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Terror in Moscow
March 29, 2010 2:06 AM   Subscribe

At least 35 dead in attacks on the Moscow subway. "Yuri Syomin, the head of the Moscow prosecutor's office, said the attacks had almost certainly been carried out by suicide bombers who boarded the metro at the height of the rush hour." Speculation is rampant as to the source of the attacks, with Ingushetia, Chechnya or Agastarn.
posted by rodgerd (77 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
What the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by bwg at 2:32 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Suicide bombing has no future. The sooner suicide bombers realize this, the better we'll all be.

Really... if you love life; if you like the idea that people are alive and struggling through life, that you're just one such hapless soul, suicide bombing is a terrible career opportunity.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:36 AM on March 29, 2010


Yet, it kills lots of innocent people and gets you headlined.
posted by porpoise at 2:49 AM on March 29, 2010


The source of the attacks is almost certainly not Agastarn which doesn't exist...
posted by oh pollo! at 3:10 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yet, it kills lots of innocent people and gets you headlinedless.

FTFY.
posted by bwg at 3:18 AM on March 29, 2010


Yet, it kills lots of innocent people and gets you headlined.

But usually does squat for your cause. In fact your cause is now inexorably linked to blowing people up in subways, so no matter how legitimate your grievances were/are, they are lost, but the fact that you are from _____ and blew yourself up taking 30 others with you won't get lost.
posted by xetere at 3:24 AM on March 29, 2010


I think they just gave Medvedev the reason he needed to get out of Putin's shadow as "hardline president". Sadly, my bet here is on "swift and disproportionate retribution".
posted by qvantamon at 3:41 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Where are Jason and Jenny Cairns-Lawrence?
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:42 AM on March 29, 2010


An example of some of anti-terror "techniques" employed by Russia in the Chechnya conflict here.
posted by splatta at 4:48 AM on March 29, 2010


Sadly, my bet here is on "swift and disproportionate retribution".

I wonder what "proportionate" retribution would look like here? A random bomb sent into a busy intersection perhaps?

I can't suggest anything non-ghoulish on this story; I feel for the Russians they have it harder than most because their own oligarchs are eating them whole.
posted by NiteMayr at 5:10 AM on March 29, 2010


Suicide bombing has no future

I think the average suicide bomber can safely be counted on not to give a shit about the future, unfortunately.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:17 AM on March 29, 2010


.
posted by WPW at 5:20 AM on March 29, 2010


Tragic. Though, it certainly falls into the category of reaping what you sow. Chechnya was basically made an example of to prevent other ethnic groups / territories from trying to leave Russian control. After the Chechens initially won their independence, the Russians rolled in prepared to use whatever means, heinous or not, to bring them back into the fold. It doesn't help Russia's image, when the journalist who reported the atrocities perpetuated on the Chechens and critic of Putin is shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building. It is not that Chechen rebels have been nice guys, but the suicide and terror attacks didn't start until after Russia began it's bloody take over of Chechnya. It doesn't justify today's bombings, but it's not hard to understand the motivation.
posted by Atreides at 6:06 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Aw fuck.
posted by Abiezer at 6:06 AM on March 29, 2010


Дорогая Москва,

Так очень жаль. мне очень грустно.

С печалью,

Zizzle
posted by zizzle at 6:31 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has anyone actually taken credit for the attacks yet?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:00 AM on March 29, 2010


It doesn't justify today's bombings, but it's not hard to understand the motivation.

I find it hard to understand the motivation. The frustration, the anger, yes... these things I can understand. But I don't understand (or rather, find any sympathy with) the motivation. It's just a kind of blind revenge. It's not a winning tactic in a long drawn out war. It will not aid the Chechyn Ingushetian, or Agastarni cause (Christ, take your pick - stay awesome Russia). It is merely spite-filled vengence. It's just a big fuck-you to the Kremlin. How sad, on all sides.
posted by molecicco at 7:05 AM on March 29, 2010


The Russian Federal Security Service is reporting that the suicide bombers were Chechen rebels:
Russian investigators combing two subway stations attacked by female suicide bombers think Chechen rebels may have been behind the rush-hour strike that killed dozens of people.
"Our preliminary assessment is that this act of terror was committed by a terrorist group from the North Caucasus region," said Alexander Bortnikov of the Federal Security Service, in reference to the investigation at one of the blast sites.
More from the BBC
posted by zarq at 7:07 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


For a bit of historical context, the Chechen Black Widows were female suicide bombers in the early 2000's.
posted by zarq at 7:13 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman, not yet. But it is similar to the 2004 bombing, and others.
posted by zarq at 7:19 AM on March 29, 2010


"I feel for the Russians they have it harder than most because their own oligarchs are eating them whole."
I think this is maybe this is a pretty common experience of late, not limited to 'the Russians'.
Dude, nice rock! Really, since 1997? Damn, is there space for me and mine, too?
posted by overyield at 7:20 AM on March 29, 2010


But I don't understand (or rather, find any sympathy with) the motivation.

