July 13, 2008


U.S. Aid Was a Key to the Hostage Rescue (SIMON ROMERO, 7/13/08, NY Times)

While the Colombians devised and carried out the operation with a team of more than a dozen elite Colombian commandos disguised as aid workers, television journalists and rebels, they did so with some important assistance from the United States, which provides Colombia with $600 million of aid a year as part of a counterinsurgency and antinarcotics project that has made Colombia the top American military ally in Latin America.

For instance, the Americans provided emergency signaling technology on the two Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters used in the operation, only one of which landed, in addition to tiny beaconing systems placed with all the commandos. An American audio system to transmit the operation live to personnel in Bogotá was also put on the helicopters, but it did not work well when the sounds were drowned out by the noise the rotor blades generated.

While the Colombians and Americans generally agreed on the details of the operation as it was put into motion, some differences emerged, like when American officials resisted a plan to place two former rebels among the commandos aboard the helicopter, apparently in an attempt to assuage any concerns the guerrillas might have in handing over their captives.

In the end, just one former rebel member took part in the mission aboard the helicopter. On July 2, a small number of diplomats, military officers and intelligence officials gathered in a safe room at the American Embassy to monitor the operation.

The mission, originally intended to last 8 minutes on the ground as the hostages boarded the aircraft, ended up taking more than 25 minutes. The delays intensified the anxiety in the safe room in Bogotá, which was relieved only when an American military official in direct contact with a colleague in San José del Guaviare proclaimed, “Helos with pax,” military slang for helicopters with passengers.

“Fifteen pax, all airborne, all good to go,” he continued, and embassy officials quickly scrambled to push ahead with a plan to get the three rescued Americans on an Air Force C-17 bound for Texas.

Colombia Trade Deal Is Threatened (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 7/13/08, NY Times)
In recent months, nearly 100 newspapers in the United States have endorsed the Colombia trade agreement. So have many top Democrats, including Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago. And Mr. Uribe, who was already popular in Congress, was widely lionized after the dramatic rescue of hostages in Colombia on July 2.

Yet the trade agreement remains a long shot, because of opposition by American labor unions, Democratic leaders in Congress and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 13, 2008 8:37 AM

Charles Krauthammer aptly noted....

"Upon her liberation, (hostage Ingid) Betancourt offered profuse thanks to God and the Virgin Mary, to her supporters and the media, to France and Colombia and just about everybody else. As of this writing, none to the United States.


We will come to their rescue, repeatedly, and expect jack-squat in the way of gratitude, but they damn sure have absolutely nothing of value to tell us about anything.

Posted by: Andrew X at July 13, 2008 1:17 PM

Our purpose there was to rescue three Americans. Her liberation was collateral damage in reverse.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 13, 2008 7:00 PM

We are Ivanhoe. And European intellectuals still do not understand why 'cowboy' isn't an insult.

It is very fitting that when USS Cole left Aden that the crew had Kid Rock's "Cowboy" playing.

They knew.

Posted by: Mikey at July 13, 2008 11:43 PM

Mikey: What's really bizarre is that the Democrats don't know that 'cowboy' isn't an insult. I guess you have to be as smart as John Kerry and Barack Obama to think that criticizing Pres. Bush for "cowboy diplomacy" is good politics...

Posted by: b at July 14, 2008 5:30 PM

b: That is exactly it. The 'cowboy' is to American myth and legend what the knight-errant was.

It is no insult to call someone a knight in shining armor, to say that he acts like 'The Lone Ranger', and very demonstrative of a provincial viewpoint that a person thinks it should be an insult.

Posted by: Mikey at July 14, 2008 10:48 PM
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