Monday, October 03, 2016

Secret Agent Man

I'll resume blogging with a bit of humor; I for one could used it...

When JP Parker reviewed Hounds of Heaven for Amazon (an almost embarrassingly good review), he stated:"Everyone and everything has to be quickly and easily pigeonholed in our Age of Single-Minded Experts: if you’re an artist, you can’t possibly be a scientist; if you’re a naturalist, you most certainly cannot write fiction; if you’re a cynologist, what the hell can you be expected to know about paleontology? When obvious exceptions such as Peter Matthiessen do arise, they are explained away as anomalies: Well, after all, how can you expect anything else from someone like Matthiessen when he was really a CIA agent all along? But Steve Bodio is a genuine polymath without being a CIA agent. As far as I know."

Well, "I am not and never have been.." But deniability is difficult. Back in 2002, Brian Micklethwaite, a writer for the often original online Brit libertarian online mag Samizdata (a site which had often been friendly to Q), decided I was a secret agent, and "outed" me. He called his essay "Watching the Bird Watchers"

"I met up with Tim and Helen Evans yesterday. After several years at the Independent Healthcare Association, Tim is now the President of the Centre for the New Europe, which is pro-free-market but neutral about whether the EU as such is a good thing, which, when Britain is finally and irrevocably swallowed up by what Freedom and Whisky calls the Holy Belgian Empire, is what I will probably end up being. Tim is now connecting with lots of excellent European libertarians, including a lot of well placed academics. How come continental Europe’s libertarians are so excellent? Simple. They have to be.

"Tim also reminded me of an email I received a few weeks back from his CNE colleague Richard Miniter, following a plug I put here for two forthcoming books by him. Apparently a long lost friend of Richard’s saw my mention of him and got back in touch, much to Richard’s delight. I asked Richard if I could mention this also – Samizdata brings people together again, etc., etc. – and he said yes fine. After all, if you’re someone like Richard, getting your books plugged is easy enough. Keeping in touch with all your cool friends is harder, and he was genuinely grateful. But then I forgot about this. Meeting Tim again is my excuse to mention this touching reunion now. Said Rich:

"The friend, Steve Bodio, wrote a excellent piece for the Atlantic Monthly last year entitled “The eagle hunters of Mongolia.” He spent some time with those fiercely independent steppe riders and watched them bring home dinner with their trained eagles. He is also a gun expert and genuine authority on birds. And, of course, he loves freedom and despises 'priggish authority' in all its forms.

"People who habitually watch birds in countries other than their own are as likely as not spooks of some kind, in my opinion. After all, what better way is there to spy on metal birds and their habitats, and such like, than to pretend to be looking only at regular ones? And this bird man is also a gun man. Add the fact that one of Richard’s forthcoming books is about Bill Clinton’s (mis)handling of al-Qaeda and is apparently full of juicy revelations, and you get the picture. These guys may not have spook ranks and spook serial numbers, but they definitely have good friends who do.

"Some libertarians say that we should never make any friends among the spooks, even the part-time ones, all of whom are the statist spawn of Satan. What tripe. For starters, not all of these people advertise themselves as flamboyantly as some of them do, so how can we know who to avoid? And more seriously, they (or their for-real friends and contacts) work at the darkest heart of the state and spy on the rest of it, and they know how it really works, and doesn’t work. They know that the state is an anarchy, and they are mostly individualist anarchists themselves, in their everyday working lives if not in their beliefs. So if we’re right about what the state is really like – and we are right, right? – then the spooks should be moving our way. The question the spooks mostly ask me is not: Are you sure that the state is really that crazy? It’s: How could a totally free market in spookery actually be made to work, given that it’s such a nice idea? (I’m working on it.)

"Think what would happen to the course of history if all the spooks and semi-spooks (or even a decent percentage of them) did become hard-core libertarians."

