We were cruising at a leisurely nine knots off the west coast of Nassau, Franki and I, the usual bodyguards, and a few models from my last fashion show in Santa Fe, quality time at last. In a day or two, we’d be at Frankie’s newly-acquired home in Cockburn Town, the mansion he bought three months ago but couldn’t visit because of the probation. He expects me to give him ideas for the décor.
The sky was clear and the sea calm like a baby sleeping under a shiny blanket. Frankie was looking after the sword fish chops on the barbecue stand when all of a sudden he took out his .45 Magnum and hissed. “We’ve got company. I looked up and saw the chopper heading right us. Frankie still gets jumpy whenever he sees a chopper overhead. He was now rushing to the double bottom cabinet where I keep two RPGs for emergencies. “These are not the Feds, Frankie. These must be the fellas from WOT. It’s OK. They told me they were coming.
WOT is a recent creation of the Pentagon. Even inside the DoD, not everyone knows it exists. I came up with the name two years ago. It’s short for the War on Terror, but I like the way the acronym sounded, like a question. A good choice, I thought, since this is what this particular outfit is all about. Instead of shooting first and asking questions later, as everyone does, this outfit only asks question. They don’t even carry guns, although I let them fire a few rounds on occasion.
A cable was lowered and the three men landed safely: Tony, Kevin, and Bruce. “We got him at last. Zarqawi is dead, classic operation. We left him the boxes just where you said, traced his movements for a few days, then BOOM BOOM. Kevin and Bruce stood by, smiling that particular smile that leaves the eyes focused, as if you’re aiming at somebody, a Clint Eastwood smile that works best amid cacti that grew nine feet high and a few shallow graves.
The news was supposed to cheer me up. But for some reason it didn’t. How many years have I been involved in that thing called terror now? And yet for me it was never about the killing. The terrorists are scum and we’ll get them somehow. I promise you, we’ll get them. And yet I couldn’t share the joy felt by my men. I felt tired and wished they’d just drink their Champaign and go.
“How about Ontario? I had to mention that to end the cheerfulness. Kevin gave me a quick briefing. A group of young men, most in their teens and twenties, were caught stacking fertilizers and planning major attacks with rudimentary bombs.
It’s always the young, isn’t? We’re not fighting terrorism. We’re fighting the young who get fascinated by it. We’re fighting the fascination. I worked with the young all my life, and with people some of you would call terrorists. And I know how their minds work. I remember how it was in Beirut. Back in the eighties, all you needed to have a militia was rent a flat in the southern suburb, buy fatigues, and offer combat classes. From there on, the pressure was on you. You had to plan attacks just to keep the boys happy. Those who slowed down lost their kids to the outfit next door. It didn’t matter what ideology you were propagating. All the kids wanted were the guns and the boots. They wanted to be part of the action. That’s what we’re up against. My WOT team was supposed to focus on that instead of getting excited over Zarqawi.
I sold guns and couldn’t keep up. It was exactly like selling a new brand of sneakers in the mall, everyone wanted one, and they paid with their lives. “Some of those kids would’ve been older than you had they lived, I told Tommy.
For a man who once sold RPGs from the trunk of a car, I shouldn’t give a damn, but I do. I went into arms dealing because I believed in something. I wanted people to stand up for themselves. And I gave up selling arms the moment this dream fell apart. I haven’t helped Zarqawi and his likes because these were not freedom fighters, not even freedom fighters gone astray. They never held a hope for anyone.
What do you do with the young? That’s the question that Kevin, Tommy, and Bruce, were supposed to answer. My idea was to engage the young, or keep them under surveillance. The young are dangerous, I said on more than one occasion. They outnumber us, chat more on the internet, and travel better on the back of pickup trucks. And they love inflammatory substances. It’s in their hormones.
I have no answer to my own questions. I am tempted to suggest that we gather all the young in one place, Australia perhaps, and only release them after they’ve mastered every piece Bach wrote for the harpsichord. But I know many would find that too drastic. All I am saying is that terror is in the mind, and right now my mind is elsewhere. “So how about this new extension you were talking about? Do you want it to go all the way to the bay, I asked Frankie.