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Thread: Drugs & US Law Enforcement (2006-2017)

  1. #101
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    USIP, 17 Jun 08: Colombia's Crossroads: The FARC and the Future of the Hostages
    In the wake of the death of Manuel Marulanda Vélez, co-founder of the FARC, and his succession by Antonio Cano, longtime FARC political wing leader, Colombia stands at a crossroads. FARC spokespersons have renewed their vows to carry on their deceased leader’s fight and Cano may seek short-term military victories to bolster his internal support. However, a window of opportunity for peace with the world’s oldest guerrilla fighting force may simultaneously be opening.....
    The Economist, 12 Jun 08: The End of Illusion and the Last Guerrilla
    ....The tough line Colombia has taken with the right-wing warlords makes a peace deal with their left-wing counterparts harder. The FARC's leaders, too, have committed crimes against humanity, and some of them traffic drugs. So they now have little incentive to demobilise. Some Colombians say the best place for the FARC's leaders is jail. That is true, but the best can be the enemy of the good. Though the FARC can no longer destroy Colombia's democracy, fighting to the last guerrilla is in nobody's interest. Ending this conflict will require compromise as well as continued military firmness.....

  2. #102
    Council Member jonSlack's Avatar
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    Default Colombia: Betancourt, US Hostages Freed

    AP - Colombia: Betancourt, US hostages freed

    BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia's military says it has rescued 15 hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors, from leftist rebels.

    Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos made the announcement at a news conference on Wednesday.
    Just saw this on CNN as Breaking News. Cannot find much on the Internet as of yet. MTF.

    Currently, it is being reported that the hostages were rescued in a military operation as opposed to being released.
    "In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." - Eric Hoffer

  3. #103
    Council Member Wildcat's Avatar
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    Noticed that, too. Great news. Makes me wish I had a bottle of Club Colombia so I could celebrate properly.

  4. #104
    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Default Coke Submarines con't

    UNDERSEA TRAFFICKING:Colombia's Cocaine Cartels Learn a New Trick, By Cordula Meyer. Spiegal Online, 06/27/2008.
    Columbian authorities have found seven of the secret shipyards since 2007. In each shipyard, 15 workers spent up to a year building a single boat. They built the hulls and then installed the engines and propellers. A boat agents managed to seize last summer before it was sunk measured 17 meters (56 feet) long and weighed 46 tons. There were 10 tons of cocaine in the vessel's hold.
    SPIEGEL ONLINE speaks to Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joseph L. Nimmich about the increasingly sophisticated methods employed by the drug cartels.
    Nimmich: In 2006 we became more effective against the fishing vessel threat, one of their primary conveyances of large quantities of cocaine. As we got better against that, they refined the semi-submersibles. We talk in terms of three generations of semi-submersibles. The new ones have steel construction, two engines, larger capability, more fuel, and greater distance capability. They can go longer distances by themselves. Between 3,000 and 3,500 miles (4,800 and 5,000 kilometers).
    The first generation subs found in 1999 were around 78ft, and Russian nationals were involved in the construction. See:
    The Submarine Next Door, by Kirk Semple. The New York Times Magazine, December 3, 2000.

    Before that, in the mid-nineties some Russian mob guys out of Miami were taken down by the Feds, at the time they were in negotiations with a cartel to provide an old Soviet diesel sub fully crewed. They had already sold some heavy lift helicopters to the cartels to run chemicals out to labs in the jungle, so the deal was reportedly taken pretty seriously by the Feds at the time.

  5. #105
    Council Member jonSlack's Avatar
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    Default WaPo - Colombia Rescues Hostages Held by Guerrilla Group for Years

    Washington Post - Colombia Rescues Hostages Held by Guerrilla Group for Years

    Santos said the rescue, dubbed Operation Jaque and carried out by Colombian military intelligence, began with the infiltration of a FARC squad commanded by guerrilla known as Cesar. The squad has controlled a group of hostages in recent years, he said. Jaque is a Spanish chess term meaning "check."

