Articles from accredited investigative journalists that link Chechens to 9/11
America’s Dangerous Chechnya Game Aided 9/11 Terrorists
By Mark Ames 2002( email@example.com )
"US's reluctancy to take Chechens as terrorists helped to hide 9/11 preparations L ast December, an incredible piece of evidence... ... Surveillance Act] warrant. The Chechen rebels, while believed to have links with bin Laden, were not considered a terrorist group by."
Last December, an incredible piece of evidence emerged in the indictment of accused 9-11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.
While most of the media and Capitol Hill were focused on the CIA and FBI’s failure to “connect the dots,” a crucial clue has still been left unexplored: the Al Qaeda-Chechnya connection. If the US Government had been willing to explore the Chechen Connection, it could have prevented the terror attacks on September 11th.
Buried in the middle of the June 6th Washington Post article “Hill Probers Upgrade Evidence Gathered From Moussaoui” was proof that the failure to uncover the terrorist plot was not just a matter of poor coordination, but rather a direct result of deliberate U.S. foreign policy.
I’m going to quote a large chunk of the article here because it is so stunning, and because it has hitherto been so grossly overlooked.
A bit of background: on August 16th, 2001, Moussaoui was arrested in Minneapolis on immigration charges after an official at the Pan Am International flight school told the FBI he feared Moussaoui was planning a hijacking. Over the next few weeks, Minneapolis FBI agents tried to convince Washington to give them a warrant to search Moussaoui. Washington refused. The local agents’ frustration reached such a pitch that they even went to CIA for help, for which they were upbraided by Washington.
Here is why they couldn’t get the warrant:
“The main point of the dispute [between the Minneapolis FBI branch and Washington] was the value of information gathered about Moussaoui, a French national who had entered the United States in early 2001, and whether there was enough evidence to secure a warrant to search his belongings.
“The FBI received information from French intelligence, for example, including interviews with a family that blamed Moussaoui for inciting their son to fight and die with Muslim rebels in Chechnya, sources said.
“In her letter to Mueller, Rowley wrote that the French reports ‘confirmed his affiliations with radical fundamentalist Islamic groups and activities connected to Osama bin Laden.’ She argued that agents had enough evidence in hand ‘within days’ of Moussaoui’s arrest to provide probable cause for a warrant.
“Headquarters officials, however, insist that the French information detailed no direct ties between Moussaoui and any designated terrorist group, a requirement for obtaining a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant. The Chechen rebels, while believed to have links with bin Laden, were not considered a terrorist group by the State Department.
“‘The angle we consistently had with the French was the Chechnya angle,’ one U.S. official said. ‘There were no specifics about affiliations with al Qaeda, no reports of being in the [al Qaeda] camps in Afghanistan — nothing.’
“In the end, lawyers at FBI headquarters declined to approve the Minneapolis request for such a warrant. It wasn’t until Sept. 11, hours after the suicide attacks, that the FBI sought and obtained a search warrant, although it came from a criminal court rather than the intelligence panel.
“The evidence they allegedly found included a computer disk containing information related to crop-dusting; the phone numbers in Germany of Ramzi Binalshibh, an al Qaeda fugitive who allegedly helped finance the plot; and flight deck videos from an Ohio store where two of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta and Nawaf Alhazmi, had purchased the same equipment.
“...One of the most tantalizing pieces of information was correspondence identifying Moussaoui as a ‘marketing consultant’ for a Malaysian computer technology firm, Infocus Tech. The letters were signed by ‘Yazid Sufaat, Managing Director,’ and stipulated that Moussaoui was to receive a $2,500-per-month allowance.
“That connection, it now appears, could have proved critical. Sufaat, a Malaysian microbiologist, provided his Kuala Lumpur condominium for a ‘terrorism summit’ attended by Alhazmi and another Sept. 11 hijacker, Khalid Almihdhar, in January 2000, according to CIA and FBI officials [who monitored the summit]. The gathering was also attended by a man later identified as one of the leading suspects in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.
“...Knowledge of Sufaat’s letter to Moussaoui would have disclosed a possible al Qaeda connection, but it remained unexamined while the Minneapolis agents tried and failed to obtain a search warrant.”
In other words, had America agreed to list the Chechen separatists as “terrorists,” as the Russians have been urging them to do since 1999, the warrant would have been immediately obtained and evidence of the plot possibly uncovered. This was America’s best chance of foiling the September 11th attacks. However, official U.S. policy has refused to recognize the Chechen separatists as terrorists linked to Al Qaeda—despite the incredible wealth of evidence proving the connection. The Moussaoui evidence shows that America’s policy of refusing to view the Chechen separatists as “terrorists” was directly responsible for the failure to pursue Moussaoui. This was not mere human error or bureaucratic inefficiency. It was the result of a carefully-designed policy worked out by the Bush Administration.
