Russia vs US: The Georgian electoral tug-of-war

A World To Win News Service, October 29, 2012

A shift in orientation after the Georgian elections

Georgia held parliamentary elections in October in an intense contest between politicians backed by the U.S. and Russia, reflecting the rivalry between those two powerful states, each seeking to influence this strategically important country. The current Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and his party suffered a humiliating defeat.

The situation was extremely tense as election day approached and the ruling and opposition party supporters prepared for a showdown. On the eve of the election, plane-loads of Western diplomats and American Congressmen arrived in Tbilisi. So did their Russian counterparts. A shuttle mission was set up to prevent a war between the two camps from igniting accidentally. Election officials in many parts of the country were beaten up.

In the middle of the preparations for this potentially explosive election, a video of torture, rape and other forms of abuse in prisons was repeatedly shown on private television channels opposed to President Saakashvili, particularly by a private channel owned by opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili. This video sparked many days of mass protests just before the election. To calm and control the situation the president sacked numerous prison officials and other functionaries, but that did not help. The release of this video showing the extreme abuse of prisoners was an exposure of the Saakashvili government and a blow to his governing party and his Western backers, because filling the country’s prison had been a central feature of Saakashvili’s “anti-corruption” campaign, which he had made his signature issue.

After the elections, Saakashvili had no choice but to admit defeat, a move that surprised many Western diplomats who had expected him to contest the results. Unless he meets demands for a snap presidential election, he will remain in office until the scheduled presidential elections next year. But with his party in control of parliament, Ivanishvili will take the reins of government.

Ranked by Forbes magazine as number 153 in its list of the world’s richest people, Ivanishvili has a personal wealth of 6.4 billion U.S. dollars. By comparison, Georgia’s entire production of goods and services in 2010 (the last year for which its GDP figures are available) was worth less than 16 billion dollars. Although Georgian, he made this massive wealth by doing business in Russia, where he took advantage of privatization over the last two decades by buying state-owned businesses for tens of millions of dollars and selling them for billions. His current holdings include businesses involved in banking, metal, imports, hotels, drug stores, construction, etc

It is no surprise that he pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into his party funds. He seemed not to care when he was imposed a fine of 90.9 million U.S. dollars in June for allegedly violating Georgian legislation on party funding.

Ivanishvili has not concealed his relationship with Russia. During the election campaign and after his victory he made it clear that in his view, the best economic option for Georgia is to re-establish economic ties with Russia, not only because they are neighbours but also because of the history of decades of close links between them. (Annexed by Russia in 1801, after the 1917 Russian Revolution Georgia became a republic and a member of the USSR until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.) However he insisted that he will not change or oppose the country’s good relations with the West and its plan to join NATO. Continue reading

Afghan Army: “Please Tolerate the US Soldier’s ‘Cultural Insensitivities’ — ‘No Offense’ intended”

October 04, 2012
Turning the Tables in Afghanistan — The Humiliation of Can-Do American Boys
by WILLIAM BLUM

In Afghanistan, the US military has tried training sessions, embedded cultural advisers, recommended reading lists, and even a video game designed to school American troops in local custom. But 11 years into the war, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural awareness, officials say, contributing to a string of attacks by Afghan police and soldiers against their military partners. Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts. While some insider attacks have been attributed to Taliban infiltrators, military officials say the majority stem from personal disputes and misunderstandings.

So the Afghan army is trying something new, most likely with American input: a guide to the strange ways of the American soldier. The goal is to convince Afghan troops that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it’s likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge. The pamphlet they’ve produced includes the following advice:

“Please do not get offended if you see a NATO member blowing his/her nose in front of you.”

“When Coalition members get excited, they may show their excitement by patting one another on the back or the behind. They may even do this to you if they are proud of the job you’ve done. Once again, they don’t mean to offend you.”

