Sunday, April 28, 2013

Grozny, Boston, Putin and the Tsarnaev Brothers -- Plus More

Making Unfair Demands on the US Commercial Media
Gee Whiz.  We listened to all that stuff, but we're still not satisfied.

Once the smoke had cleared on Boylston Street, the American commercial media, no doubt "just following orders," immediately began its predictable fear mongering.  Just as predictably, the "usual suspects" started with their 19th Century jingoism.  Senator McCain, already always quite grumpy anyway and still smouldering from his election fiasco, joined in chorus with the loud mouthed "Southern Belle," Lindsay Graham, to demand military action and the "same day" Guantanamo water boarding of the surviving teenager.

The "news" coverage began a few test runs with the Chechnya connection to see if it had the fear provoking potential of becoming a more frequently inserted "news item."  Since most Americans had no idea what "Chechnya" was, the scheme was apparently shelved in favor of some other more tested topics which might prove more direct, threatening, and therefore, commercially promising -- MeanMesa is certain that the networks' list of "more tested fear topics" contained terrifying alternatives such as Syria, Iran or even, possibly, Benghazi although that last one would require something to replace the ashes after its initial incendiaries fizzled. 

Encountering this media train wreck, MeanMesa has bravely shouldered the task of trying to make some sort of sense from the tattered remnants of the "big boys'" sketchy reportage. Perhaps most importantly, someone needs to fill in a few of the blanks about what made up the motivation for those bombings.

The most difficult part of this post, it turns out, will be collecting all these frayed ends of scattered histories, geopolitics and purposely obscured facts into something glitzy or, at least, coherent, so MeanMesa will simply "spread the manure" and just leave the rest up to you.

What's Going On In Chechnya?
A MeanMesa Geographical and Historical Overview

In the larger picture, the bombs immediately began to wreak massive emotional damage.  MeanMesa was especially saddened with the death of eight year old Martin Richard.  While it's pointless to lament one murder as more or less grave than another, the explosions expanded very low to the ground, and, standing near by, this little boy didn't have a chance. 

There is no way to aggregate the value of what futures were snuffed out in the violent moment.  However, aside from the grisly injuries we must also take a very cold look at the psychological impact of the event.  After all, beyond the wrenching misery in the Boston ICU's, terrorism is all about the psychology of those quiet moments twenty four hours later in a hundred million bedrooms.

These terrorists wanted to enter the consciousness of everyone who might see what they had done.  It's a terribly inefficient communication model where the "important" details about conditions in Chechnya are almost completely suffocated by the fear and anger rising up from the outrage.  Whatever that "message" might have been, it is relegated to the status of table scraps amid the other responses.

A public poll in the United States a few months ago asked respondents to locate the country of Iraq on a large map of the world showing national boundaries but not the names of the corresponding countries.  Just under 40% of those asked could locate Iraq.  MeanMesa has to wonder what percentage could have located Chechnya?

More disturbingly, MeanMesa might also wonder what percentage would have responded that the answer was simply unnecessary information.

Americans, living up to their now world-wide reputation of having essentially no memory beyond 90 seconds, rushed to GOOGLE for a map.  If that flickering curiosity led them any deeper into the story because it was a "fear generator" by design -- in this case, both by the design of the Boston brothers and the design of the media executives intent upon squeezing every last gasp and shudder of Stoic American horror from their "reporting" -- those stalwart "investigators" were rewarded with a bloody litany of Chechnyan terror throughout Russia.

Probing just a little deeper reveals equally appalling stories of Russian terror in Chechnya during efforts to suppress the rebellion there.

Chechnya - the red dot at left. (map source: WIKI)
To keep things in perspective, we can take a quick look at a map of Russia to understand that relative size of the players in this central Asian chess game.

During the days of the old Soviet Union, regional rebellions were rare.  All across the vast nation, Russians of all sorts had the cultural memory of what transpired in Hungary when, as a Soviet "satellite," that country attempted independence in 1956.

