The Tom Fox tragedy

Cal Thomas

3/14/2006 12:05:00 AM - Cal Thomas

The death of "peace activist" Tom Fox, and the threatened execution of the three others held with him in Iraq, is doubly tragic.

It is tragic whenever an innocent person is murdered. It is also tragic because the likelihood that the presence of Fox and his colleagues would change the attitude or behavior of their captors was zero to none. That the "peace activists" believed their brand of Christianity would trump the fanatical Muslims who regarded them as infidels and worthy of death meant that Fox and the others would either be used for propaganda purposes by the enemies of freedom, or made to sacrifice their lives like animals on an ancient altar in the furtherance of the fanatics' dream of a theocratic state. In this instance they were used for both.

The motive of the activists was exposed in a statement from Christian Peacemakers Teams, under whose auspices Fox and the others traveled to Iraq. Spokeswoman Jessica Phillips said, "We believe that the root cause of the abduction of our colleagues is the U.S.- and British-led invasion and occupation of Iraq."

Strange thing about these peace movements: they rarely mobilize to oppose the killing, torture and imprisonment practiced by dictators. It is only when their own country attempts to end the oppression that the activists become active against America, not the initiators of evil. Peace, like happiness, is a byproduct, not a goal that can be unilaterally attained. Peace happens when evil is vanquished.

The theology of Christian Peacemaker Teams is as wrong as its politics. The statement about Fox's death claimed that Fox had a "firm opposition to all oppression and the recognition of God in everyone." Perhaps if Christian Peacemaker Teams had gone to Iraq during Saddam Hussein's murderous regime, or to China while Mao Zedong was slaughtering millions, or to Moscow while Josef Stalin practiced genocide on his people, or to any number of other capitals of carnage, they might be taken more seriously, though under those regimes they might have disappeared much quicker. Was God "in" these mass murderers, or was it Lucifer?

A far more credible and compelling insight about peace activism and its consequences comes from Charles M. Brown, who was 19 when he fought in Operation Desert Storm, a conflict that repelled Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. When Brown returned home, he worked in homeless shelters operated by liberal Catholic Worker activists and gravitated toward their position against U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq for failing to comply with its promises to cease hostilities.

Brown says he traveled to Iraq in 1998 in order to see the effects of sanctions. He says he made two speaking tours of college campuses to denounce sanctions. When he tried to return to Iraq with a Chicago group called "Voices in the Wilderness," Brown says he was told by Iraqi government officials he could not speak about Saddam's "horrendous human rights record, (his) involvement with weapons of mass destruction (or) the dictatorial nature of the regime. We were allowed to speak only of one thing: the deprivations suffered by ordinary Iraqis under the sanctions regime."

Brown says he realized this was pure Baath Party propaganda: "As I came to see this as a complicity and collaboration with one of the most abusive dictatorships in the world, I tried to get the rest of my group to acknowledge that our close relationship with the regime damaged our credibility. I failed to persuade them, so I quit." His "Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions Activist," published in the summer 2003 issue of Middle East Quarterly, is sober reading for people who believe the United States is the problem and that evil people will be nice to us if we are nice to them.

It is too bad that Tom Fox and his three colleagues did not have an epiphany similar to that of Charles Brown.

Peace "activism" may make its practitioners feel good, or validate their belief that they are doing the will of God, but evil cannot be accommodated. Evil must be defeated if peace on earth is to exist. That Fox and his colleagues could not, or would not see this, is most tragic of all.