Good or Bad for the Jews

"Good or Bad for the Jews"

Many years ago, and for many years, I would travel to Morocco to visit uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. Some lived in Tangiers;...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 11 Revisited

The tenth anniversary of that horrid day has generated a flood of memories. I hope not to bore my readers with yet another account of "where I was" on that day, but I can't help it.

I was the Charge of a medium-sized American embassy in Asia. The Ambassador was back in the US, and barely missed getting on one of the hijacked flights. It was early evening local time. My wife and I were at the gym at a five-star international chain hotel; I was on the treadmill watching, with no particular interest, the nauseous BBC world news show that was on the gym's sole TV set. The news reader, a pompous and vaguely east Asian woman whom I recall as looking much like a Vulcan from the old Star Trek series, suddenly grabbed her earpiece, and said there was a report of a small commuter plane hitting a World Trade Center tower in New York.  She prattled on about something else, then suddenly the image cut to the smoking tower just as the second plane hit. Along with millions of other people, I watched on live TV as hundreds of people were brutally murdered. A lot of confused reporting began; much cross talk, some silly BBC criticism of US air traffic control and of the NY fire department for responding too slowly.

The gym trainer, an Aussie expat, came up to me and said, "How can two planes hit the same place?" I remember telling him, almost without thinking about what I was saying, "It has to be deliberate." It suddenly dawned on me, after I said it, that, in fact, it must have been deliberate.

I got off the treadmill and went to look for my wife; I pulled her out of her aerobics class, and said "Something is up. We have to go."  I had the bodyguards take us home, and I called our head of security. He was frantically trying to get some logical story out of Washington, but either could not get through, or got contradictory accounts of what was going on: some sort of attack on the Pentagon; a car bomb outside the Congress; another one outside the State Department; and on and on. I told him to get the country team together (heads of section) and to heighten our own security at the Embassy as we could be facing a worldwide attack on US facilities. We all met and talked, and talked, and talked, and could get nothing useful out of Washington.

Adding to the confusion was that the Assistant Secretary of our regional bureau, a political appointee close to a prominent Senator, had run, and I quite literally mean run, with her aide, screaming, yes, screaming, out of her office, into the garage, gotten into her car, and had headed home.  She had abandoned her post at a time of great crisis. The amazing thing was that weeks later, she laughingly told the story herself with no sense of shame or of how that imagery could affect those around her. But then this was the same one who, just a few days earlier, had fired an extraordinarily talented Foreign Service Officer, one of the most knowledgable people I had ever met when it came to South Asia, because he did not seem to take her seriously.  Ah, yes, leadership in action.

The Embassy went on high alert; the next morning I had to tell the Embassy employees what I knew, which was very little other than what was on the news, and to reassure the local-hire staff that, whatever happened, we would not cut and run out on them. They would be looked after.  Afterwards, I remember telling my security chief, "Don't make me a liar on that promise." He nodded.

Endless requests for press interviews; briefings of other embassies and the local government; lots of confusion; condolence calls and visits from all over the host country; all sorts of false rumors and threats. In subsequent weeks, we got hit with a barrage of fake anthrax powder letters; telephoned bomb threats, and so on.

Finally, the word came. Revenge was in the offing. I got instructions to contact the President of a neighboring Muslim country to which our Embassy was also accredited. I was to get permission for US warplanes to overfly his country on the way to bomb Afghanistan. We needed his OK right away, so there was no time to travel and meet him face-to-face. I called him on the phone, and had one of those one-minute conversations that make years of Foreign Service life worthwhile. I remember the conversation vividly.

"Mr. President, we need your permission for our bombers to fly through your national airspace on the way to targets in Afghanistan. We need it right away."

"Would we know when your bombers are flying through our airspace?"

"Your air traffic controllers in [the capital] might pick them up."

"I see. Would my public know that your bombers are there?"

"Not likely unless there is some sort of accident or emergency landing."

"I see.  If I say 'no' what happens?"

"Mr. President, we are going to get justice for 9/11. You are our friend. Please help us in this small way."

"So if I say 'no' you are going to go anyhow, right?  Please, no diplomacy. Tell me the truth in plain words."

"Yes. We are going to go anyhow."

"Ok [laughing] then I will say 'yes' to your planes. Please tell President Bush that I approve."

"President Bush will be very grateful."

I will write another posting on 9/11 in the next few days. I am wrapped up in a nasty professional issue, which I will describe in the future, and that is limiting my ability to blog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 11, 2001

This was the statement given by the Charge of the US Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka at a Church memorial service held for the victims of 9/11.  The service was attended by the entire diplomatic corps, much of the Sri Lankan government, and just hundreds of ordinary people, some of whom stood outside the church.  The service was held on September 14, 2001.  I happen to think it is one of the better statements made re that horrid event, and that it holds up even after ten years.

I will be writing more about 9/11 in the coming days.

Begin Text (as delivered)

On behalf of the American Embassy, Government, and people, I want to thank Reverend Gardner and all of you for coming here on a Saturday afternoon to express your solidarity, condolences, and good wishes as we try to grapple with the enormity of the crime committed on September 11, 2001 - - a crime that cost the lives of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
All of us in the Embassy are deeply touched by the enormous and genuine outpouring of sympathy and support from the international community, from the Government of Sri Lanka and from the people of this country, Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim.  Thank you, thank you all very much.
I also want to take this opportunity to express heartfelt condolences to the people of our closest friend and ally, the United Kingdom.  They have lost scores perhaps hundreds of their fellow citizens in the attack on the World Trade Center.  We should not forget the many British families are today suffering the anguish of not knowing what has happened to their loved ones, or that of knowing all too well what has happened.  This is not the first time American and British citizens die together at the hands of a common foe and in a common cause -- and it probably won’t be the last time.  
The people of dozens of other countries, including Sri Lanka, people of all races and religions, including at least 50 Muslims, fell to the terrorists, and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 21st century.  
As a colleague of mine noted yesterday, civilization now confronts a new version of the cult of Assassins who, just as did those of the 11th century, proclaim loud fealty to a religion and then violate its principal tenants.  And, Ladies and Gentlemen, I say the following well aware that we are in a church, in a place dedicated to the propagation of peace and brotherly love:  Civilization must and will strike back; civilization must and will win this war in which we confront evil men who have no regard for human life; men who turn ploughshares into swords and then use them against defenseless innocents.
I don’t know what message the terrorists sought to deliver September 11; I don’t know their grievance or their cause.

 And, furthermore, I don’t care!  I don’t care!

