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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

"They're Just Meat"

Valery is in his early twenties. He is a commissar or a lieutenant colonel responsible for morale and discipline in a battalion of the Russian Army stationed in Chechnya. After a few hours of drinking one night, he spills his real views about the war in Chechnya to a western journalist: "We should have slaughtered all Chechens over 5 years old and sent all the children that could still be re-educated to reservations with barbed wire and guards at the corners ... But where would you find teachers willing to sacrifice their lives to re-educate these wolf cubs? There are no such people. Therefore, it's much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow." He continues: "The solution, in fact, would have been very easy -- the old methods used by Russian troops in the Caucasus in the 19th century. For the death of every [Russian] soldier, an entire village was burned to ashes. For the death of every officer, two villages would be wiped out. This is the only way this war can be brought to a victorious end and this rogue nation conquered ... for political reasons, it's impossible to murder the entire adult population and send the children to reservations, but sometimes, one can try to approximate the goal." "What rules? What Geneva Conventions? What difference does it make if Russia has signed them? I didn't sign them, none of my friends signed them In Russia, these rules don't work," said another 25-year-old army officer to the "Los Angeles Times" journalist.

Stanley Greene, renowned photographer and writer, wrote in a journal entry from Chechnya: "Grozny [capital of Chechnya] is like visions of a Goya painting, 'Disasters of War.' There are 70 or 80 corpses in the streets of Grozny. It's wet and cold and I'm here to photograph, but I can't when I see dogs eating the faces of the dead." On Jan. 11 he asks: "Why are they [Russians] bombing civilians? Can't they see what they're hitting?" In a recent interview with the "New York Times," Greene said: "The Russians have hated the Chechens for 300 years. As someone said, they want Chechnya without Chechens. The problem is that the West has never come down on Russia for its treatment of the Chechens, so the Russians can get away with murder. In 1999 when Putin was prime minister, he fired two guided missiles into the central market of Grozny. And the world said nothing, nothing, and they killed a lot of people." In his book, "Open Wound: Chechnya 1994 to 2003," Greene has tried to provide "a powerful testimony of the death and destruction" that he has witnessed during some 20 trips to Chechnya.

Jacob Kipp, a professor at the University of Kansas and a Russia expert, quotes a Russian Army conscript in an article on Russian tactics in Chechnya as saying, "In Russia, winning wars has always been a matter of quantity, not quality ... we don't value the lives of the Chechens [they're] just meat."

The United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a statement on Nov. 7 condemning Russian atrocities in Chechnya. In what has been regarded as a statement moderated by political considerations, the panel cited "the ill-treatment of prisoners under interrogation, executions and torture in Chechnya, as well as state closures of independent television and newspapers," as some instances of human rights abuses in Chechnya. The Committee is concerned "about a substantial number of things and it's quite a long list [including] continuing substantiated reports of human rights violations in the Chechen Republic, including extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture including rape."

Prague Watchdog, a non-governmental observer of the Chechen war, released a report on Nov. 14 outlining the condition of children in Chechnya. "As many as 84 percent of children in the Chechen Republic have health problems their problems are mainly neurological and psychological, yet many also suffer from anemia and endocrine and gastro-intestinal disorders. More than 40 percent of the children have pathological vision and hearing problems, while about 70 percent of those examined [about 320,000] have tuberculosis," the report stated.

All this, I think, is ample evidence of the heinousness of the Russian campaign in Chechnya. To the contrary, Ilya Feoktistov '06 in his Oct. 13 column "Chechnya: Flawed Approach to Freedom" in The Dartmouth writes: "Chechen terrorists commit atrocities against both Russians and their own people women are purportedly beaten, raped and dosed with drugs by [Chechens]." He also tries to give an impression that the Russians are justified in killing innocent Chechens because they are trying to root out terrorism. However, he provides very little evidence to back up his fustian claims.

Russian atrocities in suppressing Chechen independence have lead Chechens into following what Mr. Feoktistov calls a "flawed approach." For close to 300 years, Russia has slaughtered Chechens to fulfill its imperialistic goals -- it is this attitude that is flawed, not the Chechen reaction to it.