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Old 02 October 2008, 01:46 PM
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Graham2001 Graham2001 is offline
 
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Default How the Russians deal with hostage-takers

I think that this particular UL has been discussed before, but I'm bringing it up again as I suspect that it will start circulating again now that the Russians have got involved in the latest incidence of Somalian Piracy.

I was reading a Geoffrey Archer thriller entitled "Eagle Trap" which is about a terrorist plot to destroy the Rock of Gibraltar using a stolen nuclear device.

On page 189 is a story I have seen in several other technothrillers concering the difference between Russian(Soviet) and Western attitudes towards hostage taking.

This is how it appears in the novel:

Quote:
When American hostages had been taken in earlier years, the response from Washington had been one of impotent protestation. When Soviet diplomats were kidnapped by a Shi-ite gang, the KGB had biten back. They'd captured the nephew of the Shi-ite gang, sliced off small parts of his anatomy and delivered them to his uncle, saying he'd get the whole boy back piece by piece if he didn't free the Russians. They were released the same day. Geoffrey Archer, "Eagle Trap", Pg 189, Arrow Books, 2004
As I've mentioned above, I can remember reading similar stories in other novels in the same genre and I'm 99.999% sure this is not based on any real event, but does anyone know how it got started & who published it first?
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  #2  
Old 02 October 2008, 07:55 PM
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Certainly in the 1980's, when the American/Iranian hostage crisis was front-page news, it was widely reported that the Soviets used massive reprisals rather than negotiations when any of their people were taken.

This can be effective if you have the ability to write your own hostages off as lost. That takes a studied kind of callousness -- perhaps effective in game-theory, but detrimental to the principle of respect for individual life.

In the U.S. in 1979-1980, there were some who said to dismiss the lives of the hostages in Iran, and bomb Tehran. The principle of "A thousand for one" was kicked around. This might have had a beneficial deterrent effect.

Or...it might not.

Anyway, I don't recall hearing the specific story, regarding seizing someone's close relative and sending out body parts. (Although it does echo the story of Jean Paul Getty III and his kidnapping and mutilation.)

Silas
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Old 03 October 2008, 01:06 AM
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So wait, what's the message behind this? We're supposed to aspire to be as bad as Communist Russia? And before you say, "But Al Qaeda cuts off heads" understand that I don't find "We're not as evil as Al Qaeda" to be a particularly inspiring slogan.
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  #4  
Old 03 October 2008, 01:31 AM
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So wait, what's the message behind this? We're supposed to aspire to be as bad as Communist Russia? And before you say, "But Al Qaeda cuts off heads" understand that I don't find "We're not as evil as Al Qaeda" to be a particularly inspiring slogan.
The *theory* is that if we accept the price, up front, of brutality and callousness, it will deter aggression against us, and thus save more lives in the long run. As a game-theoretical calculation, it is entirely valid, and might even be correct.

But, ye Gods, what an initial cost! It repeats the classic paradox of utilitarian ethics: the "problem of the scapegoat." It means sacrificing innocent people's lives as the cost of saving other lives -- and more of them -- later.

There is a story -- perhaps aprocryphal -- from WWII. The naval bombardment preceding D-Day had demolished a French village, and among the casualties was a man in a basement who had been wounded and died there. He had lived long enough to pen a note, forgiving the allies for killing him, because he knew that the liberation of France from the Nazi yoke could not be accomplished without such losses.

However, following this reasoning only works if one also concludes that negotiation can not work, and I think that that assumption is the one which is the most dangerous and most false.

The U.S. hostages in Iran were released, eventually, by a negotiated agreement, without the need for their deaths or for the bombing of Iranian cities.

And if negotiation works, as history suggests it can, then there is no advantage to be gained from acting like the Soviets, and the vast cost of the loss of our moral integrity.

Silas
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  #5  
Old 03 October 2008, 02:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
The U.S. hostages in Iran were released, eventually, by a negotiated agreement, without the need for their deaths or for the bombing of Iranian cities.
Clearly that was only because they were afraid of the wrath of St. Ronald Reagan.
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  #6  
Old 03 October 2008, 02:43 AM
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Clearly that was only because they were afraid of the wrath of St. Ronald Reagan.
True. One look at his steely eyes and firm chin, and they knew that six-gun western American determination was too much for their cowardly oriental moon-worshiping small-penised guile.

