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Open Letter to His Excellency\\
the United States\\
Ambassador in Canada\\
Mr~David Wilkins\\
and to the Public Generally,\\
the 2005 November 26 Disappearance\\
in Baghdad\\
of My Friend James Loney\\
and His Christian Peacemaker Companions

Toomas (Tom) Karmo\\


\copyright Toomas Karmo, 2005, 2006


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Revision history of this document, with
datestamping in Universal Coordinated Time: 
20060301T210102Z/version\_0001.2000 (briefly addressed the
Iraq party-political situation now evolving from the
2005 December 15 Iraq elections; amended `Ikaterina'
to `Ekaterina'; made many minor updates and a few       
minor literary improvements); 
20060110T203344Z/version\_0001.0015 (corrected a few words of 
gratuitously discourteous rhetoric; made other tiny repairs); 
20051221T170142Z/version\_0001.0001 (corrected the death year of
Ekaterina Ranne; made other tiny repairs); 
20051220T191944Z/version\_0001.0000 (prepared the base version).} 



\noindent \textit{This letter, on the subject of Baghdad
captive James Loney  
and his fellow captives Tom Fox, Prof.~Norman Kember, 
and Harmeet Singh Sooden, is directed  
as a matter of diplomatic and literary formality to
His Excellency Mr~David Wilkins, United States Ambassador in
Canada. It is directed also (in a diplomatic and literary
sense secondarily, but in a pragmatic sense first and foremost)
to a more general readership,
including (\textit{a})~the 
many people, numbering in at least the low hundreds every month, who 
visit my Web site\linebreak
or its precautionary mirror\linebreak
\cyberspeak{http://www.interlog.com/\~{ }verbum/} and 
(\textit{b})~the security workers at the United States
Consulate here in Toronto (notably 
Mr~Stu Udall and his
supervisor) and their Royal Canadian Mounted Police colleagues. 
Those security specialists have
taken on themselves the joint ongoing duty of monitoring 
my half-hour prayer vigils for James Loney on the sidewalk
outside the Consulate from 16:00 EST on
all the afternoons of 2005~December~12
through 2005~December~21 and on Monday and
Friday afternoons starting 2006~January~9---a
regimen of twice-weekly vigils starting
in January but moving forward 
from Yuletide into Lent, and 
extending if necessary far beyond Lent. 
I welcome their monitoring initiative 
and herewith thank them for their forbearance and courtesy.} 


\startsectionfont{Your Excellency}, I write only 
in my own name. I do not write
as a representative of political or activist organizations of
any kind. I write in my capacity as an ordinary private
Catholic, as one of Jim Loney's many personal friends. I write
also as an individual linked 
in private conviction through Jim to the witness of Jim's three
captive Christian Peacemaker Teams companions, even though
the three are not known to me personally.

Your Excellency, Jim and his three co-workers are the victims of
an atrocity universally condemned in the tribunals of public
opinion. It is an atrocity condemned by the United States
government. It is an atrocity condemned even by Hamas and 
Hezbollah, antithetical though their cruel doctrine of violence
is to the theology both of moderate Islam
and of the Christian Peacemaker Teams. 

Jim and his three co-detainees are the victims of a crime
with public-relations benefits liable to 
accrue, whether by Machiavellian
design or by ironic accident, to the current
(Green-Zone-anchored) Iraqi government, in
other words to your side in the current Iraq chaos. 

I speak here of potential 
`public-relations benefits' because the atrocity can now be
used by the current Iraqi government,
in other words by elements allied with your own government, to
justify harsh police work in Baghdad. 

I add `whether by Machiavellian design or by ironic accident'
for the following reason: So profound is the current chaos in
Iraq that no member of the ordinary civilian public can now hope
to know the truth regarding Jim and his three companions. 
Although it has been asserted that the four
captives are the victims of forces opposed to the Iraqi 
government, this assertion is itself speculation. 

