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a diplomat’s child

published: 2012-09-14

My dad wasn’t the only diplomat in our family. An uncle of mine was too, not for the Dutch but for the Americans. Somehow, my uncle always managed to get posted in war-torn countries.
Children do not want to be separated from their families. When my family moved from London to Ghana, my parents gave me the choice whether to go to the boarding school or to come with them to Ghana. We’re talking Africa early 1980s. Ghana had just gone through a coup. I was 11 and I chose Ghana.
My same-aged American cousin moved country to country too. He was 19 when his parents were posted in Kuwait. By then, he had started college and so he went on holidays to Kuwait. This is what diplomat’s children do when they’re older: they spend their holidays visiting their parents. Preferably in France, as was the case for me. But no, he spent Summer in Kuwait.
Should my uncle have seen it coming? Had the CIA failed to warn them?
While my cousin was there, Iraq suddenly invaded Kuwait. America decided to meddle and became enemy number one. In other words: my cousin, aunt and uncle had overnight turned from protected individuals to hunted prey. My cousin was held hostage, first with his parents and later – when the women and children were freed – he was separated from them. 19 meant he was no longer a kid. Iraqi soldiers took him to Baghdad, alone.

Diplomacy isn’t always the protective bubble people envision it to be. For children, oftentimes quite the opposite.

Yesterday, the American ambassador in Libya was killed. My cousin, John Charlton, is now an anchor for Fox. He briefly speaks of his Kuwait experiences on a news item here.

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