Monday, October 28, 2002

Well, we have now had a situation in which the Russians have used chemical weapons in Moscow, killing about 150 people in total, and it somehow doesn't even seem that much of a big deal any more. (I wish I knew what precisely it was that they used. Speculation seems to vary from Valium to "some kind of anaesthetic" to "Some kind of nerve gas". Surely someone will do a blood test in a western hospital reasonably soon which might tell us?) President Putin has a reputation for ruthlessness in situations like this, but more than anything I think this is an indication that the rules have completely changed since September 11. Presumably the worst case scenario in Moscow was an enormous detonation of explosivess, all 700 hostages dying and an enormous fire. 100 civilian casualties is seen as acceptable in preventing this. While I doubt that the United States would use a chemical agent in New York (for instance), it remains to be seen what the US will do when next faced with this type of situation. What the Russians did really isn't all that different from what the USAF was clearly preparing to do to flight 93 (ie shoot it down) when the passengers did it for them. The only real difference I suppose is that the Russians had longer to prepare. It seems we have reached a situation where this is the price you pay.

Of course this is a terrible price, and my sympathy goes out to the families and friends of all the Russians who died. It upsets me beyond words that this is the situation we have reached. But it seems we have.

Update And of course the Russian Alpha troops made sure that the terrorists were in fact dead and not just unconscious by shooting them in the head. As Glenn Reynolds has commented, nobody has commented much on this, and nobody seems to have a problem with it. I personally don't have a problem with it. The few survivors were presumably chosen to be taken off and tortured. We live in ugly times.

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