Chapter 10: Interrogation
Marched for hours on bloodied bare feet,
Mac and his band are locked in an old stone hut.
Alone in a barren landscape devoid of life,
It's like some old abandoned ghost town -
Doors off hinges, flapping wooden shutters -
Home to snakes and desperate men.
The boys try to act tough, while
Mac, the leader, keeps his cool. He
Won't give in to these deceitful demons -
Fighters with no uniforms, no honor,
Not real soldiers who respect the rules of war,
They heap dishonor on the fighting man's tradition.
Once inside, hands bound, they're placed against a wall.
One Fedayeen guard remains inside, the others leave.
Stepping outside they argue in Arabic, but
Their sentiments need no translation,
They plan to kill us, Mac thinks to himself,
And swallows thickly.
Two men return inside, force Charles to his feet.
"Name, rank and serial number, that's all," Mac instructs.
"Shut up, you," a Fedayeen with twisted nose kicks Mac
Hard enough to make his point: harder kicks are coming.
Charles gets up meekly, his crotch is wet.
He's pissed himself in fear, Mac looks away.
The other boys tremble like frightened kids,
No video game, this is the real thing, real blood.
Twisted nose grabs Charles by the collar,
And spouts orders needing no translation.
Hands bound, Charles looks at the others,
Searching for support or the promise of freedom.
Not good at school, Charles enlisted at 18,
Son of Miriam and Walter Charles of Ames Iowa,
He joined up in hopes of starting a career
Different than his dad's, an insurance salesman,
Who though a thoughtful father, never made a plan
To write his only son a term life policy.
Into the growing desert dark, they trudge,
The muzzle of an M-16 in his back,
Charles is shoved to his destination. The
Fedayeen know the spot, been here before,
No need for maps in one's backyard, traversed
Since childhood on foot or camel's back.
"OK, stop," the voice is Gold Tooth, "Turn around."
Charles complies, unsure of what's to come.
"Here, have some water," Gold Tooth gestures to another,
And a canteen's brought to Charles's upturned face.
He opens wide in anticipation, his lips chapped and dry.
Sand pours into his mouth and down his throat.
Charles gags and chokes. Fedayeen laugh.
Falling to his knees he vomits moist sand
Then choking, red-faced, looks up confused.
The savage men enjoy the cruel game,
Offer Charles the canteen again, then shout insults.
The more he suffers the greater their delight.
Gold Tooth nods to another, white scar across his cheek,
Who walks behind young Charles, grabs his hair,
Pulls his head back, draws a long sharp blade
And swiftly arcs the knife across his throat.
Red blood cascades down Charles' hairless chest
And blackness envelops his mind and limp body.
One by one Mac's boys are taken,
Gold Tooth says, "Interrogation," but none return.
Siever, son of Nick and Barbara Siever of Mt. Eden, TX
Football star, quick halfback high school player
Whose first kiss was Ellen Beskind in the gym last year-
Bleeds swiftly into the parched earth.
Holcomb, who's red hair and boyish charm are legend
In his home town of Newburgh, New York,
Is pushed roughly out the door by White-scar,
Who grinning, casts a glance at Mac and winks.
Voices move off across the sands, then silence
As Holcomb breathes his last, strangled with wire.
Finally Evert, only son of Ruth Evert.
Born poor into the projects of Detroit,
He held his own against the local gangs,
Resisted drugs and easy money, did well in school.
Ruth's handsome son in uniform dies slowly, suffocated
By gas soaked rags wrapped 'round his head.
Mac sits alone in the stone shed, waiting.
Gold Tooth enters, sits down facing him.
"Where are my boys," Mac asks, not friendly.
"Moved on," Gold Tooth says, "Interrogation."
"If they're harmed you'll pay, that's a promise!" Mac hisses,
"Let me talk to them, to say goodbye at least."
"They will be fine," Gold Tooth lies smoothly,
"It's you I want to talk to," his diction has improved. Mac
Leans back against the cold stone wall behind him.
"Why are you here?" asks Gold Tooth. "Why are you in Iraq?"