    In a ruse in which Cesar was told the hostages were to be flown to a meeting with the FARC commander known as Alfonso Cano, the hostages were brought together and put on board a helicopter supposedly operated by a humanitarian organization, Santos said. In fact, the organization was fictitious, and the helicopter belonged to the Colombian army, he said.

    While the hostages were flown to freedom, Cesar and another member of his squad who were to accompany them to the meeting were "neutralized in the helicopter" and will be brought to justice, the defense minister said.
    Wow. How disrupted must command and control and overall communications within FARC be to allow an operation like that to succeed? Or is it more likely that "Cesar" is now going to disappear into a Witness Protection Program with full amnesty?

    As for about 15 other members of Cesar's squad, as well as other FARC guerrillas a few kilometers away, "we decided not to attack them" in hopes that the rebel group will reciprocate by releasing the rest of its hostages, Santos said.
    I wonder what those 15 are doing, and thinking, right now...
    "In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." - Eric Hoffer

  6. #106
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Default Surprised not more SWJ attention to Columbia. . .

    . . . I know we are a very (and probably rightly) ME-focused community, but I think the Betancourt rescue has some serious implications for the future of the Colombian Civil War:

    - Is this a fair assessment of the current state of the FARC? FARC was long considered nearly impervious to the type of infiltration that pulled off this operation. They have rapidly wavering support among the villagers in the ever-shrinking areas it controls, it has taken big hits in 2008 (Raul Reyes KIA; the discovery of its Chavez ties; Sureshot dead) already, and it is widely considered a vestige of political movements gone by (even though it always was a Marxist-lite operation). Usually infiltrations of guerrilla groups lead to major counterintelligence purges and witch-hunts in the group itself; FARC is slipping so much it may not be able to afford an overzealous purge.

    - Uribe's popularity - no longer just in Bogota but nationwide is extraordinarily high (70% + in many areas), and likely to continue to rise in the coming months. The support for his continued prosecution of the war is at an all-time high, and concerns over continued corruption in Bogota, the struggles against the coca crops, and his increased centralization of power in the presidency (plus coming Constitutional issues as he contemplates messing with the election cycle) will likely fade for a time, particularly among the international community.

    - The Colombian military would not have been capable of this operation 10 years ago. Maybe not even 5. The OPSEC required for this kind of operation simply didn't exist in a military riddled with both leftist and paramilitary informants. It also shows a good deal of daring, planning abilities, and - perhaps most importantly - patience on the part of Colombian command. Probably makes Chavez glad he didn't pick a fight earlier this year.

    So, what is the future outlook? Particularly, 3 questions:

    - Latin American geopolitics. Colombia has faced a lost of ostracizing within the Latin American community, particularly as it has grown closer to the US while the rest of LA moves away since 9/11. It's appearance as the US local lapdog may not change, but it becomes harder to ignore the fact that it is a capable and powerful "lapdog" that is winning its civil war. Do the pro/anti Washington dynamics at work change as Colombia becomes recognized more and more as it's own, viable state?

    - What impact will this have on the drug trade? FARC's shrinking support base is a great opportunity to take control - not just spray and fly away - of many coca-producing areas. But if the Colombians aren't prepared to administer the alternative-development assistance that these small farmers will require, they never will gain their true allegiance to Bogota.

    - Will the US follow up its massive and apparently effective military aid with a new developmental assistance program? "Plan Colombia" was proposed by the Pastrana administration as largely an economic aid program, a "Marshall Plan" for Colombia, as it were. It became, thanks to the Republican congress (and later the Bush administration) a largely military aid program. Washington, I believe, needs to be prepared to (1) provide a large amount of economic development aid if the war continues to go Bogota's way, and (2) renew pressure on Uribe's administration to respect human rights, fight the corruption in Bogota, and not take advantage of the political moment to fiddle with the Constitution.

    Looking at that, it looks kind of like a call that the war is over - it most definitely is not, so my apologies if it sounds so. But I think we need to start thinking about the next stage; after all, our involvement in Colombia has always been predicated upon counternarcotics - and defeating the FARC may not put much of a dent, at least immediately, on the drug trade.

