial control.

    Mr Horton honestly does admit he has close business ties to Georgian government officials for the purpose of fun and profit. Good for him. Business is always good if done with ethics and gain for all. But doesn’t this make him suspect on his point of view? But I am sorry, I have to take with a grain of proverbial salt his basic defense of the Georgian regime. I appreciate his point of view on the heroism of the younger generation in achieving what appears to be some level of democracy. But beyond that, sorry.

    But then again, the one and only time I saw the leader of Georgia speak was an interview he did with Wolf Biltzer of propaganda central. He started off okay, but then just started into total invective about _Russians_. Not Putin, but Russians in general. He didn’t inveigh against the leaders of Russia, but Russians themselves citing some picture about vile Russians looting Georgia. His imagery seemed to invoke something out of Nazi Germany about uncivilized Slavs. He became not a beleagued democrat defending his country, but a demogague vomiting one ethnic slur after another.

    I consider myself a liberal, but have come to appreciate the views of Ron Paul. Hey, let’s make nice and even help resolve the conflict. But to go to war and point missiles at each other over some terroritorial dispute in central Asia. Well, bullshyte.

  2. I’m afraid that attorney Scott Horton’s objectivity is seriously compromised by his close personal associations with Saakashvili.

    How can Horton have indulged in that history lecture about the boundaries of Georgian territory without mentioning that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia had been semi-autonomus since the time of Stalin? As for his argument that the Russian troops were poised and ready to launch on any provocation this is nonsense. The fact is that although there were troops massed along the border, western intelligence analysts were taken by surprise with the speed with which Russia mobilized its troops.

    Mike Whitney provides a much better analysis in this article. Perhaps you could get him as a guest?

  3. During the Soviet period, South Ossetia and Abkhazia (as well as the Adjara region) had autonomous status within the Soviet Republic of Georgia. Use of the native languages was encouraged by the state and South Ossetians, Abkhazis, and Adjaris favored over Georgians or Russians for bureaucratic posts in their regions. In the last couple years of the USSR, new laws imposing the Georgian language nationwide and banning regional-based political parties caused South Ossetians to declare a Soviet Democratic Republic. In 1991 polls showed that they overwhelmingly favored the preservation of the Soviet Union and opposed integration into a new Georgian state. At the time Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia called South Ossetian separatists “direct agents of the Kremlin, its tools and terrorists.”

    In 1992 the new regime of Eduard Shevardnadze in post-Soviet Georgia announced its intention to restore a 1921 constitution stripping these regions of autonomy. In response the South Ossetians conducted a referendum, voting overwhelmingly for independence. Violence in the region drew Russian concern and in June, after hundreds had died, Tblisi agreed to the creation of a tripartite peace-keeping force of Russians, Georgians and South Ossetians in the region. The following month Abkhazia proclaimed itself independent, and Tblisi sent 3000 troops into the poorly defended region and engaged in wanton destruction. The majority in both regions apparently want a divorce from Georgia and either independence or incorporation into the Russian Federation. In 2002 South Ossetia’s elected president, Eduard Kokoity, officially requested that Moscow recognize the Republic of South Ossetia and its absorption into the Russian Federation.

    While Vladimir Putin was president, Russia conferred citizenship and passports on most South Ossetians and can thus argue that it has an obligation to defend them from aggression. Russia can also argue that it has an obligation to defend its peace-keeping troops from attack.

  4. The “Other Scott Horton” claims that “it isn’t clear who started it” with vague references to “AP dispatches” isn’t very credible. That the war was proceeded by weeks of sporadic artillery exchanges – par for the course for this kind of conflict – is basically irrelevant to the point of the cause of large scale warfare. The Georgian assault began on August 7th, a day after a ceasefire agreement was made (that the Georgians are now claiming ‘broke down’) and the day before the Olympics were to begin. Most of the early S. Ossetian civilian eyewitness reports refer to a rain of rocket artillery falling upon then that day. These could not have possibly been Russian rocket artillery as the Russians were not yet in S. Ossetia in force that day. So who else could it have been but the Georgians?

    Of course in order to purvey the notion that “the Russians started it” you must assume that the Russians were massed on the Caucasus border ready to roll. The “Other Scott Horton” asserts this without offering any proof. Why then did not U.S. military satellite intelligence, the finest in the world, pick up on such an obvious concentration of armored forces in such a volatile place? The Russians obviously had contingency plans and forces on alert, as one would expect in such a situation, but one suspects they were NOT at the border ready to roll.

    It looks like we should be on alert for an after the face disinformation campaign in the media aimed at covering up the obvious Georgian culpability. Don’t believe every newswire you see.

    My own view is that Saakashvili knows that his best chance to get into Nato is to help McCain get elected. The U.S. educated, smooth English speaking Saakashvili no doubt has an intimate grasp of U.S. politics, and knows a good war frenzy will help out his good buddy McCain and his lobbyist for Georgia, Randy Scheumann.

    That makes Sakashvilil a war criminal and the “Other Scott Horton” either a unwilling or willing dupe.

  5. I agree with Matt above, but did appreciate attorney Horton’s revealing remarks about the political pressure re timing of the military trials. Did send in my quarterly donation today, and urge that be fully supported.

  6. Any permanent peaceful solution has to guarantee minority rights. The Georgian government has failed to do this since its inception.

    For Bush, democracy means having elections that allow the leaders to do whatever they want. However, it is our system of checks and balances that protect the rights of minorities that makes the US great, not the fact that we have elections. Why should Georgia elections be esteemed in the US if the leaders they elect are unwilling to protect minority rights?

  7. Interesting to hear one of the ‘good guys’ expressing an alternative view on this. With some convincing inside knowledge as well.

    These things are never black and white, and in the Caucasus they come in about 345 different shades of grey.

    In the labyrinthine world of Caucasian conflicts, the Russians, the Georgians, and the various minorities wedged between them can find rationales aplenty for their actions. The position of real anti-war anti-interventionists should be simple: this is not our fight; this is not in our backyard; we stand aloof from this. End of story.

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