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Waiting for News About Jill Carroll

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The kidnappers of American journalist Jill Carroll have set a new deadline for authorities to comply with unpublished demands. Any response to a kidnapping forces good people to choose between their pain and their conscience.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

It is wrenching to watch Jill Carroll, the young reporter who's been kidnapped in Baghdad, look into a cold camera eye and say, Please, just do whatever they want, give them whatever they want as quickly as possible, please do it fast, that's all. Ms. Carroll is 28. Three years she went to Baghdad on her own because that's where the biggest story in the world was happening and she wanted to be a part of it. She's been freelancing for the Christian Science Monitor. Ms. Carroll and her Iraqi interpreter, Alan Enwya(ph), were ambushed in Baghdad on January 7th. Mr. Enwya, who was 32-years-old and the father of small children, was killed. Her kidnappers called on the U.S. and Iraq to discharge all women from Iraqi jails by January 20th or Jill Carroll would be killed. Five women were discharged on January 26th, leaving just four in custody.

Iraqi officials say the five women were scheduled for release. It was not in response to any demand. Yesterday the kidnappers made new demands as they released a new videotape and say that if they're not met by February 26th, Ms. Carroll will be killed. Those demands have not been publicized. Iraqi police say that about 30 people a day are kidnapped in Iraq. Most kidnappers are criminal gangs looking for ransom money. And most of the people taken are Iraqi.

I have never met Jill Carroll, but in the eloquent descriptions of her friends and family she seems exactly the kind of young person you would encourage to be a reporter: curious, determined and nervy without being reckless. Many years ago I was held overnight behind a door in East Jerusalem by young men who didn't want me to report a story. Kidnapped is too dramatic a word. I never really feared for my life. They made me listen to anti-Semitic harangues and then invited me to have coffee. They seemed to want me to like them.

They seemed a little frightened too of what they had done and where it might lead. But I think I learned that it's hard to bargain with people who take hostages because they have already decided that your life is theirs to dispose of or save. If you live, it's their favor. If you don't, it's the fault of those who wouldn't meet their demands. They put their conscience behind a locked door.

If I had a loved one who was kidnapped, I would want anyone to agree to anything that would save their life. But if I had a loved one who was another working reporter in Iraq, I would worry that agreeing to any demand would just encourage other kidnappings of reporters. Kidnappings force good people to choose between their fears and their conscience.

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Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small