Thursday, March 30, 2006


Jill Carroll Freed

After being a hostage for three months in Iraq, having been kidnapped in a bloody firefight that killed Ms. Carroll's translator, and after her impending execution has been threatened many times, she has, inexplicably, been let go.

Now, don't get me wrong -- this is sensational news! I'm delighted that this story has a happy ending, unlike many of the other hostages taken in Iraq over the past three years.

Nonetheless, there are some fishy details here.

First: why on Earth was she let go, suddenly, with all demands dropped? (The original demands, if I recall correctly, were for all female Iraqi prisoners held by Allied forces to be released by February 26th; Ms. Carroll was to be killed on that date otherwise. So far as I know, these demands were not met.)

I refuse to believe in a sudden attack of conscience on the part of the hostage-takers. I've read the opinion that perhaps the hostage-takers were afraid of a military operation to rescue Ms. Carroll (and perhaps kill them all as well), but I'm not sure whether to believe that or not. A different angle was explored by Sen. John Thune this morning, commenting on talk radio and theorizing that the terrorists need to show "a human side" now and then; I don't believe that either.

(Sen. Thune had some other, extremely positive things to say about his recent visit to Iraq, and the conversations he had with troops at all levels there; in his words, we are "doing freedom's work". That's a powerful phrase; I'll have to remember that.)

A second thing that puzzles me about the whole inexplicable-hostage-release is how much Ms. Carroll is emphasizing how well she was treated by her captors:
According to the Associated Press, Carroll had a brief interview on Baghdad television Thursday morning, saying she “was treated well, but I don’t know why I was kidnapped.”

“They never hit me. They never even threatened to hit me,” said Carroll, who was wearing a light green Islamic headscarf and a gray Arabic robe.

“I’m just happy to be free. I want to be with my family,” she was heard to say under the Arabic voiceover. “I felt I was not free. It was difficult because I didn’t know what would happen to me.”
These are the people that murdered your translator right in front of you, Ms. Carroll. If they are not the group that had previously sawed people's heads off, they certainly were comrades-in-arms with them. Saying "I felt I was not free" is not incorrect... but it's a bit like saying that the Grand Canyon isn't small, or that Uday Hussein sometimes wasn't nice to his dates.

Finally, there are the pictures. Here's a stock AP photo of Jill Carroll (left), with her twin sister Katie, from 1999:

Now here's the photo of her from Baghdad television, this morning, talking about her release:

I'm not assuming a case of Stockholm Syndrome here, necessarily. But there's definitely more here than meets the eye.

UPDATE: This is good to hear (hat tip: Powerline):
Carroll arrived at the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany on Saturday from Balad Air Base in Baghdad. She strongly disavowed statements she had made during captivity in Iraq and shortly after her release, saying she had been repeatedly threatened.

In a video recorded before she was freed and posted by her captors on an Islamist Web site, Carroll spoke out against the U.S. military presence. On Saturday, she said the recording was made under duress.

"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed," she said in a statement.

"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."


In the statement, Carroll also disavowed an interview she gave to the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab organization in whose offices she was dropped off upon her release. She said the party had promised her the interview would not be aired "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," she said. "Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: One — that I refused to travel and cooperate with the U.S. military, and two — that I refused to discuss my captivity with U.S. officials. Again, neither statement is true."
There's also a new picture:

Okay, so now we know why she looked and spoke the way she did upon her release. This still doesn't explain to me why she was released to begin with... but I'm very glad she was!

UPDATE II: John Noonan at The Officer's Club has some interesting conclusions on this:
Jill Carroll will not be the last Westerner to be kidnapped in Iraq, but she may be the last one released. Kidnapping is the only real way the insurgents can get airtime these days, which is why Jihadi propaganda comes with kneeling captives at their feet. Releasing Carroll was an experiment, one that failed from the insurgency's point of view. Carroll was released and immediately disavowed statements she made in captivity. The insurgents were exposed as a cheap propagandists, and their message was blurred in the celebration surrounding Carroll's return home. Killing a hostage makes a far more drastic statement than releasing one does, which is precisely why we're unlikely to see any more hostages released.
I agree that this was an aberration... and I'd argue that the release itself was a sign of weakness on the part of the kidnappers.

And that has its own consequences. If it becomes generally understood that future captives will be killed, then future captives will have nothing to lose; they become kamikazes. (Remember Todd Beamer?)

Of course, it's also possible that people will draw the opposite conclusion: the terrorists have let one captive go, maybe now they'll let others go too. That would, in my opinion, be a serious mistake, one for which people could pay with their lives.And given the willful blindness we've seen from so much of the Journalist Class lately, I fear very much that we'll see other journalists taking unnecessary risks, emboldened by Ms. Carroll's release... and paying the price for their naivete.


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