“If you are taken hostage, we will not negotiate.”

birdrazorwire“If you are taken hostage, we will not negotiate. The SWAT team is coming. Try to stay alive.” This was the somber warning the prison volunteer trainer issued to the class full of do-gooders, of which I was one.

It was very quiet in the room as we all contemplated that scenario. “In the long run, this is for your protection,” the trainer continued. “If they know we will not negotiate but will come in shooting, they will not take hostages in the first place.” Yes, of course. That makes sense, in the long run. In the short run, we are probably dead. “Those are the guidelines, now you have to decide if you still want to volunteer.” Break time.

“What do you think?” a classmate asked, “about the hostage thing.” “I think if we were taken hostage we would have maybe a 20% chance of surviving. What do you think?” I asked. “Just hit the ground, I guess. Hit the ground under a desk, maybe,” he answered. “So you’re not thinking of dropping out?” I asked. “No. My chances of dying in a car accident are a zillion times higher than dying in a hostage crisis, right? But I’m going to drive home after this.”

Recently France bombed, then sent troops to Mali, a former colony. The unrest there is quite complicated and of long duration. Groups operating in the Sahara have been kidnapping foreigners for years, then using the ransoms to fund their rebellion. They have made a lot of money doing this.

A similar (perhaps the same) group, in retaliation for Algeria allowing the French to use their air space (they said) took over an Algerian natural gas facility. Did they think they could get a ransom for the hostages? Because the French were sure not going to halt their military action in exchange for the hostages.

Algeria said they would not negotiate. Period. I had a sinking feeling when I read that, because I believed them. The SWAT team was going in and people were going to die. Hostages were likely to die and every hostage-taker was going to die. Blame would be hurled about, the situation would be “deplored” in official news releases. People would fit the events into whatever worldview they held.

For the sake of the workers at the Algerian gas facility, I hope they were warned of the risk ahead of time. The world is dangerous, especially certain parts of the world. It is virtually impossible for any government to guarantee the safety of its citizens all over the world.

The prison trainer was warning us that they could not guarantee our safety. So it comes down to a personal decision. “Those are the guidelines, now you have to decide if you still want to volunteer.”

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