Does this make any sense at all?
CNN is excerpting the Christian Science Monitor’s series on their reporter Jill Carroll who was kidnapped in Iraq and eventually released unharmed. Today’s segment describes the situation Carroll’s father Jim found himself in when he had to decide how to respond to Jill’s kidnappers deadline to have their demands met.
The FBI recommended that Carroll record a statement basically calling the kidnappers what they are: thugs and murderers. “The FBI wanted the father — him — to shake his fist, in essence; to go on TV and address the men who held Jill as murderers and thugs.”
But Carroll’s colleagues at the CSM thought that would backfire and counselled a ‘sympathy statement’. Basically, to try to find any way possible to get the kidnappers on a human level and connect with them on the basis of a father’s fear for his daughter.
Needless, to say, one can only imagine the anguish Carroll must have gone through making this decision. And given what we’ve seen in Iraq over the last few years the odds of making that human connection (or perhaps enlisting public sympathy among the constituency the kidnappers saw as theirs) would seem slight.
But it is hard for me to imagine that a combative message from the father would have been a good idea from the perspective of saving her life. Governments have different priorities. And I would agree in almost every case with a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, for all the standard reasons. But a family, necessarily, has a different set of priorities. And certainly Carroll’s priority was his daughter’s life.
I could see the negative effects of a plea for sympathy. In a sense, you’re giving the kidnappers what they want, drawing out the emotional drama and the eventual shock and outrage at the probable murder. But I would think remaining silent would be better than voluble defiance if your aim was getting her back alive.