By Bohdan Klid
Russia's leaders have reached new heights of hypocrisy and cynicism in justifying their bombing of Chechnya, which is not meant to destroy Islamic militants, but to bomb the Chechens back into the stone age for daring to be free of Kremlin overlordship.
Russia's leadership have portrayed Chechens as bandits and terrorists. Imperial powers have often represented a subjugated people as inferior or uncivilized to justify colonial rule. Moreover, history clearly shows that it is Russia's leadership that has resorted to barbarism in its dealings with the Chechens.
In the 1994-96 war, indiscriminate bombing and artillery attacks by "democratic" Russia's foces killed 80,000. In 1944, the Chechen nation was ethnically cleansed by Stalin's Russia, causing 200,000 deaths. When they returned to their homeland in 1957, Chechens found it colonized. Last century, Chechens fought imperial Russia for fifty years, during which Russian soldiers were encouraged to raze entire villages, massacring women and children in reprisal for resistance.
If Russia's leaders were interested in counteracting Islamic militancy, they would have years ago formalized Chechen independence. International aid could then have been given to the Chechen government to alleviate the country's economic problems (caused largely by Russia's military actions and neglect of the region) and strengthen its authority against Islamic warlords who have launched incursions into Dagestan from Chechnya.
Journal editorialists deserve credit for expressing concern about Russia's latest actions ("Chechnya shows double standard, September 27, 1999). But their pessimistic conclusion that not much can be done deserves reconsideration. Recently, Lloyd Axworthy, commenting on the bombings, supported Russia's actions. Journal editorialists could write another editorial urging Axworthy instead to lobby the international community to convince Russian leaders that Russia's best interests lie in accepting Chechen independence.