The Owl and the Hawk: An End to Terrorism by John Errett - HTML preview
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Recognition is due LEE RIZZUTO, president, chairman and sole owner of Conair Corporation, as the model for the main character of this book, ALAN DAVIS. I’ve known Lee all my life and have seen him transform an idea into an enormous commercial enterprise through effort, ingenuity and an inbred charity toward his fellow man. It has been my extreme good fortune to have worked with and for him. Some other wonderful people, without whom this book might not have been written, and to whom I owe my most sincere thanks are:
MARK GRAHAM COMMUNICATIONS, NICK ZELINGER, LINDA COLLINS,
JOHN FREILER, REGINA HAMNER, SABRINA DIEGUEZ, TONY DINATALE, AL
VILLALOBOS, MATT ERRETT, RUTH HACKETT, LUKE ERRETT, KERRY KING
AND PAULA CONWAY, AND NICOLE ERRETT
1 - ROAD TO KANDAHAR
ALAN DAVIS STEADIED the business end of a Soviet SVD Dragunov sniper rifle from a roof ledge overlooking the home of Mohammed Omar al-Fayez. Peering through the crosshairs of his telescopic sight, every detail of al-Fayez’s neat and protected garden came into view. The crisp morning breeze from the north, the speed of which he would al ow for, reminded him of hunts in the Canadian Rockies. Alan watched without emotion as the target touched his forehead to the prayer rug at the heart of the garden, signaling the completion of his midday prayer.
No, Alan thought. That was a lie. There was emotion, enough for a lifetime. The man he was about to kil was the worst kind of terrorist, and, like al terrorists, he was the ultimate coward. The number of innocent lives he had destroyed was worthy of a hundred death sentences. But the bul et in the chamber of the Dragunov this day was to avenge Dan Mil ar, Alan’s best friend. Mohammed Omar al-Fayez had sent Dan to his death, and Alan was about to return the favor. So, yes, there was emotion, a firestorm of emotion, but Alan had pushed it aside for the moment. Control ing his emotion was an art form he had long ago perfected with the untimely deaths of his mother and father. A man couldn’t col apse from adversity and then rise to manage a multibil ion dol ar empire without such skil s.
Alan watched as Al-Fayez came to his feet. The terrorist spent a moment gazing at the nearby mountains looming high above the city of Kandahar, a view he took special pleasure in and one he would never again enjoy. Al-Fayez had chosen the house because it afforded him privacy, and with the wal ed-in garden, a measure of protection. Privacy and protection but hardly the shield he would shortly need as Alan began the gentle, steady squeeze of the trigger so necessary for accuracy at such distances, in this case, 185 yards exactly. He could barely hear the discharge from the sound-suppressor-equipped rifle, but the recoil assured him the shot was off. More assuring stil was the sight of Mohammed Omar al-Fayez’s head exploding, sending a spray of blood and brain al over the surrounding garden as his lifeless torso col apsed onto the prayer rug. What could be more fitting, Alan thought. Dying on the very rug where the hypocrisy of his existence had been the strongest, twisting the words of the Qur’an to fit his own malevolent purpose.
Alan broke down the rifle. He didn’t rush. When he was done, he came to his feet. As he made his way to the roof ladder, he hoped without much confidence that al-Fayez’s last prayers had been for forgiveness.
ALAN’S ESCAPE AND ultimate extraction from Afghanistan had been wel planned by his organization. He wore a burqa that covered his athletic frame from head to foot. He had spent hours practicing a more feminine gait, stooping slightly and bending his knees.
The ladder led to an al ey crowded with trash and smel ing of garbage. This al ey joined and intersected many other al eys, forming an intricate maze of centuriesold stone wal s and a hundred different places to bury the rifle parts. He did this without haste, hiding the bar-rel in one overflowing refuse container, the stock in another, and the sight in a burning trash barrel.
The end of the maze led to a smal town square ringed by vendors displaying their wares to noontime shoppers, most wearing burqas not unlike Alan’s. The glint of the morning sun reflecting off copper cook-ware and the aroma of freshly baked breads confirmed that he was in the designated square. One stal sold bolts of muslin. Another overflowed with salt-fired pottery. A third offered vegetables and fresh fruit.
