Hostages as mouthpieces

This is pretty interesting.

The [Christian Science Monitor] report says that contrary to comments [Jill Carroll] made in the video about lenient treatment by the kidnappers, who refer to themselves as the Revenge Brigade, Carroll lived in fear of the kidnappers who had killed her colleague Allen Anwiya, and that even the smallest details of her life – what she ate and when, what she wore, when she could speak – were at her captors’ whim. Before making the video before her release, she was reportedly told that they had already killed another American hostage.


Her captors “obviously wanted maximum propaganda value in the US,” [Jill Carroll’s father Jim] Carroll told the Monitor. “After listening to them for three months she already knew exactly what they wanted her to say, so she gave it to them with appropriate acting to make it look convincing.”

In the video, the journalist calls on President George Bush to send American troops home.

“He knows this war was wrong,” she said. “He knows it was illegal from the very beginning. He knows that it was built on a mountain of lies. I think he needs to finally admit to the American people and make the troops go home.

“He needs to wake up,” she said. “The people in America need to wake up and tell him what he’s done here is wrong.”

It was not possible to reach Carroll to ask her whether she actually held any of the views expressed.

I have a lot of half-formed thoughts about this.

The psychological impact the situation must have had on Carroll is intense. Could it be considered a form of brainwashing? Did she start to believe the things she said in the video? Had she always believed them?

Did the kidnappers believe she believed them? Why would they let her go free if they had any concerns that she might turn around and refute what she said in the video? Unless the purpose of the video was not propaganda, but terror…in other words, “Look what we can do to you. Look what we can make you say.”

I’m just glad she’s free…

[Update 4/2 1 pm]: The MSNBC article now reads:

Protected by the U.S. military and far from the country where she had been held hostage, Jill Carroll strongly disavowed statements she had made during captivity in Iraq and shortly after her release, saying Saturday she had been repeatedly threatened.

In a video, recorded before she was freed and posted by her captors on an Islamist Web site, Carroll spoke out against the U.S. military presence. But in a statement Saturday, she said the recording was made under threat. Her editor has said three men were pointing guns at her at the time.

“During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed,” she said in a statement read by her editor in Boston.

“Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not.”


“At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear, I said I wasn’t threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times,” she said. “Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: One – that I refused to travel and cooperate with the U.S. military, and two – that I refused to discuss my captivity with U.S. officials. Again, neither statement is true.”

The remarks have drawn criticism from conservative bloggers and commentators, but the Monitor said “Carroll did what many hostage experts and past captives would have urged her to do: Give the men who held the power of life and death over her what they wanted.”

That bit about the conservative bloggers and commentators has been there since the article was first written, back when we didn’t have Carroll’s own words disavowing the video. So I’m not sure if they’re criticizing what they thought she said, or her for saying it in the first place. I find that paragraph a little misleading.