This Lady KNOWS the Face of Evil

And yes, it actually exists, contrary to liberals' beliefs.

On July 2, 2008, in one of the most intrepid special-forces operations seen in years, Ingrid Betancourt was rescued from FARC kidnappers by the Colombian military.  She had been held captive for six years after her 2002 kidnapping; her scars from being chained to trees give evidence of the heartless cruelty of her kidnappers.

She has become a symbol of French solidarity and courage; everyone wants to know what happened to her.  Under a headline "I Want to Forgive," Newsweek quotes her as saying:

I know that I have to testify to all that I lived. I know it is something that has to be done, but I need time. It is not easy to talk about things that still hurt. It will probably hurt all my life. [But] I want to forgive, but forgiveness comes with forgetting. I have to forget in order to find peace in my soul and be able to forgive. But at the same time, once I have forgiven and forgotten, I will have to bring back memories [to tell others]. They will probably be filtered by time so they won't come with all the pain that I feel right now. [emphasis added]

Another publication quotes her as saying that she knows that every human being has an animal inside.  "In any situation like the ones I experienced, perhaps any of us could do those kind of cruel things. For me it was like understanding what I couldn't understand before, how for example the Nazis, how (things like that) could have happened."

Right after her rescue, we wrote that Mrs. Betancourt had been treated badly.  The Tribune quoted what she said about her treatment by FARC:

"It was not treatment that you can give to a living being," Betancourt told France 2 television Thursday. She added: "I wouldn't have given the treatment I had to an animal, perhaps not even to a plant."

The New York Times follow-up reported that Mrs. Betancourt had been tortured and quoted her as saying that her captors had fallen into "diabolical behavior," adding, "It was so monstrous I think they themselves were disgusted." [emphasis added]

To name but one example, a couple of months after she was kidnapped, she was given her meal wrapped in a newspaper.  This was the first reading matter she'd seen since being snatched; she absorbed it eagerly.  It was the newspaper account of her father's funeral, brought especially to her for her reading pleasure.  Her vice-presidential candidate, who was kidnapped along with her, had a baby by one of their kidnappers.

Mrs. Betancourt has looked on the face of evil.  A gang of drug dealers tortured their helpless captive for years on end.  They were disgusted by what they did to her, yet they kept doing it.  There was no purpose in torturing her, she knew nothing they needed to know, they held her solely as a tool to get leverage against the outside world.

The men and women of FARC pretty much define evil.  They did evil, they knew it was evil, they were disgusted by what they did, they gained nothing from the evil they did, and they kept doing evil for the sake of doing evil.  If they were anything like the Nazis, they played games among themselves, trying to think of newer, more exotic ways to outdo each other in how evil they could be.  What they did to her taught her an understanding of what the Nazis did to their helpless victims.

Forgiveness is Not an Option

When something really bad happens, how often have we heard, "Just let go and move on."  It's true, of course, that wounded people have to move on, but "just let go" is far too simplistic to do any good.  Mrs. Betancourt knows it's not just "let go and move on," it's "forgive, then let go and move on.  You can't move on until you let go and you can't let go until you forgive.

Mrs. Betancourt has it right.  She realizes that she must forgive those who treated her with such inhuman cruelty.  She knows that forgiving is the only path to finding peace in her soul.

I have many friends who've been treated badly, but I don't know of anyone who's been treated as badly as Mrs. Betancourt except possibly for Sen. McCain.  As Sen. McCain went to Viet Nam, visited his former prison, and forgave those who mistreated him, Mrs. Betancourt knows that she must forgive if only to find peace in her own soul.  Her captors may never know of her forgiveness; they may not care if they ever hear of it, but granting forgiveness is essential for her to move on.  Forgiveness is for her, not for them.

Some writers have criticized Mrs. Betancourt for leaving Colombia so rapidly and for not coming back for the Independence Day celebration.  It may be impolite not to spend more time thanking the Colombian military for rescuing her, but she has asked for time to forget so she can forgive and heal.

Could she forget while still in Colombia?  She grew up there.  Everywhere she went, she'd be reminded of her youth, her friends, her family, of the father who died while she was, let's say, away.  Getting as far away from Colombia as possible will help her forget.

Lessons From the Face of Evil

What happened to her was so traumatic that she must forget temporarily in order to gain enough strength to forgive.  Once she forgives, however, she plans to remember so she can tell others.

Her experience led her to "understanding what I couldn't understand before."  She couldn't understand evil before being kidnapped and tortured; she realizes that ordinary citizens can't understand why we must fight the forces of evil.  She wants to help them really believe that evil exists.