Zacarias Moussaoui: Saved By Chechens
Bush’s core foreign policy team—National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz—started boasting months before they took office about how tough on Russia they planned to get. And “tough on Russia” meant “soft on Chechnya”—after all, if the Chechens hated the Russians, they couldn’t be all bad.
One of the Bush administration’s first foreign-policy moves was deciding to meet representatives of the Chechen separatists at the highest level ever. In February of 2001, a ranking State Department official, John Beyrle, met with Ilyas Akhmadov, the foreign minister of the separatist Chechen leadership. (By comparison, the Clinton Administration had only allowed a Russian desk officer to meet with Akhmadov.)
The Russians were furious. Sergei Markov, one of the Kremlin’s leading talking tools, published an article, “Russia Can See Beyond Bush’s Cold-War Logic” on the Kremlin’s web site, strana.ru, in which he demanded that any US official who met with the Chechen rebels should be deemed persona non grata in Russia. Reading Markov’s article now, it’s clear the Russians were trying to make sense of this unprovoked humiliation:
“The team of Cold-War veterans and inexperienced diplomats who shape the diplomacy of the new U.S. administration is pushing Russia toward actions in keeping with Cold-War logic. But Russia cannot benefit from such logic: Russia seeks not confrontation, but integration with the West. Therefore, Russia should not accept Cold-War logic.”
It is a strange reversal of roles: America as the erratic belligerent, Russia as the sober negotiator, trying to calm the madman down.
The Chechen connection to International Islamic militants is nothing new. Chechens were one of the most visible ethnic groups among the foreign fighters in Afghanistan. Yet while Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Uighur separatists, the IMU and other groups fighting alongside Al Qaeda were labeled terrorists by the State Department and media, the Chechens were spared, simply because the Bush administration had a soft spot for any group which was anti-Russian.
Early this year, with the Bush Administration so drunk on its Afghan victory that it was ready to scrap the ABM treaty, expand NATO and establish bases in the Caucuses and Central Asia, America essentially pulled down its pants in front of Russia and yelled, “Eat Me!” For the first time in history, Radio Liberty began broadcasting in the Chechen language. The move was considered such a slap in the face that even Grigory Yavlinsky, one of the few liberal politicians with the courage to oppose the second Chechen war from the outset, said that Radio Liberty’s decision showed “the tactlessness that is typical of American politicians.”
Desperate Muslim separatist groups in any other country turn to extremism and terrorism, and they get labeled Al Qaeda-linked international terrorists. Chechens do the same only on a larger scale, and they get... a Radio Liberty broadcast and a good feting.
It’s not as if the Chechen-Al Qaeda link is a great secret.
The phrase “thousands of Chechen fighters” was repeated nearly every day in the Western press to describe the Al Qaeda fighters battling the Coalition troops.
Videotapes of Chechens cutting the throats of Russian hostages have been one of the top hits of the terrorist underworld.
Moussaoui was known to have got his start as a recruiter for Chechen war jihadists in France and elsewhere.
And last week Mounir Motassadeq, who is on trial in Hamburg accused of being part of Mohammed Atta’s cell, testified that Atta and his comrades had wanted to fight in Chechnya but were told by Al Qaeda that they weren’t needed there.
According to an October 23rd Washington Post article, “Hijackers Had Hoped To Fight In Chechnya, Court Told”:
“In the opening day of his trial in a Hamburg state court, Motassadeq testified that he knew of Atta’s ambition to fight in Chechnya and that the two men spoke together after Atta returned from Afghanistan in February 2000.
“‘Atta said to me, “I was in Afghanistan and the people said to us that the Chechens do not need [fighters] anymore,”’ Motassadeq testified.”
How much more obvious could the Chechnya connection be? Muhammed Atta only brought down the World Trade Center because he was turned away from his first dream: fighting in Chechnya.
In the past few months, at least 15 Al Qaeda members, two of whom were considered to be high ranking, were reported captured in the Pankisi Gorge, a northern-Georgia region that borders Chechnya and has been controlled by Chechen separatists until now. Indeed, the alleged presence of the Al Qaeda terrorists gave the U.S. a pretext for introducing Green Berets into Georgia, a move which the Russians saw as a shocking betrayal of the post-9/11 alliance.
