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Saturday, March 08, 2003

Ridley's Believe It or Not

Fred Pruitt at Rantburg brings us this blast from the past, the Independent's chat with "journalist" Yvonne Ridley, at the end of 2001. Ridley, you may remember, was working for the Sunday Express, disguised in a burqa (er, Ridley, not the Express), when she was captured by the Taliban. Being a chick with high PR potential, she was treated with minimum brutality.

You may also remember that she wrote---or, rather, emitted---a book on the experience. Now, as Fred says, those of you who have not read this, go do so immediately. Those of you who have will not be hurt by reading it again. Here are a few teasers.

The Independent's headline for this reads:

Friday. Fell off donkey. Captured by Taliban. V. scary

One chapter, "Carrying On up the Khyber", tells of how she almost shot dead several soldiers when her scarf got caught in the semiautomatic she was holding while posing in a very "Boadicea-like manner" for a photograph. Then there's the hangover she suffered after a particularly heavy night drinking, and the yell of "Flaming Nora" (while posing as a deaf mute) she emitted when her donkey bolted during her fateful attempt to get back into Pakistan. As she reached for its reins, her camera swung into view, and she was arrested.

If there isn't a drink called a "Flaming Nora", there ought to be. And if there isn't a...something---a mountain range, a nebula, a wrestling hold---called "Ridley's Ass", I'll discover one.

But what puts the book into a league of its own is Ridley's claim that Western intelligence agencies tried to get her killed while she was imprisoned to bolster public support for the air strikes on Afghanistan...."[F]rankly, I've seen this sort of thing happen to other people, and the first thing that's done to them is they are marginalised and made out to be total crackpots."


Who does she think is out to get her? "The contacts I've got say it's got the clumsy hands of the Americans all over it," she says darkly. "But then those contacts would say that. Other people think it's Mossad. I've got no idea.

Oh, hey. No need to tell us that.

The worst moment was when her guard went to find a woman to search her before locking her up, and she thought she was going to be stoned to death.

As she had been on so many occasions...

When not being questioned, she was on a permanent hunger strike, doing yoga, reading Ken Follett and being bloody minded to the guards (which included hanging her knickers out to dry in full view). She believes she was released because the press coverage was embarrassing the Taliban regime.

I suspect the Taliban figured there could be no better poster child for their views on women.

Be sure and read about her daughter, Daisy, and how she was conceived, and who her father was. Poor little thing. Oops, there's that pity coming on again. Must go eat some raw meat.

Ridley is now (supposedly) in the process of converting to Islam.

I must seek out Ridley's book. It came out at the end of 2001, so surely some copies have percolated to used bookstores by now.

But the reason Fred brings her to our attention at this time is because she's at some sort of conference, displaying shocking ignorance of, or indifference to, recent history. Unfortunately, the link Fred gives (in the title of his post) doesn't seem to go to anything useful. If there's an article there, it's not showing up in my browser, nor can I see it in the page source.

Whatever it was, Fred repeats some of it, but you've heard it all: Guantanamo is worse than a Taliban prison; sanctions are killing millions of Iraqi babies; Afghanistan is no better off; take it from one who knows the score/Osama bin Laden is winning the war.

Another society would make an epic poem of September 11 and its aftermath (which we are still in today). This being America, we will of course make movies out of it. Will it be a linear series of films? Or will it be like WWII movies, which usually focus on individual (if sometimes sweeping) events.

There will of course be dramas. September 11 itself must be one, as well as the Taliban war. Gulf War II will almost certainly be a drama as well.

But there will also be comedies. I wonder if WWII was as rich in comedy as the events of the past 18 months. I can't remember too many WWII comedies, and none that were based on real events.

But our era is blessed. Besides the saga of Yvonne Ridley we have:

John Simpson's liberation of Kabul (see also here)
Naked protesters
Non-naked naked protesters
Celebrity Goofballs Against the War
The ongoing human shield circus.
Comical Arab League Insult Exchange

If jkrank plays his cards right, maybe he can direct a few.