    Regards,

    Matt
    Last edited by MattC86; 07-04-2008 at 09:43 PM. Reason: Colombia - not Columbia
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

  7. #107
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    ISN Security Watch 7 Jul 08: FARC's Revolution is Over
    .....FARC has lost international political support from Chavez and Castro, its two most outspoken supporters. Chavez will likely not make any public overture to support the FARC again.

    Its support base inside Colombia has long been lost. The guerrilla army clearly struggles with attrition, facilitating the infiltration of Colombian commandos with enough swagger to wear Che Guevara t-shirts during their rescue operation. But they earned it. Not one shot was reportedly fired.

    The FARC of old, of even two years ago, is forever lost. What was once a formidable, organized and confident rebel army has ebbed to nearly half its size and operational strength.

    Its high-water mark will never again be reached, a reality that possibly has FARC leader Alfonso Cano considering options for downsizing into a smaller group, one specifically focused on the drug trade and avoiding any confrontation with the Colombian military or government installations.

    What was once a glorious rebel army with a clear socialist conscious came relatively close to its ultimate goal, overthrowing the Colombian government. Now it must embrace its reality as simply another Colombian drug smuggling organization....

  8. #108
    Council Member Wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    ISN Security Watch 7 Jul 08: FARC's Revolution is Over
    What was once a glorious rebel army with a clear socialist conscious came relatively close to its ultimate goal, overthrowing the Colombian government. Now it must embrace its reality as simply another Colombian drug smuggling organization....
    I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth...

  9. #109
    Council Member Wildcat's Avatar
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    I want to attempt to address some of the things MattC86 brought up:

    Is this a fair assessment of the current state of the FARC? ... Yes. They're on their last leg, even before the hostages were rescued, even before they put Marulanda on ice, FARC was reeling from Plan Colombia and Democratic Security (Uribe's domestic policy). I was pretty critical of some parts of Plan Colombia, mainly the use of chemical defoliants which seemed to exacerbate the plight of IDPs (internally displaced persons), but it allowed the CAF to finally come into their own, to the point where they were able to pinpoint FARC leaders for strikes, and to pull off the Betancourt rescue. In my mind, Plan Colombia has been vindicated, and I hope this generates some interest in Congress for broadening our avenues for trade and investment with Colombia. I also hope it may serve to convince some people of the need for patience and political will when it comes to defeating insurgencies. There's still a ways to go, though. Demobilizing the rest of the guerrillas, reintegrating them into society if possible, as well as not forgetting the presence of the paras and the ever-present drug trade.

    I would say the real winner here was Democratic Security, and, as a result, Uribe. He's been maligned by a few neighboring heads of state, but he has shown Latin America the true meaning of "staying the course." He got tough with the guerrillas and paras, but he also go smart. Offering them chances to demobilize and reintegrate were critical in taking the wind from their sails. If I were him, I would go out gracefully once his term is up. I know a lot of Colombianos are pushing for him to take another term, but he needs to quit while he's ahead. Continue to root out corruption (which some of his own family have been involved in) and do as much damage to the guerrillas as he can before his successor takes over.

    The Colombian military has matured quite well. Not really much else to say. I wish I knew more about Operation Jaque, but on the surface it looks like a pretty sophisticated plan, and they pulled it off without a hitch, and without a shot fired in anger. They are disciplined veterans at this point. Chavez and Correa would do well to avoid tangling with them, I think.

    As to the Washington dynamics, like I said, I hope it changes. Congress has been blocking some initiatives based on concerns over Uribe's human rights record, and probably out of a sense that Plan Colombia was going nowhere. Hopefully recent events will turn some heads. Several Latin American countries are modernizing and enlarging their militaries. I saw a recent Economist article that cited huge defense spending boosts in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Brazil. It's probably in our best interests to see Colombia stay on top of the heap.