If not for this kind of thing, would ANYONE in the West even know about the plight of the Chechens beyond the five or six journalists who might give a shit enough to get the story on page B39000 of the NYTimes? Bad as it is, the only reason word of any kind of shitty behavior by the Russians in this regard gets out is due to atrocious behavior like this from the Chechens. More than half of any war is about the media - this is what gets the media's attention, thus, this is what gets the world's attention. It sucks but that's our world.
posted by spicynuts at 7:21 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Дорогая Москва,

Is dorogo an adjective? I thought it would just be Dorogo Mosckva.
posted by spicynuts at 7:24 AM on March 29, 2010


Yep, it's an adjective.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:26 AM on March 29, 2010


Spicynuts, it's the nominative feminine adjective form. I made an error in my quick typing and surprise at the events. Moscow is actually a neuter noun, so you are right that it should be straight up "dorogoi."
posted by zizzle at 7:34 AM on March 29, 2010


Isn't dorog-oe neuter, dorog-oi masculine?
posted by kid ichorous at 7:39 AM on March 29, 2010


I hate waking up to news like this. Yet another act of terrorism, another suicide bombing. My thoughts are with those who were affected. I'm a bit concerned about what the response will be. Putin has vowed to "destroy" those who are responsible.

When Putin uses the word "destroy," I take it pretty seriously, and if indeed the blame is placed on Chechen rebels, I imagine we're in for some downright nasty news when Russia retaliates. Don't doubt for a second Russia's use of force - they have proven that it doesn't take a whole lot to set off serious armed conflict.

It was horrible what the original perpetrators did. Horrible. But I am very concerned that Russia's response might be worse.
posted by deacon_blues at 7:40 AM on March 29, 2010


If not for this kind of thing, would ANYONE in the West even know about the plight of the Chechens beyond the five or six journalists who might give a shit enough to get the story on page B39000 of the NYTimes? Bad as it is, the only reason word of any kind of shitty behavior by the Russians in this regard gets out is due to atrocious behavior like this from the Chechens. More than half of any war is about the media - this is what gets the media's attention, thus, this is what gets the world's attention. It sucks but that's our world.

Killing innocent people to get attention for their cause may be a successful terrorist tactic, but that doesn't mean those who murder others should either profit or be praised for doing so.

These bombings have been going on for years. If their goal is to attract sympathetic international attention and aid for their cause, have the terrorists been successful?
posted by zarq at 7:46 AM on March 29, 2010


I didn't say anything about "should". I didn't say anything other than this is why they do it. Or at least why I think they do it. As to your question, have the Chechens not attracted any sympathetic international attention at all?
posted by spicynuts at 7:55 AM on March 29, 2010


O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart;
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
posted by codacorolla at 7:59 AM on March 29, 2010


I just don't understand how the mind of a suicide bomber, who intentionally goes after civilians, must work. Why target people who haven't done anything to you, and who, in all likelihood, have no power to actually address whatever your grievances are?

Invariably, all you do is turn any kind of sympathy you might have gotten for being oppressed into open hostility against you for your sociopathic behavior.
posted by quin at 8:03 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:09 AM on March 29, 2010


I find it hard to understand the motivation. The frustration, the anger, yes... these things I can understand. But I don't understand (or rather, find any sympathy with) the motivation. It's just a kind of blind revenge. It's not a winning tactic in a long drawn out war. It will not aid the Chechyn Ingushetian, or Agastarni cause (Christ, take your pick - stay awesome Russia). It is merely spite-filled vengence. It's just a big fuck-you to the Kremlin. How sad, on all sides. -molecicco

I think to an extent you're right. It is revenge and vengeance. As someone else pointed out above, the Russian government will be exacting its own revenge as well.

If not for this kind of thing, would ANYONE in the West even know about the plight of the Chechens beyond the five or six journalists who might give a shit enough to get the story on page B39000 of the NYTimes? Bad as it is, the only reason word of any kind of shitty behavior by the Russians in this regard gets out is due to atrocious behavior like this from the Chechens. More than half of any war is about the media - this is what gets the media's attention, thus, this is what gets the world's attention. It sucks but that's our world. -spicynuts

While I think the status of Chechnya has been out of the mainstream news (for the most part) for a number of years now, this may only raise a bit of a blip on the radar.

I've always thought the United States unofficially agreed to ignore what Russia has done in Chechnya (and else where) in exchange for Russia not needling us about our own dealings with our present bogeymen. The same is true with China and its Uyghurs.

But back to the bombings, from all that I've read, it seems that the Chechens have been so ground beneath the heel of Russia, all they have left is revenge and futile gestures of violence.
posted by Atreides at 8:15 AM on March 29, 2010


I didn't say anything about "should". I didn't say anything other than this is why they do it. Or at least why I think they do it.

The original comment you were responding to was: "But I don't understand (or rather, find any sympathy with) the motivation." (Emphasis mine.)

Your response to that sentence seemed intended to address it as a whole ("find any sympathy,") not an edited version of it, which is why I responded the way I did. I misinterpreted. Thank you for clarifying.

As to your question, have the Chechens not attracted any sympathetic international attention at all?

Minimally. But I'd argue that it's done far, far more harm to their cause than good.

They have consistently gambled that a sympathetic international community would rise up to support them. They've lost that gamble. Lots of history here. When the Chechens installed their first separatist government, they announced that it would be secular, and waited for support from the West in their battle for independence from Russia. Historically, they had every right to expect aid: The US, UK and other Western powers had assisted countries that resisted Russia in the past. However, not a single one stepped forward to assist Chechneya.

So the Chechens (reluctantly) switched to an Islamic government, which framed their fight for independence in religious terms.

