03 July 2008

The courage of the defenders

15 hostages freed from leftist FARC guerillas in "audacious" rescue by Columbian commandos:

American Hostages Rescued in Colombia Arrive in U.S. After Rebels Tricked

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said military intelligence agents infiltrated the guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages, alias Cesar, to believe they were going to take them to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas' supreme leader, to discuss a possible hostage swap.

The hostages, who had been divided in three groups, were taken to a rendezvous with two disguised MI-17 helicopters piloted by Colombian military agents — one on the ground, the other hovering above. The choppers were painted white, without insignias.

Betancourt said her hands and feet were bound, which she called "humiliating."

At first she thought the pilots — a crew of four with nine "assistants" dressed in white — were from a relief organization. Then she saw their Che Guevara shirts and assumed they were rebels.

Only when they were airborne did she notice that Cesar, who had treated her so cruelly for so many years, was naked and blindfolded on the floor.

"The chief of the operation said, `We're the national army. You're free,"' she said.

A WSJ Op Ed notes:

Mr. Uribe did everything he could to win a negotiated settlement, even freeing a high-level FARC comandante at the behest of Mr. Sarkozy. But Mr. Uribe refused to abandon the hard-won gains of his military over the past six years by surrendering territory to the rebels, which was their key demand. For this he was assailed by his political adversaries and Mr. Sarkozy. Democrats in Washington also got into the act, working behind the scenes to put pressure on the Colombian government.

Having dealt with the rebels for so many years, Mr. Uribe knew better than to count on the FARC negotiating in good faith. His determination has now paid off in a dramatic hostage rescue without paying any further political ransom.

When talking fails, it's time to execute with the language of last resort.

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