Man Without a Gun : One Diplomat's Secret Struggle to Free the Hostages, Fight Terrorism, and End a War

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9780812929102: Man Without a Gun : One Diplomat's Secret Struggle to Free the Hostages, Fight Terrorism, and End a War

Can an unarmed man triumph in a land of terror and violence?

Man Without a Gun is the true story of a single UN diplomat's astonishing high-wire struggle for peace in the Middle East. UN secretary-general Javier Pérez de Cuéllar called the author "more of a soldier than a diplomat." And, indeed, his life is the stuff of John le Carré thrillers. But Man Without a Gun is more than a thriller: It is a real-life voyage through the maze of the secretive Middle East, the inside account of the political maneuverings that continue to dominate today's headlines, and the moving story of one man's struggle to bring some hope to a violent land.

In more than two decades, Giandomenico Picco negotiated an end to wars in Afghanistan and between Iran and Iraq with the force of his decency and the strength of the UN. But little could prepare Picco for the danger he would face in resolving the Lebanon hostage crisis. Negotiating with terrorists was not a matter of meeting gray men in gray suits in well-appointed offices. Picco worked on the ground, alone. He was taken to meet the hostage takers themselves many times, shrouded in a black hood, racing through the darkened streets of Lebanon as masked gunmen barked orders.

His life was at risk, but he was well aware that the lives of dozens of hostages, including Terry Anderson and Terry Waite, were at greater risk. And saving them meant negotiating face-to-face--Picco first had to win the trust of the Islamic mili-
tant leader who had taken them, a well-spoken, hooded man known to Picco only by the nom de guerre "Abdullah."

The details of Picco's secret negotiations have never before been revealed; until now, it was barely even known who the kidnappers were. As the chief UN hostage negotiator, Picco often had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions based on the promise of a masked informant or an anonymous official. Yet on the strength of his own word, he managed to forge an unlikely coalition among Iran, Syria, Israel, and the Lebanese groups to win the release of the captives.

"History does not kill," writes Picco. "Religion does not rape women, the purity of blood does not destroy buildings, and institutions do not fail. Only individuals do these things." Man Without a Gun is this remarkable diplomat's powerful testimony to the ability of individuals also to bring some peace to a troubled world.

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Review:

Man Without a Gun is a thrilling memoir of Giandomenico Picco's two decades as a high-level diplomat for the United Nations. Over the course of his career, Picco helped negotiate the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and helped bring an end to the bloody Iran-Iraq war, but he also had several harrowing encounters with Middle Eastern terrorists--whom he met unarmed. In one memorable episode, he walked out of an embassy in Beirut and was grabbed on the street, thrown into a car with his face jammed to the floor, and whisked to a secret location to discuss the release of Western hostages with their masked captors. Other experiences are equally unnerving, such as a trip to Tehran to share unwelcome news with Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani: the United States had just refused to reciprocate an act of goodwill (the release of hostage Terry Anderson). Picco wondered whether he would get out of the country alive; he did, but only because Rafsanjani offered this advice: "I think it is best if you leave Tehran very, very quickly."

"History does not kill," Picco writes of what his experiences have taught him. "Religion does not rape women, the purity of blood does not destroy buildings, and institutions do not fail. Only individuals do these things." Man Without a Gun is at turns wise and exciting--a wonderful and revealing account of modern diplomacy. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Giandomenico Picco was born in Italy and was educated at the University of Padua, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Prague, and the University of Amsterdam. He joined the United Nations Secretariat in the early 1970s and worked there until 1992, ending his UN career as the assistant secretary-general for political affairs. Picco has since joined the private sector as the founder and president of GDP Associates, an international consulting firm in New York City, and continues his work in conflict resolution through the Geneva-based nonprofit Non-Governmental Peace Strategy Project, which he also founded. He writes for a variety of foreign-policy publications about Middle Eastern, Persian Gulf, and Caspian affairs.

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