Chechen blood is on our hands
From: Foreign Correspondent
President Bill Clinton claimed this week that Iran and Libya are the world's worst perpetrators of state terrorism. This is untrue, and he knows better. The worst perpetrator of terrorism is his ally, Boris Yeltsin's Russia.
Before recent Russian elections, President Yeltsin promised to make peace in Chechnya, a tiny Caucasian nation of 1.3 million that has battled for 160 years to regain its independence from Russian colonial rule. Yeltsin's new security strongman, Alexander Lebed, proposed giving Chechens unconditional independence.
Yeltsin's Chechen peace quickly tuned into a Carthaginian Peace.
Once elections were won, the Kremlin immediately resumed its savage war of extermination against the Chechen people, in which, say Moscow sources, Russian forces have killed 60,000. Yet Bill Clinton shamelessly compared the conflict to America's own civil war, and rushed Yeltsin US $10,2 billion in IMF loans, half of which went to financing the Chechen war.
This aid came on top of almost-certain, secret assistance from US government in the assassination of the elected Chechen leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev. The KGB had tried many times to murder the charismatic, elusive Dudayev. This column has been told that a US electronic eavesdropping satellite, and radio-locating gear provided by Washington, allowed a special KGB hit team to pinpoint Dudayev's portable phone, then saturate the Chechen president's position with rocket barrages.
In helping the KGB commit political assassination, the Clinton Administration seemed unfazed by recent reports that KGB agents had murdered a senior CIA officer outside Tblisi,Georgia after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Scorched earth instantly replaced talk of peace. Russian heavy artillery, rocket batteries, helicopter gunships, and ground attack aircraft have resumed flattening any and all Chechen villages and towns suspected of favoring guerilla. Russian propaganda organs resumed their hate campaign against "subhuman, gangster, dirty Muslim, Chechen bandits."
The west sat back, impassively watching this crime unfold. No one wanted to rain on tomorrow's inauguration ceremonies for President Yeltsin.
Except the Chechens. On Tuesday, hundreds of fierce Chechen mujihadin fighters, led by the scourge of the Russians, Commander Shamil Shamil Basaev, stormed the capitol. Grozny, and two other major lowland cities, Argun and Gudermes.
As of this writing, the mujihadin had killed close to a hundred Russian troops and Chechen puppet allies, destroying scores of Russian armored vehicles. Remarkably, Chechen independence fighters shot down eight Russian helicopter gunships. The Russians responded, as usual, with massive, indiscriminate terror shelling, bombing and rocketing of civilian areas.
The latest attacks make it perfectly clear that Russia, in spite of its victory claims, has not "crushed" the Chechen resistance - whom Moscow, with President Clinton's blessings, calls "terrorists." Nor is there much chance of an enduring settlement that does not give Chechens what they are fighting to the death to achieve - freedom from Russian colonial oppression.
This, in turn, confronts Russia with the same problem it has faced since first invading the little Muslim nation in the 1830's. After decades of battling Chechen mountaineers, led by the great Imam Shamil, Russia managed to occupy-but never conquer - Chechnya. Russia realized the only way to truly pacify Chechnya was to exterminate nearly its total population.
In the 1860's and 70's, Tsarist generals attempted just such genocide. In the 1940's, Stalin sent three-quarters of the entire Chechen people to Siberian concentration camps. The children of the death camp survivors are fighting Russian occupation forces today.
Russia is again bent on exterminating all Chechens who resist. It is sickening to watch Russia, a highly civilized, cultured nation, and supposed democracy, act with Mongol ferocity in Chechnya. It is infuriating to watch the US, Canada, and Europe hypocritically close their eyes to - and even abet- this monstrous crime, while denouncing terrorism.
Who are we to fulminate against terrorism, when we, too, have the blood of the Chechen people on our hands?