I'm simplifying the situation a lot, but that's the basic gist.

But let's look at the Beslan School Massacre, in which hundreds of children were held trapped in a school without food, medicine or water for 52 hours by Muslim guerillas. After three days, the Russians invaded with tanks and rocket launchers. Overall, 186 children died. At least initially, Western media condemned Putin and his government for the tragedy.

Here's the problem:

The event didn't attract international aid, but it did consolidate Russian sentiment against the rebels. The government used the massacre as a springboard. They gave the Russian President and Kremlin increased latitude and power. Within the year, the Russians had killed Chechen resistance President Aslan Maskhadov and installed a pro-Kremlin United Russia puppet government.

The tactic keeps backfiring on the Chechens. Yet they continue to depend on it.
posted by zarq at 8:27 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


BTW, I do think the Chechen cause is just. They absolutely should have independence from Russia, and the freedom they crave.

But terrorist acts that target innocents are not the answer.
posted by zarq at 8:30 AM on March 29, 2010


I just don't understand how the mind of a suicide bomber, who intentionally goes after civilians, must work. Why target people who haven't done anything to you, and who, in all likelihood, have no power to actually address whatever your grievances are?

Invariably, all you do is turn any kind of sympathy you might have gotten for being oppressed into open hostility against you for your sociopathic behavior.


Except for a few things:

1) In Russia, no one cared at all nor had any sympathy for the plight of the Chechens prior to these kind of attacks - from the Chechen point of view there was never sympathy and thus nothing to lose.

2) Ditto the non-Russian world, which beyond not having any sympathy for Chechnya didn't even know of its existence.

3) Russia's behavior isn't sociopathic as well? They've killed many more innocent civilians in Chechnya than the other way around and have targeted civilians pointedly as well.

4) Russia is a big place with gigantic numbers of non-Russian minorities. Many of these people are quite sympathetic to the Chechens and understand their plight - some even support these suicide attacks.

5) Russians as a whole may not be sympathetic to the Chechens, but some have realized this as a kind of lost cause and now support Russia's letting go fo these troublesome areas.

6) Russia may be a sort of authoritarian state, but politics and public support do effect things. Support against these terrorists has waned somewhat in light of how the situation has been manipulated for public gain, in ways which parallel feelings of America's war on terror.

7) People in this part of the world have very, very long memories. It's far more likely that the Chechens are simply maintaining a startegy to take advantage of a situation which may not exist for generations than hoping for change anytime soon.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:40 AM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Historically, they had every right to expect aid: The US, UK and other Western powers had assisted countries that resisted Russia in the past.

Within the neighborhood of Russia itself, very, very feebly so. Historically, it's been ridiculous for countries in the Communist bloc to expect any real assistance at all. Most of the countries which resisted Russia received promises of assistance and then saw only turned backs when they actually needed it, from Hungary in 1956 onwards. Very few of the citizens of Iron Curtain countries believed the promises of the Americans and the West by the time Khruschev was in power.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:46 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


First, and most important: My heart goes out to the residents of Moscow, as they try to get in touch with loved ones, and as they work, walk, and commute their way through the next few days. Fucking awful.

Second: Suicide bombing is fucking awful, but it's not necessarily illogical, or counterproductive. At the least, it tends to lend legitimacy to the group claiming responsibility—it proves the willingness and capacity to use force. At the most, there's Robert Pape's thesis that suicide bombing is an effective means of coercing democratic governments, especially when it comes to ending occupations.

Unfortunately, in order to create a world in which suicide bombing is an unfavorable choice, we're going to have to understand it first. Which means we can't automatically dismiss attacks as simply crazed or vengeful—no matter how reprehensible they are.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:50 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Within the neighborhood of Russia itself, very, very feebly so. Historically, it's been ridiculous for countries in the Communist bloc to expect any real assistance at all. Most of the countries which resisted Russia received promises of assistance and then saw only turned backs when they actually needed it, from Hungary in 1956 onwards.

Very true.

Very few of the citizens of Iron Curtain countries believed the promises of the Americans and the West by the time Khruschev was in power.

So why did the Chechens believe they would be a different case? Or am I mistaken that they did?
posted by zarq at 8:52 AM on March 29, 2010


So why did the Chechens believe they would be a different case? Or am I mistaken that they did?

I can't, of course, know what the Chechens are thinking exactly, but I honestly believe this is a struggle to essentially aggravate the Russians into letting them go, not a campaign for the hearts and minds of the West or America or whatever. Personally, I doubt that enters into it at all. While eastern Europe may have once believed the unkept promises of America - due both to the directness of these promises and overt ties to "the West," I don't think anyone in Chechnya has an illusions about how little the West cares or even knows about them or that section of the world. And of course, in Chechnya's situation (unlike eastern Europe), no promises were ever made or even really implied.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:05 AM on March 29, 2010


That's really sad. :(

Thank you. I stand corrected!!
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on March 29, 2010


Chechnya (or, at the least, Dudayev) initially declared independence in fall 1991 It was before the fall of the USSR, and in the midst of an ascendancy of nationalist politics. Several Union Republics, including neighboring Georgia, had successfully stood up to Moscow by rejecting the New Union Treaty, and made strides toward independence.

As such, it wasn't entirely insane to think independence was an option. Also, as Dee said, I'm guessing that the initial goal was to get attention within Russia, not from Europe or the US.