Alan had studied his escape route for hours using photos and video footage taken by his OWL. The car would be waiting for him in a residential neighborhood two blocks away. Just keep moving, he told him-self. Don’t gloat, don’t celebrate, and don’t deviate from the plan even to check your reflection in the dirty glass of the shop on the corner.
He made his way across the square, squinting through the garment’s eye screen. It was not easy. Should have practiced more, he thought. At that exact moment, a smal child shot out from behind his mother’s bil owing tunic and crashed into Alan’s legs. The col ision was just enough to cause Alan to catch a toe on the hem of his burqa, and this tiny break in his stride caused him to lose his balance and tumble onto the uneven cobblestones, his legs splayed and the burqa up to his waist. A crowd gathered, and two men rushed over. They saw the rip in his jogging pants, and they saw legs that could only belong to a man. A woman gasped. One of the men threw up his hands, and a ripple of confused chatter swept through the crowd.
Alan tried to right himself, but he was too late. The commotion had drawn the interest of two passing policemen. One questioned the onlookers––al of whom had differing versions of the incident––the other questioned Alan. Alan didn’t understand a word the man was saying. His training had included a crash course in Pashto but hardly enough to field the questions of an ever more curious policeman, especial y one who was suspicious enough to draw his sidearm.
“I’m an American,”Alan protested. “American. I can explain. Believe me.”
Alan scrambled to his feet removing the burqa as he did. This was a mistake. The crowd expel ed a unified gasp when they saw Alan’s face. The second policeman nervously drew his gun, and the alarm bel s in Alan’s head told him this was not the time to cause a scene. Dying on the streets of Kandahar was not part of the plan. With any luck, his OWL was close by and would take some sort of action.
When the police took hold of his arm and began leading him away, Alan didn’t resist. Instead, he tried explaining again. “I’m an American. I am here to help.”
The police responded by pul ing Alan’s wrists behind his back and securing them in a strange looking pair of handcuffs. They were joined by a third and a fourth policeman, and the group dragged him unceremoniously in the direction of a smal , one-story building that looked more like a broken-down schoolhouse than a police station. The minute the door opened, Alan was overwhelmed by the smel of decay and dust. Something about the smel triggered a wave of fear, as if he had walked in on a scene where law and order were whimsical terms without merit.
The sparse array of dilapidated furniture did nothing for Alan’s confidence. A metal desk, five folding chairs, an uninviting couch were only slightly less out of place than the hobbled wooden table with the empty coffee pot and a stack of stained cracked cups. The wal s were adorned with a single picture of Hamid Karzai. Alan didn’t know whether to take this as a good sign or not. He knew then that an immediate rescue was unlikely at best.
In one corner stood a makeshift jail cel constructed of chain link fencing, a vertical steel frame, and a hinged door. One of the police-men fumbled with a massive padlock, and another used a sharp word and the barrel of his gun to shove Alan inside. The six by six cel contained a wobbly wooden stool, a bucket, and nothing else.
Alan stood with his hands on the bars listening to the crowd that fol owed him to the jail. He watched one of his captors trundle over to the table and raise the receiver from an antiquated wal phone. He dialed a number, mumbled a couple of incomprehensible words, and hung up just as abruptly.
Half an hour later, a bearded man with a purple scar tinseling the side of his face arrived. He walked in wearing khaki-colored pants, a matching shirt, and mid calf boots heavy with dust. He appeared unarmed. The two bearded men shadowing him carried AK-47s and looked as if they belonged in a museum. Alan wasn’t laughing.
When the scar-faced man spoke, it was to the policemen, and they responded as if an indisputable order had been given them. As one of them grappled with the padlock, Alan sprang forward and asked, “Do you speak English? My name is Alan Davis. I’m an American. There’s been a mistake. Do you speak English, please?”
The question went unanswered.
