Kasparov blood-curdling testimony

by ChessBase
5/25/2004 – We know him as an fear-inspiring player on the chess board, but in the political arena Garry Kasparov also remains true to his nature. Brave, outspoken, even incautious, he'll express his view without fear of consequences. You can see this in his article in the Wall Street Journal and his powerful statement to the Human Rights commission in Washington. Here are excerpts and links.

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Garry Kasparov: Stop the Moral Equivalence

Suicide-bombing and hostage-taking vs. democracy

Quotes from the Kasparov Wall Street Journal article

  • "No political agenda should be allowed to advance through terrorist activity."

  • "Calling the terrorists 'militants' or 'radical Islamists' presupposes the existence of moderates willing to confront the radicals."

  • "We have seen 25 years of anti-Western propaganda and hatred emanating from Iran, not only against Israel and the U.S. but against the liberal values that make up the core of our civilization."

  • "Hijacking, suicide bombings, hostage-taking – this 'Palestinian know-how' has been exported throughout the region."

  • "All of Chechnya is one big Abu Ghraib, but the Islamic world pays scant attention to the horrible crimes there because Mr. Putin shares their distaste for liberal democracy."

  • "If we are to impress the superiority of the democratic model upon the Muslim world we must thoroughly investigate any and all allegations of abuse and clean up our act. This goes for plush U.N. offices as well as Iraqi prison cells."

  • "Those who would appease terrorists must realize that by pretending that this battle does not exist, they will soon have blood on their hands – both real and metaphorical."

Full article in the Wall Street Journal Opinion page

Putin’s Human Rights Record
Focus of Helsinki Commission Hearing

The United States Helsinki Commission has held a hearing to examine Russia’s progress toward respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin. The hearing is timed in advance of Putin’s scheduled visit to the United States to attend the G8 Summit set for June 8-10 in Sea Island, Georgia.

The hearing took place on Thursday, May 20, 2004 at in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington DC. Testifying before the Commission were Ambassador Steven Pifer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion and Chairman, Committee 2008: Free Choice; Dr. Edward Lozansky, President, American University in Moscow and Russia House; Rev. Igor Nikitin, Chairman, Association of Christian Churches in Russia; Nicholai Butkevich, Research and Advocacy Director, Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.

Excerpts from Kasparov's testimony

Speaking in front of the commission Garry Kasparov related how, in 1991, when Moscovites were celebrating the end of Communism, nobody could have imagined that nine years later a KGB colonel who was proud of his past would take over the presidency of the country. Kasparov thinks back to the Yeltsin day, when the Russian press could freely criticise state officials, and even President Yeltsin himself. Today the Russian press is totally submissive, waiting for Kremlin instructions. It provides no information on key issues of Russian domestic politics; Chechnya has virtually disappeared from the news media (it was Mr. Putin who initiated the second Chechen war)

Kasparov compares the situation in Russia and the US, where 9/11 is being vigorously debated, event to the extent that the President was interrogated by an independent commission. In contrast since 1999 there has not been a single public hearing on any terrorist attacks in Russia – no public debates on the explosions in Moscow, none after the terrible hostage crisis at Dubrovka theatre in 2002, where 129 innocent civilians were killed by poison gas used by the KGB, and all the terrorists were shot, leaving nobody to testify in any investigations.

According to Kasparov there are concentration camps with hundreds or even thousands of Chechens, who are being interrogated, tortured and killed. This is never mentioned in the Russian media. There are tight controls on journalists and a total ban on any information about the terrorist activities.

"While Mr. Putin is giving certain concessions to the free world and to the United States on foreign politics, he takes this as his bargain to do whatever he pleases in the domestic policy," says Kasparov. He is furious with Mr Putin's behaviour at the Islamic conference in Malaysia some time ago. There the Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir made anti-Semitic remarks ("the most vicious since Adolph Hitler"). Putin spoke after the Malaysian prime minister, but made no effort to confront him.

Kasparov cites examples of xenophobic propaganda that is prevalant in his country. In the beginning of May there was a trial of Russian security forces in the city of Rostov. Four security officers had killed six Chechens civilians in a car, including two women, burnt their bodies to ashes and blew up the car to cover the evidence. They made no attempt to justify the slaughter, calling it a mistake. The jury trial acquitted them, with the court showing no interest in finding out who had given the orders the four officers had said they were following. Kasparov: "What is most frightening, seven out of 12 jurors gave standing ovation to these four security officers, and now those four security officers are insisting on being compensated for two years they spent in jail during the investigation process." Kasparov also tells of the mistaken bombing of a house where terrorists were suspected of hiding. A woman and five children were killed. There was no apology, the perpetrators were not even detained for investigation.

According to Kasparov Chechnya is producing a Vietnam syndrome. With about a million Russian troops coming through the war, it will have a deep effect on national psychology for generations to come, on young people who are supposedly building the Russia of the future. "Many of them will have their moral system and their priorities in life completely broken by the tragedy in Chechnya. The sooner we stop this carnage, better for Russia." Kasparov complains that while the attention of the world media is mainly concentrated on the events in Iraq, no attempt is being made to look at the situation in Chechnya or Ingushetia "which is hundred, thousand times worse than in Iraq".

Kasparov admits that Russia is geopolitically very important and that there were moments in its history where the United States had to join arms with dictators like Joseph Stalin. That was born out of necessity because of the threat from Nazi Germany. "But Comrade Stalin didn't pretend to be a great democrat and didn't want to be part of G-7." He disagrees with Professor Lozansky, who said that engaging Russia would improve conditions in that country. "The policy of detente in the '70s ended up as Afghanistan. What eventually demolished Soviet Union was Reagan's blunt policy of Evil Empire."

In January leaders of Russia’s democratic forces, journalists and economists declared the formation of a new democratic coalition: 2008: Free Choice. Now the committee, of which Garry Kasparov was reelected chairman, has issued a proposal to unite Russian liberal and democratic leaders in order to “transform Russia into a jural, democratic state with a developed civil society and competitive economics”.

The coalition plans to hold a poll among the democratically oriented electorate to form a list for the next parliamentary elections. The person who receives the biggest amount of votes in the poll will lead the list and will become a “possible candidate for president” nominated by the coalition, the statement said. The poll is to be held from fall 2006 till spring 2007.

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