Sunday, November 21, 2004

Live from the Sandy Knoll 

British "Independent" doesn't go as far as Robert Fisk to accuse the American and the Iraqi authorities of staging the execution of Margaret Hassan as a dirty propaganda trick, or indeed as far as others who blame the American/Iraqi operation in Fallujah for precipitating Hassan's death, but Kim Sengupta and Raymond Whitaker go as far as they can to indicate that something is very wrong about the whole episode, without actually directly accusing anyone of foul play:

"Yesterday, there was more confusion over whether a body found in Fallujah was hers, and there are still large numbers of people, including Iraqi officials in Baghdad, who cling to the absence of conclusive proof that she has been killed."

"There were marked similarities between the cases of Mrs Hassan and Mrs Khalifa [the just released Polish hostage]. Both were of a similar age, in their 50s, and had lived in Iraq for a long time. Both were married to Iraqis, and had acquired Iraqi citizenship while keeping that of their home countries. However, the kidnapping of Mrs Hassan, the country director for the charity Care International, caused wide- spread protests, including public demonstrations, unlike Mrs Khalifa's abduction. Even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose group has beheaded a number of hostages, called for Mrs Hassan to be released." (emphasis added)

"Assumptions about Mrs Hassan's fate are based on a videotape received by the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera. It showed the footage in which a woman said to be the British hostage was shot in the head to British diplomats in Qatar. The Foreign Office decided, after analysing the sequence, that it did indeed show a killing. However, the victim's face was obscured by a blindfold, and she could not be identified with certainty."

"The kidnapping itself has been puzzling, because it does not fall into the pattern of the hundreds of abductions, either commercially or politically motivated, in Iraq. Even among the estimated 170 foreigners to have been seized, the case of Margaret Hassan stands out."

"No demands were made by the kidnappers since an early video in which Mrs Hassan asked Tony Blair to pull British troops out of Iraq. No group has ever claimed responsibility. And, unlike other women hostages, Mrs Hassan was filmed without an Islamic headscarf."

"Like the Care director, Mrs Khalifa was shown on al-Jazeera, pleading for her country to withdraw its troops from Iraq. In both cases the kidnappers' demand was rejected. Yet while Poland refused to pull out its 2,400 soldiers, Mrs Khalifa was released." (emphasis added)
A brief shot of a Sandy Knoll. Sinister music. Fade to black.

Relentlessly piling up fact after fact might be meant to overwhelm you with doubt, but once you start looking at each point separately it's not all that strange after all.

Take the different fates of Hassan and the Polish hostage alluded to in the last paragraph. So what? Maybe they were held by different groups? And it's not like all hostages are executed if the demands aren't met - remember the two Italian hostages, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, who
weren't going to be released until Italy withdrew its troops? Well, Italy didn't but the two Simonas were set free anyway, possibly because money had changed hands; something that is also suspected regarding the rescue of the Polish hostage (link in Polish).

Then take the line that the Hassan case stands out from all the other kidnappings because no demands were made since the initial tape was aired by Al Jazeera with Hassan pleading for the withdrawal of the British troops. Well, the fact there was that initial video would suggest the case does fit with many other politically motivated kidnappings. As to the observation that no further demands were made subsequently, when was the last time we've heard from those holding the two French journalists?

Because the killing of Margaret Hassan seems to have been so counter-productive from a propaganda point of view, many in the kommentariat find it difficult to believe that Islamofascists might have indeed been so stupid to do it. Since a significant section of the Western left considers the jihadis to be entirely rational political players with legitimate grievances and understandable demands, it's easier to believe in some sinister conspiracy rather than in the fact that there are some unholy warriors out there who might not care one bit that Hassan was a woman, opposed to war, and a humanitarian with a long record of helping Iraqis.

By the way, Monday's the 41st anniversary of the assassination of JFK.


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