Yet Western news reports over the past week covering the hostage crisis were contemptuous of President Putin’s claim that the terror attack on Moscow was tied to international terrorism. Even after the terrorists themselves announced their affiliation with Islamic extremism as loudly and clearly as possible by releasing a video of themselves on Al Jazeera—the venue of choice for international terrorists everywhere —Washington refuses to recognize the obvious.
Typical is this aside, from a Reuters hostage-crisis article:
“Russia has drawn attention to Arab fighters in Chechnya and accuses the rebels of links to radical Islamist groups like the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, whom Washington blames for the September 11 attacks. But privately, Western diplomats play down any Chechen involvement by al Qaeda.”
Rival AP took the same line the next day:
“In televised remarks, Putin described the hostage-taking as one of the largest terror attacks in history and claimed it had been planned ‘in one of the foreign terrorist centers’ that ‘made a plan and found the perpetrators.’ He didn’t provide evidence that the raid was organized abroad.”
Can you imagine a single AP, Reuters or any American article questioning the Bush Administration’s “evidence” of Osama bin Laden’s guilt in the 9/11 attacks? Particularly in the middle of the terror?
It’s been a year now since the World Trade Towers fell, and I haven’t seen or read any hard evidence directly implicating bin Laden. I’m not saying he’s not guilty, but if we’re going to be fair about this, we’d have to ask what right America had to kill thousands of Afghan civilians in order to drive out Al Qaeda when so little evidence has been presented—and why the threshold for what constitutes “evidence” is so impossibly high in Russia’s case, where the Chechen rebels have all but screamed into the world’s face: “We’re linked to international terrorists! We’re linked to international terrorists!”
And why wouldn’t they be? The Chechens need all the help they can get. America allied with Stalin against Hitler—why wouldn’t Chechen separatists ally themselves with Al Qaeda, Wahabbites and whoever else would give them C-4, sat phones and phony passports? As besieged Muslims, they make an obvious object of sympathy for radical Muslims around the world who feed on grievances, particularly those with fond memories of the Afghanistan jihad that eventually drove the Soviets out (and Saudi oilogarchs looking to expand their influence).
Among those who fought the Soviets alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan was Khattab, the slain Chechen rebel leader. It’s absurd to imagine that these men wouldn’t help each other in their respective jihads.
But the US refused to see a connection--until it needed the Russians’ help. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, said shortly after September 11, “We have long recognized that Osama bin Laden and other international networks have been fueling the flames in Chechnya, including the involvement of foreign commanders like Khattab.”
Unfortunately, that view of the Chechen separatists never became official policy. Most unfortunately for the victims of 9/11 that is.
The question then isn’t whether or not the Chechens are part of what is called “international terrorism.” They are. The question is rather why the West, and the U.S. in particular, makes such an exception for the Chechen cause. It’s nauseating to read how hard the right-wing American heart bleeds for Chechens, because the fact is American conservatives have never given a flying fuck about anyone who can’t golf.
Bush after all is Ariel Sharon’s biggest supporter in the whole wide world, calling him a “man of peace,” a description that must have made even Sharon wince.
The Palestinians aren’t the only oppressed Muslims whom the Bush Administration could give an official “your oppression doesn’t exist” shit about. The U.S. hasn’t made a cause over the plight of Turkey’s Kurds (80,000 dead in 15 years), the Philippines’ Muslims (120,000 dead in 24 years), China’s Uighurs, the Fergana Valley separatists in Central Asia (our new Caspian oil region friends), or any other of our friends’ Muslim separatist minorities—not to mention the hundreds of millions of Arabs who live under despotic regimes propped up by the U.S.
Fred Hiatt: Cuckolded!
The Bush Administration said from the start that they were reorienting their foreign policy away from Clinton’s policy of promoting human rights and democracy—which they found childish and “unrealistic”—towards a policy promoting “American interests,” which presumably means U.S. oil and military interests. It’s all in the great Republican tradition of the coalition of Twerps and Frat Boys: the Twerps love the sound of their leaders talking “realism” and the Frat Boys love their oil tankers.
Thus today, Chinese Uighur separatists, the IMU (an Al Qaeda-linked separatist group in the Fergana Valley), Philippine Muslim separatists Abu Sayyef and the Kurdish PKK are all on the State Department’s terrorist list.
Not the Chechens. Not even after last week.
It’s not because Chechens are soft, cuddly people. During the period of Chechen independence from 1996-1999, the Chechens kidnapped up to 3,500 Russians, introduced radical Sharia law and invaded Dagestan. If you believe Putin, Chechen terrorists also were responsible for the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings that killed over 300. They have committed numerous terrorist acts—from last week’s attack on the Nord-Ost musical to airliner, ferry and hotel hijackings, bombings, assassinations. Each is a terrorist act by any “official” definition. Yet somehow the Chechens have been able to avoid being labeled “terrorists.” They’re just legitimate separatists who happen to have elements who engage in terrorist acts, right?
