CHECHEN GENOCIDE CONTINUES STILL
Date: November 18, 1998
Unfortunately, the world is looking at the catastrophe of the Chechens through Russian eyes or to be more specific, through Russian Propaganda. The Chechen Republic is usually depicted as a crime-ridden area, which was destroyed by the war. No one is trying to look at the reasons for the Russian-Chechen war, nor to mention it's main victims - citizens of the Chechen Republic, who are going through disasters on a daily basis - disasters both from the crime situation and from the ineffectiveness of their government, (not their fault) as well as from all the other problems, caused by the recent war. The Chechens did not start the war. Russia, which claims to be a civilized and democratic country, started it. Unfortunately, the West supported the war, and therefore also carries some responsibility for what is happening in Chechnya.
Just recently, Professor Francis Boyle, of the University of Illinois, College of Law, raised questions about the genocide in Chechnya and about why the war activities were supported by the West.
Lets look at the facts.
First of all, there is the obvious fact that the war in Chechnya was possible because Russians obtained pre-agreement from the West. How sad it sounds for the moral values of the West. This pre-agreement emanates from a Russian source of information. It was approved in Budapest at an historical summit of the OSCE in 1994, where the most important attention was given to human rights. (It's become obvious now that the Chechens weren't considered as people whose rights should be the subject of international concern). In particular, it was announced that henceforth, the non-observance of human rights would not be only an "internal matter" of an individual OSCE member. It would be a matter for all the members.
On the other hand, let's be honest, even if the West would have opposed the war every so slightly, then it wouldn't have taken two long years to stop the Chechen genocide. The estimates of well-known humanitarians gave evidence of it very eloquently. "This is the most terrible place I've ever been. There are no rules at all. It is a total war. Sarajevo, compared to Chechnya, will look like a Sunday stroll. In terms of horror, terror and unpredictability the war in Chechnya can be compared to no other war in the history". These words belong to Fred Cuny, an American, who disappeared without a trace after saying those words in Chechnya.
It was called "the world's cruelest war" by the Medicines Sans Frontiers. "The war in Chechnya is an historic crime of Russia and Western Democracies", said Elena Bonner. And finally let's remember the appeal of the Pope in 1995 during the anniversary assembly of the U.N. When talking about defending suppressed peoples, he asked world leaders, "To get rid of cynicism in politics". And the Western leaders at that time were overanxious to justify helping Russia eliminate Chechens. "Chechnya was simply sold out or to be more exact, was given away to be shredded to pieces. Chechnya turned out to be a card in a shameful political game, some state and political figures were in big hurry to explain, in a positive light, every move that was made by Russia". These words belong to Boris Pankin, the ex-foreign minister of the USSR.
Besides, the West provided not only political but also financial help. This initiative, unfortunately, also originated in Washington. For example, January 30, 1995, the Undersecretary of the State Department, Strobe Talbot, said approximately the following "Because of the war in Chechnya, we should not cut, but rather, increase economic aid to Russia!" He called Chechnya a legacy of the Communist past. (Maybe because the Communists did not manage to eliminate all the Chechens?). Morality and human rights were forgotten. "Besides, April 11, 1995, when the atrocities in Semashki surfaced, the International Monetary Fund finalized its decision to give a loan worth $6.8 billion to cover the Russian budget deficit. Contrary to its usual practice, the IMF refused to even discuss problems of human rights in connection with its credit policy", the Human Rights Watch Helsinki Report of 1995 informs us.
It is possible that after receiving financial aid, the war only intensified. A year later, as we know, Russia received an even bigger loan -$10.2 billion dollars. And after intense lobbying efforts from the U.S., the European Council finally accepted Russia into its organization. Turkey has been trying to join for a long time without success. (Let's take note that Turkey is a Muslim country). Russia, despite all of the protests from various human rights organizations around the world, was accepted into this respected and basically a legal rights organization.
Regular artillery attacks and bombings of Chechen cities and massacres were the norm - at Semashki, Novogroznenskoe, Bamut, Argun, Grozny and concentration camps, - just like Auschwitz during World War II - where thousands of Chechens were killed and tortured to death. Robberies by Russian soldiers were a daily occurrence throughout Chechnya but were not enough for Western countries to make an official protest.
