There is too much about this that causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up; a typical reaction to yet another Bushlie! Something is rotten, but it ain't in Denmark
Editor and Publisher- Buzzflash
July 8, 2008
A report from Swiss public radio that $20 million was paid to release three American hostages, Ingrid Betancourt, and 11 Colombian soldiers and police officers is being pretty much roundly ignored in the United States.
Not so the case in the UK, where the Times reported the allegation on July 4th:
But while she [Betancourt] was still in the air, the Swiss radio station RSR broadcast a report questioning the official version of the operation to free Ms Betancourt and 14 other hostages – saying that money, not cunning, had clinched their freedom.
According to Bogota, the hostages were freed in an elaborate ruse by Colombian intelligence agents who had infiltrated the Marxist Farc rebels holding them.
But RSR said that the 15 hostages “were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up". Citing a source "close to the events, reliable and tested many times in recent years", it said that the United States – which had three citizens among those freed – was behind the deal and put the price at $20 million.
The Colombian Foreign Ministry furiously denied the allegations, with a spokesman calling them "completely false." He added: "They are lies".
General Freddy Padilla, head of the Colombian military, categorically denied they had paid "a single peso" to Farc.
"As the General Commander of the Armed Forces and on my military honour, I deny that the Colombian Government has paid a single peso, a single cent," he said.
Please note the plausible deniability in the statement of the Colombian Armed Forces Commander. One, if the U.S. paid the money, then he is correct to say that Colombia did not pay it. Two, the money may not have been paid directly to FARC, but paid through an intermediary, or paid as a bounty fee to defectors.
Far be it from BuzzFlash to claim first hand knowledge of such a $20 million dollar pay-off. But it wouldn't be the first time that the Bush Administration has claimed that it won't negotiate with terrorists and then paid ransom money behind the scenes.
The rescue also comes at a curiously propitious time for the Bush Adminsitration and its "made man" in Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe. He is seeking to pass a plebiscite to allow him an unprecedented third term. Furthermore, Uribe is being used by the U.S. as a proxy opponent to Chavez in terms of leadership in South America. In addition, let's not forget that the controversial Columbia "Free Trade Pact" is stalled in Congress. Finally -- and most curiously -- John McCain inexplicably showed up in Colombia around the time of the "rescue."
This is reminiscent of our hostages being released on the day Reagan was sworn in as president, Great political theater; until it all unravels years later, when no one cares anymore. Americans had better develop a finer sense of history. A country with no past has no future. If Americans had any sense of history at all and a working knowledge of the present, George W. Bush would have been laughed out of the presidential race in 2000.
BuzzFlash wants to make it clear that FARC is a motley and dreadful "guerilla force" that is as corrupt and reprehensible as the right wing Colombian death squads who are killing trade unionists -- with a wink and a nod from the government -- in that nation. We share in the joy of anyone receiving their freedom, particularly given the length some of these hostages were imprisoned in dire and harsh circumstances.
But the fact that the American media has once again unquestionably advanced a made-for-tv-movie narrative of the rescue proves, yet again, that our media -- particularly television -- has pretty much abandoned probing news for entertaining, government story lines. There are far too many unexplored details in the official Colombian-American-French rescue account, and no indication that the American press is exploring any of them to any significant degree.
That is a dereliction of journalistic duty.
One of the few exceptions regarding the ransom allegations was the LA Times, which posted an article on July 7th:
Colombian authorities sought over the weekend to discredit a Swiss academic and former intermediary in talks with a left-wing rebel group who has been linked to a disputed report that officials paid $20 million for last week's release of 15 high-profile hostages.
(Left wing? Sounds like they are born-killers and totalitarians. That doesn't sound like the so-called "Left-wing here.)
A Colombian government official who asked to remain unnamed said Sunday that authorities suspect Geneva-based Jean Pierre Gontard was the source for the Swiss radio report last week stating that officials paid a ransom for the release of the hostages.
Officials have denied any ransom was paid and said the rescue was based on subterfuge and infiltration of the rebel high command. The notion of paying ransom is extremely sensitive here, since U.S. and Colombian authorities have labeled the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a terrorist group and have ruled out payments to terrorists.
Meanwhile, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told the newspaper El Tiempo that captured rebel computer files name Gontard as the courier for $480,000 seized by Costa Rican police at the behest of the Colombian government this year from a FARC hide-out in San Jose, the Costa Rican capital.
What's interesting about the last paragraph, which we first saw in a Chinese publication of all places, is that the Colombian government is now trying to impugn the apparent source of the ransom allegation, even though he was apparently a sanctioned go-between at one time.
Finally, in an online New Zealand publication, we found this tidbit:
The French online news daily MediaPart yesterday contradicted the account put forward by the Colombian government, that its agents had infiltrated the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and freed Betancourt and 14 other hostages through a clever ploy.
MediaPart reported that it had learned that the hostages had actually been freed through an agreement between Bogota and the Farc, in exchange for political asylum for Farc members in France and the payment of a ransom.
"Shock and awe," "Made for TV Rescues," "Jessica Lynch Heroic Action Figure Tales": is there any difference between fictional war flicks and manufactured news anymore?
We can't conclusively say, because the corporate media isn't doing its job; it's just providing us with government-issued story lines that hold our interest by entertaining us with "heroic feats."
But what if the heroic feats are as finely tuned as a Hollywood script, but financed by our government -- as they publicly espouse the hypocrisy of not negotiating with "insurgents" -- instead of some LA moguls?
THE BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.