André Glucksmann, at City Journal, argues for seeing Betancourt's six years in captivity as a story of personal bravery and the ultimate rejection of slavery and terror:
Public opinion, government officials, ordinary citizens, and her friends and family—all are moved by, and rejoice in, Ingrid Betancourt’s liberation from the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Bravo to the woman who survived and stood fast in her tropical gulag; to her family, who moved heaven and earth to secure her release; to the organizations that fought against forgetfulness; and to the politicians who worked tirelessly to free her. Such joy aside, however, I fear that the thunderous worldwide applause may smother, with flowers and compliments, a troublesome and insistent truth—one that the hostage pondered ceaselessly during her six-year ordeal and has sought to deliver to us since her arrival on the Bogota tarmac. This truth alone gives absolute meaning to her liberation.Betancourt, who was interviewed on Larry King Live the other night, cannot talk of some of the sheer inhumanity she witnessed while in captivity: "The memories are better left in the jungle," she said thoughout the broadcast:
From the outset, Betancourt has congratulated the Colombian army and President Álvaro Uribe for the military operation that saved her. She praised not only its impeccable success but also—as she deliberately pointed out—its daring, for any military operation risked going awry for some unforeseen reason and leading to the execution of the hostages, as has sometimes happened in earlier attempts. Unlike her family members—who, she is careful to emphasize, have always so feared losing her that they distrusted and criticized Uribe’s adventurism and militarism—Betancourt congratulates the Colombian president. To be sure, Operation Checkmate could well have ended in bloodshed; but Betancourt had long wished for it, ready to face death if necessary. This had become a matter of principle for her. Better, she said, “a second of freedom,” even deadly freedom, than an eternity of slavery. She had attempted five escapes, and in retribution the guerilla fighters had chained her up by the neck. “I always avoided imagining my wife’s living conditions,” her husband said. “Now I know she lived like a dog.”
Betancourt’s choice, which she has proclaimed loud and clear since her first breaths of free air, is the result of mature reflection: rather the possibility of a bloody outcome than the life of a dog. She does not tell us that anything is better than death; she says rather that freedom is worth any price....
Ingrid Betancourt’s physical, moral, and intellectual courage reminds us of what is fundamentally at stake in a civilization: the refusal of slavery.
Charles Krauthammer writes on the larger implications of the Betancourt story for international politics, "How Hostages, And Nations, Get Liberated" (on the hard power of military force and moral clarity).
Cross-posted at NeoConstant