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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bombs Kill All Hope In Checnya

What is Moscow's strategy now for the war in Chechnya? The blockade that was announced has so far failed to take effect, the troops have yet to make a concerted ground attack to storm Grozny and jets have now randomly and savagely bombed the city center, guaranteeing that Chechens can never forgive or forget.


The Russian troops in Chechnya are, it seems, either in a stage of psychological warfare or of desperation. If the former, then the rationale behind Thursday morning's bombing raids must be to soften up defenses and persuade as many civilians as possible to leave the city, so it can later be more easily stormed.


This would mesh with the fact that the city still has not been sealed off, leaving would-be refugees a choice of roads they can take to escape the coming bloodbath. It all makes a gruesome kind of sense.


But it also reflects a deeply flawed plan.


The experience of Bosnia is that random bombing does not conquer the fighting spirit of a people, even if it does force them to flee temporarily. It merely enrages them, probably for generations to come.


What then of desperation? With the news that Defense Minister Pavel Grachev has fired several commanders of the Chechen operation and one has resigned in protest, it could be that the jets have been sent in for lack of any coherent strategy at all. This is a grotesque scenario, but all too common in such conflicts.


Whether planned or ordered out of desperation, Thursday's bombing raids are morally disgusting. Eye witnesses saw jets deliberately target groups of civilians, while official Russian comments that the Chechens have been faking bomb attacks by blowing up houses themselves are downright shameful.


Just as important, in the long term Chechnya's 1.2 million people must feel that the persecution they suffered from Stalin in 1944 -- when they were exiled en masse to Kazakhstan and Siberia and fully 50 percent of their population died in the exodus -- is being repeated. What hope then for a reconciliation with Moscow?


In this context, President Boris Yeltsin's assurances that the genocide of 1944 will not be repeated and his offer of financial compensation once the war is over seem wildly out of touch with reality. Money will not heal these wounds, nor will assurances that Chechens will not be exiled console them about being bombed in their houses.


This war has already gone too far for any true reconciliation. A police state in Chechnya, the institutions of which would be constantly under guerrilla attack, is now the likely outcome. In that case, whatever happens in the battle for Grozny, Yeltsin has already lost the war.