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The War Nerd June 28, 2002
What's a Chechen?
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 2 of 3

They seem like one of those tribes that are either going to rule the world or go extinct but nothing in between. They messed with Stalin. I mean, that's serious stuff. You look back at the 20th c. now and all that Hitler noise seems like kiddie stuff. It's Stalin who looks like the really big scary figure now. And the Chechens told Stalin to fuck off. Pretty impressive. So they got themselves officially labeled a "Criminal nationality" and shipped off in cattle cars to somewhere in the steppes. It was like training camp for them. All the old and weak and peaceful types just died. The ones that were left -- I read this in a Chechen guy's account of growing up on in the steppes -- the kids that survived used to pass the time by fighting. That's all they did. All day, every day. One kid would go to another kid's tent and call his name. The kid would come out swinging and they'd fight till it was time to go in and have their gruel or whatever. Broken bones, damaged organs -- all part of the fun. You weren't even supposed to mention them or you weren't a real man.

After that, war or crime must've seemed easy. So when the Russians finally let the Chechens go home, they were ready for some action. But the Soviet Army was not something to be lightly fucked with, not even in the last days of the Empire. There were a lot of Russians who itched for some action, who were sick of hearing their grandfathers strutting around on their Eastern Front stories and wanted some trophies of their own. So the Chechens let the Russian Federation, the weak successor state, tell them they were still part of Russia. Everybody else got to leave, but not the Chechens: there were pipelines at stake, and states get REAL serious when oil pipelines are involved. Just ask the caribou up in Alaska. Anyway, the Chechens waited till Yeltsin was in power and the Red Army was turning to rust. Then they made their move, declared independence, waited for the pain.

The was like the whole state was drunk on whatever Yeltsin was having. They came in like drunken cowboys. I mean literally: the method was to send lightly-armored APCs, BMPs, charging into central Grozny. We're talking a Soviet-style city, which means endless blocks of 9-story apartments. And these are the Chechens -- born killers. OK, so Russian generals, Tsarist or Soviet, are not exactly known for worrying over casualties or coddling their men...but even for them, it was pretty damn stupid. Once again, it was the good old RPG-7 that did the job: Chechens let the huge armored convoy come right into the crowded center of town, sitting up there on the highrise roofs with a perfect view. Then they blasted the first and last vehicles in classic ambush strategy and took their time killing all the ones jammed up in the instant armored traffic jam. By all accounts it was a massacre. Once you've seen what happens to an APC when an RPG round hits it, you don't want to stay inside...but the Russian troops had been trained to stay in there, and they obeyed, as Russian troops do. So they were firing out of the ports, totally uselessly, blasting the windows of the groundfloor shops, while waiting to be targeted by the rooftop RPGs. It must've been the easiest mass kill of armored vehicles since our ex-drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, decided to get himself another star by ordering the obliteration of a retreating Iraqi armored column at the end of the Gulf War.

The Russian brass watched from a safe distance and took notes on the position of the RPG positions, then blasted the city. Really blasted it, by the accounts I read: 4000 detonations per hour at one point in the bombardment. Nobody ever denied the effectiveness of Russian artillery, not since the Wehrmacht learned it the hard way; and the tubes were glowing by the time they were finished dosing Grozny. ( I hear "Grozny" means something like "Terrible." I kind of like that. Seems like a good name for the place.) They weren't doing any of this pinpoint/smartbomb crap; they were going to kill every RPG gunner by the simple method of killing EVERYBODY in town, on the theory that the gunners would be included in the tally...and the rest were probably sympathizers, so too bad for them. The Air Force was in on it too, and Russian air has always seen close air support as its primary mission, so you can bet those Sukhois were screaming in close, lighting up everything that moved.

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Gary Brecher
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