The perils in any type of speculation are recalled for us by the
Peter Maass article, in the \textit{New York Times Magazine} for
2005~May~1, entitled `The Salvadorization of Iraq?'. You will
find the article retrievable instantly with the Google 
seven-word search
string \cyberspeak{'new york times
magazine'~'salvadorization of iraq'}. You or your colleagues
will no doubt now be analyzing the Peter Maass article for
yourselves, examining Mr~Maass's contention that
your government's Iraq anti-guerilla adviser James Steele
previously facilitated anti-guerilla operations in El
Salvador. I for my part remark here that the bare mention
of American-sponsored anti-guerilla operations in El
Salvador has dreadful resonances for Catholics, recalling
as it does for us the 1980 San Salvador assassination of human-rights
exponent Archbishop \'{O}scar Romero. 

The chaos in Iraq is, I repeat, profound. I have mentioned a
disturbing Iraq administrative link, in the person of James
Steele, with the recent dark history of El Salvador. 
Please allow me to
mention also, as further illustrations of the chaos now
prevailing, the 2005 deaths of two journalists investigating
Iraq human-rights abuses: on the one hand the death of 
Yasser Salihee, a writer whose portfolio includes a
collaboration with Tom Lasseter in the
\textit{Philadelphia Inquirer} of 2005~June~28, in an article
entitled `Campaign of Executions Feared in Iraq'; and on 
the other hand the death of Steven Vincent, whose portfolio
includes an article entitled `Switched off in Basra', in the
\textit{New York Times} of 2005~July~31. 

Jim's personal Toronto friends, such as I, cannot hope to know
anything of substance in the current nightmare of speculation 
and surmise. We stand blind, we stand powerless, in the darkness
that your government has brought to Iraq in its unhappy effort
to plant long-term military bases in Iraq, I fear in 
an effort to secure USA long-term oil supplies. 
Fourteen bases were
alleged when, months ago, I first read of a count. The same
figure appeared in January or February of 2006 at the Quaker
`Friends Committee on National Legislation' site 
at \cyberspeak{http://www.fcnl.org/iraq/bases.htm}, and no doubt
more will be heard on this matter (we must begin to 
Google on the Pentagon jargon phrase `enduring bases')
over the months to come. 

I stand with my candle or lantern, 
and with a picture of Jim, before your Toronto
Consulate walls at 16:00~EST each afternoon 
from 2005~December~12 to 
2005~December~21 inclusive, and on Monday 
and Friday afternoons over the weeks and months 
from 2006~January~9 onward, as (I reiterate)
a Catholic pacifist. I stand as my friend Jim would stand. 
Or let me say, rather, that I stand as my friend Jim did stand. 
For Jim was arrested at this very Consulate in 1991, protesting
as a pacifist at your government's first Iraq incursion. 

Like Jim and his companions, 
I utterly reject any form of militarism. Jim and his friends, 
among them I,
reject it whether the ammunition be fired by 
the tragically misguided ``Coalition'' troops or by the tragically
misguided armed-resistance movement that our newspapers misleadingly
term an ``insurgency''. 

Concerning the inappropriateness of the well-worn term
`Coalition', let me remark only that among the ``Coalition''
partners is my own tiny country, Estonia, 
perpetually dependent on the friendship of Washington
for its security against Moscow. 
My country's participation 
as one of the pressured, recruited,
pro-invasion ``Vilnius 10'' Eastern European governments was
defended with breathtaking cynicism by one Estonian, I suspect
a public figure or civil servant, as being `a good 

Allow me to explain also the inappropriateness of
the term `insurgency', to nail this semantic jiggery-pokery
once and for all. The unabridged 
\textit{Oxford English Dictionary} tells
us that an insurgent is `one who rises in revolt against
constituted authority; a rebel who is not recognized as a
belligerent'. The second most authoritative source for exact
English usage, 
\textit{Webster's Third New International Dictionary}, 
calls insurgency `a condition of revolt against a recognized
government that does not reach the proportions of an organized
revolutionary government and is not recognized as
The two leading authorities, then, agree. The insurgent is one
who opposes constituted authority (Oxford), who opposes a
recognized government (Webster). 

