The Skimmer

Hostage Nation by Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes

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Hostage Nation

By Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes, with Jorge Enrique Botero Knopf; 281 pages

Sometimes life really does resemble an action movie. Journalists Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes had already been working on a documentary about Ingrid Betancourt--the Colombian presidential candidate who was kidnapped in 2002 by FARC, the country's cocaine-financed leftist rebel group--when the guerrillas nabbed three U.S. defense contractors. The four high-profile hostages joined a cache of others sequestered in the Colombian jungle in what was then the 44-year-old civil war's newest drama. In recounting 2008's OperaciĆ³n Jaque (Operation Checkmate) hostage release--which, among other things, saw soldiers posing as FARC members--the authors rightly address the context of the failed war on drugs. And in a rarity, the foreign fixer actually gets his due: Jorge Enrique Botero, a co-writer, appears in the narrative trying to deliver a copy of John McCain's Vietnam memoir to the prisoners. In the end, the lessons of Hostage Nation resonate beyond Colombia: when it comes to asymmetrical warfare, insurgents only need one small win.

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