November 14, 2001
5:04 PM   Subscribe

The Real Feel Good Story of the Day.
posted by nwduffer (48 comments total)
 
Homer : Everything _really_ wrapped up nicely. [checks his watch] Ooh, much quicker than usual.
posted by jragon at 5:12 PM on November 14, 2001


woo libya of the rockinest flag.
posted by kliuless at 5:15 PM on November 14, 2001


A somewhat more extensive story on the imminent end. I was enormously afraid that the Christian aid workers would become pawns at gunpoint -- or worse, casualties of friendly fire. I actually suspected that part of the reason we've put "interdiction" units on the road to Kandahar was to perhaps intercept these virtual hostages.

nwduffer: this thread may not get many comments because you didn't properly explain the link.
posted by dhartung at 5:49 PM on November 14, 2001


nwduffer: this thread may not get many comments because you didn't properly explain the link.


I was just feeling so good...I forgot!
posted by nwduffer at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2001


Who says that irony is dead? Not only is aid now flowing into Afghanistan because we increased the intensity of bombing there, but now this.

Four of the eight were German, and all of them worked for a German charity. They seem to have been freed by direct military action of US soldiers operating in Afghanistan. The German Parliament has been debating offering military support to the US in its war, and there has been substantial opposition to doing so.

So how will the Germans feel when it turns out that some of their people were freed by US military action that the Germans refuse to support, even though they have a treaty obligation to do so? (Article V of the NATO charter has been invoked.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:05 PM on November 14, 2001


I think we've got room in the world for more than one feel good story of the day. Let them keep on coming.
posted by bragadocchio at 6:25 PM on November 14, 2001


This story ended the way I never expected it would.

Back before Sept. 11th, I was a bit annoyed at these missionaries (let's not mince words here, these people were breaking local law, with every intention of stealing souls for their own version of God).

Then, when it was discussed that the Shelter Now people might be deported while their Afghan converts would no doubt get the death penalty, I pondered out loud whether or not they would have the bravery and conviction of faith to buck deportation and demand that they receive the same punishment as the Afghans - or whether they'd save their own skins (and "pray" for the souls of the ones they left behind).

All bets were off in my mind after September 11th. I figured they would be kept indefinitely as hostages - or killed as spies or "enemies of Islam".

I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but let's face it - doesn't it seem like this particular story ended like a last minute rewrite of a film running way over budget?
posted by tpoh.org at 7:10 PM on November 14, 2001


tpoh.org: No. Suprising, but a happy (or, at least, not totally depressing or vaguely uplifting) ending is standard in big-budget films. I liked it anyway.
posted by raysmj at 7:15 PM on November 14, 2001


No. Suprising, but a happy (or, at least, not totally depressing or vaguely uplifting) ending is standard in big-budget films. I liked it anyway

Define happy here. I understand the military actions in Afghanistan have nothing to do with these missionaries who knowingly broke local law, but the price of their freedom is the death of dozens if not hundreds of soldiers and non-combatants.

Its like rescueing the kitty from the burning building. Sorry, but the building still burnt down. Good news for the kitty, poor news for the tenants.
posted by skallas at 8:41 PM on November 14, 2001


Yea, and you can see now how much the tenants backed the local laws, they're dancing in the streets now that the Taliban is gone.
posted by ArkIlloid at 9:06 PM on November 14, 2001


Oh, and where do you get dozens if not hundreds killed? The articles I've read on this don't mention any deaths or even gunfire in the rescue.
posted by ArkIlloid at 9:09 PM on November 14, 2001


I'm really surprised to see these people get out alive -- this seems like the first real victory for the military effort over there. If only they'd been able to get some sort of operation going to rescue Abdul Haq before he was executed by the Taleban, that might have had a little more lasting strategic impact.

