The Horrors of Chechnya—Again!
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
Americans, never comfortable with their own real, unvarnished history, care even less about the history of other nations. If you ask the average American about Chechnya, he’ll probably think you’re talking about a dish at the neighborhood Chinese restaurant.
But, Chechnya is a real place; and like real places, it has a complex, long history with Russia, the roots of which exploded on the world’s stage in recent days.
Behind the regional hatreds lie imperial ambitions, colonialism, and blind, brutal repression.
The Toronto Star’s Eric Margolis has written that the Russians have brutally ruled the various Muslim peoples of the Caucasus regions for 300 years, among them the Chechens. Russia has crushed all opposition “with ruthless ferocity”, Margolis writes, adding Russia has “twice attempted genocide.”
According to Margolis, “[In] the 1940s, Stalin deported nearly all the 1.5 million Chechens to Siberian concentration camps, where 25 percent died.” Some 2 million other Soviet Muslims met similar fates. According to Margolis, “Hitler used gas; Stalin used the Russian winter.”
This soul-shattering history, of centuries of foreign colonization, repression, and attempted genocide, cannot fit into Washington’s facile “war against terror”—but if we depend on the Bush Regime, the corporate media, and the Putin regime, we would think exactly that. From the time of the Czars, to the present, the people of Chechnya have been under the Russian boot. Their “leaders” were, as often as not, hand-picked puppets chosen in Moscow.
In light of the Bush-proclaimed “war on terror,” the West now looks approvingly at virtually any action targeting Muslims, the world over. When Chechens seek independence from the Russian Empire, they are painted as terrorists, with the West’s approval, and the might of the Russian state may be arrayed against them. How are they to respond to their colonizers—vote for them?
Thus, 250 years disappears into the smoke of 9-11, and the media prints editorials against the Great Evil: Terrorism. Lost in this rubble is the simple, human right of independence, because those who seek it are Muslims, and those who opposed it are U.S. “allies” in this mad war, that even Emperor Bush has recently admitted is unwinnable (although, to be fair, he changed his mind again a few days later). This mad, quasi-war has empowered every dictatorship in the world, with the blessings (and arms sales!) of Washington, to reduce nationalist and independence movements to rubble. We saw Russia’s response to the opera theater takeover in Moscow, in Oct. 2002, as clumsy, as heavy-handed as the Keystone Kops. This latest Russian show of force almost triples the casualties.
There’s one sure way of ending this bloodletting: it’s for the Russian empire to release the Chechens from the imperial grasp.
Isn’t that liberty?
—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, September 4, 2004