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Georgian EU Darling Goes On Trial
This latest Saakashvili episode really is a thorn in the side of the West. He is their poster boy for all that in anti-Putin, and now the Georgians (newly engaged to the EU) want to throw him in prison. The decision to indict former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and some senior members of his former National party, for abuses of power during their rule has been widely applauded within Georgia.
His former government has been shown to have been endemically corrupt even by third world standards, and the present Georgian government, elected on a promise of restoring justice, has lost much support at home by not doing enough to put its members behind bars, as they promised would be a priority as soon as they got in office.
However the usual suspects, who never had to live under his rule, have started bleating about Saakashvili being called to answer questions. Maybe they just can’t get over their poster boy. Or maybe there is something much more sinister at work.
Double, treble, and quadruple standards
The Saakashvili regime was upheld and partly funded by the US, under various agreements which were not what they seemed. For example, the Train and Equip Program, which was intended, at least officially, to train and up-grade the Georgian Army, in actuality it resulted in terrorists being inserted into the Pankisi Gorge, trained and armed and then sent to cause trouble wherever the US wanted trouble. Similarly, agencies such as USAID and the MCC Compact, another development scheme, spent much of their funds supporting Saakashvili’s party, or plugging gaps in the budget and calling them “revenue”, rather than establishing sustainable projects on the ground.
Now U.S. Senators John McCain, Ben Cardin, Jeanne Shaheen and Jim Risch have expressed their disappointment at the decision to bring Saakashvili and his minions to trial. The Senators released the following statement:
“We are extremely disappointed and concerned that the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia has filed criminal charges against former President Mikheil Saakashvili and numerous senior leaders of the previous government.President Saakasahvili and his government were not faultless, and it is important for any democracy to uphold its laws. But the pursuit of justice should not become a tool for political retribution or a source of national division, especially when Georgia has so many pressing challenges at present. We and others have urged Prime Minister Garibashvili and other Georgian leaders to focus on the future, not the past, and to help move their country forward, not take it backward. It is nearly impossible to see how the decision to put most of the previous government on trial is consistent with this purpose. Georgia’s leaders need to think long and hard about the direction they are taking their country. Today’s action, and others like it, imposes unnecessary challenges in moving our relationship forward.”
The following individuals have been indicted: Mikheil Saakashvili, former ministers Ivane Merabishvili, Zurab Adeishvili and Davit Kezerashvili and ex-Tbilisi Mayor Giorgi (Gigi) Ugulava. Apparently the four horseman senators believe that these individuals constituted “most of the government” during the nine years of Saakashvili’s rule, which casts some doubt on their credentials as commentators.
The reference to “unnecessary challenges in moving our relationship forward” is also interesting. None of the four senators are in the White House, and nor do they run the State Department. Most are “has been” and considered to belong to the party of war. They are in fact individual politicians that are only expressing their personal opinions and self-interests. So who exactly is “we”, and what sort of relationship do these individuals have with the Georgian state which makes them think they can implicitly threaten its government?
As pointed out in previous articles, Senator John McCain pops up wherever there is trouble in the world, encouraging armed groups to continue their struggle. He did it in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. His successive election campaigns in Arizona have been largely funded by a bevy of arms manufacturers based in that state with documented links with arms traffickers working on Georgian territory. These contributions are a matter of public record, known to the other senators, including the three who have joined him in making this statement.
There is more than abundant documentation to demonstrate that Georgia became the regional illegal arms transit hub during Saakashvili’s presidency. The usual practice was that the Georgian government would issue face end user certificates to arms shipments coming through Georgian ports, thus making them appear legal. In fact the arms were destined for terrorists, and the shipments therefore anything but legal. Strangely enough, most of these weapons were made and/or sold by US companies, of the sort which fund John McCain’s election campaigns.
This is the “relationship” the four senators are talking about. They are not government representatives, nor part of any relationship between the governments of the US and Georgia. They all, however, have longstanding links with the intelligence services and the military-industrial complex, both of which have long been involved in a string of activities in other countries they would never get away with a home: Guantanamo Bay, Hiroshima, even now you only have to say the words.