I'm cringing, though, that the religious aspect of the Current Situation is about to get ratcheted up a few notches in the media. Clearly these workers were spared by the [insert evangelical platitude here]. Amen.
posted by barkingmoose at 9:41 PM on November 14, 2001


I don't get it. Why is the rescue of 8 people in a country where thousands face bombing, starvation, etc, a "feel good story"? Because they're westerners?
posted by signal at 10:04 PM on November 14, 2001


Get off your high horse signal, POWs freed is always a "feel good story".
posted by phatboy at 10:30 PM on November 14, 2001


phatboy: I don't have any kind of horse. The story doesn't make me feel good. I was wondering what about it made others feel so.
posted by signal at 10:47 PM on November 14, 2001


signal - quit thinking too much and trying to deconstruct the obvious. It's a feel good story because good people trying to do a good thing had a good thing happen to them, and today, unlike yesterday, they're okay.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:57 PM on November 14, 2001


*paging Dr. Suess. Dr. Suess to the courtesy desk, please.*
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:58 PM on November 14, 2001


These silly workers put themselves in the line of fire. Just because they're "on a mission from God" doesn't mean they aren't as dumb as the Blue Brothers.
posted by owillis at 11:02 PM on November 14, 2001


Signal, what would you rather have, that they die just to even up the score a little? I think it's good news when anyone is rescued, westerners or otherwise. Besides, even if it doesn't make you feel good, I'm sure they're pretty chuffed!

As a side note, reports that I have read said that they weren't there to spread the Word at all, it was purely an Aid mission rather than a religious agenda. They denied ever trying to convert anyone. (Of course, if I was facing the death penalty, I know what I'd be saying as well.)
posted by Jubey at 11:18 PM on November 14, 2001


owillis: Actually, it says in the story that the charges of prosltyzing have been denied. Does this mean, in any case, that the Freedom Riders of the '60s, who organized voter registration drives and such in the South, were morons? Not too directly compare, but to use your theory . . .
posted by raysmj at 11:47 PM on November 14, 2001


let's see: millions of Arabs suffer under the Taliban, and face bombing, starvation, displacement, freezing, etc. Yet, 8 westerner's get out! You're right, that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling all over. Sorry everybody! Guess I just have to stop thinking too much... (thanks Wulfgar!)
posted by signal at 11:47 PM on November 14, 2001


If this was a movie it would be a comedy of course. The final twist is that Ghaddafi of all people rescued them.

A group of moronic Christians, the American ones from Waco, Texas, go to Afganistan to teach the locals about the sweet lord Jesus but are unfortunately caught red handed, but are luckily saved by the fallout from an Islamic madman trying to start a war between Islam and the West.

The last scene of course is them meeting the President, himself a Christian from Texas, and they all pray together and Whitney Houston can sing.
posted by dydecker at 11:52 PM on November 14, 2001


dydecker: Wouldn't comment, except to say you have your facts wrong. Only two were from Waco, and two doesn't qualify as a "group." The rest were from Germany and Australia.
posted by raysmj at 12:02 AM on November 15, 2001


WTF is with you all? Would you feel self righteous if they were killed? What evidence, other than the taliban's word, do you have that the charges were even true? Do you agree that a death sentence is warranted for this sort of thing? Do you think any of them were forcing Christianity on the people the way the taliban forces their religion on people? How is this even remotely related to the starvation of the rest of Afghanistan, especially since these people were HANDING OUT FOOD WHEN THEY WERE ARRESTED. They were aid workers (albiet possibly with an agenda).

Heck, I feel bad that the people who may starve may starve, and if eight less of them die, I'll be equally happy. But to dismiss the release of political prisoners WHO WERE ACCUSED OF SIMPLY SPEAKING ABOUT RELIGION as a morally negligable act is pretty screwed up.

A million starving people is a lot to be worried about. Does this mean every accomplishment and life saved in the world is moot? Or is this only in Afghanistan?
posted by phatboy at 12:04 AM on November 15, 2001


All right, I'm getting damned pissed at a lot of you. Some facts that nobody seems to have bothered to pick up:

1. The arrests took place the first week of August. That means that they were not foolish enough to go into a nation the US was planning to attack, only into one with a low-grade civil war that was in its final stages, and into a city which had been militarily secure for a number of years.

