Should Hamas Release Its Captives?
In 1990, Saddam Hussein listened to those advising he release captives he had. He did so. Within a few weeks, the disaster really began for Iraq.
In December 1990, Saddam Hussein released Western captives he had. Leftist scholar Eqbal Ahmad would comment at a teach-in that I attended shortly thereafter as I recall that it was an act of “ridiculous generosity”.
It simply enabled the US to bomb Iraq the following month, see news clippings and timeline below.
This would destroy Iraq, lead to the destruction of its civilian infrastructure, sanctions, starvation, cholera outbreaks and ultimately a complete invasion which lead to a massive civil war and even more incredible suffering.
We’re seeing a similar dynamic now with Hamas. Mainstream US media reports: “Biden calls for 'pause' in Israel-Gaza conflict to get hostages out.” Others like Durbin are seeming to call for a “ceasefire” — but with seemingly similar goals. The Israeli rightwing has the position that once the non-Palestinians are out of Gaza, "We will bomb all the hospitals and kill them all.....the world knows that."
As I’ve noted for some time, it’s insane that Israel has been bombing Gaza with US citizens there with US government backing. Israel has effectively applied the Hannibal Doctrine to not only Israeli soldiers, not only Israeli civilians, but other civilians as well. So far, Israel has seemingly refused a deal. I’ve seen Israel do this in the past — they make you beg for a deal that puts the noose around your neck. There are lots of problems with this; if the deal is captives-for-ceasefire, well, Hamas can’t get captives back. Israel can always trash a ceasefire, citing whatever pretext it wants for massive violence.
I should add that others have noted that in many respects, Israel has held Palestinians hostages, for example, when they are held in administrative detention without charge for years. See comments by As’ad AbuKhalil here and here. I’ve also heard some argue, with some legitimacy, that arguably Israel has taken all of the Palestinians in Gaza hostage.
But putting that and related arguments aside for the time being, the point now is this:
There’s a moral case for Hamas to hold on to the captives to prevent a far greater crime from being committed at this point.
Yes, Israel is bombing Gaza now. But it’s quite possible that it will further escalate things with the captives out of Hamas’s hands.
From the August 1990 invasion till December 1990, there were notables like Jesse Jackson and others visiting Iraq. This pressured Saddam Hussein into releasing the US citizens and others who were in Iraq as the US and other nations threatened to pulverize Iraq.
In September 1990, the New York Times reported:
On Dec. 7, the Washington Post reported that Saddam had ordered the release of all the non-Iraqis:
Saddam cited appeals by other Arab leaders, expressions of concern about war by U.S. Senate Democrats and pleas from a European Parliament delegation as positive factors in his decision. He said all this "encouraged" him "to respond to these good, positive changes -- changes that will have a major impact on world public opinion in general, and U.S. public opinion in particular, in restraining the evil ones who are seeking and pushing for war."
This was apparently in the name of highly dubious “diplomacy”:
And they all left Iraq so there was virtually no one there but Iraqis:
So the non-Iraqis were safe:
So, then, a few weeks later, the US began bombing Iraqis.