the Disillusioned kid: Abduction
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Sunday, December 04, 2005


The abduction of 74-year-old peace activist Norman Kember and three other members of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq has been one of the big stories of the last week. It's also one of those stories where it's difficult to think of anything to say which hasn't been said a hundred times over. But don't fret, that's not going to stop me proffering my opinion in case anybody's interested.

At this juncture and at this distance, it's difficult to tell exactly who is holding the four. Responsibility for the kidnapping has been claimed by a group calling itself either The Swords of Righteousness Brigade or The Swords of Truth Brigade, neither of which have been heard of before. Are they an Iraqi nationalist group? (I doubt it.) Ex-Baathists? Islamic extremists? A criminal gang masquerading as a resistance organisation? (Possibly.) Or even a US black ops team? (Personally, I doubt it.) Whatever the truth, it is clear that such acts have nothing to do with legitimate resistance. Incidentally, they also appear to be a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

I'm in no better position to guess what'll happen next than anybody else. I hope that the intervention by the Muslim Association of Britain's Anas Altikriti, an Iraqi himself, will be fruitful, but as Altikriti himself concedes, success is far from guaranteed. The likelihood of success may well depend on exactly who is holding the four. Nationalists are likely to be more conducive to reasoning than Islamic extremists in the mould of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, while criminal gangs can simply be paid-off.

To watch the media coverage of this kidnapping, or indeed that which accompanied the kidnapping and murder of Kenneth Bigley and Margaret Hassan, it would be asy to think that kidnapping is an occasional act, primarily targetted against westerners by nihilistic Islamic extremists. The reality, however, is in many ways far worse. More than 5,000 people are kidnapped every year in Iraq, 2,000 more than in Colombia hitherto the world's leader in this abominable "business."

Kidnapping is a daily occurence driven primarily by the failure of the occupying powers to ensure security. Over 70 percent of hostages are from Iraq or neighbouring countries. Some of the victims are sold to insurgent groups, but most are held in order to secure a ransom. As such, doctors, engineers and businessmen, those financially able to pay the kidnappers demands, are the main victims. As if things weren't bad enough already, kidnapping in Iraq has recently taken a particularly nasty turn with children being snatched in order to extract money from their parents. Women are also kidnapped in order to be sold as sex slaves in neighbouring countries. The police are so overwhelmed by the situation that they often don't even open investigations into abductions.

Welcome to the New Iraq!

For all the good it'll do, you can sign a petition calling for the release of the four CPTers here.

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