(Remember, this isn’t a flaky semantic dispute or a Russophile/Russophobe debate: the use of the term is vital because it is the difference between whether or not a group gets its bank accounts frozen, its members harassed and hunted, and law enforcement officials access to FISA warrants on-demand.)
This bizarre double-standard holds true in the media as well. I tracked the evolution of the words used to describe the Chechen terrorists in the American press during the opening hours of the Moscow siege last Wednesday night. It was amazing: every possible description was found to avoid using the word terrorist, as if the Western reporters had a thesaurus with specific instructions: “Don’t use the word ‘terrorist’!”
In the early hours of the hostage crisis, Reuters called the Chechens an “armed gang,” while AP and CNN called them “Gunmen.” The BBC called the Chechens “armed attackers.” Like bank robbers or Crips. This in spite of the fact that in the same article, they described how the “gunmen” were Chechens ready for suicide and that they would blow all 800 hostages up if Russia didn’t end its war in Chechnya.
When it was clear that “armed gang” and “gunmen” had specific political demands, Reuters, early Thursday morning Moscow time, changed its term describing the Chechens: “About 40 Chechen guerrillas armed with guns and grenades held hundreds of Moscow theater-goers hostage on Wednesday night, threatening to blow up the building if police tried to storm it.”
Not to be outdone, AP found a similar yet equally value-friendly term to define the Chechens: “About 50 armed Chechen rebels seized a crowded Moscow theater Wednesday night, firing their weapons and taking hundreds in the audience hostage.”
They went from an “armed gang” and “gunmen” to “guerrillas” and “rebels.” It’s actually an improvement value-wise. Which would you rather be known as if you were taking over a theater of 800 innocents and trying to gain sympathy for your cause: a “terrorist” [worst], a “gunman” [bad, but better] or a “rebel”? Here’s a hint: The Boston Tea Party and the Lexington Minutemen were “rebels.” Al Qaeda and Abu Sayyef are “terrorists.”
Which makes me wonder: why aren’t Al Qaeda known as guerrillas or rebels? Their political demands are clear: stop supporting Israel and corrupt Arab regimes. Why wasn’t the poor sap who farted his way out to the USS Cole on a rubber dinghy packed with C-4 a “rebel” or a “guerrilla”?
I’ve searched Yahoo for the past few weeks to see why some groups are called “terrorist” while others are “rebels.” Here is a partial list of all the terrorists in the headlines: "Terrorists behind bomb blast at southern Afghanistan school, education officials say" [Oct 20]; "Court orders retrial of convicted Jordanian-American terrorist" [Oct 16]; "Woman jailed as terrorist suspect linked to Briton's murder" [Oct 15]; "New Zealand increases pressure on Indonesia to hunt down terrorists" [Oct 15]; "Yemen Blast Likely a Terrorist Act" [Oct 11]; "Terrorist Kin to Head Venezuela Post" [Oct 11]; "Kyrgyzstan and China begin joint anti-terrorist exercises" [Oct 10]; "Philippine mission to urge EU to declare local communist rebel group a foreign terrorist organization" [Oct 10 - and by the way, the EU listened to the Philippines]; "Marine Killed in Terrorist Attack in Kuwait" [Oct 9];
It’s pretty easy to find the pattern: If you are a stateless guerrilla group and you attack America or America’s sphere of influence, you are a terrorist. In an October 12th AP article “A List of Terrorist Attacks” catalogues the year’s terror highlights, including bombs in the Philippines, Bali, Pakistan and Tunisia...yet no mention of the bomb in Kaspysk, which killed 42 Russian marching band members! Amazingly, even an attack on inorganic matter—a French oil tanker—gets terrorist billing over Chechen “rebel/guerrilla” attacks on 800 innocent middle-class Muscovites.
You’ve got to wonder: Do Russians count as people to the West?
Russia’s problem, first and foremost, is that it dared, under Putin, to assert itself. That was unforgivable, and allowed the American Right to revert back to the only role it has felt comfortable in for the last 50 years: Russia-bashing.
Western journalists have had a somewhat more confused relationship with the Chechen resistance. At first, in 1994, it seemed like the Next Big Bosnia: evil Orthodox Slavic oppressors versus oppressed Muslim minority underdogs. Many a cub reporter’s career was made in Chechnya... that is, until the Chechens got their independence and started lopping off everyone’s heads, including Westerners’.
