A reminder of the Red Cross logo’s power

Symbols, trademarks, icons, logos. What’s their true value? Following up on Johnson & Johnson’s lawsuit last year against the Red Cross over the latter’s familiar symbol, here’s a thought-provoking story from Colombia: At least one member of the military team that rescued 15 hostages long held by FARC rebels reportedly sported the Red Cross symbol on a bib or vest. That’s a violation of the Geneva Conventions and possibly a “war crime,” as such deception could pose a risk to humanitarian workers. What better camouflage for troops than the global insignia of rescue and comfort? On the other hand, when battling thugs who trade in terror, torture and violence, should governments be expected to play by the rules? Shades of grey abound; any answer might be qualified by countless Wal-Mart asterisks. Far from the boardrooms, design studios and glitzy TV suites of our media-driven world, a symbol can actually represent life or death.

—Posted by David Gianatasio