Sunday, September 05, 2004

this is what's wrong with NATO's attitude towards terrorism

Sept 5

The Economist, as the voice of NATO, quite candidly explains why it
ain't international terrorism unless the victims are Americans (or
their poodles the Brits). Otherwise, it's merely a local affair which
can be blamed on local nastiness: it is not part of international
terror even if it is financed by the Saudis and spearheaded by
Pakistanis. Remarkable exhibition of hypocrisy even by British

So Putin should choose a "political solution". Now why didn't Bush or
Blair seek a "political solution" in Iraq or Afghanistan? Oh, that
must be because it's a totally different set of people. Let's see,
we'll call them the "al Qaeda". Yeah, that's the ticket. Yeah. It's al
Qaeda-led international terrorism that led to the Taliban and 9/11.
But when Russia has a problem, that's because Putin (and Stalin) were
nasty to the poor peace-loving Chechens, not because of al Qaeda.

Can we say "double-standards", boys and girls?


Another siege ends in bloodshed

Sep 4th 2004
From The Economist Global Agenda

Russian forces have stormed a school where hundreds of children and
adults were being held by rebels demanding Chechen independence. Over
300 hostages have reportedly been killed—more victims of a war without
any end in sight


AMID scenes of pandemonium, with naked, bleeding children being
carried to safety while machinegun-fire and explosions echoed around
them, the three-day siege of a school at Beslan, in southern Russia,
ended on Friday September 3rd. The Russian authorities had been
insisting they would not storm the school. But the confused reports
from the scene suggest that the final confrontation was triggered when
the rebels opened fire on children trying to flee after an accidental
explosion. This made the Russian special forces return fire and storm
the building; later, they battled on with escaping remnants of the
rebel band, in the school's grounds and in a nearby house.

On Friday night the crisis was declared at an end, though the fate of
some of the attackers remained unknown. By early Saturday, the death
toll was given by a Russian official as over 300, half of them
children; with hundreds more taken to hospitals, the toll is expected
to rise.


Russia's airline disaster
Aug 30th 2004
Former Soviet war zones
Aug 19th 2004
Chechnya and Georgia
Jun 24th 2004
War in the north Caucasus
Jun 24th 2004
Who needs democracy?
May 20th 2004
The killing of Chechnya's president
May 13th 2004
Chechen suicide bombers
Jul 10th 2003

The Office of the President gives the official reaction to recent
events. The Moscow Times posts the latest news. Human Rights Watch
posts material on Russia, including a report and news on Chechnya. The
US State Department publishes its "Patterns of Global Terrorism".

Bush's speech at the Republican convention Sep 3rd 2004
Malaysia Sep 2nd 2004
Poverty in America Aug 30th 2004
Israel and the Palestinians Sep 1st 2004
Australia's election Sep 2nd 2004
The Buttonwood column Sep 2nd 2004

About Global Agenda

The rebels seized the school on Wednesday morning, as pupils, parents
and teachers gathered for a ceremony marking the start of the new
academic year. The scene seemed set for a repeat of the notorious
hostage sieges of a Moscow theatre in 2002 and of a southern Russian
hospital in 1995, both involving Chechen separatists, and both ending
in more than 100 deaths after botched rescue attempts by the security
forces. And, despite the authorities' promises of restraint, so it
turned out.

Russian officials say that up to 1,200 people were held. The attackers
set free some small groups of hostages in the first two days but said
they would kill 50 children for every one of their number who died.
According to some reports, the hostage-takers demanded the release of
Chechen fighters seized by Russian forces in June and the withdrawal
of federal troops from Chechnya.

The separatist struggle in predominantly Muslim Chechnya results in
large part from the exceptional cruelty that Stalin meted out to its
people at the end of the second world war. Suspecting some Chechens of
aiding the Nazis, he deported the republic's entire population to the
frozen steppes of Kazakhstan. In the 1990s, sons of that deported
generation returned to start a bloody war of independence and, in
1996, forced Russian federal forces to retreat. After a wave of
terrorist attacks across Russia, in 1999 Russia's then prime minister,
Vladimir Putin, launched a second war on the rebels. His popularity
soared and he was elected president in 2000. Though the terrorist
attacks have continued, Mr Putin was re-elected by a landslide in
March this year (helped by a media clampdown during the campaign).

The nearest Mr Putin has come to seeking a political, rather than a
military, solution to the Chechen question has been his policy of
"Chechenisation", which in practice has meant putting the rebellious
republic in the hands of a favoured local strongman. Until this year,
that strongman was Akhmad Kadyrov, a former rebel leader who had been
persuaded to switch sides. In May, however, Mr Kadyrov was
assassinated. Last weekend, a deeply flawed election for a new
regional president was won by Mr Putin's new placeman, Alu Alkhanov.

Meanwhile, Moscow and other Russian cities continue to suffer
terrorist outrages. A few days before last weekend's election, two
Russian commercial aircraft exploded shortly after take-off from one
of the capital's airports, killing 89 people. And in the days between
the election and the start of the Beslan school siege, a suspected
Chechen suicide-bomber blew herself up outside a Moscow metro station,
killing ten people.

A local problem, not a global one
The metro bombing and aircraft attacks were purportedly claimed by the
Islambouli Brigades, a group which (under the name "Islambouli
Brigades of al-Qaeda") also said it was behind the attempted
assassination of Pakistan's prime-minister designate, Shaukat Aziz, in
July. Mr Putin has seized on these claims to bolster his argument that
he is, like George Bush, engaged in a war on international terrorism.
Russia's Interfax agency quoted a security chief on Friday night as
claiming that there were nine Arabs among those hostage-takers killed
at the school.

In truth, though there is some evidence of links between al-Qaeda and
some Chechen rebels, the conflict in Chechnya is essentially a
home-grown problem in need of a home-grown solution. Many of the
attacks have been carried out by "black widows"—Chechen women who have
lost family members in the conflict—not foreign jihadis. Women were
reported to be among the hostage-takers in Beslan.

Some world leaders have, unwisely, encouraged Mr Putin in his claims
to be fighting a war on international terror and his equally
questionable claims to be seeking a political solution in Chechnya. He
won warm support when he met the leaders of France and Germany this
week: President Jacques Chirac insisted that Russia was "completely
open to any discussions about a political solution". Mr Bush offered
his Russian counterpart "support in any form" to end the hostage

Yet so far Russia has avoided looking for a real political solution.
The carte blanche given to Russian security forces to abduct, torture
and kill young Chechens suspected of rebel ties spawned the "black
widow" phenomenon. And it is no longer confined to Chechnya: the
neighbouring republic of Ingushetia, which used to be fairly free of
the arbitrary kidnappings that are common in Chechnya, has suffered at
least 50 of them since the start of 2003, according to Memorial, a
human-rights group. And incompetence and corruption have rendered the
security forces incapable of tackling the rebels: an appalling example
was the raid carried out by Chechen rebels in Ingushetia in June,
which claimed dozens of lives. The terrorists apparently bribed their
way through a series of checkpoints, while (according to some reports)
federal troops mysteriously took about ten hours to come to the aid of
besieged local forces.

While it is not yet clear to what extent mistakes by the security
forces contributed to the school siege's bloody end, it is obvious
that the second Chechen war has no greater prospect of success than
the first. The willingness of foreign leaders to endorse Mr Putin's
claims and to turn a blind eye to the abuses in Chechnya can only
contribute to making it worse.

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