“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Bollettino The most depressing news of the day comes from the NYT article about the one murderer who was taken in Beslan. “Among the most arresting television images here on Monday, along with the parade of coffins and the keening of crowds of mourners, was the face of a terrified man, gripped tightly by two masked soldiers, who was identified as the only hostage-taker to be captured alive."By God, I did not shoot!'' he mumbled when asked if he had fired on fleeing hostages. "By God, I have not killed!''Asked by the soldiers if he had not had pity on the children he had held for 51 hours without food or water, he pleaded: "Yes, I did have pity! I have children, too.''Speaking in a slurred voice, he said, "They gathered us in a forest, a person known as 'commander,' and they said that we must seize a school in Beslan.'' He said the orders had come from Aslan Maskhadov, a Chechen rebel leader, and Shamil Basayev, a militant warlord.”Maskhadov is not just a “Chechen rebel leader,” but was the president of the late Chechen Republic in 1999. At that time, it was Maskhadov who was accusing the Russians of surreptitiously supporting Basayev, who was attacking villages in Daghestan with his usual brutality. Maskhadov, at that time, declared his hostility to Basayev and his ‘criminal gang’ quite clearly. He was not able to control him, however, and soon the Russian attack on Chechnya brought down the fragile Chechen state. Fastforward five horrible years. Maskhadov’s forces have kept distinct from Basayev’s. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which has some of the best sources about the Chechen conflict, reported in March that Russian attacks on Maskhadov’s forces were weakening them, and consequently strengthening Basayev’s “extremist” forces. “The capture this week of the pro-independence Chechen defence minister Magomed Khambiev, following on from the death of influential commander Khamzat Gelayev, has radically changed the balance of forces within the rebel movement fighting the Russians. The developments have strengthened the extremist wing of the Chechen rebel movement and badly weakened pro-independence president Aslan Maskhadov, and may have far-reaching consequences for the future of the conflict in Chechnya Maskhadov, a moderate nationalist who is still resisting the Russians more than four years after the start of the second conflict but rejects terrorist methods, has now lost two of his closest supporters. He must now rely on only two commanders for close backing, Vakha Arsanov and Isa Munayev. By contrast, the radical Islamist side has four powerful figures in Shamil Basayev, Saudi-born Abu Walid, Dokku Umarov and Abdul-Malik Mezhidov.”If the man quoted by the NYT is telling the truth, the alliance of Maskhadov and Basayev spells the end of the ‘rational’ Chechen resistance, and its collapse into an utter nihilism that threatens to create more Beslans. The thought is almost unbearable. If the man’s confession was, on the contrary, ‘fed’ to him by way of extensive beating, then we see the continuance of Putin’s strategy, which has always been to demonize the Chechens in order to stir up a genocidal hatred of them. Our instinct is that the second possibility is the more probable. It is, to say the least, odd that the NYT seems so ignorant of Maskhadov’s name. The best commentary on the response to Beslan, and its larger meaning, comes from Figaro, a conservative paper. Laure Mandeville’s article intelligently recognizes that the Western voices condemning the Children’s Massacre at Beslan have not been raised, in the past, to prevent that train of causes that led up to the massacre: “In France, only the president of the UDF, Francois Bayrou and the late president of the Commission on Foreign Affairs, Jack Lang (PS) have shown themselves critical. The first calls the responsible politicians to “adopt new political strategies” in order to avoid “such dramas,” the second denounces the “French authorities” whose “complaisance towards the Putin regime … has ended by becoming simply repugnant.” “Our country should demand explanations from the Russian government on the circumstances of this drama.” The incapacity of the West to ally amicable solidarity to a critique of Putin’s choices in the Caucasus is explained by different and conjoining causes, according to whether one is positioned in Washington or Europe. Even if Americans were recently put in the position of criticizing the decline of liberties in Russia, President Bush – busy with his electoral campaign, the quagmire in Iraq, and his mission as commander in chief of the struggle against international terrorism – has every interest in presenting the crisis in Beslan as a manifestation of the hydra of terror. Europe, under the influence of France and Germany, has difficulty putting in question the ‘anti-war axis’ Paris-Berlin-Moscow that presidents Chirac and Schroeder went to celebrate at Sotchi a week ago. However, true questions must be posed about both the taking of the hostages and the upcoming dangers arising from the Russian political strategy in the Caucasus.
…In holding to its diplomatic formulas, the West is pretending to forget that Moscow is reaping what it has sown. The late Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, while condemning the taking of hostages, has underlined the role of Russia in radicalizing the guerrillas. “The cause of the Beslan tragedy and the infinite spiral of violence in Chechnya and in the region is the political strategy of Putin’s, who is guilty of massive crimes,” Mashkadov protests. “A quarter of the Chechen population, among which we count 40,000 children, have been exterminated in the last ten years.” (No one knows how many Chechens have disappeared since the beginning of the conflict in 1994.)”The truth is, Beslan reveals the radical dissymmetry between the moral and the political world. In the moral world, nothing justifies the murder of children, and their parents. Nothing justifies murder. Nothing justifies the murder of innocents. Nothing justifies the murder of the guilty. Dickering with blood – the pretence that the absolute prohibition on murder can only be guarded by its state sanctioned violation – is an appeal from principle to history that history repudiates. There is no final murder – murders come in terms of ‘another.” Another murder, another murder, another murder – this is how the series has unrolled since Cain. But if Cain was the first murderer, he was also the first politician, with the politician’s eternal question: am I my brother’s keeper? And the politician’s eternal impulse to limit brotherhood, to initiate hatred, to turn it into systematic gain.
Sometimes, LI thinks that the post 9/11 landscape is characterized by one thing: we have reached the exhaustion point in the political system globally. And as the strains appear, in Iraq, Ossetia, Chechnya, Moscow, New York, etc., we, who have been raised specifically not to perceive these questions or to answer them, cocooned in suburbs and by infinite tv, are experiencing a vast, unconscious helplessness. This is not our field. This is not our expertise. These emotions that are called up can find no objective satisfaction, except in childish calls for aggression, to which the state responds with the child's favorite toys: the bomber, the neat always improved missile, the gun. To be met with the improvised bomb, the hostage, the box cutter.
And for most, I think the answer has to be: turn away. Don’t look. I can't really say I think that impulse is wrong. But at the moment, I am having trouble making my own internal migration.

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