Months ago, the American public found out that the Obama administration ordered a full review of our current hostage rescue policy. We’re still waiting on the findings. I have never agreed with our hostage rescue policy; whether that’s due to its impracticality or my own callousness and low sympathy is debatable. To change the policy we must first clearly define what a hostage is. And frankly, “somebody held captive against his will” should not be that definition.
Units like Delta and DEVGRU were not created to find and kill terrorists in the dark corners of the world, that’s just something they were forced to evolve into as the times called for it. They were originally created as a hostage rescue unit in response to the hostage scenarios of the 1970s and 1980s, such as the 1972 Munich Massacre, the Iranian Embassy Siege in London, the Lufthansa Flight 181 crisis, and many more. They were not created to rescue Christian missionaries, journalists, relief/aid workers, teachers, or other freelancers gallivanting where they don’t belong.
Let me share with you Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque, a Navy SEAL with DEVGRU who was killed in the successful rescue operation of American doctor Dilip Joseph, a man working for a non-profit organization out of Afghanistan. Dilip was a freelance doctor who had no business in Afghanistan, working for a Christian fundamentalist group from Colorado that had nothing to do with our combat efforts against the Taliban.
He was not worth the life of Nic Checque. I commend him for his sympathy to help the Afghan people at a time of war, but the U.S. government should have no responsibility for his safety. “Should we have left him to die then Iassen?” you might ask. And I answer yes, we should have left him to die. Just as we should have left Linda Norgrove, Luke Somers, James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and as much as it pains me to say it, Peter Kassig.
These are all freelancers who traveled to areas known for kidnappings, murders, and the beheadings of foreigners. They are not our responsibility. And they most certainly are not worth the lives and efforts of our soldiers.
Our administration needs to form a new hostage recovery policy that only covers individuals placed into hostile situations, not individuals who place themselves into hostage situations. This means creating a policy focusing our efforts on those victims of piracy, such as the Maersk-Alabama crisis, airline hijackings, embassy sieges, the recovery of our soldiers, contractors, diplomats, and intelligence operatives placed in hostile situations, and of course, your everyday civilians/tourists taken captive overseas in safe areas.
I will not pretend to know the thoughts that circulate in the heads of members of Delta and DEVGRU when it comes to their core task of hostage rescue. But if you think they are eager to lay down their lives for people like Dr. Dilip Joseph, then you are sadly mistaken.
Abandoning these “freelance” captives is the right path. Terrorist groups will see no value other than propaganda in their kidnappings. And maybe, just maybe, these people playing in the deserts trying to score an interview or bring Jesus to members of ISIS might have second thoughts knowing that nobody will come for them if something goes wrong.