We Are All Georgian Protesters Now
Well, well, well.
Remember last summer, when Russia and Georgia waged war over two breakaway republics? Pretty much every five minutes on cable news you'd see Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the US-educated darling of the neocons, who played the perfect martyr for his people. He was seen as the benevolent leader gallantly facing down the Russian Bear. John McCain almost immediately picked up his struggle and termed it "the most severe international crisis since the Cold War," and pledged American solidarity with the Georgian people.
Does McCain still agree, now that the people want Saakashvili removed from office?
They crammed into the streets by the tens of thousands Thursday, students and pensioners and merchants. They stood on the same scrap of ground, in front of the Stalinist stone hulk of the Georgian parliament building, demanding democracy and screaming the same slogan: Tzadi! (Go!)
This time, adoring crowds were not gathered to sweep the young, flamboyant Mikheil Saakashvili to power. Little more than five years after they cheered the U.S.-backed politician into the presidency, people returned with an air of disgust, in the hope of shaming him into a resignation.
Saakashvili is besieged by protest in his own capital, with a broad consortium of opposition figures -- including some former members of his government and onetime political allies -- vowing to keep the crowds in the street until he steps down. Opposition leaders insulted and reviled the president Thursday, calling him a coward and a womanizer and mocking his moments of public fear [...]
Against a backdrop of growing popular disaffection, Saakashvili's presidency has been punctuated by moments of scandal. His government has shut down critical news media, beaten and tear-gassed peaceful demonstrators, and, most disastrously, charged into an ill-advised war with Russia that in effect left Georgia's two breakaway republics under Russian occupation.
The Bush Administration basically propped up this guy when he swept into power, and he immediately became dictatorial in the name of democracy. And while the protests are partially a function of the economic crises gripping Eastern Europe, they also betray a personal enmity for this guy made the symbol of the people here in the US during that conflict with Russia.
The people beg to differ.