The violence between Chechnyans and Russians has been both brutal and relentless.  During the late 90's a series of lethal apartment bombings were attributed to the rebels, but a sizeable percentage of Russians lay the blame with the Secret Police seeking public opinion which could justify military action against the state.

In October 2002, 40–50 Chechen rebels seized a Moscow theater and took about 900 civilians hostage. The crisis ended with a large death toll mostly due to an unknown aerosol pumped throughout the building by Russian special forces to incapacitate the people inside. In September 2004, separatist rebels occupied a school in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia, demanding recognition of the independence of Chechnya and a Russian withdrawal. 1,100 people (including 777 children) were taken hostage. The attack lasted three days, resulting in the deaths of over 331 people, including 186 children. (Read the article:

Further, when we discuss the regional history of Chechnya, the small state's neighbors must also be included.  Roughly the same ambition for independence prevails all through these small Muslim states. Each one has its own account of Soviet or, later, Russian Federation brutality.  Looking at a regional map presents the names of a number of other little known [to the geographically illiterate US] countries which have, in their turn, briefly been in US headlines.

Chechnya - the Neighborhood (map source)
You can see North Ossetia on the map just to the north of Georgia across the border.  South Ossetia is, theoretically, currently within the national borders of Georgia, but the majority of Ossetians consider themselves to be Russians, or, at least, Ossetians -- just not Georgians.

This partition was arranged during the Stalinist days in a routine "divide and control" boundary drawing session in the Central Committee's Politburo.  At the time, Georgia was in the Soviet Union, so the division didn't really begin to bother the Ossetians until the old USSR disbanded, releasing Georgia from "satellite status" to "independence."

During the 2008 Presidential campaign the McCain campaign manager met with the then President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.  A short time later, the State of Georgia initiated an unlikely military campaign to "dislodge" the Russian influence in South Ossetia.

Of course, the military action was a disaster, but the factors which created such arrogant confidence in the mind of President Saakashvilli remain essentially a "secret" in the US.  After an extremely short, semi-visible "blip" in corporate network reporting, the story immediately vaporized from the US domestic media.

Saakasvilli launched a lesser but equally disastrous military adventure in Eastern Georgia to "liberate" South Adygea. MeanMesa suspects that the Georgian President had received "promises" which would have been "kept" once the lunatic, McCain, had won the election and been installed in the Oval Office. The reach of American war mongers such as Senator McCain is impressive.  The Senator's cruelly adolescent disregard for human suffering is sickening.

All this is posted here to provide a bit of background for the rage in the minds of the Tsarnaev brothers.  It is quite reasonable for Americans to be confounded by the seemingly tenuous thread between events in these nations in the Caucuses, the motivation of these domestic terrorists and their ultimate attack in the City of Boston.  While MeanMesa can not propose specific connections, understanding the atmosphere and regional background of the Chechnya, Ossetia, Georgia and Dagestan may shed a little light on the issue.

Local Super Powers: Russia and Turkey

In 2013 the "conspiracy theories" associated with all of this have become something akin to the ancient flood which raced through the Black Sea -- and the Bible.  At first blush we find Vladimir Putin firmly in charge of the new Russian Federation.  Vladimir is an old OGPU schemer with an almost unearthly political and geopolitical competence -- a cynical one quite beyond anything remotely comparable among the "leadership" on our US domestic scene.

Crushing the Chechnyan "nuisance" was a task which drew out both Vladimir's notable pragmatism and his casual brutality.  In fact that "crushing" was so brutal as to even demoralize Russian brigades sent to execute the orders.  Demoralizing a Russian army -- especially one that is winning -- is no easy task.  These brigades were already performing "popular work" with respect to the Russian population after all the "in country" Chechnyan terrorism.

Make no miscalculation here.  Putin has built a durable oligarchy inside the Russian Federation and protected it by gradually introducing slightly improving conditions of life for the Russian Federation's middle and lower class populations, exhausted after decades of Soviet bumbling. The man hates most Muslims and loves most dictators [Syria's al Assad, for example].  He personally appointed Kremlin "managers" for any of the Federation's dissatisfied "member states" in the Chechnyan-Ossetian-Dagestani region foolish enough to attempt a democratic election.

