Open Letter to H. E. US Ambassador to Georgia, Mr. John BassPosted: 2011/07/19
Let me address you with this letter since I think I do express feelings and concerns of many of my compatriots. I mean many of those of us who had sincerely believed that after collapse of the soviet empire the country, you are representing, would become a partner and the most significant supporter of re-born state of Georgia and its people both on the international arena and internally – in the process of building civic society and introducing democratic reforms.
I certainly do not think that the US government, like any other government, would help Georgia at the expense of its own interests, but what I am sure is that there remain mutual interests in many spheres and directions between our countries and peoples at present.
However, the underlying problem in US-Georgian relationships, as I see it today, is who do US government and the embassy you lead consider as your partner, fully expressing interests of Georgia: Georgian leadership and Mikheil Saakashvili in person, or – Georgian people. This is really a very important question since today these two categories absolutely do not correspond to each other and are confronting in most.
Apart from only one single issue – attitude towards Russia – practically there is almost no issue on which the present Georgian government and the majority of Georgian people agree on. I will not go into details here since I believe that you are quite well informed on the Georgian leadership’s “deeds” and I hope that it is just diplomatic courtesy that prevent you from making harsh statements about existing grave situation.
Although you, personally, as well as your predecessors often and explicitly have stated that the US government, State Department, US embassy and yourself support the people of Georgia first of all, more and more individuals doubt it. The more anti-democratic the present pseudo-democratic and based on fake PR neo-Bolshevik regime becomes and the more anti-democratically the Georgian President behaves, – the more my compatriots, in the present situation of total intimidation put the question to themselves and to those they trust – “why the US government supports the leadership which serves interests and notions absolutely different from those stated in the US Constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights?”
I will mostly concentrate on the recent fact that has drawn the attention of the Georgian public – 5 photographers arrested and charged with espionage. Yes, Mr. Bass, it is not an error, five! They were five since initially Shah Ayvazov, the Associated Press’ staff member was also arrested but was then released due to active involvement of your embassy.
We should appreciate that thanks to you at least one person escaped the hell which is called today’s “investigation process” and “Georgian court”! Hope you do not doubt that if not your involvement and following release of Ayvazov after some hours of his arrest, today his “confession” might be signed by him likewise others “confessed”.
In the country where lawyers encounter thousands of problems to meet detained timely… where a whole army of public pseudo-lawyers has developed whose the only “professional skill” is to convince a detained to sign confession as soon as possible …where the court considers the arguments only of the prosecutor’s office and where only 0.06% of verdicts are absolvent (even with Stalin “troikas” this figure was never less than 7%) … where the Interior Minister, MPs and the President himself, not mentioning those “national” media sources, whose owners are still unknown – dare to talk about one’s guilt before the court in a manner as if it is an axiom and through this they do try to influence family members of the detained and the whole society … where not evidence but “confession” solely, gained under physical and psychological pressure, becomes the “Queen of evidences” as it was in times of Stalin’s Prosecutor General – Vishinski or medieval Spanish great inquisitor Torquemada.
– Do you doubt that overwhelming majority of people cannot endure physical intimidation, psychological pressure of the threat of violence towards significant others, family members, relatives, friends… and therefore would sign absurd confessions which Saakashvili’s government uses to get the whole world “blind”?
– What do you think, how many of the staff of the US embassy would stand if the investigator would tell them that their children would have “some problems” or they or their family members would become victims of sexual or other kind of violence, if they would be shown the video-montage which pictures them with damaging … Please, do consider, that this happens in the country where several weeks ago the government announced “electric shock” to be the cause of death of 2 protesters after night of May 26, found on the roof of the shop with their hands and legs bound … and the faith of the dozens of people that disappeared after protest rally is still unknown!
– Mr. Bass, What can we do if not every detained and accused journalist is a staff member of an American media?
– How justified is the tactics when you were concerned with only Shah Ayvazov’s detention and the German Ambassador – with the faith of EPA PressPhoto’s journalist?
– Isn’t it time to look at the problem more generally, to see that the state leadership stages such performances of spy-mania to strengthen its pseudo-image and that now they do not disdain to persecute journalists, at the same time putting the sign “Confidential” on the investigation ?.. where release under guarantee is not used, when they announce that the process will be held with closed doors … when confession of the President’s private photographer is “signed” within 30 minutes from his spouse’s , also photographer’s release… when detained Abdaladze was receiving calls from the MIA department, suggesting to bring them the photos he shot on May 26 … when the Interior Minister says openly that he does not have any evidence other than the several phone talks in 2004 of one of the detained with the individuals who later found to be “GRU”’s agents (the content of these talks is not published)?..
