Edit: This was taken from the New York Post.THE BESLAN SAVAGERY
September 4, 2004 -- From the very beginning of the hostage crisis Wednesday in the Russian city of Beslan, it was painfully clear that it was not going to end well. Some 40 heavily armed Chechen terrorists had commandeered a school, taking possibly as many as 1,500 people hostage — among them, hundreds of young children.
They promised to kill everyone if their demand — the release of Islamist prisoners — was denied; their track record dictated that they be taken seriously.
That left Russian officials little choice.
Russia has long adhered — and rightly so — to a strict policy of not appeasing terrorists, so as not to encourage them.
But any rescue attempt was sure to bring considerable casualties, given the situation. Recall how commandos tried to end a similar siege by Chechen terrorists at a Moscow theater in 2002?
Setting off gas and storming the site, they killed 41 guerrillas — but 129 hostages also died.
And sure enough, yesterday the Belsan school siege ended in disaster: Early reports suggested that more than 200 hostages were killed and some 700 injured.
Authorities — who had, in fact, begun negotiations — said they were forced to storm the school after the terrorists began shooting at fleeing children.
Moscow, particularly under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, has a habit of hiding its dirty laundry, rejecting foreign aid and operating unilaterally, oft-times at its own peril. But no one should second-guess its actions yesterday; responsibility for bloodshed attaches solely and entirely to the terrorists.
How is it possible that human beings can use the lives of children, hundreds of them, as tools to achieve their own personal political aims?
The truth is, the perpetrators of the school siege were not human. They were beasts — savage, bloodthirsty animals. For no human being, no matter how legitimately aggrieved, could so savagely open fire on innocent, helpless kids.
It is beyond cowardice.
By the same token, how is it possible that any nation that considers itself civilized can still ignore — even excuse — the use of terror as a political weapon?
And yet, some do.
Iran, Syria, North Korea, the Palestinian Authority — these are all regimes that employ or endorse terror, while other nations, notably in Europe, turn a blind eye.
Sure, world leaders yesterday brimmed with shock and outrage at the killers and sympathy for Russia.
"There are no reasons imaginable that could justify taking children, toddlers, babies and their mothers hostage," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said. France, through its foreign ministry, called on "everyone to mobilize in the fight against terrorism."
Yet where were France and Germany when America and dozens of other nations sought to stop Saddam Hussein's carnage in Iraq? Indeed, where exactly do they stand now in the War on Terror?
Make no mistake: America saw its share of savagery and bloodshed three years ago next week in Washington, Pennsylvania and downtown Manhattan.
The Belsan school siege is "another grim reminder of the length to which terrorists will go to threaten this civilized world," President Bush said yesterday.
Indeed, today there is no reason to think terrorists, whatever their stripe, wouldn't resort to the same kind of barbarism here if given half a chance.
But therein lies the difference: Bush on Thursday vowed to protect this country from the thugs, "whatever it takes."
He's bolstered the nation's defenses at home and gone on the offensive overseas — hunting down the vermin in their caves and spider holes.
America, so far, has been spared a repeat of 9/11, or even a catastrophe like the one this week in Russia.
But, as Bush well knows, this country cannot let down its guard for even a second. And while worldwide "unity" in the War on Terror may be today's watchword, America must never — never — rely on so-called allies for its protection.
It would do so, surely, with great regret. nypost.com/postopinion/editorial/28063.htm