The Christian Peacemaker Teams has confirmed that four peace activists working with the group were kidnapped in Baghdad on Saturday. A videotape showing the four men was broadcast on al Jazeera. CPT is a non-missionary organization that has been documenting the abuse of Iraqi detainees. We speak with Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh about CPT’s work in helping expose the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and we go to Baghdad to speak with a member of the organization. [includes rush transcript]
The Christian Peacemaker Teams has confirmed that four peace activists working with the humanitarian group were kidnapped in Baghdad on Saturday. The aid workers have been identified as 54-year-old Tom Fox of Clearbrook Virginia, 41-year-old James Loney of Toronto, 32-year-old Harmeet Singh Sooden of Canada and 74-year-old Norman Kember of Britain.
On Tuesday the Arab television network al Jazeera broadcast a videotape of the four men sitting cross-legged against a wall with their hands behind their backs. The video bears the insignia of a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. In the tape, the men identified themselves on camera.
- Videotape of kidnapped peace activists in Iraq.
In a statement that accompanied the video, the four men were accused of being undercover spies working as Christian peace activists.
The Christian Peacemaker Teams said in a statement "We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people."
The Christian Peacemaker Teams is a non-missionary organization that has been documenting the abuse of Iraqi detainees and working with the families of prisoners. They were the first people to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqi people at the hands of U.S. forces, long before the media revealed what was happening at Abu Ghraib. In fact, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker who helped expose the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004 cited the organization in his articles. We reached Seymour Hersh last night and asked him about the Christian Peacemaker Teams.
- Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist for the New Yorker.
- Read Hersh’s article "Chain of Command" where he cites CPT.
We go to Baghdad to speak with a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams.
- Greg Rollins, member of Christian Peacemaker Teams.
AMY GOODMAN: In the tape, the men identified themselves on the camera.
NORMAN KEMBER: My name is Norman Kember. I am 74, and I’m a member of the Christian Peacemaking Team in Iraq.
HARMEET SINGH SOODEN: My name is Harmeet Sooden. I’m 32, and I’m working — I’m a volunteer for CPT in Iraq.
JAMES LONEY: My name is James Loney. I’m 41 years old. I’m from Canada, and I am part of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq.
TOM FOX: My name is Tom Fox. I’m 54 years old. I’m from the United States, and I’m a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: In a statement that accompanied the video, the four men were accused of being undercover spies working as Christian peace activists. The Christian Peacemakers Teams said in a statement, quote, "We’re angry, because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people." The Christian Peacemakers Team is a non-missionary group that has been documenting the abuse of Iraqi detainees and working with their families. They were the first people to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqis at the hands of U.S. forces, long before the media revealed what was happening at Abu Ghraib.
In fact, investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker magazine, who helped expose the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004 cited the organization in his articles. We reached Seymour Hersh last night and asked him about the Christian Peacemakers Team.
SEYMOUR HERSH: I ran across them when I was looking into the torture issue at Abu Ghraib, and I remember distinctly that they were on a cutting edge. I talked to people in the organization who had been active for years in total, you know, under the radar of all of us, because they didn’t have photographs. They were very interested, for example, very early on in the unwarranted use of dogs in interrogations by American troops. And most of the things that I ended up writing about in Abu Ghraib, most of the general concepts, they knew a great deal about earlier, as did Human Rights Watch and Amnesty. So, these are people toiling, really for the good of Iraqi — the Iraqi people, and often in — as I say, in obscurity, in terms of the mainstream media.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New Yorker magazine. We go now to Baghdad to speak with Greg Rollins. He’s a member of the Christian Peacemakers Team. Welcome to Democracy Now!
GREG ROLLINS: Thanks for having me on the show.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. What is the latest news you have heard about the four peace activists that you work with?
GREG ROLLINS: Well, at this point in time, it’s the same, I think, as what everybody else knows. We saw the footage, and that’s where it’s at. We have not heard anything since that time.
AMY GOODMAN: Greg, you can tell us what you are doing in Iraq?
GREG ROLLINS: I work here with the — to document human rights abuses, to put a face on the Iraqi people and to get out their voice. That’s something that, you know, you don’t see a lot in the mainstream media, and that’s — we feel we have that advantage. We’re out on the streets. We talk to the common people on the streets, and so we try and get their voice out. We escort, you know, Iraqis who feel threatened at times. We host [inaudible] that come in, and so people can actually see what’s happening and then go home and tell their home communities what is actually happening in Iraq. These are some of the things that we have been doing here?
AMY GOODMAN: Greg, the statement that came out with the videotape of your four colleagues who were kidnapped said that they are undercover spies that are masquerading at Christian peace activists. Your response?
GREG ROLLINS: Well, our response is: No, we’re not spies. I think a lot of people are supporting that we are not spies. A lot of our Iraqi friends have been issuing statements and getting on the news, stating that we are not spies. A lot of Muslim friends of ours from throughout the world and, of course, western groups, peace activist groups, human rights groups, a lot of reporters we have worked with have all stood up and said, no, we are not spies.
And even if you just look at the men on the TV, I mean, Norman does not look like a spy. And if you have ever met Tom Fox, I mean, he’s the last person on earth you would think of as being a spy, because he’s just — he’s just not that kind of person. So, I think these allegations are — I mean, they’re false, and it’s quite distressing, Amy. We’re very worried for our friends and hope that they’re not harmed and that they’re released soon.
AMY GOODMAN: Greg, what are you doing to free your four teammates of the Christian peace team?
GREG ROLLINS: Well, like I said, we have been having a lot of our friends — even asking a lot of our Iraqi friends to stand up and, you know, support the fact that we are not spies, and that we are doing human rights work here and trying to spread — you know, educate people about what is actually happening in Iraq, and what we are trying to do is very positive. And that’s been the first step, is just getting the Iraqis to stand up for us like that, and the second step has been getting other people to do so. And to — I guess just a big part of it is waiting to see what exactly comes next.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you say to those who say, well, this is a Christian missionary group in Iraq?
GREG ROLLINS: Not at all. I mean, we’re not a missionary group. We do not proselytize. It’s not what we do. We believe that the best way to display our faith is through actions, and those actions are helping people. We have no desire to convert anybody to Christianity or to take them away from their previous religion. That’s not in our interest. Our interest is to simply help people who are oppressed.
AMY GOODMAN: You have expressed anger at Britain and the United States in a statement you released. Why?
GREG ROLLINS: Well, the Britain and the U.S. have stirred up this animosity towards the West. I mean, there’s — I think there was animosity there before that, but they certainly brought that on a lot more by attacking Iraq. I mean, a lot of people throughout the world, if not the Middle East, are furious that Iraq is under occupation right now. And, of course, one of — the reason, I think, that my teammates were kidnapped was because there’s so much animosity right now towards the West. And so, a lot of people are viewed — can be viewed as being spies. And I think that this is one of those cases. I think the fact that so many people are angry at the U.S. and Britain has just made this possible.
AMY GOODMAN: Greg Rollins, I want to thank you for being with us. We will continue to follow this case of your four teammates of the Christian Peacemakers Team kidnapped in Iraq.