At present, Barack Obama is in the White House. He has had as little to do with Saakashvili as possible, sending Vice-President Biden to visit Georgia on his behalf. At one point Saakashvili spent three months in America, rather than his own country, doing nothing but try and engineer a meeting with Obama: there were no official engagements, only the occasional private lecture. Obama responded by cancelling speeches when he found out Saakashvili was in the audience. Obama has not, as yet, commented on Saakashvili’s indictment.
One law for one
The Georgian government is well aware that indicting Saakashvili and some of his ministers will harm relations with Europe, at least in the short term. It is fully aware that there are considerable risks involved with this. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of many European leaders who have been talking about “selective justice” in Georgia for several months, and this mantra has been picked up by every European official who visits Tbilisi, whether from the EU, OSCE or NATO.
However, there is reason to believe that this is largely a face saving exercise. Saakashvili was hailed as a great European for wanting to take Georgia into the EU and NATO. In this at least, he was in line with the majority of the Georgian population. Yet despite all his diatribe and efforts Georgia gained practically nothing. This was in spite of Georgia contributing more troops to NATO operations per capita than any other country it was still excluded from the military bloc, and even a free trade agreement with the EU was out of reach during his presidency.
Georgia has now signed the very Association Agreement with the EU which it never let Saakashvili sign. This is despite the cries of “selective justice” and “political persecution”. This implies that Europe has one view for public consumption, which must be consistent, and another privately, where it has to face reality to conduct relations effectively.
Georgian Prime Minister Gharibashvili has explained the reasons for indicting Saakashvili at length, as would be expected. However the best case for it was made by one of the ruling coalition’s MPs, Zurab Tkemaladze. He said simply, “I would like to address all, including the international community. Democracy and justice are the main thing. Equality before the law is also important. As far as I know, the USA aspires to it and the EU has the same principle.”
Tkemaladze could also have pointed out that in the executions of Nicolae Ceaucescu and Saddam Hussein, the Nuremberg Trials after the Second World War, the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic at the International Court of Justice, the imprisonment of former US Vice-President Spiro Agnew and the impeachment of sitting President Bill Clinton, nobody talked about “selective justice” or “political persecution”. Nor were any of these actions taken by a government whose main promise to its electorate had been that, if elected, it would do just that.
On July 28 Saakashvili refused to present himself at the Prosecutor’s Office to answer questions. He has therefore been charged in his absence and can be arrested for failure to appear, and even obstruction of justice.
The former President had already announced that he would not be taking this opportunity to clear his name. On his Facebook page he had written:
“For almost two years, the government and the majority lead by Bidzina Ivanishvili have focused all their efforts not on pursuing the development of our nation and making it more secure, but on prosecuting their opponents and putting in jail leaders who have reformed the country for 9 years. They have turned judiciary into political machinery aiming at the elimination of UNM and the destruction of my reformist legacy, As announced many times by the PM and his ministers, I am the next target. Obviously, this behaviour will generate tensions with our American and European allies. But it does not seem to bother leaders who have publicly claimed that they preferred to improve ties with Russia to our sacred friendship with the free people of Ukraine. Nothing seems to stop this thirst for revenge, crackdown. I will obviously not take part in this farce and I will not become the reason why Georgia becomes at odds with its natural democratic allies. Our region is at a turning point, the world is finally paying attention to our claims and our fight for independence and freedom. Is this the right time to let the personal obsessions of one man, even a very rich and powerful one, spoil our future as free citizens of the free world?”
As Saakashvili is a trained lawyer, he will be well aware that his statement lacks one vital component. Nowhere you can find where he actually denies any of the charges against him, or offer any counter evidence about them. Nor does he offer any evidence supporting his claim that his prosecution is motivated by revenge. With so many influential voices crying “persecution”, if Saakashvili could offer one scrap of such evidence it would be seized upon by those voices to build a case. He gives his own supporters no opportunity to defend him, perhaps knowing that words are all they will ultimately offer, just like him.
