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Audi alteram partem

Revelations from Tbilisi

Some commentators have concluded from the content of the release of US diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks that American ambassadors around the world seem to be well-informed about the countries to which they are posted. A glaring exception to this was the US ambassador to Georgia at the time of the 5-day war in August 2008, John F. Tefft. Whilst Georgian observers have concluded that the WikiLeaks’ data support the Georgian version of the events of 2008, others have pointed out that, since Tefft was gullibly reporting as fact to the State Department only the propagandistic assertions that he was being fed by President Mikhail Saakashvili or other Georgian spokesmen, this is hardly surprising. However, though ‘going native’ has seemed to be a curse of America’s representatives in Georgia since the first ambassadorial appointee, Kent Brown, in 1992, not all Americans display such lack of discrimination in their reporting from that country.

On 19 May 2008, a report ‘Georgian War Footing Takes Concrete Form — Literally’ by Ian Carver and Joni Simonishvili appeared at http://www.humanrights.ge/index.php?a=main&pid=7164&lang=eng, the website of the NGO Human Rights in Georgia. The article, accompanied by Carver’s photograph of a newly constructed concrete ramp beside the railway-track in Mingrelia close to the Georgian border with Abkhazia, explained that the ramp had been built by imported construction-workers and could have but one purpose, namely to facilitate the unloading of tanks for an assault on Abkhazia, something which the Abkhazian authorities feared that spring.

‘Joni Simonishvili’ was/is the pen-name of Jeffrey K. Silverman, and this is not the only revelation to come from the pen of this investigative journalist, as can be seen in the document below, which has recently come into the possession of Abkhaz World. It begins with an explanation of how this particular observer was able to recognise at a glance the reason for the construction of the concrete ramp in Mingrelia.

At the time, I was working for Georgian State TV (1st Channel) as well as the Human Rights’ Center in Tbilisi, though (for the sake of my job) I did not want to advertise that I was checking into such things. I completed my training as a 19D Forward Observer (Scout) at Fort Knox (Kentucky, USA) in my youth (1981). This is the US home of Armour (Armour School) — and I was trained in recon and amour (tanks and tracks, APCs).

My training was to enable me to destroy Soviet Armor, call for fire, and basically go behind front lines, "first in and last out."  There was no doubt in my mind as to what the Georgians had constructed with this loading platform "tank station" and the reason for its existence so close to the border.

I have lived in Georgia since 1991. Joni Simonishvili is the name in the Georgian passport (old style, Red Soviet type) which I have had since 1993, and I continue to write under this name. In 2004, I was issued with a document stating that I am not a national of the US, and this is most likely related to my investigation into the situation in the Pankisi Valley [north-eastern Georgia], specifically as to how money was being supplied to Chechens from a US government NGO in close cooperation with Georgian Security Agencies, and how, in addition, this was a carefully crafted ploy both to justify the 64 million dollar US Train and Equip Program and to gain a larger toe-hold in the region. The funding mechanism behind the cozy relationship between the US and Georgian governments was something I investigated with British journalist Roddy Scott, who was killed during the investigation. I even went on Russian TV (Russian State TV Company-VESTI) and spilled the beans on this Pankisi operation.

Over the years, I have also looked into events (dating from 2003) in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Adjaria (on behalf of International Crisis Group, between 2002 and 2004, and other clients). I have information on two Americans who helped organize some of the dirty tricks in the Gal District; they were also involved in training the Georgian snipers let loose in July and August 2008 in the South Ossetian zone of conflict. These trainers ("snipers") were bragging about how South Ossetia was going to be a cake walk. A US organized sniping campaign started before the attack on South Ossetia, killing civilians, which is a war crime (as I was taught in my days as a 19D in the US army).

I had the date of the war THREE months PRIOR TO the actual attack on South Ossetia (August 2008) from USG defense contractors, who thought that I was one of theirs, as I talk the military B[ull] S[hit]. The fact of my knowledge about the approximate date of the attack can be confirmed by the Human Rights’ Center in Tbilisi, as I shared my knowledge with them about two months before the actual Georgian attack on South Ossetia (7 August). On about 2 August 2008, Georgian police went into border-villages and confiscated small arms from locals. It is clear that they knew the war was coming but decided not to pull back civilians out of harm’s way, which was an intentional act, worse than malfeasance.

I am willing to go on record about my knowledge of the US government’s possible involvement in war crimes, its alleged role in weapons’ trafficking, and even earlier (in 2005), when there were armed skirmishes in South Ossetia, and officials from the US Defense Department were involved in direct support for an engagement with South Ossetian forces. One of my former students was working as a translator – translating communications from Ossetic into English and Georgian as live field-intelligence was being broadcast.  She was fluent in both Georgian and Ossetic and helped me with earlier reports about events in South Ossetia in the run-up to the first round of fighting.

I can provide more by way of a truthful history of the events of August 2008. As a veteran of the US Army, I have also been investigating weapons’ trafficking; I have been on Georgian TV (Maestro Channel), where I shared my insights and various documents. I blew open a story on weapons’ trafficking several months ago involving flights out of Georgia. I worked two years for Georgian State TV (1st Channel). I was behind Russian lines in August 2008 in South Ossetia, investigating human rights’ violations and got into an ammo-dump full of Serbian weapons, which reached Georgia via Jordan. I have a copy of the end-user certificate and have investigated, together with Georgian TV, these networks. I also discovered where Israeli cluster-bombs fell on Georgian villages, even before Human Rights’ Watch came out with their report, and these cluster-bombs even killed some Georgian soldiers. For Georgians to have used cluster-bombs on populated centers is a war-crime, and they could not even properly aim the Grad launch-systems that they purchased from Israel.

Both what I am willing to share, which has already been made public, and what I know are based on my own first-hand experience. The rights and wrongs of the disputes are not my principal interest, but everyone should unite against the use of cluster-bombs, against the staging of incidents such as occurred in the Mingrelian village of Khurcha, where a bus carrying citizens from Abkhazia’s Gal District to vote in Georgia’s parliamentary elections (May 2008) was subjected to Georgian gunfire just after it had crossed into Mingrelia so that the attack could be falsely attributed to the Abkhazians, and against the carrying out of politically motivated wars by a state against its own citizens. I want to stress that what I am sharing is about human rights and is not part of a political campaign.

Having spent some nights behind Russian lines, both in South Ossetia and the buffer-zone, I visited an abandoned Georgian weapons’ stockpile in the South Ossetian zone of conflict; it had been left unguarded, when the Georgian army fled in panic. It is now clear to me that there has been a “big connection” between the cluster-bomb makers and many high officials in the Georgian government and in the MOD. Georgia has long been recognized as a transit-point for illegal trade in weapons, and much has been organized under the banner of the US government and funded by USAID (United States Agency for International Development), and even the US Department of Agriculture.

Jeffrey K. Silverman


Further reading:

- Is there evidence that Georgian Government committed war crimes?

Harvest of “Custer Bombs” in Georgian Villages in Gori Region

- Georgia in crossfire of arms trafficking

- Trafficking of Weapons in Georgia and US Involvement

Kidnapping of CIS Peacekeepers rivets attention on Abkhazia volatility

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