Desperate Muslim separatist groups in any other country turn to extremism and terrorism, and they get labeled Al Qaeda-linked international terrorists. Chechens do the same only on a larger scale, and they get... a Radio Liberty broadcast and a good feting.
It's not as if the Chechen-Al Qaeda link is a great secret.
The phrase "thousands of Chechen fighters" was repeated nearly every day in the Western press to describe the Al Qaeda fighters battling the Coalition troops.
Videotapes of Chechens cutting the throats of Russian hostages have been one of the top hits of the terrorist underworld.
Moussaoui was known to have got his start as a recruiter for Chechen war jihadists in France and elsewhere.
And last week Mounir Motassadeq, who is on trial in Hamburg accused of being part of Mohammed Atta's cell, testified that Atta and his comrades had wanted to fight in Chechnya but were told by Al Qaeda that they weren't needed there.
According to an October 23rd Washington Post article, "Hijackers Had Hoped To Fight In Chechnya, Court Told":
"In the opening day of his trial in a Hamburg state court, Motassadeq testified that he knew of Atta's ambition to fight in Chechnya and that the two men spoke together after Atta returned from Afghanistan in February 2000.
"'Atta said to me, "I was in Afghanistan and the people said to us that the Chechens do not need [fighters] anymore,"' Motassadeq testified."
How much more obvious could the Chechnya connection be? Muhammed Atta only brought down the World Trade Center because he was turned away from his first dream: fighting in Chechnya.
In the past few months, at least 15 Al Qaeda members, two of whom were considered to be high ranking, were reported captured in the Pankisi Gorge, a northern-Georgia region that borders Chechnya and has been controlled by Chechen separatists until now. Indeed, the alleged presence of the Al Qaeda terrorists gave the U.S. a pretext for introducing Green Berets into Georgia, a move which the Russians saw as a shocking betrayal of the post-9/11 alliance.
Yet Western news reports over the past week covering the hostage crisis were contemptuous of President Putin's claim that the terror attack on Moscow was tied to international terrorism. Even after the terrorists themselves announced their affiliation with Islamic extremism as loudly and clearly as possible by releasing a video of themselves on Al Jazeera -- the venue of choice for international terrorists everywhere -- Washington refuses to recognize the obvious.
Typical is this aside, from a Reuters hostage-crisis article:
"Russia has drawn attention to Arab fighters in Chechnya and accuses the rebels of links to radical Islamist groups like the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, whom Washington blames for the September 11 attacks. But privately, Western diplomats play down any Chechen involvement by al Qaeda."
Rival AP took the same line the next day:
"In televised remarks, Putin described the hostage-taking as one of the largest terror attacks in history and claimed it had been planned 'in one of the foreign terrorist centers' that 'made a plan and found the perpetrators.' He didn't provide evidence that the raid was organized abroad."
Can you imagine a single AP, Reuters or any American article questioning the Bush Administration's "evidence" of Osama bin Laden's guilt in the 9/11 attacks? Particularly in the middle of the terror?
It's been a year now since the World Trade Towers fell, and I haven't seen or read any hard evidence directly implicating bin Laden. I'm not saying he's not guilty, but if we're going to be fair about this, we'd have to ask what right America had to kill thousands of Afghan civilians in order to drive out Al Qaeda when so little evidence has been presented -- and why the threshold for what constitutes "evidence" is so impossibly high in Russia's case, where the Chechen rebels have all but screamed into the world's face: "We're linked to international terrorists! We're linked to international terrorists!"