Wednesday, May 21, 2003

SAY THE WORDS "THE PALESTINIANS" AND YOUR HEARTBEAT TICKS UP A NOTCH, BUT ...

What About the Chechens?

It is a very strange fact that the bloodiest terror attack of the past two weeks is the one that has received the least attention. While 28 innocents were killed in the Casablanca bombing and 34 in Riyadh, and a total of 12 Israelis in the five most recent attacks in Israel, 60 were killed by a single truck bomb in Chechnya on May 12. The casualty toll may yet rise higher as the injured succumb to their wounds and post-Soviet medical care.

What are we to think of the Chechen terror-bombers? The Russians are very clear about what they want us to think: “It is becoming ever more obvious that a terrorist international with al-Qaida at its head is trying to shift to a counterattack against the entire civilized world after the defeat in Afghanistan,” said a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry. And indeed the Chechen terrorists are linked to al-Qaida and they do commit uncivilized, horrific acts of murder.

But then, as Anne Applebaum keeps trying to remind us, the Russians committed some pretty horrific acts of murder against the Chechens not so very long ago: In fact, they probably killed half the Chechen population. And yet, on the rare occasions that we talk about the war in Chechnya, the historical background to the war goes unmentioned.

The Chechens are rapidly coming to rival the Palestinians in the terrorism World Series. Yet while the Palestinians find endless volunteer apologists and eager, credulous audiences in the United Nations, the European Union, and American campuses, the Chechens find … nothing. How odd.

The Russian war against Chechen independence has killed at least twenty times as many people as have died on the Palestinian side in the three years of fighting since the fall of 2000 – yet there is little condemnation or even interest in what Russia is doing. Odd again.

Odd that Russia’s suppression of Chechnya is so seldom cited as a source of Islamic grievance – even as ethnic Chechens have proven themselves some of al Qaida’s toughest and most stubborn fighters. Odd too that Russia is now to be one of the four members of the “quartet” charged with pushing Israel along the road map to a Palestinian state – even as it denies Chechen independence with not a single squeak of protest from the outside world. It’s just generally odd all around, isn’t it?


(Exerpted from David Frum's Diary, 5/19/2003)


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