Social workers and government agencies have misled us with the siren song of the perfectibility of man.  "Men and women are basically good," they tell us.  "If we clean up the slums, kids will grow up being good."  We've poured uncounted billions through government programs which, we were told, would improve the lot of the poor.

What do we see?  Our incarceration rate is up, we have more people in jail than ever before.  Fatherless children are more and more common.  Welfare holds people captive and multiplies feral children.

The people who set up these programs didn't mean to do evil, they simply believed that people are basically good instead of realizing that "every human being has an animal inside."  Having been subjected to years of evil treatment, Mrs. Betancourt knows better.  She gazed every day, every hour, in the face of evil, eyeball to eyeball, for six years.  She understands that "perhaps any of us could do those kind of cruel things."

She plans to bring back all her pain and tell us about it.  She wants us to know that she's gazed on the face of evil itself; she wants to tell us what it's like.  Then maybe we'll understand why we must fight the forces of evil which are loose in our world.  We hope she'll be able to convey her message before it's too late.

She's Not Alone

John McCain had the same experience of gazing every day, every hour, on the face of evil, eyeball to eyeball.  He passed up an opportunity to be sent home early because accepting unequal treatment would give aid and comfort to our enemies.  He suffered daily torture at the hands of evil for five and a half long years.  That's not as long as Mrs. Betancourt was tortured, but it's plenty long enough for him to recognize evil when he sees it.

Sen. McCain knows the evil of Kim Jong-Il who starves his people while building nuclear weapons.  He knows the evil of Syria's President al-Assad who murders his citizens and the Lebanese for political gain.  He knows the evil of Putin's government which murders businessmen who won't pay up fast enough and blows away journalists who dare to question his policies.  He knows the evil of terrorists who persuade their gullible followers to blow themselves up to kill innocent people.  Sen. McCain knows the face of evil.

Mr. Obama, in contrast, has worked amicably for years with an unrepentant terrorist who, after the statute of limitations on his acts of murderous terrorism had run out, stated that he wished that he'd been able to "do more."

Does Mr. Obama even know that evil exists?

An online biography reports "She [Mrs. Betancourt] was kidnapped by the FARC on February 23, 2002 while campaigning for the presidency, after she decided to campaign at a very dangerous location and ignored warnings from the government, police and military not to do so."  She said she could speak usefully with the terrorists "because they trust me."  As Nancy Pelosi stated that her talks with Bashar al-Assad, the murderous President of Syria, were "very productive," Mrs. Betancourt insisted on completing her trip so she could speak with the terrorists.

FARC trusted Mrs. Betancourt, all right.  They trusted that she'd make a very valuable bargaining chip; some reports say they kept a half-million dollar ransom without releasing her.

FARC spent six years methodically convincing her that evil exists in the world.  They were so thorough that she now understands the Nazis who made lampshades from their victims' skin.  Many of us know what the Nazis did; how many of us are able to understand?

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Pelosi believe in talking with evil rulers without preconditions.  So did Mrs. Betancount.  We hope she's learned the folly of her liberal views.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
I don't know that I agree that you have to forgive in order to move on. Frankly, some things should not be forgiven, and this seems like one of those.
August 1, 2008 12:17 PM
I also do not believe in always forgiving. There are certain deeds, once committed, that are never forgivable. This may or not may be one of them, but I wish that debate would be had at some point. There seems to be a consensus from somewhere that forgiveness always needs to happen at some point. Why?
August 6, 2008 3:30 PM
Although I'm not a Christian, most people point to the Christian model of forgiveness - where God can forgive even a monster like Hitler.

(Godwin, I refute thee!)

What is always left out is that the one being forgiven MUST TRULY REPENT and ASK for that forgiveness. We always seem to skip this step.
August 6, 2008 4:22 PM
The Christian mantra of "always forgive" is not about the person who did wrong; it's about the person who WAS wronged. In order for one to have closure in one's life and allow one's relationship with God to be smoothly navigated, one must remove bitterness and frustrations which non-forgiveness retains.
August 6, 2008 4:36 PM
Ha ha, took me a minute to figure out what you meant. Godwin's Law is stupid, and - in my opinion - referenced by people who don't want to be reminded of the world's worst tyrant. People don't like being reminded of history when stuff they believe is at obvious conflict with historical lessons.
August 6, 2008 4:41 PM
Angus, thank you for illustrating my point.

