If you’re ever taken prisoner by jihadi terrorists…

**Posted by Phineas

Pray that it’s the Americans who come to your rescue, not the Algerians:

Dozens of foreign hostages may still be held by Islamist extremists who have defied demands to surrender in a besieged Algerian gas-field complex, Algeria’s state-run news agency reported Friday, and the United States said for the first time that American citizens were among them.

Twelve Algerian and foreign workers have been killed since Algerian special forces began an assault against the kidnappers, the state news agency reported, citing an unnamed security official. It was the highest civilian death toll Algerian officials have provided in the aftermath of the assault, which freed captives and killed kidnappers but also left some hostages dead.

Previous unofficial estimates of the foreign casualties have ranged from 4 to 35.


On Thursday, despite requests for communication and pleas to consider the safety of their abducted citizens, the United States, Britain and Japan said they had not been told in advance about the military assault, stirring frustration that the Algerians might have been overly aggressive and caused needless casualties. But the Algerian government, which has a history of violent suppression of Islamist militancy, stood by its decision to deal forcefully with the kidnappers.

“Those who think we will negotiate with terrorists are delusional,” said the communications minister, Mohand Saïd Oublaïd. “Those who think we will surrender to their blackmail are delusional.”

And “those who think we’re at all competent are sadly mistaken!”

At Contentions, Max Boot compares the Algerian scorched-earth rescue missions to Russian blunders in their own hostage crises:

The Algerians, by contrast, appear to have blundered in, guns blazing. This should not be particularly surprising since (a) Algeria is not a democracy and (b) it has long cultivated a ruthless style of counterinsurgency. During the war pitting Algerian security forces against Muslim militants (including the predecessors of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) in the 1990s, an estimated 100,000 or more people died as a result of the indiscriminate and heavy-handed tactics employed by both sides.

The Algerian way of fighting Islamist militants is eerily similar to that of the Russians who have pursued a similar scorched-earth approach in Chechnya. When confronted with Islamist hostage-takers, Russian security forces also rushed in–and the result was hundreds of dead hostages in a Moscow theater in 2002 and a Beslan school in 2004. In all these cases the assaults went so wrong partly because of a lack of skill on the part of the attackers and partly because their superiors simply didn’t care that much about who lived and died.

Of course there was no accountability for the Russian forces because their government is not democratic. The same undoubtedly will be the case in Algeria.

The point about how the armies of Western democracies operate in similar circumstances is important; officers and enlisted men are held accountable, both to their nations’ military laws and to democratic audit by the civilian government, a tradition stretching back nearly 2,700 years to our ancestors in Ancient Greece. The historian Victor Davis Hanson has often written of this.

There’s also the value placed on the worth of the individual, an inheritance from our Judeo-Christian heritage: life, a gift from God, is neither to be lightly spent nor casually taken. If a life can be saved without causing a greater evil, then every effort must be taken to save it. Finally, there is the very nature of the Western militaries, that they are largely volunteers, as opposed to a levy drafted by a monarch or dictator. The self-image of the volunteer is that of warrior, defender, and protector, making them largely sympathetic toward civilians held hostage.

The same cannot be often said for the troops of a dictatorship (which, except for a brief moment in the 90s, is what Russia really is) and, I think especially, soldiers of Islamic countries. A deep fatalism pervades Islam: all that happens is done by Allah’s will — in fact, absolutely nothing happens without Allah willing it to happen. Nothing. If you are to live, it is because Allah wills it. If you are to die, it is again because Allah has willed it. Thus the soldiers mounting the so-called rescue mission had no need for concern for the hostage’s safety; their fate was in Allah’s hands, alone. In fact, excessive concern for the hostages’ safety could even be seen as trampling on Allah’s prerogatives, a mighty sin. (1)

Thus I say: If you’re ever taken hostage by jihadist terrorists, pray it’s the West that comes riding to your rescue.

(1) The same can be said for the Islamist revulsion at democracy: Allah is all-powerful, the only source of law, the Sharia. For Man to presume to make laws is to set himself up as a god, which is blasphemy.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Comments are closed.