zaterdag, september 18, 2004

Why NME journalists should not comment on irredentism in the Caucasus

In the gig report section of this week's NME, out yesterday, there is a review of the Velvet Revolver show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London that happened to take place on the same day the Beslan hostage crisis began that starts off:

'On the very day that a gang of nutcase extremists take a school of innocent kids hostage with every intention of slaughtering them in the name of fuck knows what, we stand and applaud a bund of improbably buff, preposterously rich smackheads for outliving a series of appointments with the Grim Reaper. It's pathetic if you stop to think about it. But don't stop. Don't think. Set tonight aside for some old-fashioned junkie business the way they used to make it.' [italics added]

Let's just examine that - "…in the name of fuck knows what," - and not the random comments about the discouraging site of a super-group composed of three recovering-addict fifths of Guns 'n Roses and a not-quite-recovered-yet Stone Temple Pilot.

I mention this not because I expect NME journalists to have an thoroughgoing understanding of the history of Russian atrocity in Chechnya over the last thirteen years (or go back over a hundred years if you like), but because the ignorance of an NME journalist is entirely typical of most people's awareness of what has gone on in the region. It is right to be horrified at the massacre, whatever the role Russian forces played in accelerating and amplifying the events. But there is an explanation for why this happened.

And that explanation never saw 24-hour-a-day coverage from CNN, TV5, BBC World and Fox News. It never saw the thousands of column inches like Beslan has. It was never condemned by the UN Security Council, the Pope, Elton John and Ronan Keating (and Cliff Richard and Thierry Henry and Ozzy Ozbourne and Richard Branson and David Beckham). Madonna has not dedicated a presumably teeth-grindingly dreadful cover version of John Lennon's Imagine at Paris' Bercy Stadium to its victims. Tom Cruise did not cancel the Moscow premiere of his new movie out of sensitivity to it. No tennis players at the US Open wore black armbands in its honour.

That explanation is the 250,000 Chechen civilians killed by Moscow since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in its attempts to keep the republic within Russia proper. Let's just look at that number again before anyone accuses me of excusing the Beslan terrorists.


- and that's according to the liberal but usually circumspect Guardian. And how many of those were children? Well, we actually have a number for that too: 42,000.

42,000 children killed by Yeltsin and Putin.

Do you want to know how they died? Do you think it was any less barbaric than being forced to drink your own urine to stay hydrated before being blown to bits or shot in the back? Do you really think Russian soldiers were less wicked than the irredentists who took over School Number One?

The Guardian reports that Dr Cerwyn Moore, a British academic who has been studying the emergence of female suicide bombers, has found that 60 per cent of the 15 or 20 confirmed suicide bombers (that have taken part in recent Chechen terrorist actions) had lost husbands, while others still had lost close family members. They are called the Black Widows - these women who make up a sizeable proportion of the militants, who have 'survived' the horrors of the Russian occupation. And then add to the murders of their family members the surety that these women and others have been raped repeatedly by Russian soldiers, as systematically as in Bosnia, and then maybe you can understand why this sort of thing happens.

Imagine you had been killed, along with all your brothers and sisters and your father too, but your mother was still alive, though having been raped over and over by the men who killed you. What do you think your mother would do?

It wouldn't be right, and it's no excuse, but what would she do? What would she do?

From the Guardian:

'Margarita Komoyeva, a physics teacher released the day before the terrible climax in Beslan, said: "One of them told me: "Russian soldiers are killing our children in Chechnya, so we are here to kill yours".'


However, also in this week's ish, the NME does have a list of 1001 deeply useful rock trivia facts. Did you know that Echo & the Bunnymen once embarked on a tour of what seemed like random locations but were actually designed to be in the shape of a rabbit's ears? Also, apparently it was Stuart Sutcliffe's idea to change the name of the band from the Quarrymen to the Beatles. It's true. The NME said so.

Stuart Sutcliffe, by Astrid Kirchherr.