Time mag’s resident Islamic agit prop blames the victims. How good is that!?
America deserved 9/11 and Russia has it coming. Brother Fareed knows who to blame. Â Submit, kaffirs: Allah want’s the world to be Islamic! Allahu akbar!
How Russia Created Its Own Islamic Terrorism Problem
The terrorist attack at the Moscow airport on Jan. 24 was horrific, murdering dozens of innocent civilians. It is probably linked to Chechnya or the surrounding areas in the Caucasus, from which so many such attacks have emanated. Russia has been the site of the largest number of serious terrorist attacks over the past decade (excluding Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, which are really war zones). Why? The answer to this question sheds a sorry light on Russia’s counterterrorism strategy. In fact it is a case study in how not to fight Islamic terrorism. Â (Read it if you can bear it)
The Russia Monitor responds:
It’s now conventional wisdom that Moscow faces a brutal Islamic terrorist movement, bent on jihad, unwilling to compromise and determined to inflict pain on Russians almost as an end in itself. That’s the view presented by Russian officials and accepted by Western leaders. Over the past decade, George W. Bush and Tony Blair reacted to terrorist incidents in Russia by quickly condemning them and describing them as instances of Islamic terrorism, tied to al-Qaeda and its fanatical vision. This unthinking acceptance of the Russian narrative allowed Moscow to respond with brutal violence, often against innocent civilians and without prompting international criticism.Â (See pictures of the terrorist attack at the Moscow airport.)
A little history provides a different perspective. Chechnya’s struggle against Russia, at root, has nothing to do with Islam. About 200 years ago, the Russian empire began a war of colonial expansion in the tiny area called Chechnya. After resisting for several bloody decades, the Chechens were forcibly incorporated into the empire in 1859. As soon as the Czar’s rule ended in Moscow, the Chechens began clamoring for independence, which they were granted in 1918.
By 1920, Lenin had invaded the region and brutally suppressed the independence movement and all subsequent revolts. But the problem did not go away, so Lenin’s successor, Josef Stalin, applied an even more brutal solution. In 1944 he deported most of the Chechen population â€” nearly half a million people â€” to central Asia and burned their villages to the ground. Still, the Chechens retained their identity and national desires, so in the 1950s, Nikita Khrushchev allowed them to return to their homeland.Â (See TIME’s Khrushchev covers.)
In 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, a national convention of all Chechen political groups united in a call for immediate independence from Moscow. In response, the Russian government invaded Chechnya. Over the course of the past two decades, it has fought two ferocious wars, killed tens of thousands of Chechen civilians and razed large parts of the republic, flattening its capital, Grozny. Moscow finally subdued Chechnya and installed as President a pliable local warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose regime has managed to make Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst list of the most repressive governments on the planet. As Russia’s brave human-rights organization Memorial concludes in a 2009 report, “in Chechnya there has formed a totalitarian regime based on violence … and fear.”
As the once secular secessionist movement in Chechnya continued to be brutally suppressed, it became more extreme, taking help anywhere it could find it, including from Islamic extremists. Chechen groups, always fractious, fragmented and became uncontrollable. As Russia destroyed Chechnya’s civil society, the place became a wasteland characterized by anarchy and gang warfare. And as tales of Russian brutality spread, Muslim warriors who were searching for jihad traveled to the Caucasus to do battle with the unbelievers. Muslim fundamentalists from Saudi Arabia and other countries have provided funds to some of these groups. Even today, despite the surface calm in Chechnya, Russia maintains a brutal reign of terror there and in its surrounding regions. Any signs of religious behavior are viewed with hostility.Â (See pictures of Russia’s Cosmonaut military complex.)
“Retribution is inevitable” was Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s comment on the Moscow airport attack, setting up the next stage in this cycle of violence and extremism. Had Russia approached the Chechnya problem with less brutality, tried political outreach or offered greater autonomy, the opposition to its rule might have turned out to be vigorous but still manageable. Now, given the nature and ferocity of the terrorists it faces, Russia might not have a choice. At this point, it is fair to describe the Chechen rebellion as dominated and defined by Islamic extremism. But it did not start out as such, and it didn’t have to turn out that way.Â (Comment on this story.)
Outside the Af-Pak region and Iraq, Islamic terrorism has not been able to strike with great force in recent years. Except in Russia. In fact, one could argue that the Russian government, far more than Osama bin Laden, has managed through its actions over the past two decades to create the largest and most active new center of Islamic terrorism in the world today.
- See “The Moscow Airport Bombing: How Will Putin Respond?”
- See why Russia’s top cops stayed silent on the airport attack.
I normally do not respond to specific articles that I think misunderstand Russia. Â But I just cannot resist responding to Fareed Zakaria’sÂ latest piece inÂ Time, which purports to explain to readers this week’s Domodedovo bombing. Â I like Zakaria. Â I think GPS is the only Sunday show worth watching. Â Even the episodes on Russia are unusually sophisticated and thoughtful. Â That is why I feel the need to call out Zakaria’s ignorance here.
According to Zakaria, “Russia created its own Islamic Terrorism problem” basically because Russians have brutalized the Chechen population since the days of the Russian Empire. Â No argument there. Â But Zakaria’s history lesson collapses when it gets to the 1990s. Â Zakaria writes, “In 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, a national convention of all Chechen political groups united in a call for immediate independence from Moscow. In response, the Russian government invaded Chechnya. Over the course of the past two decades, it hasÂ fought two ferocious wars, killed tens of thousands of Chechen civilians and razed large parts of the republic, flattening its capital, Grozny” (emphasis mine). Â Notice how those two wars seem to just flow together, as if the two sides agreed to take a breather in between the two.
What Zakaria’s lesson omits is that the First Chechen War ended in 1996 with the Khasav-Yurt Accord, which provided for full Russian withdrawal by December 31, 1996, gave Chechnya autonomy and paved the way for independence of the ‘Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.’ Â So when and why did the Second Chechen War start? Â Well, in the 1996-99 interim period, Chechnya essentially descended into Somalia-like anarchy, with warlords taking control of various pieces of territory. Â In March 1999, the Parliament was shut down and Sharia law was introduced (you know, like the Taliban), in order to appease Islamic militants. But Chechnya’s independent, so no Russian response. Â A tipping point came in the summer of 1999 when Chechen Islamic militants invaded neighboring Dagestan (i.e., Russia).
Just imagine, MississippiÂ secedesÂ from the United States, descends into chaos, and imposes Sharia law. Â Islamic militants in the Republic of Mississippi then invade the neighboring state of Alabama. Â What would Zakaria, or any sane person, recommend as the appropriate response? Â Yes, Russia’s methods â€“ including the leveling of Grozny â€“ have been deplorable. Â But the idea that post-Soviet Russia has pushed Chechens into a corner where the only rational choice is to self-detonate in crowded Moscow locations is ludicrous.
Finally, I would point out that Zakaria was a key ‘liberal’ cheerleader of the Iraq war. Â When heÂ spoke at my college in March 2003 â€“ in a speech with the unintentionally ironic title, “Why do they hate us?” â€“ Zakaria said he “reluctantly” decided to support the Iraq war. Â Huh? Â Based on what? Â Certainly not an Iraqi invasion of a U.S. state. Â And I seem to remember a few civilians dying during the Iraq War.
This is the insane thing about American commentary on Russia â€“ even someone who clearly has no standing to oppose another country’s fight against terrorism can completely fabricate historical narratives to support his point. Â This double standard feeds into Russian paranoia over a secret desire among the American elite to see Russia crumble into multiple pieces that can be played against Moscow.
So next time, Fareed, get your facts straight â€“ you should know better already.