Remember how I mentioned the Diplomad’s fascinating, wonderful inside-baseball stories of life in the diplomatic corps? Well, he’s uncorked another good ‘un here.
The phone rang at daybreak: never a good sign in that place. The “place,” after all, was Guatemala. Of the many countries I served in during nearly 35 years in the Foreign Service, Guatemala perhaps remains my favorite: an incredible physical beauty, a fascinating history and culture, the best black beans with eggs on the planet, along with the most complex and even byzantine society and politics imaginable. I owed my assignment there to Assistant Secretary Elliot Abrams whom I met at the UN. He had remembered me and when a new political military officer slot opened, he offered it to me. At the time, the Department had me slated for assignment in Europe. No contest. I snapped up Abrams’ offer. You only go around once; why do it where life is easy and comfortable with politics of the corner cafe and unfiltered Gauloisestype? Guatemalan politics had color, complexity, raucousness, and lethality. One of my first Guatemalan political contacts, for example, a young, smart politician interested in running for President, got gunned down in front of his house a few hours after we met him there. I had just finished writing my “Memorandum of Conversation” when I learned of his murder.
The mysterious “archivos” unit of the Presidency bore responsibility for large numbers of kidnappings and assassinations of persons deemed too close to the guerrillas, and of criminals who had beaten the system and gone free or had become repeat offenders. Army intel officers had formed car theft rings that operated in Guatemala, Mexico, and stretched into Texas; my landlord became involved and paid with his life, but that’s a story for another day. The guerrillas, romanticized and glorified by human rights “activists” and lefty loons in the US and Europe, comprsied nothing more than leftwing death squads terrorizing the countryside and forming alliances with the drug trafficking organizations then taking root in Guatemala.
We had guards and high walls topped with concertina wire. Most of us packed an assortment of firearms. I carried a .45 Colt or Ruger as my main, with a 9mm S&W back-up, and either a .38 S&W snub-nose or a .380 Colt Mark IV as an ankle or pocket weapon. In the house panic room, we had, inter alia, a Remington 870, a .30 cal M-1 carbine, an awesome Ruger Mini 14, my venerable S&W .357, a Llama 9mm, lots of ammo, and an assortment of gas masks, tear gas, pepper spray, knives, clubs, and a large dog. My wife did well with all of them–except in one instance which she has not yet given me permission to reveal (I have never understood why all women don’t know how to use a weapon or a change a tire; those can prove life-saving skills.) We spent weekends at the excellent gun ranges in Guatemala which had what every range should have: a bar. One should always mix large amounts of alcohol with firearms; the day at the range proves much more interesting. (Note from Management: The Editors and publishers of The Diplomad 2.0 in no way condone drinking alcohol while shooting a weapon. To avoid the possibility of spilling and wasting expensive alcohol, always put down your drink before firing your weapon.)
Excellent advice. Now how in the world could you not be well-primed to read the rest of it, I ask you?