THEY LED ALAN outside to the street. Parked at the curb was an old, dustcovered Chevrolet sedan that looked as if it were held together by duct tape and blind faith. He was forced into the rear seat next to the man with the scar.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
The man didn’t answer. Instead he produced a strip of black material that he wound tightly around Alan’s head, tying off a makeshift blindfold. When the car peeled away from the curb, Alan had enough foresight to listen to the sound the tires made when the road turned from asphalt to dirt, to anticipate their change of speed, and to count the seconds off in his head.
Twenty minutes, he reckoned when the car came to an abrupt stop. He couldn’t be too far from the center of Kandahar. The door swung open. A new set of hands pul ed him roughly from the car, up a single step onto a wood porch, and into another building that smel ed of cat urine. His blindfold was removed, revealing a naked, windowless room with a single wooden table, four mismatched chairs, and the dim glow of an incandescent bulb hanging from the ceiling. A hand forced him to sit.
There were six bearded men in the room, each looking at their captive with suspicion, arrogance, and an air of inevitability. The fourth man scared Alan more than anything.
He tried again. “Does anyone speak English?” No answer. “Where have you taken me?” Again no answer. “I am an American friend.”
The man with the scar was also the tal est of this group––surely a coincidence. He stepped forward making no attempt at formality or introduction. He simply said, “Stand. Remove your clothes,” in accented but fluent English.
“Thank heavens someone here speaks English.” The questions flew out of Alan’s mouth. “Who are you? What is this place? Why have I been taken here?
I’m an American. My name is Davis. I am a friend.”
“Silence! Your questions wil be answered in good time, Mr. Davis. Now please undress and give me whatever papers you carry. We’re anxious to determine why an American, as you claim yourself to be, would be dressed as a woman on the streets of Kandahar. To say it is suspicious would be an understatement. I’m sure you agree.”
“I’m here in Afghanistan representing several American charities. My only motivation in dressing this way was to study the needs of your people without making them feel uncomfortable. My wife is a Muslim. She is very active in Muslim affairs, and we both feel strongly about the charities we support. Please believe––”
“Be silent,” the man snapped. “Remove your clothes, or we wil remove them for you. The choice is yours.”
Alan studied the stoic, unreadable faces of the men staring back at him. Unless he was mistaken, the only thing they were not indifferent to was the man giving the orders, and he realized they would have no qualms about doing exactly what they were told. If it meant kil ing Alan, they were ready to do it gladly and without the slightest remorse. There was no law that could save him, no sense of humanity to stil their hands. Resistance was futile. Dying was not the answer. Living to fight another day was.
Alan stripped off his T-shirt, jogging pants, and underwear. He stood naked before them and realized the only embarrassment was his own.
“And so it appears you are of the masculine persuasion,” said the bearded man. He was being neither facetious nor funny. “Explain your-self. Are you some sort of sexual deviant? Do you prefer the company of men? Are you attracted to children?”
Alan may have been tempted to laugh had the al egations not been so serious. And here in a world where Sharia law ruled, serious and deadly were often the same thing.
“No, of course not,” he said, hoping they couldn’t sense the fear in his voice. “I was wearing the burqa so I wouldn’t stand out as a Westerner. I thought it would enable me to move around Kandahar more freely. That’s al .”
“So you say. We shal see. Your papers please.” The tal man stood erect, his dark brown eyes fixed on the American as he clumsily searched through the pockets of his jogging pants. Alan produced a wal et and a passport and pressed them into his captor’s hand.
The man took a seat beneath the room’s only light. He studied the contents of the passport like a man reading a difficult poem and then scanned the contents of Alan’s wal et.
Alan felt humiliated. He felt like the latest exhibit at the zoo. He resisted the urge to cover himself and kept his arms at his side. It may have been a meaningless gesture, but he did it anyway.
“Your name?” the man asked at last.
“And your profession?”
“I’m the president of Davis Industries. We’re in the energy business. Our headquarters office is in New York City. I’m not here on business; I’m here on behalf of my wife and the charitable organizations she represents.”
“What is your wife’s name?” The tal man raised his eyebrows, his curiosity obviously piqued.
