Under the headline “May God bless and keep the Christian Peacemakers … far, far away” and a quarter page illustration titled “Ingratitude” Margaret Wente in this morning’s Globe and Mail assails the recently rescued members of the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) for their failure to thank or recognize the efforts of the military and intelligence forces who rescued them from the Swords of Righteousness Brigade – a private “kidnap for profit” group operating in Iraq. Fair enough. I too think the rescued peace workers could have showed more grace by recognizing the heroic efforts of their rescuers. All war opponents should take note of this. When soldiers enlist, they do not have the luxury of picking or choosing their missions. The vast majority of them do a very difficult job honourably, a few rise to heroic and unfortunately, the actions of a few are inhumane and deplorable. Responsibility for the mess in Iraq however lies squarely on the civilians who sent them there.
However Ms. Wente goes on to not only rail against the CPT for their lack of gratitude, but to attack their motives, mission, purpose and character, and in the process demonstrates what a empty shill for the “lets remake the middle east in our image, and to hell with the consequences” neo-liberal PNAC ideologues she really is. Who but a partisan shill would continue to support such as demonstrably failed policy as the Iraq war, as the country, and potentially the whole region, slowly spirals into sectarian violence and civil war. What were the reasons for the war again? Was it weapons of mass destruction? Oh right none were found. Was it 9/11? Oh right, no connection to Al Qaeda. Was it humanitarian intervention? Oh right, 30,000 to 100,000 dead civilians and an escalating civil war, not to mention Abu Ghraib. Somehow when it comes to standing on moral principles I would trust the Christian Peacemakers just a bit more than Ms. Wente and the people she shamelessly shills for.
In her column however, Margaret Wente abandons any journalistic integrity – if she had any left after her March 2005 editorial praising the discredited work of climate change denier Steve MacIntyre as a climate change expert. In this current piece however, Ms. Wente makes the mistake of assigning or associating other people’s words and opinions to the three rescued Peacemakers and then attacks them on this basis. She writes:
“I heard of friend of Mr. Loney’s, Ted Schmidt, who is a former editor of the Catholic New Times. He got straight to his talking point, which was a passionate denunciation of the occupation in Iraq and of the Catholic Church for not opposing it. He said it was a lucky thing that Stephen Harper wasn’t in charge last fall ‘There is a good chance that if Mr. Harper had been Prime Minister and these people had known that Canada was a part of this operation, … they might not be alive’.
So let me make the distinction that Ted Schmidt is not one of the three rescued peace workers, Jim Loney, Harmeet Sooden or Norman Kember, and he does not speak for them. Mr. Schmidt has a valid point, in light of the fact that Tom Fox, the lone American in the groups was executed. However it is shoddy to criticize the CPT on the basis of what a friend of theirs has said.
Ms. Wente goes on to say that radical Palestinians and Hamas have endorsed the Christian Peacemakers.
The Christian Peacemakers are also well known on the West Bank, where they stand in front of Israeli bulldozers that arrive to raze the houses of Palestinian suicide bombers. Why were the hostages lives spared? Perhaps the season has less to do with the affecting please of family members that were broadcast on Al Jazeera and quite a lot to do with the ringing endorsement that came from radical Palestinian Imams and members of Hamas. “Freedom for the Iraqi and Palestinian people. Shame and disgrace on the Zionist and American occupation” said a press release issued by Hamas and several other groups.
First of all, Israel has not just bulldozed the homes of suicide bombers, but the homes of any Palestinians thought to be supporting terrorists. This is done without any burden of proof or due process, the decision is usually left up to military commanders in the field.
However, it is true that a group representing virtually all of the Palestinian political parties (not just Hamas) issued a statement on November 29th appealing for the kidnappers to release the members of the CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team) in Iraq. Here is the full text of the [translated] statement – see if it leaves the same impression as the highly rhetorical salutation/sign-off that Ms. Wente quoted and mischaracterized.
In the name of God, the Compassionate and Merciful "O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done."-The Holy Qur'an, 49:6
The Islamic and National forces in the governorate of Hebron/Palestine express their deep regret for the kidnapping of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq.
The Islamic and National forces in the governorate of Hebron/Palestine have had long experience confronting Israeli crimes and violations with the CPT since 1995, and wish to confirm that the members of this group have had and still have a major role in confronting Israeli crimes and violations, and in the protection of the property and the lives of the Palestinian citizens.
More than once they placed themselves in front of the occupation's tanks, and they confronted Israeli occupation bulldozers with their bodies defending Palestinians' homes against destruction. They accompanied our children when they were threatened and attacked by Israeli settlers on their way to and from their schools. Because of what they were doing, the CPT members were subjected to arrest, beating and pursuit by the Israeli soldiers and settlers in more than one location in Palestine. Many of them were denied entry to Palestine, or deported by the occupation authorities because of their activities in confronting the occupation.
We appeal to our brothers in the resistance and all those with alert consciences in Iraq, with whom we consider ourselves to be in the same trench confronting American aggression and occupation, to instantly and quickly release the four kidnapped persons (two Canadians, one Briton and one American) from CPT, in appreciation for their role in standing beside and supporting our Palestinian people and all the Arab and Islamic peoples.
Freedom for the Iraqi and Palestinian people.
Shame and disgrace on the Zionist and American occupation.
The Islamic and National Forces in the Governorate of Hebron
Some might read this as an endorsement, others as an appeal for the lives of people who, driven by compassion, have put their lives on the line repeatedly in the cause of humanitarianism. More telling of Wente’s distorted worldview, by quoting the single line of over blown rhetoric and associating all of the groups in the Palestinian government with radical Imams and Hamas, Ms. Wente radicalizes all Palestinians and portrays them as terrorists. In this case, the only crime they have committed is to appeal for God’s (Allah’s) mercy towards the hostages. This may have been what kept them alive for four months.
But Wente is not done yet. She goes on to compare the CPT to “Lenin and Stalin’s useful idiots” aiding the cause of Saddam and Al Qaeda, like “westerners who defended Russia and denounced the West”. The CPT was in Iraq before the war, trying to lessen the humanitarian impact of the UN Sanctions regime. But Al Qaeda was not active in Iraq prior to the occupation.
The only current connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq is the elusive and ethereal Abu Mousad Al Zarqawi – who has incidentally regrown a leg recently. Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath party were secular Arab nationalist, the sworn enemies of Al Qaeda’s Islamic fundamentalists. The current insurrection is a marriage of necessity to drive out the American occupiers. Saddam was nominally a sunni muslim, but only got religion when he had a quarter of a million troops on his border and started quoting the Qur’an like Mike Tyson’s cellmate. Al Qaeda has its roots in Sunni Wahabism which while fundamentalist is at odds with the Shi’a fundamentalists of Iran. If you want to talk about radical Islam, look at what replaced Saddam. The Americans have installed a weak, Iran friendly Shi’ite government in Iraq, that is barely able to restrain the Mahdi army of the radical Shi'ite fundamentalist cleric Muqtada Al Sadr or the Kurd militias. The American coalition and their apologists have been able to accomplish in three years what Iran’s Ayatollah’s couldn’t do in over a decade of wars. Talk about useful idiots.