U.S. President Barack Obama will announce on Wednesday that authorities will no longer prosecute family members of American overseas hostages if they try to pay a ransom. Gazeta.ru wrote about this announcement, linking to The New York Times. The announcement was leaked by a high-level source in the president’s administration.
The U.S. government’s official stance is: “We will not negotiate with terrorists.” The rule is a good one, since any other policy would unwittingly encourage kidnappings, increase the taking of hostages, and could also become a source of financing for terrorism.
However, special forces have helped family members free hostages (behind the scenes, of course). This isn’t a bad thing, since a government needs to save its citizens. Of course, prosecuting family members for such actions has created contradictions between and within government agencies.
There have been cases when the State Department has informed family members of a kidnapped American citizen about their criminal liability and then the FBI helped them free the hostage — with or without money.
The nullification of this law indicates that Washington is expecting the number of kidnappings to increase. It also indicates that Washington is adapting to a new reality, in which kidnappings for ransom are becoming a regular practice.
There are more complex issues as well. For example, what good is the 15-year-old U.S. “global war on terror,” ongoing since autumn 2001, if the threat of terrorism is only increasing?
Washington’s policy has plunged one country after another into total chaos and bloody war. Instead of changing its policy, it’s adapting its laws to match. Some would say this means U.S. policy in the region and the war on terror have failed. But that would mean you believe that Washington was planning to battle terrorism from the beginning.
That idea is in serious doubt. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gadhafi’s overthrow, and the attempt to overthrow Assad look like anything but a war on terror.
It’s good that America cares about the kidnappings of its individual citizens. However, it’s simultaneously conducting a policy that kills hundreds and thousands of foreign citizens every day. Washington doesn’t give two cents about their lives and won’t lift a finger for them.
While all this is going on, America’s cardinal document, the Declaration of Independence, states the “self-evident truth”: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
This is a fundamental lie, and the current U.S. government’s hypocrisy.
Veronika Krasheninnikova is a member of Russia’s Civic Federation and director of the Institute for Foreign Policy Research and Initiatives.