Thursday, July 3, 2008

Story of the Week - June 30-July 4

A day early, cause of that holiday thing.

A couple of my favorite July 4 facts:
  1. George M. Cohan, the man who wrote the song "Born on the Fourth of July", was born on July 3, 1878.
  2. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, political rivals and the country's 2nd and 3rd presidents, both died on the same day - July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
  3. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution declaring "these United Colonies are, and of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States." But it says July 4th on the Declaration, so we go with that.
On to story of the week, which I call:

FARC: Funniest name of an extremist left-wing insurgent terrorist group ever!

FARC , the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is widely recognized as a terrorist cell, or a group of gangster thugs perhaps, have had a stranglehold on the legitimate Colombian government for decades and control most of the region's lucrative and criminal cocaine production. FARC is the reason the U.S. sends billions of dollars in aid to Colombia in the name of drug prevention.

FARC has hundreds of people held hostage deep in the Colombian jungle. And this week, they have 15 fewer, thanks to a stunningly awesome rescue by the Colombian army and US forces there.

Two things strike me about the hostage rescue: 1. the way it happened is a deliciously good story. and 2. the fact that there have been American hostages in Colombia for years, and we hardly ever hear about them.

So first, the rescue. Here's how it happened. Government agents spent months working their way into FARC ranks. They gained the trust of the rebels, got themselves promoted to levels where they could learn the inner workings of the organization, and put themselves in positions of power.

Then the agents proposed a plan to move 15 hostages from three different locations deep in the jungle to one rendezvous point 90 miles away, telling their FARC friends that an international mission was coming to visit the hostages.

More government agents posing as FARC rebels met the 60 or so real FARC rebels and the 15 hostages at the rendezvous point via helicopter. The helicopter crew handcuffed the hostages and took them aboard, along with two of the 60 guards. The helicopter took off. When it was safely off the ground, the government agents knocked out the 2 FARC guards, cuffed them, then uncuffed the hostages and told them they were free.

It was a beautifully simple, perfectly executed bait-and-switch that could be a James Bond plot if it hasn't been already. As a result, FARC was humiliated and significantly weakened by the Colombian Government, which has been battling the terrorist group seemingly forever. Also, 3 of the hostages were American, and had spend nearly 5 years in FARC prison camps.

That's right, five years. I bet you hadn't heard about that.

It's my understanding that during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979-81, when over 50 Americans were held hostage at the embassy in Tehran, ABC created a nightly news cast devoted to all developments in the effort to bring them home. Today, it's called Nightline.
Every night, Ted Koppel gave Americans a daily reminder that there were Americans in captivity abroad. That crisis lasted 444 days.

These guys in Colombia were there for 5 years! How has there been no outrage? Or at least, some news on the situation, some effort to get them back? It doesn't make sense. And worst of all, there are more of them, still being held deep in the Colombian jungle, by a group of terrorists.

I don't know if we can expect more daring rescues any time soon, but we should be working on it, especially if we're supposed to be fighting a "global war on terror." Not all terrorists speak Arabic. Some of them speak Spanish and grow cocaine.

And have a silly acronym. FARC!

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