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Posted by on Oct 16, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

“I Am Not A Spy”

Michael Totten is living in and reporting from Lebanon, which makes his always thought-provoking weblog more interesting than ever. And he has a post that sparks some feelings of deja vu all over again in TMV:

Okay, it isn’t funny anymore. Let’s just get this out in public and out of the way once and for all.

I am not a spy. Got that? I. Am. Not. A. Spy.

Almost every frigging day in this country someone accuses me and/or one of the other Westerners in my presence of being a spy. When Christians make that accusation I get the sense that they’re half-joking. (Emphasis here on half rather than joking.) When Muslims do it the sense of humor in their voice is notably lacking. When Hezbollah does it I know good and goddamn well they aren’t joking. The flaming eyes, the screaming, and the physical belligerence kinda sorta gives that away.

So let’s get a couple of things straight.

And he straightens them out. Read the whole post.

He’s undergoing a mini-problem that is not unusual when you go overseas. When I was a freelance journalist in New Delhi in the ’70s writing for the Chicago Daily News (the byline said Joe Gandelman, Daily News Foreign Service), doing several short stories a week and periodic very long perspective pieces, it was often suggested, jokingly or otherwise, that I was a CIA agent.

The irony is that the only real approach came from the KGB, which is another story. I later discussed this approach with my sources at the U.S. Embassy…which I suppose would therefore make some people think I was…a spy. But that’s another story for another day.

The jokes continued, though, for another reason.

As a young journalist in India, I warned people about Prime Minister Indira Gandhi getting ready to clamp down on civil liberties and got some stories published detailing what was going on, but some were rejected because no one else was reporting it. I left India telling a prominent American political scientist that Mrs. Gandhi would declare a state of emergency.

One month after I left India, she did. She later lifted it and was assassinated.

I had visited Bangladesh and wrote for the Chicago Daily News about growing fury over Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government corruption and his family. I got to meet the Sheikh briefly and was invited by a top cabinet minister who took me out to his own village, and laughed as I tried to eat rice with my hands, as per the local custom, at the village-cooked meal. I left Dacca telling friends that Mujib was in deep trouble. Due to my age and no one else writing about it, few took me seriously.

I arrived in Madrid (where I wrote largely for The Christian Science Monitor) where I read that Mujib and many family members (including little kids) had been assassinated in a coup..three months after I left India. The cabinet member I had gone out with was now Prime Minister — and the American political scientist said he had been asking about me.

I arrived in Spain and, within a few months, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco died.

One European journalist friend told me: “Why is it everywhere you go there are upheavals? Don’t visit my country — please.”

So, bloggers who attack me and talk show hosts who invite me on their shows and then ambush me by spending a whole segment suggesting I’m a closet partisan insidiously hiding behind the word “moderate” – Be NICE. I have all kinds of resources at my disposal. (That reminds me: it’s time for Dick Cheney to fly in and do my laundry…)