WASHINGTON, DC—Chad Halpern, U.S. Ambassador to the West African nation of Bulungi since 1994, has been asked to return to Washington to face allegations that the country does not exist.
"I want to stress that nothing has been substantiated as of yet," President Clinton told reporters at a press conference Monday. "But there is a possibility that Ambassador Halpern made the country up."
According to Clinton, suspicions first arose last month when Ghanaian prime minister Kwame Okoye paid an official visit to the U.S. When Secretary of State Warren Christopher asked Okoye for an update on the fighting between the Ghanaian army and Bulungi's Mukka-Lukka rebels during a formal state dinner, Okoye replied, "I am sorry—I do not understand of what you speak."
Christopher then explained to Okoye that Ambassador Halpern had recently informed him that fighting between the two rival nations had reached a breaking point, with Ghana's army advancing all the way to the Bulungian capital of Yabba-Dabba.
"After dinner that night," Clinton said, "Secretary Christopher and I made the decision to look Bulungi up in an atlas. Unfortunately, we were unable to find it. We also looked for it in a large dictionary, under several different spellings, but again it was without success."
Ambassador Halpern, 24, of Laguna Beach, CA, was appointed to his post by President Clinton after a chance meeting at a Laguna Beach McDonald's where Halpern was working at the time. After discussing Bulungian politics with Halpern for more than two hours, Clinton was impressed enough to name him ambassador.
"Mr. Halpern is a charismatic and persuasive young man," Clinton said two years ago at a ceremony celebrating the appointment. "I am confident that with his great expertise, the U.S. can reestablish strong relations with Bulungi and help the nation move beyond all the problems that plagued it in the past, such as last year's brutal tribal war between the Dodos and the Mukka-Lukkas, and the Great Bongo Drought of 1994."
Pending further investigation, Halpern's $14,500 monthly salary, which for the past two years has been sent to his girlfriend in Tahiti, has been suspended. Incidentally, for the past two years, Halpern's girlfriend's phone line in Tahiti has also been serving as a switchboard for routing calls between Halpern and Washington, a situation the ambassador explained was necessary because "the phones here in Bulungi are just all fucked up."
These conversations, which occurred "about once every month," were "brief but informative," according to Christopher. Despite suspicions surrounding Halpern, Christopher praised the ambassador, saying he has done "an excellent job monitoring a period in Bulungian history marked by often intense sectional surfing competitions." Christopher did not, however, deny that several of the calls were characterized by giggling.
Christopher added that while Halpern told him getting a ticket for a flight to Washington was "a bitch," the ambassador assured him he would be on the next available plane departing from Bulungi's Primo-Ganja Airport.