Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chechnya Study Notes

Last night's celebrations in Watertown, Connecticut were a welcome relief to the tensions of the preceding week. It's too soon to know how the retrospective narratives will play out. There will be several as various groups seek to re-package the chaos of the week to suit various agendas. While that script plays out my focus is on learning as much as possible about the backgrounds of the two perpetrators, how and why they did this terrible thing. I have an assignment this morning and will have to put off my reading until later, but here are two items to get started.

Videos on the Present and Past of Chechnya
Juan Cole gets us started with some background about Chechnya.
Here are some videos for Saturday viewing that give a sense of the recent tragic history of Chechnya and of Russian policy toward it today. 
Also for print sources, see this brief history of Daghestan and Chechnyafrom the Smithsonian Magazine. 
I know this Russia Today report on how nice Grozny is now is propagandistic, but I try to look at an issue from various points of view, and this is the government one. And, it has the virtue of giving a sense of what Grozny is physically like as a city nowadays. The report isn’t very different on the substance than a similar, shorter Aljazeera documentary from a couple of years ago, which lays more emphasis on the lack of human rights.

Beslan Meets Columbine
This op-ed in yesterday's NY Times by Oliver Bullough looks balanced. 

The word most linked to “Chechen” is “terrorist,” because of the attacks against the audience at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater in 2002, against children in Beslan, North Ossetia, in 2004, and now the marathon in Boston. But terrorists were only ever a tiny fraction of the population. A more accurate word to link to “Chechen” would be “refugee.” Perhaps 20 percent, perhaps more, of all Chechens have left Chechnya in the last 20 years. 
Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston bombings, was born to a Chechen family. He was just a baby when Boris N. Yeltsin sent tanks to subdue his rebellious nation. At this point, we know very little about the suspect’s motivations. It’s unclear how much time, if any, he’d spent in Chechnya, while he spent years living in the United States. All we know is that, for his generation, Chechnya has always been a place of violence, abductions, widows, orphans and rape: a place to escape from, not to go home to. 

Here are my questions:
  • Is terrorism becoming more frequent or less frequent in America?  
  • Worldwide? 
  • What is the significance, if any, of Chechen separatist extremism.crossing the Atlantic? 
  • Is this an event or a trend? (Until this week Chechen extremism has been a Russian phenomenon.)
  • Which of various political agendas will bend the narrative most successfully? 
This week's news reporting has been messy but as good as possible at a time when anybody with access to the Web can monitor law enforcement communication channels in real time, surveillance cameras and countless cell phones with video capability are literally everywhere and crowdsourcing is becoming a tool of law enforcement. 
  • So what is the difference, if any, between old-fashioned vigilantes, sheriffs' posses and mobs bento on hanging and today's crowd behavior?
Already voices are crying out for media outlets to purge themselves of extremist rhetoric. 


Afternoon now. It appears the younger brother has not been "Mirandized" and it appears not likely to be. A surprising number of voices are arguing he should be treated as an enemy combatant and prosecuted in a military court. I use the word prosecuted deliberately since the word tried seems inappropriate. This post from Obsidian Wings is excellent.

some historical notes
by Fiddler

In the first Boston Massacre, on March 5, 1770, British troops fired into a rioting crowd of civilians on King Street in Boston, without being ordered to do so; four people died immediately, one soon after, and six were injured. The British governor asked John Adams, who was known for his views on independence from England but who was also an excellent lawyer, to defend the British soldiers in their trial, who had fired without orders from an officer.
The trial took place in open court, with the public admitted to view the proceedings. As a result of Adams' arguments in their defense, six of the eight were acquitted of murder charges and two were convicted of manslaughter for firing directly into the crowd -- this, in spite of the tremendous amount of propaganda that was circulated in the press and in rumors beforehand.
The summary of this at Wikipedia is not too bad. For a closer view of part of the proceedings, the miniseries John Adams devotes one of its six episodes to this. 
So. We now have a second Boston Massacre, the death of ordinary people at a public event, without the excuse of military presence or riot. One of those accused of responsibility for the bombings has died; the other, 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, has been captured and is hospitalized; he has not been read his Miranda rights. Here is the text of a free Miranda Rights card that can be printed to carry with you: 
I wish to invoke my Miranda Rights to remain silent under the statutes and constitution of the United States of America. I do not want to talk or answer any questions to law enforcement. I do not want to participate in any lineup or show-up until I consult with an attorney and he is present. I do not consent to any search of my person, property or possession under my control or which I have an interest. I declare that I do not waive my legal rights and I insist on having my lawyer present. 
Police are required to read Miranda rights to people who are arrested as a result of the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, decided in 1966.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not given his Miranda warning because of a 'public safety exception', which is supposed to expire after 48 hours. This exception comes from the Supreme Court case New York v. Quarles; in order for information learned under this exemption to be admissible in court, the suspect must not be "actually compelled by police conduct which overcame his will to resist" and it must be a situation "in which police officers ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety," according to Carl A. Benoit's article, "The 'Public Safety' Exception to Miranda," in a FBI law enforcement bulletin dated February 2011.

However, the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not given this right leads to the suspicion that his case might never see an open court -- might, instead, be judged under 'anti-terrorist' provisions, because of his not being a US citizen. His older brother Tamerlan is dead, so nobody can ever know what Tamerlan intended when he dropped a backpack containing a homemade shrapnel bomb on the sidewalk during the race. The fact that Tamerlan did this appears beyond dispute, as one of the victims of the blast looked him full in the face just before he did it and was able to identify him for police later. But Tamerlan is not Dzhokhar, who is now in custody. Photographs put Dzhokhar at the scene, carrying a shoulder bag -- but I am unaware of any witnesses who can testify that he personally dropped that bag near them 
I can't help being reminded of the Beltway Snipers in 2002, when the adult John Allan Muhammad convinced teenaged Lee Boyd Malvo that it was all right to use ordinary human beings going about their daily lives as targets. I can't help wondering what sort of influence Tamerlan had over Dzhokhar, and why, and whether we will be allowed to learn any of it in an open courtroom. 
Will Dzhokhar have a defender as able as John Adams to represent him in an open court? Muhammad and Malvo faced open courtrooms; so did the Unabomber, and Timothy McVie, after the Oklahoma bombing. Will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?

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