Nov 11, 2002
One hundred and seventeen dead hostages, for sure; and perhaps more considering those near death in hospitals. That is the result of the intervention of the Russian forces of law and order that put an end to the hostage situation at a Moscow theater. As for those who took the hostages, nearly all of them are dead, many executed in cold blood.
Of course, the action of the Chechen commandos who took hostages in a public theater is humanly unacceptable and politically unjustifiable. The commandos consciously took the risk that their act might end in tragedy, not only for themselves but also for all the hostages. Terrorist methods, even when they are taken in the name of an oppressed people, can only do a disservice to the latter. At the same time, one can only be horrified by the methods used by the Russian forces of law and order, who chose deliberately to sacrifice the lives of the hostages when they used chemical "weapons of mass destruction," as Bush calls them. No one knows whether the hostages would have been executed anyway by the hostage-takers, but it is the Russian forces who killed the ones who are dead today.
By deciding to put an end to the hostage taking in this horrible way, Russia's President Vladimir Putin reinforced his image as a strong man. He certainly showed the barbarism of his state that transformed a theater room into a gas chamber.
But what is even more barbarous is the war that the Russian government carries out in Chechnya. It is a dirty war that resembles a colonial war carried out against an entire people in order to preserve the interests of the Russian state in a strategic region. It is a war where the Russian generals have been given free rein to terrorize the population as they sacrifice the lives of their own Russian soldiers. The few images that come out of this war and make it onto television show Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, turned into ruin, with women, men and children attempting to survive in the middle of the bombings and the repression. While every major head of state gave Putin their support during his action against the terrorists in Moscow, not a single one of them has condemned him for the terrorism he carries out in Chechnya.
For the big powers in the world, the "fight against terrorism" has always been a pretext for them to use, on a big scale, terrorist methods to preserve their own interests. It is in the name of the "fight against terrorism" that Bush bombarded Afghanistan during many weeks, massacring thousands of Afghans who were not responsible for, but the victims of, the Taliban dictatorship. French president Chirac recently gave homage to general Massu as a "very great soldier." But how many Algerians were tortured and summarily executed under his authority, in the name of the "fight against terrorism," as France tried to maintain its colonial domination of Algeria?
It is again in the name of the "fight against terrorism" that the United States government is preparing a war against Iraq, with the support of all the world's powers, despite a few mutterings of protest at the U.N. Yet how many innocent civilians will die in this war that the United States pretends to carry out against a sole individual, Saddam Hussein?
All of these people, from Putin to Bush to Chirac, denounce the terrorism of small groups in order better to justify their state terrorism. But this state terrorism has no more justification than that of the people who took hostages in Moscow: neither in its methods, nor in its objectives. Because the methods used from Chechnya to Iraq to Algeria or Afghanistan, are always to kill innocent people in order to terrorize a whole people. And the objective of the big powers is to use this terrorism to maintain a world order of the powerful over the oppressed, the rich over the poor, and the big imperialist nations over the peoples of the world.