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Jill Carroll

April 2nd, 2006

Finally we hear directly from Jill Carroll, when she is not being coerced:

During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me they would let me go if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. I agreed.

Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not. The people who kidnapped me and murdered Alan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Alan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends–and all those around the world, who have prayed so fervently for my release–through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this.

I also gave a TV interview to the Iraqi Islamic Party shortly after my release. The party had promised me the interview would never be aired on television, and broke their word. At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear I said I wasn’t threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times.

As you recall, she had been held hostage for nearly three months. When she was released, they did not simply let her go anywhere–she was sent to a Sunni political group, the Iraqi Islamic Party offices, where she made a videotaped interview. In the interview, she said she had been treated well, and generally said positive things about her captors.

Now, just about every single report I saw at the time recognized the fact that the interview was done at a location where Carroll could not feel entirely safe, and mentioned the need to wait and see what she said when she was entirely free of coercion. However, some on the far right felt so threatened by any possible news report that did not support their own views that they savagely attacked her as a liberal patsy; Jonah Goldberg was the most noted of these:

But Jill Carroll is increasingly starting to bug me. The details are still murky and it’s hard to appreciate what she’s been through. And maybe JPod’s right about Stockholm syndrome. And maybe the media’s selectively choosing what to show of her statements. But it would be nice to hear her say something remotely critical of her captors, particularly about the fact that they murdered her translator in cold blood. I’m very glad she’s alive, but I’m getting a very bad vibe. More, no doubt, to come.

How generous of him. The woman is still in the hands of people she might believe can take her hostage again, still in fear for her life, and Goldberg thinks it would be “nice” to hear her criticize the people holding her captive. He wasn’t the only one to jump the gun (“let’s not encourage a lot of warm feelings toward the murderous thugs who kidnapped Carroll, shot her translator, and may well have received a ransom to let her go”), and conservative commenters went even further:

She’s probably coming home with a suitcase full of cash (her kickback) and a dose of the clap. …

I’ve been watching this traitor bitch fawn all over her captors this morning. “Nice furniture, safe, nice clothes, they NEVER threatened me”. I’m very glad you were so comforatble while working to undermine our efforts in Iraq. Now, wipe that muslim DNA from your face and confess to pre-planning this?

Goldberg now tries to defend himself by selectively quoting himself, leaving out comments like “Jill Carroll is increasingly starting to bug me,” and “I’m getting a very bad vibe.” The fact is, the general tone and many of the specific statements that came from the far right are disturbing. Here you have a woman who has just been through a horrific ordeal, not yet entirely freed and probably still under coercion, and instead of simply withholding judgment until the facts are in, conservatives start expressing annoyance and even hatred toward her–and most certainly insensitivity. Their views were heavily laden with political judgment when it was clear that there was nothing solid to go on.

I remember a similar reaction two years ago in Japan, when three Japanese were taken hostage in Iraq. The three were doing humanitarian work in Iraq, nothing selfish, nothing harmful or even critical of Japanese policy in Iraq. Yet when they were captured and then released, there was a wave of hatred that surged from the Japanese right wing, even from politicians themselves. Instead of being happy for the release of their compatriots, right-wingers in Japan smeared them; one politician said, “If they really hate to return to Japan, I want them to defect to Iraq. Since we’ve paid so much from the state coffers, I feel they should compensate us for it.” News pundits started printing smear pieces on the hostages’ pasts, and when they arrived at the airport in Japan after being released, they were greeted by nationalists spewing hatred at them.

The interesting point about this story is that the hateful reaction had no basis in reason; had these three been kidnaped in, say, the Sudan, the reaction would have been wholly different. No mention of cost would have been made, no harsh attacks from the right. In fact, the three probably would have been hailed as heroes–Japanese abroad trying to do well, who became victims to nasty foreigners. That kind of story usually plays very well in Japan. No, the difference here was that this all happened in Iraq–where the Japanese government has sent troops into a combat zone for the first time since WWII, in violation of Article 9 the Japanese Constitution. The negative reaction was due to the fact that any Japanese being harmed in Iraq would shed negative light on this sensitive mission to change Japan’s military status in the world. In other words, it was politics alone that fueled the response.

And that’s what we’re seeing with right-wing reactions to Jill Carroll’s release. Had she been released from captivity in, say, the Sudan, the reaction from the right would have been very different. But because there is a political element to Iraq, because right-wingers want to hear nothing but their point of view reflected in the news coming from Iraq and are primed to savagely attack anything that smacks of what they believe is the liberal point of view–well, Carroll simply stumbled into the conservative line of fire, manned by trigger-happy wingnuts who can’t seem to hold their wads for more than ten seconds.

Now that she has released her current statement, the same conservatives are now satisfied and acting like they said nothing inappropriate. But their initial reactions betrayed a knee-jerk bias regarding anything to do with Iraq; a bias which should be factored into one’s consideration of the right-wing rhetoric concerning the war, from the denial of civil war to the claims that the media is twisting the news from Iraq to make it seem bad.

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  1. Tim Kane
    April 3rd, 2006 at 04:45 | #1

    Uhm, Jonah Goldbert bugs me. He’s an outright idiot.

    He disinforms the public.

    How in the world did he ever get franchise to convey opinions to the public?

    Are conservatives so hard up for a voice that they enfranchise idiots?

    If he’s part of their vanguard, then truly theirs is a bankrupt movement.

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