Friday, December 31, 2010

Read: "Law of the Jungle" by John Otis

Read: Law of the Jungle: the hunt for Colombian guerrillas, American hostages, and buried treasure by John Otis, 2010, 9780061671807.

Amazing story.

American contractors in Colombia flying drug interdiction job are shot down and captured by the FARC. Americans are captive for almost 5 and a half years. The FARC are vicious, lying, scheming, murderous, scumbag fuckwads. I knew this already but this reinforced the truth.

An interesting story on several levels and Otis has a lot to cover.
- The experience and trauma of the prisoners.
- The agony of the family in the U.S.
- The negotiations and work by the Colombian government and the political football of the insurgency and the prisoners.
- The effect of the FARC's kidnapping civilians.
- FARC extortion of civilians.
- FARC's 'taxes' on people in their areas of control.
- FARC's taxes of drug dealers and active participation in the drug trade.
- FARC's vicious treatment of their own troops.
- Paramilitary murder squads.
- Families anxiety and frustration with government plans of alternately negotiation with FARC and playing a hardline.

1. Otis is a journalist and you tell from the book. He screams through the story and packs in a lot of people and events. Judging from his endnotes he did a lot of work and interviewing for this.
2. The helicopter rescue of the Americans and several others was absolutely amazing.
3. I read John Keegan's book about intelligence in wartime. His conclusion was that intelligence helps but does not win wars. He is correct, of course, the infantry and others have to do that actual work. But the intelligence work done by the Colombians prior to the rescue was essential and very, very impressive.
4. I did not know Colombia is so dang big with such varied geography.
5. Hugo Chavez is a real tool but he did get several people freed and brought attention to the captives.
6. The side story of Vulture and Destroyer companies is fascinating. The whole story of these struggling, half-starved, under-supported commandos stumbling upon several million dollars buried in the middle of the jungle is bizarre. The aftermath is not too surprising but still unfair.
7. Ingrid Betancourt came off as a snotty slut but it's not real fair for me to say that considering the praise some captives gave her.

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