2. They worked for Shelter Now. This is a Wisconsin-based international aid organization which was engaged in famine relief inside Afghanistan (which was facing food shortages even before the war on al-Qaeda disrupted things further). They were not in Afghanistan as missionaries, and local laws be damned, people ought to be able to take religious materials with them as they please. It looks to me like some Religious Profiling here because the two Americans happen to be from a Baptist church in Texas; well, Baptists can engage in social justice work just like many other mainstream denominations; and they were arrested along with Australians and Germans.

The latest word, by the way, is that Ghaddafi's son had been involved in talks to win their release, but he was not a factor in the rescue; it seems they were abandoned in a town which then flipped to Northern Alliance control, and peacefully assisted in the extraction. It's unclear at this point what role the ICRC played, but Bush gave them credit. Maybe they were the communications conduit (a role they intentionally play).
posted by dhartung at 1:15 AM on November 15, 2001


But to dismiss the release of political prisoners WHO WERE ACCUSED OF SIMPLY SPEAKING ABOUT RELIGION as a morally negligable act is pretty screwed up.

Most of the criticism is about their importance. Eight saved westerners isn't the "Real feel good story of the day." It barely ranks up there in a region where millions face life and death stuggles, but its piecemeal press like this that people love and evidently love to defend. Real herioc, real american, little mention of brown people. Its just cheerleading and something of a diversion.
posted by skallas at 1:16 AM on November 15, 2001


It's unclear at this point what role the ICRC played, but Bush gave them credit. Maybe they were the communications conduit (a role they intentionally play).

Ground reports overnight by the BBC's people in and around suggested that the Taliban in charge of the eight aid workers were bought off, with the assistance of the ICRC and the shitload of cash that US special forces have brought in for just that purpose. The twelve Afghan aid workers arrested with them, sentenced to death, and unsurprisingly ignored by most of the Western press, are thought to have escaped from a prison in Kabul when the guards fled. No one's certain right now. It's a feel-good story because it keeps the white-foreigner body count at officially "weren't a couple of people killed in a helicopter accident? I can't really be sure."
posted by holgate at 2:33 AM on November 15, 2001


let's see: millions of Arabs suffer under the Taliban

???
and here i thought it was primarily arabs who we're the outside agitators bringing misery to the afghan people. silly me.
posted by danOstuporStar at 6:35 AM on November 15, 2001


Thousands of people are dead, both in Afghanistan and the US. Millions there are starving. And I'm supposed to care about 8 people rescued because they're 'Christian'? or is it because they're 'white'? or maybe both? I mean, who gives a shit about all those brown Muslims, right?

Anyway, I don't think this can qualify as a 'feel good' story. It's certainly good for them that they were released, but 'feel good' usually means a story where nothing 'bad' happens. This story reminds you that they were detained, and about all the horror of war.

A feel good story is usually a story about someone going out of their way to be 'nice', and don't usually have a component where someone is a bad guy. The special forces were just doing there jobs, and the taliban had already flied so it wasn't dangerous.
posted by delmoi at 7:06 AM on November 15, 2001


Yes, it's not Arabs, it's Pushtans, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and so forth that happen to also be Muslim.

As for it being billed as a 'rescue,' the media tends to paint it like Special Forces went into some compound blazing and extracted the 8 people.

As someone mentioned, they were left in a field after some negotiations. I don't think money was involved, unless it came from outside sources looking for good favor (cough - Lybia - cough). They were originally taken in the evac of Kabul, so there was some worry, but I'm sure they got tired of dragging them around.

As for the comment that the 8 were there to do 'good work', I'm hoping that was referring to giving out food, and not the whole spreading the word of the Christian god..
posted by rich at 7:13 AM on November 15, 2001


I use to be a cynic that disparaged everything and everyone so I know first had how miserable it can make you.

