Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle defended the Obama administration's Yemeni rescue attempt
A failed effort led to the deaths of hostages Luke Somers, an American journalist, and Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher
The U.S. shouldn't pay ransoms to terrorists, the lawmakers said
Lawmakers from both parties defended the Obama administration’s attempt to rescue American journalist Luke Somers early Sunday morning, even though the dangerous mission did not result in saving Somer’s life.
“It was an unfortunate outcome,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican, told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But I do believe you have to make these kinds of decisions.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, who also serves on committee, said on “CNN Newsroom” on Sunday, “Obviously we would have loved to be able to rescue these hostages and preserve their lives.”
“But I think it was the right decision to make … The President made the call, the tough call that it was worth the risk. And I think he was exactly right,” he said.
American photojournalist Luke Somers and South African Pierre Korkie, a teacher who was reportedly set to be released on Sunday, were fatally shot in the compound by terrorists as the secret mission unfolded, a U.S. official said Sunday.
Some critics have argued, in light of recent hostage killings, the administration should reconsidered its policy not to negotiate ransoms with terrorist organizations.
But in a visit to Afghanistan Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the administration’s policy, while also acknowledging that the Pentagon needs to be careful in how it conducts raids.
“There’s an immense amount of focus and time and review that goes into these operations,” Hagel told reporters, according to a pool report. “So, I don’t think it’s a matter of going back and having a review of our process. Our process is about as thorough as there can be.”
“Is it imperfect? Yes. Is there risk? Yes. But we start with the fact that we have an American that’s being held hostage, and that American’s life is in danger. That’s where we start, and then we proceed from there,” said the outgoing secretary.
Both Rogers and Schiff also defended the administration’s hostage policy – and like Hagel – they acknowledged that improvements need to be made to U.S. rescue operations.
“When you pay ransom, you get more kidnappings. That’s certainly what we saw across Africa. We’re certainly seeing it in Yemen as well,” Rogers said. “If we’re going to be extorted into paying ransom to al Qaeda so that they can rape women and blow up buildings and kill civilians, men, women and children, that’s a pretty bad plan to start with. I agreed with the President’s decision.”
Schiff reinforced Roger’s position that paying ransoms only fuels more violence.
“I think you end up funding other hostage taking and the cycle just perpetuates itself, so I think our decision is the right one,” he said. “Rather, try to rescue our hostages than pay ransoms, and, of course, prospectively trying to keep our people out of harm’s way. I think that is really the right policy, as painful as it is, and as enormously agonizing as it is for the families of these hostages.”
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