The Chechen’s American Friends

John Laughland

An enormous head of steam had built up behind the view that President Putin is somehow the main culprit in the grisly events in North Ossetia. Sound bites and headlines such as "Grief turns to anger", "Harsh words for Government", and "Criticism mounting against Putin" have abounded, while the TV and radio correspondents in Beslan itself have been pressured on air to say that the people there blame Moscow as much as they blame 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 there is the widespread use of the word "rebels" to describe people who shoot children, which shows a surprising indulgence in the face of extreme brutality.

But, 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 Center – which operates in tandem with the military-political Rand Corporation - for instance in producing policy paper’s 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 center has also been assiduous over recent months in arguing against Moscow’s claims that there is a link between Chechens and outside forces.

These people peddle essentially the same lie as that expressed by Chechen leaders themselves, such as Ahmed Zakaev, the London exile who wrote these articles in the newspapers mentioned. Other leaders who use the Chechen rebellion as a stick with which to beat Russia include Boris Berezovsky (who funded Putin’s election campaigns - Editor), the Russian oligarch who, like Zakaev, was granted political asylum in England, although the Russian authorities want him on numerous charges. Moscow has often accused Berezovsky of funding the Chechen rebels in the past. The question also is what role the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC) is playing and doing in inflaming this crisis? The list of the self-styled "distinguished Americans" who are its members is a roll call of the most prominent neo-conservatives who so very enthusiastically support the "War on Terror".

This very influential US Committee includes Richard Perle, the notorious Pentagon advisor; Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra fame; Kenneth Adelman, the former US ambassador to the UN, who egged on the invasion of Iraq by predicting that it would be a "cakewalk"; Midge Decter, the biographer of Donald Rumsfeld and a director of the right-wing Heritage Foundation; Frank Gaffney of the militarist Center for Security Policy; Bruce Jackson, former US military intelligence officer and one-time vice president of the Lockheed-Martin Corporation and now a leading proponent of a 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 remodel the Muslim world along the pro-US lines.

These right-wing proponents are saying that only a US-led international intervention into Russia and Chechnya can solve the situation there. US funded and also granted and promoted the asylum of the Chechen opposition leader Ilya Akhmadov, and this is the man that Moscow describes as a terrorist. The above-mentioned American top personalities have long set the US foreign policy – and their views are indeed those of the US Administration.

Although for public relations the US government issued a condemnation of the Beslan hostage taking, its view is that the conflict must be solved politically – meaning, separation from Russia.

The question of Georgia and the use of their bases by the Chechen rebels, the question of oil and the strategic location of the region for an oil pipeline, underlines that there is more to this conflict than meets the eye. Georgia, now having US troops on its soil and soon to be a member of NATO, lends credence to those Russians who are asking themselves questions – why is US demanding that Russia capitulates to the Chechen terrorists, while US itself demands an overwhelming deployment of its troops against the so-called terrorists?

As NSC wrote in its last issue – this tragedy is too coincidental - and with the upcoming election, and Bush’s "War on Terrorism" as is "Putin’s War on Terrorism" – is this a ploy to get Bush elected again? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

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