Kidnappings in Iraq Hit Home

Austinite Charlie Jackson was scheduled to be a part of the most recent Christian Peacemakers Team delegation but opted, at the behest of his family, against spending two consecutive Thanksgivings in Iraq

On Nov. 26, four human rights workers were kidnapped in Bagdhad. A video of the hostages that was originally obtained by the al Jazeera news network shows them sitting beneath crossed swords mounted on the wall behind them. Though it has been reported that their captors, the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, believed the men to be spies, Tom Fox, 54, of Virginia; Norman Kember, 74, of London; James Loney, 41, of Toronto; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, of Canada, are all members of the Chicago-based Christian Peacemakers Team, a nonmissionary group whose past work was instrumental in exposing the abuses that the U.S. military was inflicting on detainees held at Abu Ghraib. More recently, the members of the group accompanied Palestinian-Iraqi refugees to the Syrian border, alerting the United Nations to what Refugees International is calling a "silent exodus" of 500,000 people.

"I've been watching these kinds of clips since 1979," said Texans for Peace founder Charlie Jackson. "But, to see people I know, now, on the other end, it's disconcerting. It could have been me just as easily." Jackson has been to Iraq three times on CPT delegations, and was scheduled to be a part of the most recent delegation but opted, at the behest of his family, against spending two consecutive Thanksgivings in Iraq.

Though he worked with both Fox and Loney, Jackson is particularly close to the latter. The two met on Jackson's first trip to Iraq back in 2002, and they were riding in the same car when it flipped, decapitating fellow CPT member George Weber and landing Jackson in an Iraqi hospital for two weeks with three fractured vertebrae and two cracked ribs. Loney not only pulled both men from the car, he was also responsible for returning Weber's body back to his family in Canada. Based on his experiences with the men, Jackson remains hopeful. "Knowing Tom and Jim, I suspect that they are working on dialoging and using the situation to achieve a better outcome."

Those holding the CPT members have threatened to kill them unless all those being held in U.S. and Iraqi detention centers are released by Sat., Dec. 10.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Al-Jazeera, Swords of Righteousness Brigade, Tom Fox, Norman Kember, James Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden, Christian Peacemakers Team, Abu Ghraib, United Nations, Refugees International, Texans for Peace, Charlie Jackson, George Webber

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