Jeffrey Silverman, Georgian Bureau Chief for US Military Intelligence Journal Veterans Today, recently gave a guest lecture to a group of investigative journalism students at a private university in Tbilisi. Its initial focus was on how the US is broken and has overextended itself. Silverman maintained that US policymakers are trying to distract the population with Ukraine, Syria and points in between, sabre rattling and playing all kinds of blame games, to cover for the fact that the US economy is in turmoil and its military broken for all practical purposes.
The students discussed a number of topics, but were especially interested in alleged CIA-associated torture and training sites, and whether there were any of these in Georgia, as there had been under the former government. They also wanted to know why so many Georgians and ethnic Chechens from Georgia were now fighting in Ukraine and Syria.
The discussion flew all over the place, embracing how the US attacks everyone considered a threat, and is a matter of defense policy, and how investigative journalists top that list. But it ended when they all agreed with Silverman’s conclusion,
“I would bet my life that what has transpired in Georgia would never have happened if it was not for Georgia’s friends.”
It so happened that two of the students attending this forum were Chechens from Turkey. They confirmed, based on firsthand experience, that at least 100 Chechens from Georgia are fighting in Syria and 20 have been killed, while as many as 1,000 Georgian mercenaries, and many more volunteers, are in Ukraine. This information confirmed recent reports that some of the setbacks suffered by the Syrian army near the Turkish border are linked to closer collaboration between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, and Chechens are heavily involved in the fighting.
Furthermore, the Islamic State has decided to establish a new province in the Caucasus. Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhamed Al Adnan said, as reported in France Presse, “We congratulate the soldiers of Islamic State, as they have just sworn an oath to the Caliph in the Caucasus. Abu Muhamed Al Chadad will be the leader of the Caucasus.” According to another publication, Deutsche Welle, this new province will be established somewhere in the North Caucasus near Russia.
None of this would be happening if there was not a systematic programme of recruiting Georgians and Chechens to join operations in Ukraine and Syria. Such activities were characteristic of the previous Georgian government, which has been allowed to position itself as a government in exile, with the support of Kiev and Washington, since most of its members had warrants issued for their arrest.
Nexus to Ukraine and Russia
One thing you quickly learn as a journalist is never to believe in coincidences. You also learn that timing is everything, as demonstrated by Beslan School Massacre and the Moscow theatre siege, both of which had outside planning and covert material support.
As far back as 2001 the Georgian and international media was reporting the presence of Chechens and terrorist training programmes in the Pankisi Gorge, and that they were being supported by Western intelligence agencies. This activity has long been a source of tension between Georgia and the Russian Federation, made worse by the fact no one has even pretended to deny what was going on.
This cozy US-Chechen-Georgian relationship has turned Georgia into a transit point for all kinds of things: fighters, weapons, drugs and other contraband. The previous Georgian government instituted this policy, under instruction, in exchange for protection and rake-offs, and the present one has done precious little about it, and may be powerless to if it wants to complete its term.
Some of the main beneficiaries of this relationship, including Mikheil Saakashvili, have now been appointed to key posts in Ukraine after undergoing fast-tracked citizenship procedures. Why is Ukraine importing these people in preference to Ukrainians? They have been brought in to do the same dirty work they did in Georgia, in exchange for protection from their international arrest warrants.
Pankisi today, Odessa tomorrow. Saakashvili, the new Governor of Odessa, has already launched a wave of arrests of local officials. The first detained was the Military Commissioner, arrested, ironically, for taking bribes. Saakashvili himself wrote on his Facebook page, “The Military Commissioner of the Odessa district and his subordinates have been detained; they are accused of taking bribes from recruits.” He also published a video of himself listening to a report about the detentions. How much he might actually know about the matter, given how recent his appointment is, remains open to conjecture.
It is clear that Saakashvili and his minions are still useful to the CIA, and are using the same methods as previously to further US “strategic objectives”. These methods constitute their legacy in Georgia, one which they have to defend to counter the multitude of charges against them. If Ukrainians thought Stepan Bandera’s followers were bad enough during World War Two, just wait till they see what the government which calls Bandera a hero inflicts on its citizens through Saakashvili.
