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Sunday, September 12, 2004

Are We With Them or Against Them? 

Embattled Russian president Vladimir "Pooty-Poot" Putin has cannily decided to divert attention from his own complicity in the unspeakable Beslan bloodbath by taking a page from the Bush playbook. Unfortunately, when Putin condemns "countries that shelter terrorists," the country he's referring to is the one run by Bush himself. From the AP wire, via our esteemed colleagues at No Capital:
Hundreds of Russians demonstrated in front of the U.S. and British embassies in Moscow on Friday, accusing the Western nations' governments of double standards on terrorism and angrily demanding the extradition of two prominent Chechen separatists they have granted asylum.

Some 500 people, mostly Moscow students, gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy, bitterly criticizing Washington for sheltering Ilyas Akhmadov, who was appointed Chechnya's foreign minister in 1999 by the region's president at the time, rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov.

A similar crowd showed up at the British Embassy, urging London to extradite Akhmed Zakayev, an envoy for Maskhadov who was been granted refugee status despite dogged efforts by Russian authorities to persuade Britain's government to hand him over.

The protests came after the Foreign Ministry, in the wake of a series of terror attacks blamed in part on Chechen militants, vocally criticized the United States and Britain and said it would step up efforts to win the extradition of Akhmadov and Zakayev.

President Vladimir Putin has also said some element in Western governments are hindering Russia's fight against terrorism because they do not want the former Cold War foe to thrive.

Demonstrators outside the U.S. Embassy held banners saying "Bush, give us back Akhmadov!" and shouted "Shame! Shame!"
And, from CNN:
The Kremlin was angered when the U.S. granted asylum to Ilyas Akhmadov, who was foreign minister under Maskhadov during Chechnya's de-facto independence in the late 1990s.

"Granting asylum to people involved in terrorism -- and Russia has documented evidence of this -- not only causes us regret but also effectively undermines the unity of the anti-terrorist coalition," Lavrov was quoted as saying in Thursday's edition of the newspaper Vremya Novostei.

"We are far from accusing the leaders of major countries ... of deliberately preserving this double standard," he said. "But the inertia is still very strong."
It's lucky we don't give a rat's ass what the Cubans think, because all of the above is small beer compared to this (via Meteor Blades at Daily Kos):
A little-noticed but chilling scene at Opa-locka Airport outside Miami last month demonstrates that the Bush administration's commitment to fighting international terrorism can be overtaken by presidential politics — even if that means admitting known terrorists onto U.S. soil.

That's what happened when outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso inexplicably pardoned four Cuban exiles convicted of "endangering public safety" for their role in an assassination plot against Fidel Castro during a 2000 international summit in Panama.

After their release, three of the four immediately flew via private jet to Miami, where they were greeted with a cheering fiesta organized by the hard-line anti-Castro community. Federal officials briefly interviewed the pardoned men — all holders of U.S. passports — and then let them go their way.

The fourth man, Luis Posada Carriles, was the most notorious member of this anti-Castro cell. He is an escapee from a prison in Venezuela, where he was incarcerated for blowing up an Air Cubana passenger plane in 1976, killing 73. He also admitted plotting six hotel bombings in Havana that killed one tourist and injured 11 others in 1997. Posada has gone into hiding in Honduras while seeking a Central American country that will harbor him, prompting Honduran President Ricardo Maduro to demand an explanation from the Bush administration on how a renowned terrorist could enter his country using a false U.S. passport.

The terrorist backgrounds of Posada's three comrades-in-arms are as well documented as their leader's. Guillermo Novo once fired a bazooka at the U.N. building; in February 1979, he was convicted and sentenced to 40 years for conspiracy in the 1976 assassination of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, in Washington. (His conviction was subsequently vacated on a legal technicality.) Gaspar Jimenez was convicted and imprisoned in Mexico in 1977 for murdering a Cuban consulate official; he was released by authorities in 1983. Pedro Remon received a 10-year sentence in 1986 for conspiring to kill Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations in 1980. These are violent men. Panamanian prosecutors said they had planned to detonate 33 pounds of explosives while Castro was speaking at a university in Panama. Had they not been intercepted by the authorities, the blast not only would have killed the Cuban president but quite possibly hundreds of others gathered to hear him speak during the inter-American summit . . . .

But Florida is crucial to Bush's reelection strategy. Currying favor with anti-Castro constituents in Miami appears to trump the president's anti-terrorism principles. So far, not a single White House, State Department or Homeland Security official has expressed outrage at Panama's decision to put terrorists back on the world's streets. The FBI appears to have no plans to lead a search for Posada so he can be returned to Venezuela, where he is a wanted fugitive. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has rounded up and expelled hundreds of foreigners on the mere suspicion of a terrorist link, has indicated no intention to detain and deport Novo, Jimenez and Remon.
UPDATE (9/13): Holy cow, that Pooty-Poot is borrowing some pages from the Bush playbook that Bush hasn't even gotten around to yet.

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