Friday, November 16, 2007

A friend of Freedom

The most chilling part of this short interview with Arkady Babchenko, author of One Soldier's War in Chechnya, comes towards the end.

In my rough transcript from about three minutes in, we start with a passage from the book:
In one cottage cellar they found a mutilated body: Yakovlev. The rebels had slit him open and used his intestines to strangle him while he was still alive. On the neatly whitewashed wall above him written in his blood were the words Allahu Akhbar -- God is great.
Then Babchenko, via an interpreter, tells Bridget Kendall:
So when Russia went into Chechnya for the second time I don't think the Russian army were perceived by the Chechen people as liberators, but at least they were indifferent to it. They didn't care who was going to establish order. They just craved order. So in the second war were didn't fight the Chechens, we fought gangs that roamed wide - and they were huge gangs, very strong gangs - we fought these criminals.

But the very purpose of the war was not to put an end to this banditry, this gangsterism that was reigning in Chechnya. It was only to bring Putin to power. That was the sole end.
Kendall says:
Clearly this whole experience of the war has scarred you. How much do you think it has scarred Russia? Because the general view in Russia today is that the Chechen war has been put behind them.
And Babchenko replies:
You wouldn't believe it but I'm a cheerful young man with a keen sense of humour. I think the Chechen war had the same effect on Russian society as you would have in a medieval society when a public execution took place. So there are no bans any longer, no taboos, no moral scruples. There is a total cynicism reigning supreme.

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