In a tragic irony, four of what are known as "peace activists," were kidnapped from their car in western Baghdad on Nov. 26 by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. Al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape on Nov. 29, showing the abductees "grim-faced as they sat against a blank wall," in the Washington Post's description. The four men belong to Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization based in Chicago and supported by the Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, Church of the Brethren and Friends United Meeting.
Christian Peacemaker Teams showed its colors responding to the abductions: "We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people." Note the total absence of "anger" at the people who kidnapped its members.
Why did the abductors threaten their friends in this way? What is their possible logic? The statement that accompanied the video that charged the men with "working undercover as Christian peace activists" provides some clues. First, for Islamists and other Iraqis, an organization with "Christian" in the title must be missionary in purpose and presumably targeting Muslims for conversion, something they find unacceptable. Second, the notion that Westerners, and Americans especially, are more sympathetic to the Islamists than to the U.S. government just does not register. Iraqis more readily see such people as spies than as self-loathing Americans, the latter phenomenon remaining deeply foreign to them. Put another way, how could the "Swords of Righteousness Brigade" understand the "Christian Peacemaker Teams"? Their names alone point to a nearly unbridgeable divide. (November 30, 2005)
Dec. 1, 2005 update: A reader informs me, with authenticating details I am not at liberty to divulge, that CPT provided cover in Iraq for International Solidarity Movement members. And ISM itself acknowledges that three of the four CPT hostages in Iraq "have been in Palestine working as Palestinian Solidarity activists." Some "peace activists"! They are more accurately described as apologists for and abettors of terrorism.
Mar. 11, 2006 update: One of the four abductees, Tom Fox, "had apparently been tortured by his captors before being shot multiple times in the head and dumped on a trash heap next to a railway line in western Baghdad," writes the New York Times. Right up to his gruesome end, the Christian Peacemaker Teams continued to blame only the U.S. government for his abduction (Jessica Phillips: "We believe that the root cause of the abduction of our colleagues is the U.S.- and British-led invasion and occupation of Iraq"), with not a single word of criticism of the abductors themselves.
Apr. 22, 2006 update: Picking up on the CPT-ISM connection alluded to on Dec. 1, 2005, an announcement on the ISM website today, "Soldiers Beat Non-violent Demonstrators, Arrest Three," further confirms the cooperation between these two groups.