Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Widening Conflict

In Jamestown's Terrorism Focus, Chris Heffelfinger looks at Al Qaeda's evolving strategy five years after 9/11:
Reviewing the developments of the war against al-Qaeda during the last five years, one sees their strategy being carried out in the various stages described above—inspiring Muslims around the globe, the creation of franchise organizations, frequent attacks in countries that support the United States and its allies and the gradual widening of the battlefield to the point that al-Qaeda itself becomes less and less relevant.
And indeed, looking back at the list of al Qaeda-related attacks and atrocities since 2001, in Bali, Madrid, Casablanca. London, Istanbul, and elsewhere, there is one atrocity that stands out by its incongruousness, and its pointers to that "gradual widening". As JR Nyquist noted in September 2004, in an article that still has as much relevance now as it had at the time it was written and published -
Many in the West would prefer to herald the Beslan tragedy as an opportunity for greater U.S.-Russian cooperation in combating terrorism. In reality, however, relations between Washington and Moscow are following a downward spiral. In Russia we find an emerging dictatorship that espouses a subtle anti-American propaganda. What was previously hidden has come into view: the totalitarians are still in charge. Putin’s pretext for strengthening his dictatorship is found at Beslan, in 350 body bags.

What actually happened at Beslan (where hundreds of children were slaughtered by terrorists)? We still don’t know the facts.

Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya says that the FSB poisoned her on a flight from Moscow to Rostov, effectively keeping her from reaching Beslan. She was not alone in being hindered. Journalist Andrei Babitsky was detained at Vnukovo airport on “a specious pretext.” Russian security personnel drugged Georgian journalist Nana Lezhava’s coffee, putting her out of action at a critical moment. The 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) took note of these and other incidents in a “scathing” report on the Kremlin’s handling of the Beslan affair. According to the OSCE, the Kremlin forfeited its credibility by preventing journalists from reaching Beslan. From the outset, Russian authorities told one lie after another. As if to prevent accurate information from reaching the outside world, Russian authorities also interfered with foreign journalists, confiscating television footage.
And, after considering the consequences of the Beslan atrocity in terms of Putin's centralization of political control in the "September Revolution", Nyquist concludes, in the same piece:
Moscow’s attitude is nothing new. The most distressing fact in all of this, however, is the ultimate non-reaction of the Western elite. There is a strong tendency to self-deception in Washington, especially where Russia is concerned, and this tendency is struggling mightily against truth. And what is this truth? Former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko spelled it out in his book [Blowing Up Russia] when he described Putin’s objective as “the total destruction of the foundations of a constitutional society built on the admittedly frail but, nonetheless, democratic values of a market economy” in Russia.

The failure of freedom in Russia is a major event. No other country is as dangerous as Russia. No other country has thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at America. None has missiles as advanced as Russia’s. None has a submarine fleet as large. To rate Russia as “just another country” is to negate the last 100 years of history.

I should like to end with a quote from Bill Gertz’s new book, Treachery: “The record of Russian proliferation – to Iraq and other dangerous countries – is long. Classified intelligence reports show that for more than a decade Moscow used its arms sales to rogue states as a strategic hammer against the United States.”

Now ask yourself: Why has Russia done this?
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