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Taking the Point Position…




Allen Polk Hemphill


(700 words)

"It was a dark and stormy night…" is the cliché joke beginning of fictional mysteries – but this is a true story.

The three people sitting around the table in a smoky, windowless basement bar in a cheap hotel in the city of Samarkand in the then State of Uzbek in the then USSR, had no idea of the weather outside. Two men, and one woman, nursed their drinks and made small talk. It was the Fall of 1987, and the Soviet Union was just beginning to talk about Perestroiksa but the room represented Perestroika far better than the rhetoric, because the room was filled with KGB agents and CIA people, none of whom acknowledged each other in the slightest. There was no tension. The situation had progressed well beyond anything the Russian people had been told.

The woman at the table was a reporter – who does not remember the conversation as I do – but I was nursing a Coke, and told my wife about the conversation as quickly as possible. The third party at the table looked like Old Saint Nick – he was indeed jolly, with a round belly, a great white beard, and a twinkle in his eye. Old Saint Nick had recently retired as the Top Spook in the CIA. While the President appoints the Director of the CIA, the second person in the CIA (Deputy Director of the CIA) is the professional – and Ray Cline had been the top professional in the CIA for 30 years. It was Ray who placed the photos of the existence of the Russian missiles in Cuba before President Kennedy on that fateful night that began the Cuban Missile Crises.

Ever the reporter, the woman could not let the opportunity pass: She asked Ray, "Who was behind the assignation of President John F. Kennedy?" Jolly Old Saint Nick thought for a second, smiled, and said, "I don’t know. But I can tell you who would have been the unanimous choice of the President’s widow Jacqueline, his Brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the CIA, the FBI…everyone who was into the case. All suspected that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the President on the direction of Fidel Castro."

I relate this story now because of the Elian Gonzales case. It is just a data point to the historical events being played out in which Elian is a very small part. History plays cruel jokes on the innocent.

The evening in Samarkand ended uneventfully, as we all grew tired in the early morning. The bar slowly emptied. I noticed one KGB man raised his glass to a second retired CIA type, who raised his glass, and when I left there were not more than three people still drinking.

Obviously there is much more to this story, but it is best left to dissipate like that swirling smoke in the bar. There was the Soviet General who stopped in the middle of his presentation to run into our group to hug Jolly Old Saint Nick, and the goat in the isle of the Aeroflot jet, and the two icons that were mysteriously smuggled out of the Soviet Union and into Rancho Bernardo, and…those are other stories for times when they are germane to the news. The night with Jolly Old Saint Nick, may God rest his soul, is more pathos than humor, but the story is germane and should be told.

For what it is worth, I believe there are sensitive negotiations between Clinton and Castro on the subject of normalization, under a threat by Castro to initiate another invasion of Florida by his prisoners. Our country is still suffering from the previous "Mariel Boat Lift", when in 1980, Castro permitted 125,000 people to flood Florida – many of them his most violent prisoners. To diffuse the sticky Elian issue, and to keep the current talks on track, a small boy has been sacrificed.

Sic Gloria Transit. We are each passengers in the plane, with no knowledge of the pilot’s ability, or any control of the elements in which the plane flies. Each of us intuitively understand that our fate, like Elian’s, is in the hands of others who are more concerned with the "big picture" than our personal welfare.


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Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Allen Hemphill
Last modified: August 13, 2012