human spirit weighed against materiel in war [Chechens] : LUSENET : Human-Machine Assimilation : One Thread

From My War Gone By, I Miss It So (Loyd, 1999)

I weighed the attitude of the Chechens. It seemed that they had an almost complete disregard for death, backed by an absolute certainty in the justice of their cause, and the eventual victory that that would bring them regardless of the Russians' military might. 'You can break the man but not the spirit,' a fighter had told me once in Grozny as he strode into a battle. I am sure he had not read Hemingway, and I was cynical and faithless enough even then to have discounted his words as being those of blind machismo. Now I thought of them again.

Much of the Chechens' mentality had been forged by their upbringing. They were the product of a hierarchical society conditioned by values such as endurance and emotional reserve. A friend had told me that he had witnessed two Chechen brothers meet in a hospital. Both were fighters. One had had his legs and an arm blown off by a shell a day earlier. He lay in a filthy, bloodstained bed swathed in bandages. Only his face emerged through the swaddle of cloth; scabbed, scarred and blackened by the blast. He was conscious but could not speak. His brother walked in. It was the first time he had seen his sibling since he had been maimed. There was no touching, no display of sadness. The unwounded man took a chair and sat by his brother's bed for a while, talking to him softly. After a time he got up to leave. No sign of emotion had passed over his face at any stage. He said goodbye and just before he turned to leave there was movement from the bed.

The wounded man lifted his remaining arm from the blankets and raised his thumb in defiance.

Imagine the power of such men. Hail them, and fear them.

Before going to Bosnia I had seen war as a simple equation of physical force: add up the tanks, guns and men on both sides, throw in a few other variables, and if the discrepancy is large enough, you know who to put your money on to win. Increasingly, though, in the Balkans, and then latterly in Chechnya, I saw another ingredient, one that had a power totally disproportionate to any other asset on the battlefield: human will. The Chechens had it, and ultimately the Russians did not. While the match of weaponry and men was so unequal it made the chance of a Chechen victory seem ridiculous, it was to be will that carried the final victory.

If there was a positive lesson for me in that terrible place, then that was it. It suggested that the power of man can withstand the might of the machine, and it threatened the complacency of Western societies whose children, like me, are corrupted by meaningless choice, material wealth and spiritual emptiness.

-- scott (, February 05, 2000

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