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Some really good news from Iraq

June 16th, 2005

The release of hostage Douglas Wood by Iraqi troops, apparently as the result of a lucky raid, is good news for us all. And while we’ll probably never know the full story, it’s likely that the efforts of the Australian government’s negotiating team, and of Sheikh Taj Aldin Alhilali, helped to convince the kidnappers not to proceed with their original threat to kill Mr Wood within a few days of his capture. Regardless of the details, and of differing views about Iraq in general, this is an event worth celebrating.

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  1. Katz
    June 16th, 2005 at 10:02 | #1

    Mr Wood seems to be an affable chap. And no civilian should have his life threatened in order to extort a change in government policy.

    Some sources say he was “picked up” in Baghdad. Others say he was “rescued” in Ramadi, more than 100 ks away from Baghdad. On the face of it, there should be no confusion about something as basic as this. Iraq is incongenial to truth. Wait for the spin-cycle to finish before saying anything about these circumstances.

    Some practicalities. The Howard Government is priding itself on the non-payment of any government ransom. That brag leaves a gaping caveat.

    If Wood’s kidnapping was carried out by persons with political intent, rather than commercial intent posing as political intent, then:

    1. If a ransom was paid, then they only got a consolation prize. US and Australian troops remain in Iraq. Did the extortioners really expect a different result?

    2. If this was indeed a “rescue”, then it appears that there are risks attendant on hanging onto captives for too long. Realisation of this may make life more, not less, perilous for high-profile kidnapping targets in Iraq.

    3. How might others in Mr Wood’s situation as contractors in the “New Iraq” interpret recent events? I presume that Mr Wood, for one, will decide against his original intent of “helping the Iraqi people” by continuing to accept contracts in Iraq.

  2. June 16th, 2005 at 11:41 | #2

    Given that he was an Australian who lived and worked in America, this is a very good result indeed.

  3. June 16th, 2005 at 11:44 | #3

    Er – and I should probably clarify – a very good result because one would think that insurgents would be less inclined to show any sort of mercy or restraint if their captive was associated with America in any way.

  4. June 16th, 2005 at 12:28 | #4

    A good result. Now let us pause to consider the federal government’s actions with the first australian to be taken hostage with the same threats. He was some journalist from SBS and Downer villified him for daring to be in a dangerous country. Nobody gave a pig’s arse although his life was also threatened. Both the SBS guy and Douglas were doing their jobs with quite some courage in the circumstances, one is villified and ignored, but for the other the government bends over backwards. It is Schapelle Corby special treatment all over again.

  5. anon
    June 16th, 2005 at 14:23 | #5

    Every silver lining has its cloud, Benno.

  6. Harry Clarke
    June 16th, 2005 at 18:59 | #6

    It is good news that Mr Wood escaped death. But it is worth asking why given the scale of disaster elsewhere in Iraq, Sudan etc where people are dying in great numbers. World welfare hasn’t risen proportionately by more than the infinitesimal — after all about 4 people die every second somewhere. It is obviously important for Mr Wood. Or is the keen interest an expression of hope that the irrational hasn’t (for once) won on this occasion. Or is it that the usual laws of arithmetic can’t be applied to compassion which also sounds cute? Or is it a healthy bout of nationalism? Not trying to be clever but heard today of an old friend dying in a distant place and felt a bit grumpy that Mr Wood was getting all the celebratory attention.

  7. joe2
    June 16th, 2005 at 19:09 | #7

    A warm inner glow and proud to be Australian!

    Howard is revelling in it.

    More flags at school and no mention of the death toll that is rising by the day in Iraq. No question that Australia might be engaged in an illegal war.

    Benno is absolutely right to point out that contrast in Australian Government behaviour re: SBS journalist. Suspect that “battlers” of the right kind get special treatment.

    Anyway good luck to him.

  8. rog
    June 16th, 2005 at 20:02 | #8

    If it is “likely that the efforts of…. Sheikh Taj Aldin Alhilali, helped to convince the kidnappers not to proceed with their original threat to kill Mr Wood” then is it also likely that the Sheik aided the other (Iraqi) captive?

    Why did they capture an Australian/American and an Iraqi? Was the Iraqi also illegally occupying Iraq?

    Perhaps ransom was the motive.

    That’s also likely.

  9. June 16th, 2005 at 22:53 | #9

    I can only concur with point 2 of message 1; in fact I was going to use the very same line about silver linings having clouds that was used an message 5.

