When innocence is a vice 1

Considering what is done to prisoners in Iran, what American captives have had to endure at the hands of the mullahs, and how women generally are treated under Islamic law, one might say that Sarah Shourd is extraordinarily fortunate to have been let out of prison and allowed to leave that fearful country. Her half a million dollars ransom was almost certainly paid by the US State Department with tax-payers’ money, though that’s unlikely ever to be admitted for the sensible reason that if a state is known to be willing to pay for the release of its kidnapped citizens, more will be kidnapped. So rumors that the Sultan of Oman paid it out of the goodness of his generous heart have been allowed to float.

How did she come to be in Iranian hands? She and two men friends decided to go for a nice long walk somewhere abroad, for recreation, exercise and amusement. Did they look at maps and pictures of various likely resorts for walking vacations? Did they consider Scotland, Canada, New Zealand? Whether they did or not, what they chose was Iraq: a country that has barely if at all emerged from a long war, where every day people are being shot down and blown up. One of the most dangerous places on  earth. And the route they chose was along the border with Iran, another of the most dangerous countries on earth, at least for Americans. They could have picked only one region more dangerous – the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Were they excited by the idea of putting themselves at risk? Were they “playing chicken”? Did they imagine, fear, or get a frisson at the idea, that they might be taken hostage? And did they not understand that if they were, they’d be putting their families and their country over a barrel? Or are they – as many  say they are for loss of a better explanation, and the Iranian authorities insist they are – spies? Shourd denies it, but so she must, whether it’s true or not.

We don’t think the three hikers are spies. We think they’re more likely to be reckless fools. And yet – how did they get to where they were captured? What documents did they need to get into Iraq? Can anyone do it? Are crowds of tourists landing there daily now? Do coaches take parties of Americans sightseeing or bird-watching? How did they get from wherever it was they entered Iraq to the Iranian frontier? On foot? Unchallenged and unmolested? The more one thinks about it, the stranger the whole affair seems, and the more questions present themselves.

Where do Sarah Shourd’s political sympathies lie? Had she ever protested against the Iraq war? Was she trying to prove something?

Does she by character belong in that class of  “privileged, young, white” women from America, Europe and Israel (Jewish and Arab) who are going to the West Bank to protect the Palestinians from Israeli soldiers by interposing themselves between the “murderous” Jews and their hapless victims – and, Phyllis Chesler writes at FrontPage, are being kidnapped, raped, and (in the case of the Arab girls only, presumably) forced into marriage by the subjects of their selfless compassion?

According to one recent and very disturbing report, foreign (American and European) and Israeli Jewish and Arab left-feminists are being routinely harassed, raped, and even forced into marriage by the very Palestinians whom they have come to “rescue.” More shocking is the alleged pressure brought to bear on those activists who wish to press charges about being raped or abducted into marriage; their own movement presumably pressures them not to do so because the alleged Israeli “occupation” of Palestine is far more important than the violent “occupation” of any woman’s body.

The type of girl we’re talking about has been sacrificing herself for noble causes to the annoyance and inconvenience of others, and her own ultimate remorse, since the nineteenth century.

Joseph Conrad wrote about her sort in a story called The Informer:

She went to a great length. She had acquired all the appropriate gestures of revolutionary convictions – the gestures of pity, of anger, of indignation against the anti-humanitarian vices of the social classes to which she belonged herself. …She was displaying very strikingly the usual signs of severe enthusiasm, and had already written many sentimental articles with ferocious conclusions. … For all their assumption of independence, girls of that class are used to the feeling of being specially protected, as, in fact, they are. This feeling accounts for nine tenths of their audacious gestures.

Reckless adventurism and a self-righteous refusal to believe that people can intend to do evil – especially if those people have been selected as objects of pity – are not criminal but they are not blameless. Willful ingenuousness amounts to a vice. A grown-up should know better.

Jillian Becker    September 24, 2010

Posted under Arab States, Commentary, Iran, Iraq, Islam, jihad, Muslims, Palestinians by Jillian Becker on Thursday, September 23, 2010

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  • This is spot on. I believe these young idealists are sincere, in part because 20 years ago or so I was fairly idealistic in that line myself. I thought Gene Roddenberry's vision of a rational and compassionate future was obviously worth aiming for, and those sour old conservatives who shrugged with indifference or sneered with scorn at what I thought of as “people of vision” were being deliberately obstructive. Imagine no religion…nothing to kill or die for…etc.

    Well, now that I've become an old conservative myself, it's perfectly obvious that this entire class of sweet young fools really have to smell the coffee and wake up from their undergraduate dreams. As long as we protect people from the consequences of their actions, we enable their continuing adolescence. I'm glad we got the young lady out, but I hope the price included her promise to make a “don't be stupid like me” documentary. Should be mandatory viewing on every American college campus.