Valentine's Day Murder of U.S. Ambassador.

Author:Byers, Bruce K.
Position:Ambassador Adolph Dubs

Thirty-seven years ago today in Kabul, Afghanistan U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs, a career diplomat and U.S. Navy war veteran, was abducted on his way to the embassy in Kabul and taken to a cavernous old hotel in the center of the city. There he was taken by his abductors to a second floor room and bound to a chair while his embassy driver was sent back to the embassy to alert officials of the abduction.

I was the embassy press and information officer in Kabul at the time and had worked often with Ambassador Dubs, introducing him to visiting American and third-country journalists interested in gaining his views on the Marxist Afghan regime under Nur Mohammed Tariki and the progress of the Saur Revolution.

In a letter to my mother that I wrote a few days after Ambassador Dubs's brutal murder in the hotel, I related the events of that Valentine's Day and a few of the early consequences. The edited text of my letter follows.

February 19, 1979

Dear Mom,

This past week has been a momentous one for all of us, and I think it is necessary and useful to share some thoughts about the recent events with you.

Tonight, one week ago, Ingrid and I and most of the Embassy staff and their spouses were the guests of the Chinese Charge d'Affaires and his gracious colleagues [on the occasion of the opening of formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China in January 1979]. They invited us for a film show and a dinner.

The Chinese Charge, as host, devoted himself to Ambassador Dubs. Our Chinese hosts were most gracious, hospitable and friendly. We have had several social engagements with them since the first of the year. Some days before the dinner we had held a special showing of a feature film "The Old Man and the Sea." They loved it.

On Sunday morning, the day after the dinner, I had to attend the weekly Country Team meeting at the Embassy because Roger Lydon, the PAO, was not feeling well. As Ambassador Dubs entered we stood up which is customary when the Chief of Mission and personal envoy of the President meets his staff. He began the meeting by remarking that there is in Africa a species of carnivorous ants called driver ants. They can swarm out by the millions to devour their prey. He said, he thought we had hit the Chinese buffet table like driver ants. We all had a good laugh.

He made a few remarks, and then asked each staff member to report. It was a routine meeting. It was also his last.

"Spike" Dubs, as his friends called him, enjoyed being informal with us. He commented at the meeting that he was very sorry to learn of the death of correspondent Joseph Alex Morris in Tehran only a day before. I had brought [Chicago Tribune reporter] Joe Morris and [Washington Post reporter] Jonathan Randall to a briefing in Ambassador Dubs's office during their visit here in November.

Ambassador Dubs spent most of his tour here alone. His wife Mary Ann has a good job on Capitol Hill and did not want to abandon it. She came with the Ambassador's daughter for nearly two months in November-December. Despite his separation from his family Ambassador Dubs was not alone in Kabul. He made all of us his family, and he won our respect and love through his fine example of leadership, concern for our needs, support of the school and American community activities. During football season he attended all of the games. He came to the school's plays and to parent-teacher meetings. He was, in a word, here among us.

He was greatly admired by the diplomatic community in Kabul. Everyone we know respected him as a thorough professional and as a warm and generous human being. The officials of the host government also respected him. He dealt with them clearly and fairly, representing U.S. national interests with resolve and dispatch.

He was an optimist, at heart. He demonstrated his belief in the positive side of people and of human nature, though his patience was tried more than once here. He encouraged us to build bridges where we could with our Afghan hosts. This was not easy; it will be more difficult now.

I think I mentioned in my last long letter my realization that living is an...

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