Let's now look at the current situation in Chechnya. Does anyone have a real understanding about what is happening there? The human rights of the Chechen people are being violated again. People, despite the horrors of the war that they had to live through, despite the high child and adult mortality, despite the virtual absence of medical care, despite chronic malnutrition, despite the total humanitarian catastrophe, are deprived of all rights, even the opportunity to improve their own situation themselves. We are of course talking about, first of all, political rights.
Russia has signed a number of political agreements with Chechnya, including the Peace Treaty ending the war. But Russia fulfills none of the obligations of these political agreements. And by the way, that is according to their own account. Ordinary Chechens are deprived of the right to study, to travel around the world; they are deprived of international protection. Russia does not recognize Chechnya as an independent state (even though language in the Peace Treaty shows that Russia recognizes Chechnya's independence de facto). Russia also does not allow any other country to recognize Chechnya as an independent state by threatening to retaliate with "appropriate measures".
We are not going to justify this with the alibi of an ineffective Chechen Government. But you have to agree, that when there is an obvious and total absence of qualified people, complete lack of a government infrastructure (everything has been destroyed by the war), a lack of experience and knowledge of modern political institutions, it is difficult to demand a government that is more substantial.
Still. We should not be too naive, the Russian political and military system, suffering a dishonorable defeat in a dishonorable war, of course is not sleeping. It is taking an active, destructive part in internal Chechen events. Especially since a lot of people from the Russian government did not hide their desire for revenge, but, obviously not in open warfare. It is a cold war. Is a lot needed to support the destabilization of small Chechnya?
Let's imagine any prosperous European country. Let's assume that for two years, about two tons of bombs per capita is thrown at that country, then it is blockaded on all sides, was deprived of a voice in the international arena, etc. as it was in Chechnya. How many saboteurs do you think would be needed to subvert political stabilization in that country? We think that about twenty would be enough. The experienced Russian Empire has a lot more than that. Of course, if Chechnya were somewhere in Europe, we think that the West would be doing a lot more to provide for its stability, at least stop the constant flow of refugees, not to mention defending the stability of its markets. In other words, for their own interests. Again, if we continue our comparison with Balkans, say Bosnia, the entire West is helping provide stability and solve its humanitarian problems. But Chechnya gets a big, round ZERO. We understand why Russia is behaving this way, but we do not understand why the West is behaving this way.
Let's remind ourselves that we are talking about solving simple humanitarian problems. It is necessary to notice that Chechens acquired these problems against their will. Anyone who has been in Chechnya knows that Chechens do not want war; they want peaceful existence and work. Chechens did not attack Russians and they are not "the rebels", as demagogues in Russia keep saying. All the "fault" of Chechens is that they declared their independence in accordance with those RIGHTS that are guaranteed by international law.
That was done by Chechens, first of all, to improve their social and economic situation (in the former USSR, Chechens had a solid last place among all of the former parts of the USSR) and to move away from never-ending genocide by Russia (let's remember at least the deportation of the Chechens in February, 1944, when the population of Chechnya was reduced by half, not to mention their homeland being taken away). We want to ask why don't Chechens have any rights, including humanitarian?
Russia has received an unprecedented amount of humanitarian aid from the West during the last few years. For example, the U.S. alone has provided for 35,000 people from Russia to study in different educational centers. None of them were from Chechnya! If the U.S. thought of Chechnya as a part of Russia and wanted to propagate Western values instead of Muslim fundamentalism, then this kind of injustice and open discrimination is inexplicable. One would think that nothing is simpler than if you want to help people throughout the entire Russian Empire, and not just please the Russian nationalists, then you need to divide your help equally among all the Russian subjects. And that is all. How can be all of this be explained? Do Chechens have to stop their existence? We cannot understand "the deep meaning" (even if we threw away all the morality) in this policy. Is it because the Chechens are Muslims and they were able to defeat the Russian Empire? There are a lot of examples of this kind of injustice. The latest one is happening today.
Just recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, considering the catastrophe in Chechnya, had promised to provide a large volume of humanitarian aid. This decision was confirmed in writing during the personal visit of Aslan Maskhadov, President of the Chechen Republic, to the U.S. in August, 1998. Thank them for that humanitarian position. Chechens had the slightest hope that they would not starve this winter. Finally, the U.S. has changed its unfair attitude toward Chechnya. What happened then?