Mikheil Saakashvili and the other individuals concerned have been indicted over three specific matters. Details can be found here. Yet the same names are also linked, in both popular opinion and specific testimony, to a vast array of other crimes. So are those of many other ministers and officials, some of whom are still walking around and in charge of powerful networks, whose only resource is to continue their criminal ways.
This indictment can indeed be described as “selective justice”. It is selective in the same way jailing Al Capone for merely not paying his taxes was selective justice. This is made even more obvious by the fact that so many people are decrying the actions of Georgia’s prosecutors, but no trial has been held, no evidence heard, no verdicts given, no sentences passed. People with a presumption of innocence behind them are being asked to answer questions, and that is unjust, we are told.
The U.S. senators are calling for Saakashvili and his friends, long suspected of involvement in many crimes, to be above being questioned, let alone prosecuted. By doing so, they violate the US Constitution they pledge to uphold as Congressmen and US citizens. As such, they should be immediately impeached. If that happens, let us see how many US citizens describe this as “political persecution”.
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Georgia: The Switzerland of the Caucasus?
Times may change but some things never do. Whenever a government of a small country has been in power too long, people start discussing its foreign policy orientation. Usually this is a debate about that government, not the actual subject: if you don’t like them, you say the country is better off with other friends. Then a new government is elected, its foreign orientation is generally accepted for a while, then the cycle starts again.
Former Georgian president Misha Saakashvili was always banging on about how his country could be the Dubai, Singapore or Switzerland of the Caucasus – anything other than Georgia. This told everyone a lot about how much he actually cared about the country and its people. Consequently much debate emerged: should the Government of Georgia continue aggressively courting the West, whilst behaving a way no Western government would accept of one of their club? Or should it develop a stronger working relationship with modern Russia, its looming neighbour, or take a neutral position?
When Misha was displaced, the new government, though derided as pro-Russian by Misha’s supporters, continued the country’s pro-Western course and has achieved more in that direction than Misha ever did. As yet, however, the Georgian people are still not seeing any material benefits from this decision. In response, the idea is now growing that in one respect the hated Misha might have been wiser than he knew. Maybe Georgia would be better off as a neutral Switzerland than the 51st US state, however utopian that may seem in the geopolitical reality.
Though clearly part of the West in political-orientation, Switzerland isn’t in the EU. It remains a neutral country, unwilling to enter into any alliance which might alter that situation, and does business with everybody on its own terms. Given the protests in Georgia over some aspects of EU harmonisation such as the anti-discrimination laws – held by the protestors to be an open encouragement of homosexuality and child abuse – this option is a clearer reflection of where the Georgian public actually stands right now.
The success of anti-EU parties across the continent in the last two European elections provides further confirmation that hostility to the EU, rather than the West itself, is only likely to grow in Georgia over time. This does not in itself imply neutrality, but it does imply that Georgia could do better by inventing its own, more attractive, rules and providing an alternative structure for those who need one – which is how Switzerland transformed itself from a desperately poor country, with government-sponsored emigration, into a byword for wealth and success.
Igor Giorgadze, head of one of the opposition blocs in Georgia, made the following comparison as early as 2006:
“Georgia, as a poor country needs to be balanced, neither pro-Russian nor pro-US … its model should not be Palestine and permanent battle, but Switzerland and permanent prosperity.”
We have seen in Ukraine what happens to countries which seek to maintain balance when powerful forces want them on one side or the other. But Georgia is not Ukraine. It is not split down the middle into opposing camps of people with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, who would automatically incline towards one or other of the great powers.
Georgians are not Russians, and are very conscious of that, but also conscious of their difference from members of Western nations, who they see as distant cousins rather than brothers. The EU offers ostensible material benefit but no enduring role for Georgian representatives. Georgians want it for what they can get out of it, not what they can contribute to it.
Georgians see their contribution to mankind as what you see in every street in Tbilisi – Georgian wine, food, cultural artifacts, traditions, clothing, mentality. Like the Swiss, they do things their way, and are not going to put some greater European identity, which they had no hand in creating, ahead of what they are.