I wrote semi- hysterically and half- humorously to Jonathan Hanson: "Micklethwaite thinks I'm Meinertzhagen!"(He wrote back in the persona of Younghusband,a good joke). But I had ZERO deniability. For one thing, one of my sources on the first expedition was Colonel Richard Wilhelm, the Special forces warrior- scholar who spoke Mongolian, rode with the Mongols, was a friend of the Mongolian air force colonel who was Canat's cousin, and who was the subject of a Robert Kaplan article in the Atlantic, which I was writing for. For another, I saw a MIG fly into an underground hangar, something Canat had told me about and which even Wilhelm doubted at first, and reported upon that. (Canat, who had flown for years on planes that were parked in such hangars when he was Spetsnaz, was completely casual:"Look, Stev [my Kazakh name-- see Eagle Dreams]-- here comes a plane to land underground." He didn't even want to stop the jeep!)

Many years before,I was on the other end of the rope-- after our hack falcons, the first ones on Mount Tom near Holyoke Mass, flew off prematurely, we were investigated by undercover federal wildlife agents, who were sure we had stolen them and sold them to the "Arabs". For reasons that will become clear, I won't give TOO much detail, but they plied us together and separately with legal and illegal intoxicants to get us to inform on each other. The whole affair came to an end when we nearly convinced them we were innocent, then out- macho'd them in a tequila- and- pot fueled race down the "Alpine slides" to the bar below. John and I had all summer to practice, and still bear the scars to show it. We could put the sleds up on wheels so there was no friction, steer by leaning, never touch the brakes, and could actually go 90 mph or more if were feeling immortal. John, a red= headed former Vietnam medic and falconer who got his masters from UMass the next year, and retired from a career as a Massachusetts Game warden a couple of years ago, is usually a serious man, but at a mention of this tale, he will show the arm where he burned off 18 inches of his fair Irish PEI freckles -- another cousin-- when he slid fifty feet on the twisting mile- long fiberglass chute. Incremental damage was the editing process that taught us how to go fast, and by the end of the season wed we would accelerate right up to the last hundred (straight, level) feet. We dumped both Wally and "Cubo"("Conduct UnBecoming anOfficer") in the granite boulders of the turns at a half a mile, and they limped in to shake our hands, admit their defeat, and buy us all more tequila. I remember Bill (Cubo) handing me his rare- unique?-- 3 inch barrelled Smith and Wesson .41 magnum revolver, which he kept in an ankle holster, at the bar. I don't think they were used to losing. At least they didn't get copperheads in their laps, as John and I each did once.The gentle little snakes (or maybe they were just cold in the AM) never offered to strike, not the case with our one new England timber rattler...

Years later, I saw a newspaper article tacked up in a New Orleans shop that sold ivory, citing the owner's help of Walter in a dangerous undercover sting operation in Alaska, involving native bikers and walrus ivory; the bad guys reminded me of the Aleut assassin in Snow Crash. And years after THAT, in New Mexico, I got these two photos in the mail: Walter, reading Querencia, on his sailboat Querencia.

And here are the successful Mt Tom falcons today. They do look more "tundrius" than anatum...


Bork Fork said...

Man of intrigue. Thought you might enjoy-

Scott Hyde said...

Magdalena must be a hotbed of spies. Had a friend 20+ years ago who operated a pizza place there until he was recruited by some three letter agency. They ended up in Romania, where they were greeted at the airport by a taxi driver who said "You must be the new American spies." Primary job was translating the local papers and faxing the translations to Washington, according to my friend.


Scott Hyde

Steve Bodio said...

Was it Jonathan Daves Brody? His son, Nathan, is the biologist who was briefly Steve's falconry apprentice. Jonathan is still in the State Department. Most spooks are!


Scott Hyde said...

It was indeed. Jonathan tells great stories of his escapades. Last I heard he was in St. Petersburg.

Sorry I missed the book signing at Ron's.


Scott Hyde

Tim Murphy said...

Les Murray, closest thing we have to a famous poet, publishes me a lot in Quadrant, Australia's finest magazine, seeded in the Eisenhower Admin by the CIA. Does that make me a CIA agent?

Steve Bodio said...

The damn machine just told me this is to long for a comment!v Blogger has become very difficult to work with. I will split it in two and try that.If it fails- no, hell,I'll make this a post, wi†h illos.