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;...

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.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

McCain: Still Hazy After All These Years . . .

I voted for McCain in 2008. I wasn't crazy about him, but if you were a serious voter there was no alternative. Would he have been better than Obama? Probably. Hard to see how he could have been worse.  I used to bore my friends to death telling them that whomever got elected in 2008 would be a one-term President. I certainly hope that is true as our current nightmare has to be brought to an end in November 2012. The good Senator from Arizona, a bonafide American war hero, ran a disastrous campaign. He could not bring himself to go for the jugular of a very vulnerable and inept Democratic candidate. He made a brilliant move by picking Palin as his running mate, a move that generated enthusiasm and activated the base he needed to win, and then he sabotaged her. Her sent off to gain the respect and kudos of the mainstream media, and wasted her. He seemed to think that because the NY Times had endorsed him for the GOP nomination, they were on his side, so he sent Palin to get the same endorsement. That, of course, never came.

McCain has not learned.

I saw him on a Sunday talk show with that hideous pomposity, the beast known as Christiane Amanpour. Instead of blasting the monstrosity in the White House, a monster he helped inflict upon us, what does our hero do? He blasts the GOP candidates for being isolationist because they are opposed to the idiotic war in Libya, and wondering about the exit strategy in Afghanistan.  He has given the Democrats a talking point which they have been using all over the air waves and internet bemoaning the alleged development of "isolationism" in the GOP, and the Republicans supposed retreat from global responsibility. Suddenly the Dems are portraying themselves as the hawkish defenders of American interests.  All nonsense, of course, as the Democrats, as we have said in the blog many times, only support intervention when there are no tangible US interests at risk.  They are all for intervening in the old Yugoslavia or in Libya, but are all for playing dead when dealing with Chavez and Castro right here in our own neighborhood.

McCain continues to try to gain that most prized of all awards from the liberal media: The Strange New Respect Award.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Go To Bolok! or, A Tropical Take

Note: This is a pre-quel to the Wednesday story.

Once a chic destination for European jet-setters and their imitators, Bolok never had recovered from the anti-Republic riots of a few years back that played night after night, for endless weeks on the world’s news programs. Empty beaches, shuttered shops, half-built hotels, trash-strewn streets, and charred villas memorialized the passing of the island’s brief dream of tourist-driven prosperity.  Bolok’s inhabitants now dreamed only of leaving for Brunei, Australia, Singapore, Canada, or the U.S., or anywhere else that harbored a flicker of hope for life, prosperity, and posterity. 
While true that these days few foreigners visited Bolok, the still-audible Siren’s song of cheap lodging and food, and world-class diving lured the occasional thrifty adventurer. It had lured flamboyant Senator Charles “Call-me-Chuck” Landers, long-time Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Before Landers had set off on his adventure, the Senator’s aide had called the U.S. Embassy to announce the visit and stress that, “The Senator and Mrs. Landers, of course, do not want the Embassy to go out of its way, or for it to spend taxpayer funds to support their private visit.  They, of course, seek no Embassy assistance.” Newly arrived Ambassador Williams, sitting 1300 miles away from Bolok in the capital of Suluarta, and inexperienced in matters pertaining to the care and feeding of traveling Members of Congress, sighed in relief at these words; he dreaded the thought of making the long and uncomfortable plane and boat trip to dreary Bolok just to tend to the Senator.    
On their first night in Bolok, the vacationing Landers gorged on mounds of inexpensive, oddly flavored prawns at The Vice Squad, one of the few functioning restaurants.  During the beach stroll back to their hotel, and just as the Senator launched into his third rendition of “Imagine what that would have cost back home,” Mrs. Landers began feeling, by turns, faint, hot, cold, and sweaty.  A gut-churning spasm felled her.  The Senator soon followed, joining his wife sprawled on the sand in a pool of vomit and diarrhea. Two Australian surfers dragged the spewing Yanks to the road, and packed them into a taxi. In the hotel, the Landers ingested rehydration salts and expired antibiotics, and had their wallets stolen. Two days later, pale, weak and groggy, they departed for Washington.  
