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From: "Robert Bruce Ware" <bruce@brick.net>
Subject: Englund: Anti-terrorist operation (JRL #5510)
Date: Sat, 27 Oct 2001

Will Englund deserves credit for his relatively balanced overview of the war in Chechnya in relation to recent events ( Anti-terrorist operation still looks like war on Chechens, JRL, #5510). Still it is amazing and disheartening that it should have required two years, and massive terrorist attacks upon the United States, before a Western journalist would be capable of anything approaching balanced coverage of this topic. And despite the strengths of his article, Englund still fails to consider the obvious:

1) The long-term complexities of any war of this sort will lead to a messy and murky conflation of objectives and tactics. For example, it will not be long before the US war in Afghanistan undergoes a similar degeneration. As civilian casualties mount, the US will become increasingly vulnerable to claims, a la Englund, that it is waging war against the Afghani people, and not merely the terrorists among them. Interestingly, we might recall the sustained hue and cry in the international press when the Russian bombs hit a Red Cross convoy in Chechnya. Now US bombs have twice hit a Red Cross facility in Afghanistan without evoking any real journalistic indignation. Nothing excuses military errors and civilian deaths. But this is the reality of any war of this sort. Uninformed, or hypocritical and self-congratulatory, outrage is not an effective antidote.

Englund's unrealistic insistence upon a crisp demarcation of Russian military objectives begins to encounter difficulties, when, after years of condemning Moscow for its failure to negotiate an end to the war, he comes perilously close to criticizing Russians (essentially implying that their claims are inconsistent ) because they are now prepared to talk to Chechen representatives.

2) So far, few seem to have noticed that negotiations between Russians and Chechens have commenced as soon as Western governments began to balance their criticism of Moscow with criticism of the Chechen militants. This result might have been achieved several months ago had there been greater balance in the approach of Western governments and organizations to the war in Chechnya. Two years ago, when the West began ignorantly and senselessly bashing Russia over its war in Chechnya, Russians simply became more hostile toward the West, thereby precluding any reasonable and informed exchange of concerns about the genuine problems of the war and proposals for its resolution.

Though Western journalists, editorialists, analysts, and human rights organizations postured themselves as caring about the people of Chechnya their lopsided approach over the last two years accomplished absolutely nothing constructive. On the contrary, it (a) closed Western eyes to real and deadly international threats, about which Russians consistently tried to warn us; (b) closed Russian ears to legitimate Western concerns about their counter-productive excesses in Chechnya; and therefore, (c) ultimately prolonged the suffering of the people in Chechnya and other people's of the region, while paving the road to thousands of deaths in the United States and a horrible (perhaps unwinnable) war in Afghanistan. It is unfortunate that our journalists, editorialists, and analysts will never accept responsibility, and will never be held responsible, for their extraordinary and catastrophic failure.

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