Not that anyone in this taxi plans to shoot Idi Amin; and not that Mad Mike Hoare, the legendary Congo mercenary, bears him a particular vengeance; and certainly not that the government of Tanzania has, in its scrap with Uganda, contacted Mad Mike about hitting Amin. . .
But if it did. . .
"I'd need 300 men," Hoare says, and he's leaning forward now, in the back seat, ruddy wrinkles flexing like a blacksmith's bellows, blue eyes snapping in the morning sunlight.
"You know where I'd get them right here in America by God - Vietnam veterans. There's a lot that have never adjusted. Misfits, you know. Get half black, half white. That would shake the world up, wouldn't it?" he cries.
Earlier, at a restaurant table inside National Airport, Mike Hoare, at 55, ignores the anomie: the salesmen killing time with Bloody Marys at 10 a.m.; the old cigarette smell; the kerosene thunder of the shuttle lifting off, the nowhere agglutination of the 20th century that can be such a bringdown - unless you're Mike Hoare, and then, of course, you have stories to tell.
Hoare led a mercenary group called Five Commando during the Congolese who attacked chanting "mai Mulele" to turn the mercenaries' bullets into water; fought Indians and Ethiopians ("awful soldiers") when the UN sent peacekeeping forces; freed the helpless and killed the foolish, by his telling in "Mercenary," to be published next year by Bantam.
He thereby made his name: Mad Mike. "I like to think it's a term of affection," he says.
Hoare enlisted in the British Army in 1941 and left in 1945 as a major after fighting the Japanese in Burma ("tough babies;) fanatics, of course, but good soldiers; (ohh, the best"); led safaris; spent three years on a 100-ton ketch in the Mediterranean; claims he could have saved Angola from the Communists with 100 men, if somebody'd come up with the money soon enough . . . and oh, the stories . . .
"Rode a motorcycle from Capetown to Cairo one time. Took 13 falls in one day, in the Congo. Anyhow, I was riding along one day when this bulldog came charging out and bit me in the boot, bit me till the teeth touched (and Hoare pinches big, worn trigger finger to thumb to illustrate).
"As luck would have it, I was staying at the guest house of a woman we all called the baroness - had a coffee estate, and a Chris Craft she'd roar about the lake in, her long, flowing hair blowing in the wind . . .spent six months every year in Indochina. . . . Anyhow, I came in and pulled my boot off. It was full of blood. She said: 'What happened?' I told her. And this is the truth now, she knelt down and washed that foot in wine, and when she got through, she couldn't find a towel and she dried it with her hair!"
A pause. If he had reconnoitered the face of his listener and found disbelief, his quick Irish face stays straight, even when he says: "Of course, with the years that story has improved, no doubt, I'm sure it's improved."
Mad Mike: he gives hope. When he isn't living up to his legend he's a chartered accountant, of all things.
"My mother was anxious for me to truth of it," he says, abashed. "But she do something with my lige, that's the was overlooking my pecularities, of course. So I studied, and worked in London. Went to South Africa, to Durban, in 1953 and set up a practice. I knew right away it wasn't for me."
And the maps came out. Hoare has thousands of maps, loves maps, can see the ground itself when he looks at maps, and whenever his wives (he's had two) have seen him opening the maps, they knew he'd be gone for a while. Though he's tried taking them with him.
"In 1963 (after his first mercenary stint in the Congo) I went back into the safari business. I had a camp on an island down the Ngogo River, on Guma lagoon. It was like paradise. I took my wife. Three weeks we lived like Adam and Eve. I'd hunt, fish for bream and tiger fish, she'd garden - in that heat things shoot right up. Animals became tame."
"Suddenly, tragedy struck. (Hoare is a master of adventure's echoey rhetoric.) I cam back one day and found my wife unconscious. One of the natives said: 'She's got the disease. Sometimes they recover.'
"I got her into the cabin cruiser, which was powered by two 18-horse Evinrudes, and started upstream. But the river had fallen and the lagoon had blocked up! We dragged the boat through the papyrus. At the end of 12 hours, we were one yard from clear water! One yard! But one of the natives had collapsed so I had to walk five miles for help, swim the lagoon, which was full of crocodiles, too. . . ."
