Monday, March 17, 2008

The "Drug Wars" (12) Cairo, Egypt 1995

"Hey Clyde, isn't that Fousesquawk riding on your back?"

One of the final overseas trips I took in DEA's Office of International Training before retirement was to Cairo in 1995. The event was the UN Conference in Crime Prevention, with countries from all over the world participating. The State Department, who funded DEA's international training programs, had asked all federal law enforcement agencies to send a training representative to the conference in order to hold seminars introducing our agency's training programs to the delegates. The purpose, according to the State Department, was to show the UN that while they were only talking about solutions, we (US agencies) were actually doing something tangible in the way of international police training. Only DEA, the FBI and BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms)chose to send a representative. I was selected to go on behalf of DEA.

Prior to leaving, there were several meetings to be held at State Department HQs in Washington. At the meetings, the DOS representative who would be coordinating our activities in Cairo, explained to us how everything was being arranged. Pick-up at the airport, security, hotel accommodations-and most importantly, how we would operate at the convention hall. According to this gentleman, we would be occupying a large hall just off the main assembly hall. We would hold two seminars a day, so that any delegates not busy in the main assembly could come in and hear our spiel offering our training programs and pick up brochures. It sounded like a really big deal.

We also had to go to a couple of "training" sessions at State-even though all three of us were professional instructors and had been trained by our own agencies upon assignment to the Office of Training. We each had to give a practice presentation in front of their own Training "expert", who critiqued our performances and offered up his suggestions for improvement. Somewhat degrading in our view, but this was the State Department. They generally tended to look down their noses at other agencies.

So off we went to Cairo. We arrived and were met and taken to our hotel, and later, to the convention hall to get our ID badges. The problem was when we saw the room we were supposed to use for our presentations. It was not much bigger than a regular hotel room and was in a far-off corner of the hall, well-removed from the general assembly hall. Typical State Department operation!

On the morning of the first day, we awaited the arrival of our "audience". A grand total of three delegates wandered in-2 from Mauritius. So we scrapped our prepared speeches, set aside the podium and sat around in a circle with the three gentlemen holding an informal discussion and handing them our brochures. Hopefully, the afternoon session would go better.

At three in the afternoon, 3 more arrived- including the two guys from Mauritious. Embarrassed we explained that there was no need to come back for the same presentation.

The next day ran pretty much the same. At that, we cancelled the room, taped 8x11" posters on the walls, set up a table in the main hallway, and sat around looking like potted plants trying to attract interest. We might as well have been selling cheap souvenirs. In the course of the week, we met with less than 10 delegates.

What did we do after hours? Well, we went sightseeing, shopping, visited the pyramids, rode camels, sailed down the Nile on a dinner cruise and ate lots of shish kabob- all paid for courtesy of the American taxpayer.

And that, dear readers, is an example of your tax dollars at work.