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Taken on Trust.

COMPARED to the books written by the other Beirut hostages, Terry Waite's reveals very little. While Keenan and McCarthy bared their souls and recounted their struggles with insanity, Waite is typically reserved, refusing to share either his inner torment nor, disappointingly, much information about Oliver North.

He rarely mentions North (although he does refer to him as "a shadow"), and doesn't divulge much on the arms for hostages deal. (The most interesting nugget on North is that he has strange posters on the wall of his office, which Waite describes as "adolescent").

What Waite can't hide, however, is a longing to be part of a glamorous spy world. ("As I sit here in the semi-darkness, I remember le Carre's books...they capture the bizarre world of the intelligence operative").

Waite revels in the glamour of his cloak and dagger operations, where strangers sidle up and ask him if he's armed, where meetings with US State Department officials take place on misty airport runways, where he negotiates with a roomful of terrorists while wearing a blindfold.

While working for the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, "There was also the pressure of surveillance. I had to be careful about becoming paranoid, but I was convinced that I was being watched.... My assumption was that our own security service was keeping an eye on me, as well as agents from other countries".

Some of the other hostages admit being irritated by Waite's self- importance, and it is easy to see why. He recounts with great relish his personal dealings with Amin, Gaddafi, Nyrere, Bush, the Pope - names drop like rain as he recalls daring episodes to free hostages in various parts of the world.

Even when he is tortured, his first instinct is to include himself in a pantheon of heroes: "For a moment I am arrogant enough to link myself with some of the people I most respect: Solzhenitsyn, Arthur Koestler, my friend |!~ Desmond Tutu...I tell myself I have now entered a new fellowship, a unique fellowship of endurance".

Waite survived his captivity by drawing on reserves developed during his lonely childhood, and the experience further strengthened his unusually developed sense of privacy.

When, after almost four years in solitary confinement, he is finally allowed to move into a room with other hostages, his immediate thought is that "our mattresses are unreasonably close; there is only about nine inches between mine and Tom's...I can't imagine how the others have survived together for so long".

Like his fellow prisoners, however, Waite shares a sense of absurdity about their situation, and laughs at being allowed to watch The Benny Hill Show on TV (with Arabic subtitles), or at listening to an English clergyman read spiritual lessons from Winnie the Pooh over the World Service.

Waite's years in solitary confinement made his experience essentially different from that of the other captives, and although his account lacks the fluency of either the Keenan or McCarthy books, it offers an invaluable perspective on the hostage ordeal.

It only remains now for one of the captors to give their side of the story, to give the kidnappers' impressions of how the various captives coped, how close they came to being freed earlier and how close they really came to being killed. The real story has yet to be told.

"I've made a fool of myself before the world, caused enormous problems for my family and friends," Waite admits. "I look back over the years of my captivity. I have had no great thoughts, no illuminating experiences...all I've done is keep afloat."

But he adds defiantly: "I don't need to justify myself or apologise for anything. I did my best for those who appealed to me, and for those who didn't."
COPYRIGHT 1993 IC Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Middle East
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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