In a controversial undertaking by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia plans to go down the slippery slope of re-investigating its 2008 war with Russia. But it is unclear if the new investigation is going to leave Georgia with a picture any clearer or more objective.
The proposal caused a stir among Georgian society, heretofore steadily treated to a black-and-white, big-bad-Russia narrative.
Georgia conducted its first probe of the war when President Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement Party still held political court. The parliamentary investigation, predictably, put the then Georgian authorities in the right all around. One attempt to place part of the blame on Tbilisi resulted in an angry outburst by the parliamentary commission, complete with tossing a pen at the lone critic.
But, coming on the heels of dozens of other investigations into past doings under the United National Movement, the repeat investigation is unlikely to avoid the label of bias. It is already seen as part of the ongoing Ivanishvili-Saakashvili war.
The president, who was questioned during the first probe, declared that he will not obey any interrogation requests by the new commission, led by Ivanishvili’s Georgian-Dream coalition. Repeating previous allegations, the president accused the prime minister of being an apologist for Russia, and a new shouting match between the two camps began.
The prime minister’s team claims they do not intend to justify the Russian invasion and the uprooting of thousands of Georgians, but, rather, need to establish the facts. Why that need has moved to the forefront right now is less clear.
Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said that it is the Georgian government’s international obligation to investigate the war as bothGeorgia and Russia face numerous complaints in the InternationalCriminal Court.
Georgia, of late, has been pursuing some degree of reconciliation with Moscow, though has not budged from its assertion that Russia is illegally occupying the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
But the renewed debate about the war is again going back to the single question of who fired the first shot.
A 2009 European Union-sponsored inquiry said that Georgia shelling the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali “marked the beginning of the large-scale armed conflict, yet it was only the culminating point of a long period of increasing tensions, provocations and incidents.” The report also said that the Russian invasion was not justified by either humanitarian grounds or by the Kremlin's stated need to protect its nationals in breakaway South Ossetia.
Both Moscow and Tbilisi have been reading to their citizens those bits of the report that justified their respective course of action. While a truly objective, meticulous look at the roots, conduct and outcome of the conflict might help clarify matters further, Russia appears to have no intention of rethinking its take, while Georgia’s intentions are already sinking in a maelstrom of emotion and domestic partisan battles.