Friday, September 03, 2004

Putin: In Charge

If you thought Putin was going to use anything other than heavy-handed tactics to end this school seige, I've got a bridge to sell you. The blood of all those victims is on his hands. I guess he decided to keep his vow of not negotiating with terorrists. Good for him. Bad for the victims. The Russian press will dutifully report the 'fog of war' scenario where nobody is really sure who fired first. The only difference between the Russian Press and the American Press is that the Americans actually have a choice to of whether or not to seek the truth. Russian journalists, on the other hand, risk their lives for such boldness.

If you've been following Putin and his fight for dictator-like control, you realize that that this outcome is completely expected. Negotiating with the terrorists, in Putin's mind, would have only invited future hostage-taking situations and 'shown weakness.' Of course, if you are of sound mind, you'd realize that these Chechens are not going to stop hostage-taking and terrorizing until they get what they want - which is indpendence or whatever they want. When you strip people of their dignity, you get terrorism - this is a very simple concept. In this case, people will be disgusted with the Chechens, but they'll be equally disgusted (if not more so) with Putin. Unfortunately, I don't see a way out. Putin's control of every key part of his government is undisputed, untriable, undeniable.

The hostage-takers kept firing grenades out of the school because they could hear the Russian special forces troops crawling all over the building. When the time was right, the Russian special forces went in. They knew there was a distinct possibility that many, if not most, of the hostages would be killed in the ensuing firefight. The firefight lasted eight hours. Imagine being a wounded child laying in your own blood for a few hours before blood loss finally surrenders the life out of you. Nice image. Putin is definitely a psychopath - and George W. Bush's support for the strongman's consolidation of power is definitely frightening. Moral bankruptcy spreads.

I know, I know - if I knew how it was going to end I should have said so earlier. Maybe next time, and there will be a next time, unfortunately. But most of the world knew how this would go down. No prescience necessary.

This WaPo article sums paints a good picture of what Putin rule is like:

MOSCOW, Sept. 3 -- Several hours after bloody, half-naked and terrified children and teachers fled School No. 1 Monday afternoon amid explosions and automatic weapons fire, NTV television correspondent Ruslan Gusarov told viewers he had heard law enforcement authorities saying on their walkie-talkies that there were a significant number of dead and wounded victims inside. The anchorwoman in Moscow admonished him. "We have to stop," she said. "We cannot broadcast this information."

The warning was a glimpse into the reality hanging over the hostage crisis in the town of Beslan in southern Russia. At a moment of great distress, there was near-total silence from President Vladimir Putin and the rest of Russia's political leaders. Information about victims trickled out slowly. Secrecy and obfuscation, tools of the authoritarian past, cast a chilling shadow over television news broadcasts. All three major television networks are now state controlled, but the restrictions they face are offset somewhat by Russia's newspapers and lively Web sites, which offered fast-breaking and first-hand accounts from the scene.

Things with the press aren't that bad in America...yet.

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