… says Elizabeth Bumiller of the NYT. The title of that article implies that McCain’s visit had been planned to coincide with the hostage rescue.
Like any other conspiracy theory, that one is easily rebuked. Commenter Pat Patterson, at my Pajamas Media article, deftly and with a good measure of sarcasm points out the obvious:
That’s right the Colombian government spent months arranging the infiltration of its agents, getting the intel on the location of the fifteen hostages and then sat around twiddling their thumbs until Sen. McCain showed up for a photo op. But since there are no pictures of Ingrid Bettancourt or the Americans holding flowers and shaking hands with the senator from Arizona then the whole plot seems like a terrible waste of energy. Maybe it was a conspiracy by FTD and not the CIA?
Moe Lane expands,
If you’re wondering why a big counter-terrorism strike just happened to take place during Senator John McCain’s visit to the region*, stop wondering: it was a no doubt deliberate decision on Colombia’s part. Note that while they briefed the American delegation prior to the event, the actual operation took place while McCain was en route to Mexico. President Uribe wants good relations between Colombia and the USA, but he also wants to establish a certain separation. Bringing off a major counter-terrorism operation during, but independently of, a working visit by three US Senators should fit the bill.
Aside from the silly title, Bumiller’s article makes a good point:
The timing of the rescue, which occurred while Mr. McCain was in Colombia, was in many ways a fortuitous turn of events for a presidential candidate who is using a three-day trip to South America and Mexico to try to show that he is a more agile foreign policy hand than his Democratic competitor, Senator Barack Obama. Although the timing of the rescue was a coincidence and Mr. McCain’s trip to Colombia had nothing to do with it, the event nonetheless put him in the middle of classified talks about covert operations with the head of another government.
What is no coincidence is that McCain’s foreign policy experience outshines that of his rival. McCain’s statement on the rescue highlights the importance of the operation while still reminding us of the hundreds of remaining hostages:
McCain, who was in Colombia Tuesday and Wednesday, said that President Alvaro Uribe and the Colombian defense minister had told him of the rescue plans.
“I’m pleased with the success of this very high-risk operation,” McCain said in a release. “Sometimes in the past, the FARC has killed the hostages rather than let them be rescued. So I congratulate President Uribe, the military and the nation of Colombia. It is great news. Now we must renew our efforts to free all of the other innocent people held hostage. With regard to the three Americans and Ingrid Betancourt — they had been held many years, as many as six years.”
Additionally, McCain supports the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat congress has been blocking.
The clear winners in this operation are Alvaro Uribe, all the hostages released, and the people of Colombia. The very big loser? Hugo Chavez. This hostage rescue has infinite repercussions in international politics.
Indeed, it is Chavez who has been the big loser as a result of the positive developments in his neighboring country. With the fall of FARC, he has lost an important ally. His dream of a cross-border Bolivian revolution has failed, and at home he is fighting for his political survival.
There’s a second loser in this drama: Nicolas Sarkozy. The French appeared to have been just as surprised as Chavez to hear about Betancourt’s release on Wednesday. Paris had only just managed to establish fresh contact with the new FARC leader Alfonso Cano. Sarkozy had hoped that the French could score a coup by negotiating Betancourt’s release and flying her directly to Paris. Colombian government officials had spoken reproachingly about what they often deemed to be politically motivated attempts at intervention on the part of the French.
Erik Svane notices that the French didn’t take it gracefully: Frenchwoman: What Freed Ingrid Bétancourt Was Not President Uribe, But… “International Pressure” on President Uribe!, with “international pressure” meaning the French government, of course. They’d like to take credit for the release of one of their citizens, having failed at procuring the release itself.
The rescue itself was extraordinary: Counterterrorism blog calls it an Operation Right Out of Spy Thriller
This is a classic demonstration of how a country can use a mixture of law enforcement, intelligence, military, diplomatic and other mechanisms together, with a great deal of patience and tenacity, to achieve profound results against terrorism. It’s an operation that needs to be studied, understood, to see what its lessons are for handling other hostage situations and other terrorist groups.
The political map has changed for South America. Let’s hope the Dems in Congress get around to realizing that. For sure, the Dems claim that Pres. Bush has been ignoring Latin America flies in the face of this fact:
The US ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield, said there had been “close co-operation” from the Americans, including the sharing of intelligence, equipment and training advice.
This Ain’t Hell has Betancourt’s first press conference
Others blogging on the rescue:
In Spanish ElTiempo’s report
Much more at Memeorandum
Special thanks to Larwyn and Siggy.