While he was pulverizing the rebellions in the area during the 1990's, the Western powers complained loudly but, as usual, did very little [with only the later exception of when McCain tried to use Caucasus blood as a "talking point" for his Presidential campaign] -- conceivably some part of the foundation of Tsarnaev brother's angst.  The Russian Federation at the time was awash with petroleum cash, mostly flowing effortlessly into the pockets of the newly minted Russian oligarchs. This time around, however, the Federation is ankle deep in intractable foreign policy exposure.

Chechnyans cheering Russian pull out (image)
Although Putin would very much have preferred to finish "flattening" the upstarts, his other "leg" remains mired in Syria's revolution and the increasingly bellicose Iranians.  The latest conspiracy estimate fits in right here. 

Russian "image" concerns" could be well served by a growing popular US hostility toward the Chechnyan rebels.  If Chechnyan terrorists alienate the US popular opinion, demonizing the Caucasus uprising, Putin would be free to complete the neutralization of his perennial "nuisance."

Materializing this particular conspiracy, Vladimir Putin would find the tattered domestic remnant of the US Fourth Estate -- along with its derelict, low information audience -- a conveniently malleable utensil for managing US public opinion, and the Tsarnaev brothers a tool with, shall we say, a "perfect fit."

While a little atmospheric on the surface, this theory focuses on the question of why the Russians did nothing to interview the elder Tsarnaev brother while he was spending months being radicalized in Dagestan after earlier being granted asylum to the US based on evidence that his life [and his brother's] would have been in danger had they remained there.

Again, this post is intended to provide just a little background which might assist visitors in understanding the cultural/historical "platform" of what the Tsarnaev brother might have encountered during his Russian visit.  

Since we are already "flitting" around the region looking for clues, we should probably expand our "circle of inquiry" just a little more while we're at it.

Armenian genocide (image source)
Returning to the map [lower] we see the countries to the south of this region.  In particular, two of these have their own history of brutal colonial reprisals.  The historic conflicts between Turkey and Armenia still leave both populations with a raw cultural memory.

Perhaps visitors here have heard, at one time or another, the phrase "starving Armenians."   Although this may have been no more than "one of those things" a mother might have used to characterized a hungry family headed for he dinner table, it has a chillingly cruel historical source from the Turkish genocide of the first years of the 1900's.  [Read the history here.

The Turks, to their credit, have begun a sort of "Middle Eastern reconciliation"  effort with Armenia.  Recently, although still quite provocative in Turkish society, history texts have begun to at least recognize this genocide while the respective governments have also begun to do what was expedient in efforts to extinguish the hatred.

Turkey has come to realize that settling such matters with both Armenia and the Turkish Kurds in the east of the country are tasks which, although difficult, are important to efforts for re-framing the country into a more acceptable, more modern image.  Turkey's membership in NATO and possibly also in the European Union have increased the interest in this.

The Tsarnaev Brothers

In Chechnya or Dagestan young men like the Tsarnaevs have experienced the relentless violence within the last decades, but there is more beyond even that.  When a child is surrounded by adults who still scathe in the fear, anger and hatred that their parents, in turn, were immersed with and whose parents, before those, were immersed with -- and so on -- the motivation for Boston begins to emerge.

The post doesn't dare offer the specific reason the brothers finally slipped into their rampage, but -- sometimes -- the deeper story begins to "flesh out" such questions in a general way.  If we insist upon a complete explanation shoe horned into a nicely packaged, easily expressed answer for the "low hanging fruit crowd" of low interest, low information media consumers, we will, most likely, wind up with the hodge podge we are seeing right now.

Americans have been told that a "mysterious someone" may have radicalized the brothers along with their mother.  Americans were presented with the possibility that the brothers "self-radicalized."

Such propositions may seem to be quite reasonable -- digestible, and perhaps even somewhat factual -- enough, but the far less constructive element of that explanation's incompleteness shows up when such an "explanation" implies that the starting point for the "radicalization" was two typical American boys.  The Tsarnaevs didn't start there.

They also didn't end there.

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