April 28, 2005

The Damned of the West 4: Interview with Carrie Hallums Cooper (part 2)

roy_hallums_carrie_hallums_quote.jpgAmerican Roy Hallums was abducted from his temporary Baghdad home on November 1st, 2004. He was in Iraq as a civilian contractor working on rebuilding efforts. His mission had everything to do with helping the Iraqi people rebuild their country after decades of war, mismanagement, and terror under the Saddam Hussein regime.

I had the opportunity to have several e-mail conversations with both Susan Hallums and Carrie Hallums Cooper recently. They have graciously agreed to letting us interview them. What follows is part 4 in a series of interviews with the family of Roy Hallums. In part 1 and part 2 we interviewd Susan Hallums, Roy Hallums' ex-wife.

In part 3 we interview Roy's daughter, Carrie Hallums Cooper, asking her the same questions we asked her mother. This segment continues that conversation.

Carrrie runs the website Free Roy. Carrie is 29 and makes her home in California where she also works. Carrie has an MFT (Masters of Family Therapy) and is currently pursuing a Ph. D. in Clinical Psychology. Carrie also is engaged in fundraising to help defray costs associated with freeing her father.

You can donate to the Free Roy Foundation by clicking on the Pay Pal button below.

Or you can send a check or money order to

Free Roy Foundation
c/o Carrie Cooper
PO Box 947
Westminster, Ca. 92684

More information is on the Free Roy website. Roy and other heroes will be celebrated at the Inland Empire Memorial Day Heroes Festival in Riverside, CA on May 14th.

[You can read part 1 of this interview here]

Rusty Shackleford: Roberto Tarongoy was taken hostage on the same day as Roy, and the Filipino government as recently as two weeks ago claimed that they knew Tarongoy was alive. However, the Philipines has a policy of negotiating with hostage-takers and even paying ransom for hostages release. What are your thoughts on that policy?

Carrie Hallums Cooper: First I’d like to say that I have a great respect for Ivy (Robert’s wife) and the Tarongoy family. If I were in Ivy’s shoes I would do whatever I could to free my husband. Cognitively though, I understand that if we (the U.S.) pay ransom for hostages this will only increase more hostage-taking, which is why the United States adheres to this policy. So, from that frame of mind, the Philippines policy of negotiating with hostage-takers may be encouraging more kidnappings, which for the Philippines as a whole is not beneficial.

However, unless you have been a family member of a hostage, you will never understand the lengths that you would go to in order to free your loved one. If I had to choose between policy and my father’s life, I would not hesitate to choose my father, and therefore pay a ransom (if I had the money). So, I do not fault the Philippines for listening to their hearts in hostage situations, even though it may encourage more hostage-taking.

I believe that the policy of not negotiating with terrorists was created for the majority (those family’s whose loved ones are not hostages), and most of the time it works out fine (as long as you stay in the majority). Right now I’m in the minority (a family member of a hostage), so I don’t feel like the policy works for me. I don’t want to put other people in danger by endorsing paying terrorists, which I do think is what happens when you pay ransoms (because it encourages more hostage taking); but at the same time, there has got to be a better policy than to just not deal with the terrorists.

To be honest with you I’m kind of torn about this issue right now. I’m not a policy maker, but I feel like someone could come up with a better solution than what we have in place right now (though I don’t know what it is), so that it’s a win-win situation for everyone. I’m sure the govt. would say that it is win-win now, but I don’t feel like sitting back and letting my Dad rot over in Iraq is win-win for either me or my Dad.

RS:Ever since we crossed paths I've been following your story and have read that Susan is in constant contact with the wife of Roberto Tarongoy. Would you like to tell us anything about that relationship?

Perhaps there is something you would like to say on behalf of the Tarongoy family?

CHC: No comment at this time.

RS: Have you had any contact with any of the other families of hostages being held in Iraq? Tim Bell,Bill Bradley, or Dean Sadek, or Mohammed Monaf? If not, is there anything you would like to say to them if you could?

I have not, but my Mom has. I would like to meet all of the people you mentioned and talk to them about their experiences, if they would be open to it. I am open to talking about what I am going through with anyone, even though it is very painful. I think it helps me stay sane.

I would like to tell the other families of the hostages that if they would ever like to talk, that I would enjoy meeting them. I would also like to tell them that if they would like to speak to me, if would keep our conversations confidential if they liked. I know I talk to the media frequently but I also respect peoples’ privacy.

RS: Have you heard anything from Roy's captors since they released a video of him in January?

CHC: Since the video time, my Dad’s company has not been able to make contact with the kidnappers. There has been no word about my Dad. He has been held for over 6 ½ months now. He was very sick in January, so I am hoping he is still alive.

RS: Do you know if the company Roy was working for is trying to secure his release?

CHC: Yes, my Dad’s company was trying to secure his release. I say was, because the kidnappers are no longer calling. I do not know at what point SATCo (my Dad’s company) got involved, but I do know that they were speaking to intermediaries, who in turn, spoke to the kidnappers.

RS: I noticed that the Rev. Jess Jackson has gotten involved, at least
to the extent that he has publicly asked for Roy's release on your families behalf. May I ask how this ordeal has affected you religious outlook? Has this affected your faith in any way?

CHC: The Reverend asked for my father’s release, yes. Beyond that he has not been involved further in my father’s release. This was disappointing for me, because I thought he would have more involvement.

How has this affected my religious outlook? Now that is the most difficult question yet. I’m still working things out with God. I don’t understand how he could let something like this happen to my Dad. I do pray that he will keep my father safe and help him get released somehow.

Thanks to Carrie Hallums Cooper and Susan Hallums for speaking to us about the plight of Roy Hallums and other American hostages being held in Iraq.

The Rev. Terry Anderson, who was held for years by terrorists in Lebanon, had this to say about the ordeal of being a forgotten hostage:

The truth is that hostages in Lebanon today have become the damned of the West. Without hope of being saved, imprisoned in silence and darkness, deprived of the sight of the world of the living, forgotten, they no longer represent anything. The most tragic thing is that this torment is administered as much from the outside by countries and people indifferent to their fate as on the inside by their captors.
Let us not be indifferent to the fates of hostages in Iraq as we were to the hostages in Lebanon.

Please help the Hallums family by donating to the Free Roy Foundation and by keeping Roy Hallums, Jeffrey Ake, Mohammed Monaff, Tim Bell, Bill Bradley, and Dean Sadek in your prayers.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 11:52 PM | Comments |