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The War Nerd September 17, 2004
 
Beslan: The Sick Sense
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 3
 
2002: This had to be the wildest hostage-taking of all. And it happened right there in downtown Moscow, while you eXile guys were doing whatever it is you do. A force of Chechen suicide commandos, half of them war widows, grabbed a theatre where 900 people were watching "a Soviet-era musical." Now what in the name of terrorism is a Soviet musical? "Just my tractor and me/And Olga makes three..." Well, the audience never got to hear the finale, because 40 crazy Chechens interrupted the performance. They were rigged up with bomb-belts, and laid more bombs and mines all over the theatre. It looked like everybody was going to die, when the Russian SpetzNaz came up with an interesting plan -- maybe not effective, but original: they pumped an opiate-based sleeping gas into the theater, then burst in when everybody was snoring. It worked a little too well: about 130 hostages OD'd.

The Chechens still hit Russia when they can, however they can. Chechen suicide bombers blew up two Russian civilian flights, killed 85 people, a few weeks ago.

But Ossetians aren't even Slavic, let alone Russian. Like I said in my Ossetian column, they're the descendants of the glorious Alanii, a nomad people. When I first heard about the school siege I wondered if Beslan was an ethnic-Russian village or something. But I checked it out, and it seems everybody who died was Ossetian, not Russian (though supposedly even a few Muslim kids were among the hostages, since a few Ingush are mixed into the Ossetian territorial stew).

Why would Chechens kill Ossetians? Two reasons. First, the Russian Army has straightened up a little since Putin took over. It's still full of starved, scrawny draftees (there were reports that some of them actually ran for cover when the firing started at Beslan), but at least Putin has put better troops on Russia's border with Chechnya. They can still sneak women suicide bombers into Russian airports, one or two at a time -- but they can't send busloads of terrorists into Southern Russia as easily as they used to.

They need another target area. And when you at the map, Ossetia is the natural choice. The Chechens wouldn't mind at all if Ossetia and Ingushetia went to war. And it wouldn't take much to get one started. Say, one school full of murdered Ossetian children. Because Caucasians love their kids. You can say "everybody does" but I'm not so sure of that. Like if you ask me, Mexicans love kids more than Anglos do. Anyway, Caucasians really, really love their kids. So if you want to push the Ossetians to war, go for their children.

From the start, the Chechens acted like they never intended to let anybody leave that schoolhouse alive. Their demands were impossible. They wanted all Russian troops out of Chechnya. Even if Putin were willing to pull them out under terrorist pressure (which he never would) it wouldn't be logistically possible in the sort of time-frame you have when you're holding 1200 thirsty, hungry, hot, scared kids and parents in a gym wired with bombs. Then consider the way they set up the siege: either incredibly carelessly or with the idea that it was meant to explode, literally. Chechens aren't amateurs, so it's weird that they rigged bombs to the baskets on the gym court with tape (which all the hostages reported.) One was bound to fall -- which it did, setting off the chaos.

Also, they started killing hostages from the minute they arrived. That's not how it works in your traditional siege. You're supposed to draw out the deaths, get maximum drama out of each. Instead they popped at least 15 people when they went in. They executed another 22 adult males who helped them dig up barricades. The Chechens wanted lots of dead this time. They wanted chaos and blood.

And they made sure there were lots of Ingush fighters helping them. Those stories about Arab terrorists helping the Chechens turned out to be fake, just propaganda to get Bush on Putin's side -- and to keep the local Russian population from thinking about the reality of their war in Chechnya. But there were lots of Ingush -- and the Ossetians are already talking about making the Ingush pay for what happened at Beslan. The Ossetians already fought an intra-border war with the Ingush in 1992, leaving over 600 dead before it was snuffed out. Already there are reports of Ossetians gathering for a big anti-Ingush pogrom in the Prigornii region about a fifteen minute drive from Beslan, where there are Ingush-populated villages within Ossetian territory.


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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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