Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hostages, etc.

One of the nice things about blogging is that one can speculate to one's heart's content without ever offering a shred of evidence to support one's "hypotheses."  It's kind of like being a talking head on cable news.  Anyway, here comes some (very) idle speculation regarding the IS hostage situation.

It begins to look a lot like the Islamic "State" is far less unified and coordinated than Abu Bakr al-Bagdadhi would have us believe.  First, there was the demand for a hundred million bucks a head for the two Japanese hostages.  When one head was sacrificed, the Japanese public scarcely blinked.  Haruna Yukawa, it seems, was a bit of a slacker, and nobody much cared what happened to him.

Then, the demand changed, with IS demanding the release of failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi for the remaining Japanese hostage, journalist Kenji Goto.  That's when the Jordanians, who are holding al-Rishawi pending execution, decided they would much prefer to have Jordanian pilot Muath Kassasbeh in the exchange, but needed proof he still was alive.  Proof was not forthcoming, and things remain up in the air as of this writing.

Okay, the first question is what in hell does IS want with al-Rishawi?  Some suspect she is somebody's sister or something, but the truth is, she's of no use to anybody.  The second question is, what makes anybody think IS would exchange two high-value hostages for a female who failed to blow herself up and then ran away?  And if Muath Kassabeh is alive, why can't IS produce him?

My guess is that ransom and exchange demands are coming from different factions of IS, and that they're not in especially close contact with each other — maybe not even talking.  No demands or explanations have been offered by al-Baghdadi, so who actually speaks for the Islamic State?

Schisms within IS would be good news for the ragtag band of "allies" fighting the jihadis, even if IS is not nearly as schismatic as its so-called enemies.  Can the CIA or the DIA shed any light on the situation?  Probably not — and, anyway, they're not talking.  They're never talking.


I got around to seeing "American Sniper," and I've concluded that all the hot air surrounding whether Chris Kyle was a hero or a psychopath is just that — hot air.  Pretty clearly, Chris Kyle was a victim of the Iraq War, but so were tens of thousands of other people, and their number continues to grow.  I thought I detected a strong component of preexisting OCD along with PTSD, but it's not possible to make a diagnosis based on a fictionalized version of a guy's life.

Is the film racist?   Seen through Kyle's eyes, or the eyes of a substantial majority of the Americans who fought in Iraq, the film had to be racist.  The fact that we never meet any "nice" Iraqis is not a deficit of Eastwood's filmmaking — he told his story from a GI's point of view, and I think he did a good job of it.  Talking to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention certainly should not disqualify him from winning a few Oscars.

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