Exposing the Crackpots at Russian Blog: The Brilliant Boston Globe on Understanding the Two Basayevs and the Neo-Soviet Union
In a July 11 Editorial, the Boston Globe brilliantly and succinctly encapsulates the demise of Shamil Basayev (or, one might better say, the two Shamil Basayevs) and what it means for Russia (which is, as in most things, failure and disaster of every kind and description). It lays out facts that few if any Russians seem to be aware of as they hurtle recklessly into a void of hypocrisy and self-delusion from which it is unlikely they shall ever return.
The editorial ran as follows:
THE DEATH OF Shamil Basayev, a Chechen rebel commander responsible for horrific terrorist acts, is being trumpeted by Russian President Vladimir Putin not merely as reprisal for Basayev's atrocities, but as a fatal blow to the Chechen independence movement. Russians who still mourn the 331 people killed in the 2004 Beslan hostage-taking may feel that Putin was vibrating to their own emotions yesterday when he called Basayev's death in a massive -- and possibly accidental -- explosion ``our retaliation for the children killed in Beslan." But the Chechen fight for independence has been going on since the 19th century, and Putin is deluding himself if he believes the elimination of one fierce leader will reconcile Chechens to Russian rule.The shockingly crude comments of "President" Putin, devoid of any hint that he is an elected official or recognizes any kind of ethical obligation to set an example for his country, betray the barbaric soul that lies within. Few in Russia, and certainly not Spymaster Putin, remember that intentional Russian attacks on civilian targets in Chechnya wiped out virtually Basayev's whole family. Few in Russia recall that Russia has been seeking to exercise imperial domination over tiny Chechnya for hundreds of years (still without final success). Few in Russia will recognize that while claiming Chechnya is a "part of Russia" such that outside interference cannot be tolerated, no Slavic Russian actually views dark-skinned Chechens as being full-fledged Russian citizens.
Basayev's trajectory illustrates the fallacy of Putin's attempt to expunge the Chechen independence movement by crushing it militarily.
In 1991, Basayev was among those Russian citizens who rushed to the White House in Moscow to protect Boris Yeltsin during the August coup by Communist hard-liners. He then served Russia by going with a band of Chechens to Abkhazia, the pro-Russian province of Georgia, to fight against Georgia's effort to achieve independence from Russia. Shortly thereafter, he became a bodyguard for the first separatist p resident of Chechnya, Dzhokar Dudayev, a former Soviet officer who led the Chechens in their victorious war of 1994-96 against Kremlin forces. In that war, Basayev took part in the defense of the Chechen capital, Grozny. Journalists saw no traces of the remorseless savagery or the Islamist fanaticism that were to characterize his behavior in later years. He was a Chechen nationalist then and, like most Chechens, practiced a temperate, traditional form of Islam. He even ran in Chechnya's 1996 presidential election, losing to the moderate Aslan Maskhadov, whom he then served as prime minister for six months. That was a tragically brief era of independence, moderation, and democracy for Chechnya.
The era may have begun to end for Basayev in 1995, when a Russian air strike killed 11 members of his family in his native village. By 1999, when Basayev led a disastrous raid into neighboring Dagestan -- which Russia seized upon as the rationale for its second invasion of Chechnya -- Basayev had grown a long beard, come under the influence of the rabid Arab Islamist known as Ibn al-Khattab, and plunged into the terrorist maelstrom of beheadings, kidnappings, and hostage-taking.There can be no excuse and no justification for Basayev's targeting of innocent civilians. But Putin's re conquest of Chechnya has been no less vicious to innocent civilians. Putin's refusal to seek a political solution with moderate Chechen nationalists has created many Basayevs, and some of those are sure to replace the one who was blown up yesterday.
And most importantly, apparently nobody in Russia remembers that Basayev used to be Russia's friend. He fought against 1991 coup that would have prevented Putin from ever coming to power, and he fought against Georgian independence. He ran for elected office in Chechnya, accepted defeat without violence, and he did not take up arms in Grozny when Russia attacked his country in 1994. He was, in short, someone that Russia could have used as a bridge to the Chechen extremists if it had wanted peace in the region. Russia is constantly demanding that the United States pursue such negotiation with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and nations like Iran and Iraq, yet when the shoe is on the other foot Russia not only won't wear that shoe, it throws it out the window after lighting it on fire.
Is it at all surprising that Basayev would turn against Russia when his family was massacred? Did Russia apologize for this dastardly act? Did it take any effort at all to bargain with Basayev when he was trying to be reasonable?
As the Globe clearly states: "There can be no excuse and no justification for Basayev's targeting of innocent civilians. " But it's just as true that there can be no excuse and no justification for Russia's many years of barbaric war in Chechnya, condemned by human rights groups across the globe. Russia was recently convicted by the European Court for Human Rights of outrageous war crimes in Chechnya, and ordered to pay damages. Doubtless, Russia will flout the order of that court, just as the Kremlin has always flouted all ideas concerning the rule of law.
