The start of a war is a little like the early stages of a romantic relationship: always intense and inclined to make people too likely to believe the things they hear even when they have the experience to know better.
by Chris Hondros
Although the sides of the tent were open, a profound smell of dust, sweat and vegetables cooked in oil in pans was filling the air.
by Tarik Tinazay
Throughout the time of the Olympics I felt uptight about all the different types of security guards.
by Jean Chung
Rajman said no faces could be caught on film or tape and that shooting time would be limited to just an hour.
by Jason Motlagh


This month we have four timely dispatches: Chris Hondros on the Russian invasion of Georgia; Tarik Tinazay, also in Georgia, reports on the refugees he encountered; Jean Chung adds to The Digital Journalist's Olympics coverage with a look at the security around Beijing during the games, and Jason Motlagh reports on the little-shown but continuing Maoist insurgency going on in the countryside of India.

There seems to be plenty of blame to go around from the very beginning of the Russian-Georgian conflict. The Christian Science Monitor online (8/11/2008) reported that, "Following a series of provocative attacks in its secessionist region of South Ossetia late last week, Georgia launched an all-out attempt to reestablish control in the tiny enclave. Russia then intervened by dropping bombs on Georgia to protect the South Ossetians, halt the growing tide of refugees flooding into southern Russia, and aid its own peacekeepers there." Then Russian tanks rolled in on August 7.

With the escalation of fighting and the push by Russia beyond South Ossetia, memories of the Cold War return. "President Bush has promoted Georgia as a bastion of democracy, helped strengthen its military and urged that NATO admit the country to membership. Georgia serves as a major conduit for oil flowing from Russia and Central Asia to the West." (nytimes.com/ 2008/08/11) These considerations added to the Russian resolve to assert its power.

Chris Hondros had seen the screaming headlines about "genocide" and whole cities "razed." Arriving in Georgia he found that while the headlines were vastly overstated, there was plenty of destruction and displacement nonetheless. He ends his dispatch with a thoughtful look at what the Russian invasion portends.

Tarik Tinazay went to Georgia to report on the thousands of Georgian refugees who fled their homes in South Ossetia and elsewhere after the arrival of the Russians. The humanitarian crisis touched off by the displacement will continue for some time.

Was the Russian bombardment and invasion another "preemptive strike"?

During the Olympics Jean Chung was in Beijing but outside the games. She expected heightened security but was still surprised by what she found. No wonder. In March the BBC online stated that, "According to a report published by the U.S.-based Security Industry Association (SIA), China will spend $300 million on security at Olympic venues." It also observed, "China's massive security operation appears to be aimed at preventing political demonstrations at the Olympics as much as terrorist attacks."

Jason Motlagh went to India to investigate the Maoist insurgency. The conflict has surfaced in the news occasionally but seems to be largely ignored. In 2006, The Christian Science Monitor online said that the Indian Maoists (Naxalites) intend to extend their red corridor, or "Compact Revolutionary Zone," throughout India. Apparently in 2005 a member of the Maoist Central Committee said in an interview, "Our mass base is getting ready. After five years, we will launch our strikes."

Marianne Fulton
Dispatches Editor

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