Silas
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  #7  
Old 03 October 2008, 07:39 AM
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I've never heard that story, but it might be an exaggeration of the unwillingness of the Russians/Soviets to negotiate. Whenever there has been a hostage situation, they have sent in elite troops to break it, even if it has, at times, cost the lives of some hostages. On the other hand, they have been extremely successful, and none of the operations I can remember has turned into disasters (such as, for instance Operation Eagle Claw).

That said, I believe that it's extremely difficult to break up a hostage situation where the hostage taker is prepared to kill the hostages without losing some of them, and I am in awe of the units that manage to do such missions with such small losses.

As I've mentioned before, I play airsoft, sometimes at indoor arenas (which are about the size of a large embassy), and we sometimes play hostage scenarios. In my experience, the defenders have a distinct advantage, for example:

* The attackers have to move fast, they can't play it slow and safe.
* The attackers have to be careful when using grenades, which makes staircases or open corridors very difficult to advance through.
* The defenders are "dug in" and ready, while the attackers don't have the benefit of such preparations.
* It only takes seconds to kill an hostage, while an operation on a house of the size we use (4500 m2) easily takes 20-30 minutes if the attackers should lose momentum.
* Fighting indoors is extremely dangerous, especially when you can't fire indiscriminately. Every room needs to be checked, and someone has to be the one who sticks their head into the door opening. Sure, there are optic fibre cameras which we use to great effect, but they still give you away, and real bullets, unlike airsoft pellets, work nicely through a wall. Add boobytraps to this, and it becomes a nightmare.
* Uneven "win conditions". The attackers need to rescue the hostages alive, while a terrorist "wins" if he kills the hostages, even if he is killed in the process. This is so extreme, that we usually use some kind of point system where it's bad for the terrorists to kill hostages (but better than having them rescued) when we play.

The attackers usually only have two advantages, assuming the defenders play it smart. They have numerical superiority and they are usually better armed/equipped.

So, being a SWAT member or an elite military unit trained for this kind of missions is not a job I'd want, and I have great respect for the people who does pull it off.
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  #8  
Old 03 October 2008, 08:16 AM
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fwiw, I remember hearing a variation on this theme in highschool history class. The teacher, complaining about the impotence of modern western governors, compared it to ancient rome, where the centurions supposedly behaved just like the KGB of the OP so that pax romana flourished because everyone was too nfbsking scared of getting a legion up their butt to do anything wrong.
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  #9  
Old 03 October 2008, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Whenever there has been a hostage situation, they have sent in elite troops to break it, even if it has, at times, cost the lives of some hostages. On the other hand, they have been extremely successful, and none of the operations I can remember has turned into disasters (such as, for instance Operation Eagle Claw).
I would say that both the Moscow theater hostage crisis and the Beslan school hostage crisis ended quite disastrously.
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  #10  
Old 03 October 2008, 08:43 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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I would say that both the Moscow theater hostage crisis and the Beslan school hostage crisis ended quite disastrously.
Given the situation and the number of hostages, I would say that both those operations ended with what one would expect on a statistical analysis of the events, especially since the places were rigged with explosives by people who were prepared to die and take as many as possible with them. When going into such a situation, there will be casualties.

The one thing I think had disaster potential was when the families of the children in the school started to run into the boobytrapped building to get their children out. That was a security eff up that could have been avoided.
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  #11  
Old 03 October 2008, 06:49 PM
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I'm pretty sure it was in Herb Cain's column in the S.F. Chronicle that soon after the Iranian hostage situation occurred, someone asked the Soviet Ambassador in S.F. what they would have done in the same situation. His response was that they would have gone in there with everything they could put together as fast as they could. That makes sense to me because the situation early on was still fluid and the sooner you got in the more likely you were to be able to control it.

