Saturday, March 25, 2006

Irony and Christian Peacemakers

Well, good news this week from Iraq. Well, qualified good news. A British and two Canadian members of a Christian Peacemaker's team were released by Canadian, British and American troops. Their American colleague was executed earlier this month. I was relieved by the rescue and, of course, remember the death with sorrow.

Yet, it is hard to avoid the irony of the manner of the rescue. It was, after all, the military of three countries which rescued these peacemakers; the very miltary forces they were in Iraq to criticize. Nor has that irony escaped commentators either. For example, the Star quotes a University of Toronto security expert, who argues "the peacemakers' "extreme idealism and naïveté" has to be weighed against the costs — not just to families and friends, but to the states that are obliged to intervene, regardless of peoples' prior instructions. "

This is, predictably, not the only voice critisizing the Christian peacemakers. Other writers have added their voices, depicting these peacemakers as dangerously innocent and reckless in the risks they undertake in the interest of peace. Much of the criticism has centred on the point that, while this operation was carried off without a shot fired, people could have died trying to rescue these people. In that case, they would have caused the kind of deaths which the organization is dedicated to avoid. And, yes, that is true and ironic.

Yet, can I point out that neither the hostages nor the Christian Peacemakers themselves ever asked for this raid? I'm sure they're suitably grateful for the release, but they did walk into the situation in Iraq with eyes open and ready to sacrifice if necessary. Indeed, I would argue that it is circular logic to accuse these peacemakers of risking other people's lives when they themselves have emphasized their willingness to take the consequences for their 'extreme idealism and naivite' without risking other lives. They have chosen this course out of faith and out of belief that this is what Jesus calls them to do, not to make trouble for the military.

I think that is precisely what critiques of the Christian Peacemakers don't get. All too often, our society's reaction to those seeking peace is that their efforts are laudable, but impractical. Yet, have a look around at the cost of the military intervention in Iraq and tell me that the resort to violence in this war has managed anything except driving out Saddam Husein (and I don't diminish that achievement) and Iraq's progressive slide into civil war. Like most resorts to violence, this war has proven self-defeating by creating more difficulties and strife than it resolves. If this is practical foreign policy, perhaps we need some impracticality.



angli_fan said...

Sorry Phil, but I couldn't disagree more. Wretchard at "The Belmont Club" said it better than I ever could:

"If I have it aright, the CPT would not on principle -- if the word can be perverted thus -- have placed a call, if they could, to save Tom Fox as he was being tortured to death because it might bring Multinational Forces rushing to violent rescue, an act they would have no part of. Yet they saw no contradiction in precipitating this absurd situation by their intentional presence in Iraq and by trailing their coat in the most dangerous neighborhoods; nor did they think it ethically consistent to refrain from telling the Press of the kidnapping though they must have known efforts to rescue them would be made, despite their well-publicized refusals. There is nothing more suspicious than false modesty performed conspicuously upon a stage."



Phil S. said...


The thing is that Wretchard's point is only valid if we presume that the only way to win the release of the CPT team was, in fact, by using force. There are other means at hand such as diplomatic pressure, humanitarian pleas and simple bad press. Now, I grant that these measures are not as easy nor necessarily likely to be productive, but they can explain why CPT went public in the way they did.

My point remains. There is no reason to believe that CPT was passive-aggressively trying to pressure the military to save their people. They, including Tom Fox, knew the risks they were running and they were willing to run that risk. I simply do not know what else they needed to do to convince people that they were not in favour of the military rescue. It really is a case of damned if they do or damned if they don't.