“When someone feels comfortable in your presence, they may even put their feet on their own desk while speaking with you. They are by no means trying to offend you. They simply don’t know or have forgotten the Afghan custom.” (Pointing the soles of one’s shoes at someone is considered a grievous insult in Afghanistan.)

The guide also warns Afghan soldiers that Western troops might wink at them or inquire about their female relatives or expose their private parts while showering — all inappropriate actions by Afghan standards.

Early in 2012, a video showed US soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters

Demonstrators show copies of the Koran allegedly set alight by US soldiers serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan, during a protest at the gate of Bagram airbase on Feb. 21, 2012. (SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Hmmm. I wonder if the manual advises telling Afghan soldiers that urinating on dead Afghan bodies, cutting off fingers, and burning the Koran are all nothing more than good ol’ Yankee customs, meaning no offense of course.

And does it point out that no Afghan should be insulted by being tortured in an American military prison since the same is done at home to American prisoners.

Most importantly, the Afghan people must be made to understand that bombing them, invading them, and occupying them for 11 years are all for their own good. It’s called “freedom and democracy”.

I almost feel sorry for the American military in Afghanistan. They’re “can-do” Americans, accustomed to getting their way, habituated to thinking of themselves as the best, expecting the world to share that sentiment, and they’re frustrated as hell, unable to figure out “why they hate us”, why we can’t win them over, why we can’t at least wipe them out. Don’t they want freedom and democracy? … They’re can-do Americans, using good ol’ American know-how and Madison Avenue savvy, sales campaigns, public relations, advertising, selling the US brand, just like they do it back home; employing media experts, psychologists, even anthropologists … and nothing helps. And how can it if the product you’re selling is toxic, inherently, from birth, if you’re ruining your customers’ lives, with no regard for any kind of law or morality, health or environment. They’re can-do Americans, used to playing by the rules — theirs; and they’re frustrated as hell. Continue reading

Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa

Nick Turse, Middle East Online, July 12, 2012

They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks. Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.
Few in the U.S. know about this superhighway, or about the dozens of training missions and joint military exercises being carried out in nations that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map. Even fewer have any idea that military officials are invoking the names of Marco Polo and the Queen of Sheba as they build a bigger military footprint in Africa. It’s all happening in the shadows of what in a previous imperial age was known as “the Dark Continent.”
In East African ports, huge metal shipping containers arrive with the everyday necessities for a military on the make. They’re then loaded onto trucks that set off down rutted roads toward dusty bases and distant outposts.
On the highway from Djibouti to Ethiopia, for example, one can see the bare outlines of this shadow war at the truck stops where local drivers take a break from their long-haul routes. The same is true in other African countries. The nodes of the network tell part of the story: Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in the Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, among others.
According to Pat Barnes, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Camp Lemonnier serves as the only official U.S. base on the continent. “There are more than 2,000 U.S. personnel stationed there,” he told TomDispatch recently by email. “The primary AFRICOM organization at Camp Lemonnier is Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). CJTF-HOA’s efforts are focused in East Africa and they work with partner nations to assist them in strengthening their defense capabilities.”
Barnes also noted that Department of Defense personnel are assigned to U.S. embassies across Africa, including 21 individual Offices of Security Cooperation responsible for facilitating military-to-military activities with “partner nations.” He characterized the forces involved as small teams carrying out pinpoint missions. Barnes did admit that in “several locations in Africa, AFRICOM has a small and temporary presence of personnel. In all cases, these military personnel are guests within host-nation facilities, and work alongside or coordinate with host-nation personnel.” Continue reading

When the master feeds them shit, even lapdogs bite the hand that feeds them–eventually

[Imperialists call their neo-colonial project in Afghanistan “nation building” and call their construction of new comprador regimes “humanitarian” and “promoting democracy.”  But their callous dismissal of human rights and sovereignty has resulted in thousands of horrifying murders of civilians by the imperialist military occupation forces and puppet Afghan forces.  The puppet military (developed and trained to provide “indigenized” cover for the occupation)  scrambles for credibility, and attempts to distance itself from responsibility for the NATO forces’ round after round of mass killings of civilians. — Frontlines ed.]