– In such a country what should a free journalist, who is uncovering crime committed by officials, do?
– What should Nana Lezhava, Nino Zuriashvili, Natia Mikiashvili, Nestan Tsetskhladze and many other brave Georgian journalists do?
– Which foreign agency should they ask to be hired as a staff member in order to feel secure against this leadership?
It is not a secret for anyone that the detained journalists – Irakli Gedenidze, Zurab Kurtsikidze and George Abdaladze – got the government outraged because they took photos and videos that showed excessive force and violence the police and governmental UNM’s zondercommandos used against citizens on night of May 26. It is because these photos reached western media that international agencies and the international community favoring to discuss Saakashvili’s ‘reforms” once again had an opportunity to witness that when it comes to disperse of the protest rallies “democrat” Saakashvili does not differ from dictator Lukashenka!
Mr. Bass, you have started your mission here with meeting media and I know how encouraged free journalists were with your sincere talk and proactive interest – BTW very different from your predecessor, who seemed to be only superficially interested in the faith of free media and spent more time to protect the Georgian leadership (!) from people’s criticism.
But more than two years passed from your arrival to Georgia and the state of media in Georgia has not changed much for better, but rather in other direction.
We have more oppressed journalists, our gifted journalist Vakhtang Komakhidze has gotten a status of political emigrant in Switzerland, we have so called “Public Broadcaster TV” which is a duly servant of the government, head of the Information Department of the Public Broadcaster strongly refuses to meet the members of its Supervisory Board… the resources of the 2nd channel, called “political channel”, are very scarce and it covers less than the fourth part of the whole Georgia… At the same time, there is new propaganda-channel, Russian-speaking “the First Caucasian(PIK)” generously funded by the government with Georgian taxpayers’ money. This channel combines unrealistic task of winning over Russia in a cold war with embellishing Mikheil Saakashvili’s persona (the only exception was the coverage of the May 26 events, may be caused by PIK Director – Mr. Parson’s personal astonishment with government’s stunning cruelty). Still we do not know anything who are the real owners of “Rustavi2”, “Imedi” and “Real-TV” and whose money is paid to falsify the reality at these channels. It is worth noting that the late Badri Patarkatsishvili’s family has recently given the actives of the “Imedi” to the government. This confirmed the absurdness of different fake-owners – e.g. Joseph Kay or “Arab” company of the once independent channel, which now became a puppet of Saakashvili and author of the biggest ever hoax in media history (Faked War footage in 2009. We have seen the pressure and physical violence put on the journalists after May 26th governmental terror on demonstration participants – in many cases elderly and disabled people – when journalists just tried to perform their professional duty. Open or secret pressure or tax terror still continues towards remaining few free TV channels, the examples are Adjara independent TV the “25th Channel” and Media holding “Palitra”. After the May 26 events, the former was temporary closed and the latter (6 different companies united in the holding!) was visited for “regular” audit. (Here I would like to thank personally both you and Mr. Kent Langsdone for your support to “Palitra”, without which, I am sure, the government would proceed with its revenge) … Soon pseudo-free (but in reality – managed by Saakashvili’s inner circle) channel companies “Silk TV” and “Caucasus Online” will exclude independent “Maestro TV” from the broadcast lists. So will probably do “Ayety TV”, which will be soon bought by those “media-silencers” and this will be one more step towards information blindness and isolation of the society even in Tbilisi … We have reached utmost humiliation stage when a pseudo-journalist Guram Donadze – who was mentioned in US State Department’s and Georgia’s Public Defender’s reports and who has been revealed in crimes: he was the one to falsified evidence and put arms aside Buta Robakidze’s body (killed by police) and alleged participation in Sandro Girgvliani’s murder – now was awarded as “Distinguished Journalist” and got a prize for his “contribution” to the Georgian journalism …
– Would you like to meet the media representatives again, Mr. Bass?
May be you explain them what is more important to the US government: a) that the Georgian government is increasing the number of Georgian soldiers sent to Afghanistan whereas the US troops are decreased (it should be also mentioned here that we get information about fate of some Georgian soldiers – died or wounded – mostly from foreign media sources), or – b) that the Georgian government is violating the principles of fair elections, fair court, right to fair information, freedom of speech, balance and distribution of power among its different branches, freedom of meetings, representative leadership, free and competitive business, protection of population under poverty, the unemployed, disabled, sick people, detained and other vulnerable people, violating the principles of non-politically oriented police and educational system – which at the end brings to the destruction of the fundament of the Georgian society, Georgian state and causes feeling of discontent and violation of basic human rights of Georgian people.