With the ship, the pirates have had time to set things up and the hostages chances aren't so good. I'd say the Russians better negotiate this one.
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  #12  
Old 03 October 2008, 08:43 PM
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E. Q. Taft E. Q. Taft is offline
 
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We might have been able to pacify Iraq more quickly if every time an American soldier was killed, we responded by carpet-bombing the entire neighborhood, without regard to how many bystanders we killed or wounded. But apart from the morality, the long-term cost would, in my opinion, be too high.

That said, I think there are times when you have to be prepared to use force; where the cost of not doing so is also too high.

Last night in the VP debate, one question that was asked was under what circumstances either candidate, if President, would be prepared to use nuclear weapons. Both candidates more-or-less dodged a direct answer, which is probably good policy. But I think it's a question anyone running for President should be prepared to ask of himself or herself. Our nuclear weapons are a deterrent, but they only deter if any potential enemy is convinced there's a real chance we might use them.

Once the Cold War was over, most of us stopped worrying about the question quite so much; the notion of a full-scale, civilization-ending nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union now seems to be rather remote. But what about, let us say, a state-sponsored terrorist attack? Are we prepared to tell the Iranians, let us say, should they develop a nuclear weapon and should that weapon be used against us, we will- respond in kind? How about the North Koreans? (That one being complicated by the fact that China would take a very dim view I think of us using nuclear weapons so close to her borders.) What about a non-nuclear attack using WMD's -- chemical or bio-weapons? It's a tough question. I like to think our leaders would make every effort to respond without the use of our nuclear weapons -- but I also think they ought not to ever rule out the possibility entirely; otherwise, there's no point in having them.
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Old 03 October 2008, 09:37 PM
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Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft View Post
. . . Our nuclear weapons are a deterrent, but they only deter if any potential enemy is convinced there's a real chance we might use them.

. . . What about a non-nuclear attack using WMD's -- chemical or bio-weapons? It's a tough question. I like to think our leaders would make every effort to respond without the use of our nuclear weapons -- but I also think they ought not to ever rule out the possibility entirely; otherwise, there's no point in having them.
This is one of the reasons I'm glad we have the ability to project force widely in a non-nuclear manner. I want to see the U.S. military reduced dramatically in size; we don't need to be a "superpower" quite so desperately as we have in the past. It is time for us to drawn down. But...I like the idea of having a few bombers around that can deliver ordinary TNT bombs just about anywhere, anytime. Flexibility is vital; if the choice were limited solely to "take it and smile" or "end civilization," I'm afraid that too many people would (insane but true) choose the latter.

Silas
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  #14  
Old 04 October 2008, 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Floater View Post
I would say that both the Moscow theater hostage crisis and the Beslan school hostage crisis ended quite disastrously.
I would argue that the Russian forces did their best in horrendous circumstances. A better outcome in either situation would have been quite difficult to achieve.
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  #15  
Old 04 October 2008, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by CannonFodder View Post
I would argue that the Russian forces did their best in horrendous circumstances. A better outcome in either situation would have been quite difficult to achieve.
Yes; what better course of action could there be against hostage-takers who intended to die and whose demands could not possibly be met?
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  #16  
Old 04 October 2008, 05:21 AM
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Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Troodon View Post
Yes; what better course of action could there be against hostage-takers who intended to die and whose demands could not possibly be met?
Well, a slightly higher ideal is to talk them down. Wear them down with a long, slow round of negotiations, offering a little, asking a little, etc. It *sometimes* works.

But, yeah, not always, in which case you've got an action movie...

Silas
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  #17  
Old 09 October 2008, 10:49 AM
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Default What I heard on the radio in the mid-1980's

In the days before "rage radio" KFI-640 in California was a pretty good station capable of producing both sides of an argument with a good degree of neutrality. It was non-political and had characters such as Lohman and Barkley, Sweet Dick Whittington and other humorists providing comedic relief throughout the day. Popular music was played between the comedian's shows, and the news was played hourly.

An interesting diversion happened during one of these news events. I cannot source this since I heard it orally over the radio long before the internet existed. Recordings may not even exist considering the 30 year history.

The playback went something like this:

Moderator: Why are the Russians more capable than the U.S. at dealing with these terrorists?

