Captivity: 118 Days in Iraq and the Struggle for a World Without War

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Knopf Canada, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 410 pages
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The powerful account of the remarkable peace activist kidnapped while leading a peace delegation and held for ransom by Iraqi insurgents until his paradoxical release by a crack unit of special forces commandos.

In November 2005, James Loney and three other men -- Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, British citizen Norman Kember and American Tom Fox -- were taken hostage at gunpoint. The men were with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that places teams trained in non-violent intervention into lethal conflict zones. The then unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigade released videos of the men, resulting in what is likely the most publicized kidnapping of the Iraq War. Tom Fox was murdered and dumped on a Baghdad street. The surviving men were held for 118 days before being rescued by Task Force Black, an elite counter-kidnap unit led by the British SAS. Captivity is the story of what Jim described upon his return to Toronto and reunion with his partner Dan Hunt as "a terrifying, profound, transformative and excruciatingly boring experience." It presents an affecting portrait of how Jim came to be a pacifist and chronicles his work in Iraq before the kidnapping. It brings the reader immediately into the terror and banality, the frictions, the moral dilemmas of their captivity, their search to find their captors' humanity, and the imperative need to conceal Jim's sexual identity. It examines the paradoxes we face when our most cherished principles are tested in extraordinary circumstances and explores the universal truths contained in every captivity experience. At its heart, the book is a hope-filled plea for peace, human solidarity and forgiveness.

From James Loney:

Why I Wrote This Book

I often wondered, during those excruciating days of handcuffs and chains, fear and boredom without end, would I ever get to tell anyone about the strange and bizarre things that happened during our captivity? Being transported in the trunk of a car. Sleeping with my left and right hands handcuffed to the person beside me. Explaining to the captors how to use "men's gel." Picking open our handcuffs after watching a Hollywood movie.

It is a paradox. I went to Iraq as a pacifi st on a mission of peace and was kidnapped, threatened with death and held hostage with three other men until we were rescued in a military operation. It is an extraordinary privilege to be able to tell the story of this paradox, to explain why I remain committed to the principles of nonviolence despite the fact a member of our group was murdered and our freedom was secured by armed force. The crucible of captivity was a kind of school in which I was able to see the innermost workings of the universe, how we are all connected, how our liberation is inextricably tied together. I want to share this story in the hope of contributing to the emergence of a world without war, the single greatest challenge of the 21st century. Everything depends on this, for without peace nothing else is possible.

From the Hardcover edition.

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About the author (2012)

Did it really happen, those four months of handcuffs and chains, terror and uncertainty, excruciating boredom without end? Sometimes, when I''m not sure, I go down into my basement and open a cardboard box to reassure myself. It contains a pair of pants, a sweater, a collared shirt, two undershirts, a pair of socks, two sets of underwear, the green string I used to hold up my pants--and one handcuff. The things the RCMP took from me on the day of our rescue, while I stood shivering in an emergency room hospital gown, in a hospital located in the Green Zone, headquarters for the occupation of Iraq. They said it was for forensic evidence.

I was alarmed. Will I get them back? Even the handcuff? It was the only thing I cared about. Yes, they said. True to their promise, the box came in the mail a year later, each item meticulously folded and wrapped in brown paper. Proof that it really happened.

One hundred and eighteen days. To say "we thought it would never end" would be to dilute an understatement with a cliché. Glaciers moved faster than any single minute of any single one of those days. Each day, each minute was a lash, an open grave, a forced march, an agony and a theft for the four of us held hostage together--Tom Fox, Harmeet Singh Sooden, Norman Kember and myself--and all of our families and loved ones imprisoned with us in that four-month tomb of unknowing.

It is good to be alive. It could easily have turned out differently. The moment of my death might have been recorded on a grainy home video, or I might still be mouldering in the living hell of captivity. Instead I am alive and home free because a unit of crack soldiers risked their lives to secure my freedom. Without regard for my politics or my purpose in going to Baghdad. Simply because it was the duty they accepted. For this I am immensely and perpetually grateful.

I began to record these memories and thoughts in my brother Matthew''s apartment in Montreal. He was away for a while and I needed a quiet place to finally start what I had been avoiding for months and months. My heart was heavy. By some strange coincidence, it was Remembrance Day, and Canadians were gathering at cenotaphs, school gymnasiums and churches to honour those who risk their lives in the service of our country. In Calgary, Diane Dallaire laid a wreath at the cenotaph in Memorial Park. She is the mother of 22-year-old Private Kevin Dallaire who, along with two others, was killed on August 3, 2006, in a rocket-propelled grenade attack while fighting Taliban forces west of Kandahar. She said the ceremony was an important reminder of the cost paid for peace. "I hope they remember where their freedom came from," she said.

I felt the calamity of that day deep in my body: a fist clenched tight in my chest. I thought of Diane Dallaire mourning the loss of her son. The grief must be too much to bear. I wondered what I would say to her, were she to ask me, "Do you remember where your freedom came from?"

I do. My living, breathing, everyday-walking-around freedom comes directly from the hand of the soldier who took a bolt cutter in his hands and cut the chain that held me captive for four months. Yet I remain a pacifist, a Christian who believes that Jesus''s teaching to love one''s enemy is a call to lay down the sword and pick up the cross, to accept rather than inflict suffering.

