Land of Liberty?

When the conflict between Georgia and Russia erupted this summer, it was initially presented to us as a fragile beacon of liberty (Georgia) being attacked by a big anti-freedom bully (Russia). Since then, that narrative has been shattered by continued revelations about Georgia’s role in starting the conflict. This conflict, as are many conflicts around the world, was one where the governments on both sides didn’t feel accountable for their actions – or to their own citizens – and no one was willing or able to hold them accountable.

For more evidence of how that’s true in Georgia as much as it is in Russia, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union released this video on the alarming human rights violations going on in Georgia under the premise of fighting drugs:

Looking for an Alternative – The Drug Policy Situation in Georgia from HCLU 3 on Vimeo.

In a country of 5 million people, police in Georgia are arresting 60,000 people a year for drug crimes. But that’s only the beginning of the problem. Police don’t need any evidence to arrest someone, so when people are arrested, they must take a drug test to prove their innocence. 70% of those arrested last year tested negative. In the video, one official spoke of a man who was repeatedly arrested outside his house and forced to take drug tests as a form of harassment.

You know, it’s so surprising that one of our close allies is as willing as we are to give the police too much power to wage the drug war.


  1. 1


    Police don’t need any evidence to arrest someone, so when people are arrested, they must take a drug test to prove their innocence.

    Ironic as the president of Georgia is a Columbia educated lawyer.

  2. 2

    Broadway Joe spews:

    Despite their desire to enter NATO (which was perhaps the basis for the logic used for their surprise attack on South Ossetia – who cares if the Russians are there, NATO will come to our aid), Georgia is a seriously fucked-up place, still trying to figure out this whole concept of a ‘free society’, not just democracy. I figured that out the minute I saw the video of Saakshvili chewing on his tie when he thought the camera wasn’t on. Most of the former Soviet bloc is like this, including Russia. That’s why we ought to never have shown any real interest Georgia’s desire to join NATO.

    Considering that most of the peoples of Eastern Europe have known only one form of dictatorship or another over the course of the centuries, from divine monarchs to revolutionaries turned repressors, one simply cannot expect them to adjust to the Western form of society so easily. It will take generations for them to fully integrate, not days, weeks, or years.

    I guess Borat was a more accurate representation of Eastern Europeans that I thought then, eh?

  3. 3

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    What a weird take! Does Lee think Russia is more tolerant toward drugs?

    Far more important are a number of reports that GA, encouraged by the Bushistas, began the recent war.

    My guess is that the new, smaller USoA world presence is going to have accept the local hegemonies … GA is to Russia as Bermuda is to the US.

  4. 4

    Broadway Joe spews:

    I think he was trying to get at the concept of liberty in a part of the world that’s still trying to come to grips with the concept. Regardless of the issue at hand, the tactics used to combat illegal drug use there are rather horrifying to most of us. Would you be thrilled if you were arrested for suspicion of drug use even though you’d been a tee-totaler your entire life, and forced to submit to a urine test to clear your name? I’m sure you’d have nothing to hide, but it totally flies in the face of the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the cornerstone of the American legal system.

  5. 5


    What a weird take! Does Lee think Russia is more tolerant toward drugs?

    I think the point is that Russia is not a semi-client state that has been celebrated as a beacon of liberty in the same way that Georgia has been.

  6. 6

    Lee spews:

    @4, @5
    Thanks guys. You’re correct that I didn’t say that, although it’s actually a defensible statement even if I had.

    In 2004, Russia decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs (personal use). That not only makes them more progressive than Georgia (which arrested over 1% of their population in 2007 for something that isn’t even a crime anymore in Russia), but it also makes them more progressive than the United States.

  7. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Republicans also exercised this kind of arbitrary arrest power in Iraq, after they invaded that country, by scooping up hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent people and imprisoning and torturing them in flagrant disregard of U.S. laws, international treaties, and generally accepted standards of morality and human rights. It’s awfully difficult to believe they wouldn’t do the same thing to their perceived domestic political opponents if they thought they could get away with it.

  8. 8

    Rhonda Fleming spews:

    This happens every single day, and corruption is epidemic. We ARE already living in a “police state.” I also doubt Bush will resign without pulling “Martial Law.”

    Even George Orwell would be impressed!
    Rhonda Fleming
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Sister Of Allen Jackson Croft Jr
    Murdered In Durham, NC May 11, 2005
    Still Unresolved