And his wife was a year recovering from cerebral malaria. "Usually, if they recover they're stark raving mad, but she pulled through."
A year later, his maps a-rustle again, Hoare got himself hired by Moise Tshombe to lead Five Commando against Communist-inspired insurgents for 18 months. The bond went beyond money. Tshombe, in Hoare's estimation, was "a statesman in the world class. It was a Hollywood producer's dream: the dogs of war flying in from South Africa, England, Belgium and Germany, including one incredible recruit, who first request was to wear his Iron Cross.
"A lot of them were homosexuals, but they fulfill a great need - make fine orderlies and cooks, that sort of thing. Can't imagine why you boot them out of your army."
The average age was 32. They had to "love combat," and be "tremendous romantics."
"The mystique is unexplainable - the mystique about soldiering with strong men.It's something more than just soldiering for money. The moment of truth comes at 3 a.m. in a hole. Your buddy's been killed or wounded, and no mney can compensate. . . . But there's an indescribale exhilaration being part of a well-disciplined unit that holds its position. . . ."
Discipline: Since the first Belgian mercenaries hit the Congo in 1961, Hoare had been pounding tables and insisting he is bloody well not one of "Les Affreux," as they came to be known - the frightful ones, "running around in beards, shooting up bars, wearing short shorts with their b . . . hanging out. Never. My men shaved every day, wore uniforms. No raping. I always treated the prisoners well, if they behaved themselves."
(In Paris, Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Randal recalled time spent with Hoare in the Congo. "He was an honorable man. When he was there, his troops behaved. Most of the time he was there. But he had 600 men under him and when he wasn't there they killed a lot of people and hit the bank. Then again, people never pay you what they say they will so you take it out of the land. That's the nature of being a mercenary.") end unit
For a moment, in 1968, Hoare had hopes of raising another mercenary troop for Biafra "but I wanted more money for the men, wanted 500 pounds a month, and the rebels said they didn't have it."
And in 1970, newspaper stories had it, Hoare tried to sell his services to Thailand to fight the Communists.
"I made a trip to Cambodia that year, that's all I'll say about that."
In 1974, after his three-year cruise in the Mediterranean, Hoare, who is proud to have fought only for de jure governments, heard from the Angolan Portuguese. "Colonel Castro e Silva got hold of me: a little fire-eater. He said: 'Mike, 100 men is all we need to save it for our side.' He was bloody well right, too. I said: "All we need is a pay-master. Go talk to the CIA." He did, but they didn't get back to me till too late. They got those poor devils including Gearhart (Daniel Gearhart, who lived in Wheaton). Recruited on Tuesday, Kinshasa on Wednesday, action on Thursday, died on Friday. Gearhart was executed sitting in a wheelchair - something awful about that story."
Mad Mike Hoare is running out of time as the world runs out of chaos.
No need for him in South Africa - "Their army is unassailable." And none in Rhodesia for the foreseeable future. "They have the second best army in the world. The best is the Israelis."
He walks 15 miles a day near his country house outside Durban. His health is fine - he was wounded twice. He plays a little squash with his children.(He has five.) He just finished a stint of advising the makers of a film called "The Wild Geese," which opened Friday in Washington. And he's been touring America to talk about it; amiable, as always, except when one talk-show host kept noting the pun in his name, "and I said: 'I carry a small pistol and if you don't stop it, I'll kill you.'"
Riding downtown in the taxi, Hoare thinks there might be a job in guarding the Benguela Railway for Zaire, and, of course "somebody might be interested in getting rid of Idi Amin."
Still, with all things considered; "I think I'd like to have been born in the time of Sir Francis Drake," he says, as the taxi waits at a light, and the lunchtime bureaucrats haul styrofoam coffee back to their desks.
"Yes, out sailing, robbing the Spaniards, and when you brought the booty back to Queen Elizabeth, you knelt before her and she made you a knight. You were respectable - even though you were a thief."