Friday, February 8, 2013

February 14 is the 34th anniversary of the assassination of Spike Dubs, our Ambassador in Kabul.  I was in Moscow at the time, serving as Ambassador's Aide to Malcolm Toon.  At the time, I had no idea that Dubs and Toon were close friends, but I was soon to find out.

Spike Dubs. 

On Valentine's Day, 1979, I was in the middle of preparations for the traditional Spaso House Valentine's Day reception for the Embassy staff when I got word from Press and Culture that some important news about Afghanistan had just come over the AP ticker.  I went down to the press room and discovered that our Ambassador in Kabul, Adolf "Spike" Dubs, had been kidnapped by Afghan militants.  As I stood there reading that news item, another one came over the ticker reporting that Dubs had just been killed in the course of a rescue attempt.  Without thinking, I ripped the story off the ticker and ran up to give the news to Ambassador Toon.  Toon looked at the wire stories, and, for the first time ever, I noted that he was in a considerable emotional state.  His face turned a bright red, as it did when he was agitated, and he could not speak.  Finally, he thanked me for getting him the news, and I left to continue reception preparations at Spaso House.

Only later did I learn that Ambassador and Mrs. Toon had served with Spike Dubs in Moscow, and that they had been the best of friends for many years, and that Spike himself had been Charg√© in Moscow a few years before.  I felt terrible about having sprung the news on Toon with so little preparation, but there was nothing to be done.  That evening, as guests gathered for the Valentine's Day reception, Ambassador and Mrs. Toon did not appear.  Finally, I got word from the Ambassador to tell everyone that he and Betty would not be coming down for the reception.  They were just too broken up about Spike Dubs' death.  DCM Mark Garrison and his wife Betty filled in for them, and the reception continued on until late in the evening, with only a very few of the guests aware of why the Toons had not joined the reception.  It was a very sad night.  I told myself I would never go to Afghanistan -- it was just too unsafe and too unpredictable.  How little I knew.

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