Saturday, June 19, 2004

Pakistan: Islamabad: Jack Daniels Diplomacy

There are many parties in Islamabad, but unless they are hosted by Americans or Brits, hardly any Americans ever attend. So, it is not uncommon for me to be at a party as the only American or as one of a handful. Many of the foreign diplomats here have done tours in Washington and other American cities, so they are always keen to share their stories and have me rate their "American accents" (which are always awful) and so forth. Across the board, they love the U.S. Several people, including some from Western Europe, have even gone so far as to tell me that they felt more at home in the States than in their own countries. It’s kind of neat.

At these parties, there is always robust drinking, and with the drinking comes the questions on America. These questions run the gambit, but they are rarely confrontational. These are some actual questions that have fueled lengthy debates:

"Why are there no beautiful women in America?"

"What’s the deal with West Virginians?"

"Why do Americans eat so much?"

"Why don’t the other Americans in Islamabad ever come to parties?"

"Why don’t American men control their women?"

"Why don’t Americans travel?"

And so I do my best to enlighten the masses on such important issues.

Last Friday, I went to a Norwegian pool party. There were a few Norwegians, some Brits, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Germans, an Eritrean, Dutch, Czechs, Trinidadians, and several people whose nationalities I did not know. I was the only Yank.

Almost immediately, I was approached by a portly Oxford-educated, Pakistani guy. He was a press officer for the UN. I said earlier that party discussions were rarely confrontational. Well, this was the rare exception.

Like everyone else, this guy had lived in the U.S. for a number of years and thoroughly enjoyed himself.

That said…

This guy started going on and on about the arrogance of America, and about how every single non-American hated America, and how America was the biggest terrorist nation in history, and how we had no reason being in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a UN press officer, he reads numerous news publications and apparently considers himself an expert on everything. Any time I would respond, his response to my response was always the same, "Ha, ha, ha, don’t be so naïve".

Periodically, the host and other guests would pass by our discussion. The passer-by would listen to a few minutes of his jabbering and tell him to quit harassing me. Then she would leave to find a better party discussion.

This guy thought he was all that, and I didn’t really care. I figure he was just an obnoxious drunk (he was a Muslim in name only). As a hilarious side note, I should mention that he will be leaving the UN press office in two weeks. He was fired for shooting his mouth off.

Anyway, he kept likening the U.S. to the Roman and Greek and British Empires, and according to him at this particular point in time we were starting our decline in history. At the height of the discussion, he explained that within 20 years all the nations of the world would unite and destroy America.

Quote: In 20 years, there will be no such thing as America or an American. Every last one will be slaughtered.

Man, this was a happenin’ party. And such delightful company.

I explained to him that even if the world did decide to try to put the hammer down on America, the notion that the whole country would be overrun and that every person would be killed was ridiculous. Using his own examples, the Roman, Greek, and British Empires may have fallen, but there still exist today a Rome, Greece, and Britain, and citizens of the same.

His source for this dooms day scenario was Nostradamus. (Pakistanis are big into astrology and prophesies.)

As the discussion was pretty much finished at this point, I told him in my best arrogant-American manner that his views were comical and that I would drop him a line in 25 years from the United States of America.

Oddly enough, by this point, I had also become his new best friend. He said he would help me go into hiding when the end was near. He would probably sell me out for a rupee, though.

Then he informed me that I simply must come to his party next weekend. And I probably will. I’ll just find someone else to talk to.

The rest of the night, I talked with other, saner people and it was a fine time.

At the point when everyone was leaving, the UN windbag came by with a parting comment for me.

"By the way, mate, your cover is terrible, and everyone knows you are working undercover."

Alrighty, then.

I recommended he lay off the pot; he gave me his business card; and I went to my car before he could amaze me any further with his brilliance.

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