Thursday, July 14, 2005

Niger, Agee, and Hard Gs

Last night, during the Brit Hume's Fox All-Star panel discussion, Mort Kondracke mentioned that the law against knowingly outing CIA agents was inspired by the case of Phil Agee (ah-ZHEE). Agee was an ex-CIA man who exposed several covert agents in the 1970s, apparently leading to the murder of at least one. Kondracke's comment was in the context of discussing the current controversy over Joseph Wilson, his CIA-agent wife, and Wilson's trip to Niger (nee-ZHAIR).

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota in the late 1980s, Phil Agee was somewhat of a hero among leftists. I remember that the either the Progressive Student Organization or MPIRG invited him to speak on campus with much fanfare. No mention of murders resulting from his actions, as I remember. Now the left wants to preserve the identities of secret agents.

All of this talk of Niger and Agee reminds me of Magnus, a Swedish exchange student in my high school economics class. We were divided into groups, with Magnus and two other guys on my team. We were supposed to write a report on the economics of Niger, Upper Volta, Chad, and Mali. Once he started doing research on Niger (instead of Nigeria, where he mistakenly began his research), he had the habit of pronouncing it with a hard "g." Only a Swedish exchange student could get away with that. Being guys, it was one more reason for us to make fun of him.

Before you think that we were cruel to the poor foreigner, you have to understand that he was a very funny guy. One of his antics was to pull down the slide projector screen and hide behind it. The problem was that it only covered the top half of his body. The teacher would calmly ask him to take his seat, perhaps thinking that the cultural and language barrier explained the behavior. After that stunt, he was definitely one of the guys.

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