Please tell me where this is in the Bible, because I don't ever remember reading anything about forgiving others in order to "have closure". It sounds more like modern liberal psychobabble.

And really, how can ANYONE "forgive" someone who is not repentant?

Forgiveness is an act that is extended toward another. And frankly, unilaterally forgiving someone who has hurt you and remains unrepentant seems quite unhealthy.
August 6, 2008 4:45 PM
Matthew 6:14-16
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Most verses on forgiveness are similar to this. Basically, that forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person and how contrite they are. Rather, that it's about your relationship with God.

Colossians 3:13
"Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Mark 11:25
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, said, "Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you."

One will know the work of forgiveness is complete when one experiences the freedom that comes as a result. We are the ones who suffer most when we choose not to forgive.
August 6, 2008 7:08 PM

After I posted, I realized exactly what to expect in a response (you quoted exactly what I expected). I have debated this many times previously, and have no desire to turn the Scragged forums into a forum for a religious debate.

Suffice it to say that others with better knowledge and understanding of the Bible than either you or I have differed on this. I don't want to turn this into another one of those debates, and I apologize to everyone for taking things in that direction.
August 6, 2008 7:22 PM
As long as the debate remains civil and intelligent, you have our permission to continue it. It is not Scragged's policy to strictly enforce that the thread stay entirely on-topic; since the discussion participants seem content with the direction it's heading and orderly in doing so, we have no objection. Sometimes the most interesting points are revealed that way.
August 6, 2008 8:20 PM
The last part seems to be factually wrong, it refers to William Ayers as a murderous terrorist. However I didn't see where in the linked article it said he killed someone. In fact it said that not only did the bombs not kill anyone(other than themselves), there weren't even any casualties. I'm not disputing the terrorist label (you should add incompetent), I'd need an objective definition to do that. But when you're trying to link a person to a man to a group of evil you'd better have your facts straight.
August 7, 2008 11:13 AM
The dictionary gives this as a definition for murderous: "guilty of, bent on, or capable of murder." Wikipedia quotes Prof. Harvey Klehr as saying, "The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence. I don't know what sort of defense that is." And Ayers himself was published on 9-11 as saying he wasn't the least bit sorry and "I wish I had done more." Yep, he's a murderous terrorist. An incompetent and idiotic one, but no less evil for being comic.
August 7, 2008 11:50 AM
I think that's a bit of a cop out. There is no proof that he intended to murder anyone. In fact, common sense would suggest that he intended NOT to kill anyone. His group only struck empty buildings. He acted when the buildings were unoccupied. Why does that make you believe he was "bent on murder"? It makes me believe he wasn't. And though he said he would do it again, he never said he wanted to murder anyone. I don't like the guy either, but there is no cause to say he is murderous.
August 7, 2008 11:57 AM
I would definitely place a distinction between Ayers and, say, Osama bin Laden. There is no question that bin Laden and his acolytes are far far more evil. Their whole GOAL is to kill innocent people, the more the merrier. I do not ascribe that to Ayers.

I'd even be willing to allow that he may have taken casualty-minimization into consideration in his planning. Again, that should certainly be borne in mind at his sentencing (we can dream...)

I kind of compare it to the Japanese yakuza mafia, who are very careful only to murder their specific target of other gangsters (and will try again later if there are innocents in the area), vs. MS-13 who will gladly machine-gun an entire streetful of children if they think there's a possibility an enemy is in there somewhere. No question, one is far, far, far, more evil than the other, no doubt about that whatsoever.

But they're both evil.

"Reckless disregard for human life." OK, it's not as bad as 9-11, that's for sure. But try and defend it on its merits all the same...
August 7, 2008 1:18 PM
Tony said that Bible scholars have differed on whether someone has to acknowledge your forgiveness in order for you to forgive. It is true that

Judge not that ye be not judged, for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Matthew 7:1-2

can seem to be somewhat ambiguous, but the principle was stated clearly long before that:

With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. Psalm 18:25-26

When the Bible speaks of God shewing Himself, it speaks of how God seems to you. God is a God of love, mercy, and justice, but He won't always let Himself seem that way. If you're merciful, that is, if you forgive other people, God seems merciful to you and you'll feel forgiven. "Froward," on the other hand, means "turning from, or turning away from." If you're froward, if you turn away from God by refusing to forgive, God seems to be perverse, He seems to be turning away from you and you won't feel His love for you.

