CPT, hostages, gratitude and bias

by Richard on March 24, 2006

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin is among many who are angry that the statement made by Christian Peacemaker Teams on the release freeing rescue of their colleagues held hostage in Iraq.

I think it is worth bearing in mind that when the news that the hostages were free came out, there was no information about how that happy event had come to pass. More information emerged as the day went on and it became clear that some sort of military operation had effected a rescue. I think it would have been better if CPT had issued a dignified and unqualified “thank you” at that point but there might be all sorts of reasons why that didn’t happen. I’m inclined to take a charitable view of their response and no doubt that reflects my bias towards the aims and objectives of the organisation. Equally, I suspect that Malkin and other US conservatives would have been scathing of almost any statement that CPT might issue. Bias is inescapable. The best that we can do is to acknowledge it.

This isn’t the only way that bias has shown up in the reporting of this story. Here’s how Malkin reported the rescue

Our troops teamed with British forces to rescue three left-wing, anti-war activists kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq. Those freed were Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32; and Briton Norman Kember, 74. The men, who were members of the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams, were kidnapped on Nov. 26 along with their American colleague, Tom Fox, 54, whose body was found earlier this month.

By way of contrast, the BBC described it this way

Briton Norman Kember and two Canadian fellow peace activists held hostage in Iraq for almost four months have been freed by multinational forces. …
The three men are believed to have been rescued at 0800 local time (0500 GMT), following a weeks-long operation led by British troops and involving US and Canadian special forces.

“Our troops teamed with British forces” or ‘a multinational force led by Britain’s SAS’. Both statements are true in the legalistic sense, but which one reflects the truth most accurately? My money would be on the BBC, which is strange really given that it is the BBC which is routinely accused by US conservatives of bias.

One last thing on this. Surely i’m not the only one who finds this whole rescue story just a little bit dodgy. Apparently the information that led to the release freeing rescue of the hostages came from a detainee, which no doubt justifies the torture abuse robust questioning of those being detained. But when the troops arrived, no shots were fired because the kidnappers had already left. What do you suppose the true story behind all this really is?

[tags]Iraq, hostages, cpt, Kember,[/tags]

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }


Nathan 03.24.06 at 4:31 pm

I don’t think one has to be searching for bias to find the CPT’s wording and timing more than a little odd. My qualms have nothing to do with whether US forces or British forces “get credit” — just the rudeness and pettiness that the CPT’s statement reflected. I’m sure the folks at CPT are generally fine people who believe deeply in their cause, but I believe their political convictions clouded their judgment regarding the statement issued. One supposes that only after they surely were bombarded with criticism over their first and second (amended) statements did they post the addendum.

As for the “real” story behind the rescue, I’m with you, Richard — the whole thing seems really strange. Where were the kidnappers?

Another question: what would CPT’s response have been if the rescue attempt had been violent?


dh 03.24.06 at 4:52 pm

I’m with you on this Nath and you worded this perfectly. However I differ on the statements after the first paragraph. My take that by the very nature of troops being involved that it was violent. I also believe that while no shots were fired that there have been statements that show the kidknappers were detained without shots being fired. In my opinion this can only be done violently. My definition of violent doesn’t mean just shots fired but other violent acts. So I feel CPT to promote their agenda phrased it this way and the US/UK soldiers contingent phrased it this way as well to reflect their respect (not support) for those held hostage. I respect the soldiers phrasing this way in light of what the histages went threw but that doesn’t change my opinion that a violent act is what rescued the CPT. Shots fired? I don’t think so Some form of violence toward the kidnappers? yes


Bene Diction 03.24.06 at 7:13 pm

I would have liked to have read the other statement CPT probably had prepared but didn’t have to release.

Given the astounding media attention they’ve received, I think they did fairly well, they were the news, it broke quickly and I think they attempted to adjust accordingly.
We’ll all have opinions on that, including CPT when things die down. CPT would be wise to do an in depth PR assessment later.