“Aludra Davis. When we married she adopted my family name, Davis. Her maiden name was Mil ar. Her mother was Lebanese and her father American. She is known by her nickname, Aly.” Alan said, chastising him-self for using Aly’s Muslim background and knowing he had no choice. “Now please, tel me who are you? You’re not the local authorities, are you?”
The tal man took a deep breath and looked pensively above Alan’s head.
“We are the legal government of Afghanistan. We are the Islamic Republic known to you as the Taliban.” He articulated this last word proudly, knowing the emotional reaction it elicited from most Americans. “And make no mistake about it, Mr.Alan Davis; we are at war with Americans and al other infidels everywhere.”
They took Alan’s clothes and left him with a sirwal, a pair of Al adin-like pantaloons and a dirty mildewed shirt. No tel ing where they had been or who had worn them. Alan put them on and tried not to think about it. He had far bigger concerns.
The two guards who had been assigned to watch him were ominous looking. The weapons they carried could fire sixty rounds a second in anyone’s hands. They stared at him, but he no longer felt like a zoo specimen. He felt like a man on the verge of panic, and panic was his worst enemy.
He huddled in a corner on the cold floor, took one deep breath after another, and began to think. His most pressing concern was real y his only concern: how in hel was he going to get out of here alive?
Alan knew the nearest sure place of safety was the coalition military base outside of Kandahar. His instincts told him he was now northwest of there by twenty minutes in a car that probably topped out at 40 mph. A rough calculation told him safety lay 13 miles to the southeast. He couldn’t trust the police, and he had no weapon. The Taliban were apparently everywhere and wel armed. He couldn’t bribe the guards since they didn’t understand a word of English. And even if they did, he didn’t have a dime to his name. As a last resort, he could always arrange a substantial ransom, but ransom was no guarantee of freedom. These were not honorable men he was dealing with; this was the Taliban. The bearded man had just said it. “We are at war.”
It was not a pretty picture, and Alan knew it.
He also realized that the assassination of Mohammed Omar al-Fayez would soon be front-page news, and he could not afford to be associated with that even remotely. It wasn’t likely the rifle would ever be found, and even if it was, there was no way the authorities could link a Russian-made Dragunov to him. How could they? If the Russians had left the Afghan people one thing when they retreated from their il -fated occupation, it was stockpiles of weapons that numbered in the tens of thousands.
Alan flinched when the hut door suddenly flew open. The man who hurried in thrust a bowl of some pasty substance in his face. It had the consistency and color of hummus, but not the taste. The stale crust of bread was hardly more edible, but when Alan saw the guards eating the same fare, he forced himself to swal ow every bite. He was offered a drink from a water skin, but the putrid taste was even fouler than the food.
The English-speaking man returned just after noon, if Alan judged the time correctly. He took a seat, his companions did not.
The tal man’s first words were, “How do you intend to repay Al ah for stealing the identity of another, solely for the purpose of deception?”
“I stole nothing, certainly not anyone’s identity,” Alan said, knowing how severely Sharia law dealt with theft of any kind. “I am who I say I am. Alan Davis. Al ow me to contact my wife. She can offer you proof of the Islamic charities we support, and she can also verify that I am here in Afghanistan for just such a purpose.”
“You have no right to ask anything of us,” the man said, his voice rising in anger. He jumped up, drew his shoulders back, and kicked aside the chair. “You have stolen the identity of an Afghan woman by wearing the burqa. For that you must be punished according to the holy law of Sharia.”
“I’l gladly pay whatever fine you assess me, but I must get back to my family in America.”
“You do not understand, Mr. Davis, if that is your true name. The Sharia cannot be bought with gold. It may only be satisfied by the punishments prescribed by its laws.”
Alan felt a hole open in the pit of his stomach. “What do you mean?” he asked, fearing the worst.
“The penalty prescribed for theft is the loss of a hand, severed as a reminder of the thief ’s crime. Of course, it is always the hand a man uses to eat, not the hand he uses in wiping himself,” offered the tal man, his eyes glowing with pleasure.
“You can’t do that to me. I am not Muslim. I purchased the burqa and paid for it in ful ,” protested Alan.
