Our Man In Tbilisi

It has been so obvious this week that it seemed a bit like piling on to observe that Saakashvili’s declaration of a state of emergency (like a certain other allied dictatorial ruler we know) and violent repression of civilian protesters are just the latest expression of the one-man despotism that Saakashvili created in Georgia in the wake of the so-called “Rose Revolution.” Like its successors in Ukraine, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan, the Rose Revolution narrative has come to its predictable, unhappy conclusion where the revolution is supposedly “betrayed” (The New York Times took up this line Saturday) or fails to “fulfill its promise” or is “thwarted” by malevolent forces, when the entire thing was a sham from the beginning. The Guardian offers a typical lament (though, to their credit, they do not engage in the easy Russia-bashing that commentary on Georgia often becomes). Even now, Ralph Peters is offering up one version of this disappointment with how the “revolution” turned out:

The Saakashvili regime shone from afar – but grew rotten within.

But there was never anything that “shone” about the “Rose Revolution,” except perhaps the glaring hypocrisy of the “revolutionaries.”

Movements that rally around the statue of Stalin are not the bringers of liberal reform. But at least Peters recognises Washington’s role in enabling Saakashvili (John McCain, this means you), while you can expect to hear plenty of wailing about how our high hopes were dashed by another disappointing foreign nation.

Richard Carlson said as much about the “revolution” three years ago:

This has left Georgia–and George Soros–with a one-leader, one-party government, a far cry from a noble experiment in democracy.

Note that the Saakashvili regime has described the protest marches as part of an attempted “coup,” which should remind us how easily language can be manipulated by those in power. When Saakashvili leads the protests, they are a peaceful expression of “people power” and their calls for the President’s resignation are the legitimate expressions of the will of the people, but when the exact same thing happens and is led by Saakashvili’s opponents it is part of a “coup.” Yet what Saakashvili did in 2003 was nothing less than a coup, albeit one that he could cloak in the rhetoric of defending the integrity of the electoral process. The point is that neither 2003 nor today is there any real “people power” movement in Georgia, or rather every faction can lay claim to the mantle of “people power” when it suits it and then abandon it upon acquiring actual power. None of this has anything to do with functioning representative democracy, but with the exploitation and domination of a country by one set of elites or another (to which a cynic might reply: there’s a difference?). The current leader of the anti-Saakashvili bloc is an associate of Berezovsky, so it really is a case of being forced to choose between jumping into the fire or the frying pan.

The only reason why any Americans pretended to believe Saakashvili’s propaganda was because of Georgia’s importance in offering a route for oil pipelines that circumvent Russia and as a possible future Caucasus base for NATO or U.S. forces. Otherwise, the spectacle of one Caucasian strongman overthrowing another would not merit anyone’s sympathy.

I heartily wish that the Georgians could have something like decent and representative government. But no such government will ever come from the Saakashvilis of the world and their Soros-backed exercises in mass deception. Maybe something better will come out of all of this, assuming that Saakashvili can be persuaded to relinquish power peacefully. If not, I fear that Georgia’s ruler may plunge the country into some unmanageable conflict that will bring terrible harm to Georgia. May our Orthodox brethren in Georgia be granted peace and an end to civil strife, for their sake and the sake of the entire region.

Cross-posted at Eunomia

  • Mike Whitney

    One report said that the media outlet that was stormed and closed down (Imedi?) is owned by News Corp because they were allowing opposition candidates (that means Berezosky's rich stooge in georgia) to attack Saaskvilli. Is this another case of FOX News doing the states' bidding?

    and does this mean that the neocons want to dump Saaskvilli because he hasn't been tough enough on Russia?

  • Marycatherine Barton

    Thanks for showing our, US, hypocrisy. Long live the Georgian people.

