Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude

By staff writers
March 28, 2006

Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude

-28/03/06

As the argument about the form of Norman Kemberís thank-you to his rescuers from four months captivity in Iraq continues, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson has admitted to Ekklesia that the army chief who played a major role in sparking the row was speaking on TV without any direct knowledge of what had happened.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the leading UK religious think tank Ekklesia, which cooperates with Christian Peacemaker Teams in the UK, spoke to the Ministry of Defence yesterday about the appearance of General Sir Michael Jackson on Channel 4 TV news on 24 March 2006, the day after Dr Kember and his two Canadian colleagues were freed without violence from their kidnapping ordeal.

In that interview, General Jackson, head of the British army, declared: ìI am slightly saddened that there doesnít seem to have been a note of gratitude for the soldiers who risked their lives to save those lives.î

He went on to say that if an expression of thanks had been made, he was unaware of it.

In fact Christian Peacemaker Teams had issued a note of appreciation to their colleaguesí freers on the evening of their release. It appeared on their website at 9pm Eastern Time, the day before General Jackson spoke.

Dr Kember had also said a personal word of thanks, confirmed in his first statement on arrival back in Britain.

General Sir Michael Jacksonís interview was widely interpreted by the worldís media as confirming other unsubstantiated allegations about the supposed ingratitude of CPT and Dr Kember, despite the evidence in circulation to the contrary.

The Ministry of Defence spokesperson told Ekklesiaís Simon Barrow that he had no further explanation for the Generalís lapse and he could not say on what basis it was made.

He commented that apparently ìinformation about the thanks had not filtered through to the MOD when General [Sir Michael] Jackson made his statementî.

The MOD defends the lack of research and the impact of the army chiefís statement, which has strengthened the slurs against Dr Kember, by saying that, ìto be fair, he did not actually say that no expression of gratitude has been made.î

However this was not how papers and TV understood the situation, with newspapers like the London Times reiterating the allegations against CPT and Kember as fact. The Times and its Murdoch-owned tabloid stable mate, The Sun, have not responded to calls for a correction so far.

Commented Ekklesiaís Simon Barrow on the revelation that General Jackson spoke without the benefit of any prior research: ìThis appears to be yet another failure of military intelligence. One assumes that the MOD does not regularly sit around waiting for facts to ëfilter throughí or not when they are easily discoverable, but perhaps the heat of the moment got to them in this instance.î

He went on: ìThe general lack of consideration shown to men who had been through a terrible ordeal and then been told of the death of a close friend, Tom Fox, is inexcusable and callous. A formal expression of gratitude was made at the earliest possible opportunity, and it is unfair and unfeeling to smear the ex-captives in this way.î

General Sir Michael Jacksonís suggestion of ingratitude on Dr Kemberís part was repeated the next day by another army spokesperson Channel 4 News, indicating that it was not incidental. But the MOD said that this had nothing to do with them.

The idea that the Christian peacemakers in Iraq imperilled the soldiers who rescued them has also been undermined by a senior military counter-intelligence and security analyst. Colonel Mike Dewar, speaking the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine programme yesterday, said that CPT had caused no danger and was fully entitled to be in the country.

Though contemptuous towards non-violent interventions in situations of conflict, Colonel Dewar, in discussion with Ekklesia director Jonathan Bartley, said: ìYou neednít worry, Mr Bartley, about putting troops in danger. Itís part of a soldiers job to be in danger, so we don't need your worries, thank you very much, about putting us in danger.î

He continued: ìBritish troops are out there in danger on a daily basis. And in fact they were extremely glad to be able to rescue them.î

Colonel Dewar added to CPT: ìIf you want to send back more teams that is entirely your business.î

He also declared: ìI think they have every right to be there. If they want to put themselves in harms way, that is entirely their business.î

Taken together, these admissions substantially undermine the accusations that heave been flying around about Norman Kember and the Christian Peacemaker Teams over the last 72 hours.

