Think before you lie

July 22, 2008

Recently a former presidential candidate from Columbia and three US contractors were rescued from their rebel captors after being held for over five years. (Here’s one of the first articles to cover the story.) Now besides the fact that these people were still alive after all these years there are some highlights that make this a particularly cool story. First, though the US provided equipment and intelligence, the rescue mission was carried out entirely by the Columbian military, a group that’s been plagued by political corruption (so I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.) Also the rescue team took acting classes (I mean how great is that.) (They used a rebel informant to trick the guards by saying they were here to move the prisoners on orders of some other leader.) And finally though everyone was armed with machine guns strapped to their backs, no shots were fired, no one was hurt, it was completely peaceful. When I first heard about the story I thought “wow, that would make a great movie.” But there may be a high cost for that peaceful mission.

Photographs of the Colombian military intelligence-led team that spearheaded the rescue, shown to CNN by a confidential military source, show one man wearing a bib with the Red Cross symbol. The military source said the three photos were taken moments before the mission took off to persuade the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels to release the hostages to a supposed international aid group for transport to another rebel area.

Such a use of the Red Cross emblem could constitute a “war crime” under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and could endanger humanitarian workers in the future, according to international legal expert Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association. cnn.com

So next time the Red Cross wants to send aid worker or monitors to check on prisoners’ conditions, or news outlets send journalists (the mission was documented on film by rescuers claiming to be journalists) those rebels will think twice. And somebody’s life is going to be in danger.

I think it had to just be a mistake in thinking out the outcome. One step too far. They obviously convinced them that they were fellow rebel soldiers; I wish they had left it at that. Sometimes circumstances require a deception, like when you’re rescuing people, or conducting a social psychology experiment. In psychology you have to justify any lies that you tell your subjects and show how you can’t do your experiment in any other way.

Why? Because lies mess with people’s attitudes and perception of others, they are powerful. I just had some money stolen from me on an online purchase. It makes me rethink whether I want to use that system again. Even though I know that hundreds of thousands of trouble free transactions go on on the site and this is only my first problem, I am still disconcerted. The bad egg messed with my psyche. Because he lied to me, I’m taking it out on all the other good sellers out there.

So lying is mainly a bad idea (doesn’t the bible say something about that?) but if you do it just be sure to think through all of the consequences.

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One Response to “Think before you lie”

  1. Hank Says:

    As I’ve often said, “when in doubt, tell the truth”

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