Georgia: Second Front in Bidzina-Misha War Opens on NATO Boss' Facebook Page
The other day, NATO chief Anders fogh Rasmussen posted on his Facebook page a little video in which he soliloquized about the progress made by the allied forces in Afghanistan. The secretary-general, no doubt, was hardly expecting that another bland talk making the usual points would harness over 280 likes and get peppered by an endless litany of comments on the night of November 12.
But compulsively posting passionate comments under the video were not tax-paying citizens of NATO countries or the Afghans. Rather, these were NATO-aspiring Georgians, who hijacked the secretary-general’s page, turning it into a battleground of their own political differences that has very little to do with the Afghanistan campaign.
The Georgians, who tend to be the most ardent followers of Rasmussen's Facebook status reports, debated his November 12 comment that he is “extremely concerned” about the Georgian government's recent arrests of ex-Defense/Interior/Prisons Minister Bacho Akhalaia, Army Chief of Staff Giorgi Kalandadze and Fourth Brigade Commander Zurab Shamatava.
Rasmussen said this just as Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili made his debut foreign visit to Brussels.
In his home country, Ivanishvili is often seen as a messiah who defeated President Mikheil Saakashvili's powerful political machinery and arrested an ex-minister (Bacho Akhalaia) reputed to have abusive ways.
But Ivanishvili faces a tougher audience in Brussels, where his supporters claim that many movers and shakers are influenced by Saakashvili and his loyalists, who have a better fluency in the workings of international organizations, ongoing diplomatic debates, and, well, English. Both in Brussels at the same time, the Georgian president spoke of the unfortunate timing of the arrests and symptoms of political revenge against his political team, while the Georgian prime minister spoke of the need to restore justice and plans to invite a NATO delegation to monitor the investigation.
The differences between Georgia’s reluctantly cohabitating leaders easily avalanched onto Rasmussen’s Facebook page.
“Don’t listen to Misha’s ravings," commented one Georgian in reference to Saakashvili's denouncement of the arrests. "Come by and see it for yourself."
“Georgian Dream started a wide-scale political vendetta; that is so obvious,” another Georgian Facebook fan alerted Rasmussen. “You are defending presumed criminals,” cautioned still another, as the stream of comments swelled into hundreds overnight.
Turning on each other, the commentators soon switched to Georgian, with some instructing the NATO boss to take the time to Google-translate their debate.
Finally, a Georgian Facebook user with the name "Rasmussen" had to interfere to put an end to the gaggle. “Are you guys out of your freaking mind?" asked the Georgian "Rasmussen," deploying some non-NATO-compliant swear words. "Go to bed!”
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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