Praying for hostage Warren Weinstein’s freedom

Add Warren Weinstein’s name to the list of Americans languishing in the hands of our enemies after being taken captive while working in a dangerous place in the service of the US government.

The 72-year-old Weinstein was a consultant for the US Agency for International Development in Pakistan when terrorists broke into his home in 2011 and dragged him away. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has since claimed to be holding him.

Weinstein made news in a just-released video in which he pleads for President Obama to help. It’s not the first time he’s made a video pleading for negotiations. In this one, he talks about his service for the United States and laments, “Now, when I need my government, it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.”

In the course of 13 minutes, he appeals to the president, the secretary of state, the press and the American public. At one point, he asks the administration to help secure his release by agreeing to end drone strikes in Afghanistan.

We have two reactions. The first is that, as an American held by al Qaeda, Weinstein cannot be held accountable for words he says with the proverbial gun to his head.

Our second reaction is this: No American who is held by an enemy should ever feel abandoned by his country.

We owe Warren Weinstein, and we pray for his freedom. But the best way to help Americans in these places is to create incentives and follow policies that will make it less likely they will ever be taken in the first place. That in turn requires making clear to our enemies that the price we exact for taking an American captive is higher than anyone — even a committed terrorist — would ever want to pay.

Filed under 12/29/13