Safely back in DC, Landers issued a press release expressing “disgust with the lack of concern shown by Embassy Suluarta for traveling Americans in Bolok Island, a major center of global tourism.” He put a hold on State Department funding until the Department established a consulate in Bolok.
Tormented by visions of his career in a death spiral, Ambassador Williams called Frank Jones into his office.  Pacing behind his desk, he almost shouted at the seated Jones, “The Secretary’s frantic.  You, you’re an experienced Foreign Service Officer . . . go create a goddamn consulate! Take our Embassy accountant, uh, that Shaheed guy, he’s from there, right?”  Williams came around to the front of the desk and stopped in front of Jones. Almost in a whisper, he implored, “Look, I know we don’t have money for this, but make it happen! I’ll get you assigned to London, Sydney, or wherever the hell you want! Fix this! Go to Bolok!”       
Jones sat on a floor cushion in “The Palace,” a cup of lukewarm sweet tea on a long low table in front of him.  Across the table, surrounded by aides, small-boned, with a thin mustache, looking younger than Jones had expected, and wrapped in a colorful silk robe topped by a blue satin skullcap sat the smiling Sultan.  On Jones’ immediate left sat the tall, elegant white-haired Shaheed, long-time U.S. Embassy employee clearly delighted to be home after years working for the Americans in distant Suluarta.  
With Shaheed at the wheel of an old but immaculate white Ford Mustang, the ride to The Palace had provided “a Foreign Service moment.”  Over the driveway a large blue banner with red letters screamed, “H.R.H. SULTAN S. WUDJU WELCOMES U$A.”     
Frank sighed, “Well, I can see what’s coming.”
“No worry, bos,” Shaheed said smiling and downshifting into second as he gunned the vehicle up the driveway. “Sultan study in France.”
“Ah, great, crippled by a French education just like Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh.  I suppose he likes Jerry Lewis and Michael Moore?  Nice car, by the way. Where’d you get it?”
“Belong Sultan, nickname of “Silver,” yes, “Silver,” 1967, last good year. Ah! The Palace!”
“A white car is called ‘Silver,” I see.”
“The Palace” would have fit into a middle-class 1950’s Florida suburb.  A wooden one-level bungalow, it squatted behind a row of dying palm trees on a slight rise and abutted a trash-filled beach that ran some 100 yards from the rear of the house out to a turquoise ocean. Visible in the middle distance, jutting through a thin layer of clouds, Bulanggi volcano rose from neighboring Kotu Island. A lone gardener picked at the scraggly lawn.  He bowed as Jones and Shaheed passed.  
Sweat streamed down Jones’ face and back. The open windows and slow ceiling fan could not cool the sparsely furnished room. The Sultan remained silent, smiling in Jones' direction. Shaheed and the Sultan’s aides conversed in rapid-fire Bolokenese, occasionally glancing at Jones. He heard his name mentioned along with the inevitable bos and “dollars.” After thirty minutes, without a word, the Sultan rose and left.  
“Shaheed, what’s with him? What’s happening?”
“Sultan loan Palace for Consulate”
“How much?”
Bos, free, no rent. Electric, water, free. Everything OK.”  
A sinus-clearing electronic screech followed by the crackling hiss of a well-worn tape came from eight “Bose” speakers.  Cymbals!  Drums! A gambelan xylophone! A flute, then another, then an ear-splitting horn fanfare! 
Shaheed shouted in Jones’ ear, “Bos! Big honor. Sultan dancers never dance for outsider.  Story of Princess Malika who not want marry Prince Ali, but father say must. She run away. Ali make war. To stop war, she go in ocean to die but gods sorry. They make Malika become fish, she swim far and then when life as fish end, gods make her star and she make Bolok from gold, silver and spice.” Shaheed smiled, “True story.”
“Dancers?  Princess to fish to star to Bolok Island and it’s all true? Wow!”  Jones stared at his watch. “How long will this take? That music sounds sort of like Bacharach’s raindrop song.”  
“Old Bolok melody. Dancers!”  Shaheed pointed towards a closed door.  
“I don’t see anything.”
