Saturday, April 01, 2006

She Is Coming Home; Be Glad

Evidently, some people have been criticizing, or at least questioning, statements made by U.S. journalist Jill Carroll, who around the time of her release by Iraqi captors made statements saying that she had been treated well and opposing American war policy. Today, the Christian Science Monitor explains that her remarks were the coerced price for her freedom. From the CSM:

Ms. Carroll had been their captive for three months and even the smallest details of her life - what she ate and when, what she wore, when she could speak - were at her captors' whim. They had murdered her friend and colleague Allan Enwiya, "she had been taught to fear them," [her father] says. And before making one last video the day before her release, she was told that they had already killed another American hostage....In fact, Carroll did what many hostage experts and past captives would have urged her to do: Give the men who held the power of life and death over her what they wanted.

Several years ago I heard a speech given by a Vietnam veteran who had spent some years in the Hanoi Hilton. He made mention of the interrogation sessions, and said that he always returned disappointed that he had not held up better under the pressure. I have also read Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, in which he expresses much the same sentiment.

Sure, there have been people throughout history who have displayed super-human courage in the face of death -- the Afghan Christian who refused to renounce his faith is a recent example. However, it is a mistake to criticize those who have not had that strength. Given the same set of circumstances, who are any of us to say that we would have done any better than Ms. Carroll.

Ed Morrissey agrees:

Not long ago, the US acknowledged that even its POWs had to make these kinds of bargains with captors to avoid torture and murder. Many brave men died at the hands of the North Vietnamese trying valiantly to remain defiant through years of captivity because of the prevailing orders at the time that forbade American servicemen from acting in their own defense, losses that inspire us to acts of courage but also in the end did nothing to prevent the enemy from using POWs as propaganda tools. By the time of the Gulf War, the American public had developed the sophistication to understand that programmatic answers videotaped by agents of tyranny meant nothing.

I wonder why we forgot it in this instance. Jill Carroll will have plenty of time to tell us her story, but I think we would all benefit by taking a deep breath and holding our fire until she's safely home and in a clearer mental state.

So does Ann Althouse: "We can't ask for more. We can imagine a bolder hero who would do more. But we should speak no ill of the person who does less."

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