Nor is Georgia moving in a noticeably more European direction in its internal politics. The terror of the former totalitarian regime has gone. But it is still effectively a one party state, in which many of the same faces and habits are back in power under a different banner. Although fair elections are being held, effective power lies with one man, former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose nominees for the big posts win elections simply because they are his nominees, despite having little or no support in their own right amongst the electors, most of whom had never heard of them before he nominated them.
If only Georgians could look past their genuine need to make a fast buck, and their tendency to fawn over everything “Western” because they think this is how they can do it, they would see that the country could act as a buffer between Russia and the West by exploiting its inbuilt advantages as a niche market. For example, it has the facilities to develop into a centre of excellence for the rehabilitation and care of the most vulnerable, who are in that condition because they have been failed in their home countries. This in turn would develop Georgia’s tourism and agriculture, as people will always want such a place to exist in the hope it will help them one day.
Georgia could also become a centre of excellence for education, based on location theory and its intellectual capacity. It has a plethora of universities and professors, and a very educated population: almost everybody has at least one degree, and during the Soviet period Georgians were consistently portrayed in films as highly educated and highly cultured.
Now all that education gets Georgians is the opportunity to go to Western universities and compete for jobs in the West, where Georgia is seen as backward and unstable and its people “other”. If Georgia could concentrate on niche areas of education, and use its existing resources to become a world leader in these fields, it would gain the country and its people credibility with the educated class which would ensure its development for decades to come.
Georgia is a small country, with no great natural resources. It cannot compete in global markets which require mass production. But in certain specialised areas, such as those listed above, it does have advantages it can exploit. In these respects too Switzerland provides a suitable model.
Switzerland was very poor because its natural resources, though greater than Georgia’s, gave it no advantage over neighbouring countries. When it discovered that being neutral gave it advantages in the worlds of finance and commerce, because it could make its own rules, it flowered as few countries have ever done whilst retaining its very distinct political system and traditions.
Switzerland can take money from anywhere but is under no obligation to abandon its principles when doing so. This is because it offers every country an alternative which works, not one achieved by political horse trading. Furthermore, dealing with Switzerland does not mean damaging relations with any other partner because it is neutral, it is not on the other side of any divide your country is on. Georgia has much to gain by persuading its Western friends that they can show how magnanimous they are, and thus gain further justification for their less savoury conduct, if they guaranteed the country’s neutrality, and allowed it to provide its own alternatives to the existing mechanisms which always leave some by the wayside, in every country.
Europe without the EU
The cost of living in Switzerland is famously high, more so than in most if not all EU countries. Yet this is not prompting mass emigration to more amenable countries, as its long centuries of poverty did. Switzerland is expensive because its people can afford to pay those prices, and have got to that point not by neither rejecting nor embracing the EU, but developing an alternative which Europeans find better than what their own countries are offering them.
Switzerland’s political structure, in which power effectively rests with the small cantons rather than the national government, also has undeniable advantages for Georgia. Since the overthrow of the democratically elected first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, there has been a radical disconnection between the democratic will, and therefore democratic control, of Georgians and those who govern them.
Both Saakashvili and Ivanishvili had overwhelming popular support when first elected, but these were the alternatives Georgians were allowed to have by someone else. A system based on genuine local control of resources and appointments would be alien to most Georgians, because they only had brief experience of it, but is consistent with what they continually say they want, as the promises each political candidate feels obliged to make, even though they do not intend to deliver, testify.
Switzerland has geographical advantages by being in the middle of Europe, accessible to all. Georgia is almost the geographical centre of the world’s land masses. The actual point is about a hundred miles north of Ankara, but the population centres are to the east of this, making Georgia effectively the most central country of all.
Global development is now being driven by the East, with China and India emerging alongside the traditional powerhouses of Singapore and Japan, but the wealth and influence they seek to emulate are in the West. Georgia is best equipped, geographically and by culture, to act as the honest broker between these blocs by offering something different again which addresses their needs, should it wish to do so.
