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Peter Moore: IT consultant and Iraq hostage – Part One

Stripped, pistol whipped, cold conked, bored stiff

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The essential guide to IT transformation

Escape, boredom, suicide

Reg You considered an escape plan while in captivity. How did you plan to do it?

PM We had a number of plans. The first time we had a chance to escape was within the first couple of months, after we'd been moved down to Basra and I was being held with two of my guards.

One of the Iraqis was ill and one of the British guards was a trained medic, and the Iraqi needed to be injected with some medicine. We had a big discussion about whether to inject this Iraqi with air to kill him.

The problem was that I wasn't blindfolded at the time but still chained. The medic was chained but not blindfolded but the other guard was chained, handcuffed, and blindfolded and he was the only other guy who knew how to use a gun. There were two guards in the room, plus one downstairs, so I was very edgy about this.

The other concern at that time was that we'd only been held for a couple of months, so we thought let's just see what happens, it could work out OK. We'd been told an exchange was planned, negotiations were happening, so I was like "Let's just leave it."

Plus, we knew we were in Basra and Basra's a real militia stronghold, and we didn't want to run out into the street and right into the hands of a militia – out of the frying pan into the fire. So we decided to sweat it out.

Reg And you coped with boredom by mentally designing systems, you said. Come up with anything good?

PM I was gutted about that – Apple beat me to it, the bastards.

What I'd got thinking about was flash drives. The problem with taking your files around on a flash drive comes when you put them into a new PC. You might not have the right software for the operating system.

So what I was thinking about was a small dumb terminal, like a Wyse system, that you could put RAM into and operate via a USB keyboard, mouse, and monitor. You could pack a flash drive, and on there you'd have your version of the operating system with all of your software and files on it.

Plug the flash drive into the USB port of the terminal and then it would boot up from your flash drive so you've got your exact version of the operating system. Then you could take it home and have exactly the same setup when you plug into a terminal there.

I was going to call it FlashPC. I thought it would be kind of cool. "What sort of PC have you got? I've got a FlashPC." Then I came out and found out Apple had got this thing called the iPod Touch which had the flash memory and a pretty good software keyboard as well.

Reg The way things are in the patent world, you should file and start suing.

PM I know what you mean. Someone did suggest I sue the directors of Homeland for royalty rights.

Reg You also designed rail transport systems?

Yes, this was using what I had available to think about. Basically, when you paint a wall you get dots in the paint, bits of dust and what have you. So I occupied the time building connecting systems that used the least amount of track with the optimum number of trains at each various times of the day, based on how many people lived in each area.

Each dot could represent a different town so you could work out how many people would use the trains system and then go into greater depth on home many lines of track you'd need, accompanying road systems, and what have you.

Reg I have to ask, you mentioned talking to the pillow. Was that the same kind of thing?

PM It's more amusing than anything else. What I was trying to do was stimulate myself and keep my brain active for when I got out.

My thinking was anything could happen to my body – broken bones I can recover from – but if my brain goes I've had it as far as future employment goes. So I would pretend I was in an interview and run through answers to likely questions.

Another good thing was imagining I was negotiating the sale of a motorbike. I've never had a car, I'm quite proud of that, and always stuck to bikes ever since my first one, a Yamaha RXS100. Right now I'm on a Honda ST1300, the PanEuropean as it's called in the UK. I figured on a road trip this long I needed to buy a good bike.

In one of the houses in early 2008 the guard had put a CCTV camera in my room, and so I'm sat talking to my pillow and the next thing I know the guard comes rushing in. This guard was useless, he was really concerned; I think he thought I had died on his watch or something. So he starts up with "What are you doing, are you all right?" and I'm like, "Yeah yeah I'm fine, just go away."

Reg And I understand you considered suicide.

PM At one point the chain they tied my arms with was taken off and put in a shelf in my room.

At that point it looked to me that I wasn't going to make it out of this alive. What I was worried about was being tortured and killed; I'm not good on pain, I didn't want to be tortured. So I thought if I could kill myself, I could control where and how I died.

I thought about it a lot and realized I could use this chain. In the room was a hook where a chandelier used to hang on, and I knew it was fairly strong because one of the guards used to come in every day put the chain around this hook, put a metal bar in the chain and then do chin-ups.

Also I thought it would be quite appropriate to hang myself from the chain – after all, I'd been in it for so long. I just thought it would be great to see the reaction of those guards walking in and seeing me hanging there dead. They'd get their arses kicked for that. But obviously if I'm dead I can't see their reaction, so a key reason I didn't do it was because I couldn't see them.

Some people say to me that it must have taken real strength to decide to kill yourself and all this sort of stuff. But one thing that really psychologically drained me was that after convincing myself I could hang myself, I then had to convince myself not to do it, not to follow through with it. That really mentally drained me out, I don't know why. I was ready to execute it, but had to pull back.

Maybe it does take a lot of strength to decide to kill yourself, but it takes more to decide not to once you realize it's possible – which is what I decided to do. ®

Next in Part Two: Xbox amusement, freedom achieved

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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