Skip to comments."God bless America": Freed Australian hostage, Douglas Wood
Posted on 06/16/2005 8:23:30 AM PDT by dead
FREED Australian hostage Douglas Wood flew to a secret Middle East location last night as his relieved family prepared to make a $100,000-plus donation to Iraqi charities.
The 63-year-old engineer was recovering in hospital, but doctors said he was in surprisingly good shape after his 47-day ordeal.
As his family celebrated his release, details emerged of the physical and mental degradation he suffered while held in various Baghdad locations.
Mr Wood, who was kidnapped on the way to work on April 30, was handcuffed and bound for much of the time he spent in captivity.
His captors also "badly corrupted" information about outside relief efforts, according to Nick Warner, the head of the Government's emergency response team in Baghdad.
Mr Wood's elated wife, Yvonne Given, said her husband looked "great" despite his ordeal. Mr Wood had told her: "I'm healthy; when are you going to come and get me?"
"I thought he would be weak and he sounded just up and just my Doug," she said from the couple's home in California.
Looking surprisingly strong and in good spirits, the Australian engineer celebrated the end of his incarceration with a thumbs-up and asked Australian officials in Baghdad for a beer.
"God bless America. You don't know how pleased I am to see you," he told his rescuers after a morning raid by Iraqi troops on a house in the northern Baghdad suburb of Ghazaliya.
As the news of his rescue beamed around the globe, Mr Wood told of the fear he felt in his final moments of captivity.
"I wasn't sure what was happening," he recalled.
"The first thing is there was a bit of shooting outside, then they came and covered me over with a blanket. And then there was still a lot of yelling and screaming. And then a gun, they actually fired inside the room.
"That was a bit scary. I heard my fellow patient -- or whatever he was -- still alive and I'm still alive."
Mr Wood even described his treatment as being "pretty fair", although he said he had been kicked in the head soon after being kidnapped enroute to a business meeting in the Iraqi capital on April 30.
"I'm extremely happy and relieved to be free again and deeply grateful to all those who worked to bring about my release," he said.
John Howard spoke with the Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari yesterday, expressing "great gratitude" for his Government's efforts to free the Australian.
Mr Howard, who divided the nation by joining the US-led coalition of the willing to invade Iraq in 2003, said the release of Mr Wood also highlighted the "growing competence and capability" of Iraqi's fledgling military forces.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the move out of Baghdad would allow Mr Wood some peace and quiet, as well as debriefing and medical attention. "It was always our plan that he'd want to move out of Baghdad, after the experience he's been through, as quickly as possible," he said.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Mr Wood's brother Malcolm said the family would urge him to wind up his engineering consultancy in Iraq.
Malcolm said the family remained committed to making a sizeable donation to Iraqi charities, notwithstanding his brother's release.
Wednesday's dramatic raid to secure Mr Wood's release was only the second time hostages in Iraq have been released following a military operation. Mr Howard described the release as amazing good fortune. "Only two or three of the several thousand people who have been taken hostage in Iraq have been rescued," he said.
"Whether he has a guardian angel, whether it is just sheer good luck, however we describe it, it is a remarkable thing."
Defence Minister Robert Hill said: "It was a violent recovery that was resisted, but due to the highly competent and professional actions of those involved, recovery was achieved without death or injury to the hostages."
Militants have seized about 200 foreigners over the past 15 months, along with an unknown number of Iraqis, sometimes demanding ransom or political concessions.
Additional reporting: Steve Lewis
AM - Thursday, 16 June , 2005 08:00:00
TONY EASTLEY: After being held for more than six weeks as a hostage in Iraq, his life threatened repeatedly, 63-year-old Australian engineer Douglas Wood is safe, and for a man with a serious heart condition, he appears to be in good health this morning.
He was found by Iraqi and US forces in a house in Baghdad yesterday. There's confusion surrounding aspects of just how he came to be freed. Was it by accident or as a result of information given to the military?
Mr Wood, who worked as a private contractor was abducted in late April. After his rescue Douglas Wood was taken to hospital for examination where cameras caught some of his comments and exhilaration at being released.
One of his first statements was a re-affirmation of his love of America where he has spent much of his life.
DOUGLAS WOOD: God Bless America.
US SOLDIER 1: Your family's going to be very proud to see you. Very happy.
DOUGLAS WOOD: I've still got hope, I've still got faith I thought of both of those a lot. I wasn't sure what was happening. First thing is, there was a bit of shooting outside. Then they came and covered me over with a blanket and they ripped off my, uh (inaudible) and put a blanket over me. And then there was still a lot of yelling and screaming.
US SOLDIER 1: That's when they were busting in and knocked down the furniture and everything.
DOUGLAS WOOD: Then a gun, they actually fired inside the room that was a bit scary, but I heard my fellow patient, or whatever he was, still alive, and I'm still alive. Next I know they take the blanket off.
US SOLDIER 1: It's a good day.
DOUGLAS WOOD: The Iraqi boys did a very good job of saving me.
US SOLDIER 2: You don't know how pleased I am to see you.
DOUGLAS WOOD: You don't know how pleased I am to see you.
US SOLDIER 2: We're so glad that you're okay. We're so glad that our partners, Colonel Mohammed
DOUGLAS WOOD: Proof that the policy is working.
35 days in a second place I think it was two different groups.
US SOLDIER 3: How did they treat you?
DOUGLAS WOOD: Pretty fair. They kicked me in the head in the first place and other than bread and water all the time (laughs).
TONY EASTLEY: Douglas Wood speaking in hospital in Baghdad after he was freed yesterday.
Today, the freed hostage praised Americans for their participation in this effort. Readers of the liberal Sydney Morning Herald would never learn that from their newspaper.
If I were an Australian, I would buy "The Australian" and leave the "Sydney Morning Herald" for those who wish to be remain ignorant.
You just have to love the Australians. They're a class act. Not only does Mr. Wood appreciate his adopted country ("God bless America"), but he also praised the Iraqi forces who rescued him, and didn't speak harshly of his captors despite the fact they kicked him in the head and fed him bread and water (he'd have been better off at GITMO). Backatcha, Mr. Wood: God bless Mr. Wood, his family, our honored military, and the new and improving Iraqi forces.
Fair Dinkum Mate! Spot on, Spot ON!
And was subsequently, overwhelmingly, reelected..MSM..they just had to throw in a hit, didn't they?
His positive attitude probably helped keep him alive.
Doesn't he know how insensitive it is to say "God bless America?" I'm sure Dan Blather, or Peter Jennings could explain it to him. People should be taught in school not to talk like that in public! (oops, they are, huh!)
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