A U.S. commando raid over the weekend failed to free an American journalist held hostage by al-Qaida in a militant stronghold in Yemen. As U.S. forces closed in, the terrorists killed the journalist, Luke Somers, 33 and another hostage, South African teacher Pierre Korkie, 56.
Making this tragic turn of events even more wrenching: A South African aid group said it had negotiated to pay a reported $200,000 ransom for Korkie’s release, which was expected only hours before the raid.
In the aftermath, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the operation. “I don’t think it’s a matter of going back and having a review of our process,” he said. “Our process is about as thorough as there can be. Is it imperfect? Yes. Is there risk? Yes. But we start with the fact that we have an American that’s being held hostage and that American’s life is in danger, and that’s where we start. And then we proceed from there.”
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American officials say the failure to rescue Somers and Korkie won’t stop the U.S. from mounting similar missions as needed. Nor should it. A few days earlier an initial attempt to rescue Somers succeeded in freeing eight other hostages. U.S. forces also killed several al-Qaida operatives. Tragically, Somers had been moved before that operation took place.
Americans have grown accustomed to U.S. special operations forces swooping in to rescue hostages or take out terrorist leaders like Osama bin Laden. Think of, and be thankful for, the great courage it takes for U.S. forces to carry out such missions.
President Barack Obama, who has ordered a comprehensive review of U.S. policy governing efforts to free American hostages, still opposes the payment of ransoms, the White House said on Tuesday. President Barack Obama, who has ordered a comprehensive review of U.S. policy governing efforts to free American hostages, still opposes the payment of ransoms, the White House said on Tuesday.Read the story –>
President Barack Obama decided to launch this rescue mission because al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate had set a three-day deadline last week for a deal. Obama couldn’t take a chance that the terrorists were bluffing.
The U.S. refuses to negotiate ransom demands for kidnapped citizens, under the reasonable argument that a financial reward would encourage more kidnapping and underwrite terrorist activities. Some nations do pay. So do some international companies, under a sense of obligation and allegiance to workers in the field in dangerous locales.
That’s one reason kidnapping has turned into a lucrative revenue stream for al-Qaida, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and other terrorist groups. The New York Times reports that al-Qaida and its affiliates reaped at least $125 million in ransom money from kidnappings in the last six years.
The famous saying “an army marches on its stomach” applies to terrorist organizations too. They need money to support personnel and operations. The fastest way to cripple the ability to train and supply jihadists is to squeeze their access to capital. That’s why the U.S. and its allies have moved to recapture oil fields commandeered by the Islamic State and to squeeze private donors to stop contributing to the terrorists’ cause. And why the U.S. has failed to pay ransom demands.
Americans and other foreigners who work or volunteer in some Middle Eastern countries increasingly are targeted by jihadists. There’s more evidence of courage — humanitarian aid workers knowingly take that risk.
Americans being held by terrorists should expect their government will try to come to their rescue, but won’t pay for their release. Doing so would endanger countless more Americans and other foreign workers who knowingly — and admirably — accept dangerous assignments in hostile regions.
Though it failed, Americans should applaud the mission to save Luke Somers, and grieve that another American life has been taken by vicious people.
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