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Thursday, August 28, 2008

On Courage: Ambassador James McGee

Monterey, CA

In an age of shallow tough talk, truly courageous leaders such as U.S. Ambassador James McGee can and do emerge. A career foreign-service officer with four previous African postings as well as a Vietnam War hero, our envoy to the failed state of Zimbabwe presents a portrait of real courage under fire - literally.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is a first-class scourge, an embarrassment to all that is civil and civilized in our world. (OK, so tell us how you really feel.) He has banned most media from his rotting country, once an agricultural and economic powerhouse regionally, so as not to reveal to the world his ruinous tenure since the decolonization of the former Rhodesia. We must increasingly rely, therefore, on heroic renegade reporters, NGO employees and others such as Ambassador McGee to protect innocent lives and to shine a bright, hot spotlight on Mugabe's many atrocities.

In the recent issue of Vanity Fair, Peter Godwin tells us that against Harare's wishes McGee assembled a team of diplomats and employees from several embassies and set out to locate and interview victims of Mugabe's abuses. During the investigatory field trip, a plainclothes police officer supported by shotgun-wielding colleagues stopped McGee, inspected his credentials, blocked his convoy's passage, and ordered him to report to a local police station for questioning. Godwin writes that McGee then walked to the gates blocking his way, opened them against the police officers' threats, and asked, "What are you going to do, shoot me?" He stared them down and waved the convoy through to freedom. As the late Bernie Mac said in the Ocean's 13 movie, "enough said!"

p.s. Today's 24-mile cycling tour around the Monterey Peninsula confirms that everyone should bike the coastal stretch from Monterey and Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach and Carmel. What beauty! Images below.