posted on Mar, 1 2004 @ 08:47 AM
General Pilotti sat at his desk in his office within one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces in the center of Baghdad.The room was far too big and as he
turned his pen end over end on his desk the noise echoed around the room.General Pilotti would not of chosen to live and work here but as the US
representative in Iraq and the man who had to give his assent,on behalf of the President, to laws passed by the Iraqi Ruling Council it was important
that he had the trappings of power.He didn't really understand these Iraqis but the one thing he did understand was that power perceived was power
achieved and in no place in the world was this more true than here where for centuries the degree of power and respect was in direct relation to the
personal circumstances of the individual.
It was late evening and Pilotti was waiting for the US troops who guarded the palace to bring up a man that had been detained earlier.It was still
warm and sweat ran down his back.The day had been frustrating,annoying,and confusing by degrees.Pilotti was tired and was starting to get a
headache,perhaps a fever.He continued to turn his pen end over end as he recounted in his mind the events of the day and tried to make some sense of
Six representatives of the Iraqi Ruling Council had come to his office late in the morning demanding,Demanding!,that a popular cleric be arrested and
handed over to them for Islamic Justice.They claimed he was undermining the authority of the Iraqi Ruling Council by questioning it's legitimacy.They
warned that unless action was taken soon it could threaten the US position in Iraq.He was growing in popularity,they had said,and unless they acted
soon the peace and security of Iraq could be threatened.
Pilotti had heard of this cleric and he pointed out to the six men in his office that he had not heard that this man had actually done anything
illegal and he couldn't see any grounds for arresting him.
One of the representatives was a senior cleric himself.This man,he had said,was not a cleric.He was a blasphemer.He had twisted the words in the Holy
Koran to his own ends.He was a subversive not only of the Iraqi state but of Islam itself and if state law could not punish him then Islamic law could
General Pilotti had listened to them quietly.They seemed unusually agitated and passionate which was enough for him to take the matter seriously.
Once they had left he had put a call through to his senior intelligence officer,Major Stroud,outlining the details of the meeting he had just had and
asking the Major to to report to his office with all imformation relevant to the situation.
Pilotti didn't understand what this all meant.When the new Iraqi Constitution had been drawn up they had been some international concerns raised
about the inclusion of the death penalty.The solution had been both simple and popular.In parallel with state law,which was a close mirror of US law,a
diluted form of Islamic law had ran alongside.This innovation had been greeted all around the world as an important and welcome indication that
western culture was not being imposed wholesale on the Iraqi people.That Islamic law could only proceed with the assent of Pilotti himself was not
widely known nor was it known that ninety percent of the prosecutions under Islamic Law which had resulted in the death penalty had been prompted by
the the US Authorities.
Major Stroud returned half an hour later with a small blue folder with the renegade clerics name on it.Pilotti opened and read the contents carefully
while Stroud waited incase the General had any questions.
Pilotti saw that he appeared to be nothing but a liberal cleric.He was popular,very popular.Pilotti remembered that almost a week ago he had entered
Baghdad and the Iraqis had lined the streets to get a glimpse of him but was he subversive? Pilotti didn't think so.The cleric had appeared to put a
few of the conservative cleric's noses out of joint.Pilotti decided to have a word with this cleric and get him to tone down the rhetoric a bit.
"Do we know where this man is right now?" Pilotti asked Stroud.
"Staying with wealthy friends in the suburbs,Sir,we have a man inside his close retinue who keeps us informed of his movements."
"Arrest him and bring him to me.I want to speak to him."
Major Stroud nodded,saluted and left the room.
And so here was General Pilotti waiting for this man to be brought to him.He really wasn't feeling at all well now and sweat started to run down his
face.He rose from his chair and walked to the hand basin in his office.He washed his face and dried it with the hand towel that hung next to it.He
looked at himself in the mirror above the basin.It was strange,he thought,he didn't seem to recognise himself,his face seemed like a mask.He returned
to his chair and made a mental note to see the medic after this appointment.
He picked up his pen once more and resumed turning it end over end on the desk top so that the sound seemed to resonate around the hollow palace.
There was a knock on the door and Major Stroud entered once more.
"You have him?" asked Pilotti.
"Yes but there was a bit of an incident.A few shots were fired and one of our soldier had a very lucky escape.He is in the infirmary having his ear
"Damn! he resisted arrest?"
"He didn't,Sir.It was one of his followers."
"Very well.Show him in and leave us."
Stroud showed the cleric in and and left closing the door behind him.
Tap.........Tap............Tap...........Tap.........Tap............Tap........... echoed sound of the pen on the desk.
"Please sit down."
"I'll stand if that is allowed."
"It's your choice.One of my men was injured this evening."
"I know.I am sorry.I hope he will be well."
"Yes,I am sorry.It was wrong."
The man stood before him as cool as a cucumber in stark contrast to the way Pilotti felt right now.
"You are making some very dangerous enemies in Baghdad.You should leave."
"I can not leave.I have come to preach the word of God."
"Then I will get some of my men to drive you out of the city."
"Then I shall return."
"My sources tell me that you claim to be the only one who speaks in God's name.Is this true?"
"God's message is clear yet I am the only one that speaks it clearly."
"The other clerics do not think you speak it clearly.They say you are a blasphemer.If you are going to stay in Baghdad you must promise that you will
not speak publically."
"I can not promise that.I am here to deliver God's message."
"You will promise it if I order it!"
"I only take orders from God."
"I must speak plainly to you.The Iraqi Ruling Council have asked me to hand you over to face Islamic law for blasphemy.Do you understand what that
"You won't leave the city,you won't promise to stop speaking.If you speak publically there could be a riot.That will mean your people being hurt.I
have a responsibility to the people of Baghdad.I can't let that happen!"
"Then you must carry out your responsibilities."
Pilotti looked down at his pen.It had broken.There was black ink all over his hands.He sat staring at them.He rose feeling giddy.He walked to the
basin once more and turned the tap on and started to wash his hands.He watched as the inky water disappeared down the plug hole.
"Stroud!!!" Pilotti shouted.
The door opened and Stroud walked in.Pilotti didn't turn,he continued to wash his hands.
"Hand this man over to the Iraqi Ruling Council.This isn't a matter for the US Government."
Stroud left the room with the cleric.The door closed behind them.Pilotti turned the tap off and looked once agaion in the mirror.
"Yes,like a mask." he said quietly to himself.