And why wouldn't they be? The Chechens need all the help they can get. America allied with Stalin against Hitler -- why wouldn't Chechen separatists ally themselves with Al Qaeda, Wahabbites and whoever else would give them C-4, sat phones and phony passports? As besieged Muslims, they make an obvious object of sympathy for radical Muslims around the world who feed on grievances, particularly those with fond memories of the Afghanistan jihad that eventually drove the Soviets out (and Saudi oilogarchs looking to expand their influence).
Among those who fought the Soviets alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan was Khattab, the slain Chechen rebel leader. It's absurd to imagine that these men wouldn't help each other in their respective jihads.
But the US refused to see a connection--until it needed the Russians' help. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, said shortly after September 11, "We have long recognized that Osama bin Laden and other international networks have been fueling the flames in Chechnya, including the involvement of foreign commanders like Khattab."
Unfortunately, that view of the Chechen separatists never became official policy. Most unfortunately for the victims of 9/11.
The question then isn't whether or not the Chechens are part of what is called "international terrorism." They are. The question is rather why the West, and the U.S. in particular, makes such an exception for the Chechen cause. It's nauseating to read how hard the right-wing American heart bleeds for Chechens, because the fact is American conservatives have never given a flying fuck about anyone who can't golf.
Bush after all is Ariel Sharon's biggest supporter in the whole wide world, calling him a "man of peace," a description that must have made even Sharon wince.
The Palestinians aren't the only oppressed Muslims whom the Bush Administration could give an official "your oppression doesn't exist" shit about. The U.S. hasn't made a cause over the plight of Turkey's Kurds (80,000 dead in 15 years), the Philippines' Muslims (120,000 dead in 24 years), China's Uighurs, the Fergana Valley separatists in Central Asia (our new Caspian oil region friends), or any other of our friends' Muslim separatist minorities -- not to mention the hundreds of millions of Arabs who live under despotic regimes propped up by the U.S.
Fred Hiatt: Cuckolded!
The Bush Administration said from the start that they were reorienting their foreign policy away from Clinton's policy of promoting human rights and democracy -- which they found childish and "unrealistic" -- towards a policy promoting "American interests," which presumably means U.S. oil and military interests. It's all in the great Republican tradition of the coalition of Twerps and Frat Boys: the Twerps love the sound of their leaders talking "realism" and the Frat Boys love their oil tankers.
Thus today, Chinese Uighur separatists, the IMU (an Al Qaeda-linked separatist group in the Fergana Valley), Philippine Muslim separatists Abu Sayyef and the Kurdish PKK are all on the State Department's terrorist list.
Not the Chechens. Not even after last week.
It's not because Chechens are soft, cuddly people. During the period of Chechen independence from 1996-1999, the Chechens kidnapped up to 3,500 Russians, introduced radical Sharia law and invaded Dagestan. If you believe Putin, Chechen terrorists also were responsible for the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings that killed over 300. They have committed numerous terrorist acts -- from last week's attack on the Nord-Ost musical to airliner, ferry and hotel hijackings, bombings, assassinations. Each is a terrorist act by any "official" definition. Yet somehow the Chechens have been able to avoid being labeled "terrorists." They're just legitimate separatists who happen to have elements who engage in terrorist acts, right?