The door opened. Six small slim women entered wearing bright red silk sarongs and blouses and electric blue conical silk headpieces. A seventh wore a white sarong-blouse combination with a gold conical headpiece. Following were six small slim men, three with wooden tiger masks, three lion masks, all in bright yellow sarongs and blue blazers, and wielding small swords.  A seventh barefaced male dancer had a red sarong and black blazer, whiteface make-up, and a precariously balanced metal crown on his head.
“Shaheed, the guy with the crown looks familiar.”
The music grew louder. A slowly moving circle of dancers formed: clockwise, counter-clockwise; clockwise, counter-clockwise; clockwise, counter-clockwise; around and around the female dancer in white and the crown-wearing male who stood frozen face-to-face, holding hands.  The “tigers” exchanged masks with the “lions.”
Jones looked around the dimly lit, thatch-roofed, open-sided beach cafe, The Vice Squad.  A gentle evening breeze came from the ocean. He and Shaheed were the only clients. A small waitress stood near the bamboo bar.  
“I'll pass on those, Shaheed.”
“They good, bos.” Shaheed dug into a mound of prawns, hands and chin dripping liquid. “Called Rani, queen, have special spice.”
“I’ll stay with the stale bread sticks. Queens, huh? You eat'em whole, shell, head, antennae, flippers?” 
“Roughage!” Shaheed roared, spraying bits of exoskeleton.
“Look,” Jones leaned across the table and spoke quickly, “don't get me wrong.  I appreciate The Palace and the cultural events, but in two weeks I’ve spent $35,000 of my own money rewiring, fixing leaks, painting, planting trees, and paving the driveway.  The Sultan said 'free', right?”
“Free Bolok standard, you want bos standard.” Shaheed sipped a glass of pink juice.  “Need 6000 talus for new Consulate door, American door.  Bolok doors easy to break.”
Shaheed smiled and waved a prawn, “Talus, in Bolok language mean ‘glass beads.’  Name for old Bolok money. We don’t talk rubyas. That Suluarta money. They invade us.  Take our Sultan, who like a father to Bolok-Kotu people. Bad memories. Widows still suffer.” He jammed the prawn head first into his mouth.  “Need 6000 talus, only 1500 American dollars, bos, and we get good American door.” 
Jones grimaced and drank his beer, an Australian import, strong, expensive, and the only thing worth drinking on Bolok. “You have a Western education, right?”
Shaheed nodded, crunching a prawn, “Some. Long time past.”  
Jones took a gulp of beer, “Then you know that Suluarta invaded Bolok eight centuries ago. 800 years! Bolok has been in what was the Suluarta Empire and is now the 850-island Federated Republic of Suluarta ever since. During colonial times, the European governors ran all the islands from Suluarta.Those same Europeans put a pet Sultan here as a figurehead to keep Bolok-Kotu quiet. Some 40 or 45 years ago at independence the Republic formed and the new government took the Sultan’s title and lands. Then came the royalist rioting of four years ago, thousands of people dead, the economy ruined, and the government gave it all back to keep Bolok-Kotu quiet. In Europe today, royalty is just a gimmick to draw tourists and sell gossip magazines. And like the European royals, the Bolok Sultan is a rude boob!” Jones slapped the table with his open hand, “My friend, there is no invasion widow still around from 800 years ago, but there are plenty of them from the rioting. You can thank the Sultan and his backers for making Bolok a dump, and now that he’s got his title and property, the Sultan should help today's widows and poor, and forget about an 800-year-old invasion! The people fought for the right to be oppressed by some royal idiot, and they got what they wanted.”  
“He try to help,” Shaheed whispered, slowly drawing circles on the wooden table with a prawn.
“Yeah,” Jones slammed down his beer, took a prawn, sniffed it, and tossed it back on the pile. “Forget the invasion, forget the $1500, forget the new door.  Those queens, whew!  Special spice? These smell like they have been around since the invasion.” He turned in his chair and squinted, “The waitress sure looks familiar.”
“Yes, you are right. Sultan must help more.” Shaheed pushed away the remaining prawns.  “ But, bos, old door already gone, bill must be paid, new door already in.”  He rose.  “Waitress run quality food business, fish, queen prawns, roasted chicks. Maybe you deal with her?”   
