Really Facing Terror

3 September 2004

Chechen Criminals Kill Hundreds as School Siege Ends in Beslan, Russia

It has been almost three years since Al-Qaeda mounted an attack on the US. Despite the talk of a war on terror and despite the Crayola terror threat index, America is not under attack. At least, it is not under constant threat the way Russia is. Two airliners blown out of the sky followed by a gang of armed men holding hundreds of children hostage in their school is something America does not face. It may be that the USA is less hospitable territory, it may be that the Chechen terrorists are more bloodthirsty, or it may just be luck. Whatever the reason, America needs to take a good look at what Russia faces simply so Americans know how much worse things can get.

Al-Qaeda is not operating like the Chechen criminals. Usama bin Laden's crew like big splashy operations that belong in Hollywood's worst action flicks rather than in any real liberation struggle. They are rich kid wannabees - lethal but at the end of the day, not really committed to their cause. They are terrorists because it sounds glamorous and it might get them a date.

The Chechen murderers are much more dedicated to their vision of a free Chechnya - a thoroughly untenable entity that would begin life as a failed state and degenerate from there. It is too small, too poor and too divided to succeed as anything other than a Beirut waiting to happen. But they are willing to kill. They do the spectacular by killing a candidate for the presidency of their republic who was hand-picked by Russian President Vladimir Putin. They bomb subways. They take hostages at the theatre or at a school. They can and do strike anywhere, and that takes a toll.

In the end, Mr. Putin chose to crack down again. The army stormed the Beslan school and the initial reports are that hundreds are dead and some of the terrorists escaped. Before Mr. Putin leaves office, Russia will likely have opted for security over freedom in self-defense, and his war against the oligarchs who grew into multi-millionaires on the remains of the USSR will be forgotten. He will have won on that front, and he will have forced Chechnya into a quiet resentment at its situation. But before that happens, Russia will not have many restful nights.

For Americans, going to the mall is a sacrament. Imagine what one member of Al-Qaeda could do if he chose to visit a gun shop in one of the more Second Amendment friendly states. What if riding on the freeway to work ended with a deliberate gunfire from a passing car. Suppose that churches were targets Sunday mornings for truck bombings. That is the world of the average Russian in Moscow and elsewhere.

Although some will ask why the negotiations ended so suddenly, why the army didn't have a better plan and why this situation wasn't handled better, most will back President Putin over this and in whatever he does. Russia is a bad situation, and there are no good options. A police state is aborning, if indeed it ever went away in the first place.

Copyright 2004 by The Kensington Review, J. Myhre, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent.


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