Friday, March 31, 2006

JILL CARROLL IS FREE. Bush administration officials insist that no concessions were made for her release, but five Iraqi women were released at the end of January; and the terrorist organization that was holding her -- the Revenge Brigade -- stated that the U.S. had agreed to "some of its conditions."

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have been parsing their language very carefully:

In a news conference on Thursday afternoon, the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said no American officials in Iraq "entered into any arrangements with anyone" to secure Ms. Carroll's release. [Emphasis added.]

Howard Kurtz declares himself baffled that Carroll told journalists after her release yesterday that she was treated well by her captors:

I must say, though, that I found her first interview yesterday rather odd. Carroll seemed bent on giving her captors a positive review, going on about how well they treated her, how they gave her food and let her go to the bathroom. And they never threatened to hit her. Of course, as we all saw in those chilling videos, they did threaten to kill her. And they shot her Iraqi translator to death.

Why make a terrorist group who put her family and friends through a terrible three-month ordeal sound like they were running a low-budget motel chain?

Now perhaps this is unfair, for there is much we do not know. We don't know why Carroll was kidnapped and why she was abruptly released. She says she doesn't either, but surely she must have gotten some clues about her abductors' outlook and tactics during her 82-day captivity. Maybe she was just shell-shocked right after being let go. Maybe she won't feel comfortable speaking out until she's back on American soil. But this is what people are buzzing about.

Please. Naturally, "people are buzzing" about this -- because people are clueless, Howard Kurtz being one of them.

Of course, Jill Carroll was threatened with death. Of course the fact that her captors murdered her Iraqi translator makes it perfectly obvious that they are not harmless, decent people. A person who is well-treated does not appear in a video with her face convulsed with sobs, pleading for her life. We all know that Jill Carroll was not treated well, no matter what she says.

It doesn't take a whole lot of common sense to imagine why Carroll might have praised her abductors so lavishly, even when she was no longer with them physically. She might have been trying to reassure her friends and family that she was okay. It might have been a condition of her release. Her kidnappers may have threatened to kill her if she did not say good things about them -- or they may have threatened to kill friends or colleagues if she did not praise them. As Kurtz himself suggests, she may have felt very confused and disoriented on the day of her release. Maybe she convinced herself during the long, endless days of her captivity that her captors meant her no harm and would not harm her; and can't drop that belief the instant she gains her freedom.

That said, I disagree with Think Progress's Judd when he says there is no reason "to assume that [Carroll's] description of how she was treated is motivated by anything other than a desire to tell the truth." It's entirely possible that she thinks her description of the conditions under which she was held is true; that does not mean it is. I doubt she was "telling the truth" in the sense that she was accurately describing the way she was treated. But I'm certain she either believes what she's saying or felt she had to say it to keep other people safe.

No one should be attacking Carroll or expressing shock or raised eyebrows because she said good things about the terrorists who held her captive for three months; but that doesn't mean we have to take her words at face value. Anyone who feels compelled to comment on her statements can just say that however she chooses to characterize her captivity is completely normal and understandable -- and then drop it and focus, as Judd also says, on "celebrat[ing her] courage."

No comments: