SHOWING THE FLAG: A Report from Inside a US Embassy by Marguerite Michaels

SHOWING THE FLAG: A Report from Inside a US Embassy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Michaels, a former Time correspondent, has fashioned a pseudo-docudrama from interviews and observations at the US Embassy in Bootá, Colombia, during the Carter administration's last months. But, with no documentation and a blithe approach to ""reconstruction,"" the credibility here is low--as Michaels' focus hops, often confusingly, from department to department, from one character's supposed thoughts to another's, from one pulp-fiction-style vignette to the next. We start right in with secretary Emily Roth, on a plane to her new post in Colombia: ""Emily read what she had just written in the diary on her lap. Ugh, too many adjectives. But Emily loved adjectives. . . ."" And soon we're sharing brain-space with: the complacent US Ambassador (""There are only two things an ambassador gets to pick, Ascensio thought. . . his nose and his DCM""); his wife (""The wine was making her melancholy""); the foreign-service officers, including Ascensio's Deputy Chief (""Being number two was bullshit""); Drug Enforcement agents, trying to set up a cocaine bust; the Peace Corps Director; a Colombian staffer, who just happens to deliver a statistic-filled lecture on Colombia while chatting with Emily (typically clumsy exposition); a US Marine sergeant; Embassy wives, chatting about maids; the security officer, fearful of terrorists; etc. Important issues are raised here and there: the dubious priorities of US policy on Colombia (control of drug traffic is the highest); the Embassy's inefficiency, its petty in-fighting, its total orientation toward producing the sort of ""cables"" that Washington wants to get; hypocrisy and waffling on human rights (""If the Colombians have this wonderful democracy, Eileen had insisted, then what is this state of siege?""). But Michaels' kiddie-journalism makes it impossible to evaluate any views or facts that arise in page after page of dullish dialogue. And the book is nearly incoherent--until some focus is provided by the guerrilla takeover of the Dominican Embassy, with Ascensio among those held hostage: while Emily's affair with Miguel sours, there are negotiations, internal wrangles, and career changes ahead for most (""Baca lay flat on his back with a book balanced on his belly. Fuck. Maybe it was time to. . .""). A messy, amateurish reconstruction--but some readers may want to pick through and extract the Embassy-life details.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster