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The Real axis of terror—U.S., Russia and Israel
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

The deadly end to the hostage-taking drama in Moscow, in the twilight of October, has ideally served Russian President Putin’s Stalinist designs against Chechnya.

The former KGB agent, who rose from complete obscurity and anonymity to international fame and power on the cinders of Russia’s war of terror against the Chechens, wasted not a moment to use the botched rescue attempt in a Moscow theatre to further tighten his dragnet against Chechnya.

It was a savagely skewed rescue attempt in which 118 of the 700 hostages were gassed to death, along with 50 or so Chechen hostage-takers. So barbaric was the Putin-blessed operation that the Russian intelligence operatives even cold-heartedly refused to disclose the name of the gas, used in a massive dose, or the antidote required to treat hundreds of sick patients. 

Only days after a gathering storm of international concern and condemnation did Putin signal to disclose the name—Fentanyl—of an allegedly opium-based gas. Obviously it is just one of the several lethal nerve agents that Russia has been secretly developing in breach of the Hague Convention banning chemical weapons.

Several independent analysts and experts believe that the nerve agent Putin used with impunity on his own people in Moscow had first been developed by U.S. in the 1960s for use in Vietnam.

It is not only that Putin remains totally unapologetic about the savagery of his ‘rescue’ attempt. He has quickly shifted gears into overdrive to inject a new barbarity in his genocidal campaign against the beleaguered Chechens. In typical Bush-speak, he declared the Moscow incident to be Russia’s 9/11 and hectored his intent to “ wipe out” the “Chechen terror” which to him, and his White House friend, is part of the global “Islamic terrorism” against which both of them are comrades-in-arms.

Putin rode to the pinnacle of Russian power, as a protégé of Yeltsin, when in early 1999 he resumed the war against the Chechens with unprecedented ferocity. Here was a new Russian Czar ready to persecute the Chechens in the flimsy name of keeping Russia united. It was a throw-back to Stalin who had massacred tens of thousands of Chechens in the 1940s on the trumped up charge of siding with the Nazis. He also sent half a million of Chechens to Gulag, the nightmare Siberia, in cattle carts, where at least 25 per cent of them perished in frigid cold and hunger. The survivors were allowed to return to their native land only after Stalin’s death. 

The Chechens have been fighting for their usurped independence and national honour since the late 17th century when, in 1683, Katherine the Great declared Caucasus to be Russian and started colonising the Muslim areas one by one. But the terror meted out to them under Putin has been unprecedented in 3 centuries of Chechen blood spilled because they would not succumb to Russian imperialism. 

In Putin’s Chechen war, at least 60,000 Chechen civilians have so far been killed in nearly 4 years of Russian savagery. About 200,000 Chechens have been forced to flee for their lives, and are living in dreadful squalor and poverty in refugee camps in neighbouring Russian ‘republics.’ But worse is the plight and suffering of nearly half a million Chechens condemned to live under barbaric Russian occupation of their land. 

At least 80,000 Russian soldiers, armed to the teeth and often given to drunken vandalism, have been making their lives a living hell. Human rights groups, generally shunned and barred from entering the Russian-occupied Chechnya, have reported innumerable cases of Russian bestiality, rape and plunder.

Putin’s genocide of the Chechens had been largely ignored by the western governments because he was clever enough, from the outset of his rampage in Chechnya, to paint the Chechen freedom struggle as an extension of the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan. European countries took his alarm at its face value that if the Chechens succeeded in throwing off the Russian yoke, Islamic fundamentalism of an extremely militant kind will be knocking at the gates of Europe like the Vandals of antiquity.

There were few mentions of how the Russian troops were practising genocide and ethnic cleansing in Chechnya. The spectre of Islamic fundamentalism staring Europe in its face was daunting enough to keep protest over Putin’s handling of the Chechen uprising muted.

Then came September 11 and an apparently God-send for Putin. Reading perfectly the mind of his American counterpart, who had been propelled to power in circumstances as dubious as Putin’s own, he quickly joined George W. Bush’s rhetorical chorus of a “global war against terrorism.” He did not have much to do except jump on the Bush rolling bandwagon. In return for this, Bush has never uttered one syllable of criticism or condemnation of Putin’s marauding ways in Chechnya.

For the record, Russian genocidal suppression of the Chechens has been overlooked and winked at by U.S. with great consistency since Boris Yeltsin triggered the first, modern, Chechen war in 1994. Much of the cost of that war, that claimed 100, 000 Chechen lives, was defrayed by Washington because it had invested so much in Yeltsin. To Clinton, Yeltsin was only fighting his ‘domestic enemies’. Besides, Yeltsin was fighting a people declared as ‘terrorists’ by the Americans. 

Clinton even had the gall to proclaim Yeltsin as “Russia’s Abraham Lincoln” (that is how much respect the current American leaders have for their national heroes). It was also during that campaign that Chechen President, General Jhokar Dudayev, was assassinated by the Russians with the help of secret electronic equipment supplied to KGB by the Americans.

For Bush, in particular, Putin is an indispensable cog in his rolling bandwagon to pursue his “crusade” against global Islamic terrorism. Therefore, all that Putin is doing to the Chechens quite neatly fits into his worldwide campaign. 