Answerer: Well, the US plays a different game than the Soviets. With the U.S. the answer is to negotiate with the hostage holders. It's all about diplomacy.

Moderator: So what did the Russians do differently?

Answerer: The KGB went to work and found out who the guilty parties were. They then captured a relative of the group that kidnapped the Russian agent. Then they skinned him alive while on camera. The skin was delivered to the head of the offending party with a videotape showing the proceedings, the actual removal of the skin from the captured victim. The final frames of the video said "More To Follow".

The Russian held prisoner was released the next day.

Moderator: So why doesn't America adopt a strategy like that?

Answerer: It's alway been America's decision that engaging differing parties through diplomacy would have the best long term effects. Also, America takes the moral high road by not engaging in this kind of torture. This makes us much more credible to the rest of the world. We set a standard the Russians can't match, but pay a price by appearing weak compared with the Russians.

I'm going by memory here, some very old memories. It may be what you're quoting from old novels actually happened, in some form or another, long ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham2001 View Post
I think that this particular UL has been discussed before, but I'm bringing it up again as I suspect that it will start circulating again now that the Russians have got involved in the latest incidence of Somalian Piracy.

I was reading a Geoffrey Archer thriller entitled "Eagle Trap" which is about a terrorist plot to destroy the Rock of Gibraltar using a stolen nuclear device.

On page 189 is a story I have seen in several other technothrillers concering the difference between Russian(Soviet) and Western attitudes towards hostage taking.

This is how it appears in the novel:



As I've mentioned above, I can remember reading similar stories in other novels in the same genre and I'm 99.999% sure this is not based on any real event, but does anyone know how it got started & who published it first?
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  #18  
Old 10 October 2008, 02:25 AM
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Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
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Originally Posted by rikonjohn View Post
In the days before "rage radio" KFI-640 in California was a pretty good station capable of producing both sides of an argument with a good degree of neutrality. It was non-political and had characters such as Lohman and Barkley, Sweet Dick Whittington and other humorists providing comedic relief throughout the day. Popular music was played between the comedian's shows, and the news was played hourly . . . .
Yeah, the station is pretty rancid at times... I kinda like Bill Handel. He's loud, but at least he's loud without a specific partisan agenda. Also, it was KFI where I first learned about snopes, so I owe 'em that much!

I have some respect for Captain Dale Dye, their military analyst. He's a bit more right wing than I might like, but when he states facts, they're accurate.

Also Leo Laporte, their weekend tech guru: that's a show that has done me some serious good!

But once Rush Limbaugh, or John and Ken, come on, I find another station. (Usually KNX.)

Welcome to snopes!

Silas
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  #19  
Old 10 October 2008, 06:36 AM
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Default Another version

The version I heard dealt with the highjacking of a Soviet airplane in the (70's???) that landed in a foreign country like Libya. The Soviet's sent in an elite assault squad, who snuck out to the plane using the cover of refueling trucks. Once underneath, they simultaneously entered the plane through several cargo hold access points and begain a highly timed assault. The lead hijacker was in the cockpit, hanging out the window and waving a gun around when the commando came up behind him, arms crossed. He threw a loop of piano wire over the hijacker's head and, uncrossing his arms, severed the hijacker's head (which fell to the tarmac)

The hijacker's bodies were taken to Moscow.

Once identified, the hijacker's relatives received a tasy suprise: The heads of their family member, with genitals sewn into the mouth. No futher warning was needed no further hijackings occurred.
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Old 10 October 2008, 07:32 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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With the ship, the pirates have had time to set things up and the hostages chances aren't so good. I'd say the Russians better negotiate this one.
Perhaps, but I doubt they'll do it. It's not their method.

I would guess that they'll use one of these methods:

* Dropping troops on the ship using helicopters and heavy suppressive fire. The Russian helicopters are tough and fairly resistant to small arms fire.
* Sneaking onboard the ship using rubber dingies or scuba divers during the night.
* Simply bringing in enough naval power to make it impossible for the pirates to get away. Possibly combined with one of the other methods.

In this case, I think they would prefer blowing the ship up rather than letting them get away. Even though the result is important, the message is more important.
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