The Author’s Message

“What did you do in the war, Daddy?” This best described my kids less than subtle message. To this day my daughter believed the CIA had employed me. When my son said, “Dad, you ought to start up a website about your past adventures,” it gave me pause. Did I really want to unearth my…

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance Arrives | The Middle East Peace Initiative Begins

December 1977 The Author: Perhaps Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat didn’t get the memo when former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had stated: “You can’t make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can’t make peace without Syria.” Unbeknownst to the world Sadat had decided to bypass the influence of the Russians, Americans,…

The Jerusalem Advance Detail | An Overindulgent Sgt. Pepper

December 1977–Preparation for the US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance Visit to Israel | The Middle East Peace Initiative Our driver Ben sped along the downtown avenue in the center of Tel Aviv on his way to Jerusalem. S.Y. Agent Halliday, not in a talkative mood this morning, sipped on his coffee. <feature photo by…

Middle East Peace Initiative | The Jerusalem Advance Team

December 1977 When I left RCO Karachi the repair bench was clear of radios. My cohort Al was happy. After returning from Riyadh next week Al hadn’t planned to go anywhere during the holidays other than attend a Christmas Thai dinner at the Thai Consulate General. I gave my servant Basheer a couple of hundred…

From the Middle East to Karachi | The Deep Blue Goodbye

Late November 1977 After completing my first Middle East trip I headed back to my home base of Karachi, Pakistan on the Thai International flight. It had only been about two weeks, but it seemed like two months. As the flight ascended to its thirty-some thousand feet cruising altitude, it forsook the stark blue of…

Political Wars and the Middle East Peace Initiative

Late November 1977 Late in the afternoon Am Embassy Amman Communications & Records Officer Paul Messenger handed me a heads-up confidential message from my boss in Karachi, RCO Roberson. Basically, it stated that my partner-in-crime in Karachi, Al, and myself would be supporting the Secretary of State Cyrus Vance detail during the Middle East peace…

American Embassy Amman | Chasing Third Order Harmonics

Mid-November 1977 I would never get used to the constant chatter of the HW-28 Teletype machines in the Communications & Records Units on the top floors of American embassies. How the CRU personnel managed to live with the persistent interference of thousands of mechanical parts endlessly clanging in their ears I would never understand. Interference…

American Embassy Amman | Déjà Vu and Other Anomalies

Mid-November 1977 I stopped at the bottom of the footsteps leading up to the entrance into the American Embassy Amman chancery. I couldn’t get over the familiarity. It was déjà vu—like I had been here before. This was odd given that I had visited less than ten embassies to date. <feature photo by pinterest.com Once…

Amman, Jordan | Visiting King Hussein of Jordan

Mid-November 1977 The Royal Jordanian Airlines flight had touched down at Amman International Airport with as little fuss as possible. No hand-clapping nor a mad rush to vacate the aircraft. I passed through passport control without holding my breath. <feature photo Amman, Jordan by atlas tours.net Although it wasn’t a modern air terminal my baggage…

Technological Miracles or Science Fiction?

Mid-November 1977 I had grabbed a copy of the International Herald Tribune as I boarded the short ALIA (Royal Jordanian Airlines) flight to Amman. The simple pleasure of reading a newspaper at thirty-some thousand plus feet up can not be overstated. >feature photo Arthur C. Clarke by apilgriminnamia.com I sipped on a cup of coffee…

The Middle East | Trick or Treat?

Author Note: With the Halloween holiday coming up tomorrow the author recalls how travel in the Middle East was sometimes a matter of “Trick or Treat” when passing through immigration or upon entering a foreign country.  What follows are a few brief vignettes of the author’s experiences (or misadventures) as a young Foreign Service recruit…

Beirut, Lebanon | As Raw as Steak Tartare

November 1977 I finished the secure voice radio installation at the ambassador’s residence at Mount Lebanon. George, the post security officer and purveyor of odd jobs at the American Embassy Beirut, had shown me a great view of the city below before we packed up and went to lunch. <Feature photo by oldbeirut.com My experiences…

Beirut, Lebanon | A View Through a Narrow Lens

November 1977 We arrived at the U.S. ambassador’s part time residence atop Mount Lebanon around ten a.m. unscathed. George had borrowed Ryan’s Saab sedan. He said it was less obtrusive that an embassy vehicle. I didn’t ask him what he thought about the ambassador cruising around in a black Lincoln Continental. I did ask George if…

