Georgia: The Bloom Is
Off the Rose
While Pakistan is getting all the attention as the latest US-supported dictatorship to implode, another and even more telling example is President Mikhail Saakashvili‘s recent clampdown in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. While the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf is not a US creation – the General launched a coup all on his own, with official US disapproval – Georgia, you’ll remember, was the site of the 2003 "Rose Revolution," one of a series of US-backed -and-funded "color revolutions" and the one often pointed to as a model for future "pro-democracy" campaigns in the former Soviet Union.
As it turned out, however, the supposed "democratic" revolutionaries, once in power, were worse than the despots they’d overthrown, and Saakashvili is the exemplar of this species: he has declared a "national emergency," banned the non-state media, forbidden public gatherings, and initiated a reign of terror against his political opponents.
If Vladimir Putin had done this, can you imagine the uproar? Anne Applebaum, Gary Kasparov, and the Cato Institute’s Andrei Illarionov would have a collective cow, and shout, in unison, "See! We told you so!" No doubt they’d be given ample opportunity to do so by the editorial page editors of the major dailies, while the talking-heads and the radio-shouters would sing the chorus, likening Putin to Stalin.
Yet Putin has done nothing remotely comparable, although Western commentators act as if he had: opposition parties (and their media outlets) exist in Russia, including several claimants to the mantle of the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the Kasparov-led "democratic" groups with minuscule memberships and more support in the Western media than among Russian voters. It’s hard for them to get on television, they complain: this, to them, is "proof" that Russia is "backsliding" into authoritarianism.
When real authoritarianism rears its head elsewhere in the former Soviet republics, however, we hear practically nothing from these people, and for a very simple reason: Saakashvili and his gang are "pro-Western." That is, they were installed in power by the Americans, who directed the roseate "revolutionaries" from Washington, paid the "revolutionaries" in US tax dollars, and continued to pour money into the resulting regime – in spite of numerous indications that Saakashvili and his party were no more "democratic" or less thuggish than their post-communist predecessors.
Putin is supposed to have been the guiding hand behind the murders of Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, and a platoon of others – including the attempted murder by poisoning of Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko – in spite of the fact that no solid evidence has ever surfaced linking the Kremlin to those crimes. Yet when the pro-Western Saakashvili is credibly accused of murder by his former defense minister, the silence from the Russophobic "human rights" crowd is deafening.
Predictably, the Saakashvili government accuses the opposition of being in league with the Russian secret services: it’s all a plot by Putin to overthrow the government and subvert Georgian sovereignty. This has been the line taken by Saakashvili and his supporters for years, and yet the accusation is wearing thin – especially when several former members of his own party, including ex-ministers, have joined the opposition’s denunciation of his developing dictatorship.
George W. Bush’s trip to Tbilisi, in 2005, in tandem with his trip to Latvia, was carefully choreographed to underscore Russia’s encirclement, and play up the widening gulf between the US and Putin’s Russia. As Bush stood next to Saakashvili in Tbilisi’s "Freedom Square," he intoned: "I am proud to stand beside a President who has shown such spirit, determination, and leadership in the cause of freedom." One has to wonder: is he still proud, even as Georgian policemen beat protesters in the streets and the Georgian media faces lockdown?
As police batons crack open Georgian heads, the US State Department calls for "constructive dialogue"! How one engages in "dialogue" of any sort with an armed thug who is about to swing his baton at you is a mystery known only to the US State Department, which has so far neglected to offer an unequivocal condemnation of the crackdown – and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it, either.
As a key link in the security fence going up around the former Soviet Union, designed to keep the Russians in their place, Georgia gets millions from the West in "foreign aid," including military aid, and is angling for NATO membership, with American support. I particularly liked this description of the US aid program as explicated by some anonymous bureaucrat:
"Democracy programs in Georgia improve public sector transparency and accountability at both the national and local levels; advance the rule of law; ensure broad public participation in political life; and promote national integration and peace building. … U.S. assistance will support the development of a national strategy and action plan to promote national integration and tolerance will include support for democracy, confidence, and peace building efforts, including support to civil society and an independent media. "
Gee, those programs sure worked well, didn’t they? After all, now that the Georgian ruling party has closed down the media, arrested their political opponents, beaten and threatened oppositionists with death – when they didn’t actually off them – Saakashvili and his cohorts are calling for early elections, including a referendum on continued "emergency" rule. Now that‘s "democracy" in action – arrest the opposition, and then call an election.
In recent testimony before Congress regarding FY 2008 foreign aid budgeting, Randall L. Tobias, director of foreign assistance and administrator of USAID, claimed that the US assistance program is a "success story." Georgia, along with Ukraine and Moldova – two countries that have recently moved into the US orbit – are described as being "at the forefront of reform," while Russia and Belarus are "countries that present democratic challenges." One wonders what the Ambassador will make of the "democratic challenges" posed by Saakashvili’s assumption of dictatorial powers. My guess: it’ll be business as usual.
The US has been busy arming the Georgians, supposedly against a "terrorist threat," and yet the real objective – to provoke the Russians – is ill-concealed. A great deal of military equipment paid for by US taxpayers has, somehow, wound up in some very dubious hands, as documented here. Meanwhile, a recently privatized US military presence in Georgia is cause for concern: did Cubic, a private military contractor akin to Blackwater, provide training and other assistance to Georgian police and military units that are now beating, jailing, and killing the regime’s opponents?
The "colored revolutions" sponsored by the US, and hailed by Washington’s amen corner in the media as the vanguard of "democracy" and "civil society," were and are nothing but cynical manipulations designed to advance US geo-strategic interests. The idea is to encircle Putin, cut off routes for Russian oil to flow freely to energy-starved Europe, and strangle a resurgent Russia in its cradle before it has a real chance to mount a credible challenge to American hegemony.
As the police beat oppositionists, break into private media outlets and forbid public gatherings, the US stands silently by: but that silence speaks volumes. The Washington Post reports that opposition leader Tina Khidasheli "blamed the violence in part on the United States’ ‘unconditional support’ for Georgia’s ruling party, adding that she thought her country’s leadership would have respected the rule of law more if US officials had insisted it be upheld. ‘For four years they did not question anything Saakashvili was doing,’ she said. ‘Beacon of democracy? The shining of democracy was in the streets today.’"
US aid to Georgia should be ended, pronto: not one more penny for the tinpot tyrant Saakashvili. US personnel in the country, including diplomats as well as military personnel, should be withdrawn. We either support the crackdown, or we oppose it: there is no middle ground, and no good reason why US taxpayers must be forced to subsidize Saakashvili’s dictatorship. Furthermore, this ought to effectively put an end to talk of Georgia entering NATO and/or the EU. These are, after all, unions of supposedly liberal democracies.
As tanks roll through the streets of Tbilisi, the bloom is off the Rose Revolution for good. Let this noxious weed wilt of its own accord, without one more drop of sustenance from Bush, the great cultivator of "democracy."
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I have to note that this conference, which featured alleged "libertarians" collaborating with and providing a platform for officials of the Saakashvili regime, seems, in retrospect, like a major mistake. "Freedom, Commerce, and Peace" was the alleged topic of the conference’s concerns: now that Georgia has none of these things, thanks to their pal Saakashvili, one wonders what public comment the Cato Institute will have – if any.
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