However, in the immediate context, Putin’s help is crucial for the Bush plan to take his global war to the next target, Iraq. 

For the moment Putin has been resisting the Bush blandishments and coaxing on Iraq. But that is only tactical, not moral, resistance. It is not because Putin has any regard for the Iraqis or concern for their misery and suffering which is only going to get worse once the American military juggernaut starts belching fire. 

Putin’s concern is for 8 billion dollars owed to Russia by Iraq from previous loans, and potentially lucrative agreements signed by Saddam Hussain in the past few years with the Russians to exploit Iraq’s rich oil fields. However, Washington hawks are not overly worried. They know that Putin is dragging his foot only to raise his bargaining counter before he relents and throws his weight behind Bush against Iraq.

Knowing the Putin tactics, Bush and his hawks have been quietly working on Putin in private while publicly bamboozling the UN Security Council to give in to Washington’s crude blackmail. Now, in the wake of the Moscow incident, the Bushites think they have a trump card that cannot lose. 

By ensuring Putin an absolute free hand on Chechnya they can corner him to either join the Bush onslaught against Iraq or, at the very least, turn a blind eye to it, the way Washington has been doing on Putin’s pogroms in Chechnya.

There is no such doubt about the redoubtable support of the third party to this axis, Israel.

No single country has reaped such a bonanza as Israel from George Bush’s declared war against global “Islamic terrorism.” Israel’s Sharon is Bush’s best friend in the world and has been anointed and hailed by the world’s new Caesar as “ a man of peace.” Sharon has indeed taken full advantage of it to let loose an unprecedented fury of Israeli vengeance against the unarmed Palestinians. 

The 4 billion dollars of annual U.S. military assistance is being put to the daily torture, murder and persecution of the Palestinians who are no different than the Chechens in the eyes of Bush. All that Sharon is doing to the Palestinians is fair and legitimate to Bush because it is part of his campaign against terrorism. And the Palestinians are as much a band of terrorists against Israel as the Chechens are to Russia.

What is less well-known, however, is the two decades-old triangular co-operation between these three countries to promote and accelerate the emigration of Russian Jews to Israel.

The meticulously-planned and generously-sponsored exodus of Russian Jews from the Soviet Union was just a trickle in the 70s while Brezhnev was in power in Moscow. But it picked pace as the Russians got bogged down in Afghanistan in the 80s. 

The Reagan administration turned the screws on Moscow to open the tap as the Soviet Union began to unravel. Gorbachev’s ascent gave it a hefty boost. But it became a flood after the demise of Soviet Union and the ascendancy of Yeltsin in Russia. The Jewish lobbies in the Clinton administration worked relentlessly to achieve that target. There are now more than a million Russian Jews in Israel, making them the single largest ethnic group in the Jewish state.

Naturally, the incoming hordes of Russians have grabbed land that belonged to the Palestinians. American and Russian settlers predominate in the hundreds of new settlement that have sprouted in the Occupied Land in the years since the now cremated Oslo peace process started. 

Russia may still prefer to stay neutral in the bloody conflict with Iraq. But there is no such doubt about an expansionist Israel on Sharon’s blood-thirsty watch. His appetite for Arab blood is insatiable, and he sees great new prospects to whet it further in the Bush scheme to wreak havoc on Iraq. 

American press comments abound with predictions that Israel will be part of the U.S. military campaign against Iraq. Bush has himself hinted on more than one occasion that Sharon may not be restrained if Israel’s vital interests came under attack by Saddam. And that may not be hard to contrive with generous help from Mossad and CIA.

So we have this axis of terror, with all three actors working in their respective orbits to terrorise Muslims and the Islamic world in more ways than one. They may easily pool their resources and road maps to make it a concerted campaign whenever they felt the need for it. The pieces of co-operation are there; they only need to be put together.

It is an interesting irony that has been spawned by Putin’s cavalier handling of the hostage drama in Moscow. He has gassed his own people, murdering at least 118 of them in cold blood. No one in the western world is, however, accusing him of having committed a crime. But Saddam Hussain has been routinely held guilty of that charge in reference to his 1988 use of mustard gas against the Kurds in Halabja.

Reprehensible and gory as the Halabja violence most certainly was, it was not publicised or given much currency when it actually occurred. Saddam was not, then, blamed as a criminal “ who gassed his own people,” as he has been lately, because he was then an ally of the west against Iran. Indeed, nobody even remotely suggested that the chemical weapons he had used against the Kurds were given to him by Britain and U.S. 

An irony of ironies is that, technically, Saddam did not gass “ his own people.” The Kurds slaughtered by him were not his people according to their own insistence. The whole moral argument of the Kurds in Iraq against Baghdad is pegged on their claim that they are not Iraqis. But there is absolutely no scintilla of doubt that those hostages gassed in Moscow were Putin’s ‘own people.’

Of course, it would be naïve of anyone to suggest that Putin has committed a crime against humanity. He is a player in the Bush ‘crusade against terrorism’, and the use of every weapon of terror is fair and legitimate in the book of the world’s sole super power and arbiter. 

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