January 10, 2006
Kidnapped Reporter in Iraq: More Questions than Answers
The kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll presents many questions. (One can also deride her risk-raking but it was not of the foolish kind that did not know or understand the risks.) Several issues, some inane sadly, pop to mind, from things as far ranging as torture to the fact that it is the American/Western sufferers who get all the attention while Iraqis suffer fear, hardship, kidnapping and worse in uncontemplated anonymity everyday. Note the author of this linked article on that subject.
Inane and serious thoughts to follow.
Now some questions:
If you reasonably suspected the driver or the politician she was visiting were responsible in some way (apologies if I am libelling them, I am talking about speculations), how DO you investigate with a "ticking hostage heart" scenario? Would your measures -- even detention, high pressure (without waterboarding) interrogation of possibly innocent persons, threatening his future or associates -- really be that much different than what less savory governments and factions would do?
Forgive my counter-stereotyping, but I wonder if, in a Washington Post story I cannot link to now, the reported fact that Jill Carroll had recently become so intent on perfecting her Arabic played a minor contributing role? Americans in the region are, of course, presumptively spies to far too many MENA-ites, including too many who should know better, but learning Arabic practically makes it a conclusive certainty to the popular prejudices. If that fact got out to associates of her employees, and it could easily enough, the motive to sell her out or target her would have gone up. Naturally, there are many more other more powerful and obvious reasons for her to be a target (including the generic targetting of Americans and her open travel) but I never believe in underplaying stupid thoughts as a contributing propelling factor in human affairs, especially in areas of conflict. (If there were no Michael Totten, for example, humanity would have to invent him.) It also allows us to play off language-learning value discussions here on Aqoul and its affiliate Lounsbury site.
When activist and aider of Iraqi war victims Marla Ruczicka was killed by an Iraqi suicide bomber, her risk-taking and motives were noted below by a reporter who knew her.
"The only thing we can say now is at least she [was] doing what she wanted, doing what she really, really believed in. . . . She'd be most worried now about her driver's family and who will take care of all the other Iraqi families she was working with. She would point out, this happens to Iraqis every day and no one notices or even cares. There are no newspaper articles or investigations into what happens to them. For most of them, there was only Marla."
Those tributary words are those of reporter... Jill Carroll. Let's hope they do not become too ironic.
Posted by Matthew Hogan at January 10, 2006 10:49 AM
Filed Under: Iraq War
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Baghdad is starting to to resemble certain cities in sub-Saharan Africa. Have spent extended periods in a few of these and the resemblance is uncanny. Rule of law is non-existent. People who venture out at certain times of day risk being carjacked, escorted home by a group of bandits and robbed blind or kidnapped and held for ransom. Police spend most of their time seeking bribes and are not to be trusted, so crimes usually go unreported. Wealthy people are often identified by skin colour, vehicle or license plate type (NGOs have special ones). Most of these crimes are motivated by economic reasons and class/ethnic resentment, and because it's so easy to pull them off without being caught.
The country I have in mind has a constitution and all the trappings of a procedural democracy, but at the same time it is an utter mess, with fearful minorities and little incentive to invest.
Does not surprise me that Baghdad has these problems now. It also wouldn't surprise me if Carroll was kidnapped simply for money, since she'd obviously seem like a walking dollar bill and an easy target (without bodyguards, perhaps too routine in her habits, etc).
Posted by: eerie at January 10, 2006 07:51 PM
Why do you dislike Michael Totten so much? What has he said or written which is so problematic. I've seen his site and really coulnd't find any fault, albeit it was a cursory glance. Thats why I ask.
Posted by: A at January 19, 2006 05:59 AM
Our colleague, the Lounsbury, has a particular animus towards him, so I play off that. I merely find him (Tottten) annoying, with his use of the idiotic Mark Twain style (but without Twain's redeeming wit) of run around, find people poor and primitive and make fun of them and make assumptions about them in order to preen superiority.
Not that people in different places arent poor and primitive, nor should that necessarily generate sympathy etc. It's just that being richer, slightly more sophisticated, and better off is no excuse to be ignorant and condescending, especially when he is trying to influence policieis in which alot of people are killed.
And I share an animus towards people or views who think the world view of the Beiruti bourgoisie is greatly insightful or benevolent towards the more general MENA region.
Posted by: matthew hogan at January 19, 2006 06:19 AM