An unsilencing

March 31, 2006

How refreshing and thrilling it is to hear good news from Iraq. The release yesterday of Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor correspondent kidnapped Jan. 7, shows that vicious brutality need not always prevail - that good will and good intentions and good sense, and patience and hard work, can still sometimes make things turn out right, even in the caldron that Iraq has become.

Ms. Carroll says she was treated well, and whoever her captors were, they decided in the end that they no longer cared to hold her. They may have been moved by human sympathy or by cold political calculation, but in any case she's free.

The sad counterpoint to this day of relief is that dozens - or probably hundreds - more are still captive in Iraq and that kidnappings have increased dramatically in recent weeks. Even as attacks on American soldiers decline (March is shaping up to be the least-fatal month for the U.S. military in more than two years), sectarian and now criminal violence is taking off. One figure cited by Ms. Carroll's editor yesterday is that 30 to 40 people are taken hostage every day in Iraq. Some of them later turn up as corpses, horribly mutilated.

Ms. Carroll's case nevertheless struck a chord, not simply because she's an American but because she's a journalist who was trying to do what journalists always do - but in the most extreme circumstances. It is only because of intrepid people like Jill Carroll that Americans can get some idea, however tentative, about what things are really like in Iraq.

To the extent that her kidnappers have intimidated or deterred other correspondents from trying to do the same, we - Americans and Iraqis both - are the worse off. That's one reason why her release in good spirits and good health is such a hugely welcome piece of news.

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