June 21, 2004

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Facing death

Laurence asks with regards to the captured South Korean hostage in Iraq if it is fair to compare his pleading with Fabrizio Quattrocchi. Firstly the AP story in full:

The Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape Sunday purportedly from al-Qaida linked militants showing a South Korean hostage begging for his life and pleading with his government to withdraw troops from Iraq.

The kidnappers, who identified themselves as belonging to a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, gave South Korea 24 hours to meet its demand or "we will send you the head of this Korean."

"Please, get out of here," the man screamed in English, flailing his arms. "I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I know that your life is important, but my life is important." A South Korean television news station, YTN, identified the hostage as Kim Sun-il, 33, an employee of a South Korean company called Arab Trading. It said he was captured in the Fallujah area.

The video came two days after news of the beheading of American hostage Paul Johnson by Saudi militants, and an announcement Friday by South Korea that it will send 3,000 soldiers to northern Iraq beginning in early August. Once the deployment is complete, South Korea will be the largest coalition partner after the United States and Britain.

After showing the hostage's plea, the tape showed him kneeling in front of three masked men, one of them armed with a Kalashnikov. The man standing in the middle read a statement in Arabic. "Our message to the South Korean government and the Korean people: We first demand you withdraw your forces from our lands and not send more of your forces to this land. Otherwise, we will send to you the head of this Korean, and we will follow it by the heads of your other soldiers." The statement gave Seoul 24 hours starting from sunset Sunday to meet its demand.

An Al-Jazeera staff member at the network headquarters in Qatar, Mohammed al-Saadi, told The Associated Press by telephone that the two-minute videotape was mailed to the Al-Jazeera bureau in Baghdad. "Our office in Baghdad received an unknown package; they opened it and they found the tape," al-Saadi said.

The group identified itself as Monotheism and Jihad; its purported leader, al-Zarqawi, is a Jordanian-born terrorist linked to al-Qaida. On Saturday, Seoul warned its people not to travel to Iraq, saying its decision to send troops might prompt terror attacks on South Koreans. That warning came amid news of the beheading Johnson by Saudi militants, although it did not mention the incident. "At this time, we cannot rule out the possibility of harm to our nationals, following the official announcement of the additional troop dispatch to Iraq," Foreign Ministry spokesman Shin Bong-kil said in a statement. "The government urges the people to refrain from visiting Iraq," it said.

South Korea plans to send 900 troops to Kurdish-controlled Irbil in early August, followed by about 1,100 troops between late August and early September. An additional 1,000 soldiers will travel to Iraq later. South Korea already has 600 military medics and engineers in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. Seoul has portrayed the dispatch as a way of strengthening its alliance with the United States, thereby winning more support from Washington for a peaceful end to a long-running dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons development.

Johnson, 49, an engineer who had worked in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade, was kidnapped last weekend by militants who followed through on a threat to kill him by Friday if the Saudi kingdom did not release its al-Qaida prisoners.

Let's get some things straight. This ongoing kidnapping campaign is abhorrent in the extreme and will not work. Governments learnt long ago not to negotiate with terrorists and South Korea have already stated they will still send troops to Iraq.

However it impossible to judge any person put in that situation. I fully applaud Mr. Quattrocchi's bravery as he faced certain death. He provided insipiration and hope in a hopeless situation. But this Korean man's reaction is far closer to that which most would have in a similar position. Faced with the inevitability of what is to come most would say almost anything if they thought it would mitigate their fate. He is simply being human. Each man faces these monsters in their own way. We cannot judge or compare them.

What is fair is to judge the scum that commit these crimes and hope they will brought to justice. A slow, painful justice. That is what the war on terror is about.

posted by Simon on 06.21.04 at 11:49 AM in the


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Do you remember what the Russians did in Lebanon that freed the hostages, yes they rounded up a family member of one of the miliants, chopped off HIS head and posted it to some important people.

There is no way that any government is going to negotiate with these people so unless there is a comando style rescue or some cleric a lot of influence mediates, probably by offering cash, then any hostage taken is pretty much dead.

posted by: Angry Chinese Blogger on 06.21.04 at 02:53 PM [permalink]

Guess those Japanese hostages from a few months back got off easy.

posted by: Kevin on 06.21.04 at 04:32 PM [permalink]

"This ongoing kidnapping campaign is abhorrent in the extreme and will not work."

I disagree that it will not work. It depends on what the aim of killing hostages is. For instance, if the aim is to get SK out of Iraq, then it might work-->see Spain.

If the goal is simple theater for domestic consumption, then it also may work-->ie, showing that the Islamists are strong and that the allies are weak.

posted by: Rusty Shackleford on 06.22.04 at 12:28 AM [permalink]

Rusty is right. That is why I advocate the simple expedient of killing anyone the terrorists say they want released, and then doing the same to some of their tribesmen and families as well.

I notice that an Israeli officer has just said today that, by targeting the houses of families of suicide bombers, they have made major gains: already several suicide bombers have been turned in before achieving lift-off BY THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS, in order to preserve their houses.

posted by: Oscar on 06.22.04 at 12:42 AM [permalink]

Well said. I've always wished we would tell the terrorists we could release ten, and only ten, prisoners, and get a list of names from them as to who they'd most like to see released.

Jihadi: Here is your list, son of a dog!

American Diplomat: Thank you.

[sound of gunfire]

AD: I'm sorry. Those guys aren't available. Can I get another list?


In all seriousness, my heart goes out to Kim and to the Koreans. These men will not always be able to commit murder from the shadows. This is a war, and Kim Sun-Il is (I fear) going to fall in this battle. It is important that his life, and the lives of those who went before and those who will fall tomorrow, not be sacrificed in vain.


posted by: BacksightForethought on 06.22.04 at 05:50 AM [permalink]

Well said, Simon. Too often people forget where to lay the blame and judgement in these events.

posted by: Ric James on 06.22.04 at 08:16 PM [permalink]

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