    I don't think Washington's involvement in Colombia has always been predicated on drug interdiction. We've had our hands in Colombian affairs since the Panama Canal was being built. We were assisting the CAF in counter-guerrilla operations as early as the 1960s, before the drug trade really blossomed, because that's when communist revolutions were in vogue. The drug trade merely became a nice pretext for escalating our involvement since it just happened to coincide with the rise of the FARC in the late 60s and early 70s. I think it's always been about keeping a stable democratic ally in a region that is prone to violent political upheavals. Realpolitik, my friends, realpolitik...

    That being said, it will be tough to uproot the drug trade. One need only take a glance at Afghanistan to see the obstacles. The good news is that Colombia already has the infrastructure needed to pull it off. It's just a matter of locking down security for those areas by pushing out the FARC, and then letting NGOs fill the vacuum to start alternative development projects.

    I think the war is winding down. Chavez and Correa can't afford to be implicated any further in supporting the guerrillas, and the FARC themselves have ceased to be a threat. It's time for them to either melt into the jungle, or melt back into civil society.
    Last edited by Wildcat; 07-07-2008 at 07:28 PM.

  10. #110
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Default Good stuff, Wildcat. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Wildcat View Post

    Is this a fair assessment of the current state of the FARC? ... Yes. They're on their last leg, even before the hostages were rescued, even before they put Marulanda on ice, FARC was reeling from Plan Colombia and Democratic Security (Uribe's domestic policy). I was pretty critical of some parts of Plan Colombia, mainly the use of chemical defoliants which seemed to exacerbate the plight of IDPs (internally displaced persons), but it allowed the CAF to finally come into their own, to the point where they were able to pinpoint FARC leaders for strikes, and to pull off the Betancourt rescue.
    Agreed. It does serve to reinforce the value of high-visibility, propaganda victories like the Betancourt rescue - most of the world was not particularly aware of the state of the Colombian Civil War. Coverage has gone from the "intractable" struggle between rebel groups and the government to a widespread perception that FARC is dying. Like I suggested, I think this will give Uribe a lot more breathing room in the international community - far less pressure for a settlement or anything of the sort.

    In my mind, Plan Colombia has been vindicated, and I hope this generates some interest in Congress for broadening our avenues for trade and investment with Colombia. I also hope it may serve to convince some people of the need for patience and political will when it comes to defeating insurgencies. There's still a ways to go, though. Demobilizing the rest of the guerrillas, reintegrating them into society if possible, as well as not forgetting the presence of the paras and the ever-present drug trade.
    Here's where it gets dicey. Once again, suppressing the symptoms (i.e., the armed rebellion) will prove easier than curing the disease. The landless and peasant classes, in many parts of the country, have been hostile to the governments in Bogota since Gaitan's assassination in 1948. Just because they no longer support an ideologically obsolete (and never particularly pure) rebellion any longer does not mean their complete support for the state, nor ensure against further rebellion or illicit behavior if allegiance to Bogota does not improve their economic state. A development package along the original lines of Plan Colombia, at least, is going to be needed. Perhaps finally all the disciples of "alternative development" who've been crying their programs don't work because of security conerns will get their chance to make good. But the cash needs to be there, from Bogota and internationally.

    And as far as trade, the neo-protectionism in the Democratic party right now (which I believe will win both the White House and maintain considerable majorities in both houses) along with knee-jerk anti-Bush reactions means not only is the Colombia FTA DOA right now, but I doubt you will see it passed in the next four years. That's a big hit for the Colombians.

    And Lord knows what will happen with the paramilitaries. One would hope that the demise of FARC leads to their buddies in the CAF abandoning this marriage of convenience, but I fear it will not be so. And the paras have their fingers as deep into the coca trade as FARC ever did. . .


    I would say the real winner here was Democratic Security, and, as a result, Uribe. He's been maligned by a few neighboring heads of state, but he has shown Latin America the true meaning of "staying the course." He got tough with the guerrillas and paras, but he also go smart. Offering them chances to demobilize and reintegrate were critical in taking the wind from their sails. If I were him, I would go out gracefully once his term is up. I know a lot of Colombianos are pushing for him to take another term, but he needs to quit while he's ahead. Continue to root out corruption (which some of his own family have been involved in) and do as much damage to the guerrillas as he can before his successor takes over.
    Concur, particularly on the corruption issue.

