Wonky Muse
Wonky Muse

March 23, 2006

The Peace Activists' Rescue and Reaction from the Rabid Right

Good news from Iraq:

BAGHDAD, March 23 -- British and U.S. troops rescued three kidnapped Christian peace activists early Thursday in a military operation that was based on information provided by two men detained only three hours earlier by U.S. forces, according to a U.S. military official.

The freed captives -- Norman Kember, 74, of London; and James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, both of Canada -- were members of the Christian Peacemakers Teams (CPT), a Chicago- and Toronto-based group that advocates nonviolence and is opposed to the war in Iraq. They were kidnapped in Baghdad on Nov. 26 along with a fourth member of their group, Tom Fox of Clear Brook, Va.


Doug Pritchard, co-director of CPT, said in a televised news conference in Toronto that no shots were fired and no captors were present at the time of the rescue. He declined to divulge the source of his information. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw later confirmed that no shots were fired.
Meanwhile, the likes of Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs and countless others (to whom I refuse to link, you can Google them if you're so inclined) are frothing at the mouth, calling the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) “ungrateful", "peace creeps", "idiots" and even -- this takes the cake -- " anti-American, anti-Western and morally perverted" because they charge the CPT not only failed to give thanks to the troops involved in the rescue but also insulted them in this section of its official statement:

We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.
Since when did peace become a dirty word?

I’m not a pacifist; there are times when war, as ugly and heinous as it is, has to be waged. Yet its ugly and heinous nature is the very reason why it should not be waged indiscriminately.

The invasion of Iraq is such a war. Not only is it illegal and unjustified, but the absolute incompetence and recklessness of the Bush Administration not only cost countless military and civilian lives, it has also plunged Iraq into a cesspool of sectarian conflict with no end in sight.

Still, the rabid faction of the right feel that if you’re not clapping and clapping hard for this war, they can heap insults and question your very loyalty to your country. Heck, they feel they can even question your right to live.

The concept is so simple that their refusal to make the distinction defies logic: loyalty to country and unqualified allegiance to government are not one and the same. Challenging the Bush doctrine of war doesn’t equal disrespect for the troops. If Pat Tillman who volunteered to enlist and lost his life in spite of his misgivings about the Iraq war ("You know, this war is so f— illegal") can make the distinction, why can’t they?

I think I know the answer. It’s fear.

Fear breeds paranoia. Fear breeds hate. Fear breeds a kind of neurosis that makes us humans do bizarre things, like condemn our own because they don’t share the same beliefs, or give up liberties that those before us have fought so hard for, or turn a blind eye to torture and war crimes in the name of keeping us safe.

The CPT is a group that refuses to succumb to these. You may disagree with their philosophy and strict adherence to the teachings of Christ, but to say that they had it coming, and to say that Tom Fox, the lone fatality in this hostage situation, deserved his fate is outrageous and offensive to any decent human being.

As for the expression of gratitude, the mouth frothers would have discovered, if they bothered to check, that the CPT web site earlier linked to an article from the Sojourner magazine entitled “Free at Last” by Rose Marie Berger:

We pray for the soldiers who risked their lives to free Jim, Norman, and Harmeet. We give thanks to God that, through excellent intelligence work and skilled operations, they manifested an unprecedented respect for CPT's commitment to nonviolence by rescuing them without a shot being fired and without injury to any parties. Like the soldier in Matthew 8: 5-13, they too were able to participate in the moment of God's liberation. We pray that they will be convicted by the spiritual authority of these brave Christian peacemakers and with the wisdom and knowledge of Christ who said "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Not satisfied with that, they later amended the front page of their site to include this addendum:

23 March 2006, 9 p.m. ET
We have been so overwhelmed and overjoyed to have Jim, Harmeet and Norman freed, that we have not adequately thanked the people involved with freeing them, nor remembered those still in captivity. So we offer these paragraphs as the first of several addenda:

We are grateful to the soldiers who risked their lives to free Jim, Norman and Harmeet. As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to nonviolence, we are also deeply grateful that they fired no shots to free our colleagues. We are thankful to all the people who gave of themselves sacrificially to free Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom over the last four months, and those supporters who prayed and wept for our brothers in captivity, for their loved ones and for us, their co-workers. We will continue to lift Jill Carroll up in our prayers for her safe return. In addition, we will continue to advocate for the human rights of Iraqi detainees and assert their right to due process in a just legal system.
In spite of elation for the rescue, the death of Tom Fox is a painful reminder that the human toll from this war and the violence it breeds is very real. I offer a silent prayer for Tom and his bereaved family.

To clarify their goals, the CPT also posted a well-written response to an article by Cal Thomas at Townhall.com, debunking his inaccurate perception of the group point by point. It includes this noteworthy quote from Tom Fox himself, from his blog Waiting in the Light:

"I have visual references and written models of CPTers standing firm against the overt aggression of an army, be it regular or paramilitary. But how do you stand firm against a car-bomber or a kidnapper? Clearly the soldier disconnected from God needs to have me fight. Just as clearly the terrorist disconnected from God needs to have me flee. Both are willing to kill me using different means to achieve he same end -- that end being to increase the parasitic power of Satan within God's good creation.

"It seems easier somehow to confront anger within my heart than it is to confront fear. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right then I am not to give in to either. I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am to stand firm against the soldier. Does that mean I walk into a raging battle to confront the soldiers? Does that mean I walk the streets of Baghdad with a sign saying "American for the Taking?" No to both counts. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life, and if I lose it to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan.
Meanwhile, Jean at Body & Soul points to speculation that this release was negotiated and that possibly more disturbing methods were used to procure information that lead to their release.

She also points out to this interesting thought:

It is not yet known either the extent to which the work of the Christian peacemakers on behalf of Iraqi detainees, in the field of human rights, and the immense goodwill that their work generated in Iraq, played a part in the gaining of the intelligence that led to their release.
Photo: AP/M. Spencer Green

posted at 7:41 PM by Wonky Muse

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"Sapere Aude."
(Dare to Know)
-- Epistularum Liber Primus, Horace

Wonk (noun): def. A political nerd. Know spelled backwards.

Wonky Muse is the other Filipino American female political blogger. The sane, liberal one.


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