Monday, September 24, 2012

Torture, Shift in US Foreign Policy Towards Georgia

Shift in US Foreign Policy towards Georgia and the Last Straw

Joni Simonishvili

GoG uses fear as a weapon against their own people... Elections 2012

One need toonly remember what the depths to which they [GoG] went and will go [killings and mass arrests]. It all started going down hill from 2008, it was one of the last straws which broke the back of the US’s unwavering support for Georgia. A former adviser, Daniel Kunin is out, a close advisor to Saakashvili was the first crack in the dam.   He has had a falling out with Misha, which explain why the Imedi TV media hoax disaster happened in the first place, and even now the Western media is confirming what locals know only too well - this government is undemocratic, has blood on its hands and is willing to go further and is worse than what came before. .

Moreover, many Georgians are apathetic, as they don't believe in free and fair elections, they don’t have much hope of anything positive emerging in the immediate future, especially in the court down to the October Georgian 2012 parliamentary elections, provided elections are not cancelled based on some pretext or created national emergency.  Georgian Democracy has proven stillborn, and nothing is going to change in this direction any time soon.

It is not difficult to understand why this is so -  one  needs only to look at how those who watch English language broadcasts perceived  Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili when he appeared on Fareed Zakaria's GPS on CNN a few years ago, as well as on other English programs, BBC, etc.  Some pundits went so far as to claim that the ‘now cornered president came across as glaring like a madman, and made little sense,” but CNN and the spooks working in various agencies, academic support organizations and the often competing US National Security and Foreign Intelligence Agencies are not giving up the ghost. They are hanging onto the idea that they can make him look not so bad.  

However, maintaining unwavering support for the once fledgling democracy which has grown thorns may make Georgia US foreign policy's greatest liability in the long term, and even at present it is not very politically expedient.

Shifting US Foreign Policy

This begs the questions:  has there been a shift in US policy towards Georgia, if so what does this mean, both in the short and long term, and how will it be manifested?

Anyone living in Georgia for any length of time, especially foreigners, can tell you that things have changed in the post 2008 environment, especially since May 26, 2011, and a violent crackdown on anti-Saakashvii forces in Tbilisi that resulted in deaths and many injuries of civilians. It is clear the government intentionally used excessive force, as documented by human rights organizations.

There was such anticipation in the run up to the ill-fated 2008 Georgian-Russian, portrayed , by Georgia as a Russian invasion, and in light of the US Presidential elections, as most of the  Georgian leadership were so confident of do-no-wrong support from  the US that  a Georgians for John McCain organization was even set up to support the US presidential candidate, manned by top members of the Georgian government and closely aligned with the Liberty Institute in Georgia, the origin of the brains of the current Georgian Government, and backed by various think tanks in the United States, such as the Potomac Institute.

The Minister of Refugees and Displaced Persons was even seen visiting the IDP center in Gori with his McCain 1 license plate just before those elections as he was visiting IDPS from South Ossetia. The dirty little Georgian-Russian war of August 2008 did not turn out as expected, as it did not play well for the game theorists who were using it  to test Russia's resolve,  command and control structures. It is easy in retrospect to look back and see how much those in the NGO community, low level non-official contacts and the many defense related contractors in Tbilisi had no doubt that the war  was going to be a win-win situation for all.

The outcome of the war demonstrated all that is wrong with the command and control structures of the Georgian Army, its endemic corruption at high levels, its arms trafficking, and confirmed that the war was more about making money than restoring the territory integrity of Georgia or fending off a Russian invasion. It demonstrated that Russia does not have the army it once had but its command and control structures still work rather well, in spite of their size and many layers.

Rude Awakening

Americans don’t like losers.  Even at high school football games, if things don’t go well for the home team the stands become rather sparse at half time, in anticipation that the team will lose. Basically, Americans don’t like incompetents, and from all the millions pumped into Georgia in the name of Train and Equip programs, starting out with the 64 million bestowed under the rubric of fighting terrorism, few benefits have actually resulted.

Some players have made lots of money, but the Georgian Army is demoralized and the reputation of the country tarnished – and now the US understands that it may have placed all its bets on the wrong horse. Georgian troops may be useful at  what they have been  trained to be , providing support for NATO operations, but  not at fighting a conventional or guerilla war with the Russian Federation, or  performing as a professional army. 

Too much has floated to the top, with senior FBI  officials having visited  Georgia since 2008 and allegations being made by some investigators and opposition  TV channels that the Georgian Ministry of Defense has indulged itself in high stakes weapons trafficking with a sense of impunity.  Now, and not only in the alternative media and less well read publications, information is also emerging concerning bio and viral weapons programs. Obama's seeming betrayal of Georgia is now starting to make sense; the signs of the times are easy to see for those who wish to open their eyes.

No longer is the US so strongly supportive of the Georgian government, with its  well-paid spin doctors like Daniel Kunin, Patrick Worms, David Smith and Sam Patten and scores of others working under the cover of the NGO community, including the Republic and Democratic Institutes. All these people have - or rather “had” - one concerted mission – to make Saakashvili always look good  –  no matter how much they must hold their noses to do so.