(Side note: "Chechnya" has since become a synechdoche for the North Cacassus as a whole. So most of today's articles that mention Chechnya are, more or less, also referring to Ingushetia, and maybe Dagestan and Ossetia.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:49 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


So why did it work for, say, Georgia and not for Chechnya?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:00 AM on March 29, 2010


So why did it work for, say, Georgia and not for Chechnya?

Because 1) unlike Chechnya, Georgia was an independent Soviet republic, whereas Chechnya was a part of Russian RSFSR and didn't have a right to secede (not even a nominal one) under the Soviet constitution; 2) this would have set a precedent that other Russian federal subjects (such as Tatarstan, another mostly-muslim republic) could have followed, which was something that they couldn't allow to happen; 3) some might also argue that Chechnyan independence would have been economically unfeasible due to its dependence on federal budget.
posted by daniel_charms at 10:23 AM on March 29, 2010


The world seems full of these kinds of conflicts, each of which heaps one horror on top of another. The pointlessness of it all is what seems saddest to me.

To spell out a (no doubt naive) pacifist take on this -- why does one aggrieved minority after another take up violence so readily? Consider the alternative, if you're in Chechnya's shoes.

You could: (a) express your national pride through cultural means. Advantage - none of your kids die in one of the counter-attacks inspired by your violence (or even your violent reaction to whatever political situation upsets you), or

(b) you can carry out attacks that begin (or widen) a circle of death-dealing horror to innocents -- including children. Advantage - all your unemployed uneducated men can think of themselves as big-shot heroes. Disadvantage -- most of them will end up dead, and you'll never achieve your political ends.

Neither approach, in almost every case, wins you political independence. Or the 'caliphate'. Or independence from Israel, whatever and so on.

Besides which, will Chechnya be some kind of wonderful place if it's run by Chechyns instead of Russians? None of these conflicts, seems to me, is worth a child's ear.
posted by Philemon at 10:30 AM on March 29, 2010


So why did it work for, say, Georgia and not for Chechnya?

1) I'd stay the jury's still out on whether it will work for Georgia.

2) The history of Chechnya as a "nation" is much less distinct and long-standing than that of Georgia. Additionally, Georgia was its own SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic), whereas Chechnya was part of the Russian SSR, so Russia sees Chechnya as its own more than it did Georgia.

3) More of a fear of a domino-style collapse of neighboring ethnic regions with the relatively small Chechnya (surrounded by areas with similarly independence-minded ethnic groups) than the relatively-large Georgia.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:36 AM on March 29, 2010


Corrected link for splatta.

While not intending to diminish this tragedy at all, I do honestly wish that we, as a species, could resolve our differences over the conflicthttp:// protocol rather than blowing each other up.
posted by stet at 10:51 AM on March 29, 2010


I was at the concert that was bombed in 2002, and my immediate family lives on one of the subway lines that was bombed. I've thought about these issues for a long time, but I haven't come up with anything even remotely resembling a solution. I suspect that precisely nothing will change, ever. There is no compromise point at which Russia will agree to let the entire Northern Caucasus go (even if Chechnya may, hypothetically, slip away under a lax or troubled regime), and no point on the other side where the militants will accept the loss of their territorial sovereignty.

Besides, what's a couple dozen people in Russian history? Small potatoes, that's what.


I can't, of course, know what the Chechens are thinking exactly, but I honestly believe this is a struggle to essentially aggravate the Russians into letting them go


While I don't doubt that this is actually the case, it's a remarkably poor strategy. Russia has never voluntarily relinquished a single one of its mainland territorial possessions except in situations of complete political collapse (1917, 1989-1991). It's been pouring blood and treasure into this region since the eighteenth century, and there's no reason why it should stop now.


Дорогая Москва,

Is dorogo an adjective? I thought it would just be Dorogo Mosckva.
posted by spicynuts at 10:24 AM on March 29 [+] [!]


Yep, it's an adjective.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:26 AM on March 29 [+] [!]


Spicynuts, it's the nominative feminine adjective form. I made an error in my quick typing and surprise at the events. Moscow is actually a neuter noun, so you are right that it should be straight up "dorogoi."
posted by zizzle at 10:34 AM on March 29 [+] [!]


Isn't dorog-oe neuter, dorog-oi masculine?
posted by kid ichorous at 10:39 AM on March 29 [+] [!]



What the hell are you people nattering on about? "Moscow" is feminine and takes the feminine vocative adjective form "дорогая." But that's not the right way to phrase the salutation anyway.
posted by nasreddin at 10:57 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was outside the Cherkizovsky Market when it exploded in 2006. The news said the same thing then -- that it was a Chechen, or Georgian attack.

Turned out to be ethnic Russian students from MGU. So I wouldn't be so sure about the source of the violence yet.
posted by fake at 11:15 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Second: Suicide bombing is fucking awful, but it's not necessarily illogical, or counterproductive. At the least, it tends to lend legitimacy to the group claiming responsibility—it proves the willingness and capacity to use force.

