by Eric Margolis
NEW YORK -- The Clinton Administration has had many low moments, but this
week it plumbed new depths as the White House gave Moscow a green light to
launch Russia's second war -and possible final solution - against the tiny
Caucasus mountain republic of Chechnya.
Once again, unbeknownst to most Americans, their government was supporting
one of the worst human rights violations of this decade.
In Moscow, standing next to her beaming Russians hosts, US Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright proclaimed `we are opposed to ``terrorism'' -
meaning Islamic rebels in the Caucasus fighting Russian rule. She said
nothing about Russia's blatant violation of its 1996 treaty that granted
Chechnya de facto independence. She made no protest over Moscow's
egregious violation of the 1990 CFE Treaty,
the most important east-west
arms reduction pact, by moving large new forces into the Caucasus.
Meanwhile, as Russian shells shredded civilians, the US-run International
Monetary Fund provided more cash for the bankrupt, gangster-ridden regime
in Moscow. Russia is bankrupt because all of its money and billions in
aid were stolen and stashed abroad, while the White House turned a blind
Clinton ordered the Pentagon to rush Moscow state of the art night-vision
and communications equipment for Russian helicopters being used against
insurgents in the Caucasus. In 1996, Clinton reportedly ordered CIA to
supply Moscow top-secret electronic targeting devices that allowed the
Russians to assassinate Chechen president, Dzhokar Dudayev, while he was
conducting peace negotiations with Moscow on his cell phone.
Last week, with Clinton's military, diplomatic, and financial blessings,
Moscow invaded Chechnya with 50,000 mechanized troops, backed by massive
artillery and air power. Moscow claimed its latest assault against the
republic of 1.5 million was triggered by a Chechen `invasion' of
neighboring Dagestan, and supposed Chechen involvement in a wave of
mysterious apartment bombings across Russia that killed 300 people. In
reality, the uprising in Dagestan was a spontaneous revolt against Russian
rule, backed by a handful of Chechen fighters. The bombings were more
likely carried out by Russian political provocateurs as a pretext for
Moscow hardliners to invade Chechnya and intimidate freedom movements in
other parts of the Caucasus.
As in the 1994-1996 war, Russia used mass artillery, rocket barrages, and
air strikes, to smash Chechen villages and towns. As of this writing,
140,000 Chechen had been made refugees and hundreds killed by
indiscriminate Russian firepower. Lightly-armed Chechen fighters harassed
the invading enemy, managing to down three Russian warplanes and kill 400
Why was the Clinton Administration, which had just ordered Indonesia to
get out of East Timor and give it independence, busy helping the Kremlin
to crush the Chechen, the survivors of an entire nation sent to Stalin's
death camps? Two reasons, both bad.
First, the Clinton-Gore Administration has backed the crooks and robber
barons currently running Russia that the White House has to keep
supporting them lest the current regime collapse. This would expose the
Democrats to a tirade of Republican accusations in an election year, and
spark Congressional investigations of financial chicanery between
Washington and Moscow that would make Clinton's hanky-panky with Chinese
bribsters seem mere chop suey.
Second, the Russians have been cleverly playing the Islamic bogeyman card
by branding the Caucasian rebels as dangerous Islamic terrorists financed
by mysterious Mideast fanatics, including Washington's current bete noire,
Osama Bin Laden. These charges are lies cooked up by the KGB's skilled
disinformers, but Washington has reacted with perfect Pavlovian response,
salivating with fear and concern at mention of the Islamic Green Peril .
Right-wing friends of Israel in the US and Britain have joined the fray by
amplifying Russian fabrications about the Chechen and Dagestani
insurgents, though in Israel, where there are a number of leading experts
on the Caucasus, such alarms are scornfully dismissed. Al Gore, self-
proclaimed inventor of the Internet, vows he will be tougher than tough
against Islamic fundamentalism, even if it means helping his friends in
the Kremlin shred innocent civilians with 220mm rockets carrying cluster
munitions warheads. .
During the 1994 Russian invasion of Chechnya, Clinton lent Yeltsin $11
billion to finance the operation. Clinton even went to Moscow, lauded
Yeltsin, likened Russia's savage repression of tiny Chechnya to America's
civil war, and had the effrontery to call Yeltsin `Russia's Abraham
Lincoln. In that conflict, Russian forces slaughtered 80,000-100,000
civilians (according to Russian sources), conducted wide scale torture, and
razed most of Chechnya to the ground.
Now, Clinton and Gore are at it again, bringing the deepest dishonor on
America by supporting Russia's barbarism in the Caucasus and actually
funding Moscow's crimes against humanity with American's tax dollars.
Well, comes the response, nuclear-armed Russia is not feeble Indonesia and
can't be ordered about. Why not? Without weekly delivery of planeloads
of US $100 bills, the Yeltsin regime would collapse. Without life-support
from the US Treasury and IMF, the world would foreclose on Russia.
Today's Russians do care somewhat about world opinion.
If the spineless Bill Clinton won't tell Yeltsin, `we won't finance your
criminal war against the Chechen any more, ' then it's time for the
American people to shout this out loud and clear.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and
broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]
Copyright © 1999 Eric Margolis - All Rights