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October 2, 2004
Another Perspective On Freed Hostages

CQ (and more famously Power Line) reader Dafydd ab Hugh posted an interesting take in our comments on the two Italian hostages who were released unharmed, only to proclaim their captors' cause on their return. He makes an interesting connection between the Two Simonas and the Japanese hostages that were released earlier this year. In case anyone misses it there, I'm posting them here:

My wife was born and raised in Japan, and she at first was very upset about the Japanese "hostages" in Iraq. Sachi lives here in America (she's a US citizen), and she got on some Japanese bulletin boards, trying to find out what was going on.

She was startled to find that nobody on those boards seemed particularly sympathetic; and that was when she found out that the Japanese had already by and large concluded that the "kidnapping" was in fact a set-up: the Japanese who were taken were actually huge supporters of the insurgency, many were Moslems, and all had previously argued that the war itself was illegal and that Saddam should be put back in power (with an apology and reparations from America).

This was right after Japan had sent troops to Iraq to help rebuild the waterworks, and it shortly became clear, especially after the "hostages" returned, that Japanese Moslems had cooked up a scheme to try to intimidate the Koizumi government into pulling out of Iraq. Koizumi refused the bait and stood firm -- and lo and behold, the "hostages" were all released unharmed at the very time when Zarqawi had just started beheading hostages whose countries didn't roll over quickly enough.

I think there is a very strong liklihood that this is exactly what happened in the case of the Two Simonas. I suspect they are both secret converts to Islam, that they supported the insurgents long before they were "seized," that they never were in any danger, that the whole shebang was a set-up from the beginning. Now they're lauding their supposed kidnappers and attacking Italy, America, and the coalition.

It would be nice to see Berlusconi quietly begin probing the backgrounds of the Two Simonas. If they're clean, no harm, no foul: just keep the investigation to yourself, Sylvio. But if you strike paydirt, trumpet it to the skies. In Japan, the outpouring of sympathy by nearly everyone for the hostages has been replaced with anger and derision. If the Italian gals pulled the same sort of stunt, public opinion of them could turn on a dime.

I'd say looking into their backgrounds would be a good idea. The British and Dutch may already be taking that approach with hostage Kenneth Bigley, whose heartbreaking videos have caused a political firestorm in the UK for Tony Blair:

Dutch intelligence officers raided the home of Kenneth Bigley's brother last night. An intelligence officer from the Foreign Office is understood to have accompanied them to Paul Bigley's home in Amsterdam. The raid came amid claims that the British hostage was free to roam his kidnappers' home in Iraq and was "caged" only for terrorist videos.

Paul Bigley's computer was seized and he was interrogated about his alleged contact with the Tawhid and Jihad group, which yesterday claimed responsibility for Thursday's killing of at least 35 children in Baghdad.

The al-Zarqawi gang have proven adept at publicity. It wouldn't surprise anyone terribly that they might be good at infiltrating sympathetic Western groups, especially the kind that send aid workers operating under NGO umbrellas to Iraq for independent rebuilding efforts.

UPDATE: And just as I was posting this, Agence France-Presse reported that the Dutch denied that they "raided" Paul Bigley's home, but that Bigley cooperated with British investigators:

"There was no raid, no coercive measures were taken. Paul Bigley agreed to talk to the British police who had summoned him through us," said Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the national prosecutors' office, told AFP. He added that Paul Bigley had helped British police with their inquiries into his brother Ken Bigley's abduction in Iraq. ...

The Dutch spokesman said he could not confirm if Bigley's computer had been seized, but added that if British had taken anything, "it was done with the consent of Mr Bigley."

At the end of the report, Paul Bigley told AFP that he was "almost 100% certain" that Internet reports of his brother's release were authentic, and certainly if Kenneth Bigley is being held against his will in any way, that would be tremendous news. It seems like a bit of a coincidence that he would be released so soon after the raid or non-raid, whichever version you believe.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 2, 2004 7:16 AM

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