Reviewed by John Rouse (Peru 1966–68)
Ben East’s humorous yet deadly serious diplomatic noir Two Pumps for the Body Man should be required reading for any youngster contemplating a foreign service career along the conflict-torn borders of the vast American empire.
It’s a story about Jeffrey Mutton, a diplomatic security officer in charge of strengthening office security at a local consular office in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the September 11 disaster and during the propaganda buildup to the “War on Terror” and the US invasion of Iraq.
Mutton and his confederacy of bungling junior political officers and visa stampers find themselves hopelessly caught within the seductive spell of their professionally incompetent, but bureaucratically ambitious, Consul General; the two-faced maneuvering of their host country contacts; and the fear mongering promoted by the upper reaches of the US government, known as the “Fourth Branch.” The author’s caricatures of the main actors are hilarious.
This satirical tragicomedy is also right on-target in focusing on the hypocrisy of many aspects of US policymaking in the developing world, somewhat reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s famous and equally hilarious anti-war novel Catch 22. It is well worth reading.
In addition to serving as a PCV in Peru, reviewer John Rouse was later on Peace Corps staff as an APCD in Ecuador (1971–72) and in the Dominican Republic (1972–74).