I have all ways understood that the United States does not pay ransom to terrorist nor will the government negotiate with hostage takers. Other countries do not adhere to this doctrine and Nations such as Israel have traded as many as one thousand jailed Palestinians for the release of one Israeli soldier. Prisoner swaps have taken place but these are soldiers of one country being traded for soldiers of another country and a soldier is not taken as a hostage to be used as a bargaining chip. This has now become rare if not totally non-existent.
This rejection of hostage negotiation is based on respect for America and the understanding that anyone harming Americans will feel the full brunt of American retribution. Unfortunately America has lost its’ luster and in many circles we are no longer being viewed with the relevance that we once had.
Recently private Berghaff was released by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The price for his release was five terrorist leaders that were imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. In an effort to smooth over this action the administration noted that the terrorist were old men and they would be kept under house arrest in Qatar. What wasn’t noted was the psychological victory that the Taliban and other terrorist organizations gained from this action. The statement that the released terrorist would not be allowed to leave Qatar is not valid either. Their access to a telephone and computer gives them all the communication they need to provide guidance to their terrorist organizations. We will wait for the military judicial system to determine if the United States government negotiated with a terrorist organization for the release of a captured soldier or a deserter that walked out on his unit.
Since the Berghoff incident has come and for the most part disappeared from the media, other horrific incidents have transpired that involved Americans. In a gesture that smacked of “in your face Obama” two American journalist were horribly decapitated; the filming of which was broadcast around the world via social media. No longer was the fear of retribution by the most powerful Nation even considered. As dastardly was this act of violence against innocent Americans, there is another part of this that is distressful.
A mother’s love is unconditional and any loving mother will do whatever is required to save the life of her child. John Foley’s mother was no exception. Her son had been captured in Syria trying to bring the story of the Syrian revolution to the world. She agonized as she awaited the fate of her son. America had tried one rescue attempt but unfortunately the prisoners had been moved and the attempt failed. Foley’s mother decided that she would take the initiative and attempt to have her son released. She attempted to raise the money to pay a ransom for the release of her son. Enter the United States Government, the same government that had paid a ransom for the release of Berghoff. They informed Foley’s mother that she would be arrested and prosecuted for aiding a terrorist organization if she continued trying to obtain the release of her son by paying a ransom. She stopped and at a later time had to endure the anguish of hearing how her son died.
The idea that our government will not negotiate is good and displays the resilience of our country; as long as we back this up with the strength of America and the terrorist understand they are going to face the full force of a freedom loving country. On the other hand, does our government have the right to dictate what citizens do to obtain freedom for loved ones when the country has failed them?
When I was in Saudi Arabia I was on a large project that was under construction by Brown and Root. I heard the story of two supervisors that were on the project. Years earlier one of the men was working on a B&R project in Columbia. He and a co-worker were captured by some obscure group and taken into the mountains. One died of natural caused. The other was being held for ransom. He actually became friendly with his captures and his proposed executioner. They negotiated how he would be executed and instead of a head shot he would be shot in the heart. This was against the recommendations of his identified executioner. B&R followed the American strategy and would not pay ransom but the employees were not bound by this requirement and the word went out worldwide to the employees for assistance. Several days later an American boarded a commercial flight to Bogata carrying a paper bag filled with thousands of dollars. He made contact with the kidnapers, turned over the ransom and his friend was free. I met both of these men on the project in Arabia as they told their interesting story.
My how the world has changed.


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