To put it mildly, it's simply imposible for Russians to offer support to Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, and at the same time call upon the world to characterize Basayev as the living embodiment of evil. If there is something to be said for dealing and negotiating with Hamas and Hezbollah, then there is something to be said for negotiating and dealing with Basayev. Russia can't have it both ways.
But that won't keep Russophile maniacs from trying. For instance, look at the insane ravings of Russophile wacko Konstantin on Russian Blog. It's insane dishonest drivel like this that gives bloggers a bad name and causes famous institutions of journalism like the Globe to trash us. It's time we put a stop to this kind of outrage.
Russian Blog actually says, in so many words, that the Globe's editor "lies." Not that he makes reckless or irresponsible mistakes, mind you, but that he lies. In other words, Russian Blog apparently knows the mental state of the editor of the Boston Globe?
And what did the Globe allegedly lie about? Actually, that's rather hard to say. If you read the post on Russian Blog, you can clearly see that English isn't the author's first language. So you must wonder whether he even understood what he read in the Globe, and if he did you have to try to figure out for yourself what she (or he, the author is anonymous) is saying.
Here is the quote, which focusses on the second-to-last paragraph of the editorial: "The Boston Globe editor lies here – Basayev invaded Dagestan already with Khattab, already with a long beard and “the maelstrom of beheadings, kidnappings, and hostage-taking” started long before the invasion. When we cannot tell what is the cause and what is the effect, we would hardly understand the bin Laden syndrome."
Note, first, how the autor for some reason managed to avoid mentioning the first sentence of this paragraph at all in his post. It's the one that tells us about Basayev's family being killed. Was it just an accident?
Then try to figure out what the author is saying: Is the author saying that Basayev invaded Dagestan before 1999? That hardly seems possible, but it can't be excluded. Not a single shred of published evidence is cited, much less linked, by the author, so there is no way to be sure.
More likely, the author is contending that Basayev was engaged in a "maelstrom" of terrorist activity "long before" 1999, and claiming that the Editiorial stated he wasn't. Not only does the author fail to offer the reader any evidence of such a pre-1999 "maelstrom," the author is also hideously mischaracterizing what the Globe actually says, which is: "The era [of better behavior] may have begun to end for Basayev in 1995." In other words, there were isolated acts of terrorism on Basayev's part beginning in 1995, but the "maelstrom" did not begin until 1999 with the Dagestan invasion. In fairness, of course, one must ask oneself whether the author of Russian blog even knows what the world "maelstrom" means. It's not likely to be part of his active vocabulary, especially if he learned English from a Russian teacher who had never spent a day living in an English speaking country, which is the norm in Russia). So he could just be guessing.
To properly accuse the Globe even of being mistaken, much less of lying, Russian Blog would need to present a comprehensive review of Basayev's pre-1999 terrorist acts and compare that with another comprehensive review of his post-1999 activity. Yet, there is not a single link in the Russian Blog post to any published account of any terrorist act by Basayev, and the only one the author even mentions in the pre-1999 period is a 1995 hostage-taking at a hospital in Budenovsk. Such events occurring in 1995, of course, are fully consistent with the Globe's position, namely that in 1995 and after Basayev was in transition to becoming a maniac. But for all the reader knows, Russian Blog is basing its claims about Basayev's activities on material published by state-owned Russian media. If so, the very least it owes its readers is to tell them that, and citing the text is obligatory. It's the height of Russian insanity to accuse a world-famous bastion of journalism of "lying" without the slightest attempt to document one's own sources. And in this case, Russian Blog isn't even characterizing the statements of the Globe correctly to start with. The Globe never said Basayev was terror-free before 1995, only that comparing the pre-1995 and post-1999 periods is like comparing apples and oranges. Russian Blog offers not one shred of evidence this statement is incorrect, yet it not only accuses the Globe of being wrong but of lying.
In short, there's no doubt that in 1995 and afterwards Basayev embarked upon a path which lead to becoming the same kind of barbarian that Osama bin Laden is. But the question is: Could Russia have prevented it?
And Russians aren't interested in asking that question, or any other question that would undermine the rise of the Neo-Soviet Union. Russian Blog, like "President" Putin (a career KGB officer who spent his life crafting lies), isn't the least bit interested in the truth. Search through Russian Blog from top to bottom, you won't find a single post criticizing Putin, and you'll find virtually no attempt to source or support factual statements of any kind. What Russian Blog is interested in is propaganda, pure and simple, just like "President" Putin. It's prepared to tell any kind of scandalous lie in order to achieve its end, namely the rationalization of the Neo-Soviet Union.
Before publishing this outrageous post, did the author of Russian Blog write to the post and ask for an explanation? Did he write a letter to the editor and wait to see if it got published? Did he do any research of any kind to substantiate the wild charges made in the post? If so, there is certainly no indication of it in the post itself, which is the exact opposite of the type of example one presumes the author wants the Globe to follow. But of course he didn't, because that would be something like journalism and objectivity, and such things are anathema in Russia.
This kind of knee-jerk, hyperventilated Russian nationalism, blind to everything except the mad desire to protect and defend mother Russia, even from attacks that do not exist, has characterized Russia from the dawn of time. No matter the guise of its regime, it causes Russia to slide further and further into the void.