    The Colombian military has matured quite well. Not really much else to say. I wish I knew more about Operation Jaque, but on the surface it looks like a pretty sophisticated plan, and they pulled it off without a hitch, and without a shot fired in anger. They are disciplined veterans at this point. Chavez and Correa would do well to avoid tangling with them, I think.
    The US should take some serious lessons from its aid to the Colombian military - the turnaround has been dramatic, and relatively rapid. I've spent a few cursory moments looking for more complete information on US military aid, but haven't found exactly what I'm looking for.


    As to the Washington dynamics, like I said, I hope it changes. Congress has been blocking some initiatives based on concerns over Uribe's human rights record, and probably out of a sense that Plan Colombia was going nowhere. Hopefully recent events will turn some heads. Several Latin American countries are modernizing and enlarging their militaries. I saw a recent Economist article that cited huge defense spending boosts in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Brazil. It's probably in our best interests to see Colombia stay on top of the heap.
    I think this is potentially dangerous. Latin America has a huge way to go economically, and seeing everybody shoot their military spending through the roof is not beneficial to any of that. Brazil is going to be the regional power in the long-run; they are already an economic "dwarf-giant," if you will, and their political power will rise in tandem. We should continue to support Colombia, but I just don't see the utility, for us, the Colombians, or anybody in Latin America from a new round of arms races caused by descent into competing "camps." In the long run, Brazil (especially), Argentina, Chile, and Colombia are the powers in LA, not Venezuela or Ecuador or Bolivia, no matter what Chavez and Morales would say.

    I don't think Washington's involvement in Colombia has always been predicated on drug interdiction. We've had our hands in Colombian affairs since the Panama Canal was being built. We were assisting the CAF in counter-guerrilla operations as early as the 1960s, before the drug trade really blossomed, because that's when communist revolutions were in vogue. The drug trade merely became a nice pretext for escalating our involvement since it just happened to coincide with the rise of the FARC in the late 60s and early 70s. I think it's always been about keeping a stable democratic ally in a region that is prone to violent political upheavals. Realpolitik, my friends, realpolitik...
    Indeed, but since the 1980s, the drug trade has been the watchword and political cover. And to a degree, even if FARC is defeated, our real goals will still coincide with counternarcotics. Economic development and eradication of the drug trade are going to require huge amounts of aid and effort.


    It's just a matter of locking down security for those areas by pushing out the FARC, and then letting NGOs fill the vacuum to start alternative development projects.

    I think the war is winding down. Chavez and Correa can't afford to be implicated any further in supporting the guerrillas, and the FARC themselves have ceased to be a threat. It's time for them to either melt into the jungle, or melt back into civil society.
    Indeed.

    But like I said, the fear is thinking the hard part is over. I think Africa shows that a bunch of NGOs running around the countryside doing their own alternative development is not going to be effective. The money is going to have to come from a lot of places, and the development strategy needs to be cohesive, which is not a traditional strongsuit of NGO-designed development projects. The US has poured billions into assistance for the Colombian military - it is vital that we continue to give generously for economic or "alternative" development.

    Regards,

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Unfortunately, looks like there's a downside to the rescue:
    Colombian military used Red Cross emblem in rescue

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question Although I understand the reason for concern

    Quote Originally Posted by mmx1 View Post
    Unfortunately, looks like there's a downside to the rescue:
    Colombian military used Red Cross emblem in rescue
    And it is a valid one, it brings to mind some questions .

    1- Have the FARC been respectful of Red Cross immunity in the past?
    (do they respect them and treat them as nuetral)

    2- How do we know this is that symbol, its is during the rescue vs recovery, it is an actual use for deception,etc?

