DR. LOUIS DUPREE

A TRIBUTE TO THE LATE DR. LOUIS DUPREE (Senate – May 02, 1989)

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Mr. HUMPHREY. Mr. President, I was saddened recently to learn of the death of Prof. Louis Dupree, of Duke University. Dr. Dupree was an anthropologist, an educator, and one of the foremost authorities on Afghanistan having spent many years there since his first visit in 1948.

I want to take a few minutes today to discuss the life of this remarkable man.

Where should I begin? I have here his resume. It is some 37 pages long, evidence that Dr. Dupree was a man of considerable accomplishment. To cover the basic facts, Dr. Dupree was born in Greenville, NC, in 1925. He attended the Coast Guard Academy preparatory school, was a cadet-midshipman in the Merchant Marine Reserve, seeing 12 months sea duty in 1943 and 1944. From 1944 to 1947, he served in the U.S. Army as an officer in the parachute infantry of the 11th Airborne Division in the Philippines and Okinawa. In the Philippines, he did reconnaissance behind Japanese lines and was wounded. Dr. Dupree was proud of his military service, and with good reason. His medals included the Mariner’s Medal, Merchant Marine Combat Bar, Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart, and Bronze Star.

Dr. Dupree earned his bachelor’s in 1949, his masters degree in 1953, and his Ph.D. in anthropology in 1955, all from Harvard University. While there he specialized in Asian archeology and ethnology.

From 1959 to 1983, he was an associate with the American universities field staff, a cooperative research and teaching program of 11 institutions. He taught at Pennsylvania State from 1983 to 1985 when he became senior research associate of Islamic and Arabic Development Studies at Duke University. He also held teaching positions at Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He was an adviser on Afghanistan to the Governments of West Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, England, and Australia. In the United States, he was a consultant on Afghan affairs to the State Department, the Peace Corps, the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Agency for International Development, the United Nations.

Over his long and distinguished career, Dr. Dupree wrote 23 books and monographs, 194 articles and chapters in books, 16 encyclopedia chapters, 48 book reviews. The list goes on, and on, and on. This is more than some people could accomplish given several lifetime.

In 1973, Dr. Dupree published his book `Afghanistan,’ A 760-page tome that was nominated for the national book award in history. Sixteen years after it was published by Princeton University Press, `Afghanistan’ is regarded as the standard text on the subject.

But having just listed the litany of his accomplishments, let me hasten to add that Dr. Dupree was more than the sum of his works.

I came to know Dr. Dupree because of my interest in the freedom of the Afghan people. As one of the foremost experts on Afghanistan, Louis Dupree was one of the first experts I met with early in 1985 before setting up the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan. He also was one of the first witnesses before the task force. At our first hearing, Dr. Dupree crystallized the thinking of many of us when he said:

This is, in my opinion, the most important political and moral issue that faces us at this time and is probably the most important since the Second World War. If you look down the road to the year 2010, it is quite possible, if things continue the way they are now, that the Soviet Union will be the major economic and political force, not just in Afghanistan, but in the Persian Gulf area.

Thank goodness the freedom fighters seem to have diverted the Soviets from that geopolitical thrust. Dr. Dupree was one of the principal actors who helped change the course of history in that respect.

Over the years we stayed in close contact. His advice and counsel was always wise and informed. When I recommended an Afghan scholar in residence for the Embassy in Islamabad, I recommended Dr. Dupree who was ultimately selected by the late Ambassador Arnold Raphel.

Dr. Dupree was an historian with a sense of adventure. While some chroniclers of the past might do their work in musty libraries, Louis Dupree charged into the field. For example, in 1961, in order to investigate the British retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad from January l6 to April 13, 1842, during the first Anglo-Afghan War, Dr. Dupree literally retraced the steps of those soldiers: He and an assistant walked the 116 miles in the dead of winter along the same route the soldiers had taken 121 years before.

What a journey. His account—published in 1976—is enthralling. This is how history should be done; getting out and walking through the sands of time. It explains why his opinion on Afghanistan was so valued.

The trip was not without its pitfalls: A leaden bureaucracy stalled their departure from Kabul for 2 days; at one point a Mullah presented them with two live artillery shells that had been buried in the town courtyard, he thought they’d like to have them for the villagers had no use for them.

The Dupree home in Kabul was a remarkable gathering place where all sorts of people would drop in for what Dr. Dupree called the 5 o’clock follies. He described it in an essay in 1980:

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Nancy and I spent about 50 percent of our time outside Kabul. When in Kabul, we let it be known that we did not appreciate being disturbed during the day. We were writing. However, at 5 p.m., the bar opened and all were welcome. And
many came. Some days only two or three, other days 20 to 30. It became a tradition. Even Russians came. So did Pakistanis, Indians, Koreans, Germans, French, Swiss, British, etc. . . . Discussions and arguments of all kinds raged, covering all disciplines.’

What a wonderfully fascinating place that must have been; full of different people, ideas, and language. Again, it explains why his insights were so sought after.

Dr. Dupree’s closest friends talk about his wonderful sense of humor. An example they often give occurred in 1978 when he was taken into custody by the KGB in Kabul on suspicion of being an agent of the CIA. He was subsequently released and suffered no ill effects. He wrote about the experience a few years later and it is a harrowing account of torture and murder that he witnessed before finally being released. But what impressed everyone most about the account is that having survived this experience, he was still able to find something to laugh at with his usual wry sense of the absurd:

[The guards] finally decided to take my books away. No matter, I’d read them all but Edgar Snow’s `The Other Side of the River; Red China Today.’ All the books were returned the next day. `You can have them,’ I was told. `They are all novels.’ I don’t think Edgar Snow would have been pleased . . . No one questioned me that night, but by guard slept fitfully. He woke up every time a new set of screams penetrated our walls. He drummed his fingers loudly and nervously. I don’t think he purposely tried to keep me awake. We didn’t talk. He just looked tired and sad in his baggy brown uniform. His AK-47 sat on top of a filing cabinet within easy reach for either of us. A James Bond I’m not.

A James Bond he wasn’t, but a scholar, a gentleman, a good friend, a devoted husband, and a man of integrity and principle he was.

Let me take a brief moment to acknowledge in this tribute to Dr. Dupree his wife Nancy Hatch Dupree. More than his partner in life, Mrs. Dupree was also his partner in scholarship. Indeed, in 1988 they spent 6 months in Pakistan with the Afghans as joint Fulbright Senior Scholars.

Finally, I am told that Dr. Dupree’s ashes will be returned to Afghanistan, there to be scattered in the land he loved so dearly. A friend and colleague summed him up this way at a memorial service at Duke University:

Few men have had the fortune to so identify themselves with a little known culture and then in crisis to interpret that culture to the world and influence its destiny.

What a splendid compliment. And it is true. Louis Dupree influenced the destiny of Afghanistan, and by curbing Soviet imperialism, he added to the momentum of positive changes now occurring in Moscow.

Dr. Dupree will be missed by many, many, persons, not just in America, but in every corner of the globe.

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