The main goal of any hostage situation is to get as many of the hostages out of alive as humanly possible.
It appears Russian President Vladimir Putin and his security forces didn't grasp this basic fact when they decided to launch a deadly and as yet unknown gas into a theater where Chechen rebels had trapped more than 750 hostages. The rebels had threatened to kill the hostages if Putin did not agree to reverse his efforts to crush separatist rebels in Chechnya and withdraw Russian troops.
Putin obviously more concerned with casting the rebels as Islamic terrorists agreed to the final assault on the theater that aides called a complete success because no troops died in the operation. Russian troops opened fire on the theater in a pre-dawn raid, lighting up the sky with bullets and explosions before the forces moved in.
Unfortunately this "success" involved the use of the unidentified gas that proceeded to kill 117 of the hostages who succumbed to what Russian doctors called the effects of poisoning. One physician told the Nezavisimaya Gazet daily, "I saw no gunshot wounds at all. Those who died had swallowed their vomit or their tongue or their hearts had stopped."
This raises a larger issue of what exactly this unnamed gas is. Russia had signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty banning the use of chemical weapons that requires that "riot control agents" have effects that "disappear within a short time following termination of exposure." Despite demands from the U.S. Embassy, Russian officials have failed as of yet to identify what chemical was used in the raid. This move by Putin, along with the recent acknowledgement by North Korea that they are indeed working on nuclear weapons, makes Bush's call for an attack on Iraq look even more idiotic. How can you attack a piss ant country that hasn't fully developed the "weapons of mass destruction" you fear it has when two countries you signed non-development treaties with already have them and are willing to deploy them at any point.
But that is Bush's problem and not Putin's. So for being so over-zealous in protecting your presidency and military ideology as to be willing to sacrifice innocent citizens, Vladimir Putin and the Russian Security Forces are this month's jackass.
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