    3- This isn't just spin trying to give a now probably very paranoid organization an excuse to trust noone / possibly take some softer targets hostage?
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    2- How do we know this is that symbol, its is during the rescue vs recovery, it is an actual use for deception,etc?
    At this point, it would appear from the footage that someone from the Columbian military was wearing an ICRC bib during the actual deception/rescue.

    If so, this is a very large no-no (and a violation of international humanitarian law), regardless of whether the FARC respects the red cross itself.

  14. #114
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    I think it is a pretty excessive leap of faith that some guy was wearing ICRC markings during the rescue attempt from the minimal evidence I saw displayed at the link. (F6 source and content eval from where I sit.) BTW, I thought the rescue operation was based on a deception--the rescuers were passing themselves off as FARC insurgents, come to move the captives to another location. So, if an ICRC marking was worn, perhaps that is a tactic used by FARC and was used by the rescuers to improve their credability as bad guys rather than to pass themselves off as ICRC personnel.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    I think it is a pretty excessive leap of faith that some guy was wearing ICRC markings during the rescue attempt from the minimal evidence I saw displayed at the link.
    The Columbians have now acknowledged that one of the rescue team wore ICRC insignia, apparently without/against orders (although I suspect this mistake was more of the "none of us really care" variety). According to published reports, the deception involved a fictitious humanitarian NGO facilitating the hostage transfer.

    Uribe has apologized to ICRC for the incident.

  16. #116
    Council Member Creon01's Avatar
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    Default Colombian Soldier Wore Red Cross Logo in Hostage Rescue

    This may seem like a good idea to some but I can't begin to explain why in the long term this is going to hurt the cause. Although I'm happy that these hostages are free, the use of well known humanitarian symbols as an integral part of the mission will feed into the belief that humanitarian NGOs, the UN and the Red Cross are all just tools of the US and full of spies. Does the end justify the means on this occasion? Hard to justify to me, but like I said I’m happy to see these guys back home.
    Sir...are you sure you want to do that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Creon01 View Post
    This may seem like a good idea to some but I can't begin to explain why in the long term this is going to hurt the cause. Although I'm happy that these hostages are free, the use of well known humanitarian symbols as an integral part of the mission will feed into the belief that humanitarian NGOs, the UN and the Red Cross are all just tools of the US and full of spies. Does the end justify the means on this occasion? Hard to justify to me, but like I said I’m happy to see these guys back home.
    That was a covert mission. They were obviously not wearing visible military uniforms as well. The kidnappers thought that the helicopter was a charter helicopter.
    I believe that's not covered by conventions.

    And everybody knows that NGO personnel, UN organization personnel, embassy personnel and journalists have a high probability of co-operation with interested nations. The IAEA inspectors that searched in Iraq during Saddam's time were full of MI6/CIA spies, for example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    That was a covert mission. They were obviously not wearing visible military uniforms as well. The kidnappers thought that the helicopter was a charter helicopter.
    I believe that's not covered by conventions.

    And everybody knows that NGO personnel, UN organization personnel, embassy personnel and journalists have a high probability of co-operation with interested nations. The IAEA inspectors that searched in Iraq during Saddam's time were full of MI6/CIA spies, for example.
    The ICRC is a different kettle of fish--the red cross insignia is protected under Chapter VI of the 1906 Geneva Convention (and subsequent IHL), and its misuse is a war crime.

  19. #119
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    And everybody knows that NGO personnel, UN organization personnel, embassy personnel and journalists have a high probability of co-operation with interested nations. The IAEA inspectors that searched in Iraq during Saddam's time were full of MI6/CIA spies, for example.
    Sorry you are wrong in that assertion. Everyone does not know that and to assert that embassy and NGO personnel are all part of the same group is ill-informed. The IAEA was an international group and its composition was openly discussed in the media. That is a completely different case from an ICRC worker in Columbia or elsewhere. In cases like the camps in Zaire, NGO workers rightly distanced themselves as a means of self-preservation.

    Tom

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    The Columbian government should have a "no comment" policy on everything about this operation. That is why it worked in the first place. Celebrate the release of the hostages, other than that be like Sgt. Shultz from Hoagans Heroes.... "I know nothing"

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