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Friday, March 24, 2006

Iraq ransom policy

I'm not the only one who thinks that a ransom was paid for the release of the three peace-worker hostages in Iraq yesterday. I saw the breaking news of the release on BBC World at a friend's house - who then called an activist involved with the youngest hostage, Sooden, who had just heard the news. What an amazing world we live in where international live news drama is so casually part of a normal evening.

"Oh - that's good" was my response. People brave/foolhardy enough to go to Iraq to help other people (doesn't matter how) is a worthy thing - it's the "Christian" element that concerns me. You know... they are a 1% minority in a country whose flag has Allah uh-akbar on it, and since the Americans invaded has been riddled with fanatical Islamists... a recipe for disaster really. If they were Muslims it would have been a different matter - though still incredibly dangerous. (There is currently a Christian Science Monitor hostage looking highly traumatised on the video her kidnappers have released). I'm not sure what Sooden's group precise agenda is - something to do with highlighting concerns about the situation in Iraq. From that point of view a massive success - and yes, the American guy who was part of their group was executed, so that too was a success from a warning and awareness aspect. Silly man - mission accomplished, we now know that Iraq is a highly dangerous place for American Christians.

If we analyse the reports I think it is fairly obvious that the kidnappers were paid. And that's the problem, for some groups it may be an opportunistic way of funding their other activities. They sell the Americans to more extremist groups - and ransom the rest. When the UK Foreign minister is mentioning that "civilians" were also involved and official reports that no kidnappers were caught or killed and that they were left alone in a house. Join the dots. "Rescued"? - by the payment of a ransom rather than by force. An "operation" - well, a negotiation, a business deal, a transaction more like it:

Officials have revealed few details of the operation, but it is known that none of the captors was present, no shots were fired and no-one was injured. A US Army spokesman said the three men had been found tied up in a house in western Baghdad, after a tip-off.

...have been freed apparently unharmed with no shots fired. They were rescued in a special forces operation -- though their captors were not present at the time, CNN's Nic Robertson says.

and also from CNN, the pro-war British Foreign Scretary:

"- have been released as a result of a multinational force operation which took place earlier today. British forces were involved in this operation. It follows weeks and weeks of very careful work by our military and coalition personnel in Iraq and many civilians as well."

So the questions are: how much did they pay? Out of what fund did that money come? What is the budget for that fund/how much will be spent this year on paying kidnappers?


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