Whatever it was, whatever their cause was, it has been hopelessly perverted by and lost in the evil of their deeds.
And evil must, and will be confronted and it will be defeated.  
During the just-concluded 20th century, civilization also fought great evil -- Fascism, Nazism, and Communism -- and triumphed, at great cost, but it triumphed.  And it will again.  In opposition to our democracy, freedom, and the rule of law, our opponents offer hate, desolation, destruction, and death, most especially death.

Let me quote from a poem written during the fierce battle for Guadalcanal by US Marine Corps Private First Class Vincent Cassidy:
“Does it grieve you, Death,
      that I defy you,
  that I refuse to be taken by you?
Be aforehand warned
   And plan it well,
If you intend my doom to spell,
   For I intend to fight . . .”
And fight we will.
In the words of the Scottish “Ballad of Andrew Barton,”
"I am hurt, but I am not slaine;
I'le lay mee downe and bleed a-while,
And then I'le rise and ffight againe.”
If anybody doubts that, turn to the words of one of the great heroes of the 20th century, one of the men who saved the civilized world, perhaps the greatest statesman who ever lived, and a man who knew America very well, Sir Winston Churchill.   

In his volume The Grand Alliance, he eloquently describes his reaction on hearing about the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of America into WWII on the side of Britain:
“No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy.  {. . .} So we had won after all! {. . . }  Silly people, and there were many, not only in enemy countries, might discount the force of the United States.  Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united.  They would fool around at a distance.  They would never come to grips.  They would never stand blood-letting.  Their democracy and system of recurrent elections would paralyse their war effort.  They would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe.  Now we should see the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy, and talkative people.  But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch.  American blood flowed in my veins.  I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before – that the United States is like ‘a gigantic boiler.  Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.’  Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, the boiler is lit.
And those who lit it on September 11, 2001, will learn the lesson learned by those who lit it sixty years ago, on December 7, 1941.  Then we all, too, will be able to sleep “the sleep of the saved and thankful.” 
Welcome to the 21st century.    
Thank you.

End Text

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Will be Back soon

Taking care of some professional and personal business, and will soon resume blogging.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Barack Orwellama

"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." George Orwell

Just recovering from all the travel. Had been out of touch from much of the news, so, please forgive my shock on discovering that I had mistakenly traveled back not home but to a bizarro version of home.

When I left on my trip a couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama was the President who had incurred the greatest debt in American history. He and his acolytes assured us that the best way to save was to spend. In the bizarro world in which I have landed somebody presuming to be Barack Obama is now proclaiming himself madly in favor of reducing debt and of examining with a critical eye every Federal entitlement program.

I am confused. Who has stolen our Barack Obama? Or could it be that he has used his vast intellect and powers of reading comprehension to absorb the language of 1984. "Spending is saving." "Debt is good." "Taxes are revenue enhancements." "Eighty percent of Americans want to pay higher taxes."


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Trunk of Prometheus

It was now July 13, 2035.  The law was in effect. The end would come soon. He knew it. He could face it. 

Dickson was a realist. In his nearly 70 years of life on earth, he always had prided himself on a hard-headed, objective, cool, analytical approach to that life. 

He wasn’t a joiner. He found himself unable to wax enthusiastic over any politician, political movement, or whatever cause du jour fired up the students or the other faculty at Metro University. He did not sign petitions. He did not march or write angry missives. Whenever he heard that something, anything, was very popular with the students or faculty he made sure to avoid it. 

Dickson kept to himself as much as he could. He taught his required two classes a week, and then fled the bright, shiny campus for his one bedroom apartment in the unfashionable, gritty, and crime-filled Eastern District, yellow Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags hanging from almost every window and balcony. There, among the grubby working stiffs, he found relief and solace. They had no curiosity about him or what he did or did not do.  They did not judge him. They did not prescribe for him. He could think, and he could read. Yes, read. That was his greatest vice.  That and his penchant for contraband beef, contraband liquor, and contraband cigarettes--a penchant the denizens of the Eastern District shared with him.

The District was a tough place: a “no go” zone for the agents of the MEA (Meat Enforcement Administration) and the TEA (Tobacco Enforcement Administration).  He, along with the rowdy inhabitants of the District, refused to comply with the “Anti-Carbon Social Contract” which required all citizens to give up unhealthful and bad environmental practices to benefit Gaia, and, incidentally, the mighty “Gore Euro Yuan Organic Food and Products Inc.,” which produced all the approved food in the country as well as 100% of its solar panels, and had just put on its governing board the nation’s President, the four Vice-Presidents (one from each major racial grouping), all 2,000 members of Congress, and the 760 members of the Supreme Court. Some District denizens were rumored to posses firearms and to engage only in heterosexual sex. Even Dickson assumed this was just anti-District slander.

He prided himself on swimming against the current. The Dean repeatedly had warned him about that. In his forty-plus years at Metro U, Dickson had been warned over and over that his failure to attend “To Love Humanity” courses, or to participate in the “Reject the Differences” rallies and seminars would raise the issue of his continued employment at Metro.  In the end, however, he did not go, and, yet, was kept on.  While he never made four-star Professor, he would never pass the scrutiny of the “Human Sensitivity Board,” he was willing to teach the basic intro courses that nobody else wanted to teach, and so the administrators turned a blind eye and deaf ear to his unfortunate views.  As the years progressed, Dickson had become something of a joke, a punching bag, a punchline at faculty meetings. The other profs laughed at his insistence on keeping and reading books, and on his frantic efforts to get his bored students to do so. The other faculty would yawn loudly in his face, to the merriment of all, when he would try to tell them “how things used to be.”  One four-star Prof told him, “Dickson, my crazy friend, the world is here and now.  We don’t want to talk about stuff from ten, fifteen years ago. That’s ancient history. I don’t know who William James was. I don’t care about those Cervantes, Melville, Twain, Shakespeare, Beckett people you’re always yapping about. It’s all so pointless. Here and now, my friend, here and now. That’s what counts. That’s what exists. The rest is just shadows.”

Yesterday, he finally had retired. As a cruel joke, the faculty had given him the latest “Info Tablet.” It came loaded with Metro U library’s entire collection of seven volumes, totaling nearly 250 pages of “all the knowledge you need,” which formed the basis of Metro’s five-year doctoral program. Nobody, of course, was expected to read all seven volumes, and it seemed no one ever had, but Metro U, the top school in the country, insisted on maintaining the unheard of high standard of requiring PhD students to read one whole volume. 

