I lost two friends recently, one was older and frequently ill and the other was as healthy as (I think) I am. I want to mention them here and salute them because I learned a lot from both.
We all lose folks — part of life. But losing people for the wrong reasons — as in the Iraq War in which the country is now mired — is so sad. I didn’t lose my friends that way but I often think about people I know and don’t know caught up on the front line of this war and appreciate what they are doing — even though I think that they have been sent into the worst kind of war — one which will undermine the very society they believe they are protecting.
But the two guys who recently passed away in my world left via natural causes — R. Wayne Sayer and Sunil Mehta.
Wayne Sayer was one of my political mentors here in Washington — a lobbyist for the high tech sector who worked for years as the guy in D.C. for Applied Materials. He had had all sorts of health difficulties over the years but always seemed to chuckle them away — and finally, that strategy reached a point of diminishing returns. I’ll miss him.
And Sunil Mehta — who is just about the same age I am. He was the Vice President of NASSCOM in India — and had become a good friend over the years as I got more deeply interested in the many, many dimensions of what India has been and was trying to become. Sunil died from a massive heart attack, shortly after visiting Washington, and leaves his wife and two daughters, 6 and 13.
I also want to pay tribute to a young guy, Paul Matthew Zeller — who was shot and killed by an unknown assailant outside the Pentagon Row shopping center at the end of June this year. I didn’t know Zeller — but his case has stuck with me for several reasons. He was shot at a place I freqent — and had only recently gotten out out of the military after having served for three years as a mortarman in the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. He was also from Westcliffe, Colorado — which is one of the other places I frequent most years and where I have many friends.
His brother and family are still making appeals for those with information to come forward. It’s beyond tragic to survive Iraq and then to be gunned down walking home from work in this country. In any case, I wanted to remember a former soldier who deserved far better.
On less emotional fronts, there are a couple of other tidbits that have made their way to me.
First, CSIS’s Senior Vice President and Henry A. Kissinger Chair in National Security Kurt Campbell is departing that institution along with CSIS security expert Michele Flournoy and going to head up a new organization, The Project for a New American Security. Don’t know much about the outfit yet — but will share more when I hear from Kurt Campbell and others involved.
Also, former House Leader Dennis Hastert “was” No. 1 on the list to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Sources now tell us that he has removed himself from that list after the Ethics Committees findings that he bore some responsibility in the cover-up of (or lack of curiosity about) the Mark Foley page scandal. That’s stuff he’d rather not have aired via Senate confirmation hearings.
— Steve Clemons