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Thursday 23 September 2004

How do we stop this Iraq hostage situation? [Brit]

You're all no doubt aware that right now Kenneth Bigley (62), a British contractor, is being held hostage in the Iraqi town of Falluja.
You're also no doubt aware that two American hostages were beheaded in the last 72 hours and Kenneth Bigley is going to be next.
I find this situation utterly unacceptable. I am also amazed that the man behind these events, one Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is still capable of carrying them through.
I totally agree with the policy of not giving in to terrorist demands. The group of terrorists currently holding Mr. Bigley wants the United States to release two of the previous regime's top chemical warfare specialists.
Absolutely not. It is not in any way likely that the two ladies concerned will go into private practice with a view to helping the sick.
So, given that negotiation isn't an option, I ask myself this:
How is it that the combined military and intelligence communities of both the United States of America and Great Britain cannot find and eliminate a known terrorist who is residing in a known location and who only has one leg?
How is it that the terrorists, in partnership with other al-Qaeda operatives in Falluja and other militants make the entire town a no-go area for the world's most advanced military forces?
How is it that the digital communications arms of the above governments (NSA,GCHQ etc) have not tracked down the location of those involved through their fondness for sending digital proof of beheadings and demands to various websites?
These are big questions and I don't see anything approaching an answer from either President Bush or Prime Minister Blair.
What I do see is an innocent man begging for his life, only hours away from possible beheading - a man who for the last few years has been living peacefully in Iraq as a civilian contractor, assisting in the development of Iraqi engineering projects.
Iraq is in seriously bad shape, and in my mind is fast degenerating into a cross between Somalia (remember that American readers?) and Vietnam (I bet you remember that one eh?).
The solution is to remove Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and anyone else associated with him in Falluja; to utterly destroy the insurgents and make it quite clear that beheading people on camera is going to get you and those who know you, in terminal trouble.
I do honestly hope that Mr. Bigley is rescued or released. I honestly, and depressingly, believe that he'll end up on a roadside, sans tete.
And we'll be in exactly the same situation in a few months time - whilst our much vaunted military and their political overlords do precisely sweet fuck all to sort this situation out in the manner it requires.


  1. The SAS are on holiday in the algarve, clearly. What do we pay for them, if not to rescue our citizens who are in trouble like this, I don't understand. Can I have a step by step breakdown of where my tax money has gone in regard to defence spending? It's disgusting as you say, that the worlds might can't find a couple of rag-heads in a relatively small town.

  2. Problem is as it always is. We have to play by rules, they do not. We can't just send in the army and level Falluja to find this sub-human scum because countless bystanders will be killed. Iraq wont thank us for it, no one really will. That's the problem.
    I don't think Iraqi's are very impressed by the kidnappings either but if we just go and kill thousands of people and level a town including sites of religious significance, then we'll end up with another Israel situation of us and them and a neverending cycle of revenge/violence on an even bigger scale.
    What's most annoying now is that the Iraqi 'government' apparently makes decisions (stupid ones, by and large - such as releasing the captives to appease the terrorists) and then clearly the coalition goes in and tells them how stupid they're being and orders them to make the right decision. The result being you've got the government demonstrating for all the world that it isn't a real government at all. Which then turns the Iraqi's against the government.
    The solution is to get out. Leave them to fester in their own shit without water or electricity and let their own government handle it and be seen to be handling it.
    Of course, the country may well then erupt into civil war until the next dictator has been installed.

  3. We haven't found them because:1] The majority of the population supports their actions, or at least supports their goals enough to not give any information, and to actively obstruct and frustrate attempts to find them.2] These men are clever and are not using dialup accounts from their underground bunkers. They are using low tech means (sneakernet) to move recordings etc. around.3] The areas are made no-go for the same reason as #1 - in fact there are some areas (Falluja being a good example) where US aggression is estimated to have resulted in almost every single family losing members to US gunfire or artillery. I know I'd hate them enough to shoot at them in that case. I think everyone I know would also feel the same.
    Comparisons to Vietnam are interesting because I think it's likely we will end up with the same outcome, but the methods used to wage war are significantly different - the action is all happening either in Urban areas, or in incredibly remote desert ambushes.
    There are two problems with the resolution you proposed:1] "Utterly Destroying The Insurgents" now looks like you will have to kill very significant levels of the Iraqi population, and utterly leveling some towns and administrative areas, children and women included. Would the wider world view that as genocide?2] Many of those involved aren't too worried about "Terminal Trouble". Lose your daughter, or your son, or all your siblings and your own life becomes worth alot less being a thorn in the side of the evil enemy. For a good example find the account of the brief conversation between one of the Beslan Siege terrorists and a schoolgirl as he describes what (he reasonably suspects) happened to his daughter.