American Embassy Beirut | A Night on the Town

November 1977 Communications & Records Officer Ryan B. cruised the deserted streets of Beirut at close to midnight. I thought I was pushing the envelope of Norm Bates’ 60/40 Hypothesis, which stated that 60% of our Foreign Service job was technical and 40% involved… Well, other stuff. Ryan had slipped an eight-track tape into the…

American Embassy Beirut | From Then Until Now

November 1977 George, the duty officer, had booked me into a small hotel less than two hundred yards down the street from the American embassy. Like its neighbors, the hotel had sustained damage during the civil war clashes last year. But nothing could compare to the ravaged Holiday Inn at the other end. The American…

American Embassy Beirut | Welcome to Heartbreak City

November 1977–Beirut, Lebanon I was surprised to learn that the Intercontinental Hotel was near the American Embassy in Beirut. I kept my mouth shut while the marines negotiated the streets in the Chevy Suburban. <Rescue worker aids wounded woman during Lebanese civil war in 1976 (apimages.com) When we arrived I was even more surprised that…

The Lebanese Civil War in Beirut | The Invisible Green Line

November 1977 I woke up early at the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel. Last night’s tense taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was a fractured nightmare. After the drama of the first checkpoint (where I suddenly feared for my life) the second checkpoint had waved us through. Needless to say I was relieved to arrive…

Beirut Arrival | A Matter of Security

Mid-November 1977 The Olympic Airlines flight landed at Beirut International Airport at close to ten p.m. The quiet on the tarmac soon gave way to chaos. <Feature photo by theimageworks.com Inside the terminal, passport control screamed of verbal abuses initiated by immigration officials who acted more like military. Weary passengers used physical gestures to support…

American Embassy Nicosia | Long Day, Short Visit

November 1977 After I showed my black passport to the MSG behind the public access control booth the guard offered a “Welcome to the American Embassy Nicosia” and directed me upstairs. CRO Simmons met me at the elevator. After a short meet and greet he said, “This is for you,” and handed me a message….

Nicosia, Cyprus | A Nation Divided by a Green Line

November 1977—Arrival at Larnaca The Olympic Airways flight from Athens landed in Larnaca, on the coast of Cyprus before lunch. On the last leg of my Mediterranean trip, I experienced no unusual events on the short plane ride other than an Ouzo induced headache. There were no jolly diplomatic couriers with fantastic espionage stories to…

American Embassy Athens | The Cat Eats the Tuna Fish

November 1977 CRO Dave Hastings gazed at me as we sat in the cafeteria in the American embassy. I paused to gather my words before continuing. What I was about to say could have huge repercussions. If a diplomatic courier was involuntarily smuggling contraband initiated by a member of the Foreign Service staff here at…

Athens Arrival | The Rubberneckers

November 1977—Athens, Greece Athens International Airport skirted the seacoast ahead of a Greek coastal town named Glyfada. My contact CRO Hastings at the American Embassy Athens had offered to put me up at a hotel in the scenic seaside town about twenty kilometers (twelve miles) from the mission. Since I was only staying a short…

The Tainted Diplomatic Pouch

November 1977—Somewhere Over the Adriatic Sea As the morning Thai Inter flight from Rome to Athens sailed over the calm Adriatic Sea I suddenly found myself caught up in a maelstrom of conspiracy at thirty-some thousand feet. Diplomatic Courier Victor Rothman, sitting next to me, had just confessed that he had firsthand knowledge that a…

Confessions of a Diplomatic Courier

November 1977—Somewhere Over the Adriatic Sea The Egyptian Khamsin (sand storm) and the ghosts of the past remained at the American Embassy Cairo. I was headed to Athens on Thai International Airlines via Rome. Al, my cohort at Am Consul Karachi, had recommended it. Why not a straight flight to Athens? That’s what I asked the Egyptian…

American Embassy Cairo | The Shepheard’s Hotel Bar

Early November 1977 It was Thursday, the day before my departure to Athens. CRO Holman called early and put the kibosh on my visit to the pyramids in Giza. He requested that I return to the residence of Cleopatra (the call sign for a gorgeous USAID worker named Miss Lewis). A driver and an Egyptian…

American Embassy Cairo | “Takin’ Care of Business”

