Monday, August 10, 2009

Hostage Taking

By Alan Caruba

The taking of hostages is so commonplace that we only take notice when a former President of the United States is compelled to be an accomplice to a “photo op” in order to free two Americans.

Why the two young women thought they could enter the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea without extensive prior negotiations with this nation of international thugs defies understanding, but that they worked for former Vice President Al Gore’s television channel, Current, adds to the mystery. They caused their government a lot of trouble.

I am increasingly of the opinion that Americans who put themselves at such unnecessary and generally stupid risk should be left to suffer whatever fate befalls them. While the State Department can and should initiate efforts to get them out, going out of our way to accommodate rogue regimes hardly seems worth it.

Contrast this with the young Israeli, Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since his capture in 2006. Yes, three years ago. In July, Hamas said that Israel has to release more than 1,000 Arab and Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinians so routinely have taken Israeli soldiers hostage that it is part of the “normal” relations that exist and Israel has in the past traded large numbers of terrorist prisoners for one or more of their own soldiers.

Iran is currently holding three American hikers hostage who they say strayed into their territory. Our troubles with Iran began in 1979 when that nation broke every international law by taking 53 American diplomats hostage and holding them for 444 days. Hostage taking is their idea of initiating a dialogue. It is what passes for diplomacy with these thugs.

If the United States wasn’t so damned civilized, I would love to see us take Mamoud Ahmadinejad hostage the next time he attends a United Nations meeting and Hugo Chavez, too. We could liberate two entire nations if we did. And it might cut down on Barack Obama’s travel plans. He’d have to do all his apologizing for America from the White House.

In July three members of Iran’s elite Quds Force, a unit of Iran’s military and intelligence establishment, who were seized in Iraq by the United States forces and held for more than two years were turned over to Iraq and returned to Iran. We were, however, engaged in a war at the time and Iran has been manufacturing the devices that kill our soldiers, so these guys were prisoners of war.

It strikes me that we live in a world not that dissimilar to earlier, more primitive times, in which taking hostages was an ordinary aspect of discourse between tribes or governments or just gangs seeking bargaining tools who just happen to be human beings.

It can be argued that a superpower like the United States cannot afford to stand by idly when our people are taken hostage. If we do, we’re told, it undermines our perceived power to do something about it, but generally speaking the U.S. always negotiates as opposed to staging a military action that could trigger the hostage’s murder and other ramifications. When Jimmy Carter finally got around to doing anything, the military mission was a disaster.

The Guantanamo quandary of prisoners taken on the field of battle will likely be resolved by the Obama administration by letting most of them go, although that has encountered difficulties because few nations want to accept them on any terms. Even U.S. states have made it known they do not want them in their prisons. They are not, however, hostages. They are “enemy combatants” swept up in an “asymmetric war” where the enemy does not wear a uniform.

Clearly, hostage taking cannot be taken lightly. Much of the world depends on tourist travel and, for that, tourists need to be confident they will not be seized and/or killed. Even so, I doubt many tourists are visiting the Sudan or Somalia these days. Mexico is a hotbed of kidnappings, but they seem to leave the touristas alone for the most part. However, if you are making travel plans, you can feel confident visiting Switzerland or Vatican City.

Hostage taking is, of course, not a joking matter, but it has been so much a part of history that, unless you are a valuable bargaining chip for some nation or group, you can and should pretty much kiss your rear end goodbye if they grab you.

Don’t expect for it to end any time in your lifetime or beyond.


Clive Graham Smale said...

Hostage-taking, today, is as desirable as it has been throughout history. The same motives apply; monetary ransom, keeping to an agreement, lifting a siege, protection, assurances, pressure, reaction, etc. However, never has its motives or memories reached so far back in time as those of Islam towards Christianity.
The Crusades form a backdrop that has been used to this day as an excuse to which Islam responds and reacts.
In 1187 the Third Crusade began as the Muslim leader, Saladin, re-conquered Jerusalem and expelled the Christians, “without a bloodbath, destruction or hatred”, followed by the beginning of the conquest by King Philip II of France and Richard I (The Lionheart) of England in 1190 to win … “land, plunder and Glory” recapturing the Holy Land as their goal in which the siege of Acre would be critical, especially for Saladin.
He assumed that when God gave him Egypt he also included in the package Palestine as well.
It is well to remember that The Crusades were not only military adventures but also a pious and holy observation endorsed by the Holiest Office in Christendom. The Christian mindset demanded a no-compromise response to Islam’s onslaught; to expel the Muslim Infidel from Christendom at a real cost to the West.
After a two-year siege, it was Philip and Richard who ousted Saladin from Acre, an important city for Christians. The siege and Saladin’s defeat – and its aftermath - would affect the future and attitude of Islamic power in the Middle East.
In 1191 Saladin surrendered the city of Acre; his motives were that he valued his people over that of a mere stone edifice and to secure honourable terms of surrender for his people.
The terms of this peace agreement form a crucial link to Muslim hostage taking to this day; the mindset of the two civilizations appears to have changed little over the succeeding centuries.
Along with the surrender of the city (Acre), five-hundred Christian captives were to be handed over, plus a very large sum of gold bezants. Significantly, some two thousand seven hundred Muslims would remain captive; one hundred of the city's richest, most prominent people would remain hostage. The return of the Holy Cross was paramount in Richard’s demands in return for the hostages to the city.
Saladin failed to abide by the terms of the surrender and the one hundred rich hostages were put to death as the agreed date for the Holy Cross hand-over, and that of the five hundred Christian prisoners, passed.
As the peace treaty was un-fulfilled Richard was now empowered to “kill the garrison.”
This is the time that Muslims remember and forever are to exact vengeance on Christians, viz:
On 21st August, 1191 Richard I, The Lionheart, the victor over a Muslin army of domination, exacted his right of the Terms of Surrender – he marched out of the city of Acre the two thousand seven hundred Muslim prisoners and, one-by-one, executed each and every one of them.
Saladin’s fall and the outcome of the siege of Acre was a turning point that would have an effect on Islamic history into the future. Richard and Saladin did eventually reach an accord at the end of the Third Crusade in 1192.
That the Mongols upset the applecart in 1244 is another phase in the story of wanton head-lopping in the history of the hostage.
Frequently these days the Crusades are used as an excuse for justifying acts of barbarity often portrayed on video. That anyone could assume that Islam is moderating they should read history as know that it will never end.

The Importance of the Siege of Acre during the Third Crusade, 1189-1192 - Susan Woodson

The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades.

Jesse said...

Wow, great history. Thank you.

I think it a bit odd how we have 2 different sets of hostages. One in Iran and the other in Korea at the same time. Both our sworn enemies! At least the Korean was sort of resolved, but what were they doing there in the first place? What was the ransom that the US paid?
Now, we're going to see a weak government negotiate with thugs in Iran for our other hostages. This will be interesting to watch.
How many gold bezants will they pay to get them back? Perhaps, he (the Obamanation)will throw Israel under the bus again?

Any weakness on this hoaxter's part will encourage our enemies.

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;" - Shakespeare-As You Like It-Act II, Scene 7

Alan Caruba said...

We are weak only in resolve so long as Obama is President and Commander-in-Chief.

Had Carter made it clear he intended to bomb Tehran, we wouldn't have had to wait 444 days to get our hostages back.

The new hostages may well be kept a very long time as a shield against either American or Israeli attack. It won't work. Eventually Americans will demand their return.