Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Should Have Said

I frequently attend an improvised comedy group's performances. Of the many games they play, one is called "should have said". As their scene develops, a person standing off-stage can interrupt, saying "should have said", at any time. At that point, the person who has just delivered a line has to change it to say what they really meant. For example:

"How are you?"
"I'm fine."
*CLAPS* - should have said
"I feel totally and utterly crap. The world hates me, nothing seems to be going right, and I'm finding everything intensely irritating. Especially you."

I couldn't help but think of this in light of the storm in a teacup that has surrounded Norman Kember since his release. There has been much muttering on blogs about the comments of General Sir Michael Jackson, the consensus seeming to be that it smacks of a pre-planned attack to prevent Prof Kember from being able to criticise the UK government over its handling of Iraq.

One comment made to me by a friend was that your viewpoint over the incident depended almost totally on your views on the war. Those who supported the war were annoyed by Prof Kember; those who were against it believed that he shouldn't have been criticised in such a way.

I supported the war in Iraq, and still believe I was right to do so (this is a very crude statement of my opinion here). And it is probably fair to say I don't have an awful lot of sympathy for Norman Kember, for he surely knew the risk he was taking before he went out there. Indeed, he had said he would not want to be rescued if he was kidnapped. Nevertheless, I would have had a lot more respect for him if he had come out and said this more bluntly, with a statement something along these lines:

"I have not thanked the soldiers who rescued me, because I did not want to be rescued. My mission in Iraq was to attempt to bring about reconciliation between the different groups, who in mutual misunderstanding seem to be plunging the country into civil war. A message of peace cannot succeed through armed force.

It was evidently not my choice to be kidnapped. Nevertheless, if that was the way I was meant to go, it was the way I was meant to go. I believed, and still believe, that my chances of survival would have been greater through building a relationship with my kidnappers than through a potentially risky armed operations.

We risk losing sight of the message of peace that is the only way Iraq can build a future. Focusing unnecessarily on my fate only contributes to this. While I was being rescued, Iraqis were being blown up in car bombs. The country is in a state of lawlessness, and the presence of our troops, in heavily fortified garrisons, only acts as a running sore.

We cannot spread democracy at the barrel of a gun."

In that sort of statement, there would have been much I agreed with, and much that I disagreed with. I'd still think that he was hopelessly naïve - but I'd have much more respect for him for sticking to his guns.