The Boy in Zaquitos
by Bruce McAllister
The Retired Operative Speaks to a Class
You do what you can for your country. I’m sixty-eight years old, and even in high school—it’s 2015 now, so that was fifty years ago—I wanted to be an intelligence analyst . . . an analyst for an intelligence agency, or if I couldn’t do that, at least be a writer for the United States Information Agency, writing books for people of limited English vocabularies so they’d know about us, our freedoms, the way we live. But what I wanted most was to be an analyst—not a covert-action operative, just an analyst. For the CIA or NSA, one of the big civilian agencies. That’s what I wanted to do for my country.
I knew they looked at your high school record, not just college—and not just grades, but also the clubs you were in and any sports. And your family background, that was important, too. My father was an Annapolis graduate, a Pearl Harbor survivor, and a gentle Cold War warrior who’d worked for NATO in northern Italy, when we’d lived there. I knew that would look good to the Agency, and I knew that my dad had friends who’d put in a good word for me, too, friends in the Office of Naval Intelligence.
But I also knew I had to do something for my high school record; and I wasn’t an athlete, so I joined the Anti-Communist Club. I thought it was going to be a group of kids who’d discuss Marxist economics and our free-market system, maybe the misconceptions Marx had about human nature, and maybe even mistakes we were making in developing countries, both propaganda-wise and in the kind of help we were giving them. I didn’t know it was just a front for Barry Goldwater and that all we were going to do was make election signs, but at least I had it on my record.