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Afghan commanders show new defiance in dealings with Americans

[Afghan Special Forces participate in a night raid training exercise in Kabul. Since the signing of a new cooperation agreement in April, Afghan commanders have been reluctant to go on night raids.]

By , Washington Post, May 11, 2012

KABUL —Afghan commanders have refused more than a dozen times within the past two months to act on U.S. intelligence regarding high-level insurgents, arguing that night-time operations to target the men would result in civilian casualties, Afghan officials say.The defiance highlights the shift underway in Afghanistan as Afghan commanders make use of their newfound power to veto operations proposed by their NATO counterparts.
For much of the past decade, NATO commanders have dictated most aspects of the allied war strategy, with Afghan military officers playing a far more marginal role. But with the signing of an agreement last month, Afghans have now inherited responsibility for so-called night raids — a crucial feature of the war effort.To Afghan leaders, the decisions made by their commanders reflect growing Afghan autonomy from Western forces as NATO draws down, and prove that Afghan forces are willing to exercise more caution than foreign troops when civilian lives are at stake. Continue reading

Did Wikileaks just reveal the US blueprint for Libya?

[Documents released by Wikileaks have revealed that, since 2003, the US had high hopes for Gaddafi’s collaboration with US/EU economic and military power and designs.  These hopes were based on expectations that Gaddafi’s control of Libya was entrenched and unshakable–but this was sharply challenged and undermined by the 2011 Arab Spring-inspired revolt among the Libyan people.  As a result, imperialism sought to preserve its position by cutting the now-unreliable US-Gaddafi relationship, and sought to influence, buy, and usurp control of the rebel forces, as the way to keep Libya as a dependable resource for the imperialist world. — Frontlines ed.

An excerpt from the following document:  “Nothing in the leaked documents reviewed here suggests that the NATO-backed removal of the Gaddafi regime was premeditated. On the contrary, the documents show that the United States was more enthusiastic about working with Gaddafi than perhaps Gaddafi was with the Americans – though clearly both stood to gain…..The Americans sought to expand their military presence in Africa and Gaddafi wanted to secure his regime against external threats….

…The documents support the view that the decision to go to war against Gaddafi – in the name of “protecting civilians” was more opportunistic – riding on the back of the “Arab Spring.”……It is likely that after the toppling of the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents by popular uprisings in January and February respectively, top American and NATO decision makers believed that once protests started against it, the Gaddafi regime would be too unstable and unreliable to deal with….

….But just as the Americans were happy to work with Gaddafi, they will be as keen to work with his successors, who now owe their positions to foreign intervention……]

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former US Secretary of State Rice and Muammar Gaddafi

by Ali Abunima, Electronic Intifada, August 26, 2011

The US administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were set on developing deep “military to military” ties with the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi, classified US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks on 24 August reveal.

The United States was keen to integrate Libya as much as possible into “AFRICOM,” the American military command for Africa which seeks to establish bases and station military forces permanently on the continent.

“We never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi,” Senator Joseph Lieberman (Ind.-CT) said during an August 2009 meeting, which also included Senators John McCain and Susan Collins.

John McCain promising US weapons to Gaddafi in a time of collaboration

The records confirm that McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, strongly supported US arms sales to Libya and personally pledged to Muammar Gaddafi (also spelled “al-Qadhafi”) and his son Muatassim that he would push to get such transfers approved by Congress. McCain also revealed that the United States was training officers in Gaddafi’s army.

While the Americans pursued the relationship vigorously, they met with a cautious and sometimes “mercurial” response from the Libyans. In particular, the mistrustful Libyans wanted security guarantees that the Americans appeared reluctant to give.

“We can get [equipment] from Russia or China,” Muatassim told the visiting senators, “but

UK's Prime Minister Tony Blair played a major role sealing the 2003 relations with Gaddafi

we want to get it from you as a symbol of faith from the United States.”

