Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Georgia as forward operating base, fire-for-effect!

-John M. Paxton, Commander of Marine Forces in Europe,

… “Fire-for effect” from Georgia! Peace is a Racket too!

By Patrick Downey, former USMC, now based in Moscow

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico, and especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

- Smedley D. Butler - Maj. Gen. USMC, from his 1935 work 'War is a Racket'
            "Plus ca change Plus c'est la même chose." - "The more things change the more they stay the same."
            - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr - French critic, journalist and novelist

            All US Marine "boots" (slang for a Marine recruit), and all Marine officers, from virtually day one of their introduction to life in the Corps, begin to learn of the heroic exploits of past Marines like Smedley Butler, Dan Daly and John Basilone. Needless to say, these young men are not so well informed as to the truth behind the reasons why such men went off to war in the first place, and nor, as far as I am aware, are they instructed in the finer points of mid-19th French Existentialism. 

            I am sure at least that this was the case when I first arrived to Parris Island, South Carolina, back in 1986 as a raw recruit.  Bear in mind that this was long before the advent of the I-pod and the newest generation of video games.  Not that I was a vociferous reader by any stretch of the imagination, but I did know my right foot from my left.   Those were the days indeed, and in retrospect it's safe to say that I probably should have listened to the advice of my mother, who was dead set against me following in the footsteps of my father, her father and her brother Bob and used to say: "You can stick a macaroni elbow in your ear, but it'll eventually crumble, disperse throughout your ear canal, cling to your eardrum and seriously mess with your equilibrium". 

            Which is kind of what's happening now in America, in the sense that we now have a buildup of fecal matter which desperately needs to be extracted; this is what lies behind the recent upsurge of sales of pneumatic jackhammers in the "Homeland", which, to my great relief, are currently being "secured" by an army of geriatric-looking fat men, and women who look as though they wished they were someplace else and in a better position.

            Now, with my training behind me, not only from boot camp but the school of hard knocks, the changes in Georgia have led me to reflect on what comes next.  The other day I decided to check out the breaking news in the Republic of Georgia from the safety of my latest digs here in Moscow, via social networking and reading the latest PR dumps. And came upon an interesting photograph of my old French pal, Boris a.k.a. Bidzina Ivanishvili, a name which, I am told, means "Johnson" in Georgian. Ivanishvili, is otherwise Ivanichvili (note the "ch") in French.

            I have never seen his Russian passport, although an old friend of mine from Paris did, but I now hear that the Georgia's lame duck president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has finally given in and allowed him his Georgian citizenship back. Ivanishvili's political party, Georgian Dream, now commands a majority in parliament and therefore the country for all practical purposes.

            Bidzina is thus set to become Georgia's next Prime Minister, and  is making the most of his days in the limelight, being pictured shaking hands with a tall, robust-looking, gray-haired chap in camouflage, who I learned, to my absolute astonishment,  is a real-life United States Marine Lieutenant General by the name of John M. Paxton, Commander of Marine Forces in Europe!  One can find this photograph, and the article which  accompanies it, via the following link, and they open a can of worms - in fact, more like a proverbial Pandora’’s Box - which needs to be opened, and the sooner the better.

            Of course it's no coincidence that the good general happened to pop over to Tbilisi a couple of weeks after the triumvirate known as Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Colonel Lindsey (who I am told kicks with his left foot) had visited  Tbilisi for a bit of grape stomping.  But it's just got to be a coincidence, for if it isn't, it has to   be a part of some conspiracy or other, perhaps related to Syria or Iran. I wonder if General Paxton has ever read Smedley Butler's book on banksters?  Perhaps I should reach out to his people and send him a copy? However, I doubt if he is the reading kind, as he follows orders without thinking. 

            But all joking aside, and leaving all "conspiracy theories" on the back burner, at least for now, I can't help imagining how things in Georgia might have been very different today, had it not been for the untimely (or timely, depending upon one's point of view) death of Badri Patarkatsishvili, Bidzina Ivanishvili's fellow billionaire, which motivated me to write this article.

 Patarkatsishvili challenged Mikheil Saakashvili for the presidency in 2008, some six months before the War in South Ossetia kicked off - anyone interested in some background regarding that might want to get in touch with a former US Marine Lance Corporal by the name of Justin Eubanks, of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, who was in Georgia on a training exercise at this time.  Perhaps he's read Butler's book?