– Whose interests do the US government and its embassy in Tbilisi protect, Mr. Bass?
And even if you are not genuinely concerned with the rights of the Georgian people and growing erosion of Georgian fragile democracy, are not you concerned with the fact that the Georgian economy becomes weaker and weaker and more and more dependent on outside support? the fact inflation on the products has exceeded 30%, the fact Georgian foreign debt is growing with geometrical progression whilst the government is rapidly trying to get new credits, the fact that fees for electricity, water and cleaning services permanently increase beyond any common sense, not suiting any logic and do not coincide with earlier given promises, the fact that the state budget is not transparent and it covers private caprices, PR and extravagant wishes of the corrupted President and his inner-circle, the fact that annual income of governors and ministers is 50-200 times higher than income of pensioners, the fact that the country is heading to default and/or increased destabilization – just like Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen …
The fact that population, suffering from severe life conditions and degrading government, would readily accept any power – from inside or outside – which will liberate them from this absolutely discredited regime! And vice versa, any politician or leader, who remain supporting Saakashvili’s regime, will be unacceptable for Georgian society after revealing the crimes they have done?!..
– Why the US leadership does not realize that remaining a supporter of Saakashvili’s regime it contributes to strengthening of pro-Russian accents and mood within the Georgian society?
Really, I am not happy with this and I would like to warn you that if you do not or could not see this threat – increase of pro-Russian tendencies – today. And if it is so, then the reason is that US appeared to be similar defender of “its man”, as the USSR was. But the thing is that if so, tomorrow you will have to cope with such leadership in Georgia who would openly declare their pro-Russian ambitions as the people will turn back on US and West. If we have to remain small brothers, live in corrupted and unjust society, witness silently police state’s dirty games – what a difference than would be between being under Russian dominance or the similar of USA? And, believe me, it is not necessary that such a pro-Russian leadership would be from opposition: there are enough candidates in the present government where there are quite strong but at the moment covert pro-Russian forces – for example, the irreplaceable Minister of Interior or the Mayor of Tbilisi. And, may be it sounds as a paradox, but today US support of Saakashvili’s neo-Bolshevik leadership serves first and foremost Putin’s interests – both in Georgian economy (which becomes more and more Russian) and in Georgian politics. It seems that now you repeat earlier American thesis: “Somoza is a S.O.B., but he is – at least – our S.O.B.!”
and with this you unintentionally support Putin and Lavrov’s cynical phrases about the interests of Georgian people being only beautiful covershield for US government and in reality US is interested only in preserving façade image of stability and that of Saakashvili’s government.
I do ask you sincerely – please give up protection of S.O.B.-s! even if they seem “yours”…
This did not work with elderly Mubarak and this will not work with young Saakashvili who is not less corrupted than Mubarak. This will be revealed very soon.
You do not know yet whether Misha is “yours” or Russians’, but with supporting his regime and with financial injections which the regime is using against their people and to feed politicized police and special units structures, you are losing your popularity among Georgian people. Hopefully, you yourself do not believe those “objective” surveys which are carried out by such “independent” agencies, as notorious “Greenberg-Quinlan-Rossner”, which is bought by Saakashvili, or carried out by local pro-governmental agencies hired by NDI or IRI … Believe me that they outline preliminary prepared reviews, ordered by Saakashvili (who overpays NDI and IRI), – this is how American or European aid is spent! The same funds are drained for million-paid PR articles in Financial Times or Economist.
And, at last some words about myself:
I am too old probably for starting blogging, but during last two years I am writing articles for RFERL local branch – Radio “Tavisupleba”- Ia Antadze’s blog and at the Facebook. Also, I do have my own blog – https://solomonternaleli.wordpress.com/. Some articles are then also published on other popular web-pages – http://www.kalmasoba.com and http://www.tribuna.ge and in regional media. Several blogs („10 Giant Steps Back – “That is What Mikheil Did!”– Georgia’s United National Movement (2003-2010): Words and Deeds“, THE GREAT SIMULATOR – Mikhail Saakashvili as a prominent film director and his technique of Overlapping”) are in English.
