TCS Daily

Give Peaceniks a Chance?

By Val MacQueen - April 19, 2006 12:00 AM

In what must be one of the most extraordinary military rescues in history, the British SAS and the Canadian special forces recovered 74-old-British peace activist Norman Kember and his two co-hostages by warning the kidnappers that they would be coming by to effect a rescue and it would be a good idea if they weren't there. Once the "several million pound" ultra sophisticated surveillance operation was ready to activate, the SAS detained a man they were certain was one of the kidnap leaders, persuaded him to cooperate with details of where the hostages were held and ordered him to warn his cohorts to vacate the premises.

By the time the British and Canadians blew the door off the house, 118 days after the kidnapping, it was empty except for the three hostages lying on the floor, bound but unguarded. As Glasgow Sunday Herald writer Torcuil Crighton wrote, "With the names of the executed Britons Margaret Hassan and Ken Bigley haunting the Foreign Office, there was never any question of the British government not going after the gang that kidnapped the 74-year-old peace activist Kember."

Norman Kember doesn't approve of the war in Iraq.

He had made his feelings known to the government, which had inexplicably failed to heed his insights, thus leaving Kember, a retired physics professor, no choice but to go to Iraq to try to organize things himself. He and three others, including 54-year-old American Tom Fox, under the aegis of Christian Peacemaker Teams, went to Iraq with the specific aim of helping Iraqis opposed to the war to file grievance suits against the Coalition of the Willing.

On November 26 last year, they were kidnapped by the Swords of Truth Brigade, an outfit that specializes in ransom demands, and on November 30, the now traditional video footage of pleas made its traditional appearance on al-Jazeera. The choreography creaked along, with a second al-Jazeera video of threats made by the hostage-takers a few days later, followed by a video-ed plea from Kember's wife a few days after that.

Meanwhile, Kember called, in yet another video, for British troops to be pulled out of Iraq, apparently unaware that his kidnappers had little interest in the war one way or the other. They kidnap people for money. A day or two after that, Abu Qatada, a terrorist suspect -- so someone with street cred in the hood -- made a guest appearance video pleading for their release. Two days later, another terrorist suspect, British-born ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, made his own video pleading for their lives.

Then, the deadline passed and all went quiet on the video front. Suddenly, at the end of January, production picked up again, with a video showing the four hostages alive. Two days after that, another video was released, this one showing only three of the hostages. Missing was American Tom Fox. Three days later the Americans confirmed that a body found in Iraq was that of Fox. There has been no explanation of why he was murdered

Thirteen days later, the three remaining hostages were rescued in the massive, "several million pounds" operation.

On arrival at London's Heathrow, his face churlishly free of gratitude, Kember allowed as how he was fairly pleased to be home.

The Christian Peacemaker Team put out a press release advising that the three had "been released", which was a lie, of course. Kember and his two fellow hostages had been rescued in one of the most sophisticated operations ever mounted. Besides the "several million pounds", the massive three months of meticulous and sophisticated information-gathering and planning had involved cooperation between Coalition forces, the SAS, the Joint Communications Headquarters at Cheltenham, MI5 and MI6, with both the armed forces and ordinary Iraqis taking tremendous risks.

The British press and the public were quick to pick up on, and condemn, Kember's self-righteous omission of a single word of gratitude that he was back in Britain with his head was still firmly attached to his rigid, disapproving neck, thanks to the action of British military forces. According to Oliver Poole reporting from Baghdad for Britain's The Telegraph, the three rescued hostages also refused to cooperate in their debriefing. Britain's Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson appeared in television studios with a face like thunder.

Although Kember was eventually persuaded to make a faintly more gracious statement, this begs the question: should someone who has demonstrated disloyalty to his own country and has deliberately placed himself in harm's way be the subject of massive public expenditure and risk of the lives of professional soldiers, and ordinary citizens on the ground, when his foolish and willful behavior leads him to be kidnapped? If the citizen shows no loyalty to his country, what does his country owe him?

Val MacQueen is a TCS contributing writer.



To answer your questions...
No and nothing.

