I never liked our President during the war. Too much pompous cowboy bullshit, too much grandstanding. And the way we hung the bad intelligence rap on the British was unprofessional. If you ask a man to tell you it’s raining, whether it is or it isn’t, you shouldn’t spit in his eye when he says there are clouds in the sky.
The only thing the man ever had I respected was balls. When he believed something was right, he didn’t back away. He swore, up and down, that America wouldn’t abandon the Iraqi people. I didn’t agree with us going, but I respected the man’s tenacity at not leaving before we put things right.
Only he let up. He got a spanking in the election, and suddenly all his bravery and dedication evaporated. America set its timetable, and started talking about Iraqis taking control of their own situation. We started blaming them for not controlling the insurgents, and beat the drums of civil war until even the Iraqis believed it was happening.
I was a company man in those days. Before the civil war I worked counterintelligence, feeding the insurgents bad intel and filtering good information back to Washington. On good days I stopped an enemy intelligence leak, and while there weren't many good days, the hope of another got you through all the others.
Then troop levels started to decline. The commanders that protested were replaced with ones that towed the line. The situation continued to deteriorate as an awkward, junior army floundered without enough support. And then one day the command came. Our personnel stood down and fell back in anticipation of a full withdrawal.
I stayed on, as I wasn’t military personnel and the order didn’t pertain to me. I did what I could to keep the government afloat. But it was a losing enterprise, and every step we made cost us three in retreat. I’d have probably been killed soon if another company man hadn’t come to fetch me, and made it a matter of life and livelihood.
I spent the remainder of my career jockeying a desk and a bottle of scotch- although admittedly with uneven savor. I’d just spent enough days retired to know I’d never like it when the same company man approached me. The civil war we’d been reporting actually erupted days after I left, and the fledgling government proved itself unequal to the massive task we’d engineered for it. The country became a haven for monsters and bastards, hidden behind a faux reverence for Allah. It spat mutants and murderers into the surrounding countries, crippling the entire region. And finally, someone was willing to do something.
I was on the next flight out of the country. The operation took time to plan, but on D-1 my handler, and I was being handled very carefully, gave me a thousand dollars to throw myself a last hurrah.
The girl didn’t look older than fifteen, which was at least five years older than the first one they sent to my room. Her papers claimed she was older, and after the trouble I’d caused sending the last girl back, I was scarcely in the mood to argue. “Peace be upon you,” she said. “And you,” I replied as she entered. Her career was considered a sin, an extension of adultery, but no society had ever managed to stop it, because no one can stamp out the desperation that fuels it.
She told me her name was Aisha, which seemed appropriate, even if it wwas a lie. She tried to awkwardly engage me in conversation, but her English and my Arabic were stilted and harsh. We removed one another’s hijab, and lastly her khurūr fell away from her bosom. She restrained her eyes, and covered her nakedness. I kissed her. A beat passed where I was alone, and then she kissed back. I kissed down the contours of her body, and eased her to the bed as I moved to my knees, because I believe in the importance of mutual freedom and pleasure. In return she licked from my navel to my knees.
She fell back against the mattress, piercing me with dark eyes. I surveyed the gentle slope of her and noticed the silhouette the light cast beside her. I lowered myself over her, surrounding her with myself, gradually moving in, closer. She tensed at the electric tingle as our skin almost touched, everywhere, and I steeled myself against resistance, but she yielded immediately at contact with me.
Through moans and whispers, she explained the only contraceptive approved by the Prophet, and the only acknowledged by her religion, was the oldest. “Please,” she said, “not in me.” I tried to take her minor rejection in stride, and withdrew, but too soon. I moaned, and thrashed, and pretended to be sated. She claimed she came, because whores always do. I told her the same, because that’s what men do.
I gave her more than she asked for, because she pretended not to be disgusted by my hairy stomach. She cleaned herself, dressed, then left. I spent the night wandering the city. It’s cries were sharper, more shrill and less reserved, no longer given liberty to be coy.
When the sun rose, I returned to my room. The city’s new masters ruled her from a tower at the heart of a madrasah, a pack of vipers hidden in the heart of a heron’s nest. I was skilled enough to breech their outer defenses, and penetrate the tower. I knew better than anyone the chance of completing the mission and leaving alive. Under my vest I had wired a layer of plastique to my pacemaker.
I had quit smoking when I quit this country, and I ground out one last cigarette on the bottom of my shoe, and I knew I never should have pulled out.