Morning Report 12/11/05
Disappearances Are Deceiving

Past deadline for Christian hostages, Muslim hostages


In the name of Jesus: Above, Christian warmaker Father Bill Devine casting out the heathens in April 2003 at one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Tikrit. Below, Christian peacemaker Tom Fox in northwest Iraq in October 2005, trying to help heathens flee to safety. Details below.

We're in the second day of Human Rights Week and this Friday is Bill of Rights Day, and George W. Bush has formally called upon us to "mark these observances with appropriate ceremonies and activities."

On this Sunday morning, my brethren around the world (and cistern in the White House), I ask you: How do we answer Brother Bush's call?

What would Jesus do?

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Not what Father Bill Devine, a Navy chaplain with the Marines, did on April 19, 2003 (see top photo, above): Loudly brandish a controversial religious symbol in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Tikrit.

Probably what Christian Peacemaker Teams member Tom Fox of Clearbrook, Virginia, currently being held hostage by religious fanatics, did on October 5, 2005 (see bottom photo, above): Quietly help Palestinian refugees in Iraq — non-"believers," for Christ's sake — try to seek refuge across the Syrian border.

Syria a refuge — that should give you an idea how chaotic and dangerous Iraq is.

Well, you say, the Bush regime has already sent people to Syria. Yeah, to Far-Filastin prison in Damascus.

We've heard that rendition, thanks to the hard work of Der Spiegel's Holger Stark, the Washington Post's Dana Priest, and others. Just yesterday, Deutsche Welle reported that Germany's Federal Intelligence Service has been accused of interrogating a German national in that Syrian hellhole of a prison. DW's story noted:

    Far-Filastin, a facility in the basement of the Syrian military intelligence headquarters, has a notorious reputation with human rights groups which claim to have documented evidence that it is a torture center. Amnesty International has documented 38 different torture methods, including electric shocks and beatings with wires, being used there.

In fact, peace activists like Tom Fox are onto some big news stories while they try to steer people to safety in the Middle East. Fox's tales from Iraq dovetail with the spreading scandal over the Bush regime's own hostage-taking and secret CIA rendition flights.

Don Rumsfeld's reaction to the abduction is typical of the Bush regime's smugness and contempt for the planet's "others" (not to mention for its own people): He doesn't give a damn. (Keep reading and you'll see what I mean.)

People like Tom Fox are Christians who aren't war-like, unlike Rumsfeld's precious Pentagoncostal, Jerry Boykin, whose full role in the detentions, disappearances, and tortures is sure to become clear as his boss Steve Cambone's role becomes clearer. (Clear your mind for future revelations by reading Seymour Hersh's prescient Abu Ghraib rendition, "The Gray Zone," from the May 24, 2004, New Yorker.)

Fox has made his own positions crystal-clear: Read "Why Are We Here?," which he wrote just before his abduction, and take a look at his blog. I've been following it for several months.

A large part of Fox's hard work in the Middle East has been on behalf of people who have been unlawfully seized by their governments. But Fox had a hard time getting the needed publicity until he himself was seized.

The CPT's archives are full of fascinating tales from the peace activists' work. Especially creepy, in light of all the stories that have been uncovered about Abu Ghraib (see my December 9 item), the renditions, and the other disappearances — particularly Fox's own disappearance — is this entry from only two months ago from the online diaries of Fox and other CPTers:

    Saturday, 8 October, BAGHDAD:

    The father of a disappeared person visited the CPT apartment with a new list taken from an Arabic website which had his son's name on it. The man's son disappeared in April 2003 and has not been heard from since. The father formerly received information that his son was in detention at Abu Ghraib, but has been unable to locate him there. A team friend, also visiting, recognized other names on the list and agreed to look for more information about them.

Who knows when Fox can get back to working on those and other miseries? Since he and his three colleagues were abducted in Baghdad last month, they've become known throughout the Western world. The "Swords of Truth" threatened to kill them by Saturday, December 10, if all prisoners in Iraq weren't released.

Fear for human rites.

But there has been no word yet today from the religious nuts holding the four activist pacifists. In this case, no news is, for now, probably good news.

Terry Waite, who in the late '80s spent nearly five years as a hostage in Beirut, was cut of the same cloth as these four Christian activists. As the Guardian (U.K.) reported yesterday:

    Former hostage Terry Waite has called for the release of Norman Kember and blamed the Iraq war for Britain's "foreign policy mess."

Which brings us back to Rumsfeld's reaction to hostage-taking.

What's galling is that while British officials are voicing public concern, the Bush regime couldn't give a damn. At the White House, it's still "all things bright and beautiful." But in London, this morning's BBC report notes:

    Home Office minister Hazel Blears said "everything that can be done is being done" to try to secure their release.

    [Norman] Kember, 74, of Pinner, north London, American Tom Fox, 54, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, had traveled to Iraq as a "gesture of solidarity" with Canada-based international peace group Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). The group denies the men are spies.

Further signs of activity from the British government, also from the BBC:

    Defence Secretary John Reid said the government had no new information about Mr Kember.

    "We are doing, through the Foreign Office, through [Foreign Secretary] Jack Straw, everything possible to try and make sure his life is saved and that of his colleagues is protected.

    "But we have no further indication of any movement as of this morning," he told Sky's Sunday with Adam Boulton.

    Muslim leaders in the UK and abroad have repeatedly called for the release of Mr Kember, who was seen on video shackled and blindfolded. They also pleaded for the other three hostages to be freed.

    Anas Altikriti, the former president of the Muslim Association of Britain, has been involved in negotiations in Iraq, without a breakthrough.

What's the public word from our government officials? What do you think? Here's how SecDeaf Rumsfeld addressed it with Jim Lehrer on the December 8 NewsHour. Their full colloquy on the subject of hostages and kidnappings follows — with Lehrer playing softball and Rumsfeld playing hardball:

    LEHRER: First, on some of the news items of today, there was a claim today that kidnappers had killed an American contractor in Iraq. Can you confirm that?

    RUMSFELD: I can't. We have claims by kidnappers and terrorists and beheaders, three or four a day, and it takes — anyone can say anything they want, and it gets carried across the globe in about five minutes.

    But till you find out what actually happened, and when you're responsible for telling the truth, you have to take the time to find out what the truth is, and that does take time.

    Furthermore, you can't prove a negative. You can't say something didn't happen unless you go down and get ground proof.

    LEHRER: Sure. There are two Americans now being held hostage. There's another one, a peace activist from Virginia. You don't have any word on him either, do you?

    RUMSFELD: No.

Oh, I forgot. Rumsfeld's not from the "compassionate conservative" branch of the Bush regime. They continue, with Lehrer continuing to lob open-ended questions at Rumsfeld:

    LEHRER: What's caused this — you said there'd been a lot of these, but there haven't been any Americans in a year. Do you have any reason to — do you know what's going on, why this has suddenly started again?

    RUMSFELD: Oh, hostage-taking has been an activity that people have used all across the globe. Some criminals use it to raise money. People use it for intimidation. Some people who are enemies of the Iraqi government use it. Some people who are enemies of the coalition use it. It's — I mean, you think of the hostage takers in Latin America, Africa —

    LEHRER: So nothing special, at least in terms of Iraq, that you know of.

At last! Rumsfeld admitted the reasons behind the CIA rendition flights! Did you catch it? Here it is again:

    Oh, hostage-taking has been an activity that people have used all across the globe. Some criminals use it to raise money. People use it for intimidation.

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