I’m watching CNN International gleefully report a “gotcha” against the Colombian government. Apparantly, one of the soldiers who rescuedIngrid Betancourt and other innocent hostages from FARC in Colombia had a tiny Red Cross on his jacket.

Hmm…aren’t there stories of “insurgents” in Iraq and Gaza and Lebanon using Red Crescent ambulances to move arms? I don’t remember CNNI having ten minute segments condemning those actions. Nope, no condemnation here, folks, just move along…

One “side effect” of the war on terror is the one sided reporting on atrocities and murders, and I’m not talking about Iraq or Israel but about places where I have actually been, such as Colombia and the Philippines. The big bad government gets the bad news, but the “insurgents” talk sweetness and light, so rarely get a bad press….even though they kill and terrorize a lot more innocent people.

There’s enough blame to go around, fellahs, but can we have a little context and perspective in your reporting?

When it comes to a five minute report about a tiny Red Cross symbol, wouldn’t it be nice to mention that those tricked have 3000 hostages, have planted landmines, are sending money to many countries in Latin America trying to destablize their governments? You know, sort of a five minute report on what was on that laptop found at the Ecuador safe house, so that your viewer will know that maybe the minor mistake was tiny next to the big bad stuff done by those being tricked?

In some ways, I agree it’s wrong to use an NGO symbol to cover a military operation, even saving hostages. But the dirty little secret is that none of the FARC soldiers even blinked an eyelid when someone claiming to come from an NGO and wearing a Red Cross symbol came saying they were going to move hostages to another FARC camp via their helicopter.

Why didn’t the FARC soldiers question it? Because the dirty little secret is that many of these “insurgent” groups are supported by Europeans and others who love anyone spouting “liberation and freedom”, never mind what these groups actually do. And a lot of these naive starry eyed types work for NGO’s.

I’ve been a doctor in a conflict, where the “insurgents” were wined, dined, and funded by left wing groups, communist governments, and the World Council of Churches. We had to keep neutral in the war, knowing that if we cooperated with the “insurgents” we could be jailed or deported (as one of my friends was). On the other hand, we also knew that, despite the one sided glowing press coverage that a lot of the so called “insurgents” were criminals, and that if one of the rogue groups were in our area, we could be killed or worse (as eight of my friends were).

Another problem is that some people in some governments, from Venezuela’s Chavez to Congressman James McGovern (D MA) to the Swiss government, have cooperated with FARC in order to release the hostages. But as I have pointed out in a previous article, such cooperation leads to more murders and kidnapping: The “insurgents” not only gets of cash to support the cause, but good publicity when they release their hostages. Ths good publicity allows them to pretend they are the good guys, and that helps them raise even more money from naive idealists….and so the violence continues.

One needs to keep things into perspective. It is not “good guys versus bad guys”. Often it is a government that includes some very nasty bad guys, but those who seek to overthrow them are worse. In Colombian, FARC and ELF has killed priests, nuns, judges, politicians, American Indian activists (friends of my friends), displaced half a million people, and placed landmines with little or no criticism by their allies or publicity from the Western Press.

For years businessmen and their families have been under threat of kidnapping or worse as part of their daily life. Judges and politicians have been kidnapped or assasinated. FARC and ELF have essentially been at war with the civil society in Colombia. The government has also done their share of killing, (much of which was not terrorism but private vigilante groups revenging for personal reasons) but in the last five years, there has been a gradual weeding out of those associated with hit squads from the military.

Only in recent years has President Uribe started to weed out rogue elements in the military and refused to exchange prisoners or grant safe zones to the rebels. Instead, offers of amnesty and the increase in prosperity due to globalization has led to a slow decimation of soldiers from their ranks.

But no good deed goes unpunished, so right now, the Democrats are sitting on a US/Colombia trade pact that will not take American jobs as a way of punishing Colombia for not being perfect.

If the bill is not passed, Colombia will lose jobs–to other Central American countries who already have such a pact. So it won’t make any difference to American jobs, but will harm the economy of a country that needs jobs to wean the poor from cooperating with the drug business.

A recent Washington Post article touted the “Medellin miracle”, economic growth of a city that once was famous only for it’s drug cartel, but is now booming economically. The Post points out that refusal to pass the trade bill may stop this economic recovery, resulting in more people cooperating with the drug business.

In today’s NYTimes, Tom Friedman’s editorial reminds folks that hating American might be fun, but the alternatives will be a lot worse, and remember you might just get what you wish for.

Friedman was talking about China and Russia blocking sanctions against Zimbabwe in the UN, but his point could also be stretched to include Colombia and a dozen other countries like the Philippines.

Those who go out of their way writing one sided stories undermining fragile democracies are supporting the “other side”. Many of these imperfect governments are are trying to fight insurgencies on one hand while fighting corruption and eliminating “bad cops” who do “extrajudicial killings” on the other hand.

But of course, hating these governments (who are supported by evil bushyhitler) is fun. It’s so simple:”left wing/anti American good, US allies/democracy bad”.

But take a moment and consider: Hating democracies that are imperfect might be fun, but the alternatives are a lot worse…as those in Cuba, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Iran and a dozen other states could prove.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She has family in Colombia.

Be Sociable, Share!