In hindsight, given the US support for the NATO war against the Gaddafi regime, it is not difficult to understand why the Libyans wanted these guarantees.

Nevertheless, Gaddafi received high praise for his “counterterrorism” credentials from US officials.

The documents also reveal that the United States was keen to court Gaddafi’s sons, flying them to the United States for high level visits.

And, notably, none of the cables regarding high level meetings quoted in this post made any mention of American concerns about “human rights” in Libya. The issue never appeared on the bilateral agenda.

Does the removal of the Gaddafi regime now clear the way for the United States to pursue the plans for integrating Libya into AFRICOM under what the Americans must hope will be a pliable regime? Continue reading

Brazil: Statement on Libya from the Revolutionary Front for Defense of People’s Rights

[The following appears to be a preliminary translation (from the Portuguese) of a statement from Brazil, issued recently, on the events in Libya, the imperialist aggression, and the people’s struggle against the fascist Gaddafi regime–issues of great importance to revolutionaries throughout the world.  We will post updates on this statement (and this translation) as they become available. — Frontlines ed.]
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REVOLUTIONARY FRONT FOR DEFENSE OF PEOPLE’S RIGHTS – BRAZIL
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DOWN THE IMPERIALIST AGGRESSION TO LYBIA!
LONG LIVE THE PEOPLES’ RESISTANCE ALL OVER THE WORLD!
On March 19th, under the approval of UN, NATO’s imperialist forces of USA, France, England, Canada, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Denmark and other countries started bombing the Libyan territory, with the subterfuge of protecting the civil population from the massacre waged by the fascist Kaddafi because of the people’s massive protests.
Imperialism is again using the cloak of human rights defence and democracy to promote one more aggression to the peoples. The same governments, mostly USA’s, have kept feudal monarchic regimes in neighbour countries like Bahrein, Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and have not done anything concerning the massacre of the masses those governments have perpetrated. On the contrary, while the international diplomacy preach them to be cautions with the excesses, they keep supporting those reactionary regimes supplying them with weapons and resources. Last December the USA State Secretary, Hillary Clinton, praised the Bahrein government by its “commitment [….] to the democratic road”.
And more than that, the USA and coalition forces maintain the criminal Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, supported by mercenary armies and wage a continuous genocide against the masses; the UN has nothing declared so far.

NATO wary of Libyan command: hot potato

 

Libya: Nato Refuses Military Ops Command

UK, Thursday March 24, 2011

Nato has again refused to take over command of military operations in Libya, with objections from Turkey frustrating US efforts to hand over control.

America wants to give up its lead role in the war-torn country in a “matter of days” and has requested that Nato plays a key role in a new power structure.But details of that structure are still under discussion, with the necessary consensus still to be reached between member countries.

A senior aide to US President Barack Obama said: “I think this is going to be a matter of days in which you see a movement toward the transition with regard to command and control.”

The UK government, along with Washington and Paris, have all agreed the alliance should play a key operational role, but the assent of all 28 Nato states is needed.

Objections from Muslim Nato member Turkey have held up agreement on that role for three days and a fourth day of talks in Brussels is due to take place.

Turkey said it did not want Nato to take responsibility for offensive operations that could cause civilian casualties.

We need to have a place where all those who want to commit to help Libyans build a future can meet and discuss a political framework. It’s about accompanying the military process with a political one

French presidential source

It also objected to the alliance taking charge of enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone while coalition aircraft were still bombing Libyan forces.

France wants an ad hoc steering group of coalition members, including the Arab League, to exercise political control.

All nations are welcome to join, a French presidential source said.

“We need to have a place where all those who want to commit to help Libyans build a future can meet and discuss a political framework,” he said.”It’s about accompanying the military process with a political one.”

The UK Foreign Office has announced the group will meet at a conference on Libya in London next Tuesday.