    And yes, it is likely that this particular lot were the ransom seeking sort, judging by the fact that Woods wasn’t killed long ago.

    It is no longer in bad taste to say that his prisoner photograph made me think of Uncle Fester, is it?

  10. June 17th, 2005 at 00:32 | #10

    No it isn’t, PM!

    Harry – we needed some good news in Iraq. To counter the despair.

  11. June 17th, 2005 at 01:18 | #11

    Ah, but, as Nietsche pointed out hope was the last evil out of Pandora’s box – it tricks us into enduring the others.

    And bad taste or not, he did look like Uncle Fester. That’s not pejorative, mind – I always rather liked his gleeful mangling of things as they are.

  12. June 17th, 2005 at 09:50 | #12

    Look is it only me or does something about the rescue seem to stink a bit. Without taking anything away from the good news that Mr Douglas is alive and well the rescue does not seem to be on the level.

    Has anyone heard of casualties of the rescue? How many kidnappers were killed or injured? There seems to be disagreement about what lead to the rescue. Usually when military forces liberate victims the kidnappers put up at least a token resistance.

    Could this be that the kidnappers wanted a ‘face’ saving way out of the situation?

    Again just to forstall any flames I am glad that Mr Wood is alive and free and nothing can minimise this. I am just concerned that this is yet another time where the full facts have been muddied. And again it might be only me.

  13. June 17th, 2005 at 10:12 | #13

    I don’t think we’ve heard the full facts on ANYTHING re Iraq over the last few years. I don’t think we’ve heard the facts about Howard signing up to the invasion in London in April 2002 and then lying through his teeth for the next 11 months either.

  14. Katz
    June 17th, 2005 at 11:47 | #14

    Oh ye of little exploitable faith, WBB!

    Don’t you understand that John Howard is Australia’s very own pocket-sized Straussian?

    Our PM, as a man who can see the world more clearly and with more conviction than your average woolly-minded, self-indulgent citizen?

    As such, it’s Howard’s god-given duty to lie to us for our own good. He’s saving us from ourselves.

    And you, wbb, ingrate that you are, have the temerity and the arrogance to believe that you can see through Howard’s majestic insights, and worse, to go about public blogs blabbing about it.

    Shame on you.

  15. michael.burgess
    June 17th, 2005 at 11:54 | #15

    WBB, given the standing ovation Michael Moore’s odious piece of propaganda got from many of those who regard themselves as socially progressive (and have supported intervention in the past – East Timor, Spanish Civil war, etc), it is a bit rich to accuse Howard etc of lying. You and others also need to be reminded that SH was not in violation of UN resolutions for no reason – He actually did have WMDs and did have every intention of getting them again in the future.

    Also, listen occasionally (although, they have been prevented from speaking at peace marches) to Saddam’s torture victims or the relatives of those who died under his rule.

  16. June 17th, 2005 at 14:08 | #16

    If they did manage to get Doug Wood out without firing a shot, it’ll be the first thing that’s actually worked out well in Iraq. Ender is probably right: We aren’t being told the full story (’bout par for the course these days).

  17. Dave Ricardo
    June 17th, 2005 at 14:24 | #17

    Michael, would you care to share with us your opinion on the role of Sheikh Alhilali in this affair?

  18. June 17th, 2005 at 17:15 | #18

    I am too left-wing. Can anybody fix me up and keep me straight?

  19. joe2
    June 17th, 2005 at 18:54 | #19

    Try jury service over 2,3,4 …… weeks ,Benno.

    Under revised provisions ,by the Howard crue, time off for this good work will not be part of your award. If you have one.

  20. June 17th, 2005 at 20:51 | #20

    Oh the horrors. That is so crap. That will make me an anarchist though, and more likely to kill howard then vote for him.

  21. June 17th, 2005 at 23:36 | #21

    Benno, don’t confuse us anarchists with those nihilists over there. (What, me a splittist?)