Dickson has thrown the Tablet into the recycle bin. He would stick with his books.  At first, he had thought that he could now peacefully slip away to his apartment and stay there, surrounded by the smell of illegal beef, tobacco, and liquor.  But, no, that was not to be.  Congress had passed a new law two days before, with the Congressional leaders stating their by now standard line, “We will all know what’s in the law after we pass it.”  In order to protect the rights of trees, and to appease the “Tree Lawyers Foundation,” all paper was now banned, both its production and possession were illegal.  The Enviro Police were tasked with assigning PEAs (Paper Enforcement Agents).  The Dean had warned Dickson, “I understand you still have lots of books. You have to give them up. An Info Tablet with the seven volumes of approved knowledge is all you need. Those books you have are a fire hazard, they smell, are illegal, and are a testimonial to man’s cruelty to trees.” 

Dickson sat staring at the old open trunk, made of banned wood and banned leather, sitting in the middle of his small room.  He passed his right hand over the books in the trunk. In his left hand he held the small plastic box with its red button that would deliver him. He heard the Enviro Police cars pull up; the gentle whirring of their battery powered engines wafted up to his window, along with the increasingly angry murmur of District neighbors responding to the cops’ rare and unwelcome presence. They were coming for him; he could hear their seaweed sandals scraping on the stairs, and the soft swish of their pure cotton kaftans. 

Dickson closed the trunk lid.  The apartment door was slowly opening. The Enviros were in!  A couple of the cops, obviously newbies on their first raid, began to gag and retch from the unfamiliar smell of books, tobacco, and beef.

“Dickson, move aside! We are here for the contraband! Do not resist!”  

Dickson looked up, clicked the switch in his hand and quoting Mary Shelly, shouted, “Unfeeling, heartless creator! You had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind.” 

So carefully made over the past four decades and reserved just for this day, made of banned gasoline, banned glass, and banned metal, the bomb tore through the apartment. 

The sweet pungent banned smell of burning paper and roasting flesh spread over the Eastern District.   

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Death in Texas

Just reading that last night the State of Texas put to death "Mexican" national Humberto Leal Garcia for the 1994 rape and murder of a sixteen-year-old girl. This execution took place despite efforts by the White House, the Government of Mexico, the UN, the OAS, a host of NGOs, and others to halt the execution because Leal had not been notified at the time of his arrest that he had the right to consult the Mexican consulate. He reportedly died yelling, "Viva Mexico!"

I agree that the execution of Leal last night is an outrage.  He should have been executed about fifteen years ago.

In the course of my career I have had to deal with stories such as the Leal case. Almost always they involve somebody here illegally who commits a heinous crime, and is not even particularly aware that he has the right to contact his consul.  In many cases, the Leal case seems to be one, the criminal is not even aware that he is the national of another country, as he has been in the US for many, many years. Leal apparently arrived in the US as an infant. The access to the consul issue only arises late in the process when slick appeals attorneys, looking for anything to save a murdering scum client, discover the matter of the consular access. This is a bogus issue. Some Texas sheriff does not have the obligation to advise a detainee that he has the right to his nation's consul. That is something for which the detainee needs to ask: IF he asks, then the police have the obligation to pass along the request to the appropriate embassy or consulate. There is no evidence that Leal asked, and, of course, none that Texas law enforcement denied his request to see a Mexican official. Should the police notify the German, Irish, or Italian Embassy every time somebody with a German, Irish, or Italian name is arrested? Should they automatically assume that anybody arrested who "looks" Mexican is a Mexican?  Anybody with a Jewish name should have the Israeli Embassy notified? Can you see the law suits over racial profiling? Lawyers would get rich (er)!

In addition to all that, what does access to a consul entail? The consul shows up, if he does; hears out the arrested person; checks to see that he is not being treated any differently than any other prisoner in similar circumstances; offers to notify family in the home country; and then tells the arrested person to get a lawyer.  That's about it. Nothing in this is germane to the case or to the process that was followed.  The consul has no bag of tricks that would have saved Leal.

So this brutal rapist murderer died praising Mexico, eh? Gee, that must send a patriotic thrill up the leg of every Mexican citizen. Here's a suggestion for Mexico: keep your murderers home, and then you can give them access to the wonderful Mexican system of justice.

Bogus issue.

UPDATE: I see from some comments and emails I have gotten that there is a misunderstanding. Local law enforcement is  not obligated to investigate a detainee's nationality. The arrested person must make known that he is a foreign national and wants to see his consular representative. Leal never did that.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Sudden travel has popped up.

Blogging will be light, but I will try to say something not too stooooopid.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gangster Rap: Chavez Speaks from the True Capital of Venezuela

Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Joe Kennedy, and Oliver Stone must be breathing sighs of relief and gratitude.  Hugo Chavez lives! The Don of Venezuela went to Cuba where he was operated upon for a mystery ailment. After days of silence, he has emerged and spoken. He reports that he underwent successful surgery in Cuba for some sort of cancerous tumor. He assured his supporters that while he convalesces in Havana he will continue to govern the country.

That has led some opposition figures inside Venezuela to cite the Constitution, noting that he cannot be absent from the country for such a long period of time and that the Vice President must take over.  This argument is humorous for two major reasons:  First, Chavez respect Constitutional limits on what he wants to do?  Oh, poor, poor deluded child. That is not the Chavez way.  Second, Chavez is governing from the true capital of Venezuela, Havana. It's all one big happy 21st Century Socialist Family, don't you know?  Chavez provides the Castro brothers capital, and they provide him a capital where he is safe.  He is safe both from the mean streets of Caracas, now among the most violent on earth, and the ministrations of potentially politically unreliable doctors in Venezuela.

Don't you love the men of the people? When, for example, crazy leftist Forbes Burnham of Guyana got sick, he got himself some Cuban doctors--he had minor throat surgery and the Cuban docs ended up killing him, so he might have been better off going to Massachusetts General. When Castro was at death's door in 2006, he spared no expense in bringing Spanish doctors to save him from his Cuban ones. When Chavez gets sick, he, too, hightails it out of the country. Now we can all understand when rich, corrupt, rightwing dictators go abroad for medical treatment, but aren't these lefties supposed to be of, by, and for the people? Aren't they giving their people the wonders and glories of socialism, including state-run medical services? In fact, the Chavez-drafted Constitution declares health care a right, and obligates the state to provide it. [Aside: Once we get Obamacare, to where do we hightail it?]

