Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | December 23, 2010

Operation Christmas

I do hope some young men and women do decide to defect from rebel forces and come home. Dear confused young lad, your family is waiting for you. Imagine! An elderly mom opens her door on Christmas eve to find the son she has not seen in years. Merry Christmas, Mama, he says. He’s so handsome, my son, she thinks.

In the past, December has seen the highest number of rebel demobilizations, though FARC leaders tell their followers that they will be killed if they turn themselves in. This year, 2,411 guerrillas have demobilized, including 140 during this holiday season, the military said. In 2009, a total of 2,638 rebels laid down their arms.

In the first tree of “Operation Christmas,” two units in two Blackhawk helicopters dropped in on a supply path that the guerrillas are known to use and picked an 82-foot tree to decorate with sparkling blue lights. The tree was rigged with a motion sensor that will turn the lights on when someone walks by. A banner next to it says, “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you too can come home. Demobilize. At Christmas, everything is possible.” Its planning and execution took four days.

Ten jungle trees will be decorated in FARC paths throughout the country.

Moreover, a commercial made by the military shows soldiers, dressed in camouflage uniforms and face paint, wrapping lights around tree branches and trunks.

Somehow, however, “Operation Christmas” seems to belong alongside Frosty the Snowman who melts away on a sunny day. You can watch a propaganda-like video of “Operation Christmas” here, and you’ll agree the way its presented and packaged—especially in the end, with the war-painted soldiers pleading with guerrillas to demobilize—is akin to cheezy commercials. It leaves me with a sense of: Is this the reality on the ground?

Even so, if one young man or woman demobilizes, it will have been worth it.

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