Iraq: September 2, 2004


The kidnapping and murder of foreigners is backfiring on Iraqi gangs. One group, the Islamic Army, is holding two French journalists and demanding that France rescind a new law that forbids forbids Moslem girls from wearing headscarves to school. France refuses to do this, as the law is popular even among French Moslems, who are being pressured by Islamic conservatives to be more openly Islamic. France is upset at all this, because they thought that their anti-American attitude, and opposition to the invasion of Iraq, made them immune to such attacks. This approach has long been French policy, and one favored by many European nations. It does work, to a large extent, until the terrorists make major attacks on other Western nations. The United States went along with the French policy in the 1990s, but parted ways after September 11. The current hostage crises is unlikely to change French policy, but will produce a lot of clever rhetoric explaining away the inconsistencies.

Another Iraqi gang kidnapped and killed twelve Nepalese workers, without even making any demands. This enraged Nepalese, who promptly burned down one of the few mosques in their Buddhist country.  In that part of the world (India and China), Islam is not viewed as a tolerant and benevolent faith, but rather the religion of cruel conquerors. These murders reinforce that view. Naturally, peaceful Moslem minorities in India and Nepal suffer for the excesses of Islamic radicals in places like Iraq. But even most Moslems condemn the taking and killing of hostages in Iraq. The murder of the twelve Nepalese was seen as an embarrassment to most Moslem governments, and to the Arab media that otherwise supports Islamic violence in Iraq. All of this is making Moslems understand what is really going on in Iraq. A few partisan gangs are trying to dominate the majority through the use of terror and force. Even Muqtada al Sadr's followers were revealed to be terrorists. As Iraqi police take over in Najaf, they discovered dozens of bodies of civilians who had been tortured and killed by Sadr's supporters. The reason was that these people spoke out against Sadr and his armed followers. Sadr's men continue to  prowl the streets of Najaf, unarmed, but still taking names and intimidating those who do not agree with them. Sadr's men seem to imply that their guns are not far away. Sadr himself is still negotiating the terms of his group's conversion from murderous street thugs to a political party.

Meanwhile, another gang released seven truck drivers (three Indians, three Kenyans and one Egyptian). The kidnappers demanded that the firm employing cease operations in support of the American army. Instead, the kidnappers settled for $500,000 in ransom.  


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