A TRIBUTE TO THE LATE DR. LOUIS DUPREE (Senate - May 02, 1989)
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
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
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
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
But having just listed the litany of his accomplishments,
let me hasten to add that Dr. Dupree was more than the sum of
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
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
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:
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
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
Dr. Dupree will be missed by many, many, persons, not just
in America, but in every corner of the globe.