Clarification sought from army chief on false Kember snub allegation

By staff writers
April 16, 2006

Clarification sought from army chief on false Kember snub allegation

-16/04/06

The head of the British Army has been asked to acknowledge that, contrary to media reports, the group for which kidnapped peace activist Norman Kember worked in Iraq had expressed gratitude to the troops who freed him and two Canadian colleagues ñ on the day of their release.

General Sir Mike Jackson appeared on Channel 4 TV news on 24 March 2006. His remarks stoked false media reports that the Christian peace activists had not shown gratitude to the soldiers who released them from four months of captivity at the hands of a militant group, Swords of Truth ñ in the end without the use of violence.

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 publicly issued a note of appreciation to their colleaguesí freers on the evening of their release. It appeared on their website at 9pm Eastern Time, before General Jackson spoke.

Dr Kember had also said a personal word of thanks, confirmed in his first statement on arrival back in Britain ñ and on his interview with the BBC Radio 4 Taking A Stand programme yesterday.

Jonathan Bartley of the UK Christian news service and think tank Ekklesia, which is independent of Christian Peacemaker Teams but works in cooperation with them, said to the BBC and the Observer newspaper: ìThe honourable thing would clearly now be for General Jackson to issue a statement making it clear that Christian Peacemaker Teams did in fact formally and publicly thank the soldiers involved in the release, on Norman Kember's behalf, on the same day as the hostages were released.î

General Sir Michael Jacksonís interview on Channel 4 News the day after the menís release was widely interpreted by the worldís media as confirming other unsubstantiated allegations about the supposed ingratitude of CPT and Dr Kember, despite evidence in circulation to the contrary.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson told Ekklesia on 27 March 2006 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.

Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley told the Observer newspaper and the BBC: "Many might call this an unfortunate lapse in military intelligence,"

At the time the MOD defended its 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 press and TV understood the situation, with newspapers like the London Times reiterating the allegations against CPT and Kember as fact.

Dr Kember said in a BBC interview with Fergal Keane yesterday that he had received hate mail from people who wrongly thought he snubbed his rescuers.

He said: "My wife has a stack of what I would call hate mail almost. Hate mail you can tell because in almost every case it isn't signed. Often written in capital letters."

Ekklesiaís Jonathan Bartley added this morning: ìWhat we are suggesting is that it would be helpful and honourable for the army to acknowledge that Christian Peacemaker Teams did indeed express thanks to the soldiers who freed Norman and his colleagues as soon as they could. We are not asking General Sir Mike Jackson to apologise, but simply to put the record straight.î

Some news outlets have incorrectly reported the request for clarification as a ìdemand for an apologyî.

[Also on Ekklesia: Critics of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq accused of being ill-informed 16/04/06; Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude -28/03/06; What Norman said - from Iraq captive Kember's BBC interview 15/04/06; Entombed Iraq captive Jim Loney talks of Easter Hope 15/04/06; Kember notes irony of non-violent release by soldiers 15/04/06; Kember still evaluating Christian peacemaker's role in Iraq 15/04/06; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview tomorrow 14/04/06; CPT in Iraq: What now? 04/04/06 - Peggy Gish reflects on the future of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams - detailed background; Contending the logic of violence - Ekklesia's Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete]

Clarification sought from army chief on false Kember snub allegation

-16/04/06

The head of the British Army has been asked to acknowledge that, contrary to media reports, the group for which kidnapped peace activist Norman Kember worked in Iraq had expressed gratitude to the troops who freed him and two Canadian colleagues ñ on the day of their release.

General Sir Mike Jackson appeared on Channel 4 TV news on 24 March 2006. His remarks stoked false media reports that the Christian peace activists had not shown gratitude to the soldiers who released them from four months of captivity at the hands of a militant group, Swords of Truth ñ in the end without the use of violence.

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 publicly issued a note of appreciation to their colleaguesí freers on the evening of their release. It appeared on their website at 9pm Eastern Time, before General Jackson spoke.

Dr Kember had also said a personal word of thanks, confirmed in his first statement on arrival back in Britain ñ and on his interview with the BBC Radio 4 Taking A Stand programme yesterday.

Jonathan Bartley of the UK Christian news service and think tank Ekklesia, which is independent of Christian Peacemaker Teams but works in cooperation with them, said to the BBC and the Observer newspaper: ìThe honourable thing would clearly now be for General Jackson to issue a statement making it clear that Christian Peacemaker Teams did in fact formally and publicly thank the soldiers involved in the release, on Norman Kember's behalf, on the same day as the hostages were released.î

General Sir Michael Jacksonís interview on Channel 4 News the day after the menís release was widely interpreted by the worldís media as confirming other unsubstantiated allegations about the supposed ingratitude of CPT and Dr Kember, despite evidence in circulation to the contrary.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson told Ekklesia on 27 March 2006 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.

Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley told the Observer newspaper and the BBC: "Many might call this an unfortunate lapse in military intelligence,"

At the time the MOD defended its 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 press and TV understood the situation, with newspapers like the London Times reiterating the allegations against CPT and Kember as fact.

Dr Kember said in a BBC interview with Fergal Keane yesterday that he had received hate mail from people who wrongly thought he snubbed his rescuers.

He said: "My wife has a stack of what I would call hate mail almost. Hate mail you can tell because in almost every case it isn't signed. Often written in capital letters."

Ekklesiaís Jonathan Bartley added this morning: ìWhat we are suggesting is that it would be helpful and honourable for the army to acknowledge that Christian Peacemaker Teams did indeed express thanks to the soldiers who freed Norman and his colleagues as soon as they could. We are not asking General Sir Mike Jackson to apologise, but simply to put the record straight.î

Some news outlets have incorrectly reported the request for clarification as a ìdemand for an apologyî.

[Also on Ekklesia: Critics of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq accused of being ill-informed 16/04/06; Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude -28/03/06; What Norman said - from Iraq captive Kember's BBC interview 15/04/06; Entombed Iraq captive Jim Loney talks of Easter Hope 15/04/06; Kember notes irony of non-violent release by soldiers 15/04/06; Kember still evaluating Christian peacemaker's role in Iraq 15/04/06; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview tomorrow 14/04/06; CPT in Iraq: What now? 04/04/06 - Peggy Gish reflects on the future of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams - detailed background; Contending the logic of violence - Ekklesia's Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete]

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