{{{hug}}}
posted by Mick at 7:14 AM on November 15, 2001


No, delmoi, I think plenty of people have worried about the Muslim women, the Afgans (Muslim and non-Muslim) who had their cultural heritage destroyed and looted by the Taliban. Plenty of people noticed that they were celebrating in Kabul over the past couple of days, only to be told such utter crap as, "Remember, some are only trying to fit in by shaving off their beards." I remember a gigantic outcry about the Buddhist statues, for cryin' out loud, which were not built by white Christians. Gosh amighty, at the cynicism. Skepticism is admirable, and yes, there's always the "white Christian" factor there. But if you don't get the larger bit of grace to be found in the story, its connection to the Taliban's banning of all ideas and religions but their own (even when they're not even being spread - just suspected of being spread), there's no hope for you.
posted by raysmj at 7:16 AM on November 15, 2001


> Thousands of people are dead, both in Afghanistan and
> the US. Millions there are starving. And I'm supposed to
> care about 8 people rescued because they're 'Christian'?
> or is it because they're 'white'? or maybe both?

"Because they're human beings" doesn't occur to you?
posted by jfuller at 8:24 AM on November 15, 2001


Why does it matter what color, gender, ethnicity or religion they are? Eight people are no longer in harm's way and will be reunited with their families. Let's just wish 'em well and leave it at that.
posted by groundhog at 8:48 AM on November 15, 2001


dhartung
and local laws be damned, people ought to be able to take religious materials with them as they please.
I usually like your posts a lot, man, but this is a pretty weak argument. People "ought to be able"? Since when? The law -- and the real world -- don't work that way.
Well, if you travel to Saudi Arabia with some girlie magazines in your luggage or if you smoke pot in Thailand and get caught, very bad things are going to happen to you. Wanna do that safely? Go to Amsterdam.
Wanna bring your religious material with you? Travel to a country where freedom of religion actually means something.
It's pretty lame to argue that those evil Talibans don't respect human rights and they actually should. They didn't, it was their country after all and they made the laws.
You can't expect to find Miranda rights and probable cause in a country like that.
posted by matteo at 9:02 AM on November 15, 2001


good point, matteo

I posted a comment in the later thread, but it appears that most of the discussion is happening here. So I'll copy my comment here:

Yes, it is good that these folks are free.

Yes, it is bad when religion is outlawed.

But, it was pretty damned arrogant for these folks to be "spreading the Word" of christianity in a predominantly muslim area. Just one of the bad things about christians (though they're not alone) - the conviction that everybody should share their beliefs. Oh sure, they weren't street-corner preaching, and they certainly weren't zealously violent about conversions (which is an historical anomaly for the faith), but the tactic of using a humanitarian project as a means to evangelize is demeaning.

Hearing the captives' church members calling the liberation an act of divine intervention just makes me sick. It promotes the impression that this IS christianity vs. islam.

If this isn't a religious war, then we should not opportunistically invoke gods.

But if people really do think that there is a god who is partisan, and "on our side," especially if our political and military leaders are stricken with this fervent irrationality, then the chances for an apocalyptic escalation of the current conflict are frighteningly high.
posted by yesster at 9:45 AM on November 15, 2001


Just one of the bad things about christians...the conviction that everybody should share their beliefs.

thanks for the stereotype.
posted by auzten at 10:03 AM on November 15, 2001


which is an historical anomaly for the faith

another completely unfair and inaccurate generalization. centuries ago it may have had some merit....but within the last hundred years, missionaries have generally been the champion of poor people caught in violent, opressive societies. ever hear of bishop romero? yeah, he and dorothy day are the epitome of arrogant and demeaning.
posted by danOstuporStar at 10:18 AM on November 15, 2001


Interesting point -- Mohammed thought of Jews and Christians as a little misguided, but not infidels....

It's the fundamentalists that are making it appear as if "Living Under the Influence of Christianity" is unacceptable to Muslims... I guess that is a problem with the fundamentalist movement in every religion.
posted by dwivian at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2001


Delmoi, aid is beginning to flow, and soon the flow will turn into a flood. Ironically, millions of people in Afghanistan will not starve because of the bombing.

"The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) says some deliveries of aid were halted after the military upheaval in Afghanistan, but it remains confident widespread starvation can be avoided."

Aren't you happy to hear that millions of people in Afghanistan are not going to starve after all?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2001


Probably not, because that would make him wrong...
posted by Jubey at 10:53 AM on November 15, 2001


Hrm, I think some of you are confusing what I said. Obviously that they were rescued is not a bad thing, but on the other hand, it's not that great compared to everything else that's going on with the liberation of Kabul and other towns in Afghanistan.

