Paying ransoms for hostages undermines diplomatic efforts

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opinions

December 8, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Another American hostage was murdered Saturday by Al Qaeda extremists in Yemen, a small country in the Arabian Peninsula with an oversized propensity for zealotry.
Luke Somers, 33, was killed during an attempted rescue mission by U.S. troops. It was the second such attempt by U.S. forces to rescue Somers, a photojournalist who was kidnapped in September 2013 while on assignment in Yemen.
Earlier in the week, Somers spoke in a heartbreaking video asking for help in securing his release.
“I’m looking for any help that can get me out of this situation,” he said. “I’m certain my life is in danger.”
As a policy, the United States does not negotiate with terrorists holding U.S. citizens as hostages.
As difficult as that is, the policy should remain.

CEDING to the demands of Islamic extremists does not stop such kidnappings. Since 2008, European countries have paid an estimated $165 million to settle demands for ransom. The settlements are inadvertently financing terrorist operations. Hostages these days come with a price tag of $10 million apiece.
It’s a tough call: Saving innocent people or legitimizing the actions of terrorists who use hostages as bargaining chips. 
The consequences of saying no are usually dire.
Typically, U.S. citizens held hostage do not fare well. Sometimes U.S. Special Operations commandos come to the rescue as in the attempt with Mr. Somers. Sometimes we negotiate, as in the case with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier who was swapped for Taliban prisoners held by the United States.
On the other hand, those countries that have a history of paying ransoms — France, Spain and Austria — have also experienced the most abductions by terrorists.

PAYING ransoms for captured citizens is not diplomacy. And while that may seem too hopeful considering the nature of today’s Islamists, it must remain the goal.
 — Susan Lynn

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