Imperialism behind coup in Georgia Imperialism behind coup in Georgia

Since the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it has become fashionable to characterize U.S. foreign policy as imperialist. Apologists have shamelessly embraced the description, while critics are appalled at what they see as a departure from previously idealistic, human rights-based foreign policies.

The Iraqi adventure is indeed imperialist, but it is ill-informed or misleading to suggest that the U.S. – and other capitalist countries – guide their international activities with anything other than an imperial creed. We see imperial tentacles everywhere that U.S. corporate interests can be furthered. Unfailingly, economic and political domination is masked with high-sounding slogans like Woodrow Wilson’s “world safe for democracy” or Bush’s “war on terror.” From Nicaragua to Angola, from Yugoslavia to Cambodia, from Poland to Venezuela, the U.S. ruling class makes every effort to impose regimes friendly to monopoly capital.

The Nov. 23 coup in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia marks the latest imperialist venture. It is difficult to find any sympathy for the deposed government of Eduard Shevardnadze. To anyone following the betrayal of the Soviet Union, no one did more to dismantle socialism than the former Soviet foreign minister. In return, the capitalist countries did everything to install and maintain Shevardnadze as president of the Republic of Georgia.

Having ruled Georgia since 1992 with a careful regard for pleasing the U.S., Shevardnadze appeared to reign securely despite economic decline and corruption. But when he began to explore better relations with the Russian Republic, the U.S. marked “paid” to this servant of capitalism. As the Wall Street Journal so brazenly and arrogantly put it, there are “promising oil fields” in the Caspian and a “crucial corridor” for the gas and oil of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan at stake.

In a smug, but remarkably candid, article in the Nov. 24 issue of the Wall Street Journal, author Hugh Pope exposed the forces behind the coup. With financing from the “liberal” George Soros’s Open Society Institute and the U.S. government’s infamous Agency for International Development, a nongovernment organization (NGO) was created. Called the Liberty Institute, this Trojan horse served as a cover for organizing opposition to the government and for furthering Western interests.

With the help of the American Bar Association, the Liberty Institute devised tests for the Georgian judiciary that effectively vetted Soviet-era judges. In addition, leaders of this NGO pressed to “reform” the police, the educational system, and elections, seeking to further undermine any remnants of the Soviet system which might prove a barrier to corporate rule.

The opportunity to depose Shevardnadze arose after the Nov. 2 parliamentary election. Amid charges of electoral fraud generated by U.S. and NGO exit polls, the opposition sprung into action. Since February, they had been studying the tactics employed to depose Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia.

Thousands of students were trained by Serbian activists who had been imported by the opposition. When the elections were challenged, the Georgian students were activated, becoming – as the Wall Street Journal so aptly stated – the “foot soldiers of the opposition politicians.”

Faced with a physically threatening throng, Shevardnadze withdrew to take counsel with his U.S. sponsors. But the puppeteer severed the strings to the puppet. The Bush administration, through Secretary of State Colin Powell, urged him to “do the right thing for Georgia.” The message was heeded and the coup was accomplished.

And the lessons? We – working-class people in the U.S. under constant attack by corporate political and economic power – should not be trapped by an endless and unproductive attempt to identify “the good guys.” Instead, we should oppose the hand of imperialism.

The author can be reached pww@pww.org.