  4. Strikes me that the kidnapping of Mr Bigley is the first really smart move that the insurgents have made. It's all in the demand see...
    Unlike the usual demands of kidnappers ("Pull out all troops", "Go back in time and avoid the war in the first place"), this one is actually doable and, without being too insensitive about it, even reasonable. It's a prisoner exchange, two people for three people - there's even a humanitarian spin on it because the prisoners are women.
    Of course, neither Bush nor Blair should concede these demands. Not now, not ever. As soon as the deal was brokered, kidnapping would instantly become the Iraqi "lobbyist's" method of choice.
    Then there's the targets of the demands. Two women. Okay, so one of them is a chemical weapons expert, but unlike Brit, I don't think that acquiring such an asset would be a major win for the Ts. I don't believe there's the infrastructure for the insurgents to mount an effort in this direction. And, even if there was, I'm sure there's no shortage of Syrian/Iranian lads who are handy with a test tube and wouldn't object to helping out against the infidels.
    The key to this demand is the fact that it was going to happen anyway. Reports seems to suggest that "Dr Germ" was on the verge of freedom, on the grounds that they didn't have the evidence to keep her. If the insurgents got hold of this information, is it likely that they could use it to their advantage?
    In this scenario, the situation has two possible outcomes, both are major victories for Al Zakawi. Firstly, the release goes ahead as planned. The coalition can harp on about how it was predetermined and has nothing to do with the demand, but the perception would be that we'd they'd caved. Bad.
    Secondly, they could prevent the release. In this case, Mr Bigley falls foul of the knife. Thanks to the freedom of press in the UK, the Great British Public comes away knowing everything about Ken, his past, his family, his soon-to-be-grandchild, and the haunting image of him begging Tony Blair for his life. Blair is forever remembered as the leader who wouldn't make on tiny prisoner exchange... women as well... and the government is weakened. Furthermore, US-UK relations are strained because the US blocked any negotiation.
    This is a very smart move...

  5. Interesting analysis. The demand to release women is indeed strange, given how little regard Islamic hard-liners have for women at the best of times. However I'm not entirely sure that there's a politically astute reasoning behind the move as you seem to be.
    You seem to be saying that the British people will think less of Blair for not caving into the terrorists. I don't believe that, I think that your people on the street understand well enough. The tabloids are not advocating dealing with these people - they're portraying them as monsters.
    They are monsters too. The British public knows it and the Iraqi's, at best, regard them as misguided. Ultimately I would disagree that there's any hint of a 'smart move' in a policy which sees cold blooded murder as a tool to fight the invaders. The Koran is quite specific; "If a man should kill a man it is as if he should kill all men". That doesn't get your population on side and surely that's got to be a smarter move than just trying to weaken our government a little?

  6. These are not terrorists, they are freedom fighters. UK invaded their country, and is now trying to tell them who their ruler is. Its that sinple, i dont know what these idiots that go there without guns expect. I find them quite reasonable, they are behaving WAY more civilised than the US special access program. I wonder what you would have done if some other country decided that your way of life suck, invaded (which causes your mother and sister to die in a bombing) and then tells you that they have a leader for you. btw, it feels fucking wrong to be on the same side as afty :)

  7. That seems half thought out at best. They are kidnapping people who are in the country rebuilding the services for Iraqi people, not soldiers. Then they make demands which are clearly never going to be met, then kill them in cold bloody and send the video to a web site. It's not reasonable, it's not sensible. It's not getting them what they want any faster, it's actually just illustrating what fucking barbarians they are.
    The only bit of your statement which has any merit is that these 'idiots' shouldn't be there without protection etc. I tend to agree with that. Those people there are clearly fucking loons who know full well the risks. That doesn't make what these scumbags do to them RIGHT.

  8. They are kidnapping people from a nation that is in war with them. The UK invaded their country with the US, the UK has bombed them to shit for as long as some of them remember. A whole fucking lot of them has lost family to UK bombs. They want the UK out. I say leave them, let them fight it out if needs be. Russia and China will not use their veto if a non US controlled force has to sort it later on. There is just no sense in having their worst enemies there to create order.
    But if you call them barbarians i wonder what you call the coalition forces that kidnap, torture and kill people at will. No trials, no records.

  9. The notion that because the USA and UK have been involved militarily in Iraq is in any way a justification for the taking of these hostages, and subsequent execution of them, is appalling.
    Nobody is denying that the military action within Iraq has angered the people there, and nobody is denying that in a perfect world,we would have been able to accurately remove the previous regime without causing fairly widespread damage to existing infrastructure,especially in urban areas.
    However, let us look at the facts.
    Mr. Bigley is a civilian contractor who has been in Iraq for many years, in a non military capacity, assisting the Iraqis with variousprojects to build back up everything from basic necessities to large scale engineering projects. Whilst in Iraq, he has made friends withthe local population who can clearly distinguish between Mr. Bigley and the 7th Armoured Cavalry.
    Those responsible for taking these hostages aren't loyal to the idea of a "free and democratic Iraq" but only to themselves. It has beenreported by experts and others far more able to examine the evidence than I, that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's intention is to cause all out civil war; a state of affairs which would suit global terrorist organisations down to the ground.
    By couching every utterance in a religious context and linking the Islamic faith to their barbaric acts, they do nothing but a disservice to their fellow Iraqis, so to imply that the majority of Iraqis are fully behind this issue is I feel, absurd.
    As I said before, Iraq is a mess. Iraq is not capable of sorting itself out from the mess caused by the removal of the previous dictatorship; and as such requires the international community (led by the Americans and the British in this instance) to guide them. The lack of a cohesive security plan for Iraq post-conflict is however now painfully obvious, and there we have let the likes of Mr.Bigley down in the harshest possible manner.
    To pull out of Iraq completely would see that country descend into anarchy. Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron fist, and it is with hindsight easy to see why in some instances this was the case.