Cleansing the legacy
Any Georgian will be able to tell his latest victims in Ukraine and Southern Russia all they need to know about Saakashvili’s methods. He conducted similar “anti-corruption campaigns” and “anti-terrorist operations” as President of Georgia. These involved the erection of torture bunkers in West Georgia, unusual facilities with which to address white collar crimes, in which Georgian citizens who disagreed with their president were tortured, the preferred method being same sex rape, and in some cases murdered.
When investigative journalists found the mother of the “madman” who was committing the man on man rapes in these torture chambers she explained “how the police had used her mentally ill son for political retribution, on the instructions of higher ups in the former Saakashvili government.” That is how the journalists learned where some of the black torture sites were located, and were able to visit and photograph them. They also learned that tapes had been made of what went on there for the entertainment of Saakashvili’s circle, including the wanted men now in Ukraine.
These torture sites were not a Saakashvili whim. They were actually constructed by US defence contractors, and were therefore part of a programme which served US purposes, which no Georgian approved or voted for, and no Ukrainian has been asked to vote for. Nor is this a dead issue: despite Saakashvili’s party’s fall it maintains control of most of West Georgia through the crime bosses, and even policemen, it used as muscle at the time, who have the same motivation for continuing with their old ways, just as they will in Ukraine.
We must not forget that the Americans taught the world waterboarding over a hundred years ago. It is not an invention of the post 9/11 world. Distinguished author Mark Twain opposed the occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War and openly denounced the use of torture against the leaders of the Philippine independence movement, specifically waterboarding, which Twain sardonically referred to as the “water-cure.” Twain’s official biographer Albert Bigelow Paine observed, “When he undertook to give expression to his feelings on this subject he boiled so when he touched pen to paper to write of it that it was simply impossible for him to say anything within the bounds of print.”
The enemy without
There is another reason such things will happen in Odessa. It is close enough to the Ukrainian conflict zone, and also Transdnistria, to blame the enemy for what will go on there, no matter who is responsible for such things.
One of the torture sites discovered in Georgia, and shown in Georgian TV in 2013, was in the Samegrelo region, close to the border from Abkhazia. It was within the neutral zone being monitored by the EUMM, the European Union Monitoring Mission. As in Bosnia, the term “demilitarised zone” means a zone the “peace brokers” can do what they like in, however military it is, without coming under attack.
It would not be possible to construct such facilities, with electricity, toilets and ventilation, without the agreement of both the US government, as a US defence contractor is involved, and the local authorities. They claim they know northing, but the head of the regional police at the time, Tengiz Gunava, was a high-ranking member of Saakashvili’s party and still runs for office under its banner.
The internal conflict in Ukraine is being met with calls in the West to supply ever increasing amounts of money and guns to “stop the Russians” and “bring peace to the region”. However it is the people charged with bringing this peace who routinely create “peace zones” where such behaviour takes place. The conflict is used as an excuse to conduct dirty tricks, which are then dismissed as exigencies of war – or blamed on the other side, which is in close geographical proximity, if they go wrong.
Saakashvili’s behaviour in Georgia was justified by the claim that he was “pro-Western” and dealing with the “Abkhazian Threat”. It wasn’t Abkhaz who were tortured in these sites, and no Western government would openly admit to treating even its criminal citizens in this way. The fact that the former President of Georgia has gladly renounced his citizenship in exchange for the chance to abuse new customers shows how much he actually cared about his people to begin with.
From Maidan Square onwards, events in Ukraine and Syria have been part of the latest US attempt to use any and all methods to pursue its own agenda at the expense of everyone else, and Russia most of all. It is therefore obvious why Chechen terrorists are trained in Georgia, the president of Georgia who let the CIA begin that programme is now in Ukraine and the force those terrorists are fighting for is setting up a new province in the Caucasus.
Saakashvili and his gang will use the same murderous methods in Ukraine because the US is protecting them – for now. That is what they have been installed for. They probably know they will one day outlive their usefulness and end up dead, but by that time the Islamic State province will be conducting open warfare, and no one will care what happens to the smaller fry who helped us get to that point.
Odessa is now the only port which gives Ukraine access to the Black Sea. One of the best-known CIA dirty tricks, used domestically on black US citizens, is to murder people in police custody and then dump them in a lake. The Black Sea is big enough to hold the entire population of Ukraine.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.