Forgiving purifies you by changing how you see God. Scragged says Mrs. Betancourt wants to forget and forgive to purify HER soul. She didn't say anything about the FARC people knowing she'd forgiven them; that's not part of her issue as stated.
August 8, 2008 4:40 PM
Regarding whether Bill Ayers is an actual murderer, or "merely" murderous, readers may be interested in this article:

It discusses classified testimony by an FBI mole, stating that Bill Ayers and his wife were personally involved in bombing a San Francisco police station which DID IN FACT kill a police officer; and in planting a bomb in Detroit with the express intention of killing "the maximum number" of police officers; the latter was foiled by a warning from the mole.

So it would appear that Bill Ayers is not only murderous, but on credible evidence, in fact a murderer. Either way, not a fit friend for a would-be President.
August 18, 2008 11:40 AM
FARC: 'Forest Area Rangers Corp'... Seemingly, it's most likely Mrs. Betancourt and others
intended on a journey to become rich with
the "gold in them there hills", and then
couldn't follow or find a yellow brick
road to get them back home. Stranded:
they purposely posed and pretended
by attacking one another as
"hostages" in order to gain
rescue, sympathy, support
and to cover the identity
Literally, they got caught at their attempts of thieving and/or gold mining, only to realize they couldn't physically make it
back to civilization from the jungle, the
deep daunting wilderness: and if they
could have made the return journey to
a nearest city? By then they had no
money, no resources and no one would
have paid them even the slightest
attention. They would have been just
so many more displaced, ragged and
dirty homeless people...
Because of the American, ex-Marine Corp 'Keith' and his ability to get food and supplies (etc) from the US Military, FARC tolerated the whole lot of them simply
hanging around...

September 25, 2008 3:57 PM
Farc hs released some more hostages.

It appears that taking them into the Columbian government is not on the table.
February 1, 2009 8:40 PM
Seems like our war on drugs is about to fund more of this sort of behavior.

Cocaine Trade Helps Rebels Reignite War in Peru
The military is battling a resurgent group of guerrillas, which has reinvented itself as an illicit drug enterprise.
March 18, 2009 10:54 AM
The NY Times says that Venezuela is still supporting FARC.

Venezuela Still Aids Colombia Rebels, New Material Shows
Despite denials by President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan officials have continued to help Colombia's largest rebel group, according to new evidence.

The Times says that Mr. Chavez lies. FARC has been declared to be a terrorist organization. Mr. Obama has been cooperating with Mr. Chavez. What will Mr. Obama do about this?
August 3, 2009 8:32 AM

Just because you are forgiven doesn't mean you will not be punished for what you did. Or forgiving someone, doesn't mean that you don't want them to be punished. I remember doing wrong as a child & asking forgiveness, but I still got my punishment. However, in being forgiven, I was not bitter ABOUT my punishment. By forgiving those that wrong us, we are not poisoned by bitterness, and they are punished for their wrongdoing. I'm sure this woman wants them to be fully prosecuted, but she doesn't want to live bitterly. She wants to heal.

June 19, 2016 1:18 PM

McCain?? Try "USA Olympian and army officer Louis "Louie" Zamperini, who survived in a raft for 47 days after his bomber crash-landed in the ocean during the Second World War, then was sent to a series of prisoner of war camps." Now, there's a story worth making a movie of... oh, that's right, they made TWO movies about this Olympian hero: Unbroken and USA Olympian and army officer Louis "Louie" Zamperini, who Unbroken Path to Redemption.

October 7, 2018 10:34 AM

A secret effort to help the FARC captives was recently declassified:

How a secret message in a Colombian song gave hostages hope

In the early 2000s kidnapping had become a key strategy for the Farc to fund itself. Colombia's transitional justice tribunal estimates that 21,396 people were kidnapped during the conflict.

"During this era, a journalist called Herbin Hoyos - who did a lot for all of the hostages - created a programme called 'Voices of the Kidnapped'," he says, "to help reduce their feelings of isolation by broadcasting messages from their loved ones to those in captivity."

The code was inserted in three different places within the song and the team decided to transmit one simple message: "19 people rescued. You're next. Don't lose hope."

After eight months, the song was ready for its first broadcast in 2010 on Mr Hoyos's programme and by-passed the commercial stations to play on more than 130 rural stations across Colombia.

It was not until hostages started to be released over the next few months and years that intelligence about the success of the song came back. Col Espejo says one rescued hostage spoke of hearing the Morse code message in his psychological evaluation and had passed on its meaning to his fellow captives.

January 1, 2023 8:42 PM
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