December 31, 2005

"Not actually surprising to anyone who had bothered to think"

From Joan Didion's Democracy. Applications to current events are entirely your affair.

At the time I thought that she had decided to talk to me only because Jack Lovett's name was just beginning to leak out of the various investigations into arms and currency and technology dealings on the part of certain former or perhaps even current overt and covert agents of the United States government. There had even been hints about narcotics dealings, which, although they made good copy and were played large in the early coverage (I recall the phrase "Golden Triangle" in many headlines, and a photograph of two blurred figures leaving a house on Victoria Peak, one identified as a "sometimes Lovett business associate" and the other as a "known Hong Kong Triad opium lord"), remained just that, hints, rumors, that would never be substantiated, but the other allegations were solid enough, and not actually surprising to anyone who had bothered to think about what Jack Lovett was doing in that part of the world.

There had been the affiliations with interlocking transport and air courier companies devoid of real assets. There had been the directorship of the bank in Vila that put the peculiarities of condominium government to such creative use. There had been all the special assignments and the special consultancies and the special relationships in a fluid world where the collection of information was indistinguishable from the use of information and where national and private interests (the interests of state and non-state actors, Jack Lovett would have said) did not collide but merged into a single pool of exchanged favors.

In order to understand what Jack Lovett did it was necessary only to understand how natural it was for him to do it, how at once entirely absorbing and supremely easy. There had always been that talent for putting the right people together, the right man at the Department of Defense, say, with the right man at Livermore or Los Alamos or Brookhaven, or, a more specific example with a more immediately calculable payout, the Director of Base Development for CINCPAC/MACV with Dwight Christian.

There had always been something else as well.

There had been that emotional solitude, a detachment that extended to questions of national or political loyalty.

It would be inaccurate to call Jack Lovett disloyal, although I suppose some people did at the time.

It would be accurate only to say that he regarded the country on whose passport he traveled as an abstraction, a state actor, one of several to be factored into any given play.

In other words.

What Jack Lovett did was never black or white, and in the long run may even have been (since the principal gain to him was another abstraction, the pyramiding of further information) devoid of ethical content altogether, but since shades of grey tended not to reproduce in the newspapers the story was not looking good on a breaking basis. That Jack Lovett had reportedly made some elusive deals with the failed third force (or fourth force, or fifth force, this was a story on which the bottom kept dropping out) in Phnom Penh in those days after the embassy closed there did not look good. That the London dealer who was selling American arms abandoned in South Vietnam had received delivery from one of Jack Lovett's cargo services did not look good....

This is from the end of chapter 2 in part 4 --- pp. 207--209 of the Pocket Books edition (New York, 1985).

The Commonwealth of Letters; The Running-Dogs of Reaction

Posted at December 31, 2005 11:41 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth