Kenneth W. Gunn-Walberg
…Tom had arranged my speaking to a Secretary of State’s Open Forum at the State Department in June 1999 entitled “The Case for Monarchy” in Serbia. After my presentation Tom met with the US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, who stated, “Tom, we don’t do Kings”. Perhaps Canada would. I published two articles in The Voice of Canadian Serbs and twice addressed mass rallies in Toronto and Niagara Falls on “A King for Serbia”. In March of 2000 I was invited to present a paper at an international conference in Belgrade sponsored by the Institute of International Politics and Economics. The paper was entitled “The Effects of NATO Aggression on FR Yugoslavia”. Since Serbia had been declared a no-fly zone we were to travel from Budapest to Belgrade overland in a large black embassy vehicle which seemed to be an inviting target. After a couple of martinis at the embassy we set off and arrived without incident at our hotel. Most days I was to pass the White Palace which within a short period was to be the new home of Crown Prince Alexander and his family. When I met Him in Chicago, I had expressed this hope to Him and it was to be realized.
I was soon to visit another war zone when I was asked to be part of a peace delegation to Baghdad shortly before the second Iraq war. With the vast majority of Americans and probably with only slightly less enthusiasm by Canadians, I had cheered in the liberation of Kuwait and thought it not prudential to press on to Baghdad, as I was skeptical of weapons of mass destruction being developed and stored. From Athens our group was to fly on the first scheduled flight from the West in a decade. At the Athens airport, however, there was a problem that a no-fly zone had been in place and the UN had not granted us fly-over permission so we were to spend three days in Athens waiting for such to be granted so one happily spent a pleasant time exploring the ancient city. When we were to enter Syrian airspace we were greeted by Syrian Air Force MIGs on the wingtips of our Olympic 727. The pilots gave us a thumbs-up as we entered Iraqi airspace and at the announcement of our entry a cheer went up, but not from me. I just prayed all Allied forces had received the UN notice. We were met at Saddam International by the Iraqi Minister of Tourism who had had little to do for the previous decade. The Duty-Free Shop had been re-stocked with perfume, jewelry, leather goods and such. The washrooms I noticed had been out of order for quite some time. We were to stay at the Hotel Palestine. Our group was a rather diverse lot more or less headed by Mde. Papandreou who was somewhat counter-balanced by several conservative Greek members of the European Parliament, members of the Sheffield Collective, including several burka-clad English converts to Islam – who were bringing water purifiers, a Canadian or two looking for oil contacts, and others of various determinations including a considerable number of Greek nationals bent on an interesting vacation. The latter had a quite lively party one night at the Hotel Babylon – Greek folk music and much wine. I was supplied a driver who was a Christian who wanted to take me to meet with his Bishop whom he said had an excellent wine cellar, but time did not permit. We visited a hospital, an underground shelter hit by an American smart bomb, and generally toured the city. We, also, visited Babylon by motor coach which was interesting as lion and snake motifs abounded, seemingly of religious significance. A plaque in its English rendering, however, offered a simpler explanation. It read of the ruler “I liked snakes and lions and hoped my people would like them, also”. In the bookstore was a book entitled A Guide to Ruinous Tourism. I thought of Hitler visiting France or earlier the Visigoths visiting Rome, but then realized it was a faulty translation. It should have read A Guide for Tourists Visiting Ruins. We were to be addressed by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, a Christian, who spoke eloquently on the effect of sanctions and the need for trade to revive the economy. I had earlier slipped out of the room in which he was to speak when his imminent arrival was announced and went to the front door of the hotel. His motorcade was rather telling. The lead car was an aging white Chevrolet with a cracked windscreen, and his car was a mid-range older Mercedes Benz. Later I noticed that his seven or eight man security detail was remarkable for the height of its members, but they all wore different styles of boots suggesting the army was rather hard-pressed. Also, I walked the streets near the hotel visiting tea shops, carpet merchants, and the occasional wine and liquor store, the latter being all run by Christians – their clients not exclusively such. When I passed a small local barracks I was always given a thumbs-up and a smile. There was a second-floor dentist’s office I noticed, the sign in the window gave the name of the dentist followed by “American Trained – BA University of Iowa”. A number of us had been invited to a cocktail party by the Greek charge d’affaires at the ambassador’s residence in a most attractive up-scale suburb. The ambassador had been withdrawn. Fortunately I had brought along a white dinner jacket and black tie for just such an event despite the high unlikelihood of their being worn in a quasi-war zone. It transpired the charge d’affaires had been consul general in Vancouver where I had lived for two years so we shared stories of people and places in Canada. When I returned to Philipsburg a friend from Winnipeg, Jack Alsip, called and said he had seen on CBC Television news a chap wearing a camel hair coat looking just like me getting off a plane in Baghdad with Mde. Papandreou followed by a large group of others. I told him it was indeed me.
Before leaving for Iraq I had called the office of Sharif Ali bin Hussein, principal claimant to the throne of Iraq. After Iraq II he achieved some support from the American administration, chiefly Richard Perle. He was provided with a palace and was received enthusiastically by Sunni tribesman. Alas, the USA tipped its hand to the Shiites. Once again the State Department didn’t “do Kings”.
One of the strange outcomes of my adventures was an invitation to attend a conference in Moscow….
The Rev’d Canon Gunn-Walberg is the Eastern U.S. Delegate for the Grand Council of the International Monarchist League. The full text of the above work is found in The Other North America: Traditions and Identities (American Anglican Press, 2017).
Published on the website of The Monarchist League in America, 2017.