Anyhow, Chavez has reemerged, underlining in the process, the continuing US failure to deal with this Andean gangster. I blame Bush and Obama.  Bush suffered an uncharacteristic failure of nerve, i.e., he listened to the career Foreign Service at the State Department, and emboldened Chavez. Obama, of course, has no interest, at all, in opposing Chavez, and is perfectly willing to sell out our key interests in Latin America to this gangster and his friends. We have never established "red lines" for Chavez's behavior, and like a mean dog, or a petulant child he keeps pushing, trying to find the boundaries. They do not seem to exist.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

One Bright Spot in Europe: The Geert Wilders Verdict

Readers of The Diplomad and The Diplomad 2.0 know the low regard in which I hold the preening jackasses of the EU and their American imitators. In fact, Europe, itself, has grown increasingly worthless since about 1789; I have posted for many years my firm belief that the French Revolution was a pathetic and murderous hoax which exerts an attraction on the same sort of feeble minded fools who believed the Rosenbergs were innocent; Mao was an "Agricultural Reformer"; Castro was "Cuba's Jefferson"; Bush was "Hitler"; and Kerry's fable about spending Xmas in Cambodia.

Understatement of the year: I am no fan of Europe.

I have been there many, many times; spent much of my youth there; and have European parents and lots of European (British, French, Spanish) cousins and other assorted relatives. They are all very nice, and treat me very well. I, however, find Europe claustrophobic, both in its tiny physical scale and its tiny politics.  European politics are about handing out doles, and not much else. I also have been appalled by the stunning ignorance shown by Europeans, especially on the left, about the United States. Most of their "knowledge" comes from Hollywood movies or nationalized TV and radio services that make MSNBC and the NY Times seem paragons of wisdom and objectivity.

That said, I have a soft spot for certain Europeans such as Hernan Cortes, the Pizarro brothers, and your average man-on-the-street Brit and Dutchman. Re the Brits: Look, I know there's a lot wrong with the UK, including a growing provincialism and illiteracy that makes British college students seem even more ignorant and boorish than American ones, and that is saying a lot. There is clearly a grave crisis in education over there, perhaps even more pronounced than that in the US. Young British people seem incapable of spelling, proper grammar and syntax, and have almost zero knowledge about the world. London, one of my favorite cities, is becoming a mean, grubby, dispirited, and dangerous place; it reminds me of New York in the 1970s. All that said, I have a place in my heart for the Brits: they have a great history; have provided a vastly disproportionate share of the world's great writers, philosophers, explorers, soldiers, inventors, actors, and scientists; and they still make some superb films (Note:  Please see The Four Lions.) The modern world is essentially a British invention. I am glad the United States was established by British settlers--English, Scot, Welsh, and Irish--and not by some of the other options available at that time. I have worked closely with British diplomats, intel, and military all over the world, and they are stand up guys -- almost as good as Aussies. On my many visits to the UK, I have enjoyed myself--I love the museums, bookstores, theater, and food (Indian). The average Brit is a decent sort, maybe with a bit of chip on his shoulder about the USA, but, so what?

The Dutch, too, have a place in my heart.  Most Americans, for example, don't appreciate the bravery of the Dutch resistance to the Nazis. The Dutch, too, have a great history as explorers, innovators, thinkers, engineers, businessmen, etc.  The Netherlands was always a favorite place in my youthful visits to Europe. The Dutch, who seem to speak every language on earth, were extraordinarily kind, helpful, and welcoming to a goofy and often lost American tourist who, for some reason, would insist on trying to speak French to them, when the average Dutchman speaks English better than we do. Recent visits to the Netherlands, however, have shown that Dutch tolerance has been abused by some really quite nasty immigrants. They have arrived in enormous numbers, and changed dramatically the look, feel, and spirit of the Netherlands. Dutch cities now have some very evil looking neighborhoods, and violent street crime, almost unheard of some thirty-five years ago, is a real factor in daily urban life. The Netherlands has done itself no favors by letting in large numbers of Muslims, many, if not most, with apparently little intention of becoming Dutch or adapting to the tolerant, live-and-let-live way of life in the Netherlands.

The Dutch legal system also did the country no favor by putting politician Geert Wilders on trial for having dared to speak out against what Islam is doing to his country. Fortunately, earlier this week, the court had the sense to acquit the gutsy Wilders, and issued a (qualified) defense of free speech.  Wilders, we should note, has to live 24/7 with bodyguards because the followers of the religion of peace want to kill him for saying that the followers of the religion of peace want to kill those who disagree with them. The acquittal of Wilders potentially has great significance. It might, might just encourage other Dutch citizens to raise their voices and cast their votes in defense of the Netherlands.  Who knows? That attitude might just spread to the rest of Europe, and even hop the Atlantic to these shores. Democracy does not have to be a suicide pact.

Congratulations to Geert Wilders (the John of Austria for the new Battle of Lepanto?) and here's hoping that the old Dutch spirit can and will reemerge from under the stifling blanket of political correctness and fear that has been thrown over it.

Europe (sigh)

Been reading a lot about the situation in Greece. This is serious stuff. While we can have a fun debate over whether Greece invented democracy, there seems little doubt that Greece is showing us the future of modern social-democracy,

Producers vs. consumers
Political cowardice.

I have written about this before (here,  here and here) and the news out of Greece today highlights how that battle between those who pay and those who party is growing more fierce.  The bills are coming due for some sixty years of insane political, social, economic, and foreign policy decisions by Europe's elite, culminating in the monstrosity known as the EU and its golden amulet, the Euro, which was to protect the Old World from the domination of the New.

When reality bites, it is painful, indeed. Could not be more clear. Europe is washed up. A collection of noisy, preening has-beens, never-weres, and never-will-bes who thought that pompous and empty phrases, hairy-legged women, insufferable movies, tinny matchbox cars, and holding unfiltered cigarettes  at a jaunty angle while wearing a beret and pontificating on the Paris Commune and the French Revolution would translate into power, real power. No. That's not the way it's done.

These are not Greek

All that European pretension, all that chicanery, all that self-delusion, and all that existentialist babble have produced the spectacle we see on the streets of Greece, and might see soon in Spain, Italy, and Portugal.  The EU has labored mightily and produced what Europe always produces better than anybody else in history, chaos and violence masked as a cause.

My worry? We have people in charge of our own Great Republic who want it to be just like Europe.  They can see Europe crumbling, and that's what they want for us!

For America, Europe should be in our past, not in our future.

Europasaurus: A well-known predator who fed on delusion and pomposity.

Monday, June 27, 2011


It's official. Michele Bachmann is in.  Should go without saying that I would vote for her over Obama, but going beyond that, of the declared candidates, so far, she's my favorite.

I like her. I could see her as president. She seems smart, hard-working, knowledgable, a good debater, energetic, patriotic, and makes good sense on foreign affairs, the economy, the federal budget, and the role of government. She has a sense of humor, and an optimistic outlook on life that reminds me of Ronald Reagan.

