Despite Foley’s death, I don’t think that we should consider ransoming reporters

Despite Foley’s death, I don’t think that we should consider ransoming reporters

Here’s part of an op-ed piece I have in Politico today:

One day in 2007, I was being shown my bedroom at the Washington Post‘s bureau and house in Baghdad, where I was spending some time covering the U.S. military side of the war. I noticed an old AK-47 rifle leaning against the wall near the door of my room. The Post‘s local security chief, a tough-minded Iraqi, explained that it was for me to use "if they come into the house." When I heard "them" come upstairs, he advised, I should fire most of the weapon’s magazine through the door, which might hold them off for a few minutes. But, he added, "save one for yourself."

I recalled that bracing exchange when I read the news of the murder of reporter and photographer James Foley by Islamic extremists in Syria. I was sorely saddened to see his name added to the list of journalists who have lost their lives covering conflict in the Middle East — nearly 50 last year alone. Reportedly, Foley was killed after the United States declined to pay a multi-million dollar ransom for his release. My heart goes out to his family. But I also think that the American policy of not ransoming reporters held hostage is a good one, both moral and wise. This is because I fear that governments who are believed to pay for the release of their citizens — France and Italy are mentioned most often — increase the risk of other of their citizens being taken. The payoffs also provide millions of dollars in financing for the most brutal terrorist groups, making them stronger and helping them grow. This in turn can create markets for hostages, in which freelance criminal gangs grab Westerners and then sell them to the highest bidder.

Read the full article here.