Friday, January 07, 2011

From the archives: Bitter fruits of Russian Imperialism

This piece, from September 2004, documents my reaction to the terrible events in Beslan when over 1000 people were held hostage and over 300 killed by Chechen terrorists. Russia today still faces a terrorist threat from this region.

As this article is written it seems that something like 350 people have been killed in the Russian school siege, where Chechen terrorists took hundreds of men, women and children hostage in a school.

The world news is full of the terrible ordeal that these people have been through, and in particular of course the children.

Whilst there has been an historic oppression of the Chechen people dating back to the Tsarist days and the invasion in the 1830's, the current conflict centres around the break-up of the old Soviet Union and Chechnya's ability to break away and form a separate state as other regions have done.

The Russian government says that this is simply unacceptable and that Chechnya is part of Russia, and sent troops to the area in 1994.

As the civil war intensified 1996 saw massive bombardment of the capital Grozny and estimates are that in this year alone around 70,000 people were killed. The civil war destroyed in infrastructure of the region, and Russian forces have continued a perpetual state of war ever since, setting up a puppet government whose President Akhmad Kadyrov was recently killed in a bomb attack.

Russian president said of these latest attacks that "we have shown weakness" - the obliteration of Grozny, the many thousands killed by Russian military forces both on the ground and from the air - all of this Putin characterises as weakness. It's nonsense of course - there is no military solution to the problem.

President Putin regards his order to level Grozny as weakness Russia will not withdraw its forces from Chechnya not because of some historic bond with Chechen people (of whom many Russians have a strong racist abhorrence of) but because Chechnya is essential in securing Russian oil supplies.

Some have been shocked by the high number of women who have taken part in suicide attacks and other violent acts. But many of these women have named themselves "black widows" because their husbands and other family members have been murdered by the Russian army.

Does Putin think these women only commit acts of terror because he's been too soft on them? To entrench the policy of state terror in Chechnya is to guarantee the escalation of terrorist attacks in Russia. Just as Bush's war on Islamic terrorism has ensured its growing popularity.

The only real way to fight terrorism is to fight for social justice on a world scale - not in order to be weak on terrorism - but in order to wipe out the deep rooted causes of bitterness, hatred and injustice.

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