Monday, December 10, 2012

In harm’s way Part II: Kidnapped MD’s rescue results in death of Navy SEAL

Almost two years ago, I blogged [here] that Americans who put themselves in harm’s way jeopardize the lives of others. I recounted the stories of mountain climbers who were rescued from a ledge, hikers who were captured in Iran and four people who went sailing in the western Indian Ocean and were captured by pirates.

Today we learn that a Navy SEAL was killed during a raid on a Taliban base which freed an American doctor who had been kidnapped last week. At least six other people died during the battle. Their backgrounds have not been detailed. [Story here.]

The doctor had been working for an organization called Morning Star Development, which runs clinics in rural Afghanistan. According to its website, Morning Star Development is a 501(c)3 charity. It addition to its clinics, it is also “training a new generation of Afghan leaders in the best practices of leadership from around the world.”

Americans can work in rural Afghanistan if they want to. I realize the people there need help.

The question is should Americans working in rural Afghanistan, who are aware of the risks they take, expect to be rescued if they are kidnapped?

You see, the problem is that someone’s son was killed saving this doctor.

I know that men who sign up for the Navy SEALs are aware that they risk death. However, it is one thing to risk death in wartime or when trying to kill the likes of Osama bin Laden.

It is something quite different to be killed rescuing a person who should not have been there in the first place.

The death of a brave Navy SEAL was unnecessary. I am angry at Morning Star Development and the doctor who caused this death. I grieve for the Navy SEAL’s family who will live with the fact that their son died while rescuing a doctor, who I’m sure had good intentions, but should not have been in rural Afghanistan.

If I were in charge, I would tell Morning Star Development and similar groups that they are free to send their people to places like Afghanistan. But if harm comes to them, they should not expect to be bailed out by my son, your son or anyone’s son.


If I tell you I have to kill you said...

Absofreakinlutely! No way these young men should have to risk their lives to save a civilian.

Anonymous said...

If someone wants to put themselves in harms way then they are welcome. They take the risk and if they are kidnapped we should leave them there without risking someone else's life

Anonymous said...

Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Afghani civilians have died as a result of US choices in fighting "Operation Enduring Freedom", though inadvertently and despite our great attempts to prevent them. The Afghani people have suffered and are suffering due to American actions. I don't want to pass judgement on our conduct- hindsight is 20/20, and we're not nearly far enough away yet.

I see a brave doctor working to heal people, civilians, who've been terribly injured by American actions. I think we owe it to them to support him, even with the blood of our soldiers if necessary, as some small recompense for the immense harm we've done.

I think Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque signed up willingly, to protect the innocent. And he died bravely, rescuing a doctor who worked to save the lives of innocent Afghani victims of our actions. It's tragic, but not as tragic as failing to recognize that we owe something to the Afghani civilians we've subjected to over a decade of war.

Dr Skeptic said...

Aren't we missing the big picture here? You paint it as a trade between one young Navy SEAL and a civilian doctor, and I can't argue with your opinions, but only when we restrict ourselves to that perspective.
Sending in the military to rescue a civilian has wider implications. It was a carefully weighed decision by those in power, and it is possible that this action, including the deaths of the soldier and the six kidnappers (presumably), will alter the probability of future kidnappings. The action itself sends all kinds of messages to a wider audience as well.
I don't think that I would be speaking out of turn if I suggested that US soldiers have died for less noble causes than this?

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Good comments from all. I agree that a lot of innocent civilians have died, also for no good reason. It has to stop somewhere. I have no quarrel with the brave doctor being there, but he and others who do this need to know that they are on their own.

I disagree that the rescue of this hostage will deter future kidnappings. There is no evidence to support that contention. The next time it happens, the kidnappers will be better prepared for the raid and more SEALs will die.

I do agree that US soldiers have died for less noble causes that this, but that's not a good reason to keep sending them to rescue individual civilians.

artiger said...

I certainly think it's noble to go abroad to bring health care to underserved areas; however, you can bring health care to underserved areas without even leaving the U.S., which is a noble calling as well.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

artiger, that's a very good point.

Anonymous said...

Is it not true that all US military personnel are volunteers? They volunteer to be in the military and, thus, volunteer themselves to be in the war zone, just as this doctor did. Are you suggesting that when the volunteer military personnel are in trouble, just as this doctor was, other military personnel should not risk their lives to rescue them? What is the difference in rescuing a volunteer soldier vs a volunteer civilian? In both cases, you are risking the life of someone's son.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Yes, all US military personnel are volunteers. But I would presume that any soldier who is captured would have been on a specific mission or at least would have had orders to have been in the area where the capture took place.

I think that is quite different from a doctor or a missionary going into remote rural Afghanistan on his own. In that case, Morning Star Development should provide adequate security for its people and not assume that rescue will be automatic. Should we rescue French doctors too?

If I decide to go hiking in Afghanistan, should I expect the SEALs to rescue me if I am kidnapped?

Anonymous said...

If you don't volunteer for the military in the first place, you won't risk being ordered to Afghanistan and, hence, won't risk the lives of others trying to rescue you if you get captured.

Why is a civilian rescue different from a military rescue? Isn't that simply assuming that what the military is doing there is important and deserves a presence, whereas what the civilian doctor is doing is useless? Let us not forget that our military does not exist in a vacuum or to serve its own interests; rather, they exist to serve the interests of the American people. No one is suggesting that the military become responsible for widespread civilian rescues etc. But, I think that in certain select cases it will always make sense for the military to help out. Risking their lives for this brave doctor, in my opinion, was no different than any other mission the SEALs may have embarked on. I have a hunch that they would be the first ones to tell you that.

Equating recreational hiking in a war zone to helping the sick and destitute in a war zone is silly. Not worth commenting on further.

As for the French doctors, their own military can mount an operation if they were to so choose.

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