Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Amazing Operation Jacques

"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." ~ Mark Twain

The film Proof of Life reveals some of the challenging realities in our world today. Hostages, intense life-and-death situations, bad people armed and dangerous... and guys like Terry Thome (Russell Crowe) who live on the edge of this world, trying to save the lives of those who have been captured and taken across the abyss. Whereas Terry Thome is a fictional character in a fictional story, these kinds of people do exist, negotiating for the release of hostages, or on occasion devising risky alternative plans.

Last winter while returning from L.A. I had a brief encounter with someone whose livelihood was in just these kinds of "special operations." The story he told was quite amazing. Operation Jaque (which means "Check" in Spanish) took place last summer. Do you recall reading it in the papers? I missed it.

There were fifteen hostages involved, taken by the FARC, Colombia's revolutionary army. One of these was a woman who had been a presidential candidate. Three were Americans. And in this operation, all were important.

It took a long time to locate the hostages, and an even longer time to plan their rescue. The big fear in these things, according to the commander I spoke with, is a shootout. For this reason at the last minute they had a change of plans. They went in totally unarmed, pretending to be revolutionaries themselves, wearing Che Guevara T-shirts, etc.

He said they had a mole within the guerrillas, and in some way persuaded the guys guarding the hostages that they were in danger and the hostages had to be moved to a new location. Two helicopters landed, and everyone was loaded up, including a couple of the guys watching the prisoners, who once airborne became prisoners themselves.

It was a variation of the Trojan Horse, only in real life.

One thing I like about travelling is meeting people. Everybody has stories. This one was quite impressive. You can read the details about Operation Jaque here.

There's much more I'd like to say, but for now, I have to run off and make more jug band music with De Elliot Brothers in the Battle of the Jug Bands. Y'all come!

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