Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."
The last words of Richard Holbrooke
David Seaton's News Links
America's most famous über-diplomat went out like an old Roman: his last words, lucid and noble, are worthy of the best moments that American history has to offer.
We all have to die, but it has been Richard Holbrooke's good fortune to die like an imperial hero out of a novel by Kipling, his last words will be printed in school books and perhaps future schoolchildren will have to memorize them.
If it is still possible for the servants of an empire to die nobly, the death of empires themselves tend to be rather messier. The evidence of the passing of America's empire is all around us, but a recording of its last words, as revealed by Wikileaks, reminds me more of the dying words of the gangster, Dutch Schultz, than of Richard Holbrooke's classic Roman dignity.
Read Schultz's soliloquy and see if you don't agree:
The Last Words of Dutch Schultz
Statements made by Arthur (Dutch Schultz) Flegenheimer were taken down by a Newark police stenographer, F. J. Lang. The notes covered a period from about 4 o'clock Thursday afternoon until Schultz died. During that period he was delirious most of the time, but lucid at intervals. A transcript of all he said follows:
Schultz at this time was irrational, suffering with a fever of 106 degrees and a bullet in his stomach. Sergeant Luke Conlon and other detectives from Newark police headquarters were at his bedside. One of the officers had a newspaper.
(Schultz noticed newspaper and spoke) - Has it been in any other papers? George, don't make no full moves. What have you done with him? Oh, mama, mama, mama. Oh stop it, stop it; eh, oh, oh. Sure, sure, mama. Now listen, Phil, fun is fun. Ah please, papa. What happened to the sixteen? Oh, oh, he done it, please. John, please, oh, did you buy the hotel? You promised a million sure. Get out. I wished I knew. Please make it quick, fast and furious. Please. Fast and furious. Please help me get out; I am getting my wind back, thank God. Please, please, oh please. You will have to please tell him, you got no case. You get ahead with the dot dash system didn't I speak that time last night. Whose number is that in your pocket book, Phi1 13780. Who was it? Oh- please, please. Reserve decision. Police, police, Henry and Frankie. Oh, oh, dog biscuits and when he is happy he doesn't get happy please, please to do this. Then Henry, Henry, Frankie you didn't even meet me. The glove will fit what I say oh, Kayiyi, oh Kayiyi. Sure who cares when you are through? How do you know this? How do you know this? Well, then oh, Cocoa know thinks he is a grandpa again. He is jumping around. No Hobo and Poboe I think he means the same thing.
Q. (from Sergeant Conlon) - Who shot you?
A.- The boss himself.
Q.- He did?
A.- Yes, I don't know.
Q.- What did he shoot you for?
A.- I showed him boss; did you hear him meet me? An appointment. Appeal stuck. All right, mother.
Q.- Was it the boss shot you?
A.- Who shot me? No one.
Q.- We will help you.
A.- Will you help me up? O.K. I won't be such a big creep. Oh, mama. I can't go through with it, please. Oh, and then he clips me; come on. Cut that out, we don't owe a nickel; hold it; instead, hold it against him; I am a pretty good pretzler -Winifred- Department of Justice. I even got it from the department. Sir, please stop it. Say listen the last night!
(Statement by Sergeant Conlon) - Don't holler.
A.- I don't want to holler.
Q.- What did they shoot you for?
A.- I don't know, sir. Honestly I don't. I don't even know who was with me, honestly. I was in the toilet and when I reached the -the boy came at me.
Q.- The big fellow gave it to you?
A.- Yes, he gave it to me.
Q.- Do you know who this big fellow was?
