A British TV Interview With A Chechen Terrorist Is Grossly Out Of Place
I had the same feelings when I read this morning that an independent British television station, Channel Four, had shown an interview with the Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev in which he said he and his associates were planning more operations such as the one in the school at Beslan in which 340 Russian children, parents and teachers were murdered last year. In the interview, Basayev said the attack would have been staged in Moscow or St. Petersburg had his people been able to afford it.
They couldn't strike innocent people in Moscow, so they decided to kill the innocent in a small city in the Caucasus. I wonder which circle of hell Dante would have placed this man and his friends.
The Russian foreign ministry was right today, Feb. 4, when it severely criticized the broadcast as "direct informational support of terrorists operating in the North Caucasus" and demanded that the British government investigate and take legal action.
The foreign ministry statement said appropriately that publicizing threats from Basayev "is in no way compatible with common human morals and the values of democratic society. We expect an adequate reaction from the British court system without which any citation of the principles of a law-based state would look like empty words."
An Associated Press article said this morning that Channel Four defended the interview, saying it had sent Basayev questions and later received instructions to pick up a package containing video in an undisclosed Middle Eastern city. It said the video appeared to have been recorded about three weeks ago.
"It is simply not the case that the running of such material can be equated with condoning it," the station claimed.
The hell it can't. If more Russian children are killed in a new attack, Channel Four will be accessories to murder, and after due warning, in my view, the British government should blow this station to kingdom come.
I draw a considerable distinction with another free speech controversy now in the news -- the furor over statements made by University of Colorado Professor Ward L. Churchill, who called the victims of the 9-11 terror attack at the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns" for some cockeyed reason and was subsequently told by the Hamilton College administration in upstate New York that he would not be permitted to speak on that campus. Subsequent to that, the Republican governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, called for Churchill's dismissal as a professor at Colorado.
Churchill has declared that the "combat teams" that struck the World Trade Center "manifested the courage of their convictions" and, as for the Pentagon, which was also attacked on 9-11, he stated, if it wasn't a legitimate target "I don't know what is."
Still, Churchill has stopped short of either urging more violence or indicating that he was in a position to order someone to commit violence, as Basayev did in the British television interview. I believe great leaway has to be given for free speech, particularly when students at a college have invited someone to speak.
So I would draw a line between Ward Churchill and Shamil Basayev, banning the latter from any respectable forum.
It cannot be stated too clearly that we live in a dangerous world, and that what the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called this week the "pathologies" of the Middle East must be fought with every proper weapon at the command of freedom-loving peoples.
The New York Times warned in an editorial after the Beslan tragedy that a continuation of such tactics by the Chechen terrorists would expose the whole Chechen people to suspicion and perhaps terrible reprisals.
The proper treatment of Shamil Basayev and his foul crew is not to give them exposure on Western television stations, but to track them down and destroy them. In a free country, the Ward Churchills must be tolerated as long as they stop short of advocating or committing violence.
Some people feel Chechen grievances against Russia and a desire for independence are justified. But when the Russian government showed a willingness to grant autonomy to Chechnya during the Yeltsin period, the result was that it quickly became clear that the intention of the rebels was to build a Muslim fundamentalist regime throughout the Caucasus, destroying the integrity of Russia. Under those circumstances, these people must be fought, just as we are fighting terrorists elsewhere.