The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, June 10, 2002  

A Case Study in Sporadic Outrage

Whatever happened to Chechnya?

Not so very long ago, before they began calling upon the U.S. to wage war worldwide against scores of enemies both real and imagined, the unrelentingly militaristic neoconservative denizens of New York and Washington were up in arms over Chechnya.

As is customary when one of their number has an apoplectic fit of one kind or another, or simply decides the U.S. must, simply must, intervene in yet another Godforsaken scrap of land somewhere, the neoconservatives formed a committee, in this case, the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC).

All of the usual suspects signed on as “members,” including, among others:

Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, Richard V. Allen, John Brademas, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Burt, Midge Decter (The right wing’s counterpart to Barbara Ehrenreich when it comes to signing petitions.), Sandra Feldman, Frank Gaffney, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Irving Louis Horowitz, Robert Kagan, Max M. Kampelman, William Kristol (A man who never saw a war he didn’t like, except for those in which he avoided service.), Michael A. Ledeen, Seymour M. Lipset (Still living?), Robert McFarlane, Joshua Muravchik, William Odom, P.J. O’Rourke (Now there’s one who adds intellectual gravitas to the venture.), Richard Perle, Richard Pipes, Norman Podhoretz, Arch Puddington, Caspar Weinberger, and R. James Woolsey.

Our only question after reading this list…Where the hell was Jeane Kirkpatrick when they were passing around the sign-up list?

Granted, there were a handful of new names in the bunch, including Geraldine Ferraro, Richard Gere (Go figure.), Thomas Kean, and William H. Taft IV (What would great-grandfather say?), but all in all it was a veritable reunion of the Committee on the Present Danger, except the gang is older and grayer now, and if one can imagine, crankier as well.

From the ACPC’s web site we learn that the committee, formed in February 2000, is a nonpartisan, non-profit, privately funded committee “dedicated to promoting a peaceful resolution of the war in Chechnya.” ACPC cooperates in its efforts to promote peace in Chechnya with Freedom House and the Jamestown Foundation “to raise awareness about the crisis among policymakers and the general public.”

The Jamestown Foundation outlines its concerns at the ACPC site:

“The war in Chechnya is a humanitarian tragedy, with 50,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. In Russia the war inhibits the growth of civil liberties and democratic institutions. It constrains economic growth. The conflict threatens to spread into Georgia, where United States forces are now engaged as advisors.

“Coverage of the war in the Western press is sparse and sporadic, severely limited by Russian restrictions. The Jamestown Foundation intends to remedy this neglect by publishing new information and analysis and by opening its archives to the public.”

This is a reasonably accurate, albeit by now dated, assessment, though we point out that we know about as much about the war in Chechnya as we do about the war in Afghanistan, given that media coverage of both conflicts has been “severely limited” by Russian and American restrictions, respectively.

Frankly, the Jamestown Foundation’s concerns sound almost quaint in light of the fact that so many of the ACPC’s “members,” who were merely signatories really, have long since moved on to their first love, rallying Americans to support, slavishly and without reservation, the regime of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his thuggish military forces through any means necessary, including intimidation and coercion.

We would be hard pressed to determine the last time any of the ACPC’s signatories last uttered the word “Chechnya.” Indeed, the neoconservatives are using yet another vehicle, the Project for the New American Century (William Kristol, chairman), to force President George W. Bush to adopt a hard-line policy -- one that we believe does not serve the interests of American foreign policy -- in the Middle East. (See the group’s deranged April 3, 2002 letter to the President.) Clearly, for the neoconservatives the urgency of peace in Chechnya has receded.

Meanwhile, the ACPC continues to publish a newsletter, “Chechnya Weekly,” written by John Dunlop, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a generally wise man who nonetheless is mistakenly identified by the ACPC as a “Stanford University Russia Scholar.” A tad light on analysis, “Chechnya Weekly” consists of news articles collected from various media sources but primarily from the Moscow Times and the Associated Press.

As for the ACPC’s schedule of activities, well, let’s just say the pace appears to have eased a bit since the committee was formed. From the committee’s web site we learn of an “Upcoming!” event: Radio Free Europe will screen “Chechen Lullaby: Once Upon a Time There was Chechnya,” a film by Georgian film producer Nino Kirtadze, in two congressional office buildings on Friday, May 10.

Wait…That was last month. Never mind.

It’s all a bit sad, really. But didn’t anyone tell the foundation people that Israel is waging war again?

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