We know from on the ground news reports the arrested man was one of two, picked up by US forces. Do we know any more about that?

Was he one of the kidnappers?
If so, by nature of his arrest did the others flee?
Is is possible they were tipped off?
Is it possible they gave up one of their own and did the tipping?

Will we be told if torture, abuse, robust questioning was used?
Do we know if Iraq forces captured or killed the kidnappers?

We can speculate all we want, and I understand there will be bias, do we think the full story will come out?

DH seems convinced US forces went in with ‘coalition forces’ and whopped ass, it had to be violent. DH seems also convinced the kidnappers have to be terrorists out to get the US.

There is er, robust discussion going on at my blog - and truth is the discussion is short on facts and long on opinion. I am really pleased US readers are willing to engage, I’d like to see some UK readers add their voices.

As for news coverage Richard - let’s account for time zones.
Australia (ABC) has also covered this well, as has Reuters and AFP.
To date, the most evan handed coverage I’ve seen and heard has been the BBC.
I did read a bit of US news (Washington Post) and watched CBS (US) last night.
I watched CTV and CBC. (Canada) Both networks have on ground reporters.
I also watched the BBC.
Hands down the Beeb had the most professional reporting and in their international TV cast made it very clear what they had as fact versus opinion.
Let’s also take into account a world wide and breaking story is going to be angled for the audience.
The CBC and CTV focused on Canadian interests, the NZ media focused on theirs. Al-Jeezra (English) stuck to wire reports as it broke, I haven’t been over today to see what angles might be featured.

As for opinion, that is what Ms. Malkin is well paid for; she isn’t paid to report facts, she is paid to spin, not angle.


dh 03.24.06 at 8:14 pm

… CPT with regard to their response is a group that is pain to spin in light of what their particular stance is on the issues regarding this rescue. To suggest Ms. Malkin was “spinning” in light of what went on seems a streatch in light of CPT’s apparent blunder.


Bene Diction 03.24.06 at 8:29 pm

Covering religion is very difficult DH.
Ms. Malkin is spinning, she is paid to.
What part of ‘that is her’ job eludes you?

Did CPT omit? Yes.
And what part of ‘omit’ eludes you?

Don’t answer, it’s rhetorical. I’m done.


Eugene McKinnon 03.25.06 at 3:42 am

I am somewhat reeling that “Canadian special forces” were in Iraq. That worried me. All this time I thought my army was not in Iraq and now I learn that Cdn special forces were involved.

I am relieved that they are free. I am relieved that no shots were fired and that the group that held them simply left them. There must have been something to that.



Wood 03.26.06 at 2:12 pm

I suspect that the kidnappers knew that they were being hunted by special forces and knew that they could either run before or after killing the hostages, and reasoned that perhaps they would be more likely to get away if they let them live.

Or maybe they decided that actually mercy was better in the end. I doubt that, though.


trevor headley 03.27.06 at 2:29 pm

I am very happy for the release of hostages in Iraq; however I am convinced that this behaviour is just as irresponsible as suside bombers. The military has a hard job as it is maintaining control and neutralizing insurgeants, this type of behavior is making their work even more difficult and also putting pressure on on the diplomatic and security sevices.


dh 03.27.06 at 3:34 pm

I still feel there was some omission by the coalition forces regarding the mission and for the sake of the beliefs of those involved mentioned it the way they did.

Bene and that “omission” was a form of spin. I don’t see much difference between spin and omission if the purpose of both is the same. If you get my drift.


dh 03.27.06 at 4:00 pm

I meant to say spin from Malkin rather than coalition forces. I meant to say that I believe the coalition forces negledcted to mention the “how’s” and the details for the sake of the greater operation to protect future operations and to show respect to the people being rescued. Was a can of whoop — delivered to the insurgents that Bene interpreted from me take place? I don’t know. I will say that I believe more was done than apparent “wow there here and no ones around” idea from the CPT and other sources.

P.S. I also concur with Trevor Headley on this as well.

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