Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Why is the U.S. silent on Chechnya?


Have you heard much about what's going on in Chechnya?

Didn't think so.

TV isn't doing much on that war, with the stated excuse that extremists in the war zone are tending to kidnap TV people. I've read that there is some validity to the claim, though there are also ways to deal with the problem and still cover the war, if someone really wanted to.

Just to bring you up to date, Chechnya is a small country/province next to Russia proper that declared itself independent after the fall of the U.S.S.R., but Russia begged to differ. Russia pounded Chechnya mercilessly a few years ago but didn't completely succeed in pounding the idea of independence out of it.

Over the last several months the Russians have redoubled their efforts and are raining pure terror on the tiny region.

Having learned the lessons of Vietna... er, Afghanistan, the Russian military is limiting its own casualties by using smart (and not-so-smart) bombs, heavy artillery and missiles.

Let's face it, even with the current administration in charge, the U.S. has the most sophisticated weapons systems in the history of the world, and we still haven't been able to eliminate civilian casualties altogether. We pretty much made a mess in Yugoslavia, for instance.

With much less than our sophistication in weaponry, and even more of a gap in training and organization, the Russians, though they deny it, are killing and maiming civilians in the tens of thousands, rendering hundreds of thousands homeless.

The situation is almost a mirror image of what was happening in Yugoslavia, where the ruling president insisted that neighboring Kosovo was not an independent country but instead a province of Yugoslavia, and moved in to take over.

Reports are that about a third of Chechnya's population of around a million are in flight. Many have escaped to neighboring Ingushetia, but then many have risked death and injury trying to get their friends and families out.

According to the Red Cross, Russian planes attacked five clearly marked Red Cross vehicles, killing two of their staff and a couple dozen civilians. Yet no television cameras were on hand to record their stories, as they did in Kosovo when a similar incident happened.

But, as I said above, the lack of coverage can be excused.

What can't be excused, I think, is the lack of even a comment out of the White House.

If our actions in Kosovo were correct, then action in Chechnya would be doubly so.

OK, we have to face reality. We don't have enough people and equipment in our military to take on Russia. And we've been making great strides toward making the Russians, who will always be a major power in the world, our friends.

Why mess it up now? Right?

I don't know. We haven't heard that explanation out of the White House. We haven't heard any denouncements, either. We haven't even heard about any phone calls to the Kremlin urging our “friends” to show some restraint. No speeches by our United Nations honcho. No call for international aid for the refugees.

Nothing but silence.

One has to wonder why, but so far there's no answer coming from Washington.

Nothing but silence.

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