In August 2003, a 50-year old teacher was fatally chomped by a Great White Shark while swimming among young seals at a California beach. Great Whites don't eat humans for preference, but most naturalists can tell you they just love seal meat. A swimmer in a dark wet suit will look much like a slow and unaware seal pup to the great predator, and the shark acted instinctively.
The late Deborah Franzman had wanted to experience nature up close by swimming among cute looking seal pups and so she did. A five meter long predator lunging up to the attack is much less cute, but certainly counts as a close experience with nature.
On December 8th, the Iraqi insurgents who kidnapped four members of a Christian Peacemaker Team will learn – as they probably anticipate – that the Iraqi government and the US-led Coalition are not going to release all their prisoners. Given the fate of so many kidnap victims in Iraq it is easy to guess what will come next, and there will probably be hard news coming for the families of Harmeet Singh Sooden, James Loney, Tom Fox and Norman Kemper. Sooden and Loney are Canadians, Fox is an American and Kemper is British.
However, it is hard to feel total sympathy for the four: Like a swimmer off a seal rookery in waters where Great Whites lurk, sometimes people just beg for trouble and it should come as no surprise when they get hit.
The Christian Peacemaker Teams are, not withstanding their affiliations with sundry Churches, leftists out of the old classic model. They are not Marxists nor Anarchists, but definitely come within the ranks of "Progressives" – Lenin described their like as "useful idiots" while the old Cold War label of "Fellow Travelers" would likewise be pertinent.
There is a long tradition in the Left of political pilgrimages to war zones, particularly to express solidarity with insurgents, or to see things for themselves so that they could play the old moral equivalence game at home on their return – equating, for example, Sendaro Luminoso as being as reprehensible as the Peruvian Government. Loney was on his fourth trip to Iraq, and was going to continue to preach non-violent resistance to the US. It his doubtful that he recognizes the current Iraqi government as the most legitimate leadership that country has ever had it was created. Loney and his team also wanted to collect evidence of human rights abuses by the US and the Coalition.
They are entitled to their beliefs and, as adults from a free society, they are at liberty to act on them. They could also, for example, chose to go swimming off a seal rookery in Southern California in a wet suit that made them look like seal pups if they felt like it.
Touring North Vietnam in 1970, or chumming around with FRELIMO or the Sandinistas was one thing; trying to engage Jihadis in friendly dialogue is quite another. The old Marxist groups were ideologues trying to win the sympathies of neutral audiences in order to advance their own political goals. Hanging around with guerrillas in the 1970s and '80s was relatively safe as they usually wanted attention and endorsement. However, the majority of the opposition to the US forces in Iraq are not Iraqis, they are Jihadis from elsewhere in the Islamic World, and they certainly do not want our sympathy and endorsement. They'd rather that we were all dead.
Jihadis are Muslim extremists and the name "Christian Peacemaker" is not going to impress them. For a start, they have a very different concept of peace than either James Loney, George Bush or any Westerner. Also, it doesn't take much thought to understand why the idea of Christian activists of any variety has to be anathema to Jihadis. Nor is one's ideological persuasion much protection: Jihadis loath Western liberals and progressives just as much as they despise Neo-Conservatives. Like the servants of Hitler and Stalin, Jihadi ideologues are contemptuous of peaceful reason.
I hope the four come out of their ordeal safely – I've watched the beheading videos that Jihadis love to post on the internet to demonstrate their ruthless machismo and wouldn't wish that fate on anyone. But let's be frank, the four acted like idiots. It is said that God looks out for fools, and let's pray that this is true. Ms. Franzman ended up as another sick posting on the Darwin Awards website; Messrs Loney, Sooden, Fox and Kemper despite their foolishness deserve better than that.
John Thompson is Editorial Director of the Mackenzie Institute which studies political instability and terrorism. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org