Despite the fact that I have more than 1500 friends at Facebook and more than 10 000 people have visited my blog, none of them knows my real name. For many of them it is not acceptable and some even refused to be friends with me. For me, personally, being incognito is very depressing. If not with each and every out of 15 000, I certainly would like to meet dozens of my virtual friends in real life. Certainly, I am not the person (neither by profession nor by philosophy) who likes virtual or double life. The only reason why I hide my real name is the “style” of our government to intimidate any person who expresses criticism towards them – any person or their family members could be intimidated harshly or “delicately” or could become victim of social oppression (inter alia – loss of employment, tax terror or allegations). I am not a hero and I acknowledge that for Merabishvili’s Tonton-Macoutes will be easy to get “confession” from me as if I am fulfilling tasks given me by an agent “Kochoia” (who was up to blow up the US embassy in Tbilisi! – Does not this point you to an idea what an adventurer our President is what playmakers force bodies are) and the “confession” would be that I am writing the articles for Russia’s favor …
Two years ago I wrote that Saakashvili’s neo-Bolshevik ideology train is traveling back in time and it already passed the station “1984” – heading towards the station “1937”… Many of my friends at Facebook and blog readers took this metaphor of mine as an exaggeration. Now they are convinced, I think, that I was right. Saakashvili’s immoral regime has no moral principles or restriction, it believes only in force and only with force (political or financial – among them) it could be dismantled. There is no chance of improvement of this regime since it is going so deep into the swamp of crime that it cannot be justified.
As for recently adopted legislation on religious groups, let me disagree with you in assessing it as “progressive”, it was adopted without any discussion and without consideration attitudes of the overwhelming majority of the Georgian society. And it has only one real reason – to sell churches to Armenian Church and Diaspora and to economically reanimate shaken budget of the regime! With this, Saakashvili tries to catch two hares – to get substantial income and to show to Western societies that he is defender of religious equality and that he is opposed only by orthodox priests and people mobilized by them.
I hope you will not interpret my letter as offensive or as expressing private ambitions. I could certainly write you personally, without sharing this with wider public. But I really believe that there are lots of people like me who see democratic development of Georgia in close cooperation with USA and European Union, and by aspiring western models of democracy and business, rather than Russian models of “Sovereign Democracy”. However, I think that number of such people is permanently decreasing since 2006 when they see that the claiming-to-be-democratic regime is becoming more and more impudent and there is only slight criticism or mild expression of concerns from US government. Trust me – words “US government is concerned” are heavily distrusted by many in Georgia, when they see afterwards that nobody controls Saakashvili and his wrongdoings are more absurd and painful for our society. I am certain that with publication of this letter I will contribute to encouraging people express their opinions on this matter – US-Georgian relationship and trends – and I do believe that it is necessary to hold disputes on these issues. I hope, if not diplomats, then at least US politologists would say how they see the situation.
To be frank, I do not expect you answering me. Or if you do, your answer might be well-polished in the ribbons of the diplomatic etiquette. I am well aware that it is not (and it could not be) your direct task to reprimand Georgian government and lead it like child towards the right way of improvement (and frankly, there is no way you could do it without rather harsh pressure).
I just would like to ask you, as human being could ask human being, to support strengthening of the Georgian society and not of the violent regime. I would like to ask you for support because I do not want Georgians to flee the country to escape political or economic violence by the government, I do not want the Georgian state and territory to become the subject of further segregation and political bargain, I would like Georgian people to know the truth, to access the trustful information and to be able to defend their political rights. I do not want the faked elections to be claimed as the “triumph of democracy” in few hours from start by the US (- by ex-Supreme court judge senator accused for corruption), I do not want the US President to congratulate the Georgian President with victory before the polls are counted. I do not want Georgia to become an “acceptable [democratic-looking] dictatorship” for USA. I would like our countries to remain partners and followers of true democratic values, and I would like our children to make friends and not alienated people with West, as it was when we were young …
If you friend with Misha, you can’t friend with Georgian people, as there are only those who are fed from his hands, who accept him – and even they are shaky because Mr. Saakashvili is less and less controllable due to many subjective and objective reasons, we all know that… And you do know that Mr. Bass, I am sure. And if you don’t – then your information provision service needs some reshuffle…
I would like to conclude my letter with the words, which differ from the saying about Somoza, and which I consider to be a credo of every normal human being, including Georgians. However, I am sure that Mikheil Saakashvili and his stooge, who are permanently fighting free media and free court from the very first day of their coming into the power, do not share these ideas:
„Without justice, there can be no peace.
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.
He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.“
with hope and belief for understanding,