She also has guts; she will need them by the bucketful. If Bachmann begins to do well in the primaries, the liberal elite attacks on her will be unrelenting; any minor flub, slip, or inconsistency will be headline news and fodder for the dopey late night "comics." The libs will go through her life with a microscope. This will get ugly. She is going to be abused, maligned, and "Palined" because she does not fit the mould the liberal elite and their MSM pets have decreed for politically savvy and smart women politicians. She is a conservative, a real one, and that's something the libs just cannot abide. To make matters worse, she fights back, and doesn't apologize for being conservative. Women, blacks, Hispanics, and Jews are supposed to be liberal, if they're not, it's OK to call them anything you want: Misogyny or racism in the service of liberalism is just free speech or funny.

I wish her lots of luck.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Death in the Family

Traveling. Phone rings at an odd time. Not a good sign. Not good news, at all. My tearful sister informs me that Kody has died. Kody was our beloved 11-year old Rottweiler. She was the bravest and most cowardly dog I have ever met. She was also the fiercest and most gentle; the smartest and the most stupid. The sanest and the craziest member of the family. She was, however, always happy, always loyal, and my best friend in travels around the world. She was a 100% goofball Rottweiler who, at her prime, weighed in at 110 lbs of lean, mean muscle, tooth, claw, and slobber. I will miss her greatly.

We got her when she was barely six weeks old from a slightly disreputable breeder in a poor Asian country. He told me he was bringing me a Lab, and showed up with a Russian-born Rottweiler, instead. My daughter fell in love with her instantly, and my dreams of having a hunting dog went down in flames. No way was my wife going to allow two dogs. One dog in the Foreign Service is already a logistical and financial nightmare. So, I had on my hands a "dangerous" breed, the kind that would make a delicate Marin County resident swoon in terror, and gun urge his Prius to its top speed (0 to 48 mph in 95 seconds, if the wind is favorable) to escape her jaws of death.

Kody's first official act as Diplodog was to eat my daughter's international school-owned recorder flute. That cost me a few bucks. Then she ate the corner off an embassy-owned carpet; that, too, cost me a few bucks. But, she was part of the family, and all was forgiven. As soon as she was eligible, I took her to a local obedience school run by a Filipino diplomat.  Kody was expelled from school for being too stupid. She learned to sit and shake paws, and that was it. She had much more interest in establishing herself as the Alpha queen of the crowd.  Constant fighting, snarling. The Filipino said, "She's too much trouble for what I charge. Go!" We went.

Bomb blasts did not disturb her in the least. We had a suicide bomber scatter himself to the winds and into the trees just a couple blocks away, and Kody barely acknowledged it. On the other hand, night-time thunder was something else. She became a quivering puppy at the sound of thunder, and had to be let into our bedroom and constantly reassured.

Her mock battles with the large monitor lizard that lived under the garage were legendary. That scary looking, but more or less harmless reptile would crawl out at certain hours and splay itself out on the driveway and absorb some rays. Kody did  not like this. She learned quickly that the lizard had a nasty whip-like tail, which needed to be avoided. Kody would walk slowly around the lizard, just out of range of the tail, barking and snarling, then declaring herself victorious when the lizard would eventually return to his hole under the garage. This went on almost every day. The guards thought it hilarious. We did not have cable TV.

Transferred to another country in Asia and Kody came along. There she quickly established herself as the invasive species.  The Embassy assigned me an enormous house with a huge yard full of feral cats, or as we came to discover, "targets." Kody decided to upset the ecological balance in that yard.  She hunted down and killed cat after cat. One she pulled off the backyard wall by the tail, and before any of us could stop her she had broken the thing's back. The disappearance of the cats knocked the ecosystem off balance. Rats and roosters appeared. Roosters. I hate roosters. The neighbor on one side had the nasty hobby of raising show roosters. Some of these beasts were quite large, colorful, and had long tails. They roamed free in the neighbor's yard and would jump up on the stone wall that separated the houses. They often would jump down onto our side, apparently feeling safe now that the cats were gone. They apparently had no experience with a Rottweiler. Kody quickly figured out that the roosters were stupid and slow, and soon they were dead. She would sit for hours, statue-like behind a tree near the wall, waiting, waiting, for one of those noisy bird-brains to come over for a visit. When it happened she would spring forward, a brief shower of feathers would engulf the scene, and then Kody would go for a run around the yard with a dead rooster in her jaws.  She would then either bury the bird, or drop it off at the front door of the house. This ferocity was in marked contrast with her treatment of a colleague's little Corgi, whom she let tug on her ears, and nip at her paws, and even steal one of her prize bones. Kody seemed bemused by the little guy, and seemed to condescend to his claim to being the same species.

She was incredibly gentle with people. She loved kids and would allow them to perform all sorts of indignities on her, e.g., placing a tiara on her big broad head, putting pink booties on her, and bathing her with scented shampoo. She would play with the local guards who would take her along on their nocturnal rounds of the property--of course, she also often stole their lunch, and they would come asking me to replace it. That gentleness with people could switch off in a second. On one occasion, we had a lot of violence in the city, crowds going around chanting "Death to America!" I had to sit in my house, shotgun across my lap, Kody crouched like a lion, her ears flat against her head, at my feet waiting, waiting. I could feel, rather than hear, the low, deep growl that vibrated from Kody. It filled the darkened room, and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Anybody coming through that door would have a major problem, and that would be before I could rack-a-round in the 870.

Well, she's gone. Killed by cancer and an incompetent veterinarian. Best friend I ever had. I will miss her.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Huntsman is in. It should go without saying that he would make a better president than Obama.  That is a low hurdle, I know, but it is reassuring that none of the candidates, with one possible exception, would be worse than Obama, and even that exception . . ..

Huntsman is a serious, smart, hardworking and patriotic man--all of which put him leagues ahead of Obama. He, however, would not be the best choice as the GOP nominee, and I doubt he could win that nomination or beat Obama.  There is a curious MSM chant developing about Huntsman that should put us all on alert.  I keep hearing on talk shows from Democratic strategists and from journalists (basically the same thing these days) that Huntsman is the one candidate that Obama fears. That, of course, is just rubbish, and all it means is that Huntsman has won the "strange new respect" award. Beware of anybody the media seek to make the "best" champion for the GOP.

I met Huntsman some years ago when he was with the US Trade Representative.  He came to my post in Asia, and I spent the day taking him around to see local officials on a variety of trade issues.  He was very serious; he worked very hard; and he did his homework. As far as I could tell from sitting around with him for several hours, talking to him in the car and the embassy, he was also devoid of any sense of humor or personality, and not very imaginative. He was not a "people person" at all, and, I think, was not particularly effective in talks and negotiations. He struck me as being a Robert McNamara sort of guy, i.e., he knows he is the smartest guy in the room and he will tell you so himself. I just don't see how he could be an effective campaigner or particularly effective in the very rough politics of Washington DC. Maybe he's changed since then. I will try to keep an open mind.

