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Monday, May 09, 2005


The deadline* set by Australian Douglas Wood’s captors is less than four hours away. His family yesterday offered to establish a charity for Iraqis in order to secure Wood’s freedom:

Mr Wood’s brother Malcolm asked the kidnappers to show the same sense of charity the family was offering Iraqis.

Explaining that they could decide how the money should be spent, he said the family’s experience of the past few days had “forced us to reflect on the many difficulties, sorrows and humiliations experienced by the people of Iraq, who are our fellow brothers and sisters”.

Not the words (or course of action) I’d employ, in ideal circumstances. But these circumstances are as far from ideal as can be imagined. Wood’s family—desperate, but dignified—is doing everything possible to save his life.

Less worthy are comments from Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly, described as the “spiritual leader of Australian Muslims”, who is on his way to Iraq to rescue Douglas Wood—and to score vile and opportunistic political points in the process:

Calling for all Muslims to pray for Mr Wood, he says the 63-year-old engineer was in Iraq to help the Iraqi people and he should not suffer because of politics, “be they right or wrong”. "We value your jihad and your efforts, and we call upon you to do something for the sake of our community and all Australian society, which does not support Howard’s pro-American policies,” the Egyptian-born Sunni tells the kidnappers.

That line about “valuing jihad” was too much even for Keysar Trad, the Sheik’s former translator:

The former translator for Australia’s Muslim leader has criticised the mufti’s choice of language in a message sent to the captors of Australian hostage Douglas Wood.

"He has used language that’s not consistent with our expectations as Australians and I think he could have stopped at the first part of his statement without going this far and the message would have been just as clear."

Foreign minister Alexander Downer is more forgiving:

He doesn’t say things which are consistent with the position of the Australian Government, but he nevertheless is entitled to his own point of view and he’s put his view out there and we hope that he might be able to make a contribution.

*Some confusion exists over the exact deadline. According to this SMH piece the deadline is 2am—“if the 72 hours set by insurgents for Australia to agree to withdraw troops from Iraq began when Reuters first reported the ultimatum early on Saturday.” In this SMH piece, however, the deadline is 5am Sydney time.

UPDATE. Californian reader Sean Paden writes:

For a number of years, an Australian family (husband, wife and daughter) lived across the street from my parent’s house when I grew up. According to my father, the Australian in question was Mr. Wood. It was such a long time ago that I honestly can’t recognize him from the picture.

My parents live in Buena Park, California (a city just on the south side of the LA/Orange County border, and not too far from Disneyland). My dad believes Mr. Wood lived across from us in Vestavia Avenue. His family would have lived there during the early 1970s, until around 1979.

I only saw Mr. Wood a couple of times and, like I mentioned before, can’t place the face to the pictures I’m seeing. His daughter, on the other hand, I used to hang out with quite a bit (she was a year older than me).

There are plenty of folks who would do a much better job eulogizing Douglas Wood than me, but it absolutely kicked me in the gut when I realized I (might) know him.

If he is executed, I suspect a number of articles and commentaries will spew forth from the usual gang of idiots asking, in some form or another, what his death accomplished. I’ve been thinking about that question all day to come up with an answer, and here it is: I don’t know what his death will accomplish, but his life accomplished a great deal. He helped rebuild a country and help a people that have been ravaged by the very fucking scum that now has the unmitigated gall to stand in his judgment. It is the terrorists who haven’t accomplished anything. Nobody is running away. Not the Americans. Not the Australians. Not the British. And last—but most important—not the Iraqis themselves. They are standing up to these bastards, and it is good men like Douglas Wood who helped make that outcome possible.

UPDATE II. Divergent views among the family of Nicholas Berg, murdered in Iraq last year:

[Father] Michael Berg holds President Bush chiefly responsible for his son’s death, blaming what he sees as Bush’s abuse of power … [Berg] has intensified his anti-war activities and traveled the globe to meet families of other civilians kidnapped or slain in Iraq.

[Sister] Sara Berg neither holds Bush responsible nor considers Nick’s death a result of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Instead, she considers it the premeditated work of terrorists.

"Somebody who gets killed in war, that is not murder, legally. That is a killing,” she said. “By calling (Nick’s death) an act of war, it gives a certain legitimacy to it that I don’t choose to give."

While she once believed that terrorists should be captured alive and tried, she now says the inherent risk of such a mission outweighs their right to a trial.

"These individuals are capable of such horrendous evil and show no appreciation for human life," Sara Berg said.

What she said.

Posted by Tim B. on 05/09/2005 at 10:33 AM
(15) CommentsPermalink