Out of Focus
Friday, October 08, 2004
  I get very frustrated at the way the current hostage crises are dealt with. Perhaps frustration is not a politically correct emotion at a time like this, but it's what I feel. Nothing honest happens in these circumstances, blame gets handed around like cocaine on a cheap makeup mirror and everyone gets a dose.

Let's take a look at the family statement, or perhaps at the government's reaction to Mr. Bigley's kidnapping, for example. None of this is helpful. The family are only saying what they have to to get him freed, irrespective of the cost to the effort against terrorism, and the government is saying the only thing it can in response. Of course it's disgusted - what other emotion could possibly be appropriate in reponse to this? But that emotion is not what informs their decisions.

This evening, I saw Bigley's family saying that the terrorists had "proven their committment". What does that mean? It means, "well done, you're getting your point across. Whatever you're currently doing works". Of course they're trying to say whatever needs to be said to get Bigley freed (and unfortunately it's failed), but let's think about this from the point of view of Tony Blair for a second. He's desperate to prevent this from happening again. Forget for a minute the plight of this individual and consider the role of a politician who speaks for his country : he has to make sure that the terrorists realise that they will never get what they want through these means. That's the only way to dissuade them from doing this over and over again. Kenneth Bigley's family, by seeking to placate the terrorists by giving them small victories, by speaking in their favour and standing against the UK government and leadership, are playing into their hands by giving them the recognition and success they seek.

Do I not feel for Mr. Bigley's family? Of course I do, what happened is tragic, but there are greater things at stake at the moment, and their submissive pleas and conciliatory statements on television are seen by the terrorists as a success of sorts. Their actions may have marginally increased Mr. Bigley's chances of survival (and ultimately failed), but in doing what they have, they have endangered countless other foreigners working in Iraq.

Ultimately, only governments and representative international agencies are competent to act in such circumstances, because only they are able to trade off the benefit in the short term and the cost in the long term of such measures. It is perfectly understandable that the family should have pleaded for Mr. Bigley's life, but the public way in which it was done was counterproductive to the overall mission in Iraq.

Our willingness to weep, cry and plead in public is viewed by these people as the chink in the armour of the West, and the more we make that apparent, the more they will seek to exploit it. The BBC claims that these are sophisiticated attacks. I disagree. These are playground bullies who have found the weak spot in their victim. While I wish we had never attacked Iraq, given where we are now, it is time for us to realise that courage, determination and a degree of deliberate ruthlessness are required for us to prevail in the coming storm, distasteful as it may be.

w I don't like that we were all lied to about why we went to war. But that's marginal at this point. I knew I was being lied to at the time so I guess what I'm most pissed off about is that there were enough gullible people around at the time to think that the reasons being given were adequate to justify the actions that were then taken. But given where we stand, I am utterly 100% behind Tony Blair's stand on not negotiating with terrorists under these circumstances, and while I understand their pain, I cannot respect Mr. Bigley's son's attitude in blaming the government for this execution. The blame lies solely with the terrorists, and that is where this anger deserves to be directed.  

Because I'd rather blame the lens than accept reality

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