Swamp Talk

Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

A dozen years ago when I worked in Saudi Arabia, the government had a habit of referring to domestic terrorists as 'deranged' and calling them 'mental deviants.' We mocked the Saudis mercilessly for it. The Royals were denying reality. They failed to acknowledge and confront the extremist forces at loose in the Kingdom, extremist views … Continue reading Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

Diplomatic Casualties

The morning of December 6, 2004, five heavily armed terrorists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I remember loud pops from the AK-47s and the muffled thud of improvised explosive devices; I remember hours hunkered under a desk and a scramble for protection when the Marine called “Gas!; I remember crouching through our … Continue reading Diplomatic Casualties

Diplomats and Terrorists

Last month American Diplomacy included my review of Ambassador James R.  Bullington's Foreign Service Memoir, The Road Less Traveled. The book recounts a career that began with the U.S. military build-up in Vietnam and took the author to Burma, Chad, Benin, and Burundi, where he served as Ambassador, and Niger, where he served from 2001-2006 as Country Director … Continue reading Diplomats and Terrorists

In Flight Entertainment for POTUS

What are Trump & Co. reading as they wing their way to Saudi Arabia tonight? Two Pumps for the Body Man! This black comedy set in Saudi Arabia does for American diplomacy what Catch 22 did for military logic: The enemy in the War on Terror can't kill us if our own institutions kill us … Continue reading In Flight Entertainment for POTUS

One Year on the Beat

When it comes to terrorism, the enemy can't kill us if our institutions kill us first.

A year ago this week I put Jeff Mutton on the beat. Assigned to keep America’s diplomats safe in Saudi Arabia, he proved a tough match for tyrants as well as terrorists. He endured vacuous conversations during diplomatic soirees and survived quack psychiatry at the hands of State Department shrinks. He introduced us to a … Continue reading One Year on the Beat

Author Event Made Easy

You may attend this author reading in your PJs. That is all.

The Foreign Service v Zach Galifianakis

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) included this discussion of  Two Pumps for the Body Man in their new Digital Exclusives series. Unlike the great Between Two Ferns, the AFSA studio had only one bamboo to offer. Lean budget times, I guess. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9x6SVKdYqg AFSA writes: Foreign Service Officer Ben East brings to the table a satirical … Continue reading The Foreign Service v Zach Galifianakis

I’d Rather Be Writing (or maybe talking about it)

The American Foreign Service Association filmed a few short clips featuring my reflections on Two Pumps for the Body Man, the inspiration behind the novel, and my thoughts on the writing process. It isn't exactly Zack Galifianakis Between Two Ferns (more like Some Guy and Bamboo) but I hope viewers will enjoy it when it becomes available. … Continue reading I’d Rather Be Writing (or maybe talking about it)

December 06, 2004

Remembering those we lost. Remembering those who survived. Remembering this awful day and its  protracted aftermath. It's the aftermath that sticks most. The long period that stretched through weeks when our broken mission pulled itself together again. We pulled ourselves up from piles of ash and dust; from the pulverized concrete and glass shattered by bullets fired … Continue reading December 06, 2004