Anyhow, some initial thoughts. Would I vote for him over Obama? Please, need you ask?

Saber-Toothed Tigers and the Design Specifications of Human Life: A Thought from the Far Abroad--Reprise

(Originally posted December 29, 2004. This will probably be the last of the re-runs. I'll try to come up with something new in between meetings.)

Certain little common events make me have certain big weird thoughts.

As I have moved ever further north of forty and begun to approach the old California speed-limit of fifty-five, I have thought increasingly about Saber-toothed tigers (Similodon Fatalis), and what they tell us about nature's plan for us, and how most of us Westerners have frustrated it. I had an epiphany in three steps (nine fewer than AA) at the end of which I saw clearly the (drumroll, please) Saber-toothed Tiger Law of Life which I, in turn, reveal to you, dear readers, free of charge and of strings.

First: Heed The Kneed

I started my journey toward grasping the Saber-toothed Tiger Law of Life while serving in Central America. It began on a helicopter ride to a remote area to view a drug crop eradication and see the processing of some detainees captured in a raid. It was a largely uneventful flight -- except for some idiot who lost his enormous ski jacket out the open side door, provoking a brief moment of concern that the damn thing would wrap itself around the rear rotor. The site of this crop eradication was hot, humid, full of bugs, cops, smoke, and unhappy campesinos watching a year's earnings burn. Some minor traffickers had been captured and were being interrogated before being turned over to the local cops. Pretty routine stuff. The flight back was fine, i.e., nobody took a shot at us.

When we landed back at the base, I was busy yaking away with somebody, trying to make my undoubtedly brilliant comments heard above the engine noise. In sum, I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing. As I exited the Huey, talking away, I stepped on the skid, stumbled and fell, twisting my knee and -- much worse -- making a dusty fool of myself in front of grinning DEA agents, Special Forces, and local drug cops and military. Despite their words of concern and helping hands, I could see the mirth in their eyes, the barely suppressed smiles, and I swear I could hear them thinking, "Yep, State Department. No doubt about it." At that moment I caught a glimpse, just a fleeting one of the Saber-toothed Tiger Law of Life.

Second: Slippery Slope

Well, that knee has bothered me for years and led to the second, ahem, step on my journey of discovery. This time I was on a hunting/fishing trip in South America. A group of us spent the morning shooting at ducks on a mountain lake and surrounding rivers. Given the altitude, the cold, and the terrain, it was a tough, exhausting hunt. Just as a freezing drizzle began, I put my shotgun into my 4x4 truck, and started to walk down a gentle tundra-like slope towards the lake to see how the kids were coming along in their fishing. And . . . you guessed it, the knee gave out. I went down like a felled tree, rolled through a pile of manure, provoked gales of laughter from some very evil Embassy children, and broke my leg in three places. The result? A harrowing trip back to the capital; emergency surgery; almost two weeks in a local "hospital;" many more weeks of crutches; and, finally, a leg that never healed properly leaving me with a slight limp to this day. The Saber-toothed Tiger Law of Life had begun to get codified.

Third: An Aye For An Eye

Years later, I'm back in Central America. We had an energetic political officer who negotiated a discount with a local eye clinic if five or more of us from the Embassy would get Lasik eye surgery done there. Having worn thick glasses since I was thirteen, I agreed to the offer. Being chicken, however, when it comes to knives and lasers touching my eyes, I sent the political officer first. If she returned with two smoking holes in her head, melted eyeball goo dripping down her face, I'd back out of the deal. (This is, after all, why subordinates exist, right?) Well, she survived, professing great joy in the results, and minimizing the terror. I had to go.

It was a Stephen King nightmare! Foreign people in white robes with funny accents putting drops in my eyes! Giving me Valium, and holding me down on a gurney while my eyes were clamped open! Tiny knives, pulsating laser, the smell of, of . . . my burning CORNEA! I confess, Dr. Mengele! Yes! It was I on the grassy knoll! Oh the humanity! (OK, OK, so I'm taking a little Diplomadic license here . . .)

Anyhow, afterwards I was sent home wearing some very dark glasses to recover. Lying on the bed, recalling the horror I had been through and plotting revenge against the political officer and all her descendants for sixty generations, I lifted the glasses and looked at the small TV screen across the room. No glasses on and I could read the crawl on CNN! This Lasik stuff works! The prior day the screen would have been a total blur. I rushed to the window, and although the light still bothered me, I could see a cat walking on the sidewalk some ten floors below! A cat, I could clearly make out that it was a cat -- and not a blob which could have been a rat, a dog, a shoe, or who knows what. I remember the thought flashing into my mind, "G-d, what would a near-sighted caveman do?" The Saber-toothed Tiger Law of Life was fully revealed.

The Saber-toothed Tiger Law of Life

It dawned on me in that overly air conditioned room, my eyes tearing and blinking as I stared out at the bright tropical light that I had violated my design specifications. Clearly nature did not intend for the average non-Moses, non-Methuselah, non-Mentuhotep II peon to live past forty. Looking at that cat it became clear that everything a man needs to avoid being eaten by a Saber-toothed tiger starts to go around the age of forty. Suddenly you can't throw that spear like you used to. You can't run after or away from the Saber-toothed tiger like you used to. Your aching knees won't let you crouch down so you can sneak up on the sleeping Saber-toothed tiger or on that Woolly Mammoth you want to kill and eat. And your eyes, yes, your eyes start to fail you; you can't see well enough to throw a spear with accuracy, or you can't tell if that blurry blob approaching you is a Saber-toothed tiger or a goat, and by the time you find out . . . well, you might be lunch. I am living on borrowed time, and depend on scientists and engineers to keep extending me further loans.

The entire history of Western man boils down to the fight to avoid or put off as long as possible that lunch date. Our civilization and inventions are in the end about defeating our fellow man in occasional war and defying nature every day. The natural state of man is to be in rebellion against the natural state. By denying this, "ecologists" and "Greens" are criminally wrong and inflict great damage on human life. Not so much on folks like you and me -- ain't nobody going to take away my SUV or deny me a Big Mac -- but on the poor of the world. As I wrote before when I criticized "activists" working for "indigenous" people's rights, "Western man no longer lives in caves or trees, terrorized by solar eclipses and at the mercy of an unforgiving environment. < . . .> Why should humans live little better than animals in disease-infested jungles, or exposed on wind-swept plains?"

