Monday, October 28, 2002
Unclear on the subject: Today's New York Times editorial page speaks out on the Russian hostage situation that was resolved over the weekend by the Russian troops using an unknown gas.
Now, it turns out that this gas killed approximately 100 of the hostages and Russian officials refused to tell doctors what was in the gas or give them direction on how its effects could be negated. An editorial attacking that aspect of the Russians' operation would certainly be appropriate, but the one the Times chose to write is mostly nuts.
[I]n the eight years that they have wrestled over control of Chechnya, the Russian government and Chechen rebels have descended ever deeper into a hellhole of brutish behavior. The two sides reached a new low over the weekend in their deadly showdown at a crowded Moscow theater that a band of heavily armed rebels had seized earlier in the week. The number of dead hostages and rebels is still being tallied, but it is already abundantly clear that the rebels and government forces once again disgraced themselves. The Kremlin and the guerrillas should come to their senses and settle a conflict that has left thousands of civilians dead and shamed Russian and Chechen leaders alike.
Note the characterization of the hostage-takers -- they're "rebels."
Rebels do not take hundreds of civilian hostages, mine a theater, booby-trap themselves, and threaten to massacre innocents.
The latest outrage was provoked by Chechen separatists on Wednesday evening when they took control of the large theater and the more than 750 people assembled there to see a popular musical. The Chechen fighters ? properly described by the Russian authorities as terrorists ? threatened to start killing their hostages Saturday morning if President Vladimir Putin did not begin withdrawing Russian forces from Chechnya, an ethnic enclave in southern Russia that has been a bloody battleground since Moscow tried to crush the Chechen independence movement in 1994. The Kremlin initially responded to the seizure of the theater by trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution, then assaulted the complex early Saturday morning.
If the Russian authorities properly describe these people as "terrorists," then why does the Times resort to a thesaurus to avoid the obvious?
The Russians assaulted the place when it was clear that the "separatists" weren't really interested in "negotiating." With terrorists, talking doesn't work. How many must die before the Times' editorial page gets it?