Some noteworthy comments by Adam Michnik, the former Polish dissident and Solidarity activist, who served six years as a political prisoner, and is now editor-in-chief of Poland's largest daily, Gazeta Wyborcza. Via Marius, of CHECHNYA-SL.
Hostages of the Russian authority
Adam Michnik 05-09-2004, last update 05-09-2004 22:02
How it could come to this unheard barbarity, that Chechen terrorists used such inhumane weaponry, and the storming Russian soldiers caused deaths of so many people, including so many children?
President Putin's answer is flabbergasting: "Some want to tear away a more delicious slice from us and others are helping them. They are helping them in belief that Russia, as one of the largest nuclear powers, still poses a threat to them and, therefore, this threat has to be eliminated. "And terrorism is, of course, only an instrument for attaining such goals."
This mysterious search for some anonymous enemies beyond the borders of Russia doesn't change the reality - Putin's policy towards Chechnya has suffered defeat.
The second Chechen war which raised Putin to the peaks of popularity, has evolved into a spiral of violence. No norms, nor any scruples work any more. All the tricks - even the most inhuman ones - have became allowed. Meanwhile, president Putin announces more of this tightening of screw. That's a road to nowhere.
No arguments - political, national, religious ones - can justify acts of Chechen terrorists. By taking children as hostages, a guerilla unit had transformed itself into a bandit gang. But the thing is, that the bandits turned up to be more effective than president of Chechnya Aslan Maskhadov, who declares his will for a dialogue and compromise.
By rejecting negotiations with Maskhadov and taking his family as hostages, president Putin has strenghtened the most radical wing in the Chechen resistance. By this route, will be reaching for power in Chechnya, these kind of people like Basayev or other Chechen talibans. A bid on violence will be breeding the next terrorist acts. Does the Russian president not know history of Russia? Has he forgotten that in the past centuries the conquest of Chechnya for the Russian tsars had had taken 75 years. Has he forgotten that for the Chechens memory of deportation by Stalin, is the same as memory of slaughter for the Armenians, and memory of Holocaust for the Jews? Has nobody told him that in Chechen custom, a vengeance is mandatory, that by giving up to avenge, a Chechen becomes an object of disdain among his countrymen, and that's worse than death?
The Chechen society is shattered, set up against each other, is simple and anarchical, but it integrates itself in the resistance against the Russian occupation, therefore the most horrible acts of terror might be acceptable, or at least don't cause a protest.
In Israel, in Iraq, in Chechnya, there's explosion of terrorism and suicide bombings - specific to ideology of Islamic fundamentalism - when conquered, a society accepts that only by this road can reach its goals. That's why president Bush or premier Sharon, after some bitter experiences are seeking other solutions than only a naked violence. It's obvious, that in Russia, only president Putin can give an impulse for any dialogue. Will he have a courage of de Gaulle, who understood that is better to grant independence for Algeria, than entagle France in this dirty war without any end?
Sooner or later Chechnya will be sovereign, because Chechens won't become Russians. As the Americans should have been recalling Vietnam for themselves, to not to repeat in Iraq their defeat from there [Vietnam], in Moscow they should always remember about the defeat in Afghanistan. How many more people have to lose their lifes, to become obvious, that a war which can't won, shouldn't be continued? This
kind of war has to be ended.
A few years ago, a group of Russian intelectuals, among them Yelena Bonner (widow of Nobel Prizewinning physicist Andrei Sakharov) and Dmitry Furman were writing: " The maximum what can be achieved, by killing a lot of Chechens and losing many of our people, is to establish in Chechnya a regime of occupiers for years, which inevitably will cause deformation of the Russian justice and democratic structures, will change Russia into a police and criminal state in a larger degree than today. This absurdal at the first sight, of the Russian president [then Yeltsin], premier [then Putin] and our generals aim, to keep demanding independence Chechnya at any
cost, within the borders of Russia, is unfortunately absolutely natural. This kind of authority needs turbulent Chechnya. But all of us - people of Chechnya, and people of Russia - we're hostages of the present authority and of each other."
That's why, disdain and condemnation of cruel act of terror must come together with pensiveness [thoughtfulness with sadness] over the catastrophe of Russian policy in Chechnya.