As a Westerner I can get my eyes fixed, my leg reknitted, my appendix removed; if I have a heart attack or get injured trained paramedics will come to my house and ferry me to a modern hospital. I do not have to scratch out a living on the land because a handful of sophisticated American farmers using ultra-modern equipment and techniques can feed all of us. We in the West do not die by the thousands in tsunamis or earthquakes or from malaria or typhoid: it's the poor people who still have to live fearing the Saber-tooth tiger. They "live" within nature's design specifications and exit the planet after some forty years. They are heroes of the "Greens" and the "ecologists" and the "indigenous rights activists." They are the model that those "Greens," "ecologists," and "activists" would have us all emulate.

We should all be grateful that Greenpeace and Sierra Club did not exist 11,000 years ago; I am sure they'd have spent every effort imaginable to prevent the Saber-toothed cats from going extinct. I for one can live without Saber-toothed tigers . . . although I wouldn't have minded bagging one instead of all those stupid ducks . . .

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ratman of the Far Abroad -- Reprise

Blogging will be light as I will be traveling.  I have re-run another of the Old Diplomad posts (December 18, 2004) I don't want to make it a habit, but this one was one of my daughter's favorites, so in honor of her impending departure for college, I present a story about rats in Indonesia.

Not so long ago, one evening as the Chief Diplomad busily blogged away, the Always Lovely Mrs. Chief Diplomad rushed in to announce, "Rats!" Holding her hands about a yard apart, she added, "This big!"
The Chief Diplomad grabbed a Maglight, a heavy walking stick (you never know, those things might be a yard long) and accompanied by the ever-faithful houseboy Babu (not his real name) took a tour of the Diplomadic estate. Yes, indeed, I, Chief Diplomad and Internet Pontificator, confirmed the presence of several large rats in the yard - but maybe not a yard long -- congregating around the dog's food bowl. Using the command voice honed by many years of staff meetings, I said, "Babu, have the Embassy send the Ratman tomorrow."
The next morning, a Saturday, the Ratman, all 4 feet 10 inches of him, came to the house. Puffing on a smelly cigarette, loaded down with cages and a long hook, he surveyed the property. He ruled that the best places for the cages were the drain openings along the driveway. Sunday morning, the Ratman was still at work in the yard. As I prepared to accompany Mrs. CD on a short shopping expedition, I crouched down and peered into one of these drain openings; in the dim light, I could see something in the cage, "Ratman! I think you've got one here." I stood up and backed away to let the Ratman stick a hook into the opening and drag out the cage. Six big ones! All jammed into the cage! Their faces pressed up against the mesh. The normally dour Ratman appeared genuinely happy. "Rats stupid. One get in, others follow," he offered through a cloud of pungent yellowish smoke.
As Mrs. Diplomad and I clambered into the armored Chevy Suburban (BTW, the world's greatest vehicle -- it can do anything), she asked me, "What do you think he'll do with the rats?" As a long-time cynical observer of the Third World scene, I opined, "Probably take them to the other side of the yard and release them, so we have to call him back."
We returned about an hour later. As the guard swung open the heavy gate and raised the anti-ram bar, we saw at the far end of the driveway an enormous bonfire roaring away. The Ratman stood near it, poking his hook into the flames, pulling something out. Babu, a huge smile on face, ran up to us as we got out of the Chevy, "Sir, big barbecue! Hehehehe!" The Ratman pulled the cage out of the fire; all six rats roasted alive inside. "Guess, he didn't release them," I thought. "He's a man of honor, but on the brutal side. Isn't there a better way to treat rats?" Both Mrs. Diplomad and I were nauseated by the spectacle, but as the rats did not reappear we gradually forgot about the Ratman.
Some weeks later, the security situation in this corner of the Far Abroad took a marked turn for the worse. From a variety of sources, we began getting a stream of alarming information of what the bad guys were up to. We had several long days at the Embassy coordinating a response to the growing threat, working closely with a wide range of US agencies, a couple of key foreign allies, and host nation security agencies. In the end, some modest success: a couple of bad guys off the street, some explosives seized. At the end of one long day, perhaps around 9 pm, I got a call from a senior Eurodip, one with whom I have had a rocky relationship since my arrival here, and one from a country very critical of US actions in Iraq, Abu Gharib, and Guantanamo. He was furious. He had read in the papers about the threats, arrests, and seizures and wanted to know why the US Embassy had not briefed his Embassy on the situation.
"After all," he said, "we are allies."
I was only half listening as he spoke, but suddenly I had a revelation. I saw the Ratman pulling the roasted rats out of the fire -- getting rid of the rats as we had requested, but at the same time provoking revulsion in those of us who had asked him to do it. It came to me: Damn! They want us to be their Ratman!
"America, get rid of the rats! Don't tell us how, but if we find out how, we're going to get very upset with you. After a bit, we'll forget about the rats and will resent having you, the brutish Ratman around, unless the rats come back . . . and then you damn well better show up!"
I don't remember what I said to our "ally" but it was probably something not very nice as he hasn't spoken to me since. I expect, however, that when the rats return, that phone will ring again.
Ratman, title of honor

Reflections on Weapon Cool -- Reprise

(Note: A friend asked me to re-post a piece I wrote back on December 26, 2004, while I was in Indonesia. While I was writing it, of course, on that very day, the tsunami struck. Anyhow, here it is. On occasion, I will try to re-run a few of the old postings; I didn't keep them all, but I do have a few. Hope you enjoy it.) 

