When George W. Bush declared in his inaugural speech in January 1989 that “Good will begets good will.”, Gianni Picco, envoy to UN secretary-general Perez de Cuellar, saw an opening in the stalled negotiations to free the remaining hostages during the Lebanon hostage crisis. Often forced to move at a speed that UN bureaucracy did not allow and armed only with a strong trust in diplomacy, Picco’s quest led him in the field alone to meet shady dignitaries and masked gunmen, racing through the darkened streets of Lebanon and Syria.
His life constantly at risk, his family worried sick, yet 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 militant leader who had taken them, a well-spoken, hooded man known to Picco only by the nom de guerre “Abdullah.”
As the chief negotiator, Picco had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions based on the promise of a anonymous informant or 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 in his memoir. “Religion does not rape women, the purity of blood does not destroy buildings, and institutions do not fail. Only individuals do these things.” His story is this remarkable diplomat’s powerful testimony to the ability of individuals to bring some peace to a troubled world.
Man Without A Gun is based on Giandomenico Picco’s thrilling memoir about his two decades as a high-level diplomat for the United Nations and his feat of helping resolve the Lebanon hostage crisis.