            US Controlled Colony

            Since 2003 Georgia has been something of a U.S. colony, albeit greatly influenced by foreign intelligence agencies. The 2007 conflict has much to do with networks of patronage linked to larger political agendas, arms dealsers and oil pipelines; it appears that President Mikheil Saakashvili’s calling has been to play all sides, especially the U.S., for his own political and financial benefit. He is well-prepared for his eventual departure.

            Georgia experienced a serious political crisis around the time of the conflict, in which Saakashvili was pitched against the "United Opposition," a popular movement which grew in numbers after the government violently cracked down on peaceful protesters in Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue on Nov. 7, 2007, and again on May 26, 2010. Finally, out of political expediency, and the decision made in the US that it was time for change, the pro democracy forces were able to gain the majority in Parliament with the help of the United States - at least, the US did not overtly take sides, thus clearing the way for the removal of its former favorite child.  Relatively free and fair elections resulted, thanks to EU monitors who proved at last that they cannot turn a blind eye to absolutely everything, and the US finally deciding to play tough love by threatening to cut off funding if the elections were again rigged.

The responsibilities of individuals and the state to conduct moral intervention, as they at times can team up, albeit for diverging and often short term marriages of convenience, need to be considered. The moral obligations of all actors do not decrease the further they are from direct involvement. Rather,  the opportunities for action and intervention increase the further they are  removed. Hannah Arendt’s understanding of  responsibility is outlined in her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem”, where she points out how “the degree of responsibility increases as we draw further away from the man who uses the fatal instrument with his own hands (247).” Responsibility cannot be delegated; it belongs to those most affected by an action. Every human being and fledgling state has a right to self-preservation, and no obligation or “side deal” should potentially compromise this right.

Staged provocations have not been uncommon in Georgia, nor perceived winds of change. The lack of sound domestic policies required the creation of an external distraction and threat.  Saakashvili came to power in 2003 with the promise that he would restore Georgia's territorial integrity and develop democracy.  Prior to the heated parliamentary elections of 2008 and 2012 as his real popularity withered, attention was drawn to events in the conflict zones or some new tourism project, as this gave  Saakashvili more airtime and  mobilised all citizens by insisting on  the need to protect territorial integrity and  support the incumbent president as a means of doing that. That policy ultimately proved a dismal failure, and aside from a Potemkin village like make-over, Potemkin Democracy was firmly established with the help of the West, especially the US and EU.

            But getting back to Bidzina and Badri: as I wrote in my February 6, 2012 blog entitled 'Life with Bidzina Ivanishvili, an eye opening and near death experience in Georgia', my former pupil, Uta Ivanishvili (Bidzina's eldest son), had developed a rather bizarre fascination with Badri Patarkatsishvili in the weeks leading up to Patarkatsishvili's untimely (or timely) death.  The boy was only fifteen at the time, but extremely bright, as is his father.  A regular "chip off the old block", as they say.  In fact, Uta once told me during one of our English lessons that I was "naive", and I'll be damned if I state that he wasn't correct in his assertion. Apologies to General Butler: I should have read your book earlier.

I won't go too far into the bizarre behaviour of the eldest Ivanishvili child for now, but I will say that I was more than just a little taken aback to find myself confronted one afternoon with a screensaver with multiple images of Badri Patarkatsishvili popping up all over the place in one of the classrooms we used for our one-on-one lessons with the Ivanishvili children. 

            Uta seemed fascinated by Patarkatsishvili and would talk ad infinitum about him, as if he knew something about Badri which even Badri did not know of himself.  In short, it was all quite disturbing, but not as disturbing as Uta's eerie silence regarding Patarkatsishvili after his death on February 12, 2008.  If memory serves me correctly, the village of Chorvila and Ivanishvili's mountain residence/compound was covered in a thick blanket of snow during this time. I was living in a small apartment set aside for teachers and had a commanding view of the fields below, and of Sachkere in the distance. 

            But getting back to Uta's computer: I also remember being particularly struck by Patarkatsishvili's lavish sense of style, and by several of the outlandish neck ties he was wearing in those photos: it contrasts with the cool, subtle, European businessman-like image which Ivanishvili and his US State Department and Republican Institute handlers have cultivated in public in recent years. Perhaps Ivanishvili learned a thing or two about style during his years in exile in Paris?  I know that his son didn't learn a damn thing from me.  But perhaps he did?  And perhaps so did the father?