Still looking at her, Jones said, “Nah, that’s not it. Wait! You already got the door?”    
Bos, we go before light stop, electric bad since riots.”
“You spent over $45,000!”  Ambassador Williams’ voice came in choppy over the hand phone. “Everythin- -s frozen.”  Beep!
“I set up a consulate! That should take care of Landers’ budget hold!”
“It’s no- official unti- Congress says.” 
“So I get stuck paying $45,567.98 out of my own pocket?”
“You’ll get reimbursed when Congress okays Consula-- Bolok.  Hey, listen, g--d news, not that we should enjoy others' misfortunes, but Landers’ wife cau--- him with an intern! He’s quit, he’s out! Senator Goldstein, a good friend, pro-Foreign Service, replaced him.” 
“Maybe my great-grandchildren will get reimbursed.” Beep!
“Glad to hear that Frank humor! But you haven't heard t-- best part.”
“I wait with bait on breath.”  Beep! 
“Always joking!  Goldstein's co---- your way!”  Beep!  “Is th-- your low battery signal?  I’m in my car in Suluarta ------- for the airport.” 
“He’s coming here?” Beep!
“In about two weeks, with that know-it-all aide, the Bolok expert.” Beep!  
Jones, in a faux British accent, “Erik-with-a-k Hindley, Hastings JD, Harvard PhD, Yale MA, Stanford BA, and all b.s. all the time.” Beep! “You’re coming, too, right?”
“The very one. I’ve got a wedding in Califor---, then tak--- some leave.  You don't nee- me, you have Shaheed. Oh, guess wha- I found out ab---  him?” Beep!  Click! 
Damn battery!  
Jones looked around.  Over $50,000 spent and counting and The Palace still was not “bos standard.” I’m getting ripped off.  
“We need to impress Goldstein to get funds.  He's bringing an aide called Hindley,” said Jones to Shaheed, who stood next to him in The Palace looking absent-mindedly at the floor.
Shaheed’s head snapped up, and his eyes widened, “Funds? Dr. Erik coming?”
“Hopeless furniture, dirty beach,” Jones sighed. “Uh? Yeah, Dr. Erik ‘With a K’ Hindley, jerk of all trades, you know him?”
Shaheed spoke quickly, running his hands repeatedly through his thick white hair, “Sultan give us all museum pieces free. Nobody now visit museum anyway. Hindley father friend of my father, long time past. Must do many things.” Jones had never seen him this animated. Shaheed began walking towards the door, fumbling with his car keys.
“Shaheed, wait.” Shaheed stopped and faced Jones. “How do you know the Sultan will empty Bolok Museum for us?” 
“No problem, bos. I arrange, bring antiques, tables, paintings, and cover sand. Tent, cushions, torches, waiters, put nice show with Kotu dancers, like before Republic.” 
“I know when I can’t stop you, Shaheed. Oh, who's that sweeping over there?”
Shaheed glanced over his shoulder as he headed to the exit, “Sweeper.”
Jones had to acknowledge that The Palace looked almost palatial – a bit “Vegas,” but ok.  Over the past two weeks, a parade of workers and trucks had brought boxes of Bolok’s “national treasure.” Vases, ornate sofas, chairs, overstuffed cushions along with Afghan, Persian, Indian, and Chinese carpets covered the floors; traditional Bolok and Kotu paintings, engravings and masks adorned the walls. The beach, too, had a new look.  Palm trees and tiki torches ringed a khaki-colored canvas covered by more carpets, low tables, and cushions. Carpenters had built a stage, and erected over it all a large open-sided tent.  
Shaheed had insisted on meeting Goldstein and Hindley at the airport and taking them on an island tour.  Jones remained at The Palace. I won't spend hours in a car with that ass Hindley. Should be quite an evening. Better be. I need the money.    