Early November 1977 Wednesday at lunch CRO Holman rose and shook my hand at the embassy café. “Big improvement in the radio test,” He said. “We added four personnel from Maadi who weren’t able to reach the embassy previously. Zamalek personnel were loud and clear. Our crypto tech Bill lives over there.” “Zamalek?” It’s an…

American Embassy Cairo | Aftermath of the Khamsin

Early November 1977 After I got off the windswept Chancery roof I wrapped my face in linen à la T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and raced across the street to the guesthouse. To get to the upper floor I had to enter an ancient cage-like elevator, the type that I didn’t know still existed. I shut the…

American Embassy Cairo | The Many Shades of Beige

Early November 1977 Bill the crypto tech was a breath of fresh air within Am Embassy Cairo’s clouded atmosphere. He took me to lunch at the very small embassy café that out of necessity featured outdoor seating. I had “The Special,” some kind of kebabs with a salad and hummus. It wasn’t bad. <feature photo…

Cairo Arrival | Shadows of the Past

Cairo International Airport | Early November 1977 The Pakistani Airlines flight made its final approach to the runway. I was in an aisle seat that didn’t afford a good glimpse of the pyramids. How ironic that my first trip from RCO Karachi would be Am Embassy Cairo, where my predecessor Charles A. had gotten on…

FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE

American Consulate General | Early November 1977 When RCO Roberson called me into his office at Am Consul Karachi Tuesday morning, I had a sinking feeling. Joe, the telephone lead tech had worked for Roberson in Jakarta. He told me that when “Bob” called you into his office it usually wasn’t to pat you on…

The Journal: CIA Deception or Hoax?

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 After spending the day cleaning up the radio shop at the Con Gen I dragged into my Clifton apartment with the JOURNAL on my mind. The odor of Basheer’s baked chicken with potatoes and vegetables was a welcome alternative to the dank, rancid radio shop floor. <feature…

Weekend Warriors | Buried Treasure

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 The two weekend warriors arrived at the Con Gen a little after eight a.m. on Friday, the first day of Am Consul Karachi’s weekend. The MSG Corporal escorted us up to the RCO office. With no one around the RCO tech offices loomed eerily quiet. Al fired…

Security Violation | Get Smart

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 The next morning I was eager to tackle the RCO radio shop. Al and I planned to change into old jeans and T-shirts. Al opened the cypher lock on the door into the tech offices without looking. He turned left to the radio section. The telephone and…

Foreign Service Ambiguities | Change of Plans

American Consulate General | Late October 1977 Al was very punctual when it came time to leave to work from the Clifton apartment building. At 0745 hours he had his Toyota Corolla warmed up in the driveway and the guard had opened the gate. Directly in front of us sitting on the lawn in a…

The Six Million Dollar Man Bites the Dust in Karachi

American Consulate General | Late October 1977 Al’s Thai girlfriend Sue made Thai food for dinner that evening after work at the Clifton Apartments. Sue, quiet and pleasant, called the noodle dish Pad Thai. After I commented how delicious the noodles were she immediately asked me if I was single or married. Al laughed it…

American Consulate General Karachi | The RCO

Late October 1977 When General Zia al-Huq had recently deposed Ali Bhutto’s liberal government during a military coup d’état he declared that Pakistan would return to traditional conservative Sunni Muslim values. The transfer of power did not hinder the operations of Am Consul Karachi’s Regional Communications Office. Because the RCO’s mission was to support the other…

The Consulate General | Chili Beans in Karachi

The American Consulate General | Late October 1977 I worked at the consulate of the highest rank, the American Consulate General in the largest city of Pakistan, the port city of Karachi. Consulate Generals normally served large cities in terms of bilateral relations with the United States (commerce, travel, etc.). <featured photo by pinterest.com My…

The American Consulate General Karachi | Inshallah

Late October 1977 Prior to leaving SECSTATE in Washington D.C. to Pakistan, I had attended a mandatory “in-country” security briefing, and an anti-terrorism symposium. The experts had stressed that Foreign Service Officers abroad should always change daily routes—never repeat. They instructed how to recognize when you’re being followed and what actions to take <feature photo…

Karachi, Pakistan | Echoes of the British Empire

Late October 1977 At half past midnight, the Pakistani Airlines flight rumbled to a halt out on the warm tarmac, inherited from forty-two degrees Centigrade of an overbearing sun. The passengers, mostly Pakistanis, ignored the cabin crew’s instructions to remain seated. Overhead compartment doors plopped down like camels’ saddlebags full of brass asps. <feature photo…