When the second Chechen War started, Western reporters were less inclined to see the Chechens as good-hearted minority underdogs. They were scared of the Chechens. And after the debacle in Kosovo, where another oppressed Muslim minority turned savage oppressor once given power, most Western journalists were a little less inclined to hyper-romanticize the Chechens.
However, the brutal behavior of the Russian occupying troops, as well as Putin’s refusal to toe Bush’s line on the war in Iraq, has brought out the latent Russophobe in many a powerful journalist.
Nowhere is this Russophobia more evident than in the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt.
Hiatt’s Russophobia comes from a sense of having been personally betrayed by the Russian financial collapse in August, 1998. Up till then, Hiatt was one of the most shameless and shameful cheerleaders of Yeltsin’s kleptocracy.
In one of his most infamous articles in March, 1998, Hiatt wrote an unabashed blowjob on oligarch Vladimir Potanin, lovingly labeling him a “baby billionaire.” He called shock therapy “necessary” and “right” and its architect, Yegor Gaidar, Russia’s “most admirable reformer.”
Then it happened: the 1998 crash and incontrovertible proof that the Hiatts—that is, the entire Western press corps and think tank division—was wrong. Hiatt’s answer?
Rallying from post-crash crash humiliation, Hiatt went on the offensive in his “Who Lost Russia?” article in which he wrote that the failure in Russia was “not the failure of the U.S., but a Russian failure,” and that the question of Who Lost Russia was not appropriate because “Russia was never ours to lose.” Russia had outed Hiatt, shown everyone that he’d lived a lie for nearly a decade, as shill for a gang of thieves. Hiatt, and all the other chirpy neo-liberal missionaries, have never forgiven Russia for revealing them as the third-rate suckups they are.
Hiatt and his fellow neo-liberal boosters made Russia into their own pro bono patient. But when the patient didn’t respond to the medicine they were force-feeding it, they blamed the patient—indeed, hated the patient—and haven’t forgiven him since.
In 1999, Hiatt moved to Washington to take over the Post’s opinion page, perhaps the single most influential newsprint job in the world, which he has turned into a grotesquely anti-Russian forum. a platform for Hiatt’s spurned-love type hatred of Russia.
But I never thought that even Hiatt could write what he did in last Friday’s Post. On that Friday, two days into the hostage siege, Hiatt published what must surely be the most inhuman, offensive Washington Post editorial of his career, “Chechnya in Moscow.” It must be quoted at length because paraphrase would be taken for wild exaggeration. And remember again, this was published in the middle of the hostage crisis:
“Even if they prove to be real, the hostage-takers’ supposed links to other fanatical groups—and the Russian media’s insistence already that ‘this is our Sept. 11’—should not be allowed to obscure the differences between America’s war on terrorism and Russia’s war against Chechnya. It is important to draw distinctions between Mr. Maskhadov, the mainstream Chechen commanders and the Chechen civilian population, on the one hand, and the Muslim militants, on the other. The latter have played only a peripheral role in the conflict, while the former are fighting a legitimate war against an outside invader.”
This is a lie and Hiatt knows it. The top two warlords during the bulk of the conflict have been Shamil Basayev and Khattab, both radical Muslims. But more than that, notice the derision he casts not just on the idea that the “hostage takers’ have links to other fanatical groups”—and even more offensively, Hiatt, hiding behind the anonymous weight of the Washington Post editorial page, is genuinely outraged that the Russians could possibly claim to have a tragedy like America’s when he includes “the Russian media’s insistence that ‘this is our Sept. 11’” clause as part of that which doesn’t really matter, “even if it proves to be real.” Who are the Russians to compare their pain to ours? They’re nobodies, that’s who!
Incredibly enough, with 800 innocent civilians lives on the line, Hiatt’s first instinct is to say, “Your tragedy’s not as big as my tragedy!” That, folks, is the level of compassion and sophistication at which America’s most influential opinion-maker operates.
It isn’t that Hiatt is anti-war. God no, the man loves it! He was oddly forgiving of Russia’s military conduct during the first Chechen war, when his young reformer friends were in power in Moscow. He was aggressively in favor of bombing Serbia in 1999, even going so far as to blame the deaths caused by America on Milosevic, and encouraging NATO to bomb “Mr. Milosevic” [as if only he, and not 10 million Serbs, were being targeted] “no matter how long it takes.”
Today, Hiatt is considered one of the country’s leading editorial hawks on Iraq, for which he was singled out by The Nation as perhaps the single most influential propagandist for the upcoming war. He is anything but squeamish as a rule.