Bidzina Ivanishvili used similar language to Saakashvili when he took over, saying he would establish levels of democracy in Georgia which would astonish the region. As one of his opponents, Nino Burjanadze, has pointed out, removing the state terror is not an achievement, it is simply a reversion to the norm: this is how things are supposed to be, everywhere, there is nothing astonishing about it. If this alone is what Ivanishvili will achieve in Georgia, the “Georgian Dream” his party calls itself will remain just that.
Now the debates on orientation are starting again and Saakashvili’s legacy is being seen more positively than before – a very dangerous thing, but the product of broken promises. Georgians are discovering for themselves that Europe and neutrality, not the EU and NATO, are surer means of achieving what they really want. It is in everyone’s interests for the Government of Georgia to cotton on to this, rather than pursuing the EU for the sake of it. Georgia has nothing to offer expect the things that make it Georgian, and those things will always be incompatible with the role it would have to play as a tiny client of the EU.
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Kiev Snipers: Mystery Solved
Despite all the reporting on Ukraine, there is one aspect of the war which, perhaps not surprisingly, has not made it to most media outlets. The democratic West has largely ignored the revelation made by the Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, in an intercepted phone discussion with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, that “that there is growing evidence that the snipers were under the control of the new Kiev authorities, and that the same snipers were shooting BOTH police and protesters!
It has also ignored Ashton’s response: “Well, yeah, that’s really terrible”. So what is the EU going to do about it? How come the EU wants to interfere in everything else in Ukraine, but give nothing more than a throwaway remark to this institutional murder committed simply to inflame the conflict further?
I have Jewish-Ukrainian friend who has family in Ukraine, whose father and grandmother survived a concentration camp after being turned in to the Germans by their Ukrainian neighbours for being Jewish. Somehow they escaped from a ghetto work camp in East Ukraine before it was closed and its inmates sent to death camps in Poland.
This woman has family members working in the Security Services. Two days after the first deaths in Maidan Square she told me that, according to these family members, the snipers were killing members of both sides equally. The intercepted phone call has since confirmed this information.
Paet also mentioned during the same conversation that “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.” This too is only just beginning to be investigated, as it undercuts the Western position. If it is the new government, not the old, which is killing people the West cannot continue supporting it unless some action is taken against the culprits. There has been no such action, the deaths of a few Ukrainians being considered a sufficient price to pay for whatever the West seeks to achieve in their country.
What else do we know?
If the Kiev snipers are ever investigated the conclusion which will have to be drawn, to save political face, is that if anyone misbehaved they were rogue individuals, acting alone, with dubious pasts which provoked them to kill. One wonders how many times the ghost of Lee Harvey Oswald can be dragged up and pinned on other people while it is still maintained that he too acted alone.
For several years there has been a practice of governments paying snipers to shoot people indiscriminately in Eastern Europe. It dates back to at least 2008, when snipers operating in Georgia and trained by US contractors were employed to kill civilians in South Ossetia even before the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. This information has been confirmed by one of the snipers involved.
Information is still unfolding about the various funding source behind various events in Ukraine. However, we do know that there is a direct connection with what went on in Georgia in 2008. It was reported several weeks ago in Interpress News that four of the snipers in Kiev were in fact Georgian nationals. The source for this story was Georgian General Tristan Tsitelashvili (Titelashvili), who later confirmed this in an interview with Rossiya TV.
Tsitelashvili claimed that at least four of the snipers shooting at people in Maidan Square were under the command of former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who is doing his best to destabilise his own country, and others if necessary, to find a way back into power.
“I know the identity of the four people who were there, as snipers, but I can’t name them as an investigation is underway. The materials will be sent to the Prosecutor’s Office in two weeks. I can tell you that these people were former officials under Saakashvili government. The previous government trained them for such work. Their teams in Kiev were led by Givi Targamadze and Gia Baramidze”, Tsitelashvili said. Targamadze and Baramidze are well-known members of the former Georgian government, with warrants hanging over them for various offences committed during that period.