All right, but what good comes out of targeting civilians on a subway during rush hour? All it shows is a blatant disregard and disrespect for life. Clearly these women weren't interested in living their own lives any longer, but to purposely target people packed into a subway car during the busiest time of the day shows that you're not really trying to make a point; you're just trying to kill as many people as you can. People who have nothing to do with what you're so unhappy about, aside from unwittingly being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It does not bring sympathy and understanding to your cause, it just makes you look insane. It is illogical, and it is counterproductive, unless your main goal is simply to kill yourself and others, in which case yes it is very productive to do this on a rush hour train.
posted by wondermouse at 11:22 AM on March 29, 2010


Turned out to be ethnic Russian students from MGU. So I wouldn't be so sure about the source of the violence yet.

Yeah, good point.

Let's not forget that Russia has millions of Neo-Nazis who routinely murder and torture members of other ethnicities, and if these folks ever discovered that terror was an effective political strategy, they'd pretty much take over the government. Whether or not relaxing the chokehold on the Caucasus would count as "surrendering to the terrorists" at this point, objectively speaking it would be a very dangerous strategy.
posted by nasreddin at 11:23 AM on March 29, 2010


.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:26 AM on March 29, 2010


All right, but what good comes out of targeting civilians on a subway during rush hour? All it shows is a blatant disregard and disrespect for life. Clearly these women weren't interested in living their own lives any longer, but to purposely target people packed into a subway car during the busiest time of the day shows that you're not really trying to make a point; you're just trying to kill as many people as you can. People who have nothing to do with what you're so unhappy about, aside from unwittingly being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It does not bring sympathy and understanding to your cause, it just makes you look insane. It is illogical, and it is counterproductive, unless your main goal is simply to kill yourself and others, in which case yes it is very productive to do this on a rush hour train.

Have you ever played a strategy game, like, say, Starcraft? At some point, if you're playing against the computer, your defenses and resources become sufficient to hold off most of the enemy's attacks. But the computer rarely goes for the all-out, lengthy-preparation assault. Instead, it sends small groups of cannon fodder every few minutes and watches them get reliably slaughtered. Why does this happen? Who the hell knows? The computer is just keeping you on your toes or something. It doesn't have a coherent strategy in mind. Unless you go ahead and wipe him out, he'll keep sending these groups against you indefinitely.
posted by nasreddin at 11:29 AM on March 29, 2010


I should say that I didn't mean to imply that the citizens of the Caucasus should be wiped out, nor that Russia's response is any more rational or likely to be effective. If it helps, imagine a game between two remarkably poorly coded AIs.
posted by nasreddin at 11:38 AM on March 29, 2010



Turned out to be ethnic Russian students from MGU. So I wouldn't be so sure about the source of the violence yet.


There was also a lot of speculation that the 1999 Russian apartment bombings that killed 300 people helped sweep Putin into office was done by Russian secret service.
posted by bobo123 at 11:39 AM on March 29, 2010


Have you ever played a strategy game, like, say, Starcraft? At some point, if you're playing against the computer, your defenses and resources become sufficient to hold off most of the enemy's attacks. But the computer rarely goes for the all-out, lengthy-preparation assault. Instead, it sends small groups of cannon fodder every few minutes and watches them get reliably slaughtered. Why does this happen? Who the hell knows? The computer is just keeping you on your toes or something. It doesn't have a coherent strategy in mind. Unless you go ahead and wipe him out, he'll keep sending these groups against you indefinitely.

Sure it does. It keeps you off balance, so you have to focus on defense and not just offense. The game's designers knew that it is hard for people to keep track of multiple areas on a large map at once. So if you were forced to focus on protecting your base and a steady flow of harvested resources, you'd find it at least slightly harder to wage war in another section of the map. Play long enough, and you'd know to ignore attacks (especially in the early building stages) at your peril. A rush of zerglings and it's game over man, GAME OVER!
posted by zarq at 12:02 PM on March 29, 2010


Or infested terrans, as the case may be.
posted by nasreddin at 12:08 PM on March 29, 2010


All right, but what good comes out of targeting civilians on a subway during rush hour?
...
you're not really trying to make a point; you're just trying to kill as many people as you can.


I'm not saying it works, but it's called terrorism for a reason. If you only target, government officials, for instance, first of all you're less likely to be successful because they'll be better protected, but more importantly no one who isn't a government official (or at least assigned to protect one of them) is going to be terrified. The point is exactly to kill as many people as you can because that is what (theoretically, anyways) maximizes terror.
posted by juv3nal at 12:12 PM on March 29, 2010


I'm not saying it works, but it's called terrorism for a reason. If you only target, government officials, for instance, first of all you're less likely to be successful because they'll be better protected, but more importantly no one who isn't a government official (or at least assigned to protect one of them) is going to be terrified. The point is exactly to kill as many people as you can because that is what (theoretically, anyways) maximizes terror.

This gets a lot harder when you have to compete with, say, drunk cops for your body count.
posted by nasreddin at 12:17 PM on March 29, 2010


I wonder what "proportionate" retribution would look like here?

That's easy; wait for someone to claim it, or investigate and figure out who did it, then hunt down and arrest everyone in the organization and give 'em the death penalty.

If you keep blowing people up and claiming it, anything less is disproportionate, and taking that approach will at least discourage other groups from doing it and claiming it -- and if you're not claiming it, you can't get any value from doing it.
posted by davejay at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2010


Wondermouse-

It depends on your definition of "good." Will you win over any hearts and minds? No. But you will direct the entire world's attention to your relatively measly cause, and signal to local, national, and international groups that your organization is the big bad vanguard that must be dealt with. Eventually, you might even cause so many deaths and so much damage that people will meet a fraction of your demands, just to make you go away.

