Leaders either do their duty in a dignified way or die with honour. As regards Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who ran away from the sound of his own cannon and a faraway warplane, and who chewed on his own tie, words like dignity and honour seem to be grossly out of place. The moment you become a national leader, you no longer belong to yourself, you represent your country and your people, and nothing should put down your sense of dignity, pride, and firmness of character. This is an axiom all national leaders stick to and one’s behaviour in a critical situation is a litmus test of the ability to govern.
None of these traits happens to apply to the Georgian President though. If his behaviour is anything to go by, the Georgian people will never again be called proud and brave. Only small… Besides being cruel, Saakashvili also is a pathological coward given to bouts of uncontrolled panic. Well, if this man is the Commander-in-Chief of the Georgian armed forces, then one can only imagine what his soldiers really are like. Killers are never good warriors, whilst strong people, unlike weaklings, have big hearts. We all saw the Georgian president running away like a crazy man at the first sight of a warplane flying high overhead. Switching, for some strange reason, to English, he started yelling, “Let’s move away!” at the top of his voice… No one has ever seen a national leader act like this before… Essentially, an ordinary situation pushed President Saakashvili into panicking. If one saw oneself acting like this on the TV screen, anyone in their right mind would immediately resign, realising full well that they had forever lost their people’s trust. This is more than just a political death; it illustrates our innate disgust for cowardice.
We remember other leaders who died with honour, like, for example, the late Chilean President Salvador Allende, who fought Pinochet’s men to the bitter end in 1973. The very same rings true about deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, whose final moments before his execution inspired nothing but respect. US President Ronald Reagan, who was wounded during a 30 March 1981 assassination attempt, realised he was on camera, so, he behaved with courage and dignity before blacking out in the operating theatre… Examples like these abound, but, none of them applies to Saakashvili. It’s always easier to give out orders to kill than it is to run the slightest risk yourself. Having seen the infamous footage from Gori, it became clear that political death is nothing compared to the shame the Georgian people felt at that moment. Mikhail Saakashvili is free to keep chewing on his tie. He will surely get a new one from Bush…
26 August 2008
Voice of Russia World Service