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Friday, January 27, 2006

Freeing Jill Carroll

The effort to free Jill Carroll, an American (and very pro-Arab) journalist kidnapped in Iraq, is remarkable, and just might work.

Appeals for her release have come not just from her parents and newspaper editors, but from: a group of 37 Arab intellectuals, politicians and journalists; a former member of Gamaa Islamiya; a top Hamas official; and a number of Jordanian women's groups. The wife of Tareq Ayyoub, a Jordan Times journalist killed by the US in Iraq in 2003, wrote that "Kidnapping journalists hurts the message of humane resistance and makes its message criminal." The mother of Hala Khalid, newly released by the US, said "I call upon the kidnappers of the American reporter to release her because she is as innocent as Hala."

The AP reports speculation that Carroll may be freed soon:

A top Iraqi police officer says he thinks kidnapped American reporter Jill Carroll will be freed. And he says today's release of five Iraqi women from U.S. custody could help. U.S. officials have said the release had nothing to do with the demands by Carroll's kidnappers that the U.S. release Iraqi women.

The chief of Hamas in the Gaza strip said:

Hamas is against the kidnapping of innocent people, of foreigners who are guests in the Arab countries, and those who introduce humanitarians services and help for the Arab people--and for any people in general--especially when they are not interfering in internal Arab affairs.
There is something both impressively humanistic about these statements, but also something chilling about the way they suggest that the wheat be sorted from the chaff. Hamas is not so vehement when it comes to, say, the identity of those killed by suicide bombers in Tel Aviv.

Carroll's mother said, in a televised statement pleading for her daughter's release, "they've picked the wrong person ... If they're looking for somebody who is an enemy of Iraq, Jill is just the opposite." I understand why she put it this way, but the suggestion that there is a right person to kidnap still feels eerie.

It is amazing that the case has become a flashpoint in a way that Margaret Hassan could not, even though calls for her release came from people as unlikely as al-Zarqawi himself. (Robert Fisk uses the fact that killing her made no strategic sense as evidence to suggest that the US orchestrated her murder in order to illustrate the righteousness of its cause.)

It is almost impossible not to view the US and Islamist terrorists as pure versions of opposing forces; that is, the war seems such an expression of deep impulses that it's hard not to blame or credit those impulses for their results. But Abu Ghraib, horrible terrorist attacks, kidnappings and beheadings, "targeted" assassinations, and abusive arrests on scant evidence are not the only way these forces could play out. I wonder if the horrible mess we're in has as much to do with complex power struggles within each party to the war, with incompetence, and ith lack of leadership, as it does the underlying impulses.