Jill Carroll forced to make propaganda video as price of freedom
CAIRO — The night before journalist Jill Carroll's release, her captors said they had one final demand as the price of her freedom: She would have to make a video praising her captors and attacking the United States, according to Jim Carroll.
In a long phone conversation with his daughter on Friday, Mr. Carroll says that Jill was "under her captor's control."
Ms. Carroll had been their captive for three months and even the smallest details of her life - what she ate and when, what she wore, when she could speak - were at her captors' whim. They had murdered her friend and colleague Allan Enwiya, "she had been taught to fear them," he says. And before making one last video the day before her release, she was told that they had already killed another American hostage.
That video appeared Thursday on a jihadist website that carries videos of beheadings and attacks on American forces. In it, Carroll told her father she felt compelled to make statements strongly critical of President Bush and his policy in Iraq.
Her remarks are now making the rounds of the Internet, attracting heavy criticism from conservative bloggers and commentators.
In fact, 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.
"You'll pretty much say anything to stay alive because you expect people will understand these aren't your words," says Micah Garen, a journalist and author who was held captive by a Shiite militia in southern Iraq for 10 days in August 2004. "Words that are coerced are not worth dying over."
Shortly before her release, her captors - who refer to themselves as the Revenge Brigade - also told her they had infiltrated the US diplomatic compound in Baghdad, and she would be killed if she went there or cooperated with the American authorities. It was a threat she took seriously in her first few hours of freedom.
Carroll worked at the Wall Street Journal's Washington office in early 2002 when that paper's reporterDaniel Pearl was abducted and beheaded in Pakistan. "Many of her colleagues knew him and it was very emotional in the office,'' Jill told her father. "She had that memory in the back of her head while she was being threatened."
In making their last video, Mr. Carroll says her captors "obviously wanted maximum propaganda value in the US. 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."
Jill Carroll will undoubtedly speak for herself once she's had time to recover from her ordeal and spend time with her family. But her friends and colleagues say she made it clear that she's no friend to those who kidnap or harm civilians.
Those who encountered Carroll in a professional context repeatedly praised her fairness and compassion, as demonstrated by some of the thousands of letters the Monitor has received in her support.
"Her professionalism and objectivity were unparalleled within the media community," Capt. Patrick Kerr, a Marine public affairs officer who got to know Carroll last December, when she spent a month with a Marine unit in Western Iraq, said in an e-mail. "I saw her in Husaybah, on the Syrian border, in early December shortly before I returned to the States. Aside from being very personable and down-to-earth, what really struck me was Jill's bravery. She seemed to fit right in with the marines and Iraqi security forces," he wrote in January.
The Monitor's editor, Richard Bergenheim, says that "none of us - except perhaps her personal friends and family - know what Jill's views are about the war in Iraq. But we do know that they did not color her reporting for the Monitor. She covered a wide spectrum of people in Iraq and that is part of what made her reporting valuable."
On the evening of March 29, her captors brought her written questions in Arabic, and asked her to translate them into English for the video. Though they promised her freedom in exchange for cooperating, she didn't believe them, as she'd been promised freedom many times in the past, she told her father.
But that evening, during the first attempt at producing the video, the power went out. They finished up the next morning, shortly before she was dropped off in a Baghdad neighborhood and pointed to the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), which then contacted friends and the US government.
Mr. Garen, who was forced to make a propaganda video by his own captors, says that "I said the US should 'stop the massacre' in Najaf - and they weren't my words, and I felt very uncomfortable saying them," recalls Garen. He says he tried to change some of the text he was fed but "that was very risky."
Garen's book "American Hostage," co-authored with his wife Marie-Helene, recounts his experience, and in the process of researching it he delved into the methods and motives of kidnappers, particularly ones with political agendas. "The point of taking hostages is to get them to make propaganda statements," he says. "The job of a civilian hostage... is to stay alive."
On Thursday, the International Woman's Media Foundation announced that Carroll had won its Courage in Journalism Award. Judy Woodruff of PBS and the Foundation's awards chair wrote: "Her courage and example are an inspiration to us all, especially at a time when journalists are under threat in many parts of the world, and particularly Iraq, for simply trying to cover stories vital for us all to know."