The extent of the role claimed for military intelligence and the armed forces in the release of the three Christian peace activists is still not clear.

On the question of gratitude, Jim Loney, a Canadian captive also offered fulsome thanks. Dr Kember made it clear that he has unqualified respect for the courage of the soldiers concerned, but also said (in a remark which has annoyed the military) that he did not think armed force offered a long-term solution to the Iraq situation.

Doug Pritchard of Christian Peacemaker Teams comments: ìOur original statement, written an hour after we got news of the release from a member of Jim Loney's family in the very early morning of 23 March, did not thank anyone except God ñ because at that time we knew almost nothing of the circumstances of their release. So we could focus only on our joy at their freedom, our grief over Tom's death, and our appreciation for the messages of concern received over previous months. Later that evening, after our Baghdad team had met with the men themselves, we were able to issue our addenda with specific thank-yous."

The think tank Ekklesia, which seeks to work with CPT in the UK to strengthen the moral, practical and theological case for non-violent tactics in the face of conflict and injustice, has produced a detailed briefing about the various allegations which have been made against Christian Peacemaker Teams through the media, often by those with little or no hard information.

[Also on Ekklesia: Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams (2005/6); Press briefing on the released Christian peace activists (23/03/06); news updates and comment on CPT on FaithInSociety; Contending the logic of violence (24/03/06) - Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete; Military expert says peacemakers didnít imperil soldiers (27/03/06); Statement by released Christian peacemaker James Loney 26/03/06 Norman Kember returns home to cheers and also smears (25/03/06); Think tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations (24/03/06); Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release (24/03/06); Questions asked about intelligence that preceded Christian peacemaker's release (24/03/06); Nonviolent release for Christian peacemakers (23/03/06); Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers (23/03/06); Christians defend Iraq non-violence tactics against critics (23/03/06); Christians urge love of enemies in face of hostage crisis (23/03/06); Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq (23/03/06). Step back George, Step up people of faith, by Ron Kraybill of Eastern Mennonite University; Exploring Christianity and violence - meeting in London on 30 March 2006]

Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude

-28/03/06

As the argument about the form of Norman Kemberís thank-you to his rescuers from four months captivity in Iraq continues, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson has admitted to Ekklesia that the army chief who played a major role in sparking the row was speaking on TV without any direct knowledge of what had happened.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the leading UK religious think tank Ekklesia, which cooperates with Christian Peacemaker Teams in the UK, spoke to the Ministry of Defence yesterday about the appearance of General Sir Michael Jackson on Channel 4 TV news on 24 March 2006, the day after Dr Kember and his two Canadian colleagues were freed without violence from their kidnapping ordeal.

In that interview, General Jackson, head of the British army, declared: ìI am slightly saddened that there doesnít seem to have been a note of gratitude for the soldiers who risked their lives to save those lives.î

He went on to say that if an expression of thanks had been made, he was unaware of it.

In fact Christian Peacemaker Teams had issued a note of appreciation to their colleaguesí freers on the evening of their release. It appeared on their website at 9pm Eastern Time, the day before General Jackson spoke.

Dr Kember had also said a personal word of thanks, confirmed in his first statement on arrival back in Britain.

General Sir Michael Jacksonís interview was widely interpreted by the worldís media as confirming other unsubstantiated allegations about the supposed ingratitude of CPT and Dr Kember, despite the evidence in circulation to the contrary.

The Ministry of Defence spokesperson told Ekklesiaís Simon Barrow that he had no further explanation for the Generalís lapse and he could not say on what basis it was made.

He commented that apparently ìinformation about the thanks had not filtered through to the MOD when General [Sir Michael] Jackson made his statementî.

The MOD defends the lack of research and the impact of the army chiefís statement, which has strengthened the slurs against Dr Kember, by saying that, ìto be fair, he did not actually say that no expression of gratitude has been made.î

However this was not how papers and TV understood the situation, with newspapers like the London Times reiterating the allegations against CPT and Kember as fact. The Times and its Murdoch-owned tabloid stable mate, The Sun, have not responded to calls for a correction so far.

