Some people live through history. Some are touched by it. Lawdog, who I have the honor call a friend, has been one of the latter. I asked if I might share this here, and he said please do, with credit. So here’s one of Lawdog’s lessons. Language is unedited. There are times for strong language, and this is one of them.
— History —
My little brother was born in Tripoli, Libya in 1969. September of that year, Gaddafi took control. One of his first pronouncements was that all foreigners needed to leave. Corollary to that was that all children born in Libya were Libyan citizens, and would remain there.
The American Embassy informed us that they were “working on a diplomatic solution” and to be patient.
Dad hired a dhow, and crew, and we got back to Malta. We got a parting gift from the Libyans in the form of several hundred rounds through the hull — I was two years old.
August 15, 1971. We were in Malta. We woke up to discover that President Nixon had “floated the dollar”. I remember picturing a man with a Lincoln beard standing on a dock, throwing dollar bills into the water. Unfortunately, this meant that our US bank account was worthless in Malta. Dad was somewhere in North Africa, and I remember the exhaustion of being dragged all over the island after Mom took us to the US Embassy and was told that “things were fluid” and they’d try to help when things stabilized. It was after dark before Mm found a store that took mercy on a mother with two small children and took American Express traveller’s cheques at face value for food. The Embassy never did get back to us, even after things “stabilized”.
1976. More rounds went through General Murtala Mohammed (and his driver) than the last four James Bond movies. Unfortunately, the rebelling soldiers miscalculated, and the counter-coup by the Army was … enthusiastic. As this wasn’t our first rodeo, as soon as Murtala quit bouncing we loaded up the Land Cruiser, and headed for Port Harcourt, where an oil rig supply vessel was waiting.
Three stewardesses who were visiting their engineer boy-friends headed for the American Consulate in Lagos. Two of them made it back, after being informed that they needed to go to the aeroport and get out of the country. The Nigerian Army had locked down the aeroport, and had twitchy trigger fingers. I sat in the lap of one of the stewardesses on the road to Port Harcourt, and she didn’t stop crying and shaking.
The were more evacs from African countries, and from a couple of Middle Eastern places, but we never approached the US Embassy for help again.
Even later, as a man grown and feral, I knew better than to rely on the Government for help.
Adrenaline and fear add a metallic odour to sweat. Blood is coppery. Someone inevitably loses control of their bladder and/or bowels, but that smell is actually not as bad as the smell of blood and terror.
There’s always dust. And some jackass always sets something on fire, so the smoke coats your mouth, and hangs in your nose.
Then there’s the smell of smokeless powder. And burnt bodies. That’s a smell that sticks in your nose for a while, but it’s not as bad as the smell that comes later, when the bodies have been out for a while.
People get together, huddling out of fear and uncertainty into a big herd of panicky people. Locals herd with locals. Foreigners with foreigners. And once they herd up, the scavengers show up and start picking off the weak.
One will have a brother who knows a way through the jungle, or around the military patrols. It only costs you most of your savings, and as soon as you get out in the boonies, it’s a rifle butt in the teeth and the rest of your savings taken. If you’re lucky. If not, it’s a bullet and a ditch, and they take the savings off of your body.
If you’re a man. Women quickly find out that as soon as things went into the khazi, they go from “person” to “commodity”. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
As bad as all that is — and it’s way worse than you think — that isn’t the part that’s going to give me nightmares.
Absent sheer bad luck, a smart, prepared, violent man will survive this sort of thing.
And that’s going to give me nightmares.
The President of the United States. the Joints Chiefs of Staff, and the entire State Department can go fuck themselves right now.
Anyone who voted to put that muppet in the Oval Office can go fuck themselves right now.
I’m headed for the bourbon, and I’m going to hope like fuck I don’t have nightmares.