Saturday, September 02, 2006

Armchair Martyrs

Jules Crittenden's Boston Herald piece on the right-wing response to Centanni and Wiig's release deserves to be quoted in full:

I was planning to maintain a tasteful silence about the forced conversion of Fox newsmen Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. I expressed my gratitude at their release, and was going to let the humiliating subject lie. Others haven't, however, so let's go:

Centanni and Wiig -- abducted, bound and blindfolded by armed Islamic terrorists in Gaza -- were told they had to convert to Islam.They did so.They later said nice things about the Palestinian cause while still in the custody of Palestinian terrorist leaders. There was some premature debate among armchair heroes on the Internet about whether they should have done this.

Centanni and Wiig are alive and back with their loved ones, out of the hands of an enemy who could have slaughtered them like sacrificial sheep. I don't hold anything they've done or said against them. I don't really care how cynical or desperate their actions were. They've been somewhere I never have been and hope to God I never will be. It would be nice to see the media and the Muslim world condemn of this kind of obscenity by Islamic terrorists, but apparently that is not going to happen.

Now, a sanctimonious Canadian, columnist David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen, has accused Centanni and Wiig of aiding the enemy through "conventional cowardice." This disgusting slur was amplified at, a prominent and respected opinion website that saw fit to run these remarks under its own imprint.

Warren reportedly is a convert to Catholicism. Presumeably that conversion happened after his reported divorce, or he would be a sinner and a hypocrite rather than, as he presumeably is now, forgiven. He called Centanni and Wiig’s gunpoint conversion something we can "understand: not forgive." He assumes they are not Christians, but proceeds to argue for martyrdom, if not Christian martyrdom, then martydom for the West.

Warren's condemnation of these men raises some very unusual questions. Clearly he's eager for their deaths. But in his own case, does he long to be nailed to a cross of his own, or would he rather have some heretics to burn? Or is he just jacked up on self-righteousness and spouting off idly from the sidelines? Whichever it may be, he starts to sound a lot like some other religious fanatics I could name.

Warren, we're told, has travelled a bit in the Middle East. I don't know if he's ever had to make a choice between life and death, or if he's ever been taken by an enemy. It's a fascinating thing to observe, captivity. I remember seeing prisoners come out with their hands on their heads. The GIs made them lie down on the road. One of them sneered at us. I couldn't believe someone who had just survived an artillery barrage to surrender in his underwear could have that much attitude. Most of them were silent and nervous. One knelt and kissed his Koran repeatedly. A couple of them were crying. The one with part of his foot blown off was going into shock. The one with a chunk of his ass missing wouldn't stop screaming. A couple of them, not wounded at all, trembled uncontrollably. I'm guessing none of us know which one of them we'll be until it happens.

Fabrizio Quatrocchi, cited by Warren in his ridiculous column, is an Italian whose story I also remember. Quatrocchi was a inspiration to us all, when he told his al Qaeda captors, "I'll show you how an Italian dies!" and tried to rip off his blindfold before they shot him in the head. How many of us could do that?

I'm guessing most of us would do whatever they asked for the chance to keep drawing breath. So I have a suggestion to Warren and anyone else who has a problem with what Centanni and Wiig did.

Offer yourself up. Sgt. Keith Maupin has been missing for two years. Israel wants three of its soldiers back. In exchange for you, maybe Al Qaeda will tell Maupin's parents what they did with him. Maybe Hamas and Hezbollah will produce the Israelis. Maybe not, it doesn't matter. Because this really isn't about any innocent's life or death. It's about your big chance at martyrdom. So put up, or shut up. Unless you are just another conventional coward.

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