  10. Its quite horrifying to see the lack of response about the methods used by the coalition. If these poor fucks are barbarians i dont know what words we should use to call the western varaint. And the rest, well, the UK is at war. The nation should be glad that these groups lack the capability to bomb London and Washington.
    The whole war was for the wrong reasons by the wrong people. Those people need to fuck off from there. You wouldnt exactly like to get beaten up and then have the same persons tell you what to think and how to behave.
    "free and democratic Iraq", yeah right, as long as it fits western purposes. You can bet your life that they see it that way.

  11. Alfa: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is from Jordan, not Iraq, so how's he a freedom fighter and not a terrorist?
    Jay: You think the Special Forces can just dial yellow pages, ask for the hostage takers address and drive up, jolly well pop some caps in them and drive off with the hozzies? Bagdad is a big and hostile place, even if you had a clue where they were, it's just not possible to storm it like it's some embassy full of a few t's in a freindly city.

  12. Slim: so now we're defining terrorists as being people in a foreign country, uninvited, killing citizens of that country? *cough*US/UK*cough*
    I appreciate that Alfa is playing devil's advocate, but what he says has a certain degree of truth. We're quick to throw our hands in the air and denounce the acts of Al Zakawi and his mob, but we're not too keen to accept the same criticism of our lads.
    Seems that just because our boys are wearing uniforms, we're perfectly willing to forget that we're occupying a country with no legal mandate. We've also treated prisoners of our phoney war in a shocking manner, a manner that breaks every rule of conflict that we're so quick to claim the insurgents are breaking. We've bombed civilians, accidentally or not. And we've seemingly abandoned the entire legal process by detaining suspects indefinitely without trial.
    No matter how bad Al Zakawi and the insurgency is, we've got to accept that in this particular instance, we're as much the baddies as they are. And as such, our protestations of unfair treatment are somewhat hollow.

  13. Oh, I agree with that. We were told we were liberating a country that was being goverened by a tirant, that we were doing them a big favour. It's not particularly looking like that at the moment, and yesterdays news also proves that the handing over of soverienty was also a bit of a farce.
    I do think there's a difference between groups of terrorists acting on their own tough, and an invading force acting under instructions from a government.

  14. There is a difference.. and that is of perspective.
    I'll bet there's a gaming clan in Syria having this exact same discussion, but trying to determine whether we're terrorists or not. Fact is, it pays each side to label the other as non-combatants, then the rules of war do not apply.

  15. The way the coalition treats prisoners in iraq is one thing. But you really should look up how information is gathered around the world. The special access program i mentioned earlier is as nasty is it gets, no matter which regime you pick. They have picked people up from almost everywhere in the world and dropped them off in egypt. Why egypt? Well, they are quite good at the torture game. The reasons these people were picked up are rumours that they *might* know something. And people have just disapeared. This information does of course reach people in iraq. They also see what happens at home. So they need help, will they choose a western country or neighbours they trust, people with their way of life? This is of course IF there are guys helping them from foreign countries. And then we dont really know if those people are linked to any form of international terror organisations. The sources havnt exactly a good trackrecord.

  16. I'm in complete agreement with Lurks here. As to Al Zakawi he is a venomous cowardly murderer of innocents. But the longer you stay and the more people you kill in an occupied country that no more wanted the reason (Hussein) for your occupation than you did, the more you (the west) push the line from the fanatics like Bin Laden to the normal people of the middle east. This is like a pool of activists spreading out from a core of the centre which was utterly perverting to the cause of Islam and the Koran but more and more will be filled with normal men and women who are out to seek revenge on the people occupying their country and killing their civilian folks as well as the hardcore terrorists.
    When I look at my two year old and my wife and contemplate being in an Iraqi man's shoes who hated Sadam Hussein but lost that child and wife to indiscriminate fire or bombing from an occupying force well then I know in a heartbeat that I would be so filled with hate I would attack them and try to kill as many of them as I could. We are moving from the extremists to normal people. The French Marquis versus the Iraqi uprising. Who are the heroes and who are the villians? Pretty soon we won't need to many true extremist villains because we'll be stocking up on true resistance fighters.