This Easter Sunday, a holiday of resurrection – or, at least, spring – there are some signs that things may be turning around, in certain limited but encouraging areas. Take, for example, the predicament of President Mikheil Saakashvili, of the Republic of Georgia, who has been besieged of late by massive protests demanding his resignation.
Last year, Saakashvili launched an attack on breakaway South Ossetia – which had been de facto independent for a decade– and was crushed by the defenders, which included the Russian army. The war was a disaster for Georgia, which at first implausibly claimed "self-defense," and when that canard was summarily debunked, launched a massive public relations offensive in the U.S. The offensive continues, even as tens of thousands of antiwar, anti-Saakashvili protesters flood the streets of Tbilisi, the capital, demanding Saakashvili’s resignation.
Now he’s whining in the pages of Newsweek: "Where are my Western friends?" According to the Georgian president, the only people demonstrating in the streets and demanding he step down are criminals: "Fighting corruption and crime, we put thousands of people in jail. In Tbilisi alone we convicted 8,000 people; all of their relatives are outside today, asking me to resign."
Screw you, Saakashvili: first you drag your nation into war with a neighbor over 100 times bigger and more powerful, then you lie about who started it, and then you smear and arrest your domestic opponents as "foreign agents" – all the time caterwauling about how much of a "democrat" you are! Oh, the tears! The recriminations!
"I did not expect the West to put all the relationships with us on hold while waiting for this revolution. An official delegation from France decided to postpone their visit. A Turkish company moved a scheduled contract signing until after April 9, and an Arab company until April 12. What is the matter with these people? Do we stop going to Paris or Strasbourg during their street protests?"
What is the matter with these people is that they don’t like dealing with the little Stalin of the Caucasus, who locks up the opposition, rigs the judiciary, and orders his thugs to invade a television studio for the "crime" of opposing him. The Georgians, for all the big bucks they’ve spent on public relations, are international pariahs. Investment in the country is way down, and the Bush administration – Saakashvili’s best friend on the international scene – is no more: "I used to idealize America under Bush, when ideas were above pragmatic politics. Now it is a new time, when pragmatic politics are in charge of ideas. That might spoil the America I know."
I knew there was a reason to cheer President Obama’s election, and I sure am grateful to Saakashvili for revealing it to me. Not, of course, that Obama is committed in principle to cutting the Georgian tyrant loose. It’s just that he has quite enough on his plate before he follows up on his anti-Russian campaign rhetoric, at least for the moment. As Saakashvili points out, Obama may make a deal with the Russians: we’ll stay out of the Caucasus if they give us free rein in Afghanistan and Central Asia. While that doesn’t seem to be happening, it’s unlikely that the ultra-cautious Obama will do more than give Saakashvili lip service and somewhat reduced bribes in the form of "aid," lest he antagonize Moscow unnecessarily.
The Georgian government has quite a lobbying effort going in Washington, and during the presidential campaign they used it to great effect, with both candidates outdoing each other in fulsome declarations of support and furious denunciations of Russian "aggression." The Georgians provoked the fight with Russia hoping to drag us in, yet Bush didn’t fall for it and neither will Obama, if he’s half as smart as he thinks he is.
Saakashvili may be going down, and that’s a good thing. And here’s another shiny, multicolored egg in my Easter basket – a statement from my congressional representative, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), on Obama’s latest budget request for war funding:
"As proposed, this funding will do two things it will prolong our occupation of Iraq through at least the end of 2011 and it will deepen and expand our military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely.
“I cannot support either of these scenarios. Instead of attempting to find military solutions to the problems we face in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama must fundamentally change the mission in both countries to focus on promoting reconciliation, economic development, humanitarian aid, and regional diplomatic efforts."
Along with Dennis Kucinich and a very few others in her party, Woolsey is standing up to the enormous pressure on her to fall in line behind the war plans of this administration,which may be on hold in the Caucasus, but are going full speed ahead in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Stans. For the U.S. to launch yet another long-term occupation of a Muslim country – or, indeed, any country – would be a disaster in every sense: military, economic, and moral. The idea that a bankrupt nation can go barnstorming throughout the world is not just absurd; it is, as I pointed out last week, suicidal. Thank the gods for Woolsey!
Which brings me to a certain interesting idea, and that is the difference between living in a congressional district that is an urban, Democratic-machine stronghold – San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi‘s realm – and a Democratic but rural and fiercely independent place like Sonoma County, which Woolsey’s district basically encompasses. The voters of Sonoma County are totally against interventionism in any way, shape, or form, and they would be willing to punish a politician who ginned up and/or supported another war. Yet down in supposedly "radical" San Francisco, support for Her Highness the Speaker achieves Soviet-style near-unanimity year in and year out, no matter what villainy she perpetrates.
Rural bad, urban good – that’s the liberal/"progressive" prejudice. Country folk are supposed to be unreconstructed jingoists, as well as small-minded bigots prone to outbreaks of primordial violence against "outsiders." Another cliché bites the dust.
This Easter holiday – my favorite holiday, including Christmas – I offer hope to my readers, instead of my usual prognostications of a darkish hue. As dim as the prospects for peace – and liberty – may seem at the moment, there are many signs that a backlash is building. We here at Antiwar.com are committed to reporting on and nurturing the growing resistance to our foreign policy of perpetual war, and we’re excited by the evidence that the movement for peace and civil liberties is growing. Every day the green shoots of an intellectual and political spring are pushing through the soil, seeking the sun. Take heart, dear reader: our day will come.