I second the motion!
The peaceniks are in the hands of those they believe to be peaceful and loving already. Why risk anything or anyone to end their blissful situation?

Let 'em rot
I'm just trying to imagine if a similar situation had happened during WW2.

Say some British or American citizen hopped over to Germany to help the ***** "resist" Allied forces. Say the Gestapo arrested them and threw them in a concentration camp.

How much effort do you think the Allies would put toward rescuing them? Or would they instead be put on trial for treason? Which is more likely?

don't risk the rescuers lives
I think they should file a "living will" before they go saying that they do not wish rescue. If by chance, they change their minds under the tender care of kidnappers, the living will should be published.

Why go to any trouble at all
They are traitors and should be used by the Iraqi forces in training and the coalition forces for target practice. Give them a running start though, more realistic.

their desires are immaterial
The desires of the hostages in this case (as in all such cases) are immaterial. It is all well and good that a someone says, "I don't wish violence to be used to rescue me, should I be kidnaped." I'm all for that; he's going into a situation in which he may be kidnaped and he's saying in advance that he knows it, and he's not asking anybody to put their lives at risk on his behalf.

The correct response afterwards, however, is "We didn't employ violence in order to rescue you. We employed violence in order to capture or kill the kidnappers."

Never negotiate with kidnappers for anyone
In the 1960's and 70's there were quite a few plane hijackings worldwide. What to do about it was a hot topic.
The Swiss made a public announcement to both hijackers and passengers: The government would do absolutely nothing to get you back alive. Hijhack any plane, and it's all yours. You aren't getting a penny or any negotiations. As a result they had no planes hijacked.
If any government simply had a policy of non-negotiation ever and stuck by it far fewer people would be in danger in the long run. Punish the guilty parties later, absolutely, but don't negotiate ever.
Reading recently about our own troops in Iraq doing crap like kidnapping and holding some guy's wife or father or kids to try to get him to turn himself in is shameful beyond redemption and shows how far the present leadership is below the past administrations, like during WWII, for example.

We lead by example and we're rapidly becoming a very poor one.

Let them beg for mercy from their alleged friends.
They went there looking for trouble and let them die. It is strange that these same people most likely hate and despise military and force, yet are saved later by the same military units they protest against in their rallies. Go beg for mercy from the same muslim terrorists that took you. These people are roughly on the level of traitors against their own countrymen so I would let them find their own ways. We should not pay ransom or negotiate with islamic rebels.

You have to try to rescue all peace activists
Posing as a peace activist has to be one of the best undercover identities for an intelligence officer who can't speak Arabic or pass as an Iraqi. If we stop rescuing the occasional loony who goes to Iraq as a real peace activist we will put in grave danger all of the fake peace activists that the CIA and MI6 are no doubt sending there to spy.

You are kidding right?
This isn't the good old days when the concept of "useful idiot" was part and parcel of the Soviet tactic. Now we have islamofascists to whom an infidel is an infidel.

I wasn't kidding
Note the pattern. The terrorists took four supposed peace activists hostage and killed one. It happens that they killed the American, perhaps because he was an American, and perhaps because they judged him to be a spy. Then the commandos manage to communicate with the supposedly hardened terrorists who have already killed one hostage and convince them to flee and leave the other hostages behind. LeCarre' or any other honest spy novelist would never have written as improbable an ending to the story as that.

Hopefully the CIA and MI6 will learn from the incident and send a Frenchie or a German next time. Perhaps they already did that and the whole non-cooperation pose is just a cover story to enable that old guy to become a lion of the "peace" movement where he can get close to the acual terror masters.

In this case, I'd make an exception and negotiate with terrorists
I'd tell the terrorists if they treated the peaceniks well and held them indefinitely, then we would leave them alone. I'd also tell the terrorists that if they released them or harmed them that we would be obligated to hunt them down.

It would be more sane for the file charges against people working against the government that to risk lives to rescue such people who put themselves in harms way.

Let the peaceniks live with the consequences of their actions.

If a terrorist captures a peacenik, let them (both the terrorist and the peacenik) suffer with each other!

TCS Daily Archives