What bothered me is that so much attention was paid to these 8, in comparison with the thousands, or even millions affected by the war.

Hundreds of thousands freed from oppressive taliban rule, but these the freeing of these 8 is the only story that can be called "The real feel good story of the day"?
posted by delmoi at 11:39 AM on November 15, 2001


I thought this issue had polarized this group until I read this account (from another thread). A dramatic rescue with swooping helicopters is turned into a peaceful turnover by the Taleban (or vice-versa, depending on where you want to start your indignation).

What's significant to me is that this is possibly a sign of de-escalation. The Taleban could have killed these people outright -- I imagine quite a few people expected them to. Instead, they freed them. Whether that happened through bribery or as a tentative gesture at ending this war, it has to give us some indication that the Taleban is not wholly intransigent.
posted by joaquim at 11:48 AM on November 15, 2001


Hundreds of thousands freed from oppressive taliban rule, but these the freeing of these 8 is the only story that can be called "The real feel good story of the day"?

I don't think anyone's going to stop you from posting the "real, real feel good story of the day."
posted by nwduffer at 11:56 AM on November 15, 2001


What bothered me is that so much attention was paid to these 8, in comparison with the thousands, or even millions affected by the war

Of course, all the people who have suffered under the Taliban are worthy of our attention and compassion. But you have to remember that this was a big story even before 9-11. Their names and faces are part of the public domain, so to speak, whereas the general population is for the most part unknown to us. Given the amount of media attention the story has received, it's not unreasonable that people would be interested in the outcome.
posted by groundhog at 12:17 PM on November 15, 2001


"What's significant to me is that this is possibly a sign of de-escalation. The Taleban could have killed these people outright -- I imagine quite a few people expected them to. Instead, they freed them. Whether that happened through bribery or as a tentative gesture at ending this war, it has to give us some indication that the Taleban is not wholly intransigent."

See, if these people were in the hands of a different faction that was loyal to some other warlord, then they might have been killed.

You can't say that this one act is a sign of de-escalation, just as you can't say that the Taliban leaving Kabul means they are going to leave ever city. The Taliban, just as the Northern Alliance, is a coalition of different groups and warlords who are wroking together right now for their own purposes and reasons. When one group sees fit to do something like release the workers, it is highly probable it was an individual group's decision, not something that came down from on high.
posted by rich at 1:31 PM on November 15, 2001


You can't say that this one act is a sign of de-escalation, just as you can't say that the Taliban leaving Kabul means they are going to leave ever city. The Taliban, just as the Northern Alliance, is a coalition of different groups and warlords who are wroking together right now for their own purposes and reasons. When one group sees fit to do something like release the workers, it is highly probable it was an individual group's decision, not something that came down from on high.

By the same token, you can't dismiss such actions out of hand based on your argument. If one group does something that might be a peace overture, it shouldn't be ignored. There's the possiblity that it might represent the wishes of a large part -- or even a majority -- of the Taleban.

The point is, there's a faction of the Taleban that decided to let these people live. I had certainly expected to hear of their deaths given the Taleban's posture in the past; I would imagine quite a few others expected the same. If this faction made such a decision that seems contrary to the "infidels must die" stance of the more extreme members, it might mean there's a chance of ending this thing short of the worst case scenario. Discounting such a decision as an anomaly would be shortsighted.
posted by joaquim at 3:03 PM on November 15, 2001


More details of their rescue are coming out now, and there was no Taliban mercy involved. What happened is that they had been moved to the town of Ghazni and stashed in a horrible prison there. While they were confined, they heard bombing and intense fighting outside. Then the door to their cell was flung open by a man with a rifle, and they thought they were going to be shot.

Only it turned out he was Northern Alliance and he set them free. They got word out of where they were, went to a field near the town and set a signal fire, and US Special Forces helicopters came in and got them.

They were freed because of US bombing and Northern Alliance ground action, not because of the Taliban.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:36 PM on November 15, 2001


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