Chesler Vs. Pipes: An Exchange on Chechen Terrorism
An exchange, featured at FrontPageMag.com (Sept. 15, 2004):
Chechen Solidarity at the New York Times
By Phyllis Chesler
[Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., is the author of 12 books including Woman's Inhumanity to Woman and The New Anti-Semitism. She may be reached through her website www.phyllis-chesler.com]
The gruesome, graphic beheadings of Jews and Americans, the spectacularly simultaneous suicide airplanes, the human suicide bombers are all hard acts to follow. What can sicken, shock, and punish us even more? Al-Qaeda loyalists and other serial killers are literally dying to answer this question.
Thus, radically evil Islamist terrorists took hundreds of small children hostage, tortured them, shot some in the back as they tried to escape--and within six days the New York Times published a piece by Harvard Emeritus Professor Richard (not Daniel) Pipes ("Give the Chechens a Land of Their Own" September 9, 2004) which hastens to assure us that not all Islamist terrorists are the same, the bell did not toll for us in Beslan, that heretofore unimaginable alliances--perhaps even with Russia--may now be inevitable. Pipes explains that the Chechen terrorists are not like al-Qaeda's terrorists because the Chechen goal is not world-wide domination; they only seek the "limited objective of independence." If Russia would simply appease them by granting them a sovereign Muslim state, all will be well. He writes: "The Russians ought to learn from the French (in Algeria)" and, similarly, grant Chechnya independence.
Excuse me: Does Pipes really believe that the French "solution " to Algeria is an unmitigated success story? Tell that to the thousands of Algerian Muslim girls and women whom paramilitary Algerian Islamists have kidnapped off the streets, turned into sex and domestic slaves, then killed, often be-headed, when they become pregnant or tried to escape. Tell that to the journalists, intellectuals, and feminists whom Algerian Islamists have silenced, tortured, exiled, and murdered.
Both Franz Fanon and V.S. Naipaul understand how well the formerly colonized internalize the worst values of the colonizer. Based on my own experience in Afghanistan, I also understand that incredibly savage customs flourish freely all of which pre-date colonization : e.g. polygamy, suttee, foot-binding, the veiling and sequestration of women, female genital mutilation, stoning to death for adultery, amputation for theft, etc. Sometimes, in retrospect, colonization has improved matters somewhat in terms of hygiene, medicine, economy, and education for both genders and for the impoverished.
Based on their withdrawal from Algeria, the French have the solution to terrorism? Tell that to the French who, in Paris, Marseilles, and Lyons are living with an unruly, separatist Algerian presence that seeks to Islamize both France and Europe, veil their women, and achieve sha'ria law as a civil right. Talk to the French Jews who have been killed, threatened, and humiliated mainly by French North African Muslims-- who are using French Jews as surrogate pawns in the battle for Palestine (code word for the battle for Allah against the infidel). France's so-called "success" in Algeria did not prevent the two French journalists from being kidnapped by Islamist terrorists nor did the anti-war stance of the two Italian female humanitarian workers prevent their kidnapping.
The aim is to terrify, not communicate, the aim is to subjugate and obliterate, not to compromise.
Pipes also minimizes the nature of the centuries-old criminality of the Chechen population, a group which, even he admits, did side with Hitler against Russia. Pipes declares that the Chechens HAD to "eventually resort" to terrorism because they were, after all, "occupied" by Russia. Pipes calls Chechnya a “tiny colonial dependency" and he urges Russia to "let it go." If Russia did, would the Chechens then follow the Palestinian model and launch state-sanctioned attacks against Russia forever because Russia is not Muslim, is too western, or simply because it has "more," and is both envied and feared?
Today, occupation is viewed as far more terrible than terrorist violence; terrorists are not evil but are, "freedom fighters," "militants," "insurgents." Even the ethnic Arab Muslim Janjaweed in Sudan are called "insurgents," and "fighters," not terrorists, in the pages of the most liberal and left newspapers, the Times included. Progressive professors are condemning the U.S. State Department for having revoked Tariq Ramadan's visa to teach at Notre Dame. Meanwhile, French feminists have contacted me, frantically, to explain that Ramadan's views on women are very dangerous. For some, this is a great dilemma: Whether America should or should not grant civil rights and immigrant status to those who seek to overthrow our way of life--and who will do so by using those very rights against us.
I think we should not do so at this time. But, I also think the decision should be carefully made.
But, the greater the Islamist horror, the more certain Western intellectuals, Pipes included, want to reason with it, understand it, appease it. True, the Islamists committed beastly acts of terror against civilians but it was understandable: they were "occupied," "colonized," "humiliated," "unemployed."
By the way, did those Russian children ever "occupy" Chechnya?
No matter. Pretending to understand evil allows reason to prevail--if only as an illusion. Lance Morrow, in his excellent and beautifully written meditation about "Evil," observes that "evil" is present when children are attacked.
I agree with Richard Pipes that " compromise " is preferable. But how can the civilized world compromise with a suicide bomber or a suicide airplane? Un-doing the education that created terrorists will take 50-100 years or more as will exporting the ideas and practices of democracy and women's rights to a region and a religion that has been totally hijacked by infidel- and woman-hating killers.
One cannot "compromise" with evil. One must do battle with it.
Richard Pipes Responds:
[Richard Pipes, Professor Emeritus at Harvard, is one of the world's leading authorities on Soviet history. He is the author of 19 books, the most recent being his new autobiography Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger.]
Ms. Chesler has written an impassioned criticism of my New York Times OpEd page article of September 9, urging the Russian government to grant the Chechen's independence. Her passion is understandable because the Beslan events were, indeed, utterly revolting. But emotion tends to becloud reason which is always necessary, even when dealing with barbarities.
To begin with, let me dispute her attribution to me of the view that "Russia's 'occupation' of Chechnya somehow justifies Chechen terrorism." I try to understand Chechen terrorism and the ways of ending it: understanding is not justifying.
Secondly, Ms. Chesler in her indignation clearly has not thought out her assertion that France's action in granting Algeria independence was a failure. If it is true that France's withdrawal was followed by terror within liberated Algeria, the same can be said of nearly all ex-African colonies. Would she propose, therefore, that we re-colonize Sudan or Rwanda in order to stop the massacres? Is she advocating a revival of global imperialism?.
I nowhere "admit" that the Chechens sided "with Hitler against Russia." I merely say that Stalin accused them of collaboration and had them exiled en masse -- including children and aged people. The barbarities the Russians inflicted on the Chechens are outrageous: they include the destruction of Groznyi which has been turned into rubble and forced hundreds of thousands to flee the republic.
Granting the Chechens independence in the age of decolonization is not appeasement but righting an old wrong.
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