Homicide Fine, Fax Not so Good

Yaoundé_ambaixada_EUAThe day came for the NEC opening. Our inspired ambassador thought to stage a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the old building site, symbolically showing that the closed off street downtown would revert back to the city, and traffic could flow once again. We got TV cameras ready, lined up taxis at both ends of the old embassy block. As the master of ceremonies, on cue I said into a loudspeaker, “Gentlemen, you may now pass.” Three taxis from each side of the street proceed through a previously closed area, showing it was now liberated for public use. It wasn’t much of a cymbal crash, but anyway it was on video tape for the local TV. Continue reading Homicide Fine, Fax Not so Good

Cable to Nowhere

Palacio_presidencial_de_HaitiContrary to a generosity of spirit in America, both our political parties have shown disdain for the underdog in foreign policy, kicking them in the teeth when empathy might be more in character. Bipartisan annoyance at the suffering of foreigners seems to twin our Left and Right.

Faced with the slaughter of a million Biafrans in 1967-70, Lyndon Johnson sided forcefully with Nigeria’s central government, saying of the Biafrans, “Get those [n…] children off my television set.” Continue reading Cable to Nowhere

The Great James Baker

Baker JamesLots of Middle East peace meetings had failed, but this was “post-Oslo,” so there was some hope something might come of it this time.  There was cautious optimism all around.  We knew that none of the parties wanted to be there, but also that James A. Baker had forced them, one by one, into the room by persuasion and a little intimidation behind the scenes.  I think all the negotiators wanted the talks to fail, but no one wanted to be the one to blame if they did.

The Great Baker had gotten them together, and clutched them in his bullying embrace.  I remember him with his hands stretched out on the table in front of him, head poised like a reptile about to strike, glaring at every delegate individually with intense eye contact.  He looked like a pterodactyl about to pounce and kill.  A fearful silence took over the room.  Only Baker could pull this off. Continue reading The Great James Baker

“Worse than a crime…”

Tom_Cotton_113th_CongressCurrent calls to prosecute the 47 Republican senators who signed the “Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” under the Logan Act are just so much hot air.

The Logan Act reads as follows: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Continue reading “Worse than a crime…”

Ward Just and American Romantic

US_embassy_Prague_2847With a certain urgency, I write on Ward Just’s eighteenth novel, American Romantic.  It’s about the stay anyone in the Foreign Service would want to write, but Just has done it for us.  Gail Godwin in The New York Times of June 6 called it “one of his best.” Continue reading Ward Just and American Romantic