Ingrid the ingrate?
Ãngrid Betancourt endured inhuman treatment as a FARC hostage in Colombia’s jungles for nearly 6 1/2 years. Though it’s hard to imagine, after her miraculous July 2 rescue there were people out there – people able to publish their views in widely read media – who apparently asked themselves, “how long until we can start attacking her?”
The answer, we now know, is 26 days.
In a July 28 posting to the online version of National Review (which alexa.com puts within the 6,000 most-visited sites on the Internet), BogotÃ¡-based analysts John R. Thomson and Dorotea LaSerna decided that Ãngrid’s honeymoon had gone on long enough.
Does Betancourt deserve all the attention lavished upon her, even after six and a half years in confinement?…
Ingrid spent less than 24 hours in her country, and only briefly thanked President Uribe before leaving for France on Sarkozyâ€™s airplane. …
Betancourtâ€™s behavior problems go beyond ingratitude, though. Since her release, she has repeatedly called for an international effort to liberate the estimated 2,000 remaining hostages through negotiations. …
She has bathed in the glow of soporifically soft questioning, including appearances on CNNâ€™s Larry King Live and the BBCâ€™s Hard Talk (with the normally hard-nosed Stephen Sackur).
Nearly a month since her escape, the question must be asked: Is Ingrid of Paris and Bogota a reincarnated Joan of Arc, or is she suffering from Stockholm syndrome? It seems incredible that having endured numberless indignities by her FARC captors during more than six yearsâ€™ jungle confinement, she could speak so naively. So far, to the chagrin of her Colombian rescuers, the record suggests Ingrid Betancourt is sadly deluded.
It is hard to say exactly what the authors expected to gain with this piece, which even if it were accurate wouldn’t reflect well on them. But it’s not even accurate – it’s riddled with misstatements and innuendoes. If the authors’ goal was to stretch the bounds of taste and publish a vicious armchair attack on someone who has just gone through hell, could they at least have gotten the facts right?
“Ingrid Betancourt was captured by the FARC during her fringe-leftist 2002 presidential campaign”
Betancourt’s politics could be described as social-democratic, and her small political party bore the lefty name “Green Oxygen.” But this patrician politician had few ties to Colombia’s left. Most Colombians knew her as a one-issue candidate, that issue being opposition to corruption – presumably a non-ideological platform. They recall the withering, nationally televised tirade to which she subjected FARC leaders when she visited the demilitarized zone along with other presidential candidates (excluding Uribe) in January 2002. Betancourt, meanwhile, was hardly a “fringe” figure: her strong stance on corruption made her the number-one vote-getter in Colombia’s 1998 Senate elections.
“President Nicolas Sarkozyâ€™s government took up the cause and paid a reported $500,000 in ransom, which the FARC leadership kept, together with Ingrid Betancourt.”
An incredible claim like that needs a footnote, a hyperlink, or at least an “according to” clause to back it up. (”A reported $500,000?” Reported by whom?) This may have been a reference to a July 2003 incident discussed in deceased FARC leader RaÃºl Reyes’s computer files (recounted by Semana columnist Alfredo Rangel) in which Villepin, fooled by a third-party hoax, allegedly made a ransom payment and sent an aircraft to Brazil to pick up Betancourt.
It is far from clear whether any payment – even to grifters posing as guerrillas – was actually made. But no matter – Thomson and LaSerna are convinced not only that it happened, but that the payment was made by NicolÃ¡s Sarkozy’s government. Even though Sarkozy didn’t actually take power until nearly four years later, in May 2007.
“[O]nce freed and safely in Bogota, Ingrid spent less than 24 hours in her country. … She showed no interest in returning to Colombia for the joyous celebration on July 20 of the countryâ€™s independence and the hostagesâ€™ release, instead watching the proceedings on a giant television screen in Parisâ€™s Trocadero Park.”
Betancourt has made clear that she’s avoiding Colombia for now because she fears a FARC attempt on her life. But Thomson and LaSerna chalk it up to ingratitude.
“Nearly a month since her escape, the question must be asked: Is Ingrid of Paris and Bogota a reincarnated Joan of Arc, or is she suffering from Stockholm syndrome? It seems incredible that having endured numberless indignities by her FARC captors during more than six yearsâ€™ jungle confinement, she could speak so naively.”
The “naivetÃ©” the authors refer to is Betancourt’s expressed support for a negotiated end to the conflict. In their view, does anyone uncomfortable with the idea of prolonged war really suffer from “Stockhom syndrome?” And are they talking about the same Betancourt who has effusively praised the Colombian military and President Uribe, and who has recorded messages calling on guerrillas to desert and turn over hostages, which the army now blasts from loudspeakers on helicopters flying over Colombia’s jungles?
OK, enough, this is more analysis than Thomson and LaSerna’s screed deserves.
Perhaps what is most surprising about it, though, was where it was published. In its 53-year history, National Review has been a mainstay of the American right, galvanizing the conservative movement during the 20th century’s second half, because its writing was so often substantive, research-based and intent on making contributions to the public debate.
Thomson and LaSerna’s piece is none of these. It’s more Coulter than Buckley. National Review’s readers should expect better, and American conservatives will have to look elsewhere for ideas about how the United States can best support Colombia.