Three at the Center of Rage
By Martin J. Ryan
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction
One of my three protagonists, Yusuf (Joe) Masood (from Queens, NY), is on leave from terror training, long enough to visit his ailing grandmother in Islamabad; but she has been removed to Lahore for medical treatment, and he is now alone in her house where he is visited by a stranger, Major Nazir Hussain, a man he is in no mood to trust.
Having been told by the Major of his connection to the CIA, Yusuf says, “It spooks me and I don’t get it.”
“Yes, of course, let me educate so we can move on. What you see is all a game of angled mirrors. Reflections of reflections. From the outside one is never quite sure of what one is looking at. The CIA and their contractors are all over Pakistan. They may be gathering intelligence on the ground, or murdering people. Or they may be providing weapons to enemy insurgents to keep the crisis level raised, to rationalize a U.S. presence. If one is uncovered, he retreats to the embassy. And whatever it is he has been doing, it is simply portrayed as executing diplomatic business.
“Here, there are public outcries and official indignation, but we in Pakistan are deep in the game. For instance, if we know of an imminent American missile strike, we in the ISI often alert the militants beforehand. We sometimes provide funding and sanctuary to the Taliban. I am secular, like you, but many in the military and in ISI are fundamentalists. In either case it often comes down to pragmatism and money.”
Yusuf recalls the intercept, and waving on, of the Vice and Virtue men by the Pak military, but says nothing.
“Some days, under threat of a cutback of dollars from the U.S. we attack the Taliban and kill them. Then the U.S. military bribes the Taliban in dollars to prevent the Taliban, or bandits of every stripe, from attacking their convoys. On other days they kill each other, with the Taliban shooting down American aircraft with Rockets the U.S. gave to them to fight the Soviets. Sometimes, to please the U.S. president, we invade Taliban territory; but to please the Taliban we shoot at empty buildings. Still, the ungrateful Taliban we created and supported will often attack our government and military installations and kill hundreds.
“What this all comes down to, Yusuf, is the economy of Pakistan would collapse without U.S. dollars. The game is this: by keeping the Taliban alive we continue to receive billions in aid. Thus, when we must attack the Taliban, we pay a bribe to the Mujahid for the collateral damage, with American money. Fewer people are killed that way. American businessmen understand this. They bribe their congressmen to not shoot them down. As you can see, one can explain without seeming to make sense. I think we must get past this now. Eh?”
Without a preamble and flat out serious: “I know who kidnapped your brother. A group of five, actually.” His words as delivered are cold enough in Yusuf’s opinion, to chill the air.