A Tribute to Jill Carroll

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By: Dennis Anderson

I am in mourning over the Jill Carroll abduction, as I imagine all thoughtful journalists are. It is terrible, and it is sad, and it reminds me that at the Los Angeles bureau of the Associated Press, for eight years, a day did not go by without somebody mentioning the plight of kidnapped reporter Terry Anderson.

Now it is Jill Carroll who deserves our hopes and prayers. Iraqi terrorist abductors seem to revel in the capture and kill of unicorns. Unicorns are those rare, gentle creatures who come to that pitiless landscape looking to do good and fall prey to the forces of evil.

Carroll works (we will use present tense) as a steadily employed free-lancer for the Christian Science Monitor, a newspaper that over generations has been respected for its thoughtful and measured reporting of international affairs. Carroll was attempting to inform a global audience about the afflictions suffered by the Iraqi people, and she had a reputation for doing that work without fear or favor.

It?s hard for people to comprehend why an intelligent young American civilian professional would want to go to the tortured environs of Baghdad. Carroll speaks Arabic and loves the Arab people. Here is a brief passage Carroll wrote for the Monitor in 2005 about another young American killed in Iraq last year. She could be writing about herself:

?Californian Marla Ruzicka was the head of an NGO (non-government organization) whose blend of tenacity and optimism kept her in Iraq long after almost every other humanitarian aid organization had left. Marla and her Iraqi driver died Saturday when their car was tragically caught between a suicide car bomber and a U.S. military convoy.

?Marla … was one of those quiet cheerleaders. After the Iraq war, she moved her push for an accurate count of civilian casualties to Baghdad. At a time when the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations were leaving Iraq, Marla started the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. When she died Marla was traveling to visit some of the many Iraqi families she was working to help.

?The only thing we can say now is at least she died doing what she wanted, doing what she really, really believed in. If she were still here, she?d be most worried now about her driver?s family and who will take care of all the other Iraqi families she was working with.

?She would point out, this happens to Iraqis every day and no one notices or even cares. There are no newspaper articles or investigations into what happens to them. For most of them, there was only Marla.?

That was the report by journalist Jill Carroll about the death of another of those unicorns. They are rare creatures, who should be celebrated and revered, not hunted down.

Such was the case with Margaret Hassan, a British subject who embraced Islam, lived in Iraq and administered health and food deliveries through the CARE program. So pitiless, so unfeeling the captors of these unicorns. For her pure and sinless efforts, Hassan was administered a bullet in the head.

It?s hard for Americans to understand why people who could be doing something else would instead trouble themselves to go and work in arguably the world?s most dangerous place, unless they had to, under military orders or other national service. Since the invasion, more than 400 foreigners have been abducted, many of them working on reconstruction contracts. About 30 journalists have been abducted. Last year, at least 19 were killed on the job.

It?s a shame, and shameful. It is not that the journalists are stupid or lack sense. More, it is a comment on the murderous and thuggish nature of the terrorists and criminal swine who want to pull Iraq back into the pit of medieval tyranny from which it is emerging.

So, Jill Carroll was not foolhardy. She answered the call of the brave. Idealists, people of generous spirit and brave nature do this work because they believe it serves a higher purpose.

They want to feed or comfort the afflicted. They want to be peacemakers. They want the world to have a full and fair report of the sufferings of others. And for this there is great risk, and for this the thankless reward is that the ultimate price of that pure intention might be a horrifying death. The military who are serving in Iraq should be respected for the work they do, trying to restore sufficient safety so the unicorns will no longer be hunted and killed.

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