Released September 28, 1999
The Wisdom Fund, P. O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202
Website: -- Press Contact: Enver Masud

America's Disgraceful Silence Over Chechnya

by Enver Masud

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- America's silence over Russia's indiscriminate bombing of Chechnya, even as "peacekeepers" undertake their "humanitarian intervention" in East Timor, is a disgrace.

"Russian jets pounded dozens of Chechen targets yesterday," reports The Times of London, as a swelling flood of refugees headed for a border that Russia is fortifying as if for war. Two big oil refineries, three bridges and a half-built television centre in Grozny were destroyed in the fifth consecutive day of bombing." Experts say that Moscow may be hoping to fight a sophisticated air war modelled on NATO's Kosovo campaign.

BBC News is reporting a "humanitarian catastrophe in Chechnya" where 30,000-100,000 Chechens have fled into the neighboring southern Russian republic of Ingushetia.

Following a recent spate of bombings in Russian cities, which killed 300 people, Russian police have arrested more than 100 people, while thousands who look like Chechens have been interrogated. Chechen officials deny that they are behind the killings.

The Chechens, a distinct ethnic group who have lived in the mountains and plains of Chechnya since the first millennium B.C., have endured 250 years of savage Russian colonial rule says Peter Daniel DiPaola, in A Noble Sacrifice? Jus ad Bellum and the International Community's Gamble in Chechnya. He writes that the Chechens are a subjugated people. They have fought continual wars of independence against the Russians. In 1944 Stalin deported the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia and dissolved the Chechen-Ingush republic. About 25 percent of the deported Chechens and Ingush died in exile or enroute. They have also been the victims of widespread job and educational discrimination.

In their 1994-96 war for independence, says Aleksander I. Lebed, the former Russian security chief, "about 80,000 people had been killed in the fighting and that some 240,000 had been wounded."

President Clinton supported Russia's 1994-96 war in Chechnya. He personally pushed a new, $10.2 billion loan for Yeltsin through the International Monetary Fund saying that he backed Russia's need to "maintain its territorial integrity." He had no such qualms regarding Indonesia's integrity when he threatened to delay a $42 billion IMF loan package to get Indonesia to agree to the Australia led UN occupation of East Timor.

Neither the Chechen freedom fighters, nor their support of neighboring Dagestan's quest for independence from Russia gets any encouragement from the West. There is no talk of witholding IMF loans. The U.S. has offered Russia "technical and investigative assistance" in its investigation of the explosions reports the Associated Press. But the U.S. offer of help in shutting down Dagestani web sites is hardly in keeping with America's professed ideal of free speech.

According to David Hoffman of the Washington Post, political commentator Andrei Piontkovsky says that Russia will bomb "Chechnya into the Stone Age. Unfortunately, I am sure this is the thing they are certain to do now. The Chechens will react with more bombs. Moscow will react with pogroms against people from the Caucasus."

Reports Eric Margolis of the Toronto Sun, the respected Georgian writer, Melor Sturua, a columnist for the leading Russian newspaper Izvestia, wrote of America's disgraceful silence over Chechnya: "I remember a time when the arrest of even one Soviet dissident would create a storm of indignation here (in the US). Soviet embassies were picketed, Soviet goods boycotted, Soviet crimes were condemned." Congress imposed trade sanctions on the USSR to force it to allow Jewish emigration to Israel.

Unfortunately the Chechens do not have anything like the Israeli lobby to advance their cause, and Chechnya just happens to be a gateway to the Caspian Sea oil worth between $2 trillion and $4 trillion at 1997 market prices.

Enver Masud visited Russia several times in the early-1990's as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is founder of The Wisdom Fund.

[Politkovskaya correctly identified that the central issue here - the flaw at the heart of Putin's Russia - was one of impunity and of the thousands of people who have no recourse to justice when their rights are abused. In Sweden I heard her talk about the dozens of young men who had been "designated as terrorists" in fabricated court cases in the north Caucasus. No one defends them properly in court and they are now serving long, pitiless sentences in Russian prisons. If they ever get out, they will be natural converts to revenge and political violence.--Thomas de Waal, "The Chechen silence: Anna Politkovskaya's death should awaken us to the vicious injustices in the north Caucasus region," Guardian, October 12, 2006]

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