It is a paradox. I went to Baghdad on a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation in opposition to the institution of war. I was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents who were fighting against the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their country. CPT used every weapon in its non-violent arsenal to get us out. There was an international up - rising of prayer vigils, solidarity statements, appeals, public witness, moral pressure. Our kidnapping was front-page news for weeks. The constant, unrelenting hope was that our captors would have a change of heart and release us. They didn''t. The days piled into months and Tom was killed. It was a secretive Special Forces operation led by Task Force Black--a joint U.S./U.K. unit established in 2003 to hunt down senior al Qaeda operatives in Iraq and rescue foreign hostages--that finally ended the crisis. Soldiers like Kevin Dallaire.

The first Remembrance Day was declared by King George V on November 7, 1919. It recalled the Armistice signed the previous year by Allied commander-in-chief Marshal Ferdinand Foch and Germany''s Matthias Erzberger in a secret railway carriage hidden in the Compiègne forest. On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m.--the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month--the First World War was officially over. Twenty million were dead, 21 million wounded. They called it the War to End All Wars.

November 11 is also the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. Martin is the patron saint of soldiers, cavalry and quartermasters. The U.S. Army Quartermasters Corps established the Order of St. Martin in 1997 to recognize the distinguished service of quartermasters. The website reads: "Saint Martin--the patron saint of the Quartermaster Regiment-- was the most popular saint in France during antiquity and the early Middle Ages. It is said that French kings carried his cloak into battle as a spur to victory. Usually pictured on horseback dividing his cloak with the beggar, the image of Saint Martin as a Soldier-Provider offers a fitting symbol for Logistics Warriors charged with SUPPORTING VICTORY now and for all time." Their website also tells us that Martin''s name comes from the Latin Marten Tenens (one who sustains Mars, Mars being the Roman god of war). And that is precisely what quartermasters do--sustain armies by making sure they have everything they need to do their job: gasoline, rations, bullets, boots.

Martin was born in 316 or 317 in the Roman province of Pannon ia (now modern-day Hungary). As the son of a senior officer in the Imperial Horse Guard, Martin was forced by law to join the army at the age of fifteen. While on duty at the age of eighteen, he encountered a ragged beggar at the gates of Amiens. Moved with compassion, he cut his cloak with his sword and gave half of it to the beggar. That night he had a dream in which Jesus appeared in the half cloak he had given away. "Here is Martin," Jesus said, "the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me." Shortly thereafter Martin was baptized.

When Martin was twenty, Julian II ordered him into battle against the Gauls. He refused. "I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight," he told the emperor. (The early Church prohibited the baptized from bearing arms or serving in the military under pain of excommunication.) When Julian accused him of being a coward, Martin volunteered to go onto the battlefield unarmed at the head of the column. Julian accepted his offer and threw him into prison. The next day the Gauls sued for peace and the battle never happened. Martin was discharged from the army.

Martin travelled to Poitiers to become a disciple of St. Hilary, the local bishop, and then later joined the monastery at Solesmes. In 371, he was acclaimed Bishop of Tours against his will by the citizens of Tours. As bishop, Martin worked tirelessly for prisoners. A general named Avitianus once arrived in Tours with a cohort he intended to torture and execute the next day. Upon hearing this, Martin went immediately to the house where Avitianus was staying. Arriving in the middle of the night, he threw himself on the threshold and began crying out in a loud voice. An angel is said to have awakened Avitianus, telling him Martin was outside. "Don''t even say a word," he said upon seeing Martin. "I know what your request is. Every prisoner shall be spared."

In addition, Martin was a staunch opponent of the death penalty. Priscillian of Avila was the leader of a growing heresy that advocated, amongst other things, abstinence in marriage. Condemned by the First Council of Saragossa and excommunicated in 380, Priscillian fled to Trier in southwestern Germany. A group of Spanish bishops led by Ithacius wanted Emperor Magnus Maximus to execute him. Although greatly opposed to Priscillian, Martin petitioned the imperial court in Trier to have him removed from the secular jurisdiction of the emperor, arguing this was a church matter over which the secular authority had no power to intervene and excommunication was punishment enough. When Maximus agreed and Martin departed the city, Ithacius persuaded the emperor to follow through with the execution. Priscillian and his followers, beheaded in 385, were the first Christians executed for heresy.

Martin hurried back to Trier as soon as he heard the news in the hope of saving the remaining Priscillianists. Once there, he refused to concelebrate with the bishops who had ordered the executions. Fearing a public scandal, the emperor promised to release the remaining prisoners if Martin shared Communion with Ithacius. Martin reluctantly agreed but then was so overcome with guilt for agreeing to this compromise that he resolved never to attend another bishops'' assembly. It is believed Martin died in 397 at the age of eighty-one. He was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor in Tours on November 11.

Irony and paradox. A young man who disobeys a direct order to kill becomes the patron saint of soldiers; a pacifist conscientious objector who leaves the army in disgrace is turned into a warrior icon charged with supporting-victory-now-and-for-all-time. The quartermasters have taken the cloak of St. Martin away from the beggar and wrapped it around the institution of war.

The reason, I think, is very simple. Every war needs a cloak. Every war needs something to surround and

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