As terrible as it is, it's not entirely irrational, particularly for groups that lack resources. The good news is that if it isn't irrational, then maybe it isn't inevitable.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:14 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eventually, you might even cause so many deaths and so much damage that people will meet a fraction of your demands, just to make you go away.

While I get what you're saying, it really just doesn't seem like the results of suicide bombings ever benefit those who set them up. Yes, it brings attention to the cause, but not in a way that seems to change things for the better for those people. They end up facing tougher crackdowns from the governments, which of course result in their being more oppressed and therefore inspiring more suicide bombings, which make it easier for the government to recruit people to fight against them, etc. And the government doesn't want to give into any demands because then that becomes positive reinforcement for terrorism.

I certainly understand this sort of method from a sheer strategic, theoretical standpoint, and why the AI in a video game might use it and why it might work there, but when dealing with real life and real individuals I can't help but see it as completely counterproductive.
posted by wondermouse at 2:16 PM on March 29, 2010


Let's be clear about why exactly the US is more concerned with the autonomy of Georgia than of Chechnya - because of Georgia's strategic placement in the energy-rich Caspian Sea region, or as Pepe Escobar terms it, Pipelineistan. Hell, even AP admits it.
posted by viborg at 2:19 PM on March 29, 2010


While I get what you're saying, it really just doesn't seem like the results of suicide bombings ever benefit those who set them up. Yes, it brings attention to the cause, but not in a way that seems to change things for the better for those people.

I think this gets into questions of immediate vs long term goals and intangible suffering vs overt suffering. The suicide bombers are probably not thinking about the long game but I'd bet they're being steered by people who are.

Consider the US's civil rights movement. Getting the crap kicked out of you for sitting at the lunch counter clearly isn't going to improve your short-term life quality. Neither is moving from a state of quiet oppression to more overt racial conflict.

But if you're a believer in the long game and that the current situation is unacceptable and causes long-term suffering... perhaps you think it's worth getting some heads cracked or some folks blown up if it destabilizes the current situation.

They end up facing tougher crackdowns from the governments, which of course result in their being more oppressed and therefore inspiring more suicide bombings, which make it easier for the government to recruit people to fight against them, etc.

And the crackdowns also make it easier for the suicide bomber folks to recruit people to their cause. There's a level of discomfort that people have to be under before they're going to be willing to revolt and it's possible to keep a people suffering at a level that isn't quite bad enough to make them willing to upset the apple cart.
posted by phearlez at 2:52 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could: (a) express your national pride through cultural means. Advantage - none of your kids die in one of the counter-attacks inspired by your violence (or even your violent reaction to whatever political situation upsets you), or

This is pretty laughable - do you honestly think that Chechnya's fight for independence is simply about national pride? Do you think that Russia's history (and even so in today's unstable climate) is one which allows meaningful expressions of one's culture in areas of protest by minorities? You might want to read Kate Brown's "A Biography Of No Place" for a decent analysis of the Russian mentality regarding cultural self-expression and its disastrous results for minorities. Or Andrew Meier's excellent "Chechnya: To The Heart Of A Conflict," a remarkably even-handed account of the conflict, which will have you understanding that Russian crimes against Chechens have been far more savage than Chechen attacks against Russians (and here I'm talking about civilians in particular) - to the point where even Russian officials have admitted "mass murder," "summary executions" and "war crimes" against Chechen civilians.

Since the end of WWII, "Russia" has forced the Chechens to adopt a new alphabet, deported the bulk of ethnic Chechens to places like Siberia and Kazakhstan, where between 25% and 50% of Chechens lost their lives. (Those considered hard to transport were simply killed on the spot, sometimes burnt alive.) Chechen place names were removed from maps and textbooks. Nearly all Chechen literature was destroyed. Chechen schools and mosques were destroyed. Graveyards were tilled and the tombstones used for purposes designed to deman the deaths of those they represented. Chechens were not allowed to travel to visit relatives. Chechen soldiers fighting for the USSR were frequently imprisoned and sometimes killed on returning from the front. Even many years later, when some Chechens were allowed to return from forced deportation - after much of the population had perished - the Chechen language was effectively suppressed, with even schools operating in the language forbidden.

The Chechens lived through a sort of Holocaust. Being unable - both politically and financially - to leave Russia, they returned to their former lands to eke out a poor existence. One of the reasons that Grozny looks like an awful slum is because the lovingly-tended gardens and homes of the Chechen people were destroyed by the Russians . . . long before the current conflict. From my perspective, the desire for independence is entirely natural. The Americans fought for independence for way less grievous reasons.

So the solution that Chechens would be fine if they simply showed cultural pride - maybe big sing-alongs and parades and perhaps a "Dress Chechen Day" or something - you know, where people ate the local foods and wore funny folkloric outfits - yeah, the Russians might go for something like that. Brilliant idea, and I'm sure a nation whose people have managed to survive some of the more noxious attempts to wipe out their cultural existence will really support it.

(b) you can carry out attacks that begin (or widen) a circle of death-dealing horror to innocents -- including children. Advantage - all your unemployed uneducated men can think of themselves as big-shot heroes. Disadvantage -- most of them will end up dead, and you'll never achieve your political ends.

