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Entries in Georgian myth of Victimization (1)

Tuesday
May242011

Who Does The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi Represent? (Part 2)


I empathize with Abkhazia.  Like me, the Abkhaz are the subject of threats from Georgia, but for far longer and with deadly consequences.  Like with me, the U.S. Government does nothing to discourage these threats..  In fact, certain members of the US Senate would like to arm Georgia.  Add to that several invasions, genocidal comments from the Georgian military leadership and the loss of 4% of the population and you can see why they will never go back to Georgian control.  

The Georgian lobby in the U.S. is very strong and Abkhazia does not have one, so the other side of the story is never heard by the American Congress- a Congress which is doing Georgia's bidding by isolating Abkhazia and attempting to rearm Georgia.  Georgia's President has been selling the myth of victimization in Georgia to his own people and in Washington to the American Congress.  And no one is the better for it.  America gets stuck with the tab, Abkhazia is isolated, Russia is unfairly demonized, Georgia is fixated on a nation they will never again control and the region is less stable and prosperous than if the U.S. just took an honest look at the situation.

I have observed that most Abkhaz are very pro-American.  I am always struck by their friendliness to America when I travel there.  The usual comment is:  " America- super!" That is generous considering Senators John McCain and John Kyl want to arm the government of Georgia.  And given what the President of Georgia would like to do with those arms.

I have said that there is a great opportunity to spread American values of entrepreneurship, business ethics and democracy in the Caucasus. Where exactly?  In the only nation in the region that has had four free and fair Presidential elections,  the one with no political prisoners, the one with a free press, the one with an active political opposition- the Republic of Abkhazia.

Mr. Wingate's letter also mentions that Abkhazia is "occupied" by Russia and that it has "reported high levels of crime." This is false. Russia does not occupy Abkhazia.  There were Russian peacekeepers under a U.N. mandate on the ground in Abkhazia for about 15 years.  Only after Georgia repeatedly broke ceasefires and attacked Abkhazia and South Ossetia on numerous occasions, including in 2008, did Russia build protective bases in Abkhazia.  However, Russia does not occupy Abkhazia.- unless the U.S. is also occupying South Korea. Actually, Georgia is viewed much the same way in Abkhazia as North Korea is in South Korea:  militaristic, aggressive and eager to secure control of a country that wants no part of them.  The difference is that Abkhazia has a separate language and culture from Georgia.  And for much of the Soviet period, Georgian officials tried to extinguish that language and culture.

I first traveled to Abkhazia in 2006 and live in the country part of each month.  During the last 5 years, I recall having seen Russian soldiers twice. Once, they were repairing a road.  In the last 20 months, I have seen one Russian soldier.  You would think an occupational power would have a very visible military presence and be controlling the government.  But the Russians don't.  Abkhazia had an election 17 months ago and international observers characterized it as free and fair.  I have met Abkhaz leadership on many occasions and they set their own policy.  But Georgian government takes the line it is "occupied" and this is the line that the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi swallows and passes along uncritically. 

That is not surprising given that Wikileaks revealed that the US Embassy in Tbilisi accepted the Saakashvili government's accounts of its own behavior when it ordered the attack on South Ossetia in 2008.  That attack resulted in hundreds of South Ossetian civilian and Russian peacekeepers lives being lost.  The U.S. Embassy repeated the false claims the Georgian government made that South Ossetian forces had shelled Georgian villages before they attacked.  This was done without any independent confirmation and despite an observer from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe's stating  that Georgia had violated a cease fire.  

From the New York Times:  "The observers, in the heart of the conflict zone, did not report hearing or seeing any Ossetian artillery attacks in the hours before Georgia bombarded Tskhinvali. Rather, they reported to an American political officer that “the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali began at 2335 on Aug. 7 despite the cease-fire.”

Just after Georgia's invasion, U.S. Ambassador Tefft cabled the Bush Administration suggesting a coordinated response to those unsure of "Georgia's absolute innocence."

Although there is a new Ambassador in Tbilisi, apparently staff is just as uncritical of Georgian actions as before.  Mr. Wingate believes that Russia is occupying Abkhazia, that I should go to Georgia and allow Georgian officials to arrest and imprison me as they have others who travel to Abkhazia through Russia and that the employee who threatened to break my neck just "did not want me to be successful."

Even though the threats are from Georgia and Abkhazia is a safe place, the Abkhaz authorities have given me protection.  Contrast this with the American Embassy's reaction. 

Why is no one in the media looking into the cozy relationship between Georgia and the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi? Why does the American Embassy parrot Georgian propaganda?  Why does Georgian leadership get a free pass on human rights issues?  The Fuks case?  The visa free travel they have instituted for people from Chechnya and Dagestan?

One last point that is completely ignored by the media and virtually every politician (save Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who has been a lone voice of reason) is that every single conflict involving Abkhazia and South Ossetia has been started by Georgia.  If Georgia just left Abkhazia and South Ossetia alone, there would be no violence.   Mr. Wingate calls Abkhazia a "hot spot".  That is not accurate.  The only region where there  has been any volatility in Abkhazia since the early 1990's is the border with Georgia.  Guess why? Yup.  The Georgians come across the border and start it.  Then the U.S. government and Georgia claim it is unstable and discourage tourists and investors from coming.

By the way, neither Senator Boxer's office nor the US Embassy in Tbilisi has yet replied to me.....

 

Bruce Talley

Republic of Abkhazia

May 12, 2011