Commented Ekklesiaís Simon Barrow on the revelation that General Jackson spoke without the benefit of any prior research: ìThis appears to be yet another failure of military intelligence. One assumes that the MOD does not regularly sit around waiting for facts to ëfilter throughí or not when they are easily discoverable, but perhaps the heat of the moment got to them in this instance.î

He went on: ìThe general lack of consideration shown to men who had been through a terrible ordeal and then been told of the death of a close friend, Tom Fox, is inexcusable and callous. A formal expression of gratitude was made at the earliest possible opportunity, and it is unfair and unfeeling to smear the ex-captives in this way.î

General Sir Michael Jacksonís suggestion of ingratitude on Dr Kemberís part was repeated the next day by another army spokesperson Channel 4 News, indicating that it was not incidental. But the MOD said that this had nothing to do with them.

The idea that the Christian peacemakers in Iraq imperilled the soldiers who rescued them has also been undermined by a senior military counter-intelligence and security analyst. Colonel Mike Dewar, speaking the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine programme yesterday, said that CPT had caused no danger and was fully entitled to be in the country.

Though contemptuous towards non-violent interventions in situations of conflict, Colonel Dewar, in discussion with Ekklesia director Jonathan Bartley, said: ìYou neednít worry, Mr Bartley, about putting troops in danger. Itís part of a soldiers job to be in danger, so we don't need your worries, thank you very much, about putting us in danger.î

He continued: ìBritish troops are out there in danger on a daily basis. And in fact they were extremely glad to be able to rescue them.î

Colonel Dewar added to CPT: ìIf you want to send back more teams that is entirely your business.î

He also declared: ìI think they have every right to be there. If they want to put themselves in harms way, that is entirely their business.î

Taken together, these admissions substantially undermine the accusations that heave been flying around about Norman Kember and the Christian Peacemaker Teams over the last 72 hours.

The extent of the role claimed for military intelligence and the armed forces in the release of the three Christian peace activists is still not clear.

On the question of gratitude, Jim Loney, a Canadian captive also offered fulsome thanks. Dr Kember made it clear that he has unqualified respect for the courage of the soldiers concerned, but also said (in a remark which has annoyed the military) that he did not think armed force offered a long-term solution to the Iraq situation.

Doug Pritchard of Christian Peacemaker Teams comments: ìOur original statement, written an hour after we got news of the release from a member of Jim Loney's family in the very early morning of 23 March, did not thank anyone except God ñ because at that time we knew almost nothing of the circumstances of their release. So we could focus only on our joy at their freedom, our grief over Tom's death, and our appreciation for the messages of concern received over previous months. Later that evening, after our Baghdad team had met with the men themselves, we were able to issue our addenda with specific thank-yous."

The think tank Ekklesia, which seeks to work with CPT in the UK to strengthen the moral, practical and theological case for non-violent tactics in the face of conflict and injustice, has produced a detailed briefing about the various allegations which have been made against Christian Peacemaker Teams through the media, often by those with little or no hard information.

[Also on Ekklesia: Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams (2005/6); Press briefing on the released Christian peace activists (23/03/06); news updates and comment on CPT on FaithInSociety; Contending the logic of violence (24/03/06) - Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete; Military expert says peacemakers didnít imperil soldiers (27/03/06); Statement by released Christian peacemaker James Loney 26/03/06 Norman Kember returns home to cheers and also smears (25/03/06); Think tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations (24/03/06); Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release (24/03/06); Questions asked about intelligence that preceded Christian peacemaker's release (24/03/06); Nonviolent release for Christian peacemakers (23/03/06); Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers (23/03/06); Christians defend Iraq non-violence tactics against critics (23/03/06); Christians urge love of enemies in face of hostage crisis (23/03/06); Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq (23/03/06). Step back George, Step up people of faith, by Ron Kraybill of Eastern Mennonite University; Exploring Christianity and violence - meeting in London on 30 March 2006]

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