Readers' responses:

"While hoping that the CPT are freed, it is very possible that they have been kidnapped by forces working for the US in order to discredit the insurgents or possibly because the US does not want them in Iraq in case they see too much. In which case I wouldn't give much for their chances."

"I myself remain more 'paranoid,' unwilling to believe that anyone is THAT "unsophisticated," much less trusting that any "foreign" terrorist group might not turn out to be in fact working for the wholesale terrorists who run this country."

"I'm convinced this whole CPT thing is a fraud. These people are part of Bush's bedrock support, i.e.fundamentalist Protestants. Nobody in their right mind would have gone to Iraq in the middle of a war...[when it] was perfectly obvious that they were going to be kidnapped. And isn't [it] just a bit too convenient that all this happens within a few days of Bush tactily admitting defeat? The insurgency has no reason to do that, they've just won the war! The only beneficiary is Bush, because it justifies delaying the withdrawal. And isn't it just a bit too convenient that only one of them is an American and that another is an elderly Englishman, just to whip up hatred for Muslims in GB and prop up the tottering Blair?"

"You failed to mention the very real possibility that the group claiming responsibility is a (witting or unwitting) dupe of the occupation forces. As always, one must ask: Who gains? Those who have benefited from CPT's witness in Palestine and Iraq have made it clear that these men are NOT spies, quite the contrary. CPT has documented human rights abuses against these occupied populations and promoted nonviolent conflict resolution. Harming unarmed peacemakers would serve as a powerful propaganda tool - but only for the occupiers, not the occupied."


Why the CPT kidnapping is not a US plot
Manuel Garcia, Jr.
5 December 2005

I do not think the CPT kidnapping (still unresolved) is a conspiracy by agents working on behalf of the US occupation of Iraq, whether intentionally or unwittingly.

Why not?

Basically, Occam's Razor; there are simpler explanations in accord with the known facts about the CPT people and about the situation in Iraq.

There are probably one hundred Iraqi "insurgency" groups operating with little coordination between them. The kidnapping of foreigners is one easy way for a small group to gain attention and possibly more recruits, power and ransom.

Why would Iraqis kidnap foreigners and even kill them if it helps to continue the occupation? Iraqis can be just like Americans, they can pursue their personal agendas for profit and power without regard for the larger welfare of their nation. Look at the actions of so many in the Bush Administration and the US Congress to see this fact in action.

The CPT people are well-known for their anti-war and anti-imperialism work. They have been in Iraq since before the Iraq War (opposing the sanctions), and in Palestine for over a decade (opposing the Israeli occupation). The CPT people were voicing protest over the torture of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib well before any news accounts of this appeared. The people most aware of this are the Iraqi families they worked with to document this mistreatment of prisoners. CPT people are unarmed and without armed escorts, they live among the people. Also, CPT people do not proselytize, nor act as information-gathering accessories to any government. They "witness" and document facts, such as the use of napalm and white phosphorus in Fallujah, the magnitude and nature of the casualties there, and the fact of the attacks on hospitals during the US assault. They work to deny the deniers excuses.

A successful CPT US-backed kidnapping conspiracy would have to ensure that many, many details worked out just right. As one learns more details about the CPT people and the political situation in Iraq (especially insurgency politics) then one realizes just how unlikely such a conspiracy is. Conspiracy theories are easiest to imagine when one has few facts to constrain the imagination.

I just cannot believe that the US military and the CIA have the competence to carry off a CPT kidnapping (and possible future murder) and keep this conspiracy secret for very long. Certainly, they can kidnap and murder people -- look at the present furor over the now exposed "extraordinary renditions" -- it is the last element, eternal secrecy, that is the impossible hurdle to carrying out state-sponsored "perfect crime."

Particularly in Iraq, the US occupation forces have demonstrated that they have few if any reliable contacts and allied agents among the Iraqis. Without Iraqi insiders with some connections and power, the US is not likely to be able to have Iraqi counter-resistance and intelligence groups working on its behalf. Certainly the US occupation forces must be trying to develop such capabilities, but the conditions in the country prove such efforts have failed.

Finally, there is the argument of proportionality, does the possible "gain" to US occupation efforts merit the risks to be invested in a US-backed CPT kidnapping and possible murder? Perhaps the kidnappers assumed that the racial and cultural bonds between a Christian white male Bush Administration and Blair Administration, with CPT male hostages, will trump all other concerns, and the occupation forces will yield to save their brothers in religion, race and language. People who believe in a US-backed CPT conspiracy would have a similar view of the importance of this racial bond, but they would see the politicians cynically betraying it to exploit its pull with their Christian white male constituencies.

What would real politicians do? They would calculate a possible return-on-investment (ROI), and a probability of the worst risks coming about to undo them. So, how much benefit do they gain (benefit being defined here as the ability to extend the occupation) by having these few men kidnapped and killed, apparently by Iraqi insurgents? The benefits would be minimal, because these four or five lives and the outrage over their loss would not amount to much in comparison to all the other losses sustained to date - 2138 dead US soldiers, 15,881 US wounded, about $300B war costs, and shattered alliances and international goodwill. The weight of the existing pain caused by the Iraq War has already convinced the majority of Americans (in government, the military, and the public) to "get out." The possible tragedy of CPT members' deaths would not reverse this trend, and would probably rebound in public opinion as an added incentive to get out of Iraq.

The risk any conspiracy-minded politicians face is that of exposure for their foul deeds. Since this is so obviously occurring in so many ways, even dunderheads like the Bush Administration would probably realize that they could not assume a CPT kidnap conspiracy would remain secret.

So the ROI is low and possibly negative, and the risk factor seems very high during this time of exploding secrets.

For these many reasons: simplicity of logic, facts about the Iraqi resistance groups and about the CPT, the impossibility of perfect control, the incompetence of the Bush Administration, the failure of US military and intelligence forces in Iraq, the impossibility of lasting secrecy, the disproportionality of minimal possible gain to evident major risk; I do not believe the CPT kidnapping is a US-backed conspiracy.

I think the belief in such a conspiracy is an expression of despair over the possibility of a turnover of events and power from the apparent dominance of the neo-con American fascism we are subjected to now. I agree these are dark times, but learning facts can help one see beyond gloomy imaginings, and give you a basis from which to fight back - rationally - with greater effectiveness.

Free the CPT, end the occupation, stop the war now.