The man stood over him. “I wil repeat myself only once. You have broken our law. And you wil be punished for it. There is no recourse.”
Alan spoke with growing desperation. “But to cut off a man’s hand when the man knew nothing of your law is unthinkable in any civilized society,” he argued.
“And for that reason, Al ah has chosen to be merciful. Your punishment has been reduced. We wil remove the little finger from your right hand. A reminder of your sin but also a reminder of what wil happen if you are again caught stealing.”
He spoke a sharp word in Pashto, and his companions converged on Alan. They dragged him toward the table, forced him into a chair, and placed his right hand firmly on the tabletop. The long, crescent shaped knife that materialized from inside the tunic of the man standing at the head of the table made Alan’s heart jump into his throat.
“I urge you not to struggle lest we sever more than one finger.” said the leader in a matter of fact tone. “Your punishment is inevitable.”
The amputation was swift and surprisingly painless. Alan stared down at the blood pooling around his severed finger and tasted the bile in his throat. Not until the pain set in did his brain completely register the terrible cruelty of the act that had just occurred.
The men released their hold on him, and al Alan could do was cradle his bleeding hand and stave off the urge to scream. “You devils,” he muttered. One of the men tossed him a rag that reeked of some kind of anti-septic solution and motioned for him to wrap his hand with it.
TWO AGONIZING DAYS passed. The bleeding eased, and a scab began to form, but the excruciating pain throbbed without respite. He was given a coarse blanket to insulate himself from the cold floor, but sleep was nearly impossible. Every day the food was the same, and everyday the water seemed even more foul. He had developed a severe case of diarrhea from the water forcing his guards to escort him outside for relief.
On the third day, the tal English speaker returned with a leather satchel fil ed with papers. He turned to Alan as if he were merely one of the details facing him that day.
“We have sent messages to our friends in America inquiring about you and the activities of your wife. When we receive their replies, we wil be able to discuss more specifical y the reasons for your presence in Kandahar and your inappropriate use of the traditional burqa.”
He sought a chair and continued. “There is, however, another matter we must discuss. One of our leaders has been shot to death in Kandahar. The timing of his death coincides exactly with your presence in the city. We don’t believe in coincidence, Mr. Davis, so please tel us of your part in the kil ing of Mohammed Omar al-Fayez.”
“Who?” asked Alan as convincingly as a man who was committed to lying could possibly be. “I never heard of such a person. And I certainly know nothing about his death.”
“Please do not lie to us. We are not stupid people. There are many ways of loosening your tongue and restoring your memory,” said the leader, his voice calm and menacing. “The loss of your finger is nothing compared to what wil happen to you if you are not truthful with us.”
“I never heard of this man. I did not kil anyone. I came to Afghanistan for but one reason, and that is to offer aid to the people,” said Alan firmly. The scarred man shrugged as if he had expected no other answer. Then he said something in Pashto, and two of his men grabbed Alan by the arms and sat him forcibly in a chair. A third man tied Alan’s arms and legs to the chair, and a leather garrote was wound around his neck. Electrical wires, bared at the ends, were connected to a nearby outlet. The man holding the wires in front of Alan’s face wore gloves. When he brought the ends together, the frightening shower of sparks testified to the awful power within those wires.
“Must we go forward with this or are you ready to tel us what we want to know?”
the bearded leader said calmly.
“I can’t tel you what I don’t know,” shouted Alan in protest.
The leader motioned to the two men. The wires were placed against Alan’s ears. There was no step down transformer converting the current to 110 volts. The jolt of the ful 220 volts of electricity caused his body to cringe and stiffen. Every nerve and every muscle turned to fire, and he cried out in pain. Time after time they repeated the exercise, but Alan’s answer never changed. He didn’t remember losing consciousness, but the torture seemed to go on even in his dreams.
DAYS PASSED. TO Alan it might have been weeks. He had lost al track of time. Eventual y, the torture stopped. His eyes cleared, and his memory returned. He remembered where he was and what had been done to him. Just then the scarfaced leader burst through the door.
