Sunday, August 27, 2006

Some Freedom in Gaza

Many TPS readers may be aware of my broad criticism of the handling of the "War on Terror". Indeed blending it with the War in Iraq has produced so many disastrous results. However, with today's news of the release of Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig in Gaza, I want to praise one important aspect of the war on terror. I give the Bush administration and its State Department credit for continuing the policy of a refusing to negotiate with those who kidnap Americans. For it is this long-standing tradition which more than anything has led to the release of these journalists.

It's not an easy thing to do to officially turn a government's back on efforts that could be made to free citizens held by terrorists under the worst of conditions. But were the US to negotiate with these or any other kidnappers (including those in Iraq), all the cliches would then apply to future incidents - it would be a slippery slope, have a snowball effect, etc. If concessions were made to gain Centanni's freedom, surely more would be taken hostage at a greater rate wherever terrorists may lurk.

The conditions experienced by Centanni and Wiig were certainly unpleasant.

Centanni said that during his capture, he was held at times face down in a dark garage, tied up in painful positions, and that he and Wiig were forced at gunpoint to make statements, including that they had converted to Islam.

As usual, the kidnappers initially demanded the release of all Muslims imprisoned by the U.S. by midnight Saturday in exchange for the journalists. This demand was rejected and actually pretty much ignored by the administration. All Americans wanted the journalists' release and I'm sure arms were twisted behind the scenes. But it is important that these thugs realize we will not jeopardize our efforts fighting legitimate terrorism even to save the lives of innocent non-combatants.

You have to admire Centanni and his commitment to his craft. It is certainly not shared by this blogger. My ass would be back in America immediately and I'm pretty sure I'd never go back to Palestine.

Centanni told reporters, "I hope that this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover the story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful and kind-hearted."

Journalists are usually an intrepid bunch. The kidnappings of the 1980's didn't scare them off and I'm sure this incident won't either. But I am very glad to see this diplopmatic policy paying dividends in the Middle East.

It does make me wonder, however, how this relates to the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, which was triggered by the kidnapping of 2 Israeli soldiers? Because those sides were already in a state of conflict with both sides holding prisoners, perhaps it's not directly analogous. But in another sense, Israel did send the message that if Hezbollah (or Iran) wants to push them into war, it would only take the kidnapping of 2 individuals to get it done. Maybe that is why the world questioned if their reaction was too strong. Afterall, nobody now claims the US "cut and run" by not bombing Gaza in retaliation for Centanni's and Wiig's kidnappings. We merely said "fuck off" and it worked. May not work everytime, but apparently neither do all-out Iraq or Lebannon style wars.


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