Hostage A Year and Four Days

jon-cote-photo.jpgThere are  305 Private Security Contractors held captive in Iraq and Iran according to Brookings institute; this is the story of one.

Jonathon Cote has been captive a year and three days. Alone and hostage on foreign sands, he and his fellow security contractors were captured on November 16th last year. The parents and friends have done all they can to free them, but to no avail yet.

Update: after research into the Brookings institute report I’ve updated the header – overall 305 hostages have been taken, most are now freed or dead. See Update post here.

They are likely in Iranian hands just judging from the facts. [ this is pure speculation on my part only.] The hostage tapes were broadcast on Iranian Television first in December last year, and nothing goes on the air there without state consent. The “Iraqi” who sold the convoy out sounds more like a Basiji/Quds force member than the opportunist disgruntled employee originally painted by the news stories. Disgruntled employees usually aren’t able to gather a force of forty and set up roadblocks with Iraqi Police uniforms at a day’s notice either.

The State Department, and the Politicians have all been polite and they have done a lot, but the reality is that they have not accomplished much. Jonathon is from Buffalo, and was attending the University of Florida. So he’s a constituent of Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, and he’s a native of Rudy Guiliani’s state.

The real scandal and outrage in this is that most Americans don’t even know these hostages are held. The story received nationwide coverage from CNN and Fox as it broke, but since then the coverage has been regional only.

Indeed, the finest piece I’ve seen regarding it is this one by Dan Herbeck in The Buffalo News — please follow the link and read the full tale, there is both hope and sorrow to be found in it. Excerpt below:

Jon encountered dangerous and disturbing situations from almost the first day his boots hit the ground in Kuwait. He and Skora felt lucky to be alive after their first mission together.

They were ambushed in Baghdad, where they had been sent to pick up an Iraqi man from a hospital. Skora was driving the lead car in the security detail, with Jon riding shotgun.

“We were leaving Baghdad, and we were set up. Somebody knew we were coming and blocked off the road in front of us,” said Skora, 36. “We started to go down a detour, and suddenly, we were taking fire from the rooftops all around us. About 20 people were firing on us.

“It only lasted about 30 seconds. I got us out of there, but it was very harrowing. Jon kept screaming, ‘Mike, get me out of here!’ I told him to look for the targets and fire back. Jon settled down and did that.

“Afterward, Jon wouldn’t believe what we went through. It was as bad or worse than anything we saw in the Army.”  [Editor: Jonathan served a tour with the army in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq. Most private contractors are folks who have also served their country in military or police forces.]

Compare the regional-only coverage you see in this story to the hostage crisis in Iran, or the recent capture by Iran of the British sailors, and the Korean NGO hostages. While these are private security contractors it is no secret that they are doing brave duty and that without these contractors we might as well fold up and get out now — for we will lose and the Iraqi people will lose without their very necessary aid.

Without contractors NGO workers don’t get protection, the supplies don’t get to our troops, and the Iraqi officials bravely trying to make a new future get assassinated. Rebuild comes to a halt, and the chaos once again starts.

I also wonder what has happened to America after reading the “he knew what he was getting into” comments at this story (Please read to the end, where Jonathan’s brother, Chris, responds.) I have to ask the callous commentors this: What if it were your son or brother?

Jonathan served his country and served it well, he and his family deserve nothing less than our full respect, thanks, and support.

francis-cote.jpgHere’s the disclaimer: I work with Jonathan’s Dad, Francis Cote, and he is remarkable — he continues to do an excellent job day-in, day-out, while carrying this burden of sorrows, doubts, and worries.

If you did not know the tale you would not know anything was amiss from his persistent good cheer and that is as it should be. When you ask directly he is quite willing to talk about it, and you can sense the hope he carries as he speaks each word. Francis served 20 years with the Marines, perhaps something he learned there helps him carry this, but he tells me it’s his faith in God. I would hope that I would have the character and strength to bear up as well if it were my son.

When you ask about Jonathon then he will bring you up to date in the latest efforts, and ask that you pray for him. The family passes out cards with Jonathan’s picture and asks that you pray for him; and in most cubicles where I work you will see them on the walls. However more than those who I work with need to know about Jonathon, and more prayers are needed.

What can you do for Jonathon? You can spread the word, you can tell the tale and let people know that 300+ contractors are held hostage. You can pass this on to other blogs, you can write letters to the State Department and the Congressional leaders in New York state.

