• Captivity: Book Review

    April 23, 2012

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq, Military

    Captivity: 118 Days in Iraq and the Struggle for a World Without War is a new book by James Loney recounting his days in Iraq, a victim of kidnapping. Loney went to Iraq as part of a Christian anti-war group, stumbled along with three colleagues into the vicious sectarian nightmare created by the US invasion and was held for ransom alongside his friends for those 118 long days and nights before being freed by US and British Special Forces.

    Ostensibly about the kidnapping ordeal itself, Loney’s book is actually about Faith. It is a powerful document to the power of Faith to push believers through the worst hardships, of Faith to conflict with the harder realities of war and of Faith as a way to live one’s life. Expecting a cowboys and Indians tale of survival and Special Forces machismo, I was first caught off guard and then drawn in to the more simple story.

    Loney begins his journey to Iraq believing he and other Christians can somehow affect the chaos there as a “Christian Peace Team.” Their goal is to negotiate, mediate and at times physically separate warring parties in hopes of achieving peace. Their naiveté is palatable, almost comical to anyone even vaguely familiar with the horrors of Iraq, yet decent writing and an almost childlike belief in his faith make Loney’s motives credible. He and the others are kidnapped immediately, as expected.

    The bulk of the book details the hour-by-hour struggles to stay alive and strong in captivity. While the four men were not tortured, they spent their days chained and had little food and no amenities. The spectra of death was present, and their limited ability to communicate with their captors kept the anxiety high. As one can imagine, spending 118 days chained together under such conditions makes for rough interpersonal relations, and how the men called on their faith to stay mentally whole and not turn on each other sticks with the reader. A secularist myself, faith remains something of a mystery and the window Loney provides is revealing.

    That said, Loney leaves the reader wanting more. Did none of the men ever seriously question their faith while in captivity? When confronted by a US Army officer angry at having risked his life to save people he felt were so stupid they never should have been allowed into Iraq, why was Loney silent? Any reflections on an antiwar group being freed by Special Forces’ violence? After the men were released, they refused as a matter of conscience to testify against their captors, knowing their testimony would result in the death penalty. Was this decision taken lightly? Were there no crisis’s of faith to confront? More introspection and less certainty would be welcome.

    Readers looking for insights into Iraq will probably not enjoy Captivity, but those seeking a deeper understanding of the role faith plays in the lives of believers will come away awed by Loney’s book. God bless him for it.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Lisa said...


      Very nice review — thank you for introducing the book to us.

      04/25/12 4:03 AM | Comment Link

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