“In the course of the Yemen experience, Walt had grown close to his French, Saudi and British colleagues. The insurgent war in the southeast of North Yemen was of great concern to the Saudi government. The notion that left wing guerrillas led by outright communists might defeat the Salih regime and arrive on Saudi Arabia’s southern border was understandably worrying. The Saudi Ministry of Defense called for a US/Saudi meeting in Riyadh. Lang learned of this from the Saudi attaché in Sanaa, but thought little of the matter until the US attaché office in Jeddah sent their twin engine airplane to bring him to the meeting. The night before this “pow-wow,” there was a pre-meeting meeting at MG Jenkins house in his training unit’s residential compound. After dinner, Jenkins tried to brainstorm the coming proceedings. Lang said little until Jenkins off-handedly asked him how long he would speak. The Saudis had told Jenkins that they wanted Lieutenant Colonel Lang to brief.
“How long would you want me to speak, general?” was the reply. Lang was an accomplished briefer and public orator. He could make the presentation be whatever length Jenkins required.
This answer enraged the air force general. His face grew red and he stammered until they all left.
The next day when the Americans arrived at the Saudi conference room they found that Saudi MG Mardini, the head of their overseas military assistance program was presiding. Lang moved to the US side of the table intending to sit as far away from Jenkins as possible.
General Mardini said, “no, no, come sit with us. We invited you.”
Lang took the indicated seat next to the Saudi military attaché from Sanaa. The man reached over and held Walt’s hand. This was a normal gesture of friendship in Arabia, but the Jenkins’ side of the table squirmed and frowned.
When the usual meaningless talk of eternal amity ended, Mardini stated that al-muqaddam Lang would give the Saudi intelligence brief to begin the meeting.
Someone explained that the Arabic word meant lieutenant colonel. Jenkins face grew red again. Mardini watched him as a snake watches a bird.
“Why?” Jenkins rasped at last.
Mardini smiled. He was clearly enjoying this spectacle. “Our attaché in Sanaa, al-muqqadam al-Obeid is not an intelligence man. He is a… political liaison to the tribes south of Sanaa. He learns much of what he knows of the combat situation from his brother antar. Actually, Lieutenant Colonel al-Obeid suggested that antar brief here for us.
“Antar?” Jenkins asked
Lang pointed to his own chest. “Me,” he said. That’s what they call me.”
“I don’t know, sir. I did not pick the name. It is the name of one of their warrior poets.”
Mardini, indicated with a languid hand motion that he might begin.
Lang spent 30 minutes at the map board, briefing the Yemen insurgency in Arabic. When he finished the Saudi officers asked a few questions.
Mardini said, “mumtaz. That means excellent,” he told Jenkins. “I detect a slight Palestinian accent,” he remarked to Lang.
“Yes, general, qudsi. This is from my first teacher.”
“Jerusalem,” Mardini told Jenkins. “Now do it in English if you please, antar…
At the break, several of Jenkins’ officers followed their boss into the hallway to congratulate Lang.
“I did not think you could be as good at this as people said. You are a professional,” Jenkins said and walked away.
The Arabs could be heard laughing in the conference room. They were pleased to see Jenkins eat dirt. It was obvious that they detested him.
The pattern was set. When Lang returned from the United States as the attaché in Saudi Arabia he knew that Jenkins already hated him.
Lang tried to explain the Saudi mentality to Jenkins. He worked at it for a year in which they shared the same country. At the end of his time in Saudi Arabia, Jenkins told Lang that he should have listened to the advice given. In his last visit to the embassy Jenkins said that he had a hard time believing that when Saudi colleagues told him something they did not really expect that he would think them committed. The realization that this was true had been a great blow to him.”