  22. Ros
    June 18th, 2005 at 10:50 | #22

    Paranoia paradise.
    I am trying to remember the good old days when we were told the whole story. Was it Gough or Bob and Paul.
    And when are we going to be told how many Iraqi or US soldiers were killed or injured in the rescue.
    If you want to get to the nitty gritty of who is killing who and how and some examples of resistance offered Michael Yon provides some interesting material.
    http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/

  23. June 18th, 2005 at 10:54 | #23

    I feel like a weak dog being left wing. But at the same time I don’t want to be an irrational double hypocritical conservative. I don’t want to be a libertarian because they take themselves to seriously (how uptight can you get?), I don’t have the guts to be an anarchist. How about I start the blogger movement, that is the only thing the connects with me so far. I also like environmentalism, but are inelligible for both factions, the ‘weak dog let’s protest peacefully’ faction and the ‘ultra hard core stick it to the man let’s blow something up’ faction.

    A truly modern dilemma.

  24. June 18th, 2005 at 10:55 | #24

    Oh no, I have done it again, thread jacking. I even managed to jack my own condorcet thread.

  25. June 19th, 2005 at 12:21 | #25

    It didn’t take long for the conspiratorial brigade to get in on a story about Douglas Woods and his release. Please see http://stevegloor.typepad.com/sgloor/ as but one poorly timed attempt.

    I guess according to Ender and others, it was all a scam, and he should have been butched!

    Sad times.

  26. Katz
    June 19th, 2005 at 16:41 | #26

    Who knows, maybe the COW troops stumbled on Wood (he’s a singular, Liz) while looking for those humidicribs stolen by Saddam’s troops from Kuwait way back in 1991.

    Yes, I know that the whole humidicrib story was a pack of lies. But COW spin doctors don’t do those kind of things any more do they? Just ask Private Lynch.

  27. Elizabeth
    June 19th, 2005 at 19:51 | #27

    Apologies for the typo Katz.

    Do you also believe that it was all some conspiracy like Wag the Dog?

    What next, S11 was what it wasn’t?

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  28. Katz
    June 20th, 2005 at 08:34 | #28

    Ooooooooooooooo Liz:

    I can’t imagine how you could arrive at such a misbegotten conclusion. Are you the patsy of some bizarre conspiracy aimed at denying comprehension on your part?

    Thus, to paraphrase my first post (see above), Douglas Wood was indeed kidnapped. He was recently either released or rescued. We still don’t know. I’m being sceptical.

    This morning, amidst the usual media palaver at Tullamarine, as covered by AM, one female interviewer asked the critical question of Douglas Wood : “How long had you been in the house where you were discovered?” Douglas Wood provided no detail intelligible detail.

    Perhaps Douglas Wood was merely tired and confused, although his answers to other questions seemed cogent enough. Not suggesting a conspiracy Liz, just being a sceptical observer.

  29. Elizabeth
    June 20th, 2005 at 12:43 | #29

    Oooooooooooo Katz :)

    Why do you need to be sceptical. Of course observe, but why the need for any additional, unnecessary investigation.

    Mr Wood (please notice no plural this time) kidnapped
    Mr Wood held for ransom (in USD which is interesting – House of Satan money is apparently acceptible fiat) or
    Mr Wood held for political motives
    Mr Wood rescued.
    Mr Wood safe.

    Where in that is the requirment to be sceptical. Unless of course, he is a creature from outer space, who is connected with the Illuminati and the Da Vinci Code. Maybe at the press conference would have been an ideal time to ask.

  30. Katz
    June 20th, 2005 at 12:59 | #30

    Liz,

    Due to your strange use of the word “unnecessary”, not only is it unnecessary to feed your odd obsession about conspiracy, it would be counter-productive for me to do so.

    Hoping you have a quick recovery,

    Katz.

  31. June 20th, 2005 at 14:08 | #31

    Elizabeth

    That is actually my blog you mentioned – thanks

    Look up the top it says “Enders Environmental Blog”

    Have a look at the update.

  32. joe2
    June 20th, 2005 at 16:10 | #32

    Doug is rescued for 10 million of our dollars and takes a cool 250,000 for his story from channel 10. Bechtel have trained him well. Never take your eye of that holy dollar.

    Sad, how a good story is becoming sickening.
    Unless, he donates his fee to those who need it.

  33. June 20th, 2005 at 18:46 | #33

    Of course the story is either a windfall for the goverment,(this candidate had the perfect credentials to pull out all the stops and stage a patriotic rescue) or well orchestrated propaganda at a time when many Australians have lost all hope in the unjustifiable mentality the “capitalist democracy” is manifesting in our polititions, or was that manifesting in our society.
    http://www.plutonicmuse.com

  34. rog
    June 20th, 2005 at 19:57 | #34

    Interesting link http://www.plutonicmuse.com

    “We request that Vanstone stop polluting our culture with her rationalization”

    Your culture being that of the irrational?