As a people, the Chechens have barely been able to surviver the past couple of generations. Most Chechen men (and those men who would have been their descendants) were killed or led to their deaths before this conflict began. Chechens were often "purposely" made unemployed as well. So those disadvantages aren't new. Some Chechens act as if they have nothing to lose, because they and many other Chechens do, in fact, have nothing to lose. Purely ideological terrorists are really a rarity. When people are granted equal rights and equal opportunity, and when their nations support these same rights around the world (in a way that few countries, including the USA do), then you'll see much terrorism disappear like magic. Russia's ruled Chechnya very poorly for nearly the entire time it's ruled Chechnya. Chechnya's a big headache for Russia, and Russia only loses by holding on to it. I'd say that Russia's ruined any hope of "making it right." Their history is too brutal and too long. So I find it quite funny that people freak out about suicide terrorists who kill a few dozen people - for a fairly legitimate cause (even if you don't think it will work or even if you, like me, don't think it's right), but turn a relative blind eye to a huge power which has killed many hundreds and thousands more innocent people - men, women and children - for no reason at all! You want to see terrorism disappear? Then do the right thing and foster real democracy, education, opportunity and equality, instead of platitudes and marriages of convenience (like the America allowing and supporting Russia equating of Chechnya with 9/11.)

Besides which, will Chechnya be some kind of wonderful place if it's run by Chechyns instead of Russians?

Well, that's not for you to decide. But most of the many peoples who've been controlled by the Russians would rather control their own destinies than leave it to the Russians. It's partially the human desire for freedom, but also largely from the knowledge that the Russian rule of other peoples has nearly always been really fucking awful. This is still hugely true even when people are aware of the fact that their own leaders may and probably will be evil, corrupt and inept. Chechnya may never be even a decent place and the Chechens know it - but most believe it may be better than the hell it's been under the Russians.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:39 PM on March 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


Dee Xtrovert: “this is a struggle to essentially aggravate the Russians into letting them go

... Really? I mean, they actually think that's going to work? The mind reels.

Granted, I am not an expert on the political psychology of the Russian elite, but I just don't see that one playing out in the Chechens' favor. I think they're far more likely to aggravate the Russians into full-bore genocide than into just giving in and letting them have independence.

Lest anyone get offended, I'm not attempting to paint the Russians as unusually bloodthirsty, although certainly they have a significant amount of blood on their hands; if a separatist movement sprung up in some region of the U.S. tomorrow and proceeded to conduct a terror campaign and detonate bombs on the New York Subway, I would argue that they are equally unlikely to get the U.S. public to budge towards their demands. (Of course, you don't see the U.S.'s conquered peoples rising up very often, perhaps because they were all proactively exterminated, or at least thoroughly marginalized.)

I can't really think of any modern independence movement which has successfully employed terror tactics and achieved meaningful political goals as a result. The PIRA comes closest, but I think there's a fairly good argument that the PIRA's terrorism was counterproductive. The Tamil Tigers, who came close to writing the modern terrorist playbook, gambled and lost everything as well. It just doesn't look like a strategy with a great track record.

It's not hard for me to imagine these sort of attacks pushing Russia into a corner where on one hand, Chechen independence is not an option, both because of a perceived "domino effect," but also because of the legitimization of terrorism that such a surrender would entail, while on the other hand, continuing to endure the attacks is not an option either. The unavoidable conclusion at that point, it seems to me, would be to simply wipe the Chechens out sometime when the world's attention is occupied elsewhere. I think it is likely that thousands of Chechens will die for every Russian on the subway, and that nothing will be gained for Chechen independence as a result.

Tremendously sad all around.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:45 PM on March 29, 2010


I can't really think of any modern independence movement which has successfully employed terror tactics and achieved meaningful political goals as a result.

Between "terror tactics" and simple aggravation, I can think of many examples. I suppose the most recent would be Kosovo, which (it could be said) combined "aggravation" with some definitely grievous human rights abuses and a weak moment in Serbian reality to become, more or less, independent. Their cause was pretty "fair" too, even if the reality of how their goals were achieved wasn't always pretty. But I can't think of many revolutions, coups or independence battles that are.

Another example: I have a great interest in Jewish history and culture, but was stunned to learn what a big role overt terrorism played in the independence of Israel, for example - check out the King David Hotel bombing. It was pretty horrific even by today's standards, and most of those killed were innocent civilians. But we don't generally look on Israel as a state founded even in part via terrorism and the innocent killing of civilians.

There are many, many other such examples. In any case, all situations have unique traits, and even though I look upon suicide bombings with saddened heart, similar tactics have worked.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:11 PM on March 29, 2010


Al Qaeda was arguably successful in getting the US out of Saudi Arabia.
posted by alexei at 4:40 AM on March 30, 2010


Dee Xtrovert, I'm pretty sure you're overlooking the most obvious difference with Kosovo and Israel--namely, the involvement of a powerful outside state agent with an interest in supporting the separatists. (Or, in the case of Israel, a whole international community.) No such support is in the offing for the Chechens.


continuing to endure the attacks is not an option either


It's an option. The Russian state's interest in the lives of its subjects is purely strategic--it's been happy for a decade to sit back and watch people get blown up by car bombs in Dagestan without any substantial shift in policy. The same goes even for terrorism in Moscow. Maybe there'll be a new initiative or something, but by and large the status quo will be preserved. Genocide has never been a tactic of the Russian state, not even under the highly anomalous Stalin regime.
posted by nasreddin at 7:40 AM on March 30, 2010


Another example: I have a great interest in Jewish history and culture, but was stunned to learn what a big role overt terrorism played in the independence of Israel, for example - check out the King David Hotel bombing. It was pretty horrific even by today's standards, and most of those killed were innocent civilians. But we don't generally look on Israel as a state founded even in part via terrorism and the innocent killing of civilians.

