Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude (Ekklesia, UK) - It is now clear that when the head of the British army, General Sir Mike Jackson (pic), expressed "sadness" about the fact that Norman Kember did not seem to have expressed gratitude to his rescuers in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) had not, in fact, known for sure whether this was so or not. (It wasn't.) I spoke to the MOD press office last night, after attempts to get hold of them over a couple of days and a call-back earlier in the afternoon. Their spokesperson said that the news of an official note of thanks from Christian Peacemaker Teams the day before Jackson was interviewed on UK's Channel 4 TV (that is, the evening of the release) had "not filtered through to them". Which is a polite way of saying that no-one checked. This would not have been difficult, as the statement was on the front page of www.cpt.org. Regrettably, it seems that it is easier to insinuate something in the absence of research than to examine the facts, as the media coverage over the last 72 hours has confirmed. It would be polite to say that Jackson's statement was a mistake, and perhaps it was. But the military are clearly keen to talk up their role in the freeing of the CPTers -- which is probably less than has been claimed so far -- and also to question or undermine the work and propriety of CPT. To suggest that General Jackson's statement to Channel 4 was less than well-crafted and carefully intentioned would be to do him a disservice. He is a wily media operator. And the MOD is stunningly well-resourced. So to put it gently, the jury is out on what lies behind this one. What is clear is that three of the key allegations against Norman and CPT have been been refuted over the past couple of days - (i) that they were 'ungrateful', (2) that CPT imperilled the lives of soldiers, and (3) that they had no right to be in Iraq. (On the latter two points, see the material on Colonel Mike Dewar below).

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