  35. June 20th, 2005 at 20:36 | #35

    Dear Rog,
    Rationalization is a thought process that is undergone in this case to justify an outcome which is unconscionable, it says nothing other than that. Your comment probably relates more to your own ideals than what was written.
    Your own process of arriving at that question is creative, though misguided and out of context with what is written. With perception having a greater feild than reality, you are free to cast your own.

  36. Elizabeth
    June 20th, 2005 at 21:50 | #36

    Dearest katz (deliberate use of the small ‘k’) – not sure what your post was meant to imply, except to be rather condescending ( or sexist) i.e referring to me as Liz, when my name is spelt out in full.

    You are starting to generate a history for this sort of thing!

  37. Ian Gould
    June 20th, 2005 at 22:10 | #37

    Elizabeth, considering that the second post I ever came across from you was an attack on my chosen profession, which you likened to phrenology, your complaints ring rather hollow.

    If you want to be treated with courtesy, can I suggest you avoid calling others members of “the conspiratorial brigade” etc?

  38. Razor
    June 21st, 2005 at 12:47 | #38

    You gotta love this Wood chap – apologises to the US and AUS governments for what he said under duress and says that his rescue is proof positive that the policies being followed in Iraq are working.

    The good old ABC and the journalists’ union have been very careful to not follow up on any of those things – might be positive and you can’t have that! What would he know?

  39. Elizabeth
    June 21st, 2005 at 13:12 | #39

    Ian

    The point that I made was that it did not take long for people to run conspiracy theories about Douglas Wood’s release.

    This ridiculous ‘conspiracy’ was what I was referring to.

    I don’t understand what you mean by ‘choosing your profession’ – does that ‘entitle’ you to some sort of sacred knowledge the rest of us are not privy.

    My reference to economics still stands. I studied it many, many years ago, and found almost no real-life use for it. Having always been disappointed with my academic choice, it was confirmed by a very wealthy client of mine who left school at 15 and is the archetypal self made man, who one day asked me: “name one very wealthy economist?” and who I would further suggest did not make their money from being a technocrat. Still looking.

  40. Ian Gould
    June 21st, 2005 at 13:18 | #40

    Elizabeth,

    Until recently I worked as an environmental economist. You basically called me a quack and a charlatan.

    If you think that’s less offensive than being called “Liz” I despair of having any sort of reasonable conversation with you.

    As for rich economists – start with John Maynard Keynes.

  41. June 21st, 2005 at 13:59 | #41

    Actually I did not really make a conspiracy theory. I am just concerned that the reports of the rescue are still inconsistant. I speculated as to a scenerio that might fit some of the reports. This is not a conspiracy theory by a long way.

    If the rescue was so clear cut why the differing stories? Also we know that the coalition is desperate for good news stories – this, and the media circus now surrounding Mr Wood, seem to confirm that the US and Australia wanted to make as much PR mileage as possible from the good news of Mr Wood being safe and well.

    You only have to go back to the ‘rescue’ of that captured private from an Iraqi hospital to see what the PR department will do to make a good news story.

    If you want to avoid speculation you only have to tell the truth – it is that simple.

  42. what the
    June 21st, 2005 at 15:17 | #42

    Personally, I support and in fact, expect any Australian in fear of their life from those headchoppers to say or do anything they are told at gunpoint. I also fully expect them to retract those statements as utter rubbish extracted under duress.

    Good on him for appearing to be able to keep some measure of self-control even when faced by those offensive lunatics who think their outrageous behaviour is legitimate.

    I am surprised by criticism of someone who is no doubt still in a state of shock – how would any of us deal with being held prisoner in this way, punched in the head, tied to the bed and made to read poisonous drivel?

    We would do it and then we would thank our lucky stars we got away. Then we would watch our character assassinated in the media – another example of the compassionate blame the victim approach. If you read arab blogs you will see this to be a feature of the hijab squad mentality, it has no place in Australia.

    I want my taxes to contribute to your rescue if you ever need it and when you come back I would like you to tell me your story and I might even buy your book. Give the poor bloody guy a break.

