Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Australian hostage 

A group calling itself Shura Council of the Mujahedeen of Iraq is holding Australian-born, US resident Douglas Wood hostage. His crime: he's an engineer, who's worked with the US military on reconstruction projects that benefit all Iraqis, including his captors.
"The militants released a statement with the video, saying it was timed to coincide with Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill's weekend visit to Australian forces in southern Iraq.

"Sitting on a concrete floor between the two masked gunmen, Mr Wood asks US President George W.Bush, Mr Howard and Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to 'take the troops out of here and let Iraq look after itself'.

" 'My captors are fiercely patriotic,' he says. 'They believe in a strong united Iraq looking after its own destiny'."
Let Iraq look after itself is, of course, a shorthand for let the insurgents look after Iraq, and if the insurgents really believed in a strong and united Iraq they would have participated in the election and the representatives of the Sunni establishment would now be members of the new government. But some fools still buy this sort of neo-Baathist talking points.

An Australian hostage negotiation team has arrived in Baghdad, but with a circumscribed mission, as Foreign Minister Alexander Downer explained:
"We'll be doing everything we can with two exceptions - we won't be paying ransom and we won't be changing our policies...

"We are not sub-contracting our foreign policy to terrorists and we're certainly not going to have the money of Australian taxpayers expropriated by terrorists."
There is also some more traditional assistance:
"Heaping the blame for most kidnapping on foreign fighters, Sheik Hamid Al-Shoka promised [an Australian newspaper] to get his Public National Unity organisation's network of tribal leaders to try to have Mr Wood released.

"Sheik Al-Shoka said the network had negotiated the release of two French reporters, two Italian soldiers and a Kuwaiti prince, all without payment of ransoms.

" 'This is bad for us. If these people keep fighting the US in Iraq the Americans will stay here,' he said.

"Sheik Al-Shoka said the sheiks represented many tribes, both Sunni and Shiite, and were able to exercise their traditional authority to gather information on the kidnappings. Mr Wood's plight would be communicated to the network's 22 offices across Iraq after a Public National Unity meeting in Baghdad yesterday."
At least Sheik Al-Shoka gets it; hopefully this attitude will percolate down through the Sunni community.

Update: Check out Carpe Bonum's thoughts on how we should handle hostage situations.


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