Looking really bad

The spin doctors did their job well, until their concerted efforts started to make them look ‘really’ bad, like really cheap “hookers”, whose career path or path to early retirement would be tarnished if they supported the Georgian leadership to the bitter end. All things considered, it is only practical for the US to develop closer ties with Russia. In a statement to Congress, Obama made it clear that he is backing away from Georgia in the name of better ties with Moscow. He asked Congress on that day to support a nuclear treaty with Russia, insisting that "the situation in Georgia need no longer be considered an obstacle to proceeding with the proposed agreement."

This is a major shift in policy compared to that of the Bush Administration, reset-button, which tried to support Saakashvili to the bitter end. In the aftermath of the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 Bush punished Russia for what he considered to be an unprovoked invasion of a defenseless and innocent country. But now the expert reports are out, the spin doctors defrocked.  The dust and rhetoric have settled. It is now understood by many international security experts who actually started that little dirty war in the first place.

Territory integrity

Georgia can forget about restoring its territory integrity until it gets its own house in order, and shows the world that it really is a democracy. Meanwhile, Russia and the US are closer now than at any time in history, getting really cozy, due in large part to the actions of Georgia and the half-baked attempts by hired PR firms to convince the world that Georgia could do no wrong. Maintaining good relations with Russia is now official US policy, a concern based on old fashion pragmatism and the need for Russian support in the UN for US saber-rattling over Iran and its alleged nuclear military aspirations.

Two years ago The Washington Post published an op-ed from Bush's former point man on European and Eurasian affairs, David J. Kramer. He was the guy who had helped make Saakashvili a White House project under Bush. On May 15 he wrote: "The administration is essentially abandoning the Georgians and giving Russia a green light to continue to engage in provocative behavior along its borders." This is probably true. But after interviewing Saakashvili, his advisers and his opponents, Obama's decision to turn his back on the Georgian President makes a lot of sense.

Media hoax

The latest effort to draw attention, the so-called media hoax, may be one of the last straws which will break the back of the US’s unwavering support for Georgia. Daniel Kunin is out, the former close advisor who has failed.   He has had a falling out with Misha, which might explain why the Imedi TV disaster happened, and even now the Western media is confirming what locals know only too well.

“Daniel Kunin, an American, was Saakashvili's closest adviser … the son of a New England governor; he joined Saakashvili's team after the Rose Revolution of 2003 and became (perhaps unwittingly) one of the champions of infectious democracy, the neocon creed of the day.” As one source wrote in the days after the March 2010 faked invasion broadcast, “it is still hard to not want to believe that he did it - or at least, that it didn't turn out quite as he had imagined it would. I believe in incompetence. I see it everywhere. It is nearly always the explanation of things. But what is interesting is that this showed the collective state of mind of Georgia – paranoid; it could make good telly.”

To the outside world, and especially the US, the incident sounded like something cooked up to further condition the population to hate Russia – Misha seemed to agree with it at first, then changed his tune when everyone started crying foul (e.g. the French diplomat etc.).

An observer only needs to read transcripts of the (allegedly phony) taped phone conversations between those involved in the hoax. They sound a little too complex to have been cooked up - especially in the short space of time there would have been to do it in. I'd put money on them being genuine. This conclusion has since been confirmed to be correct by independent foreign experts who have studied the tapes, but that is hardly reported in the news. As one independent filmmaker wrote, “What a bunch of clots, I'd bet a trawl back through the last 3 or 4 years of news articles would make tasty reading for any shrink about Sak's neurotic fixation with Russia. Wow - only in Georgia would these conversations be recorded - strikes me as really odd. Seems just like an incompetent program controller - mistakes like this happen when a producer’s ambition outstrips their understanding.

1) Was it officially sanctioned?
2) Who made it?
3) The TV station has been in a state of turmoil - I suspect program control is not all it is cracked up to be. It would have been an interesting story to follow - but   impossible to have seen this one coming.”

On March 14, 2010 someone, most likely connected to some intelligence agency, perhaps the NSA or Russian intelligence, or even Georgian intelligence, posted an audio file to a Russian web site which appears to be a phone conversation between the Director of Imedi TV (Giorgi Arveladze) and his deputy, head of political, Eka Tsamalashvili.

The deputy is saying that she has studied the media Code of Conduct and found that it would be illegal to broadcast the program without a banner across it warning that it is fiction. Arveladze responds that he has been told by Saakashvili to send it without a banner, because otherwise it would be pointless. This conversation has since been widely reported. The following day someone posted another phone tap, this time of a conversation between Saakashvili and Culture Minister Nika Rurua (of Mkhedrioni fame), in which it appears that the President did not know that Imedi was going to broadcast it without a warning disclaimer.

You will find hardly any Georgians who now think that these recordings are not genuine. They believe that the question of whether to broadcast the hoax with/without a warning banner was discussed between the two company heads prior to airing. It is also against this background that several opposition parties wanted to sue Saakashvili personally, and Imedi TV as a company, for breaking the media Code of Conduct (which is actually a law in Georgia, not an internal gentleman's agreement within the media). It seems unlikely that an incompetent program controller alone was behind the broadcast.

It's worth noting that Imedi director Arveladze is former General Secretary of the ruling party and former minister himself, and was also Saakashvili's first PR Director (spin doctor).  As reported in the Western Media, “Saakashvili's team is open about its friendship with the Imedi chief, Georgi Arveladze (who by the way has not resigned) ….”

Has US policy towards Georgia changed? I think it will soon be apparent that it has, as you can only turn a blind eye to so much incompetence and greed – there are more important things for the US to be focused on now, rather than the petty politics which have become the Georgian reality. 
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