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)

12 Replies to “Hostage A Year and Four Days”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I would like to know more and do more about it. Is there a website that includes all 300+ hostages? And are they all Americans?
    Thank you.
    Lela

  2. Thanos, I am humble by your kind words. There are many factors that come into play with this situation. The most important which should be in the forefront of everyones (christian) mind is that God has a plan and someday it will be shared with all of us. Nothing happens without God’s will.

  3. Lela, they are mixed nationalities, the estimate comes from the Brookings institute, a moderate thinktank. I will see if I can find the report cited for you.

    What you can do is let more folks know about this, write letters to your editor, to your Congressional delegates.

  4. Thanos
    Great article! Congratulations for the hat tip and the lizardlanche 😉

    A big Catholic hug to my brethren, Jonathon’s family, may God bless them and keep them under His hand. The same to the families of all the other people who are held captive in Iraq and Iran. My prayers for all of them, whishing that the Lord helps them come out the best of this difficult situation.
    May God bless all, including Thanos here.

  5. Francis…I feel awful for you.

    How can it be possible that NO ONE IN OUR MEDIA covered this yet?

    I am at a loss for words.

    I pray for you.

    (Side note: Don’t want to be confrontational…but the comment you left earlier, if you scroll up you wrote…”The most important which should be in the forefront of everyones (christian) mind is that God has a plan and someday it will be shared with all of us.”)

    Why was Christian in ( )? Not everyone is Christian. Someone could be coming from a Buddhist stand point which is completely divergent from a Western religion. I, myself, am a Jew. I just found that odd…that’s all.

    Again, I am not trying to stir waves or make you angry (considering you already have enough to be angry about). I always look at the details and how others might read into things.

    I remain steadfast with you and your family.

    We will find him.

    Jake

  6. To the families of all the hostages, I pray for them and their safe return every single night. Lela is right, I wish that “someone” would aggregate the information on all the hostages, perhaps this would help to raise awareness. However, I sometimes feel that the less publicity, the better. After all, don’t the captors thrive on the attention? What should we do?

  7. I think this may be the Brookings Institute report that you mentioned:

    http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex
    (click on “most recent report pdf”; the table showing the hostage data is on page 21)

    The 305 contractors kidnapped are the total since 2003, not the current number. Presently there are 89 unaccounted for, which is still 89 too many, but not quite as bad as originally reported. It shows that so far there have been 54 killed, 147 released, 4 escaped, and 6 rescued. What it doesn’t show is the average duration of captivity, although I believe Roy Hallums was the longest at 10 months, a record that has unfortunately now been broken both by the Crescent Security contractors and by Ahmed Qesai al-Tayyie, the Army translator who was kidnapped in Oct. 2006.

    I am praying unceasingly for the safety and freedom of all these hostages and for their families. Thank you for this excellent article.

  8. Thanks very kindly for that, I’ve been embroiled in a large raft of research lately, and had not got back to this yet. It’s well appreciated!

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