Sunday, 5 September 2004

Massacre of the Innocents

As I'm sure most readers know, I contribute regularly to The Command Post. With the events unfolding in Russia, posting about them was difficult. At first, a siege a long way away, easy to post about. But as the stories came out of kids shot in the back, pictures of toddlers and babies with gunshot and shrapnel wounds, it became impossible to do straight, objective, informative reporting.

Here's some chatter from the TCP posters backchannel. These are my own e-mails replying to other posts, parts of which are quoted.
(From AEB)
> If someone can keep up with this story for this
> afternoon, that would be great.

It's 0143 local time, so I'm off to bed.
Not sure it will be off to sleep though.

Has anyone seen my objectivity? I seem to have lost mine.
I don't trust myself to post right now.

(From AEB)
> Objectivity in the presidential race is one thing. I don't think
> the Command Post was ever intended to be objective as between
> civilization and its enemies.

It was rather worse than that for me : I had visions, which I took
an unholy glee in, of a Carthage Solution for Chechnya, involving
mass deportations, sowing the ground with salt, leaving a desert
and calling it 'peace' etc. A Jacksonian solution.

None of which is terribly constructive, useful or just. Telling
myself I was thinking just like Stalin didn't help. Imagining the
Chechen kids maimed and injured like the Russian ones did work
though, and my shreds of sanity are starting to re-knit.

The idea of these people is to make us angry, and react irrationally.
Now the anger they can always succeed in. But it need not be the
counter-productive blind rage they're aiming for, it can be a cool,
righteous anger that leaves us resolved, not raging. It just takes a while
for me to simmer down and dispassionately figure out how best to dismember
them. Hate is not the answer. A remorseless, implacable campaign over decades
is, one where books as well as (not instead of) bombs have a role.

I'm still not ready to post though. Just saw BBC world.
"This is just the latest embarressment for Putin..."
"Since Putin took a tough stand, terrorist incidents have increased..."
"Bush's so-called War on Terror is causing more problems, the latest in Russia..."

I turned it off at that point. I'm unable to understand the depths of
moral bankrupcy of the people saying this kind of thing, and don't even
trust myself to quote them accurately without a transcript or recording.
But I'm sure the first line is verbatim : describing a 'massacre of the
innocents' as an 'embarressment'.
"Tom Paine" over at Silent Running requested permission to quote what was a private e-mail, which I readily gave.

And just to prove that I wasn't totally off-the-planet regarding moral bankrupcy, here's some quotes from what the papers are saying, courtesy of The Australian :
Putin came to power as a strongman who would sort out Chechnya, The Daily Telegraph noted.
"One war and many terrorist atrocities later, he seems further from his goal than ever," it charged in an editorial...

"Dazed, shaken and bloodied," headlined the International Herald Tribune, which warned in an editorial that Putin had no choice but to negotiate with Chechen separatist leaders.

"Unless he now opens a serious negotiating channel with legitimate Chechen leaders, the situation can only get worse," the paper said.

"Carnage," headlined France's Liberation daily, which argued that "the master of the Kremlin has fallen into a trap" and that Putin's hard line on Chechnya had "opened the way for Islamic terrorism".

Italy's Il Sole 24 Ore charged that Putin had unleashed "the evil genie of the Chechen war", and was now unable to control it.
It looks as if there are limits though. No-one in print (unlike in the BBC's spoken commentary) has blamed Bush. Yet. Just Putin. Anything to score a political point.

But from all accounts, the massacre started when a Chechen Terrorist Suicide-Bomber blew herself up, probably accidentally. The rest of the Terrorists, thinking they were under attack, then set off the explosives they'd planted around the place, killing many through blast, burns and shrapnel, and bringing the roof down, crushing others. Some of the dazed survivors, seeing a hole had been blasted in the wall, ran for it - and were mown down by the recovering terrorists.

It was only then that the Russian Special Forces opened up a suppressive fire. They'd been caught completely by this 'Bolt Out Of the Blue', or BOOB situation. Yes, that's the correct technical military term for when something happens with no warning. But it was a BOOB for both sides.

Neither side was prepared for the battle. Neither side expected it.