            At any rate, I think I'll give General Paxton a buzz sometime soon, just to let him know what he and the men and women under his command are getting themselves into, as they may find themselves as cannon fodder in no-man’s land.  Perhaps the good general will write his own book one day?  Or perhaps he won't?

Business back to usual in this little US colony, forward operating base
Whatever the case may be...        

            A few years ago an article appeared which kind of joins the dots about what is going on here. Black Sea to Get More Northern Distribution Network Traffic, by Joshua Kucera, EurasiaNet April 27, 2011, is about the so-called NDR route and the links between the Southern countries of Europe. However, that original plan may be moot now, as sights are now fixed on Syria and Iran – it is just a matter of timing, and waiting until the US presidential elections are over with.

As this article so clearly pointed out, “Georgia is among the locations that the U.S. is looking at to expand its facilities in the Black Sea region for transit of military cargo to Afghanistan. The main location will be Constanta, Romania, which will be used starting next month to transport cargo to Afghanistan on the Northern Distribution Network. But the U.S. is looking at further locations where it could transport material via ship to the Black Sea, then onward to Afghanistan by air.

Georgia is difficult, he said, because the only airport in the country that has adequate facilities is Tbilisi, which would require a somewhat lengthy road or rail [from the Black Sea], Georgian ports."  There have been allegations circulating for years in Russia that the Americans have been secretly supporting rebellions in Russia’s southern regions of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and North Ossetia.

            A Senior Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) source in North Ossetia claims that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been attempting to destabilise the Russian Government by supporting groups linked to terrorist attacks on Russian soil." That allegation was made even before more recent ones of the nexus between Georgia and a proxy, via Turkey and Syria, with Russia, Iran and various others – those who do not support America’s New Great Game in the region.

The above-mentioned article goes further.

“The Marine Corps and Norway have developed a unique relationship for the storage and care of prepositioned equipment and supplies. The method of storage to support the pre-positioned assets in a series of six caves in the Trondheim region of central Norway.”
More dots to connect: “Norway relies on the Marines' prepositioning program as a major cornerstone of that nation’s internal defence plan. With deep-water ports in close proximity to the storage caves, equipment can quickly be loaded aboard available shipping for operations in threatened parts of Europe, Africa or the Middle East. This capability was demonstrated by the supplying of equipment and ammunition in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

U.S. Marines will be occupied “working in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions” to “build enduring partnerships and build the capacity of partner nations' military forces” until NATO’s largest military offensive of the decade, the Afghan war – the assault on Kandahar province – is conducted. The U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Italy, has deployed warships to the Black Sea with an increased frequency over the past few years, visiting and conducting joint drills with the navies of Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia.

Two years ago it was revealed in the international media that the Pentagon planned to spend 110 million dollars to upgrade and modernise a base in Bulgaria and another in Romania, two of seven such newly-acquired installations in the two nations. The air, naval and infantry bases in Bulgaria and Romania have been employed for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, although not publicly acknowledged, doubtlessly for arming Georgia before, during and since its five-day war with Russia in August 2008.

            On the eastern shore of the Black Sea, senior Georgian military officials met several years back with the permanent representatives of all 28 NATO member states at a sitting of the NATO-Georgia Commission (created one month after Georgia’s ill-fated war with Russia in 2008). It was announced during this period by Zbigniew Ribatski, NATO’s South Caucasus liaison officer, that the military bloc will open a representative office in Georgia.

The Georgian press has reported the launching of a U.S.-funded military training simulation facility in the country: “The Simulation Training Centre has been formed through the framework of US-Georgia cooperation. The United States, under the ongoing collaboration, donated the Centre with cutting-edge technical equipment and developed special training programmes for it.” The inauguration of this was attended by new U.S. Ambassador John Bass and NATO nations’ military attaches.

It is no coincidence that previous US Ambassador John Bass was appointed on the basis of his close connections with KBR, Halliburton and Black Water, not to mention on a local level such companies as CUBIC and ARCHANGEL, two American Defence Contractors (DoD) working in Georgia and the region. Soon it may be back to business as usual in this little US colony and forward operating base. 
-- - mmm... Fastmail...

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