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Monday, October 28, 2002

President Vladimir V. Putin said today that Russia was prepared to strike at international terrorist groups and the countries that harbor them, explicitly echoing the arguments that President Bush made after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to declare a war on terrorism...

Russian officials have said, so far without providing evidence, that the theater takeover was organized and planned with the help of Islamic extremist groups abroad.

Mr. Putin ordered Russia's military to draft new doctrine that would adapt its forces and tactics to counter the threat from terrorism both internally and externally, presaging sweeping changes for a military that has been slow to change.
-- from the NY Times.

Wonderful. Another nuclear-armed cowboy declaring war on anyone he decides is a terrorist, and on any country he decides is harboring them. What if Putin determines what is probably the case, that is that the Chechen rebels are supported by Saudis and Pakistanis? Will the Russians be bombing Islamabad and Riyahd? Perhaps this is the start of Putin's ploy to counteract Bush's oil grab in Iraq (see William Safire's optimistic and scary predictions for the Iraq war if the Russians vote against it in the Security Council for a scenario where Russia, China and France are left out in the cold). Control of Saudi Arabia would certainly keep Russia in the superpower sweepstakes. And Bush's Afghanistan and Iraq rhetoric has given Putin all of the justification that he needs. Bush has already agreed with Putin to call the Chechen rebels "terrorists." He has argued that countries not only have the right to attack terrorists and those who harbor them, but that countries must do so or face consequences from the US.

Putin will probably have a much easier time coming up with actual evidence of Saudi involvement in Chechnya than Bush has had coming up with evidence of either weapons or terrorism in Iraq. He says, "Look Georgie Porgie (remember, W calls him Pootie-Poot), these guys are terrorists, you said so yourself. Here's the evidence of support from the Saudis. You said we had to go after terrorists and those who harbor them. I'm with you, Georgie Porgie, not against you. Therefore, I have no choice but to invade Saudi Arabia. I know you understand." In the less likely scenario, Bush agrees, saying "you're right, Pootie-Poot, go ahead," at which point both the US and Russia are hit with terror campaigns unlike anything anyone has seen so far, and China attacks Taiwan and other neighbors (Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillipines, South Korea, Japan) so as not to be left out of the superpower game, and World War III begins in earnest. In the more likely scenario, Bush decides Pootie-Poot isn't his friend after all, makes up some lies to counter Russia's evidence, sends more troops to defend Saudi Arabia, and World War III begins in earnest. The rhetoric and actions of the Bush administration have made the world a more dangerous place than ever, and I fear we are nearing the precipice.

It is politically very dangerous to appear to be defending terrorists, but we have to put a stop to the idea that terrorism is worse than other forms of military action. Osama bin Laden, the Palestinians, and the Chechens would all prefer, I'm sure, to begin with stealth bomber attacks on radar installations followed up by F-16's and B-52's, than to have to blow themselves up in order to inflict damage. But they don't have these weapons, and they have been backed into a corner by those who do. They have been given the choice (or at least they perceive it this way) of either just dying or dying for their cause. So-called terrorist attacks are the only types of attacks they can launch. I don't think they are right to do so, but they are no more wrong than we are to bomb Iraq. Killing people with explosives is bad, no matter how they are delivered.