An insurgency, ultimately
defeated, was present in Malaysia in the 1950s. Insurgencies,
some perhaps destined to fail and others perhaps
destined to succeed, are present in parts of Africa now. What we
had in Iraq in 2005
was not an insurgency, since the relevant armed persons were
not opposing a constituted authority. The relevant armed persons were
simply acting, whether rightly or wrongly, in reaction to an
overseas power that had for its part first invaded, whether
rightly or wrongly, and had then recruited, whether rightly or
wrongly, a provisional and temporary administration from among
elements within the invaded populace. When Iraq does
finally acquire a constituted authority (conceivably, for all I
know, at some point in the 
painfully protracted 2005 and 2006 political process, itself 
orchestrated from within the Green Zone, that gave Iraq its
hopeful 2005~December~15 elections), we may begin to speak of an
insurgency. On the day of Jim's 
disappearance, 2005~November~26, we had no right to use
the \textit{i}-word, and we had no right to use it in the highly
fluid political situation current on the day, 
2005~December~20, that I released the first significant public 
version of this letter. 
Instead, we were obliged, as conscientious political
analysts, to resort, no matter what our private political stance
may have happened to be, to a 
\textit{g}-word or a \textit{p}-word: the anti-American
persons in the then-current political setting counted, in the clear
and dispassionate language of political science, binding on all
sides in the unavoidably passionate political debates, not as
insurgents but as guerillas or partisans.

Like Jim, I repeat, I reject all forms of violence, including
guerilla or partisan violence. Like Jim, and like our mutual
Catholic exemplar Dorothy Day before him, I declare modern
warfare to be itself a form of terrorism, no matter who
practices it. Indeed I challenge the reputable Catholic
theologians of the just war, should any such theologians remain
now in our Church, to count, on anything more than the fingers
of one hand, the significant concrete instances in living human
memory of unequivocally just wars.

And more: I assert war to be the most far-reaching form of
terrorism known to humanity, to be the specific terrorism that begets
and nurtures, even to the third and fifth and seventh human
generation, the other terrorisms tormenting us. What is the
hideous Middle East situation now, the situation 
that has threatened
to take the lives of Jim and his three companions, if not the
toxic residue of World War~I? What were Hitler and Stalin if
not the bitter double fruit of World War~I? 
How was Hitler's system brought down 
if not through a
misconceived armed struggle that facilitated the Jewish
Holocaust, that inaugurated decades of suffering for those
innocent European peoples having the misfortune to reside east
of the Elbe river and west of Russia, and that enabled and
consolidated the Stalinist tyranny oppressing the innocent
mainland Chinese to this day? If we see nuclear weapons
detonated in this decade, whether by governments or by partisan
guerillas, what will such detonations be if not the next stage
in a militaristic perversion of science first unveiled by Harry
Truman's incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? 
And (to look for a moment to the light, not to the darkness)
how was Stalin's system brought down 
from the Elbe to Vladivostok if not by a 
nonviolent 1980s mass movement, a pacifist
movement spearheaded from Poland: a movement that equalled, and
more than equalled, Mahatma Gandhi's stupendous pacifist
achievement in 1940s India? 

For you, Your Excellency, and for your political 
attach\'{e} or other colleagues, I have a message
of hope. You will find it an unexpected message, a cheerful
message, almost a humorous message. 

My late maternal grandmother, Ekaterina Ranne, born in Estonia in 1892,
was as a young wife brought in the most immediate and physical
sense face to face with one of the first great terrors of our
time. The year was, I suspect, 1918 or 1919 or 1920. Vladimir
Ilyich Lenin, having assumed power in the Petrograd
putsch of 1917~November~6, was now seeking to consolidate his
Bolshevik despotism through civil war. Grandma was at the time
in a village in Ukraine with her young husband, seeking to
escape famine.

