Hard News by Russell Brown

The Innocents

The Beslan massacre has unfolded before all our eyes, and we have all thought "how could they kill children like this?" It was ghastly. But what do we then think about the fact that, according to Genocide Watch, Russian forces have slaughtered 50,000 Chechens, many of whom, even though they weren't on global television, were someone's children too?

Genocide Watch puts Chechnya at Stage 7 out of 8 stages of genocide - "extermination". Stage 8 is "denial". Already, commentators are lining up to declare that Russia's bloody experience will bolster the Republican campaign's emphasis on the "War on Terror". Putin has, conveniently declared that "We showed weakness, and the weak are beaten."

The problem is that this isn't millennial, motiveless violence; it is a new phase in a nationalistic bloodbath. Further, it (and, probably, the recent airliner attacks) follows Russia's brutal response to the 2002 hostage-taking in a Moscow theatre (where all but one of the victims were killed not by the Chechen hostage-takers but by the opiate gases fed into the theatre by the Russian military). It's hard not to wonder how much less "weak" Putin could get.

The Seattle Times has more background on what an advisor to Putin's predecessor Boris Yeltsin once envisaged as "a small, victorious war" and Adrian Humm has kindly drawn my attention to Chechnyawar.com, which looks to have days' worth of links and further reading.

The reported presence among the terrorist corpses at Beslan of not only Chechens but Khazaks and other Central Asian nationals is extremely troubling. The states in the region are a geopolitical battleground not only for the Russians, but for the Americans.

Donald Rumsfeld has, by his own admission, spent much of his time this year in the region, and announced after a meeting with Uzbekistan's lunatic dictator Islam Karimov that he looked forward "to strengthening political and economic relationships between the countries" - even though he must surely have known that the US State Department was only days away from announcing the suspension of economic aid to the state, citing human rights abuses and no progress towards democracy. Uzbekistan also has its own Islamic terrorism problem, but some serious commentators believe that Karimov himself has orchestrated at least some of the attacks to play up the threat.

Central Asia certainly has its security problems, but it's hard to say whether the Americans' plan to move more troops into the region (think oil and pipelines as well as security) will ease those or simply create more tension - and more opportunities for core Islamic terrorists. I guess we'll find out, but it doesn't look good.

I now have a copy of the Northern Advocate's offer of political advertorial in its Local Body Elections Feature, to be published on September 15. It reads in part:

Dear Sir/Madam

Please find attach information about The Northern Advocate Local Body Election feature.

This is a great opportunity to profile yourself. You receive FREE editorial when you confirm your advert size.

I'm sorry, but this is wrong - although I'm not suggesting, as someone from another paper thought, that it's APN policy. Clearly, it isn't - and it shouldn't be the Northern Advocate's policy either.

Anyway, someone signing themselves as John Banks got in touch with this message:

Hi Russell

I have a blog

You can find it at www.johnbanksformayor.com

And guess what? He does! Although it's officially called a Campaign Diary. The transcript of Holmes from his Newstalk ZB show that it contains is frankly mind-boggling.

Also, Graeme Easte responds to another bitchy crack by Aaron Bhatnagar, this time about Dick Hubbard:

Aaron Bhatnagar's Blog site includes a report dated 5/9/04 on Dick Hubbard's attendance at the last Auckland City Council meeting on 26th August.

Aaron was not present but I was, sitting directly behind Dick and Catherine Hawley who are referred to in the A. B. Blog. Dick is alleged by Aaron to have blurted out something like "I don't know if I could handle this ..."

This is utterly untrue (i.e. an invention). Supposedly this was said within earshot of several senior council people - well all the senior staff were on the opposite side of the chamber, and the closest councillors (Welsh, Storer and Sefuiva) were 2 metres away and unable to hear anything that he may have whispered to himself or Catherine. I am a long time attender at Council meetings (unlike A.B.) and have seen similar "reports" in the past which (because of their content) can only have originated with politicians with a personal axe to grind.

Graeme Easte
Deputy Chair, Western Bays Community Board

And finally, very big ups to SJD for a wonderful show at the King's Arms on Friday night. I saw him/them play the same venue a few weeks ago, and thought that they hadn't quite got to grips with playing the music live. They certainly have now. That was good.