A Hostage's Release
To the Editor:
In “Syria: The Cuba of the Middle East?” [July], Daniel Pipes cites my experience as an American hostage. He claims, first, that I “was abducted with Syrian complicity, for how else could [I] havebeen taken from Beirut to Iran?” And, second, he implies that Syria arranged my release to prevent an American-Syrian confrontation “just when Washington was most angry about Syrian rejection of the U.S.-arranged accord between Israel and Lebanon.”
In fact, I have reason to believe that Syria was not involved in my abduction. As for my release, although the Syrian government obviously expected recognition for its role, the process which led to this successful end was sufficiently lengthy and complicated to make me seriously doubt that it was timed with a specific U.S.-Syrian imbroglio in view. Unless Daniel Pipes has access to evidence unavailable to me, his statements about my case are purely speculative and hence questionable.
David S. Dodge
Princeton, New Jersey
Daniel Pipes writes:
While I respect David S. Dodge’s views, both because he is a fine scholar of the Middle East and because he is the person directly involved, I must differ with his assessment of his own case.
The reasons to believe that the Syrian government had a hand in his abduction are compelling: not only do Syrian forces control nearly all of Lebanon, but to pass from Lebanon to Iran Mr. Dodge had to go through Syria. Mr. Dodge’s protest that he “has reason” to believe that Syria was not involved may be sufficient for him, but is not evidence for the rest of us.
On the issue of Damascus’s intent in releasing Mr. Dodge, “lengthy and complicated” negotiations do not preclude a political purpose to the timing of his release. Quite the contrary: the more involved the talks, the more the hostage-holders can manipulate the resolution. This was dramatically illustrated when the Iranian government released the U.S. embassy hostages just as President Reagan was being sworn into office. No one can argue that the timing of their release was coincidence, though the negotiations in this case were yet lengthier and much more complex than those for Mr. Dodge.