  • Anne Williamson

    US involvement in Georgia has deep roots. James Baker cozied up to Eduard Schevernadze during Herbert Walker’s tenure in the White House, a romance that actually began in the later years of the last Reagan administration. The CIA moved right in along with the World Bank, the IMF, and Soros was soon on the scene, that is as soon as Gemsakhurdia (I’m sure I’ve misspelled that but it’s late….)was dispatched to a bloody end – a Shevie operation which the US supported in full cry.

    Shevie was a tyrant too, making full use of the Georgian prison systems complete with its medieval accents. In all this, the current Bush Administraiton is merely upholding what has long been the US policy of meddling and mess-making. When it came time for Shevie’s exit, Baker more or less simply dismissed the stunned stooge, and in roared Saakashavilli.

    The most disquieting aspect of this current episode for US taxpayers is that the weaponry for which their substance paid is being deployed against the Georgian people. (Darpa is getting the opportunity to test some of its cutting-edge, allegedly non-fatal “crowd control” high tech. So this good, all the bugs will be worked out before domestic deployment of the same.)

  • Daniel Larison

    Thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right that the policy towards Georgia was nothing new in 2003. The Washington establishment used to lavish embarrassing praise on Shevardnadze, I think partly because there was an impression fostered by Baker et al. that Shevardnadze as foreign minister was instrumental in bringing down the USSR. McCain was once his biggest fan, and he never failed to drop his name during his stump speeches in 1999 and 2000. As I recall, the Clintons also had a very cosy relationship with Shevardnadze, and I seem to remember something about Hillary Clinton’s brothers having some commercial interests in the area, but I would need to check on that again. Once they had a new useful tool, Washington didn’t need Shevardnadze anymore. The most telling thing about the “Rose Revolution” is that the foreign policy priorities of the government in Tblisi didn’t change a bit with the “revolution.” It was simply the replacement of of one ruler with one who would more reliably fill the role as our cat’s paw. Obviously, the interests of the people of Georgia get left behind whenever their government has to engage in contortions and run terrible risks of conflict to satisfy the government’s Western sponsors.

  • Oleg

    The silence of George “SuperDemocrat” Soros is deafening.

    • Andy Voro

      Yes, that silence of Soros is as shameful as was his reliance on one "good Georgean" versus the betterment of institutions of Georgian democracy. Soros knew fully well that democratic institutions in both former Soviet Union and here, in the West, are not conducive to finding the truth (he just wrote an article about that, published by the Korea Times. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2007/11/137_...

      Yet, he didn't make his support of the snotty militarist Saakashvily conditional to implementation of something better. Although Soros may not know anything better and doesn't want to know – try talking to him on available options and see how fast you'll be repelled/stonewalled by his handler(s).

      Meanwhile, the other day we were drinking fabulous Georgean wine and were pondering the sorry fate of the previously happy and rich (by Soviet standards) Georgean people. Alas, there is little hope for any meaningful change for them.

  • sandro

    Let me toss some comments into the radicalized echo chamber since most of the ignorant comments here are based on false history, inuendo and lack of knowledge about Georgia.

    – Democracy is a process consisting of a combination of people and institutions, not an event. While it is fine to talk about building institutions – institutions do not make decisions, sign contracts or make speeches to the public. Therefore, we are forced to deal with people — and if people were angels…
    – Gamsakurdia was a nationalist (racist to some) who governed through a civil war; Shevi (who had russian not us support against Gamsakurdia by the way) was a soviet who brought back stability; Saka was a western educated populist who brought reform, investment, gas and water and cut corruption. The democratic process in Georgia continues to incramentally improve. Maybe the opposition will win and it will continue to get better — lets hope. But I can guarantee that they will not be a panacea.
    – The rose revolution here was a true peoples movement filled with optimism and hope and a tremendous amount of positive came from it even in 4 short years.
    – I have seen amazing things that Soros has done throughout eastern europe and the former soviet union – benifiting millions – and i have also seen intended and unintended harm come from his good and not so good actions.
    – Fox is not doing the US bidding here – it was a shrewd business decision both on the part of Badri and Rupert. During the horrible day last Wed, Imedi was instructing people where to protest and repetedly playing inflamitory clips that did harm the public interest – hardly fair and ballanced.
    – Many people here are actually not angry that Saka called in the troops. In fact they say that if Gamsakurdia had, Georgia wouldnt have had three revolutions. They are angry with the isolated abuse of some officers. If Saka wanted to win favor again, he would seriously investigate the events that day and take action against individual officers and the interior minister. He would also come clean on the raid of the Imedi offices and reimburse them for the equipment ASAP and get them back on the air with a less inflamitory tone.