"My mission?" says, Mac, "You know I'll tell you nothing.
I'm no young boy you can frighten."
"I don't care about specifics," Gold Tooth continues,
"Your orders mean nothing. I'm asking you, McClellan
Why are you here, invading my land and killing my people,
What do you want?" He motions to Crooked-nose at the door,
Who holds a small bronze tray with tea pot and glasses,
Sets it down before Gold Tooth and leaves.
Gold Tooth leans around Mac and cuts his bonds.
Mac briefly courts a desperate move, then reconsiders,
He might be killed; if the boys still live they'll need him.
Gold Tooth hands him a steaming glass,
Mac takes it, brings it to his lips and smells the tea,
Takes a small sip - it soothes his parched tongue.
"Drink, McClellan, then we'll talk,"
Gold Tooth looks like a kindly uncle
Beaming at his favorite nephew.
Mac swallows, and Gold Tooth resumes his talking,
"Answer my question," he directs, used to giving orders,
"Why are you here, what's the point?"
"Saddam's evil and making weapons of mass destruction,"
Mac recites it just like he's been told:
"We're here to liberate you and the Iraqi people,
Long held in the grip of a cruel dictator
Who kills without a second thought
And invades neighbors when it suits him."
It rolls off his tongue as easy as the still warm tea.
Proud of his recitation, he has learned well.
He knows it is unlikely that Gold Tooth
Will embrace his U.S. military logic,
Admit that Mac is right, give Mac a warm embrace
Welcome him as savior and not enemy.
Gold Tooth stares, then breaks up.
Laughter bounces off the old stone walls,
Body rocks in the dust, head shakes side to side.
"How sweet and oh so simple, you Americans.
Do you believe your own PR? I'll
Tell you how it really is; you listen.
"You in the West live an unbalanced life,
I know, because I lived there as a teen. My
Father worked for Exxon, oil man like George Bush, Jr.
His knowledge of Iraqi oil fields extensive, he
Used his knowledge to make a small fortune.
When I was 15, he was killed by Saddam for his money.
"I might have been killed too, halfway I did expect it,
Instead I was adopted by a family near the Tigris.
Inducted by the Fedayeen, raised to be a fighter,
I was trained in close combat and assassination.
Instructed in the arts of torture, taught classes in Quran
I came to fully understand Islam's holy mission.
"The West's deluded, thinks that history has ended,
That capitalism is the final phase of social evolution,
And the only work left to do is to refine it.
That means exporting values, economics and culture
To all the other countries of the world,
For all time to come."
He pours more tea, lukewarm but wet, Mac drinks.
Gold Tooth continues, enjoying his captive audience.
"Of course, this is all wrong. Just read Sayyed Qutb,
Egyptian scholar of the 30's, he described the problem,
Diagnosed the illness and prescribed the only cure:
The holy cleansing of the world, the destruction of the West.
"Jews, Christians, you got it only half right,
Choosing from the scripture those parts which
Fit your definition of the good and righteous life, but
In the end divorcing man from nature, man from God!
You divide the world in two, one part religious, one political,
And make law to keep them separate!
"The West has turned the world upside down,
Man and his laws at the top, God at the bottom.
The West has veiled its immorality
Behind a false set of beliefs,
Your view of good and evil is distorted,
Your moral compass upside down, inverted."
Mac does not listen to the lecture.
He thinks only of his lost boys. Gold Tooth
Looks at Mac and sees he is distracted.
He's told Mac the holy truth to no avail.
He motions to Crooked-Nose at the door,
Mac, silent in his thoughts, is led outside.
By now the sun has set, bright stars dot the heavens.
Mac looks up and sees lights moving,
A formation of F-22s, headed toward Baghdad.
He hopes night-vision flyers will look down,
Can pluck him from these madmen, lift him up -
With that last thought Mac slumps, stabbed through the heart.
Gold Tooth, White-scar and Crooked-nose
Gather belongings and cover the dead. Kicking
Rocks and sand over five still bodies, none stop to pray.
No words spoken, no tears shed, they leave.
Overhead the thunder of jets rolls down
Upon the quiet desert sands.