Maybe the incessant rain in this part of the Far Abroad reminds me of past assignments in other rainy parts of the world, or maybe I'm just going gaga. Whatever it is, for the last couple of days I've been thinking about the Good Old Days, some 20 years ago, when I was stupid but young and having a ball running around in Central America and learned a few valuable lessons, lessons about what I'll call "weapon cool."
Those were great days to be a young officer working at an American Embassy. It was the height of the Central American civil wars and there was a constant adrenaline rush. Every day was an adventure; you didn't know how any day would begin or end. The people you worked with and met came straight out of a Hollywood casting call: plump Colonels wearing Ray-Bans; loopy foreign human rights activists; loopy foreign "mercenaries" down for the summer to fight Communism; loopy guerrillas and their loopy leaders; loopy US Congressmen and staff who would drop in and create havoc as they pursued some loopy leftist agenda . . . it was great. It was also very dangerous; but, as I said, I was both stupid and young, so danger was part of the attraction -- much less so now, I assure you (still stupid, but not young.)
We carried guns. Everybody in the Embassy had a favorite; guns were a constant source of conversation, debate and entertainment. We'd spend every Saturday at the range doing what you should do at a gun range, burning off many boxes of rounds and drinking many rounds of beer . . . like I said, stupid and young. My favorite weapon was a Colt 1911 Government Model .45. I loved that gun. First of all, it looked cool (more on this later), made a very nice roar, and its large, relatively slow moving slugs would make a very satisfying thud when they hit bowling pins, sending them spinning away. The Always Lovely Mrs. Chief Diplomad became a very good shot; her favorite piece was a S&W .357 Highway Patrol model (firing .38 Specials) -- she also was quite good with the small Colt .380 I had bought her, no mean feat. Every once in a while, I confess, she would concern me: the silhouette targets she picked seemed always to have a villain who looked more than a bit like me; and she would put some very tight groups into, ahem,shall we say odd places.
When we would have a party at our house, we'd set up a gun room. As each guest arrived, he would drop his weapon(s) on a large bed in this room; after the party, it was amusing to watch well-oiled guests pawing through the pile of handguns trying to find theirs, trying to remember which one each had brought, "The Browning, yours or mine?" More than once Mrs. CD or I would find a weapon or a fully loaded magazine left behind in the always locked room and would then call each invitee to ask, "Amigo, did you leave something behind?" Please, please remember, dear reader, back then I was both stupid and young: the most exalted state to which man can aspire. But I digress . . .
One of the most colorful of the cast of characters with whom I worked was a local Army Colonel (actually a LTC -- but nobody dared point that out to him) seconded to the National Police and made the Deputy Police Chief. Let's call him Jose Garcia (not even close to his real name). Jose Garcia, a tough, tough SOB, was a veteran of years of rural and urban combat against the guerrillas, and a member of a feared military intelligence unit before being sent to keep the civilian police force in line with the military. He never seemed to stop working or to sleep. He spoke good English and despite the lack of what we would consider a good education was well-read in history, especially military history. Not more than about 5'5" but built like a tank and born to command, he had an intense stare that would melt much bigger subordinates into quivering puddles of jelly. His famous "What did you say?" was not something any of his men ever wanted to hear. He was also remarkable for being on time and not tolerating anyone being even a minute tardy -- this in a country where 2 o'clock meant, on a good day, any time between 2:30 and 3:30.
One December, along with other members of the Embassy, I was invited to a party at Garcia's house, a genuinely spectacular place on a ridge overlooking the city: swimming pool, movie theater, enormous yard . . . all straight out of Hollywood. At the party, we Embassy types joked among ourselves about how great it was that a LTC on a salary of about $150/month, by being thrifty, making good investments, and using supermarket coupons to squeeze those pennies out of the family budget could come to live like a sultan . . . amazing, inspirational. Anyhow, late into the party, the Colonel, who had been knocking back Scotch pretty heavily all evening, came up to a friend and me, fixed us with that patented stare and blurted out, "The American Army . . . it has become homosexual!"
Our Foreign Service Institute (FSI) doesn't include this scenario in its training modules, and no question on the FS exam covers this situation. As the more senior of the two Americans present, I felt compelled to say something biting and witty, so I let fly with a brilliant, "Uh, why?" The Colonel literally threw down his drink, reached into his jacket, pulled out a Government Model .45 and waved it at us. Let me stop for a second and note that from prior conversations, the Colonel knew that I was a Colt 45 man -- which proved a good thing. Now, with the Colonel's 45 about three inches from my face, I wondered how many other people had had this as their last vision on earth. "Look at how beautiful she is! This is a real gun, a gun for a man! A Colt 45! Not that sissy Beretta 9mm your Army is buying!" Let me stop for another second, the Colonel had been distraught for some time that the US military -- whom he admired beyond words -- had decided to move from the .45 to the 9mm, especially to an Italian model 9mm . One other note, he had rather strong and negative views on anything Italian (I don't know why, and it did not console him to be told that the US military's Beretta's would be made in USA.)
"You, you know the 45. The 9mm is for sissies (huecos) with tight pants! Do you know how many times I have shot somebody with a 9mm?" My Embassy colleague and I assumed this either a rhetorical question or one to which he already had an answer, and we did not try to answer it. "Twice. Both times I shoot them and they get up! I have to shoot them again!" He now removed the 45 from my face, holding it in both hands, he looked down at it, "With this gun I only would need to shoot somebody one time! He doesn't get back up! This is a beautiful gun . . . people see it and they know you are serious. Most of the time I don't even have to shoot."
Not long after this party I was transferred to another post and lost track of Colonel Garcia. I thought of him a couple of years ago while discussing modern weapon systems with a US Defense Attache. He, a Navy officer, agreed with me that the new warships generally didn't have the look of the old ones. The new ships were all boxes and rounded shapes and antennas jutting out. Yes, yes, each one carried more firepower than the entire Bulgarian army has possessed in its entire history; the greatest concentration of lethal force since G-d unleashed the flood, etc. But, but, they didn't look cool. The two of us, with the help of our Scottish advisor Johnny Walker (Black Label), decided that the ultimate cool look for a machine was the Harley-Davidson. All coolness in weapons had to be measured in those terms, i.e., is this the Harley-Davidson of weapons? One looks at a Harley and knows that it might not necessarily be the fastest bike on the road, but it's a serious piece of machinery -- it exudes menace and power.
We both decided that the ultimate cool weapon had to be an Iowa class battleship. Having seen the USS New Jersey underway, heading for the Panama Canal, I assure you it's a sight you do not soon forget. With its huge guns and breathtakingly beautiful design, it had a calming influence on anybody thinking of getting rambunctious with the USA. The Iowa class ships belong on the sea lanes or in a Museum of Modern Art.
Anyhow, before I make this too long, let me report that about one month ago I found the list of the coolest weapon systems that we had drawn up. I present it here -- just for fun and in no order -- and recognizing that it is partial and done in a bit of a haze:
Ships: Iowa Class Battleships
Aircraft: B-17 Flying Fortress, P-47 Thunderbolt, A-26 Invader, A-1 Skyraider, B-36 Peacemaker, F-86 Sabre, F-4 Phantom, F-14 Tomcat, B-52 Stratofortress, B-58 Hustler, AH-1 Cobra, AH-64 Apache
Small Arms: AK-47 Kalashnikov, M-1 Garand, Model 1928 Thompson, and OF COURSE the Colt .45 of Colonel Garcia fame
Vehicles: HMMV, M-1A2 Abrams, M-2 Bradley
Other systems: George W. Bush (Note: link no longer works right for some reason! Try it you will see.)
That was as far as we got . . . Oh, and Colonel Garcia? Some years after I left Central America a friend told me that Garcia had died as he would have liked, i.e., in a gun fight against Communist insurgents. Another friend assured me that this version was nonsense and that Garcia had died in a car crash, drunk as a skunk. I can't vouch for the reliability of either piece of information and for all I know, Garcia remains alive, still carrying his beloved and cool 45 -- the one so cool he didn't have to shoot it, most of the time.