For a while, her village of temporary refuge was in the hands of
Mensheviks. Then something happened---I presume that some guys
fired guns at some other bunch of guys---and the village changed
hands. A soldier, one of the incoming Bolsheviks, who must by
now have become accustomed to the idea of shooting people for
politics, banged on Grandma's door. `Woman,' he said, `our army
is feeding. Give us spoons.' To this Grandma said, `Spoons? What
do you mean, spoons? The only spoons we have in this house are
silver coffee spoons, and we are not handing those out to
Bolsheviks.' The gun-toter apologized, as of course he had to
apologize, and he went on to the next house.

The story has been told in our family as an illustration of
our dear
Grandma's very occasional naivet\'{e}. 
But I, for my part, say that
she saw things the way my friend Jim Loney does, and as we
indeed \textit{must} see 
them if the cycle of violence is to be ended in
the Middle East even as Karol Woytyla 
and his clerical and secular co-workers successfully ended it in
1980s Eastern Europe. For Jim and Grandma, and also for that
poor Bolshevik soldier with whom Grandma 
in her vulnerability successfully pleaded or
reasoned, people count for more than politics.

Grandma's viewpoint, perhaps in a particular way her 
openness and vulnerability, carried her safely through the Russian civil
war. It carried her also through the still more terrible trials
of World War II, which saw Estonia occupied
both by Soviets and by Nazis.

What in the end happened to Grandma, you ask? She lived a long,
happy, productive life, greatly enjoying her decades in Canadian
exile, departing this world in 1992 half a year short of her
hundredth birthday. 

There is a message for you in this. It is, as I say, a message
of hope. You have Jim's convictions to reflect on from
recent newspapers,  
and now I have told you something of Grandma.
I can imagine how much your team, as paid representatives of
currently problematic Uncle Sam, hate what
currently problematic Uncle Sam pays you to do. I can imagine how
much some of you wince with every fresh expos\'{e}, in Toronto's
\textit{Globe and Mail} or on the BBC, of the current, and I bet
temporary, betrayal of America's founding ideals. I 
think I know how your diplomatic team
felt inside when you learned not from fringe people like me but
from the very lips of your unrepentant General Peter Pace, as
quoted on the BBC on 2005~November~30, that your troops used
white phosphorus in Fallujah. I think I know how your diplomatic 
team felt inside when,
upon picking up the \textit{Globe and Mail} 
on 2005~December~5, you found
front-page photos of jet planes allegedly used to transport
prisoners, in Uncle Sam's processes of ``rendition'' and ``special
rendition'', from one island to another in his globalized
\textit{arhipelag gulag}. I think I 
know how your diplomatic team feels inside---I 
think I know what bleak parallels many of you 
draw in your heart of hearts---when I tell you that
under Yuri Andropov, political detainees got moved across the
Soviet Union in rail cars labelled \textit{pagash}. 
(Do I take this fact
from some book, from some Yuri Orlov, from some Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn? No. I myself spoke once with an Estonian 1980s
gulag veteran, with a ``political'' who had himself been hauled by
railway in this direction or that, as a piece of Soviet human

Now in what terms to I urge sanity on you, bringing you hope in
a dark time? Did my Grandma urge her Bolshevik to become a
Menshevik? Or did my friend Jim,
when still freely walking the streets of Baghdad, urge 
your troops---they were of course among the people with whom he, as a
documenter of alleged human-rights abuses, worked---to go AWOL?
No. Grandma did not preach moral heroism at people, and neither,
so far as I know, did Jim. And neither am I, for my part, going
to summon you to some great shimmering height of moral heroism.
But I want to suggest to you that there are ways for you and me
to put people first and Uncle Sam's politics second. This is
something the citizens of Eastern Europe, including of course
the citizens of my own tiny country, learned in the communist
decades. It's now time to apply those mild Eastern European
tactics here.