    In short, the situation here is complicated and nuanced. There are no pure angels and no pure devils. Georgia will be fine and needs the continued support of the US and EU. I agree – long live the Georgian people.

    • The situation is complicated. It is in reaction to the ridiculous, simplified cartoon of democracy on the march that the “revolution” was made out to be that I have been making arguments against Saakashvili. Democracy does entail the building of institutions, which is why it is so damning for Saakashvili that he has badly undermined Georgia’s institutions. No doubt there were many people who participated in throwing out Shevardnadze who thought they were changing things, which doesn’t change how much has remained the same or gotten worse. Saakashvili’s reforms and investment have largely worked to the benefit of those in his government, and his bellicosity is his own doing and can’t be blamed on anyone else.

  • fgh

  • The Soviet butcher Shevardnadze, who was a soviet despot, who ruled Georgia with an iron hand from 1965 to 1985 and put anybody who disagreed with him to prison, who plummeted the Georgian economy in 1992 and caused the wars with Abkhazia, was supported by the US bulldogs and hailed as a “true democrat”. Saakashvili, the CIA-sponsored power-hungry warmonger, who boasted that he “was proud ofg being born on the same day as Stalin” and who jailed and tortured his political opponents, also gets hailed as a “true democrat”. TheUS media’s bashing of Russia reminds of the old Soviet media’s bashing of the US. At the same time, as the politically correct man above writes, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the only normal ruler Georgia had during the last 85 years is called a “racist” and a “fascist” – the typical Stalinist smear-words applied by the US politically correct thought policeman to anybody whose view differ to the least from those of the Great Pants Droppoer, Billy Klintoon and his fat whore Mad Maddy Albright.

  • sandro

    I am not sure if Mr. Rambler is far left, far right or again mis-informed about Georgia by calling me politically correct and Gamsakhurdia the only normal Georgian leader. His campaign slogan was “Georgia for Georgians.” He marginalized and disenfranchised the Azeri and Armenian populations living in Georgia. I think that would fit most moderates’ deffinition of racism.

    Regarding Mr. Larison, as I note above, things have gotten significantly better for Georgia and the average Georgian during the past 4 years. I spoke to a taxi driver tonight who was enamored with him and what he has done for Georgia. Georgian democracy and Georgian prosperity is on the march.

    Now, concerning Russia – I know that Russians did not spray the gas or pull out their rubber clubs on the street but if you look at the results of this situation — (1) NATO condeming Georgia and stating that it will affect their NATO membership (2) Russia sending 200 Chechnian fighters into Abkhazia while the rest of the world pays not attention because they are too busy taking Sakavshili to task for not being a Jeffersonian democrat — leads me to believe Russia is laughing all the way to the bank.

  • James

    Anti russian propoganda sandro. Russia is not sending 200 chechen fighters to Abkhazia. The fact that after Afghanistan was bombed all the fighters were shipped of to the Panski Gorge with the help of US , TURKY & UK shows that Islamic Fighters are coming into Russia not the other way round.

  • Oleg

    I’m sure “sandro” prefers to live in the West, or in Russia – as opposed to enjoying fruits of “steady democratic progress” in his native Georgia. And yes, sandro, Russia is laughing all the way to the bank. We are succeptible to the simple pleasures of “I told you so” as anybody. Enjoy your revolutions…