It might seem to the casual news watcher that Iraqi kidnap groups aren't doing so well of late. The CPT men were freed without a fight, matter of fact the bad guys weren't even home when the troops arrived. Their demands were not met. Carroll was released unharmed and nobody was arrested, and the demands were not met. Like the CPT crew, she came back to freedom but was overly concerned with the slugs that held her against her will for months:
"It's important people know that - that I was not harmed."Similar statements were made by Norman Kember. The AP was suspicious of all this and kept digging around trying to find someone to fess up about a ransom or other deals. Who can blame them? Here's what American Ambassador to Iraq Khalilzad said:
"No U.S. person entered into any arrangements with anyone. By U.S. person I mean the United States mission," Khalilzad said.Just for fun here's the definition of a "US Person":
“United States person” means a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence (as defined in section 1101 (a)(20) of title 8), an unincorporated association a substantial number of members of which are citizens of the United States or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence, or a corporation which is incorporated in the United States, but does not include a corporation or an association which is a foreign power, as defined in subsection (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this section.Since it's doubtful they're playing Bill Clinton games with the law we must assume Khalilzad was leaving the door open to involvment by Iraqis or other Coalition partners. You can find speculation along those lines over at the Jawa Report:
Now the NYT (via Bad Hair Blog) reports that one of the leaders of the Islamic party, Dr. Tariq Al-hashmi, is claiming responsibility for winning Jill Carroll's release. This is very interesting, indeed. Especially after the last few days in which many see a change in the political atmosphere in Iraq, with reports of Sunnis now seeing the Americans as allies to protect them from Shia militias and Shias--the traditional U.S. allies in Iraq--becoming suspect of the Coalition.It is very interesting. An open question remains of which side America might come down on in the event of a full blown civil war. We'll do our best to take neither, but perhaps allowing the perception of truce between the Sunnis and Coalition serves as a subtle message to al-Sadr and the Iranian-backed militias.
It might also serve as a message to other Arab nations. Wasn't it Saddam who recently called for Arab League members to back the Sunnis in the fight for Iraq? I don't believe that invitation extended to the Coalition itself. Bet such an action might really mess up his thought process.
The kidnappers felt the need to explain themselves:
In a video purportedly from her kidnappers that was posted on the Internet, her abductors said Carroll was released because "the American government met some of our demands by releasing some of our women from prison." The video was found on an Islamic Web site where such material has appeared before.
They are referring to the release of several women prisoners back in January, discussed here, but that officially qualifies as "punting". The kidnappers also told her to watch out, because mujahadeen had infiltrated the green zone. Do they get old reruns of the Untouchables over there?
So far the evidence suggests her captors were either amatuers in way over their heads or extrememly cunning operatives with unknown goals in mind. There's simply no in-between here.
UNKNOWN GOALS COMING TO LIGHT 3/31/06
Well, that didn't take long. Compare the LGF version of the MyWay story posted above (actually an AP feed). Notice how the AP reported on the tape but excluded the comments uncovered by LGF, such as this snippet:
Voice: Do you have a message for Mr. Bush?Hail to the blogosphere.
Carroll: (Laughs)Yeah, he needs to stop this war. He knows this war is wrong. He knows that it was illegal from the very beginning. He knows that it was built on a mountain of lies and I think he needs to finally admit that to the American people and make the troops go home and he doesn’t care about his own people.
JILL CARROLL SPEAKS 4/1/06
"Hail to the Blogosphere", said I. Er, not so fast.
Ms. Carroll's statement describing her role in the video is here, which everyone should read, then ask yourself if we should expect a young lady to spit in the eye of death by refusing to talk trash about her country in exchange for freedom.
So, first things first. If I gave the impression Ms. Carroll was somehow a participant in a conspiracy, I apologize. Bloggers should read this post from Rick Moran, even though it hurts.
I also questioned the AP's refusal to print incendiary comments from what we now know was a coerced video, so in retrospect they made the correct call and deserve props.
However, the question raised by the original post is still valid--ie, why was she released before the kidnappers' stated goals were met? Who benefitted, if anyone? Was there a quid pro quo, or did they just get spooked? These same questions can be asked about the earlier CPT release, and certainly may have a bearing on the treatment of future victims or on how the Coalition policy is changing.
THE PLAN 4/3/06
Glenn Reynolds has a link to the Officer's Club site, which has a well thought-out essay about Jill Carroll's release here. The Officers speculate on the question of why:
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 both agree and disagree. It seems possible the video was a trial balloon--but in my mind it was more a hail mary.
After we called their bluff several times it probably became clear that, A) we weren't going to bargain and, B) Miss Carroll had become a very hot potato. Killing her outright was probably never an option since their initial demands asked for the release of their own women. Besides, the world was against them, including Sunni Muslim clerics. Their only means to success was for us to cave.
Speaking of the clerics, perhaps they had a secret influence from a self-serving perspective. They probably understood how the sight of a brutally murdered young woman might affect the fickle American public, that such a sight could easily produce an unwanted backlash. After all, they should understand martyrs better than anyone.
Between a rock and hard place, they probably decided the video was the only acceptable way to cut their losses and extract some tiny positive out of the deal. For all we know they thought Carroll wasn't acting and figured she might be a true sympathizer, and would go back to the US and join up with Cindy Sheehan.
That's why I think this was a botched kidnapping by a bunch of amatuers rather than some well-designed plot to reach this end. Whichever it turns out to be, it was an unmitigated failure all the way around. It will be interesting to see what if anything Miss Carroll says about her ordeal in the coming months, since she could certainly shine the brightest light on all this conjecture.