If you want to do a you-tube question for the Presidential Debates then perhaps you should ask about him and the others held hostage – after all the two lead candidates do hail from Jonathon’s home state. Here is the website for Jonathon and the others held captive with him. Otherwise the family would like your prayers for Jonathon, captive a year and four days.

As you sit down to give thanks in a few days please remember both those who are home, and those brave captive souls who are away – waiting on their Thanksgiving day.

UPDATE: Not ready for My Burqa has more: the State Department informed the families three weeks ago that the hostages are still alive.

Here’s the KC Star story on John Young, one of the other hostages with Jonathon.

Other resources: US policy for Hostage situations (PDF Link)

New Bin Laden Sightings

There are new rumors of Bin Laden, and Bill Roggio has coverage at the Weekly Standard.

To add to the mix I will insert below excerpts from my posts last year on this:

8-20-06:

Potentially a Bin-Laden sighting from India, this could be more credible than some past false sightings just due to the pressure being exerted both sides of the Kashmir and in Afghanistan on Terror groups right now. There are also a couple of Special Task forces in the area from the US, and they have disappeared from the map and the news. Let’s hope they are up to something real good. Continue reading “New Bin Laden Sightings”

Musharraf Heads to Saudi Arabia

Acting President Musharraf has relaxed emergency rule a bit by freeing thousands of dissidents and political opponents as he heads to Saudi Arabia. It is likely that he will meet with ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif once there, now that his power-sharing deal with Benazir Bhutto has thoroughly collapsed.

More at Reuters:

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan freed thousands of lawyers and opposition activists held under emergency powers on Tuesday, as President Pervez Musharraf arrived in Saudi Arabia, where old foe Nawaz Sharif lives in exile.

Army chief General Musharraf has been under pressure from the opposition and Western governments to revoke the emergency rule imposed on November 3 and ensure elections in January are held under free and fair conditions.

In a sign that the emergency was being relaxed, Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema announced around 3,400 detainees had been released by Tuesday and some 2,000 more would be released soon.

Increasingly isolated at home, Musharraf flew to Saudi Arabia leaving a trail of speculation that he would reach out to Sharif, the prime minister he deposed in a 1999 coup, who is now living in exile in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

The speculation is running two ways — that he might negotiate with the Saudis to keep Nawaz there until after elections, or that he might be trying to make a deal with Nawaz. Sharif has stated that he will not meet with Musharraf until emergency rule is completely rolled back.

Meanwhile the replacement Supreme Court has knocked down five of the challenges to Musharraf’s election as president in Parliament in October, and the remainder lack substance. Musharraf still says he will remove the uniform as soon as he is clearly declared president.

Yesterday the New York Times speculated that the US could have a proposal to work with tribal chiefs from the Afghan side of the border to help them fight the rising Islamist tide in their tribal lands, and in that background the head of the ISI is also traveling with Musharraf as he heads to Mecca for the pilgrimage.

In Swat the fighting with Mullah Fazlullah’s Taliban continues, with the army making slow advances, trying to pinpoint target the leaders of the insurrection. More on that at The Long War.

The Children who Survived

On 11/6 a Taliban bomber murdered 52 Muslim children in Afghanistan, 5 of their teachers and several others totalling 72 innocent lives destroyed. Reuters has a story this morning on the children who survived, and the nightmares they face nightly:

The blast killed 72 people, including 52 schoolboys and five of their teachers. Six parliamentarians also died.

“I panic badly. I dream about very dangerous things and wake up shouting,” said Lotfullah, 14, who is also being treated for wounds in the Baghlan hospital.

Parents worried how their children would cope.

“My son wakes up crying every night. We are very worried about him … He speaks about the dead and dogs following him,” said Nafisa. The blast killed one son and wounded another.

Mohammad Shokor’s son was about to undergo an operation.

“I don’t know how he will live. He is badly frightened. He talks nonsense to himself.”

Other parents had stopped sending their children to school.

“Our survey shows parents were also badly scared by this attack,” said Narmgoy.

“They either do not send their children to school, or if they go they cannot concentrate on their lessons.”

Dr. Kaneshka Urmiz, a psychologist, warned the sudden and violent shock the boys had suffered, unless treated, might affect them badly in later life.

“These children could grow up to be thugs or criminals in the future … They can be depressed and dangerous people, unless they are looked after.”

Taliban insurgents have killed more than 200 civilians in at least 130 suicide bombs this year

Annapolis

Carl at Israel Matzav has lengthy round-up of links to bloggers covering the Annapolis conference, please stop by, Israel Matzav