Thirty years later
I didnít know. Who could?
After 30 years, you stop thinking about small things.
A job is a job and you do it.
When itís over, itís over.
Sometimes you think back. But you always miss most of the details like an out of focus photograph or the blue of a video trying to capture the world from a train.
You always lose the small things, the tiny ironies.
Perhaps history is built on small things no one considered important at the time they happened.
With 2 million people killed, you donít think much about one small attempted you thought had failed.
For me, the Congo in 1963 was a bloody mess. The damned communists aggravated local tribes, pushing them into revolution they didnít understand or even want.
For us, it was an impossible assignment Ė white middle class boys who had signed up to fight Soviets, confronted with the worst savages Africa could manufacture.
This was none of the James Bond stuff we so popular in the theaters at the time. This wasnít even the foolish antics of our back home boys who could think of nothing better than to find a way to remove Castroís beard.
The CIA to us meant bombs, bullets and frustration.
We were understaffed, outgunned and just about ready to chuck it all in to go play golf in Miami with the rest of the right wing exiles.
This is pretty much what our reports to Washington said: send us help or get us the hell out of here.
And for once, those fat bureaucrats believes us.
I guess the Congo was more important to them than even we imagined. Maybe everybody believed that if we lost the Congo the rest of Africa would slide into the Soviet Block in a matter of weeks.
But we didnít get more guns or GIs, or even spies.
We got a plane load of white-jacketed geniuses straight out of some secret lab in the US, not one of whom could have used a pistol without shooting off a toe.
These guys actually came up with some scatter-brained scheme that sounded more like insect control than warfare Ė something they assured us would end our problems in that part of the world within a few short years.
They said it was a weapon spread by sex Ė a bit perverted for my taste, but we were desperate to try anything.
All these egg heads wanted us to do was get some prisoners for them to practice on, which we did.
But if we expected to see those tribes dropping like flies, we didnít get it.
For all the hundreds of people we brought in, nothing seems to happen.
If fact Ė after a while Ė the stupid egg heads let those prisoners loose Ė then flew back to where they came, leaving us no better off than we were.
We told ourselves we would see something sooner or later so we stuck it out, fighting a losing battle without anything happening on the egg head front.
In the end, it was the bullets and bombs that turned the trick. The tribes gave up after we killed two million of their people.
That was what I remember best.
Who the hell figured that after ten years weíd start seeing them die off or that thirty years later, the egg head weapon would work its way back to the United States.
Or that I would eventually get it, although the egg heads didnít call it AIDS back then.