I had a great-uncle who was killed in that bombing.

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." And history is written by the victors. To the British, the US colonials were terrorists. To those same colonials a hundred years later, the Native Americans were terrorists. Etc, etc. I'm sure the Palestinians still teach their schoolchildren that Israel's founding was a great, bloody, terror-filled injustice, and they believe that the suicide bombing of innocent adults and children is an appropriate response to it.

It's all a matter of perspective.
posted by zarq at 7:54 AM on March 30, 2010


Kadin2048: I can't really think of any modern independence movement which has successfully employed terror tactics and achieved meaningful political goals as a result.

Two examples, though they differ in significant ways, both from each other and, very obviously, from Chechnya:

(i) The bombing campaign conducted by the Provisional IRA from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s in Northern Ireland and on the British mainland. They were supported in public by the political wing of the organisation, Sinn Fein, and plenty of Northern Ireland's Republican residents. Since the rapprochement between Sinn Fein, the British government and even the Unionists who were Sinn Fein's political enemies (some of whom also had violent militia wings who bombed and killed for much of the same period as the IRA) over the course of a decade or so, NI has calmed down beyond belief.

These days, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness (a former regional commander in the IRA) is deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. His first superior in that role was Ian Paisley, a fierce Unionist known, as recently as 1998, as Dr No for his unbending refusal to even be in the same room as anyone from Sinn Fein, let alone sit down and talk to them. To many in Northern Ireland, this picture, from 2007, would have been as historically unlikely as Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon sitting down for tea and cake. (I'm genuinely serious about that, too.)


(ii) The struggle to end South African apartheid by the ANC, and their military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, who carried out bombings and specialised in urban guerilla warfare, from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. Say what you like about the current state of South African politics, poverty and Aids-related issues, but you can't argue that isn't a country significantly transformed for the better.

In fact, it was the success of the peace process in South Africa which helped to bring about the peace process in Northern Ireland, in that it convinced people who considered each other mortal enemies that real change was possible.
posted by Len at 8:39 AM on March 30, 2010


Two examples, though they differ in significant ways, both from each other and, very obviously, from Chechnya:

Ireland doesn't work because the PIRA didn't achieve its purpose. If the ultimate goals of the Chechen terrorists were to be simply putting an end to the violence, we would be having a very different conversation right now. As it stands, NI is a great counterexample to this position.

Likewise, the South African struggle was a question of the majority fighting a declining minority, and the ANC's eventual success was predicated largely on the involvement of outside actors--i.e. the withdrawal of investments by the worldwide economic community.

It's not clear to me that even the majority of Chechens want independence at this point, but even if they do, focusing the conversation on them is misleading. The groups that fought for Chechen independence in the 1990s made clear that their goal was the liberation of the entire North Caucasus rather than Chechnya specifically. And there the case for independence gets much, much murkier.
posted by nasreddin at 9:24 AM on March 30, 2010


Dee Xtrovert, I'm pretty sure you're overlooking the most obvious difference with Kosovo and Israel--namely, the involvement of a powerful outside state agent with an interest in supporting the separatists. (Or, in the case of Israel, a whole international community.) No such support is in the offing for the Chechens.

That's a decent point, though I don't know that Kosovan independence wouldn't have occurred anyway. I'm murkier on Israel's alternative fate - plenty of Jews were against it, as well. But, point made. it should be noted that Chechnya has received lots of munitions and financial assistance from the darker parts of the Arab world, too. This isn't the same as support from a powerful country like the USA, but there is some international interference which benefits the Chechens in some ways.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:32 AM on March 30, 2010


nasreddin: Ireland doesn't work because the PIRA didn't achieve its purpose. If the ultimate goals of the Chechen terrorists were to be simply putting an end to the violence, we would be having a very different conversation right now. As it stands, NI is a great counterexample to this position.

Maybe. It did most definitely, in conjunction with a host of other factors, achieve "political results", and for a long, long time the method of the Provos was unarguably not to put and end to violence, but to perpetrate it in service of their ultimate political ideal, which was independence from the UK. It was only when it became evident that it was impossible to achieve this aim by those means that things changed. If that's an inconceivable result in this situation, then I'm not sure what ends up happening, other than more deaths on both sides.

And yes, maybe I shouldn't have mentioned South Africa; it was never an independence movement, though it involved sometimes violent means and eventual political change – and it was examples of that I wanted to suggest.

It's not clear to me that even the majority of Chechens want independence at this point, but even if they do, focusing the conversation on them is misleading. The groups that fought for Chechen independence in the 1990s made clear that their goal was the liberation of the entire North Caucasus rather than Chechnya specifically. And there the case for independence gets much, much murkier.

Yeah. This is an area I know little about so I defer to you on that. Any suggestions for decent reading?
posted by Len at 10:10 AM on March 30, 2010


But that's not the right way to phrase the salutation anyway.

Why not?
posted by Behemoth at 10:45 AM on March 30, 2010






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