January 31, 2006

Jill Carroll - Perceptions and Reality

Al-Jazeera photo
On January 30, Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera played a 40-second tape showing Christian Science Monitor Jill Carroll. The time stamp on the tape was January 28. If we are to believe this, then the good news is that Carroll is still alive. The tape was accompanied by demands that the remaining Iraqi women being detained by American forces be released, or Carroll will be killed.

This is a common refrain - we have heard this before. However, the American forces may have played right into the hands of the kidnappers, who call themselves "The Revenge Brigade." This may be the same group that earlier kidnapped the sister of the Iraqi Minister of the Interior; she was later released unharmed.

The initial demand that surfaced soon after Carroll was kidnapped was for the release of Iraqi women being held the American forces. There was a short deadline, after which the kidnappers said they would kill Carroll. At that time, the U.S. military said that they were planning a prisoner release, including five of the nine Iraqi women in custody. They reiterated the standard American position that we do not negotiate with terrorists, but that since the five women were scheduled to be released anyway, the release would proceed on schedule.

I argued against this. I believe that by proceeding with that initial release, the American command sent a signal that they were giving in to the terrorists. They should have announced a moratorium on prisoner releases until Carroll was freed - thereby putting the onus back on the terrorists.

Since the kidnappers' perception may be that they indeed forced the Americans to release the five women, it makes sense that they would make another videotape, this time showing Carroll in greater distress. They may believe that their demands will be met. There is an alternate theory that the kidnappers realize that virtually the entire world has condemned their actions and that they may be making a demand that they know will be met if the Americans proceed as planned.

Again, the women are scheduled for release in the near future. I think that will happen, and the kidnappers will believe they caused it and likely release their hostage. That's good news for Jill Carroll and her family, but may be bad news for other westerners in the country. The message may be - kidnapping works.