If your team finds the
current Uncle Sam misdirected, as I bet 
many of you do, then
look for low-key ways, nonviolent ways, even legal ways, of
limiting his reach. There are ways 
in the West not of leaking information
(that would be contrary to the terms of your paid employment and
so really would call for a type of heroism) but of
intimating to outsiders that pertinent information is herewith
withheld. There are ways in Iraq 
not of outright defying security-staff
orders (that, too, would be contrary to the terms of your employment
and so would constitute a type of heroism) but of interpreting
them creatively. One can, speaking literally
or figuratively, shoot to miss,
as many a soldier did in the literal sense during World War II.
Whether in the West or in Iraq, 
one can, so to speak, get those American GPU files, those
American KGB databases, just a little bit scrambled, or
alternatively one can render them in certain judiciously chosen
places rather ingeniously transparent.

If the worst should happen with Jim, then I propose,
as I have already indicated to
your security personnel, to initiate my small act of civil
disobedience (my signing of your 
Consulate wall with a Cross in ashes) by
singing one of the greatest of Christian Latin hymns, the
\textit{Dies irae}. The hymn---ash, in 
Latin \textit{favilla}, is a running theme in its twenty 
majestic stanzas---reminds us that you and I, no less than
Jim and his three companions, face death together. It reminds us
that you and I, no less than Jim and his companions, face a
righteous and merciful and loving Judge together. 

The theologian C.S.~Lewis writes (the
italics are his) in the sixth
chapter of his \textit{Problem of Pain}: 
If pain sometimes shatters the creature's false\linebreak
self-sufficiency, yet in supreme ``Trial'' or ``Sacrifice'' it
teaches him the self-sufficiency which really ought to be 
`strength, which, if Heaven gave it, may be called his own':
for then, in the absence of all merely natural motives and
supports, he acts in that strength, and that alone, which God
confers upon him through his subjected will. Human will becomes
truly our own and truly creative when it is wholly God's, and
this is one of the many senses in which he that loses his soul
shall find it. In all other acts our will is fed through nature,
that is, through created things other than the self---through
the desires which our physical organism and our heredity supply
to us. When we act from ourselves alone---that is, 
from God \textit{in}
ourselves---we are collaborators in, or live instruments of,
as suicide is the typical expression 
of the stoic spirit, and battle of the warrior spirit, 
martyrdom always remains the supreme enacting and perfection
of Christianity.

Let me on C.S.~Lewis's behalf add that our English word
`martyr' comes from the ancient Greek verb \textit{martureo}, 
`I am bearing witness,' `I am testifying.' 

My friend Jim, perhaps the kindest, gentlest person I have known
in all my endless travels, is a witness to truth. It is as
witnesses, as \textit{marturoi}, that he and his three
companions will be remembered, no matter how their terrible
situation is resolved over the coming weeks, months, or
even years. In the intensity of their suffering, Jim and his
companions now bear witness to what C.S.~Lewis, 
again in the sixth
chapter of \textit{The Problem of Pain}, calls
the very nerve of redemption, which anatomising wisdom at all
times and in all places lays bare; the unescapable knowledge
which the Light that lighteneth every man presses down upon the
minds of all who seriously question what the universe is

It is as witnesses, as \textit{marturoi}, that my friend Jim
and his three companions will be remembered on that day
when, as the medieval hymn foretells in its relentless imagery 
of ashes, God's book is opened and God's hidden things stand
revealed. Jim and his companions do not live in vain, and if
they happen to die in the harsh 
weeks or harsh months, or even harsh years, lying
ahead for them,
they will not die in vain. Let you and me then brace
ourselves to our respective duties, strengthened by our Jim's 
gentle example, working our respective public and
political works, whether in honest cooperation or in honest
opposition, in praise and gratitude and hope.

With my friend Jim and his three Christian co-workers, 
with our sisters and brothers in the varied Iraqi schools of
Islamic theological scholarship,  
and indeed with all---with those of any faith at all---who 
seek to bear witness to truth, I wish
you and your team well. May 
healing, peace, and joy attend you in the years 
ushered in by that unexpectedly oracular  
Holy Yuletide of 2005.