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Giles Pace: My Prescient Buddy Who Left Us Too Early

by John on 12/18/2015

 

(This 101315_1937_JoinMeinHel1.jpgis another remembrance of my friend Giles Pace who died recently of cancer. Giles was a trusted news source and sounding board on foreign policy and defense issues.  Although I could never quote him directly, his wife Margaret said I could finally reveal all that Giles has done for me and the world.  We are also asking for donations to help Margaret with expenses related to Giles’s death and the home he was remodeling. You can donate here. Giles was a former Green Beret who served in Vietnam.  He used his training to help the refugees in Haiti after the devastating earthquake.  He also risked his life delivering humanitarian aid to Bosnian Muslims in the Balkan War.  This piece is my reminder of how clairvoyant he was over the past two decades; and how much I miss his insight.)

SUNSET BEACH, NC December, 2015

I am blessed with friends and experts who take my phone calls as I try to probe what is happening in this chaotic ever-changing world.

101315_1937_JoinMeinHel4.jpgIn my book, I talk about my ROIL system: Read, Interview, Observe, and Learn.  It helps people become more informed despite media bias.

And The Interview part is where you use your friends who are either experts or connect you with experts to get insight that maybe the media can’t provide.

Giles Pace was always one of mine since 1995 when he first trusted me with his story about bringing aid to the Bosnians who were being attacked by the Serbs in the Balkan War.

But it was September of 2015, 20 years later, and I still relied on Giles insight and experience.

ISIS was rearing its ugly head.  The refugee crisis was bubbling in Syria and Turkey.  The Benghazi hearings were starting.   

I needed my Giles fix.

Usually we would get on the phone or Skype and we would talk for hours about the current war-torn situations. 

He always had a tidbit or fact I was not aware of.

“You know the Kurds are descendants of the Jews,” he told me in early 2015.  I looked it up; he was right.

But becaus101315_1928_JoinMeinHel2.jpge Giles could divulge so much information, I needed to schedule large chunks of time.  I was saving up for a ton of topics, so I put off our sessions until I had ample time.

Then I got an email from him.  Serendipity I thought.  But I was wrong.  The email wasn’t Giles’.  But it was his wife Margaret writing.

I am writing to tell you that on September 10 Giles passed away.  I am sure he would have wanted me to let you know.  He valued you greatly as both a friend and colleague over the many years.  If you have any questions, I would be glad to answer whatever I can.

And she did on the phone – through tears and anguish.  Giles went fast from the cancer.  So, I am sure there was little time for him to enlighten and educate me as we sucked down a few drinks while I took notes.

His death hit me hard.  I’d never again get the insights from a man who served in Vietnam, who was a freedom fighter for different people around the world, who volunteered to help rebuild Haiti and who had some of the greatest insights.

GilesInAfricaOnly a few years before as Syria was crumbling with civil war against President Assad and the vacuum of conflicting jihadists were oozing in, Giles went on my radio show with a possible solution.  It was a two-pronged attack using US Special Forces to defeat both the extremists and Assad while keeping major US forces away.

You can hear the show here.  Giles made me call him Wayne since he wanted to make sure not to politicize his position that could hurt him from getting other overseas gigs.

Giles believed putting large amounts of troops into a war zone led to too many problems.  We’ve seen how our troop presence hurt the recovery of Iraq right after the fall of Saddam.  He would have preferred Special Forces who can help these countries rebuild a society.  He really saw himself as a civil engineer more than a soldier.

Although Giles worked with UN agencies, he was wary of the size of the organization and the lack of financial controls.

I asked him about the reported waste in Haiti after the devastating earthquake.  He was there corroborating this reporting.  And he wrote me this:

So correct……in every move we hit a wall on all levels….it would have been much worse if it were not for some state department types that could think on the run and put their jobs on the line. The same could be said for our military our agencies and our contractors.  The story is huge. The death and mayhem was like a war zone. Now throw in cartels, ruling business clans, Cubans and Hugo’s boys everywhere. Oh yes and some Iranians. Now put tons of money, equipment and supplies like you’re going to war in a third world setting with no plan and put Brazil in charge of everything.  Don’t forget to bring more troops from other third world countries by the plane load that have NO real infrastructure of their own, to fix the Haiti infrastructure. WHAT A JOKE AND PAY EVERYBODY. The UN made big money building UN battle camps complete with all the goodies…….. NGO’s and camp followers that make a living off of death and much more.

Still, I know he loved the work knowing he was helping some of the people during their misery.

Another time I understood Giles’ ability to see ahead what no one else saw, came in April, 2006.  I was in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  I was on a cruise of the eastern Mediterranean.  Dubrovnik is a beautiful, old, walled city.  During the Bosnian War, it had been bombarded by Serbian missiles and rockets.  You can still see the pothole damage in some of the buildings.

By the time I arrived on this cruise, Dubrovnik was booming with tourists.  As I walked around, I began to realize that the tourists were all from Western Europe: France, England, Italy, and Spain.  And then I heard Giles’ voice in my mind from 1995 when I interviewed him about the war that was allegedly instigated by the Serbs wanting the former Yugoslavia as its homeland kicking out Bosnian Muslims and Christian Croatians.

“This was all started by Europe,” he told me.  “This is all because of the European Union.  It’s part of their expansion.”

Now, Giles was not saying that Western Europe directly sparked the fighting.  But he said the Europeans understood that after the death of Tito, nationalistic fervor would spur the Serbs, backed by Russian interests.  And he said Europe knew that the US would come to the aid of Europe to create peace and secure the area for Europe.

“Croatia is their Florida,” he said.  And places like Split and Dubrovnik are a vacationers’ paradise.

He also said the Balkans are loaded with minerals for business.

In 2013, Croatia became an official member of the EU.

After I left news anchoring and started my TV hosting career, I tried my hand at screenwriting.  Remember, I was a literature major in college and then I had spent time understanding the intricacies of story structure.  All I needed was the content.

That’s where Giles came in.  He offered me stories that he couldn’t tell for news consumption but would be perfect for cinematic non-fiction.

The screenplay was generally about his journey helping, whom he called, the “farmers of Bosnia” to fend off the militaristic Serbs.  In the midst of his efforts, he uncovers a plot by Serb nationals to harvest organs from captured and murdered Bosnians to sell on the black market.

“It was happening all over and no one was talking about it,” he told me.  Apparently all sides were doing it.

101515_1806_Remembering2.jpgWorking with Giles in this other medium was revealing.  One, he was incredibly funny as you see him mugging for the camera here.  He had a great eye for cinematic detail. 

He told me the story of working for Rhodesian farmers who were being attacked by snipers in the nearby hills.  The rebels would find hiding places and fire at the farmers at night.  During the day, they would leave for fear of being spotted.

So, during the day, Giles said he would scout the hills for the sniper’s locations.  One day, as he walked up with a rifle in hand, he spotted a black leopard walking down toward him.

Giles was conflicted.  “I didn’t want to shoot.  I could give my position away if the rebels were up there.  But I also didn’t want to kill this incredible animal.”

He said the animal stopped and looked at him.  “There was respect from both of us,” Giles recalled.

He also said there was room on the path for both of them to walk past each other.  Giles said he pointed his gun at the leopard and they slowly waltzed around each other as Giles ascended up the hill and the leopard went down.

Great story.  Great guy.  Great loss.

(Check out the Go Fund Me campaign to help Giles’ widow Margaret.  Thank you.)

 

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