American Hostage : A Memoir of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq and the Remarkable Battle to Win His Release
A rare and powerful story of hope, love, survival,and the struggle to bring back alive a hostage in Iraq
Micah Garen and Marie-Hélène Carleton were journalists and filmmakers working in Iraq on a documentary about the looting of the country's legendary archaeological sites, with their Iraqi translator Amir Doshi. In the late summer of 2004, they began to wrap up their work, and Marie-Hélène returned home while Micah remained for a final two weeks of filming. As Micah and Amir were filming in a Nasiriyah market, something went horribly wrong: Micah, who wore a bushy mustache and was dressed in Iraqi clothing, was unmasked as a foreigner and kidnapped by militants in southern Iraq.
Home in New York, Marie-Hélène awoke to a gut-wrenching phone call from Micah's mother with word of his abduction. She promised Micah's mother the impossible--that together they would bring Micah back alive.
American Hostage is the remarkable memoir of Micah Garen's harrowing abduction and survival in captivity, as well as the heroic and successful struggle of Marie-Hélène; Micah's sister, Eva; along with family and friends to win Micah's and Amir's release from their captors. The world watched and waited as Micah's drama unfolded, but the authors, now safely home and engaged to be married, detail the dramatic untold story.
After learning of Micah's abduction, Marie-Hélène took a risky and unusual step: instead of relying on the authorities to rescue Micah, she used her recent experience in Iraq to construct a massive grassroots effort to reach out to Micah's captors and plead for his release. As fighting between Coalition forces and the Mahdi Army raged in Najaf, Micah and Amir became pawns in a terrible political game. The kidnappers released a video threatening to kill Micah unless the United States withdrew from Najaf within forty-eight hours. In response, Marie-Hélène's and Micah's families redoubled their efforts, eventually sending a representative to Nasiriyah to lobby for Micah.
While Marie-Hélène worked on his release, Micah, imprisoned alongside Amir under armed guard deep in the marshes of southern Iraq, lived the nightmare of a hostagehaunted by the alternating impulses of hope and despair, his desire for survival and plans of escape. His experience reveals a great deal about the lives and minds of militants in southern Iraq.
American Hostage is an engrossing and rare story of how hope, love, and communal effort can overcome war, distance, and cultural differences in Iraq.
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Simon & Schuster
October 10, 2005
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Excerpt from American Hostage by Micah Garen
The four-hour drive south from Baghdad to Nasiriyah was quiet. I kept my eyes down as we passed a Mahdi Army checkpoint on the main road just outside the town of Fajr, the center for Iraq's illicit antiquities trade. One hundred yards farther was a modest Iraqi police checkpoint. The twin checkpoints signaled an uneasy truce that had been struck in the Dhi Qar province, while just a few hours east in Najaf fighting raged between the Mahdi Army and Coalition forces. We drove past the two checkpoints without slowing down. They were a token show of force by both sides, a delicate balance. Stopping cars might upset the balance.
We arrived in Nasiriyah at ten A.M. and stopped outside Amir's small translation office in the center of town. Amir got out of the car, looked both ways to see that everything was okay; then I quickly followed him up the stairs with my bags. I didn't know where I would stay that night. I was no longer welcome at the Italian base and had not heard back from my request earlier in the week to stay at the American base. The local hotel for foreigners, the Al-Janoub, was too dangerous. That left the Nasiriyah Museum, Amir's office, or possibly his house, none of which were good options.
Amir told me to wait, saying he had good news, and went out, padlocking the door behind him for my safety. I sat on his old sofa thumbing through a worn copy of the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, one of many books that lay scattered around his cluttered office, the walls papered with pictures of Don Quixote, French philosophers, and works by local artists.