After the Department of Agriculture decided to proceed based upon humanitarian considerations, (Maskhadov was even told that Chechnya would be the first in a long list of foreign countries, considering the war disaster), the process became involved in American political structures. There were a few people within the State Department who have been against this humanitarian action (they must be the same people who encouraged the Russian war against the Chechens). This question has been in the works for the last three months and, most likely, the answer will be negative. This is suspected because Russia has entered the scene.
Russia recently asked for help and it came within few days. On November 6, 1998, the U.S. government signed a paper about a "present" to Russia in an unprecedented amount. The American government did not even try to determine if that kind of help was needed. Russia often asks not because they really need something but because what ever they ask, they get easily.
Let's look at the Russian press. In a "Moskovskie novosti "(Moscow News) #44, 1998 article entitled "Why does Russia need American bread?" they write that there is no problem in Russia as far as wheat is concerned, since there is a lot of it left over from last year's rich harvest. This year, for example, "There were 19 million tons of wheat harvested, and traditionally Russia only needs 21 million tons." Besides, they report that "Wheat is becoming almost the main feed for livestock and birds".
There is another very interesting detail. It turns out that "in September, Russia EXPORTED 190,000 tons of grain" to Turkey, Israel, Morocco and Korea. Let's note that, according to American regulations, American aid cannot be furnished to those countries that export the same item that America is sending as the aid.
But why does Russia accept help? The answer is simple. As the newspaper goes on to say "American grain is free. When someone is offering you 1.5 million tons of grain, it is hard to say NO." How do they intend to use the aid? First of all, as "Moskovskie novosti" writes, Russia will give it to the Army, and secondly, according to another newspaper, "Nezavisimaa Gazeta"(Independent Gazette), November 10, an article entitled "Kulik (Vice-Premier) is protecting the interests of American Farmers" "the aid will be sold on the open market" and thirdly, probably, American wheat will be fed to cattle, when in neighboring Chechnya, people have practically nothing to eat. "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" also emphasizes that in Russia "there is not any shortage of wheat for bread." Besides, this year there was a "significant increase in beef and pork production". This particular newspaper is also trying to figure out why does Russia get all that aid? Their "intelligent" conclusion is that this is apparently somehow beneficial to Americans. Maybe the Russian newspaper inferences do not seem valid to the average reader. But the Russian National News Service in the November 11 issue provides the opinion of Victor Semenov, Minister of Agriculture and Foodstuffs. He declares that "The gossip about an expected famine in Russia are professedly heightened", so, according to him "it is profitable for food importers to spread the rumor in order to profiteer"(!!!). Strange thought, isn't it? They did not just simply say "Thank you". Even in that aid, they see some kind of anti-Russian maneuver. The bigger mystery is, why does Washington continue sending aid to Russia that is apparently not needed? Is Moscow fooling them?
Just for your information, We would like to let you know that the U.S. intends to send 1.5 million tons of high-quality wheat, 100,000 tons of meat, butter and so on, plus $600,000,000 in loans to purchase another 1.5 million tons of food. All in all, almost 1 billion dollars' worth. Delivery of this food will be also paid for by Americans, which will take additional $260,000,000.
Now let's compare situations in Russia and Chechnya. Nobody in the world interfered with Russia's agricultural industry or with their own food problems. As we all know, nobody is bombing Russian towns or putting mines into Russian agricultural fields. Besides, Russia received a lot of financial support and other kinds of aid. Chechens do not get any help, nor are they allowed to help themselves. Russia is responsible for the horrible situation that Chechnya is in.
For example, during the war, it was said that the aid was given to Russians to support democracy. Even though, it was obvious: STOP THE WAR and there would be nothing better for democracy, not to mention how much money would be going towards peace, not war. Once, as we remember, Clinton said that the Russians have the right for such a war because 100 years ago (the Civil War), Americans had a similar problem!
In conclusion, maybe it will not be excessive to remember the precepts from the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran, which all say that if you sincerely want to do good, do not look for EXCUSES to not do it.