“Fred, please remember when putting my name on place cards and tags, I'm Erik with a ‘k’.  I don’t know why some spell it with a ‘c.’ I never insist people call me Dr. Hindley, unless they feel more comfortable, but, please, spell my name right! Too much to ask, eh, Fred?” Hindley adjusted his owlish 1970s vintage glasses.  “My two doctoral certificates have it with ‘k.’ I have a copy of my latest Foreign Affairs piece, very well received, on the struggle for the Sultanate. It updates my father’s work. The editors spelled my name correctly but, gosh, didn't list my time at Oxford! I went on a Rhodes. Can you imagine, Fred, not mentioning that?”  
Hindley and Jones sat on floor cushions in the main room of The Palace awaiting the Senator. Jones was on his third beer.  
“Not Fred, I’m Frank, with a ‘k’.”  Jones flashed his most insincere smile. “You worked on roads in Oxford, Mississippi? Faulkner’s home, nice. I wouldn’t have thought you could have withstood the heat.”    

“Frank, is it? I went on a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford in Britain, uh, England to be precise.  And just so you know . . .” 
“Welcome!” Frank rose to greet Goldstein, a small, neat man with silver hair and blue eyes, and redolent of soap, aftershave, deodorant, shampoo, mouthwash, and insect repellent.
“Doesn’t this look nice? Sorry you couldn’t join us this afternoon.” The Senator plunked down on a cushion. “We had a marvelous tour with the Sultan.  Amazing man, studied literature at the Sorbonne and economics at Chicago. Hindley tells me the Sultan’s French is very good. His English, as you know, is great. He showed us an orphanage, a school and a vocational center he’s building for riot victims. I want to help.  He's had a recent small infusion of money, but not enough. You’re lucky to have Shaheed.”
“Yeah,” Jones scowled.  Shaheed introduced them to the Sultan without me? 
Hindley cut in, “My father and the Sultan's father met at Yale, that’s the university, Fred, not the lock company or a strip club in Omaha or some other Southern state.” Pulling out a notepad and pen, Hindley wrote as he spoke, “Senator, you could amend the State bill to fund the Sultan. I'll do numbers with him. He's coming, Francis?”    
“Well, Dick, he's invited, and, oh, a little factoid for your next PhD dissertation, Omaha's not in the South and it's not a state.” One point for me! 
Jones' phone rang. 
Bos, Rani prawns from The Vice Squad, $2000. Or you want roasted chicks?”
“For $2000 The Vice Squad  better give me something good!  She supplies quality, right?  No queens for this Senator, send chicks!” What's that ass Hindley writing?
Bos, problem with Kotu dance girls.”  
“I already gave $600 for the girls!”  
“Ferry company say $500 more for bring them, 2000 talus.”
“Damn! Give the ferry another 2000 talus for the girls!” Jones stuffed the phone into his shirt pocket.
Goldstein opened his mouth to speak. A gong sounded. A turbaned waiter announced the start of the evening's activities. 
“Oh,” Jones said as the Senator, Hindley and he stood, “before I forget, here are your name tags.  Here’s one for you, Senator, and one for you, too.”  
The beach looked spectacular:  tent, fiery torches, carpets, cushions, waiters in turbans, some 200 Bolok and Kotu VIPs, decked out in their finest.  It was a picture of tropical exoticness.  Cecile B. Demille couldn't have done better.  Shaheed drives me nuts, but this is great! A waiter led Jones and Goldstein to a spot before the low stage; a cushion between them marked “HRH Sultan S. Wudju.” Jones took a beer from a low table. Hindley found himself sitting three rows back with a card reading, “Miss Erin Hindely.”  Jones laughed to himself as Hindley scribbled on his name tag and place card.  He looks miserable! Wonderful! Where's Shaheed? Where's the Sultan? This beer’s strong.  

On the stage, a spotlight lit a lone man: youngish, small-boned, thin mustached, wrapped in a colorful silk robe topped by a blue satin skullcap. “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Sultan’s festival in honor of American Consulate Bolok, and a special welcome for the Honorable Senator Milton Goldstein of Florida, and Dr. Erik Hindley whose father was a good friend of the Bolok-Kotu people, and to Consul General Fred Jones.”  Frank winched, and glanced at Hindley, who smiled. The announcer! He’s the dancer, the one with the gold crown from the first day! Wait! He also looks like the Sultan! He is the guy I met the first day! He’s the Silent Sultan! The Sultan is a dancer? A dancer is the Sultan?  Jones craned around. Where’s Shaheed? He grabbed another beer. 
