Teaser 234: A Terrorist Is One Who Invokes Terror

Both helicopters landed in the open area between the living facility and the cropland. American and Mali soldiers in full gear and rifles at the ready jumped out and spread like swarms as I stepped through the west door of the living facility next to the office. Out came the Colonel from the Mali military, his right hand on the pistol grip in his holster. I walked calmly with my right hand raised in greeting to the scattering contingent, angry ants whose nest had been disturbed. The first American soldier who reached me yelled, “Gregory Hess?” I nodded without correcting. I would have plenty of time for it over the next few hours and days. He raised his rifle, grasped my right arm with his left and commanded, “Come with us, please.” He wanted to run, as they all constantly swung their heads around and around, rifles poised for an instant shot, and many from the garden shrank in terror, mothers gathering children to run away. It was a scene of unnecessary chaos.

As the soldier gripped my arm tighter to pull me with him, I caught his gaze. “Let us walk calmly, my child. Your high alert is unnecessary.”

Holding my gaze the soldier frowned. “We are in hostile territory, Mister Hess.”

“Not here, you're not.” When he stopped briefly, I smiled. “Release my arm, soldier, and we shall walk together.” He studied me for a moment. He was considering it, but I didn't wait. I looked to the Colonel approaching. “Colonel, it is a pleasure to see you again. Would you please advise our visiting soldiers to stand down and regain their sense of calm?”

The Colonel laughed as he reached a few feet away. “You still possess your sense of humor, Mister Hess. We have some questions for you. Will you come with us, please?”

The American soldier released his grip on my right arm. “Let us attend to it but without the military exercises, shall we?”

` The Colonel laughed again, barked some orders and all the soldiers from both copters stopped running around furiously, many moving back to the copters. I was escorted by the soldier, the Colonel and two others, walking at a comfortable pace as the rest drew close around us, their rifles still at the ready. Before I climbed in I saw Kitana and Alfred some distance away and waved to them, watching them wave back. I climbed into one of the copters, all the rest jumped into one or the other, and both lifted off the ground, blades chopping the air until we reached the military base in Bamako.

Before I was escorted inside one of the many buildings on the base, I endured a thorough, even rough at times, frisk for weapons, and the confluent and unapologetic explanation to accompany it. I grinned at the uselessness. Brought to a room large enough for twenty to sit or stand and room for another twenty, my debriefing began. As you would expect I ground the process to an immediate halt for the next ten minutes when I refused to be addressed as Gregory Hess. The man serving as the second in rank under the American ambassador provided most of the questions in this first flurry, and he was determined to get to the bottom of my name change, especially if it proved sinister.

“You must understand, Mister Hess,” he gently persuaded, “kidnapping by armed terrorists can quite often result in those captured becoming sympathetic to the kidnappers, even joining their groups. You wish to be called Al-Barrak. Is this the name your kidnappers gave you and are you one of them?”

“Is it because of my uniform, Mister Beale?” I smiled deviously. “Does it give it away?”

“While we are pleased you have come to no harm, we also have to consider whether you wish to harm us now? Part of this, unfortunately, is to determine if you are an enemy of the United States.”

“As a terrorist?”

“Are you, Al-Barrak?”

“These terrorists which concern you, they often wear robes, do they not? Do you not consider it a uniform?”

“Are you a terrorist, Mister Hess? Just answer the question.”

“Uniform is a curious word. Its base is 'form.' Its prefix is 'uni,' meaning 'one.' How easy it would be for you should every one of your enemy be of the same form. That all wearing a robe were terrorists.” I lifted the glass of water before me and took a sip. “Terrorist and terror are curious words now, too. Those in positions of official service regularly throw those words about casually, regardless of their truth or consequences, without even understanding the words, their meanings, their definitions. Any word used so casually, without regard to its true and accepted definition, becomes itself a weapon. Terrorist and terror. A terrorist is one who invokes terror. With your soldiers swarming about our garden of peace like angry ants, I saw in the faces of my cousins there, terror. Terror, then, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and should you, Mister Beale, invoke terror, why, this would make you a terrorist, by the truest and accepted definition.”

“Is it your intention to invoke terror?”

“It would depend on what I wish the terrified to be the focus of their terror. It would seem I could invoke terror easily by pointing at many around me, since there are so many around me invoking terror, but perhaps few of you can conceive of the terror the One can invoke, with the power to punish eternally. If you could conceive of that terror, you would drop to your knees as a beggar.”

“Then you are a terrorist, Al-Barrak?”

“In the truest and accepted definition of the word.”

“You do understand we can indefinitely detain you. The law provides that now.”

“Laws are dreamed up by men, perhaps women, too. Only the most powerful enforce the laws. A great Master was captured by the invading Mongols, who were performing nothing less than expanding their empire, as the United States does today, nothing less. One of the Master's captors suggested the Master be beheaded for a large reward. The Master suggested, though, that his main captor hold out for an even greater reward. It was certain to come for the Master was a great man. After a while another offered a load of straw to send the Master to his proper death. The main captor consulted the Master. The Master replied he had found his greater reward. In anger his main captor beheaded him on the spot, for a load of straw. Capture me, hold me, detain me until my death, it means nothing to me. Do what you will. Whether you know it or not, you still serve the One, no matter what you do. Your actions are in complete agreement with the One. I applaud you, should you detain me forever, should you kill me. You have served the One. Bravo!” Mister Beale, as did most in the room, dropped his head, shaking it emphatically. “I am Al-Barrak, the miller. This is who I am. This is what I am. Sentence me to death for grinding grain to a fineness which aids digestion, for grinding the most coarse thoughts into a fineness which aids in understanding, in knowing. Perform the will of the One! It is before you now and demands your action! Do nothing and you still perform the will of the One. It is a mighty task, is it not? Only the mighty can perform it!”

The Colonel, though, wore a smile firmly planted. “You are pursuing a path, Mister Beale, which will yield you nothing. Al-Barrak is no more a terrorist, as you and I understand it, than a child. He is not inclined to it. He is, instead, a man of the Way.”

“A child, Colonel, can still carry a bomb.”

“You see, Colonel,” Mister Beale remarked, “that is not a statement one would expect from one whose inclination was of innocence.”

“He's got you there, Colonel.”

“Perhaps he does not understand religion as you and I do, Al-Barrak.”

“Oh, he understands religion, Colonel. He's a Bible-thumper who never misses church attendance on Sunday, thus he's an expert. True, Mister Beale?” I meant it as no offense, merely a statement of truth. I was unveiling his ritual combined with his lack of understanding.

Mister Beale rubbed his forehead. “We are not getting anywhere.”

“Not while we remain in this room, Mister Beale, and we'll be here for quite a while, you and me.” When Mister Beale lifted his head to catch my gaze, I winked my left eyelid.

- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-NineInextricably Bound” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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