I blogged earlier about the very negative reaction that the Japanese taken hostage in Iraq received in Japan. The main reason was that when the parents asked for their release, they didn't apologize to the Japanese government and even denounced the war. I believe it was a rather unfortunately, but understandable reaction in the context of Japanese culture for the Japanese to say, "we told you to stay away from there, and how dare you cause such shame on Japan without even apologizing."

I recently talked to someone involved in the Arab press and learned that if the parents had apologized and sucked up to the Japanese government, there was a good chance that the hostages would not have been released. So if I had to choose between whether my children were released alive or whether they would be happily received by the Japanese government, I think I'd choose to have my children live. Whether it was done on purpose or not, their parents made the right decision.

Then there is the story of the Australian journalist who was freed because a Google search revealed he was not CIA or a US contractor.

I don't think that all of the kidnappers are smart and politically motivated and ethical, but they are clearly sending a signal that their targets are not all random.

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don't think that all of the kidnappers are smart and ethical, but they are clearly sending a signal that their targets are not all random.

You're right, there are clear benefits to determining their modus operandi, but I think that randomness could be at work in some cases. Do we have enough information to derive a rule of thumb that would apply to each incident? The perpetrators may have some idea of what that rule of thumb is, but how can we say that it remains consistent or even carefully considered when you take into account the chaos of war?

If there is any empathy for Japan in the Arab world, I think we should take full advantage of that by keeping Japan out of the fray.

It's pretty obvious what their M.O. is, surely? Get people who they can use to leverage large chunks of the foreign press. It gives the kidnappers a chance to show who is really in control in Iraq.

Sure, some of these hostage-takings are random, or for money. That's what the allies would like us to believe too. But an awful lot of them are turning out to be perpetrated by politically savvy people, who at the very least know how to use a video camera effectively.

Take the kidnap of Margaret Hassan. The allies tried to make out at first that it was just gangsters looking for money. But when the video footage came out, it became clear that these people were much better set up than that. See for example http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1226424.htm

>>I don't think that all of the kidnappers are smart and ethical...

Some may be smart, but I hope you're not trying to say that *any* kidnapping is ethical, even in the slightest way. I find any sympathy for these monsters quite repulsive--weakness and a willingness to try to empathize with their position encourages more kidnappings and endangers more innocent lives.

Andi. You're right. "ethical" was not the right word.

Antoin, 3 - Instead of M.O. I should have said "reasoning used to determine which hostages are released."

ooh, yeah, ok: i guess that "ethical" discussion has been had. i was pretty angry there for a minute.

Agreed, but don't lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of these kidnappers are led by foreign fighters who entered Iraq after the war, and not Iraqis.

On the other hand, I wouldn't use the word "Ethical" for the American soldiers, mercs or civilian contractors in Iraq either.

Well, beheading is a very effective way to scare away civilian professionals who would lay the groundwork for an American restoration. Civilian rebuilders are considered to be the enemy and they're easy targets, too. That's probably why there seems to be some method to their madness.

There's no way to beat that tactic unless you stage massive reprisals. The US won't do that, so what they need to do is send in some decoys. These decoys would have to be extremely brave folks who are willing to conciously walk into a situation that could easily lead to their death. GPS implants could last at least a week before dangerous infection sets in.

It only takes one successful decoy mission to make the perpetrators think twice before they abduct someone again.

Joi

Sorry to ask a maybe obvious question, but why should the parents of the hostage apologize to the Japanese government? I'm missing something?

Yes. The "correct" Japanese way would have been to say: "We realize that you had warned Japanese from going to dangerous places and that our children our to blame for the bad judgement. We apologize for the putting the Japanese government in such an awkward position and hope very much that you will forgive us for being such a burden on the government and it's people." Something like that would probably have worked for the Japanese public, but would probably have gotten their children killed.

Did your friend in the Arab press actually say that the captors took mercy because they heard about the parents' reaction through some form of the media? Interesting.

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