Posted With permission of Lt. Col. Robin Higgins USMC (RET)
For Immediate Release
1 April 1999
Contact: Robin L. Higgins, Lt.Col. USMC (Ret]
ABOUT CAPTURE OF U.S. SERVICEMEN IN YUGOSLAVIA
Tallahassee, Fla. - With the news of the capture today of three U.S. servicemen in Yugoslavia, I recall the capture in 1988 of my husband, Col. William R. (Rich) Higgins who was serving with a U.N. peacekeeping operation in Lebanon. He was held by Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists and later murdered, a picture of his body hanging from a noose released to the news media in July 1989. His remains continued to be held until they were released in December 1991.
I have heard from more than one President, U.N. Secretary General, Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs Chairman what I am hearing today, that "we have long memories," that "we will hold these captors accountable," " that we will go after them." Sadly, I haven't found this to be true.
When I tried to find a voice for my story, no major publisher would publish my book, saying that the story is "too old" and "not relevant." Sadly, they are being proved wrong today. I fear for and I pray for the safety of these brave men, and my heart goes out to their families.
Colonel Higgins was never declared a Prisoner of War by his country, and it seems that is the case with the men being held today. It is my contention that when servicemen or women are captured, they are "prisoners of war," not "hostages" or "detainees." A "hostage" is a civilian caught in the line of fire, and held for some sick political or financial reason. Servicemen are held because they represent to those who would harm us, all the perceived weaknesses of democracy.
When a man or woman in the uniform of our country are captured, they behave as prisoners of war. They live day by day by the code of conduct that says: "I am an American, fighting in the Armed Forces that guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.... I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America."
Because Rich was always a "hostage" and never a "prisoner," there were never any demands of international rules of treatment, no Red Cross visits, no insistence on medical care or humane treatment.
Because neither the U.S. nor the U.N. wanted to give "legitimacy" to the terrorists, insisting that neither the state of Lebanon nor Syria had anything to do with it, they put no special pressures or demands, placed no sanctions on them or anyone else.
The State Department, not the Defense Department, had the lead. That meant diplomacy, not military might. There was no retribution, no retaliation, no rescue.
Servicemen and women wear the uniform of this country and leave their families behind to fight for this country because they believe this country will come after them when they fall. I believe we broke this pledge to Rich - and I hope we don't break this pledge to the three brave men who are now being held My points are:
1. We must acknowledge whenever we commit American servicemembers outside our shores, they will be subject to those who would harm them, whether in combat or terrorist acts.
They are Americans, and whether they are armed with multiple rocket launchers, rubber bullets, or blue berets, nothing will disguise the fact they are Americans.
When taken, they are "prisoners of war."
2. We must not attach American troops to U.N. command and control. The U.N. was never designed to be a military force.
Our military men and women join our armed forces to fight and defend our country, our people, our flag, not the United Nations.
3. Only by publicly pursuing, relentlessly tracking down, and punishing those who commit terrorist acts will we begin to deter them.
My book, Patriot Dreams, details my quest to get information and support from the United States government and the United Nations. It portrays a woman in crisis. It explores the schizophrenic conflict I faced - how to maintain my patriotism in the shadow of disappointment and seeming betrayal by our own government and the U.N.
The book has been published by the Marine Corps Association and is immediately available by calling them at 1-888-BE-PROUD.