Wednesday, President Obama publicly announced that he is issuing an executive order that the U.S. government will no longer criminally prosecute families of American hostages for paying ransom.
In so doing, he created a public market for the selling of American citizens—and raised the price on their heads considerably.
In real life, no American family has ever been prosecuted for paying ransom; but apparently the president wants to make sure that the terrorists know for sure, and that they can get their money without that nasty FBI getting in the way.
We can’t have the families of hostages dealing in bad faith with the bad guys by using this piece of useful fiction.
Useful fiction is reserved for things like: If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor; We are truly sorry for the awful video that caused attacks on our embassies; and, Jonathan Gruber? — we never heard of that guy before Fox News made a big deal out of him.
Yep, lying is reserved for you — but we gotta be straight with ISIS.
Let’s cut Obama a break and suppose that he is doing this out of a misplaced humanitarian impulse. It is easy to understand where his heart is — if you don’t live in the real world.
Somehow he thinks this makes hostage families feel better. If their loved one is taken, and the asking price is $2,000,000 and they can write that check, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? This is a free country after all!
Look, we have always had the useful fiction that “the United States does not negotiate with terrorists,” when of course it does. Every police department also negotiates with hostage takers and kidnappers.
To soften the announcement, the administration added the meaningless qualifier that they would not change the policy of the government making concessions to those taking hostages, beyond say…five Taliban leaders. (Okay, his statement didn’t say anything about Taliban leaders, we added that part).
But this is why the administration forced the POW narrative onto the Bergdahl swap. They wanted to pretend as though this was in the tradition of trading prisoners going back to the Revolution. (Even though I doubt Eisenhower would have traded Goering, Himmler and Rommel for Eddie Slovik.)
But anyone who knows how government works know that this is a first step on the pathway to the U.S. entering into full-on blackmail payments by Uncle Sam.
This action is likely going to result in the children of wealthy people being kidnapped. Then money changes hands from the wealthiest Americans to the hostage takers.
Next the stakes go up.
How do we know the stakes go up? That’s what terrorists do.
Think about their pattern of behavior. They started by videotaping beheadings. We watched in horror, we screamed, we pounded the table, we demanded action. Several beheadings later we stopped watching, it was old news.
Next they set a pilot on fire (with full video production), and we repeated the process.
Now they are beheading tens of people at once just to get our attention; well they have it– until they need to escalate again, and they will just to keep the ratings up, thereby helping their recruitment.
Next, it’s take a child of a wealthy business guy hostage, demand money, get it. That is the first step on the pathway to negotiating with terrorists. If the citizens can do it, and the government is merely representative of the people, isn’t the government already, in a de facto way, negotiating by allowing private citizens to do so?
Then when the terrorists get to a price the wealthy business person can’t afford what happens next? The wealthy political donors run off and find ways to get the government to pay it.
Now we have the government doing the paying, and that is what the bad guys of the world want. They want access to the treasury of the United States. They also want our weapons, and military knowledge.
So let’s play that to the next possible step.
In our current warfare, the normal POW processes are almost meaningless. Despite the fact that we treat our prisoners according to the Geneva Conventions, they are not really covered. Un-uniformed combatants can actually be summarily executed (hasn’t anyone EVER seen a WWII movie?)
Special operations have been complicating this process since Vietnam. At least 50 Special Forces soldiers went missing in operations across the Laos and Cambodia borders, never to be heard from again. Lt. Commander Harry Dale, whose exploits formed the basis for our books The Forest of Assassins and China Bones, was told if he were captured in any of his operations the U.S. government would deny his existence.
As a veteran myself (Imholt) and having worked with those in more specialized communities the known — not often spoken out loud — fear is that we obey various international conventions when it comes to treatment of prisoners, while our enemies absolutely do not. Whoever is taken will be tortured, they will be beaten, beheaded, burned alive, have drill bits run through knee caps or even testicles. You name it, as veterans, we have feared it.
But back to civilians. Now that the records of civilians with security clearances have been hacked, our enemies may know which engineers have spent the last 20 years designing systems for the Department of Defense.
This person certainly isn’t rich but has a wealth of knowledge. That family can’t write the big check, but the government would now have the precedent to get involved quickly. Having also done these sorts of things for a living (Imholt), I chose my vacation spots carefully even before the hack.
The lack of attention to cyber security made thousands — if not millions — of Americans juicier targets than they have ever been.
Now, President Obama has seen fit to set up a marketplace to make it easier for the bad guys to cash in. What could go wrong with that?