The panicking Terrorists opened fire at random, at pretty much anything that moved, while the Russki assault teams quickly worked out which contingency plan to adopt for a totally chaotic situation, and went in.

10 of them died as the result of this hasty, improvised attack. But they saved hundreds by it.

Menawhile, the Terrorists were also reacting to events, and not very effectively. It seems that perhaps 400 people, half of them kids, may have been killed, with some 700 wounded. But that means that 400 weren't scratched. When you're armed with grenades, automatic weapons, and have had several days to prepare a position, and when your victims are stacked 3-deep in a single large room, how difficult is it to kill 5-year olds?

OK, I'd find it completely impossible, on moral grounds. But they didn't. These Brave Jihadis were purely and simply incompetent at it. But Evil so often is.

UPDATE : the inimitable Gnu Hunter has independantly come up with many of the same conclusions.


David Blue said...

Many people were shocked by the scene in the movie Schindler's List where the children were rounded up for murder.

I know for a fact that there are some, and I suspect an enormous number, who have entirely different reactions to these events of our own day. The topic immediately shifts to the evils of Putin, of Bush, of Zionism/racism, imperialism, the Likud, neoconservatives, Haliburton and the you-know-whos, of the counterproductiveness of resort to force and the need to negotiate and make real concessions (so I guess force is productive after all, though only theirs, not ours) and so on.

The hiding children in Shindler's List were affecting, I can only suppose, because this is highly artistic film-making concerning events defined by what have become moral cliches. (When, as in the movie The Sum Of All Fears, you decide not to confront a real fear, you distance things from reality by trotting out the conventional pantomime villains, the Nazis.) For purposes of the film Schindler's List, Nazis, conventional figures in antique costumes, are "evil" and those who oppose them are good. So one interprets things one way within the fiction, while taking an opposite line with flesh and blood Russian toddlers now, in our own day.

Exactly as one might weep at Wagner and hunt Jewish children.

I do not see the moral difference between Nazi concentration camp guard rounding up children for slaughter and Muslim militants rounding up children for slaughter in Beslan / Belsen 2004. The fanatics have their Koran, their Men Kampf. They have their organisations, their colours (red and green, tackier than the Nazis). They have their leaders, who are not morally superior to Amon Goeth. They are (thank God) much, much less competent than the Nazis (but on the other hand more numerous), but that's not a moral difference. And just like the new Nazis that that they are, I see no indication that any of them regret anything except mishaps, defeats and every child they missed. They are evil incarnate. They have proved it. Do you want more proof? I don't. But I have no doubt they are going to give us more anyway, because that is what they are.

I do not see the moral difference between Anne Frank and any of the children hiding in the boiler room.

I do not see why bitching about Palestine and historic Chechniya has any more validity than whines about the Versailles Treaty. (Why are the forces of total evil so often such damned whiners?)

I am angry, not just at the new Himmlers, but at the new Quislings and Axis Sallys and Lord Haw-Haws. Angry that they love good and hate evil in fiction and in what has become myth and conventional representation, and they congratulate themselves on that, morally - while in the real world they smugly take the side of absolute evil, at the expense of people such as the girl in that picture.

And I don't think I am going to "get over it" any time soon.

Among the hundreds of photos from Beslan I noticed this : Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a victim of the school siege at a hospital in Beslan, September 4, 2004. Russia on Saturday branded 'blasphemous' a request by the European Union 's Dutch presidency for an explanation to the bloody end of a mass hostage seizure at the school by Chechen gunmen. REUTERS/ITAR-TASS/PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE
Reuters - Sep 04 7:11 AM

I agree.

David Blue said...

I realise I fell well and truly foul of "Godwin's law" in that post. But, there wasn't any argument in progress at the time, nor any extended thread to end. And I had a point to make, which I stand by, that required me to refer to the most cliched villains possible. That would be the Nazis.

Dennis said...

It's a shame that events such as this will have to occur in some countries before they will wake up and realize the scope of the radical Islamic threat in front of them... It seems Russia has finally decided to do something about it... I only hope that Jakarta is as close as they will get to the Aussies, and that you will never wake up to Sydney in flames.