“The Sultan will be delayed. He has asked that we begin and he will join us forthwith.” If you’re not the Sultan, who are you?  “We present the Royal Dancers of Bolok-Kotu performing a dance never before seen by foreigners. It is the true story of the creation of Bolok. Long ago, a handsome Prince named Ali did not want to marry the ugly Princess Malika, but his mother said he must. He ran away. Princess Malika made war. To stop the war, Ali threw himself into the ocean to die, but the gods took pity. They made Ali into a fish. He swam far away. When his life as a fish ended the gods made him into a star in the heavens. He then made Bolok out of iron, bronze, and betel nut.” The announcer bowed and withdrew.
A sinus-clearing electronic screech followed by the crackling hiss of a well-worn tape came from eight Bose speakers.  Cymbals!  Drums!  A gambelan xylophone!  A flute; then another, and then an ear-splitting horn fanfare!  What? Where's Shaheed?  Emitting a beery mist, Jones shouted to the Senator, “Something is going on! That IS the Bacharach song! And that's not the true story! It's the other way around! Malika became the fish, not Ali! And it was gold, silver and spice! Bolok is made of gold, silver and spice, not iron, bronze, and betel nut! They're lying!” Hindley had moved behind the Senator, whispering in his ear as Goldstein's frown grew in intensity, his blue eyes fixed on Jones. 
Six small slim women walked onto the stage wearing bright red silk sarongs and blouses and electric blue conical silk headpieces. A seventh wore a white sarong-blouse combination with a gold conical headpiece. Following were six small slim men, three with wooden tiger masks, three lion masks, all in bright yellow sarongs and blue blazers, and wielding small swords. A seventh barefaced male dancer had a red sarong and black blazer, whiteface make-up, and a precariously balanced metal crown on his head. That guy is the announcer or Sultan imposter! I know some of the other dancers, too! They’re not from Kotu!   
The music grew louder. A slowly moving circle of dancers formed: Clockwise, counter-clockwise; clockwise, counter-clockwise; clockwise, counter-clockwise; around and around the female dancer in white and the crown-wearing male who stood frozen face-to-face, holding hands. The “tigers” exchanged masks with the “lions.”  
I paid for this? Staggering to his feet, and pointing at the stage, Jones shouted, “We're getting conned! I paid a bunch of talus for a ferry to bring girls from Kotu! One of those dancers is the damn gardener! Another’s the sweeper! That one’s the Sultan!The girl in white is from The Vice Squad! She supplies queens and chicks!” Jones roared as the dancing stopped and the speakers went quiet, “Her queens nailed Senator Landers!”  
Twittering broke out among the VIPs. Goldstein's blue eyes shone bright from amidst his rapidly reddening visage. The Senator nodded as Hindley continued whispering in his ear.  He looked up at Jones, “I don't know what you're doing. Maybe you’re drunk. Erik tells me you’ve been guzzling beer and insulting him all evening. He also tells me that the lady you’re insulting is Her Royal Highness the Princess of Bolok, the Sultan's daughter.” The Senator rose, Hindley glued to his ear. “She’s not with some crooked vice squad you seem to know. It is an honor to have her perform. Your public maligning of former Senator Landers is unacceptable. Getting ‘nailed’ by transvestites indeed! What language!  And your dealings with a ‘fairy’ to supply girls in exchange for glass beads, disgusting!  I’ll raise this with the Sultan and the Secretary!”
The speakers blared, “Ladies and gentlemen, His Royal Highness the Sultan of Bolok- Kotu!” 
From the rear of The Palace, he came, tall and elegant, his turban hiding all but a shock of thick white hair that fell onto his forehead.  Walking slowly, nodding right and left, he entered the open tent to applause.  
The Senator turned to Jones, “We’ll see what the Sultan says!”
Jones blurted, “Shaheed’s here, he’ll explain!”

The Senator walked away, “Your Majesty, I’m delighted to see you.” With his right hand outstretched, Hindley on his heels, he headed towards the newly arrived VIP.
