Tuesday, September 07, 2004

I've been avoiding reading too much about what happened in Ossetia province in Russia, because it is simply so horrifying. But just now I read two articles in the New York Times about it. The descriptions of what those hostages went through boggles the mind and crushes the heart. Children, parents, and teachers were denied food and water for 3 days. The hostages were told to hand in their cellphones and told that if any rings were heard, 20 people would die instantly all around them. One survivor, a boy, said that a man was shot in the head directly in front of him, and he saw the man drop down dead, in an instant. Explosives were rigged to the ceiling and to basketball hoops, and the terrorists shot a video that included a female terrorist with her foot raised over the detonator. Children tried to eat wilted flowers in their extreme hunger; and when some children tried to flee, they were shot in the back.

What does all this mean? What does it mean? Why do people do things like this? What is it in human nature that makes human beings, at least some human beings, capable of such acts of total, utter depravity? I know that many Americans will use this horror to parade their hatred of all Muslims, as if every Muslim is capable of doing things like this. As if every Muslim is guilty of murdering 330 (at least) children, parents, and teachers.

And what should the response be? I am at a total loss to know. Tens of thousands of Russians marched in Moscow today, and Putin raged at some Russians who want him to react in a measured way, instead of razing Grozny, the capital city of Chechnya, to the ground. I can't imagine "negotiating" with people who are so beyond all human feeling that they would commit an atrocity like this. But on the other hand, what is bombing an entire city into ruins going to accomplish? Is murdering innocents the only possible response to this act of mass murder of innocents?

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