December 5, 2005

We're With You!

The message from the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) to the anti-democracy insurgent group that holds their members hostage couldn't be clearer: We're on your side in this thing. Isn't that a good reason not to cut our heads off?

Here's an excerpt from the official CPT statement by director Rich Mayer:

"We are working on revealing the occupation's violence and acts. Those people (hostages) are believers who work against the occupation," Mayer told Al Jazeera.

"So we appeal for their release so they can continue their work on your behalf and on behalf of the Iraqi people."

Straightforward enough, until that last phrase, "on behalf of the Iraqi people." True enough, the hostages wish to "continue their work on your (the hostage-takers) behalf." That is, to oppose the American effort to establish self-government for the Iraqi people. But in what sense can these insurgents who behead innocent hostages, bomb citizen recruitment centers, and intentionally target Iraqi innocents be said to be working "for the Iraqi people"?

For the CPT to equate their agenda in Iraq to a movement on the side of Iraqi citizens, the vast majority of which are working with the Americans to establish democracy, is breathtakingly dishonest. They cannot have it both ways. It is a political and anti-American project first, and only secondarily a "peace" movement. In what sense do the insurgents with whom CPT is now trying make common cause represent a movement for peace? Or for humane treatment of detainees, for that matter?

It's telling that Mayer's statement refers to the hostages as "believers". The faith referred to here though, is the opposition to "the occupation." In this way, the hostages are brothers of the hostage-takers. Becaue if the CPT crowd was truly interested in the treatment of detainees in Iraq, we might have heard a word of concern from them about the ritual beheadings of innocent Europeans and Americans by the fascist insurgents. Don't hold your breath. They can't even hold the hostage-takers responsible for the hostage-taking. From a CPT statement:

“We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. governments due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people”

There's more:

Asked if he was worried about the hostages' lives, Mayer said: "We are worried about the lives of these people. But we know that thousands of Iraqis are held illegally by the U.S. forces in prisons that violate international law and in worse conditions than these four."

One assumes they refer to the "conditions" of their CPT team members in their current state...with their heads still attached. Much more on CPT from Ben Johnson of FPM.

In my first post on the hostage story, I wondered why the insurgents had not realized that what they were holding were walking advertisements for the anti-American position, which might be put to much better propaganda uses than as random heads rolling around the floor. As James Robbins notes in an illuminating piece today, they get it now. The Arab organizations, terrorist and otherwise, are lining up to advocate for the hostages' release:

CPT friends and fellow travelers have rallied around the effort to get the hostages released. And what a list. A letter in the Mennonite Weekly Review featured a letter signed by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), the Palestine People’s Party, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Union of Palestine, Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian Liberation Front, and the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front. “We appeal to our brothers in the resistance and all those with alert consciences in Iraq,” the letter said, “with whom we consider ourselves to be in the same trench confronting American aggression and occupation, to instantly and quickly release the four kidnapped persons from CPT, in appreciation for their role in standing beside and supporting our Palestinian people and all the Arab and Islamic peoples.” The Council on American Islamic Relations has called for their release as well. The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq seeks freedom for all five hostages.

Robbins calls this whole situation "bad terrorism"...

The targets are all wrong. The point of taking hostages is to gain publicity, to bring issues and demands to the public eye whether they are realistic or not. If you can also raise money, so much the better. And if you execute people who are working on rebuilding projects or aiding Coalition forces, you might scare others away. However, you do not abduct the “useful idiots” on the other side who support you. This serves no purpose whatsoever.

The CPT must not go unchallenged when they invert the roles of the parties to the Iraq conflict by making the murderous insurgents into the victims, and the liberators and builders into the oppressors. Cliff May was quoting the late Steven Vincent in The Corner yesterday, and I think it's appropriate to close with Vincent's words:

[W]ords matter. Terms like "paramilitaries," "death squads," and "fascists" clarify the nature of our enemy and underscore a fundamental point that the American media has inexcusably ignored: it is the Iraqi people who are under attack. They are the victims, their future is threatened, they are bleeding from wounds inflicted by pan-Arab Baathists and pan-Islamic jihadists. By calling these neo-fascists the "Resistance" the media reverses the relationship of assailant and defender and renders a terrible disservice to the millions of Iraqis who oppose, in ways large and small, these totalitarian forces.

UPDATE 12/6: Read the whole Vincent article from December 2004. It's terrific.

Posted by dan at December 5, 2005 9:13 PM