“Mr. Davis,” he said without preamble. “We have word from our friends in America. They tel us you are a wealthy man. We are undecided as to your fate. The debate is whether to negotiate a ransom or to simply kil you. Before it is decided, however, we want you to witness justice as prescribed by the Sharia.”
THE HINDU KUSH FOOTHILLS, AFGHANISTAN
ALAN WAS TAKEN outside, blindfolded, and placed in a van. After a drive of an hour or so over unpaved and winding terrain, the van stopped. He was dragged from the car, and the blindfold was removed. He found himself in a smal mountain vil age with cliffs of granite on one side and a val ey framing a trickling stream on the other. The vil age square was alive with men, women, and children and fil ed with the fever pitch of some momentous occasion. At the heart of the square stood a stage crudely built of wood and stone, and Alan could only imagine its purpose.
“Now, Mr. Davis, you wil witness the law of the Sharia as it is applied to infidels,”
said the English-speaking leader.
The Afghan man being led to the center of the group was shackled around his hands and feet. He was shaking with fear and crying.
“This infidel is accused of giving information to the enemy. His ordeal under the law shal commence at once.”
The “trial” was simple. It involved neither the presentation of evidence nor any representation for the defendant. The question of guilt or innocence seemed not to be in question. The only thing that mattered was the interpretation of the Sharia and the subsequent determination of the appropriate punishment. Neither the verdict of guilty nor the punishment of beheading surprised anyone present. The guilty man was made to kneel. A group of 12-and 13-year-old boys were selected to come forward and witness the punishment in close proximity. The Taliban soldier orchestrating the execution walked up to the boys, smiled as if Christmas had just come to one of the boys, and handed him a long, sharp butcher’s knife.
In Pashto he said,
“You have been chosen to deliver the punishment to this infidel. You have been instructed. In the name of the Prophet, peace be upon him, proceed.”
The boy took the blade. He approached the quivering man, ignoring his pleas for mercy and the fear contorting his face.
“The boy is his nephew,” the bearded man said to Alan matter-of-factly.
“His nephew?” Alan could hardly believe his ears.
“Yes. His brother’s son.”
The man screamed the boy’s name, begging him in the name of Al ah not to proceed. The Taliban leader wound the customary blindfold around the man’s eyes and stepped back. The condemned man trembled uncontrol ably. He soiled his pants.
The boy took no notice. He stepped up behind his uncle, grabbed a fistful of hair, and lifted his head. The boy placed the cutting edge of the knife against the man’s throat and shouted, “Al ah Akbar” (GOD IS GREAT), and sliced through the soft tissue until he reached the spinal column. Then he twisted the head and hacked through the bone until the head was completely severed. As instructed, the boy held the bloody head aloft and basked in the acclaim of his fel ow vil agers.
2 - TRAGEDY
DAVIS INTERNATIONAL BUILDING
HOW HAD HE gotten there? Would he ever have considered such drastic measures had he seen firsthand what the enemy was capable of?
Five months ago, Alan Davis was not a man who questioned himself or his decisions. He had that luxury. Unbridled financial success had that effect. Five months ago, Alan was sitting on his ergonomic executive chair in his birchpaneled office high atop the Davis International building with few worries. He was surveying the city of New York….its bustling avenues and streets, its throngs of commuters scurrying to work, its vibrancy and its beauty. The island of Manhattan, bounded by the magnificent Hudson River to the west with its view of the Jersey palisades and otherwise surrounded by the sparkling tidal finger inlets of the Atlantic, always gave him a feeling of security he felt in no other city. The Empire State Building caught his glance as he imagined an overgrown goril a in a dogfight when a knock on the door brought him back to reality.
“It’s open,” he cal ed, but by then Dan Mil ar, executive vice president, confidante extraordinaire, and best friend, was already inside, his smile as contagious as his voice was energetic.
“Morning, boss. That’s one gorgeous view,” he declared. “Not that I’m jealous or anything as superficial as that.”
“You’re just in time,” Alan said. “If that coffee was any fresher, we’d be picking the beans ourselves.”
“A great view and fresh coffee. No wonder your name’s on the building.” Dan poured two steaming cups: black for Alan, and two