Who's Committing the War Crimes?

Colombia had a recent triumph in freeing hostages from the leftist rebels FARC. If there is any doubt about the debased ideology of FARC the fact that it kept the hostages chained together at the neck continuously for years on end should make one pause for thought. Not CNN. No, they are already trying to interpret these events as a crime committed by the Colombian government.

CNN has just run an article trying to paint the Colombian government as "the bad guys" titled “Colombian military used Red Cross emblem in rescue”. By the third paragraph they are already making claims against Colombia.

“Such a use of the Red Cross emblem could constitute a "war crime" under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and could endanger humanitarian workers in the future, according to international legal expert Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.”

Tough charges, lets see if they hold up. Will this endanger Red Cross aid workers in the future? How?

“It is clear that the conventions are very strict regarding use of the symbol because of what it represents: impartiality, neutrality. The fear is that any misuse of the symbol would weaken that neutrality and would weaken the [Red Cross],"

Yes, they are serious charges and that is a quite reasonable law, but the spirit of the law is that one not use the symbol to impersonate the Red Cross in doing humanitarian work. So the true question should be, “Was there an impersonation of the Red Cross here”.

If you look at the CNN article you will see that they have displayed the Red Cross in their article. No one would bother charging them with a “war crime” because they aren’t impersonating aid workers in doing so. There is no attempt to deception involved.

Well I shouldn’t say that. There is deception involved in their article, an attempt to deceive the public into believing that a “war crime” was committed by the Colombian government. What wasn’t attempted was to deceive any parties that CNN was the Red Cross. Nor was there any such attempt on the part of the Colombian government to do so as we will learn from information later in the article, despite CNNs attempts to magnify a different point of view.

It’s not until we get to the sixth paragraph that we learn.

"The unpublished video and photos of the mission, hailed internationally as a daring success, were shown to CNN by a military source looking to sell the material. CNN declined to buy the material at the price being asked; it was therefore unable to verify the authenticity of the images."

Why the rush to paint Colombia as war criminals if the photos are not know to be authentic?

Buried even deeper in the article.

“"After all these years of guerrilla war, we have become experts in identifying who is before us," she answered. "That's why I said it was very strange to me. I said, 'Well, what is this? A helicopter, a white helicopter. Red Cross? No. France? No.' There was no flag. There was nothing; there was no sign anywhere."

Here they have eye witness testimony from the event stating that there was no credible impersonation of the Red Cross. Was the Colombian government trying to impersonate the Red Cross here or were they trying to do something quite different?

“One of the members, dressed in a dark red T-shirt or polo shirt, khaki cargo pants and a black-and-white Arab-style scarf, also wears a bib of the type worn by Red Cross workers.”

An Arab-style scarf. Well that doesn’t sound like someone trying to impersonate the Red Cross. The Red Cross is not a Muslim organization.

At the beginning of the article we learned.

“The military source said the three photos were taken moments before the mission took off to persuade the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels to release the hostages to a supposed international aid group for transport to another rebel area.”

Were they trying to imitate international aid workers? Do international aid groups transport prisoners for terrorist organizations? I don’t think so. We do know that it’s a common practice for terrorists to pretend they are running ambulances. The Al-Dura affair was an event at which such mock use of ambulances took place. Something we know with no thanks to CNN. In this case the Colombian forces are obviously pretending to be FARC sympathetic operatives pretending to be aid workers in order to transport prisoners.

“Both of Colombia's two main guerrilla armies, the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army, have been known to misuse the Red Cross symbol, sometimes transporting fighters in ambulances.”

Well, then it’s obvious that there was no impersonation of the Red Cross. From prior reports we know the FARC rebels had been told that this was a prisoner transport operation ordered by FARC leadership. Since it is common practice for FARC to impersonate the Red Cross for transport then what better way to impersonate other terrorists than to use the same tactic. Therefore no “war crime”.

Have no doubt, there was no attempt here to trick anyone into believing the Colombian military personal were actual aid workers doing humanitarian work. The Colombian government was on a true humanitarian mission but that is the exact opposite of what FARC was lead to believe. FARC members were under the mistaken belief that this was just another prisoner transport operation by other members of FARC. There was no attempt to deceive anyone into believing that this was the Red Cross, the Colombian Military certainly wasn’t trying to deceive itself, so there was no violation of the spirit of the law even if a Red Cross symbol happened to be worn.

Now had the Colombian government convinced FARC they were the Red Cross and were planning on actually helping these people with treatment, or by releasing them then certainly there would have been a “war crime” in the sense perhaps that was not intended. That’s a problem with the letter of the law not the spirit. In fact, if anyone, even a bunch of doctors, impersonated the Red Cross to deliver medical attention they would be violating the letter of this law. That’s not the spirit however. The spirit is that the symbol of the Red Cross not be used for military operations like transporting prisoners. The true “war criminals” here are members of FARC.

This CNN story was written with a certain bias, a certain interpretation of events, and I don’t think it was unintentional. The article could have been headlined “Colombian Military Uses FARC’s Abuse of Humanitarian Aid Symbols to Rescue Hostages”, and it could have stressed the important point that no FARC member ever truly believed this was a humanitarian mission. Instead they painted this as war crimes being committed by a US ally. This is far from objective journalism.

How can CNN wonder why they are considered by some of being anti-American, and pro-Terrorist? People are rescued from being chained together at the neck day and night for years and CNN finds a way to paint their rescuers as demons, shame on you CNN. Shame, shame.

Share this

Stupidity or malice

The article could have been headlined “Columbian Military Uses FARC’s Abuse of Humanitarian Aid Symbols to Rescue Hostages”, and it could have stressed the important point that no FARC member ever truly believed this was a humanitarian mission. Instead they painted this as war crimes being committed by a US ally. This is far from objective journalism.

Well, maybe it was malicious, but it might have been thoughtlessness and sloppiness. I've read several blogs on this and your analysis is the first one that presents a convincing case that there was in fact no genuine impersonation of the Red Cross (rather, there was, going by the evidence, at most an impersonation of an impersonation of the Red Cross, which is not the same thing as an impersonation of the Red Cross). Since you are the first I've seen to point this out, I conclude that few people would actually catch this, even though, once explained, it becomes obvious in retrospect (as Sherlock Holmes's deductions became obvious and unimpressive to Dr. Watson once they were explained to him).

IMO this deserves to be front-paged.

CNN is irresponsible

I have stopped reading CNN after they headlined this article. I find it irresponsible and unbelievably naive to have this be the takeaway after this successful rescue. Are we now going to hyperventilate over the carbon dioxide used by the rescue helicopter and its contribution to global warming?

People FARC are merciless criminals who stole years of the life of their hostages. They broke numerous laws (much less artificial than the Geneva Convention) by killing, kidnapping, and torturing civilians. This rescue operation resulted in no arrests and no killings - the bigger issue at hand is why did the government not pursue the FARC criminals by arresting them and putting them in jail.

As for the Red Cross, their logo is already used and abused on a routine basis by the FARC and other terrorist organizations. If the Red Cross did not exist, than that would be fine with me.

The terrorists should be glad they're not dead or in jail - which the army could have easily arranged for.