The wrongful release of three American hostages by Iran 8

Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, the Americans held in an Iranian prison for two years for entering the country illegally, were ransomed and released five days ago (September 21). The ransom will ensure that more Americans will be grabbed and held whenever possible, of course.

But that is not the only reason why they should not have been ransomed.

They each made  a speech when they landed in Oman. Fattal said that he and his companions (including Sarah Shourd who was released a year ago for a lower ransom) were innocent of any intention to enter Iran illegally, and Bauer said that they were sympathetic to Iran’s cause [“The irony is Sarah, Josh and I oppose U.S. policies towards Iran which perpetuate this hostility”], as if this were additional reason why they should not have been arrested and imprisoned. What they did not say was whether their sympathies still lie with Iran rather than their own country. Iran is unjust, it subjugates women, it stones apostates to death, it threatens the annihilation of Israel, it hangs homosexuals, it  is building a nuclear arsenal that endangers the world, but these three citizens of the free and tolerant United States were sympathetic to Iran.

They should have been left to whatever fate Iranian justice would have condemned them to. Then they might have served the useful purpose of providing an object lesson to their like-thinkers back home.

Debra J. Saunders reveals more about them. She writes at Townhall:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad engineered the release last week of two American hikers serving eight-year prison terms on trumped-up espionage charges. He may have thought the release would make him seem more humane, but the $1 million bail-for-freedom deal makes Tehran look like Somali pirates, grabbing innocent tourists, holding them hostage and then releasing them for ransom.

So why did released hiker Shane Bauer say the following upon his release? “Two years in prison is too long, and we sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in America (emphasis added) and Iran.”

The moral-equivalent rhetoric may have worked when Bauer was a peace and conflict studies major at the University of California, Berkeley, but one country ginned up phony espionage charges to use him and his companions as political pawns — that’s Iran — and the other country doesn’t imprison critics because of what they say or use violence to quell dissent.

The nightmare began in July 2009 when Bauer, friend Josh Fattal and Bauer’s girlfriend, Sarah Shourd, were hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Hiking in Iraq in 2009? And near the Iranian border? How much tourism has there been in Iraq while war has been raging there?  How did they get there, and why?

Many Americans have wondered how they could be so foolhardy that they mistakenly crossed into Iran. Shourd, a self-described “teacher-activist-writer,” says that there were no signs indicating the Iraq-Iran border near a popular waterfall and that the hikers crossed into Iran after an armed soldier summoned them to walk toward him. …

At the time of their arrest, Bauer and Shourd were living in Damascus, in the bosom of Bashar Assad’s Syria. They have shared a professed love of Middle Eastern culture.

That is to say, Arab culture – the morally lowest in the world.

They also shared some blind spots. Shourd, for example, wrote that in Yemen, interaction between the sexes is minimal, absent marriage, and 99 percent of women never leave the house unveiled. But: “The separation of sexes is widely understood as an attempt to protect women, and I have to admit, the streets do feel safe. Men leave you alone as long as you are covered; in a bizarre way it is less of a hassle being a woman here than anywhere I’ve ever been.”

Newsweek lists Yemen as one of nine countries that are “the worst places to be a woman,” because domestic violence is not illegal and there is no legal recognition of spousal rape.

A year before Shourd wrote about how safe she felt in Yemen, 10-year-old Nujood Ali went to a Sanaa courtroom to ask a judge to release her from an arranged marriage to an older man who beat her. Other girl brides came forward with their horror stories. A Sanaa University study found that more than half of Yemeni girls are married before they turn 18.

Shourd never quite comes out and says that she thinks that as Iraq War-opposing liberals, she and her friends should be treated differently than other people in the Middle East. But surely, she noticed that she was an unmarried 31-year-old woman and traveling with her 27-year-old boyfriend throughout the Arabian Peninsula, among people who would not tolerate the same behavior from their own.

Unjust imprisonment? Bauer should talk to a 10-year-old bride. …

Bauer and Shourd “lived in Syria, enjoying privileged lives,” different from the lives of ordinary Damascenes. Yet instead of criticizing Syria’s brutal dictator, Bauer wrote articles hitting America, and Shourd wrote a piece that criticized not Assad, but Israel.

Diana West says it is her “sincere wish that Bauer, Fattal and Shourd return to the United States and realize what a great country America is. Iran arrested them. Iran framed them. Iran jailed them.”

The United States, in contrast, gave them a university education that trained them to blame America first. Or, after serving time in prison … coequally with Iran.

We are not concerned about their possible enlightenment. We think they have been treated too well by America (the real source of their ransom, whatever lies are told or implied about the obsequiously-thanked Sultan of Oman paying it), and – obviously – not badly enough by Iran.

In our post When innocence is a vice (September 24, 2010), on Sarah Shourd and her ransomed release, we quoted this insightful passage from a short story called The Informer by Joseph Conrad, and it bears repeating here:

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.

Boys of that class too, of course.

We hope to hear of Shourd’s and Bauer’s early return to their residences in Bashar Assad’s chaotic flaming blood-soaked Syria, and of Fattal’s joining them there.

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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