Jones followed shouting, “Shaheed, explain before the Sultan arrives.”
“Your Majesty, I apologize for our Consul General. He’s under stress, drinking. I will discuss this with the Secretary. Dr. Hindley and I want to help you.”
Jones stood behind Hindley and the Senator trying to get the turbaned Shaheed’s attention. “Shaheed, where have you been? Where’s the Sultan? Where are the girls I paid for? Did you know the guy we met wasn’t the Sultan? Why are you in that get-up?”  
“Your Majesty, please pay no attention to Mr. Jones. Dr. Hindley and I want to talk about how we can help.  Let’s ask Mr. Jones to leave.”   
“Majesty? That’s, that’s Shaheed!”  
Hindley turned to Jones, “Yes, Freddy, go. We want to talk to His Royal Highness Sultan Shaheed Wudju. Go to the vice squad! Have the fairy provide you a queen!”
“Sorry, bos. I know last night was rough.” Shaheed handed Jones a folded page. “Dr. Erik asked me to give you this.” 
Jones unfolded the paper, and put it next to his cup. He rubbed his face. That Aussie beer!  I’ve never seen this place in daylight. “You lied to me, the bit with the fake Sultan.”
“I never actually said he was the Sultan.” 
Jones chuckled, “No, I guess not.”
“I’ll intercede with Ambassador Williams and the Secretary.”
“‘Intercede?’  Wow, a 64,000 talus word!”  Jones looked down at the sheet. “What happened to the ‘Jay-Silverheels-Tonto-me-barely-speak-English’ routine?”  
“Tonto, from ‘The Lone Ranger’? That was dad’s favorite show!  He always would say, ‘See how the Lone Ranger never wants credit for doing what’s right?  He just does it and leaves. Nobody even knows who he is.’ We would watch it together when he was a grad student at Yale.”  Shaheed took a deep breath and exhaled. “Those were the days, before the 1967 Republic, before the crooked Suluarta politicians took the crown away and turned Bolok-Kotu into a whorehouse. I love the American cowboy ethos. Fight injustice, do what’s right just because it’s right, so much better than European posturing and compromising. That’s why I left the Sorbonne for Chicago.”
“Save it for the Fourth. So you base your life on a fake character and ruin my real life?” Jones looked up from the page and stared across the water at Bulanggi volcano. So this is how it ends. Not with a flag-draped coffin, but with a hangover in a beachside dive with a Third World “Sultan.”  
“Did you read this? It’s what Goldstein is sending the Secretary.” Jones cleared his throat, “‘I had the misfortune of encountering Consul General Fred Jones in Bolok, the epitome of the ugly American. He has the fortune of having the Sultan of Bolok-Kotu, Shaheed Wudju a magnificent, US-educated economist and humanitarian, working for him. Mr. Jones, however, abused the Sultan, forcing him to give up The Royal Palace and empty the Royal Museum to provide grand accommodations for Mr. Jones. In addition, Mr. Jones deals with disreputable vice squad members who traffic in girls and possibly transvestites. I am cutting off funding to the State Department until Ambassador Williams and Consul General Jones are removed, Consulate Bolok closes and the funds that would have gone to its operation go to ‘The Sultan’s Charitable Fund for Bolok-Kotu.’  The Department is not to cover any expense incurred in setting up the abomination known as Consulate Bolok.’”  
Jones slid the paper across the table, “For your empty museum.” Shaheed made no move to take it. The breeze swept it off the table, carrying it past the bar and the small waitress, out to the beach, and gone.
“I did it for my people. I used the money to help them. They fought for my crown.”
“My bank account, career and I are just some collateral damage? Would the Lone Ranger approve?” Jones sighed and stood, “Oh, forget it.  Sultan buy coffee?”
“Free, bos.”
“My regards to your daughter, but tell her to stick to waiting. Dancing isn’t her thing.”  Jones began towards the exit, stopped and turned to face Shaheed for the last time. “Well, faithful companion, my work here is done. Which way to the airport?”
“Go west, towards the setting sun.”
“If you’ll loan me ol’ ‘Silver’, I reckon I’ll ride that way.”
 “Good-bye, kimosabe.”