But he sure as hell cares about Chechens! Or rather, he sure as hell can’t seem to forgive the Russians. The above-mentioned editorial ends with an over-the-top swipe at Russia during what was truly one of its darkest moments in modern history. In it, he blames the Moscow hostage crisis and looming death of 800 Russians squarely on Russia itself, much as he blamed Russia for its own economic collapse four years earlier, the last time Russia had suffered such a serious shock:
“Russia’s war in Chechnya is also different because—unlike America’s war on terrorism—it has a clear political solution. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, could begin negotiating with Mr. Maskhadov tomorrow and could end the war just as easily, if he could muster the political willpower. Paradoxically, ending the war would also make the fight against al Qaeda’s terrorist network in Chechnya far easier. In the end, it is the Russian government’s invasion—with its systematic bombardment of civilians, its human rights violations and its mass executions—that has created anarchy in Chechnya, so conducive to al Qaeda and its ilk. While the United States must support Mr. Putin during this frightening new crisis, the Bush administration must also do everything it can to persuade the Russians, finally, to confront its true cause.”
Hiatt’s outburst was so shocking that the Russian ambassador, Yuri Ushakov, wrote a letter to the Post, published the next day:
“Imagine that on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, an influential Russian newspaper used the previous day’s terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon as an opportunity to lecture the U.S. government on its conduct. I suspect that most Americans would have found this patronizing advice to be deeply offensive, and yet this is precisely what The Post has done in its Oct. 25 editorial “Chechnya in Moscow.” Moreover, The Post took this position while hundreds of innocent civilians—including women, children and, yes, Americans—continued to be held hostage and threatened with mass murder at the hands of their Chechen captors.
“The Post claims that Russia’s war in Chechnya is different from the American war on terrorism because it could be ended “easily” if President Vladimir Putin had sufficient “political willpower.” But the United States could also bring an end to the war on terrorism, for example, by abandoning Israel, closing its bases in the region and withdrawing its troops. Successive U.S. administrations have maintained these policies because they have seen them as important or even vital to U.S. national interests. My country’s territorial integrity is no less important to its government and citizens.
“Aslan Maskhadov’s policies during 1996-99—when he was Chechen leader and the Russian military was practically absent from Chechnya—speak for themselves. During this period Chechnya, which enjoyed de facto independence, adopted Islamic sharia courts, developed an alliance with the Taliban, offered hospitality to al Qaeda representatives and became the scene of widespread kidnapping and murder, including of Western aid workers. Russia’s reintroduction of its military forces in 1999 came after attacks by Chechen forces in the adjacent region of Dagestan. It also followed terrorist bombings, linked to Chechen groups, of three apartment buildings; hundreds of innocent people were killed. The outrageous mass hostage-taking still underway should demonstrate to any unbiased observer that the Chechen militants are perfectly capable of such acts.
“Muscovites and other Russians closely followed the acts of the Washington sniper in recent weeks, identified with the fear and insecurity of area residents, and have been happy to see the apparent capture of those responsible. As Moscow’s crisis unfolded, President Bush was among the first foreign leaders to call President Putin to extend his sympathy and help; he offered not only political but also practical support in resolving the hostage situation. But no less important to the Russian people is the simple demonstration of Americans’ broader sympathy during this moment of great trial.
“As a Russian—as a human being—I am sorry that The Post cannot offer even that much.
Embassy of the Russian Federation Washington”
With Russophobes like Hiatt egging on the rightwingers in Bush’s administration, the US imposed an utterly ruinous policy of flirtatious accommodation with the Chechen separatists. Ruinous because this policy was one of the key reasons why the 9/11 plot was not uncovered, and ruinous because of future unforeseen consequences not just in terms of our relations with Russia, but because, like it or not, the Chechens really are linked to international Islamic terrorism.
In other words: if anything clearly wasn’t in America’s interests, it’s America’s coy and cynical game vis-‡-vis the Chechen separatists.
This isn’t easy to print publicly, even though I know several Western correspondents who, at the beginning of the second Chechen war, said much worse things off-the-record about the Chechens and what they deserved.
Chechenz with Attitudes
But the war is still going on three years later. It is savage and brutal, it no longer feels like revenge or giving the Chechens what they deserve for having fucked up their years of independence so badly. It’s a slow, dull genocide. Like so many other genocides we ignore. It seems to have such a clear solution to civilized Westerners: Putin should simply negotiate peace with Maskhadov, shake hands, and be done with it. Yet when America bombed Serbia, the Hiatts and McFauls didn’t patronizingly demand that Clinton negotiate a settlement with Milosevic; rather, Hiatt demanded that NATO keeping bombing “no matter how long it takes.” Nor has he called for a political solution with Iraq. America refused to negotiate with Milosevic unless he met all their demands unconditionally; today, America refuses to negotiate with Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden at all, ever. Why would negotiation be “different” and clearly logical in Chechnya, which already has a record of a massively failed negotiated settlement, and whose dispute (are/aren’t a part of Russia) is absolute and thus beyond compromise?
