Thursday, October 24, 2002

Chechens in Moscow

So now Chechen rebels have taken a theater and about 800 hostages in Moscow. Reports are pointing out the links between the Chechen rebels and al Qaeda. This is clearly a case for some Zero Base Thinking.

The Chechens are not Arabs, and have little history of jihad or suicide attacks. They are well known as some of the bravest and most aggressive fighters in the world. While many of their attacks have been of a type, manner, and brutality that the death of the attackers would seem likely, they always attempt, and usually succeed, to escape. This is a significant difference between them and Arab al Qaeda operatives. Add to that the belief that the leader of this raid present in the theater:
A Chechen rebel Web site as said the hostage-takers were led by Movsar Barayev, the nephew of warlord Arbi Barayev, who reportedly died last year. The hostage-takers were referred to as "smertniki," a word that in Russian refers to fighters who die for a cause.
Al Qaeda raids never include commanders or planners, or children of commanders, only soldiers. It is also suspicious that their web site uses the word "smertniki," which really means one who is already dead. Their use of this word sounds like a misdirection play to me, designed to give them just a little extra edge when the time comes to get away.

Then, consider that these are not Islamists, they are Chechen nationalists. Consider:
"I swear by God we are more keen on dying than you are keen on living," a black-clad male said in the videotaped broadcast. "Each one of us is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of God and the independence of Chechnya."
The rhetoric sounds Jihadi, but is really nationalist, which makes it anti-Jihadi. The outcome al Qaeda professes and craves is a single Islamic theocracy dominating the planet. Their rhetoric in Palestine is primarily "Jews out" not "Palestinian State." Arab Jihadis do not respect national boundaries, except as a necessary, temporary, state on the way to the Islamic paradise. And finally, history has left little love between the residents of the Caucasus and Arabs. When Islam was the great civilization that enslaved all who resisted, the Caucasus supplied many of the slaves that drove the Arabian (later Ottoman) economy. Even after the Arabs cornered the world market in African slaves they continued to raid the Caucasus and take (or buy) as many Caucasians and Slavs as possible. Remember that the word "Slav" is the root for the word "slave" in both English and Arabic.

There are other reasons to not compare this attack in Moscow with 9-11 or Bali. The Russians have given Chechens more than enough reason to attack. They don't have to imagine insults like bin Laden has. American troops saved Saudi Arabia from Iraq, at the behest of its leaders. Jihadis claim to hate us for that. On the other hand, Russia has killed uncounted Chechens over political control of Chechnya. Chechens hate Russians with, if not good reason, at least plenty of reason. Russians have killed and dominated them for centuries. Their hatred is focused. This is seen in the Chechens claiming that they will release non-combatats: "one of the Chechens promised citizens of countries "not at war with Chechnya" would be released." The hatred of the Jihadis is diffuse; broadly based hatred of "the other" for merely being different. Otherwise, why does America not get a pass for saving the Bosnian Muslims and the Kosovar Albanians from the Christian Serbs?

There is an entire racial and racist angle to the Jihadi story that even I shy away from. But in the end, if one denies the real differences between people, many of whom come from racial and cultural experiences, one is crippled from gaining an accurate perspective. Politics and geopolitics are very racially based, and to deny the cultural differences between us is to live with one's head in the sand. Stereotypes exist because many members of certain groups reflect them. The murderous hatred many Chechens feel for Russians is real. While very few Chechens could give a rat's ass over American troops in Mecca, many of them would kill Russians for the pure joy of it. Few Chechens share the desire to convert the world to Islam, but they are not above, or afraid, to use the tactics of those who do.