British hostage Kenneth Bigley’s plight is horrific. Imprisoned and abused he’s already witnessed the beheading of his two American hostage colleagues. A caged, broken man in a Guantanamo Bay style orange jumpsuit, his captives are getting an awful lot of mileage out of torturing this poor soul. They have no reason to kill him… yet.
Kenneth Bigley has become a major asset to his captives. They can force him to say anything and so-called quality newspapers like the Independent print it verbatim. An excellent reason to keep him alive. In fact all the front pages are lapping it up. This from the Daily Mail is a corker. As ex-Guardian editor Peter Preston wrote in the Observer: ‘ We… need to realise we’re being manipulated… Al-Zarqawi’s reality is slaughter as spin’.
As the torture is dragged out, the family is forced to grovel on television programmes only seen in the UK. Latching on to news that Bush may have blocked the release of two women prisoners (the kidnappers’ key demand), brother Paul calls for Blair to ‘pick up the bloody phone’ and ask Bush to relent. He continually calls for the PM’s resignation. Understandable, but wrong all the same. Whatever the detail, this would prove hostage taking works.
It’s this propaganda that’s keeping Bigley alive. Stateside, the response was more measured. Alive the two Americans had no value and only their brutal murder could win headlines. They couldn’t hurt Bush.
And the other 1,500 British contractors are surprisingly unsympathetic. ‘This man has been too blatant; [Bigley] has gone, “Hey, I am British, they won’t hurt me.” But he was a soft target.’. He foolishly refused the protection of the army and placed himself in the firing line. With his propaganda value well proven by a naïve British press, he’s inadvertently increased the risk to every other British citizen in Iraq and elsewhere.