A.- No. If he wanted to break the ring no, please I get a month. They did it. Come on. (A name, not clear) cut me off and says you are not to be the beneficiary of this will. Is that right? I will be checked and double-checked and please pull for me. Will you pull? How many good ones and how many bad ones? Please I had nothing with him he was a cowboy in one of the seven days a week fight. No business; no hangout; no friends; nothing; just what you pick up and what you need. I don't know who shot me. Don't put anyone near this check~ you might have -please do it for me. Let me get up. heh? In the olden days they waited and they waited. Please give me a shot. It is from the factory. Sure, that is a bad. Well, oh good ahead that happens for trying. I don't want harmony. I want harmony. Oh, mamma, mamma! Who give it to him? Who give it to him? Let me in the district -fire-factory that he was nowhere near. It smoldered No, no. There are only ten of us and there ten million fighting somewhere of you, so get your onions up and we will throw up the truce flag. Oh, please let me up. Please shift me. Police are here. Communistic...strike...baloney...honestly this is a habit I get; sometimes I give it and sometimes I don't. Oh, I am all in. That settles it. Are you sure? Please let me get in and eat. Let him harass himself to you and then bother you. Please don't ask me to go there. I don't want to. I still don't want him in the path. It is no use to stage a riot. The sidewalk was in trouble and the bears were in trouble and I broke it up. Please put me in that room. Please keep him in control. My gilt edged stuff and those dirty rats have tuned in. Please mother, don't tear, don't rip; that is something that shouldn't be spoken about. Please get me up, my friends. Please, look out. The shooting is a bit wild, and that kind of shooting saved a man's life. No payrolls. No wells. No coupons. That would be entirely out. Pardon me, I forgot I am plaintiff and not defendant. Look out. Look out for him. Please. He owed me money; he owes everyone money. Why can't he just pullout and give me control? Please, mother, you pick me up now. Please, you know me. No. Don't you scare me. My friends and I think I do a better job. Police are looking for you allover. Be instrumental in letting us know. They are English-men and they are a type I don't know who is best, they or us. Oh, sir, get the doll a roofing. You can play jacks and girls do that with a soft ball and do tricks with it. I take all events into consideration. No. No. And it is no. It is confused and its says no. A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim. Did you hear me?
Q. (By Detective) - Who shot you?
A.- I don't know.
Q.- How many shots were fired?
A.- I don't know.
Q.- How many?
A.- Two thousand. Come one, get some money in that treasury. We need it. Come on, please get it. I can't tell you to. That is not what you have in the book. Oh, please warden. What am I going to do for money? Please put me up on my feet at once. You are a hard boiled man. Did you hear me? I would hear it, the Circuit Court would hear it, and the Supreme Court might hear it. If that ain't the pay-off. Please crack down on the Chinaman's friends and Hitler's commander. I am sore and I am going up and I am going to give you honey if I can. Mother is the best bet and don't let Satan draw you too fast.
Q. (By Detective) - What did the big fellow shoot you for?
A.- Him? John? Over a million, five million dollars.
Q.- You want to get well, don't you?
Q.- Then lie quiet.
A.- Yes, I will lie quiet.
Q.- John shot and we will take care of John.
A.- That is what caused the trouble. Look out. Please let me up. If you do this, you can go on and jump right here in the lake. I know who they are. They are French people. All right. Look out, look out. Oh, my memory is gone. A work relief police. Who gets it? I don't know and I don't want to know, but look out. It can be traced. He changed for the worse. Please look out; my fortunes have changed and come back and went back since that. It was desperate. I am wobbly. You ain't got nothing on him but you got it on his helper.
Q. (By detective ) - Control yourself.
A.- But I am dying.
(Statement by detective) - No, you are not.
A.- Come on, mama. All right, dear, you have to get it.
At this point, Schultz's wife, Frances, was brought to his bedside. She spoke.
(Statement by Mrs. Schultz) - This is Frances.
Schultz began to talk again, saying:
Then pull me out. I am half crazy. They won't let me get up. They dyed my shoes. Open those shoes. Give me something. I am so sick. Give me some water, the only thing that I want. Open this up and break it so I can touch you. Danny, please get me in the car.
At this point Mrs. Schultz left the room.
(Sergeant Conlon questioned Schultz again) - Who shot you?
A.- I don't know. I didn't even get a look. I don't know who can have done it. Anybody. Kindly take my shoes off. (He was told that they were off.) No. There is a handcuff on them. The Baron says these things. I know what I am doing here with my collection of papers. It isn't worth a nickel to two guys like you or me but to a collector it is worth a fortune. It is priceless. I am going to turn it over to... Turn you back to me, please Henry. I am so sick now. The police are getting many complaints. Look out. I want that G-note. Look out for Jimmy Valentine for he is an old pal of mine. Come on, come on, Jim. Ok, ok, I am all through. Can't do another thing. Look out mamma, look out for her. You can't beat him. Police, mamma, Helen, mother, please take me out. I will settle the indictment. Come on, open the soap duckets. The chimney sweeps. Talk to the sword. Shut up, you got a big mouth! Please help me up, Henry. Max, come over here. French-Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone.
Schultz sank into unconsciousness then. It was 6:40 P.M. He died less than two hours later, without saying anything else.
I wonder if future historians (here I usually say, future Chinese historians) will be able to make any more sense of the contents of the Wikileaks data-dump than students of gangteralia can make of Arthur Flegenheimer's last words? Some think them poetry, some think they hold the key to endless gangland mysteries or even the location of buried treasure... others think they are only the product of a disintegrating mind.
Frankly, I think my little metaphor is nearly perfect. DS