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Thursday, December 13, 2007

EDITORIAL: Blowing up Russia


Blowing up Russia

The United States is a totally open society which is supposedly hated by most of the world and has actually experienced one of the worst terrorist events in modern memory, the apocalypse of 9/11. Zero passenger buses have blown up on its territory since that event occurred.

But in just the last six weeks, as pictured above, three passenger buses have blown up in Russia, in three different cities, all centered around the southern region where Russia proposes to hold the 2014 Olympic Games. Fifteen Russians have been killed and dozens injured. Unlike America, Russians have sacrificed huge swaths of their civil rights and liberties to be governed by a KGB spy, supposedly in exchange for heightened security.

Two things are now perfectly clear.

First, Russians are getting the worst of all possible worlds. Their dictator Vladimir Putin is unable (or maybe actually unwilling) to provide them with basic security (Russia still has one of the world's highest murder rates, and also leads the world in accident fatalities, especially fires). But he's certainly wiping out their freedoms at breathtaking speed, leaving Russians both oppressed and endangered. How can anyone watch his casual indifference to these bombings and not conclude that he may actually be happy they are occurring, since they can be used as justification for even more draconian crackdowns on civil liberties? How can anyone not be reminded that the Kremlin itself has been accused of causing such explosions for the purpose of undermining opposition to its rule? Putin has been obsessed for years now with the "threat" posed to Russia by the United States -- but what is he doing about these bus bombs, which have nothing whatsoever to do with America? Nothing. Has Vladimir Putin made even one speech about what is now clearly a pattern of passenger buses exploding in terrorist bombings? Is government-controlled Russia media even telling the people of Russia that this is happening? Of course not. To the contrary, Putin's "response" is to crush the life out of the Russian parliament and jury-rig himself as "president for life" so that, just as in Soviet times, it makes no difference what the people of Russia want or how many horrific mistakes his administration might make.

Second, the decision of the International Olympic Committee to locate the 2014 games in Sochi will probably go down in history as one of the greatest acts of bureaucratic folly in human history. Nobody could have foreseen that Arab terrorists would attack Israeli athletes in Munich, so nobody could be blamed for agreeing to hold those games. But it is obvious that Russia does not have the Chechnya problem in hand, and that means placing the games anywhere in Russia takes outrageous and unnecessary risks with athlete and spectator safety, especially when there were so many other better-qualified countries who wanted to play host. But to actually place the games right in the backyard of the Chechen rebels is to invite -- no, to beg for -- violent retaliation. How can the Chechens see this action as anything other than an attempt by the world to validate Russian oppression and barbarity in their region, acts which have been condemned by human rights organizations around the globe? Why shouldn't they lash out against such actions?

Vladimir Putin's administration has been a total failure, and he knows it. That is why he needed to resort to such extreme lengths of fraud during the recent parliamentary elections, and that is why he can't trust the country to have a real independent media. He knows he must govern by force, because he cannot govern by consent.

And yet, it is no longer possible to see the people of Russia as somehow being victims of that force. They are not. They are collaborators in their own oppression, just as they were in Soviet times. Those among us who suggested to the contrary misled us, and we ought to call them to account. Russians have turned a blind eye, at best, to Putin's outrageous consolidation of dictatorial power, and at worst they have helped him crush Russia's hopes for democracy, voting for his continued power and taking many other actions to facilitate it. In so doing, today's Russians are betraying the tens of millions who suffered horrifically under the jackboot of Soviet oppression, their own ancestors who are now wailing from their frozen graves.

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