Thursday, May 20, 2004

Uhhh... Vice President Cheney did you hear the one about the Georgian Ministers?

The Georgian Rose RevolutionMikhail Saakashvili, president of Georgia, has ordered those ministers of his goverment that have never served on active duty in the army to undergo and pass 2 months of military training with army reservists. Every minister must wear the uniform, be able to use a machine gun, and run ten kilometers or be sacked.

In the past, those who could afford it, would simply bribe their way out of military service. But now, that's just not part of the equation in the new Georgia.

Saakashvili has considerable problems in Georgia which may compel him to use military force, although he says that he hopes to avoid it. For one thing, much to Russia's displeasure, he's been trying to reunify the country after more than a decade of Moscow's meddling. And logically, it seems that if Georgia's leadership plans to order its children into battle, the leadership should, at the very least, be personally acquainted with serving in the military.

According to Eurasia Net:
Policy-makers in Russia are apprehensively monitoring developments in Georgia. For over a decade, Moscow often used its leverage in Abkhazia, Ajaria and South Ossetia to ensure Tbilisi’s general loyalty to Russian security interests in the Caucasus. Saakashvili’s rise to power and his ability to topple one of the Kremlin’s pawns – former Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze – has caused a dramatic change in the political calculus governing Russian-Georgian relations. Russian officials and experts now worry that a strengthening central government in Tbilisi is causing Russia’s strategic position in the Caucasus to erode.

This is potentially an even greater problem for Tbilisi than the current seperatist situation. The Georgians have in the past complained about actual Russian troop incursions. Destabilizing Georgia continues to be very much in Moscow's interests.

The US, of course, is equally interested in Georgia and was instrumental in helping to bring about Saakashvili's Rose Revolution. On May 18th, 2004, U.S. State Department issued the report: "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U. S. Record 2003-2004" which details the U.S. assistance provided to Georgia for both the January election and the subsequent parliamentary elections. Aid included training for new election-commission members, a get-out-the-vote campaign, exit polling, and voter marking. It also continued support to NGOs promoting human rights, religious freedom, and anticorruption efforts in Georgia. Furthermore, the US has actively trained, armed and supplied the Georgian army.

It is thanks to the official support described in the report, as well as the more covert support that everyone suspects, that Saakashvili was swept into the Presidential office. To the genuine benefit of the Georgian people, it seems that the US training was valuable and he learned well. He is agressively pursuing anti-corruption policies. He understands that you don't send children off to battle without knowing something about battle yourself. Mr. Bush, perhaps the teacher should now be learning from the student.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

NO helicopter rescue plan

Listening to today's 9/11 hearings at the New School in NYC, once again I am filled with sorrow and horror at the enormity of that crime. Having been in the midst of it all,  having lost family and friends, it is still impossible to convey the shock and grief of that awful day. And to convey how extraordinary New Yorkers proved themselves to be.
I have been troubled by the fact that no helicopters were sent to rescue those who climbed to the top of those Twin Towers escaping the horror below them. That question was answered today. There is NO helicopter rescue plan for sky scrappers. It was explained that it is too windy that high up. That when the Twin Towers were bombed in 1993, the wind was uncharacteristically still, and they were able to send choppers to those who were on the roof. But that was unusual. And was outside the norm.
The plan still in place today for high rise fires etc. is to tell people inside to stay put until help comes up from below. Though those testifying did concede that after 9/11, it is unlikely that people will stay put in the event of an emergency.  I know that I certainly wouldn't. But, until I heard today's testimony, I, if I were closer to the roof than the ground, would have gone upstairs, waiting, evidently fruitlessly, for a helicopter rescue.
Now we know...

Monday, May 17, 2004

Great Resources!

Found a terrific resource relating to Ukraine and Ukrainian Americans.