  43. Elizabeth
    June 22nd, 2005 at 08:36 | #43

    Ian, Keynes wrote:

    “If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.”
    “The Future” Ch. 5, Essays in Persuasion (1931)

  44. June 22nd, 2005 at 23:27 | #44

    Whatthe, it’s not as simple as that. From what I know of what people do under duress, including some actual observations (don’t ask), it works very differently. In particular, if there is ever a voluntary element in the actions, people rationalise it and go into denial about reverting from their actions. The “Stockholm Syndrome” is in part a special case of this.

  45. Katz
    June 23rd, 2005 at 08:49 | #45

    What The,

    I scrutinised this thread for comments that may have provoked your defence of Douglas Wood against criticism. I found not a single unfavourable comment about the man or his actions before capture, during imprisonment, or after release.

    I can only conclude that you can’t read for comprehension, or you have chosen not to read for comprehension, or you have some sort of bee in your bonnet, or you needed to construct a pretext for getting something off your chest.

    And sure enough, like clockwork, there is:

    “If you read arab blogs you will see this to be a feature of the hijab squad mentality, it has no place in Australia.”

    Let’s analyse this little dollop of poison:

    1. You read “arab blogs”. They make you hot under the collar.

    2. You detect a single “mentality” which you pungently define as “hijab squad”. Having got hot under the collar you got a bit scared.

    3. You urge your readers to do something about this because “it has no place in Australia.”

    I think I understand your problems:

    1. If you don’t like reading stuff, don’t do it.

    2. If you want to pursue your career as a rabble-rouser, you’ll need better ethnic-stereotyping rhetoric than “hijab squad”. (Were you attempting to model this quaint little trope on the “Mod Squad”?)

    3. You have proposed no effective program for the elimination of free speech in this country.

    Have you considered some other line of work? You don’t seem to be cut out to be an effective demogogue.

  46. what the
    June 23rd, 2005 at 10:19 | #46

    Hi Katz

    ‘hijab squad’ and ‘headchoppers’ are not my terms but phrases used by a number of arab bloggers – I was thinking of nadz online, the real iraqi, sandmonkey and the iraqi expat amongst others. When you read them you’ll see that hijab squad does not refer to the wearers of hijab but the brigade that brutally enforces the wearing.

    Apart from the part where I wanted wood to be given a break i wasn’t advocating action but giving my thoughts – you are very quick to get hot under the collar yourself!

    In the same way, i do not say that this hijab squad mentality (and it is a mentality that they often describe) is ‘a feature of the arab blogs’. I said if you read the blogs (that identify themselves rightly and proudly as arab) you will see them discuss it. Some of the discussion above was inferring that wood was in the wrong somehow and that the story was becoming sickening and he should donate money. Why?

    Also, as far as negative comments go, i was thinking of the constant need to discover some conspiracy in every activity that happens in Iraq. Commentary at the moment seems ot almost bi-polar – you’re either a right wing nutbag keend for a stoush in the ME or a loony leftie who thinks they’re making up the bits about beheadings – as Nadz would say (perhaps you would enjoy her Am I sane Test :)

    I only say that I would pay happily for your rescue and not be surprised if you said or did silly things out of fear. Good luck to you though, I just thought paranoid conspiracy theories (including we aren’t being told the whole story so something else must have happened etc) and criticism of the victim is not a feature of the Australia i know or love and that wood wasnt getting much of a break here or in other forums considering what he must have gone through and he is just a person like you or me.

  47. Katz
    June 23rd, 2005 at 10:45 | #47

    What The,

    “Some of the discussion above was inferring that wood was in the wrong somehow and that the story was becoming sickening and he should donate money. Why?”

    If you really want an answer to this question, this blog isn’t the place to find it.

    I perceive that you are intelligent enough to recognise this fact, yet you persist in asking it here.

    On another matter, I appreciate your explanation of “hajib squad”. I’d never heard the term before. I am gratified to read that there is debate in the Australian Islamic community about the illegitimacy of the coercion that you mention.

    In my opinion, this internal debate is a very hopeful indication of assimilation. Every cultural group in Australia has had to negotiate its changing attitudes to the extraordinarily integrative propensities of Australian popular culture. Islamic cultures face tougher issues than most in this process.

    In the meantime, the rest of us should do all we can to give the better angels in the Islamic communities room to negotiate these sensitive transitions. One way of doing that is by not going out of our way to encourage a sense of embattlement in the minds of Moslems.

  48. August 8th, 2005 at 10:18 | #48

    And for those who think that the invasion of Iraq destroyed much of the economy, there’s one profession that’s just simply booming:

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,16032891%255E29677,00.html

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