Sunday, July 12, 2015

Spike Dubs (excerpt from Moscow 1977-1979)

Spike Dubs.
In early 1978, the situation in Afghanistan was becoming increasingly unstable.  Mohammed Daoud was overthrown in a Communist coup that April and the country gradually moved to the center of U.S. attention.  By late 1978, the Department was scouring the rolls for single Junior Officer volunteers to go to Afghanistan, and I had even been approached by State Personnel to go out to Kabul as a Political Officer after completing my tour in Moscow.  I turned down the offer flat, thinking to myself that Afghanistan was about the last place I would ever want to go. 

Ambassador Toon was also paying close attention to the events in Afghanistan, and as Ambassador's Aide, I was constantly scanning the wire services for the latest news.  So it was that 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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