This too has been confirmed by one of the snipers involved. He is currently in hiding, living without papers. He tells me that most of his colleagues have been terminated. Given what they might know, and what happens to those who know, I am inclined to believe him.
Who is behind this?
When Saakashvili was in power he never undertook a major programme, such as training “counterterrorism” operatives, without US approval and funding. Some of the snipers used in both Georgia and Ukraine were trained under an antiterrorism programme prior to the 2008 War, specifically by John Giduck, founder of the Archangel Group, a US-based security and anti-terror training agency.
Giduck was not the obvious choice to run such a programme. He makes his living appointing himself an authority on the tactics and training of Special Forces but had no actual experience of doing this before being appointed to do so on the basis that he DID have such experience.
There are deadly consequences to such on-the-job training. But then this is Georgia, the country which also bought useless bomb detectors, which were in fact golf ball detectors, from conman James McCormick, who is now serving 10 years in jail for selling them.
Giduck advertises himself as a world-calibre authority on radical Islam and counter-terrorism, a claim experts take exception to. He even claims to have been tutored in counter-terrorism by “Putin’s boss,” the former head of the KGB, and trained with Soviet-era Special Forces, during a visit to Russia late in the Gorbachev era. If true, this would disqualify him from being a US Department of Defense contractor in the first place, but apparently Georgia did not see this as an obstacle.
As in Ukraine, seven or eight South Ossetians ended up dead when used for target practice by Archangel’s team of Georgian and American snipers in July 2008, before the Georgian attack on South Ossetia. We also know from one sniper called Emzar, a Georgian national who has fought with Chechens in Russia, that the trained snipers were also involved in operations to terminate other Special Operations staff – as in the so-called “Anti-Terrorist Sweeping Operation” in the Lopota Gorge in Eastern Georgia in August 2012.
My sources, and many others, claim that the Lopota operation was a staged ambush, designed to eliminate anyone who could talk about Georgian government sponsorship of illegal operations dating back to when the Pankisi Gorge was first set up by US intelligence to train terrorists for use against the Russian Federation. About seven or eight targets were killed outright, in the same way the sniper I spoke to claims his colleagues were.
What can we expect next?
It can be reasonably concluded that the snipers killing people indiscriminately, and illegally, in Ukraine were trained by the US, through dodgy contractors they dare not employ at home, as there is a direct link with the operations in Georgia it was undoubtedly behind. The same personnel and the same methods were involved, and possibly we will see the same outcomes. Does Georgia’s experience give us any clue as to what will happen now the cat is out of the bag, even though the lack of mainstream reporting is desperately trying to put the cat back in?
The survivors of the Lopota Gorge operation, both snipers and targets, were provided with Georgian passports if, like the Chechens imported there and paid well to conduct terrorist operations, they were not already Georgian nationals. They crossed the border to Turkey at the Vale crossing point, near Georgia’s Akhaltsikhe and the Turkish village of Türkgözü, with the assistance of Valeri Zumbadze of Georgia’s Counterintelligence Department and the approval of the US Embassy.
They were given safe conduct to – strangely enough – Syria. They were met there by CIA assets who promptly eliminated them. The Georgian operation had gone wrong, they did not want it coming back to haunt US foreign policy. But some of those involved have survived, and are sharing information with trusted members of the Russian and Georgian media, including the US-based military and foreign affairs journal Veterans Today, whose legal teams are not justifying their salaries by ordering them not to run the story.
The US and EU are not going to hold their new friends in Ukraine accountable, even though they have now publicly admitted certain previously known facts about them, such as their neo-nazi links. Therefore, more people will have to be eliminated, but not Ukrainians. Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been directly linked to the sniper team used in Ukraine against police and civilians alike. He is not in power now; no strategic relationship will be damaged by pinning the blame on him. So one way or another, he is the most likely fall guy.
If the story cannot be hushed up Saakashvili will have to face a war crimes tribunal. Any involvement he had in any war crimes could only have occurred through the funding, support and encouragement of the US. He knows more than anyone who really did what, so if he is indicted, he will have nothing to lose by singing louder than any canary yet discovered.
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