Who is truly responsible behind the Moscow subway attack?

March 30, 2010

Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko are needed today more than ever. The two investigators who sought to convey truth amid a muddled KGB/FSB-controlled Russia ended their lives in tragedy: Politkovskaya was assassinated on Putin’s birthday several years ago, and Litvinenko was poisoned shortly thereafter.

Journalist Lisa Ling once lamented the state of American news, saying that it was near impossible for solid coverage to be given to the American audience. News transported from Russia to the United States seems to suffer twice this malady: the state of news in Russia in a censored environment where KGB/FSB officials and authorities monitor citizens is far from free, so what we receive in the US is an even further-removed muddled translation of the going-ons there. Scott Anderson’s article “None Dare Call it Conspiracy” covering the Russian apartment bombings in 1999 strove to look inside how Russian officials engineered these bombings (while publically blaming Arab terrorists and Chechnens), and how a back-then unknown Vladmir Putin used this as an opportunity to ascend to power. (Anderson’s article can be read here. It is well worth a read).

Politkovskaya dedicated her life to making heard the voices of the Chechnen people, to whom this act of terror is currently ascribed to. Yet is there any evidence, not counting the “word of government officials” that these acts were indeed carried out by North Caucasus female suicide bombers–and, if this were the case–that such an act was “unjustified?” The reason why I ask the first question is that the word of the Russian government in relation to such events is not to be completely trusted. Russian officials have, in the past, engineered certain lies and tried to pass them off as truth. Take for instance the apartment bombings in 1999. The act of terror was blamed upon Chechnen and even Arab terrorists; that is, until contradictions slowly manifested upon themselves. Denizens of an apartment in Ryazan reported to authorities several men coming inside with large white sacks. When officials arrived, they discovered an explosive timer and detonators attached to the sacks. The men who had carried these inside the apartment were arrested; HOWEVER, to everyone’s surprise, they produced FSB identification cards. The director of the FSB tried to publically pass off the experience–many days later–by saying that these FSB workers were trying to train the “alertness” and “diligence” of those residing in the apartment and that the bags contained only sugar–a complete lie, as when the substance was chemically analyzed, it was found to be RDX. Scott Anderson wrote:

Contradictions in the FSB’s account were manifold. How to reconcile FSB headquarters’ sacks-of-sugar claim with the local FSB’s chemical analysis that had found RDX? If this truly had been a training exercise, how was it that the local FSB branch wasn’t informed ahead of time, or that Patrushev himself didn’t see fit to make mention of it for a day and a half after the terrorist alert was raised? For that matter, why did the apartment-building-bombing spree suddenly stop after Ryazan? If the attacks were truly the handiwork of Chechen terrorists, surely the public-relations black eye the FSB had received over the Ryazan affair would spur them to carry out more.

But the time for such questions had already passed. Even as Prime Minister Putin gave his speech on the night of September 23 praising the residents of Ryazan for their vigilance, Russian warplanes began launching massive air strikes on Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Within a few more days, Russian armored battalions that had been massed on the border for months crossed into Chechnya, marking the start of the Second Chechen War.

Events moved very quickly after that. On New Year’s Eve 01999, Boris Yeltsin stunned the nation by announcing that he was stepping down from the presidency effective immediately, which made Vladimir Putin acting president until new elections could be held. And instead of holding them sometime in the summer, as originally scheduled, those elections would now occur in just ten weeks’ time, leaving Putin’s many competitors for the position little time to prepare.

In a presidential poll taken in August 01999, Putin had garnered less than 2 percent support. By March 02000, however, riding a wave of popularity for his total-war policy in Chechnya, he swept into office with 53 percent of the vote. The reign of Vladimir Putin had begun, and Russia would never be the same.

In regards to the second question I posed, Russia and Chechnya’s brutal history shows that both sides have suffered their dues at each other’s hands. Female suicide bombers have often, before turning into terrorists, experienced post-traumatic stress disorder due to the murder of their brothers, husbands, families, or to themselves getting kidnapped by Russian officials and brutally gang-raped. In one of my previous posts discussing John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer, I touched upon the fact that the way we view terrorism is always in terms of Bad versus Good, something removed from truth. Politkovskaya refused to see the people of Chechnya in such a light–often going out of the way to arrange search parties for missing Chechens– resulting in her demise at the hands of Putin.

This is not to in any way justify these acts of terror, if these events were indeed carried out by Chechnen terrorists. But this raises a set of new questions– why would Chechnens act now after previously fighting so hard for their rights? Now that Basayev, former Chechnen terrorist leader, is dead, who is the mastermind engineering this feat and for what purpose? To that end, if this was orchestrated by Russian officials themselves, what purpose does it serve? Does the fact that this occurred a day after the new US-Russia arms treaty signify something? Time will have to tell–and a clear-eyed view amid the chaos and muddle of the news media. Politkovskaya and Litvinenko have been silenced forever but in this time, the ghost of their presences are everywhere.

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