It would be equally absurd to pretend that the Chechens aren’t hooked deeply into Islamic extremism. The Chechens separatists aren’t cute, harmless rebels. They don’t aspire to be; they are great fighters and proud of it. And, like it or not, a lot of them are world-class kidnappers, killers, and extortionists.
No Westerner will dare say this. The Hiatts of America and the West don’t want to see it. They are as blind and simplistic in their jeering at Russia today as they were in cheering the reformers before the financial crisis.
This administration is supposed to be “realistic” about “America’s interests.”
So what is America’s interest in fetishizing the Chechen cause while befriending just about every other minority-oppressing tyrant on the globe?
If you want “realism,” here are some grim realities behind America’s bizarre coyness toward the Chechens. First: Wahhabism, a Saudi export, is the preferred version of Islamic extremism among Chechen fighters. Turkey has been often fingered as another supporter of Chechen separatism, and it’s no coincidence that the only Chechen terrorist operations outside Russia have taken place in Turkey. During last week’s hostage crisis, the FSB traced the terrorists’ consultation calls to Saudi Arabia and Turkey and their embassies in Moscow.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are two very close allies of America. Saudi Arabia is the number one oil producer; Russia is number two and threatening to break into the US market and disrupt OPEC. Turkey is the destination point for the Caspian Sea oil, the third largest reserves in the world. Its Ceyhan outlet will compete against Russian ports. Four of the five Central Asian republics speak a Turkic language, something Turkey has consistently tried to exploit, fomenting pan-Turkic sentiment throughout the 'Stans.
There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia and Turkey have a hand in the Chechen war. The question is to what degree America's policy towards the Chechen separatists is influenced by its allies' support of the Chechens--and whether or not the Bush administration is serving its own people's interests as well as it's serving its oil allies'. But this isn't the first time this question has been raised.
America's greatest fear now is that Al Qaeda will set off a nuclear or dirty nuke in a major city. Russia is a poor, corrupt, badly governed nation awash in nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry. During the first Chechen war, the Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev left a small container of highly radioactive material in Moscow's Sokolniki park to let the authorities know what he had at his disposal and how far he'd be willing to go.
Recent reports suggest that Al Qaeda is recruiting non-Arab-looking operatives to carry out operations in the West and America. Chechens, particularly the more Slavic-looking ones, were cited as ideal recruits.
Considering the power and strength of the Chechen mafia and its access to any corner of Russia, the brutality and bravery of Chechnya's fighters, their religious fanaticism and links to Islamic extremism, is it really a good idea to let mindless Cold War Russophobia keep the Chechen separatists off the US State Department's international terrorist list?
In the past two days, White House officials have been using the word "terrorists" to describe last week's attack. HOwever, with an emotiaonlly unstable Russophobic media goon like Fred Hiatt controlling the nation's most influential Op-Ed pages, and thousands more Hiatts in alliance with the Cold War Waffentwerpen who dominate Bush's foreign policy team, it's hard to believe that the administration will make any move that it perceives as benefiting Russia--even if that means shooting America in the nuts.
An enormous head of steam has built up behind the view that President Putin is somehow the main culprit in the grisly events in North Ossetia. Soundbites and headlines such as "Grief turns to anger", "Harsh words for government", and "Criticism mounting against Putin" have abounded, while TV and radio correspondents in Beslan have been pressed on air to say that the people there blame Moscow as much as the terrorists. There have been numerous editorials encouraging us to understand - to quote the Sunday Times - the "underlying causes" of Chechen terrorism (usually Russian authoritarianism), while the widespread use of the word "rebels" to describe people who shoot children shows a surprising indulgence in the face of extreme brutality.
On closer inspection, it turns out that this so-called "mounting criticism" is in fact being driven by a specific group in the Russian political spectrum - and by its American supporters. The leading Russian critics of Putin's handling of the Beslan crisis are the pro-US politicians Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov - men associated with the extreme neoliberal market reforms which so devastated the Russian economy under the west's beloved Boris Yeltsin - and the Carnegie Endowment's Moscow Centre. Funded by its New York head office, this influential thinktank - which operates in tandem with the military-political Rand Corporation, for instance in producing policy papers on Russia's role in helping the US restructure the "Greater Middle East" - has been quoted repeatedly in recent days blaming Putin for the Chechen atrocities. The centre has also been assiduous over recent months in arguing against Moscow's claims that there is a link between the Chechens and al-Qaida.
