What’s the best way to deal with a hostage crisis?

iraq hostage 1Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that no stone was left unturned in response to criticism that the UK didn’t do enough to secure the release of the two British hostages.

There have been accusations that the UK’s approachof not negotiating with hostage-takers endangers lives. But, the government has said it is sticking to its line of not making “substantive concessions” to kidnappers. The media blackout imposed on this story was also criticised.Is this the right way to go?

Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent says,
“The kidnappers said they wanted a media blackout, which they kept breaking, but I think there will be a lot of soul-searching about this.”

“When the BBC’s Alan Johnston was kidnapped in Gaza, we made a big song and dance about it. We put the whole story on the news the whole time. “

Was the UK’s  government right to impose a media blackout on covering this story? Is it better to give the story maximum exposure or work  steadily behind the scenes to ensure a quiet release? Does the media empower or expose hostage takers? Does it endanger the lives of hostages or reassures them and their families that they have the world’s attention and that something is being done to help them?

4 Responses to “What’s the best way to deal with a hostage crisis?”

  1. 1 Tom K in Mpls
    June 22, 2009 at 17:34

    Never give power to your enemies. They will use all the power you give them. A hostage situation is life gone bad. How much more often do you want it to happen? How much worse do you want it to get? ‘Dealing with’ validates their position. Give them a real chance for a peaceful end, the carrot. A quick, precise and ruthless end is the only practical end if a hostage is killed, the stick.

  2. 2 T
    June 22, 2009 at 23:30

    Notice the phrase “substantive concessions.” Translation: this is political doublespeak that sounds great to the public so we won’t lose our jobs in the next election. But in fact, governments negotiate with terrorists behind the scenes all the time:

    In Iraq
    In Afghanistan
    In Iran (remember Reagan’s arms deal w/the Iranians)?

    Kidnapping insurance is one of the most profitable businesses in the world. A Western reporter in Iraq could easily get $30 million for their kidnappers.

  3. 3 VictorK
    June 23, 2009 at 12:53

    Two options: either match, or exceed, the brutality of the hostage takers, or don’t get involved (UK government and civilians) in the first place.

    Some years ago a member of the Russian embassy in Lebanon was kidnapped. As I recall, the kidnappers cut off his ear, sent it to the Russians and demanded a ransom. The Russians responded by kidnapping a family member of the head of the kidnap gang, cut off a part of his body, sent it to the kidnappers and demanded the return of their man. The kidnappers released him.

    I understand that the kidnapped Britons were taken to Sadr city. Kidnapping members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s family and doing to them whatever was done to the Britons would have stood a good chance of seeing everyone released, without paying a penny in ransom. But the US & UK are too civilised for that kind of thing. In which case they ought in future never to get involved in a country where civilised scruples make it impossible for them to operate effectively. If you can’t rule as effectively as a Saddam then you shouldn’t remove a Saddam. Ransoms – i.e. seed money for a fresh crop of kidnappings – should never be paid.

  4. 4 John in Germany
    June 24, 2009 at 13:44

    Every hostage taking is different, i do not believe there is a 100% standard programme.

    People that knowingly ignore warnings from the foreign offices of any nation about travelling in certain areas, should, if rescued be made to pay the full cost of the rescue. The lives of the rescuers are not measurable in money, so the rescued should be punished as in criminal law, if any rescuer is wounded or killed in the rescue attempt. This procedure should reduce the ignorance, and carelessness of such people.

    John in Germany.

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