These people peddle essentially the same line as that expressed by Chechen leaders themselves, such as Ahmed Zakaev, the London exile who wrote in these pages yesterday. Other prominent figures who use the Chechen rebellion as a stick with which to beat Putin include Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch who, like Zakaev, was granted political asylum in this country, although the Russian authorities want him on numerous charges. Moscow has often accused Berezovsky of funding Chechen rebels in the past.
By the same token, the BBC and other media sources are putting it about that Russian TV played down the Beslan crisis, while only western channels reported live, the implication being that Putin's Russia remains a highly controlled police state. But this view of the Russian media is precisely the opposite of the impression I gained while watching both CNN and Russian TV over the past week: the Russian channels had far better information and images from Beslan than their western competitors. This harshness towards Putin is perhaps explained by the fact that, in the US, the leading group which pleads the Chechen cause is the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC). The list of the self-styled "distinguished Americans" who are its members is a rollcall of the most prominent neoconservatives who so enthusastically support the "war on terror".
They include Richard Perle, the notorious Pentagon adviser; Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra fame; Kenneth Adelman, the former US ambassador to the UN who egged on the invasion of Iraq by predicting it would be "a cakewalk"; Midge Decter, biographer of Donald Rumsfeld and a director of the rightwing Heritage Foundation; Frank Gaffney of the militarist Centre for Security Policy; Bruce Jackson, former US military intelligence officer and one-time vice-president of Lockheed Martin, now president of the US Committee on Nato; Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, a former admirer of Italian fascism and now a leading proponent of regime change in Iran; and R James Woolsey, the former CIA director who is one of the leading cheerleaders behind George Bush's plans to re-model the Muslim world along pro-US lines.
The ACPC heavily promotes the idea that the Chechen rebellion shows the undemocratic nature of Putin's Russia, and cultivates support for the Chechen cause by emphasising the seriousness of human rights violations in the tiny Caucasian republic. It compares the Chechen crisis to those other fashionable "Muslim" causes, Bosnia and Kosovo - implying that only international intervention in the Caucasus can stabilise the situation there. In August, the ACPC welcomed the award of political asylum in the US, and a US-government funded grant, to Ilyas Akhmadov, foreign minister in the opposition Chechen government, and a man Moscow describes as a terrorist. Coming from both political parties, the ACPC members represent the backbone of the US foreign policy establishment, and their views are indeed those of the US administration.
Although the White House issued a condemnation of the Beslan hostage-takers, its official view remains that the Chechen conflict must be solved politically. According to ACPC member Charles Fairbanks of Johns Hopkins University, US pressure will now increase on Moscow to achieve a political, rather than military, solution - in other words to negotiate with terrorists, a policy the US resolutely rejects elsewhere.
Allegations are even being made in Russia that the west itself is somehow behind the Chechen rebellion, and that the purpose of such support is to weaken Russia, and to drive her out of the Caucasus. The fact that the Chechens are believed to use as a base the Pankisi gorge in neighbouring Georgia - a country which aspires to join Nato, has an extremely pro-American government, and where the US already has a significant military presence - only encourages such speculation. Putin himself even seemed to lend credence to the idea in his interview with foreign journalists on Monday.
Proof of any such western involvement would be difficult to obtain, but is it any wonder Russians are asking themselves such questions when the same people in Washington who demand the deployment of overwhelming military force against the US's so-called terrorist enemies also insist that Russia capitulate to hers?
· John Laughland is a trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group www.oscewatch.org
Sun, 2001-09-23 20:05 — admin
MOSCOW - Russia's main security agency detained a resident of breakaway Chechnya who allegedly had a plan outlining terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center involving airplanes, according to a news report Monday.
The Chechnya branch of the Federal Security Service saidthe suspect was picked up in the city of Argun along with army tents and sleeping bags, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The report said the word "jihad," or holy war, was written on the back of the piece of paper with the attack plan. The report did not say when the man was detained or give any details.
It was impossible to verify the claim. A spokeswoman for the security service headquarters in Moscow said she had no information about the detention.
The service's Chechnya office could not immediately be reached. Russian officials have made other such claims since terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington earlier this month. Last week, the Federal Security Service said it had found a computer compact disc during a raid in Chechnya containing instructions on flying Boeing aircraft - the planes used in the attacks.
Russian officials insist they are fighting international terrorists in Chechnya, and have expressed hope that the attacks on the United States would attract sympathy for the Russian military's plight in the breakaway republic. U.S. and other Western officials have criticized Russia's heavy-handed tactics in Chechnya.