HEAR NO EVIL
Throughout the holidays, the Abu Sayyaf Christmas day bombing of the San Pedro cathedral bothered me, like an open wound that wouldn’t heal. I hadn’t really thought much about the FBI query on the ASG. Initially, I assumed that like most others things with the Bureau, it would fade away into nothing. The holidays gave me some down time ponder this new development and got me to thinking.
This counterterrorism crap is really different.
Counterintelligence was just collecting information and passing it on.
Nobody died in counterintelligence, at least that I knew about; but they sure as hell were dying in counterterrorism.
Hell, people’s lives were at stake in this. How unreal.
I began ruminating on reality.
Before counterterrorism, I lived and operated in one basic reality. Like everyone else, I got up in the morning, went to work, did my thing, returned home and watched the news. No big deal. I didn’t bother anyone and they didn’t bother me.
Terrorism and counterterrorism were a different matter. Terrorists were bothering people; hell, they were killing them. And some of those they killed were Americans, fellow countrymen.
My life took on an added dimension. Now, not only was I doing my own thing in normal life; I was also constantly concerned about this other parallel world where people killed innocents and somehow I was trying to prevent that from happening.
The innocents remained ignorant of this second dimension; unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury. Every day I waited for the other shoe to fall. Some days it did.
Every morning I have to check and see who had been kidnapped or killed by the ASG. What a helluva way to start the day!
Even primo Colombian coffee didn’t improve this crap.
When those miniscule articles did pop up, they were the size of a short obituary. How appropriate!
The New Year’s festivities had ended, 1994 had officially begun. The Prince and I shared our customary New Year’s greetings and got down to biz.
The next step in the Casino project was to finalize on the selection of sites and then get the Casino boys to come over for an inspection tour. The licensing had already been lined up. We now awaited notice of their impending arrival.
The G-Men continued to call from time to time to inquire about the Abu Sayyaf, even after Walton had been freed. I didn’t quite understand it; the bombing of the San Pedro cathedral had been horrific, but it had not involved American citizens. Perhaps this ASG thing wasn’t going to fade away after all.
After each of the FBI queries, I dutifully dialed Datu. Our discussions on Abu Sayyaf were a bit baffling.
Sometimes the Prince was talkative, sometimes terse, as if somehow the ASG was distasteful or repellent. Not surprizingly, some of his remote relations were involved, so he was well wired. He knew more than he was telling.
Our casino project was progressing. The gaming guys had arrived and the locales looked over. The Prince and I spoke almost every day.
During our almost daily dialogues, we discussed the ASG. Bit by bit, the story began to unfold.
According to HH, Abu Bakr Janjalani and his folk were actively recruiting troops for the “cause”; most of them were 17 to 20 year olds from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Muslim Mindanao. That was their target audience.
Their finances were flowing freely compliments of Khalifa, a brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden. Each new recruit received a 5,000 Peso bonus upon enlistment. In their neck of the woods, that was big bucks.
Once hired, the inductees were shipped off to camps for training in guerrilla tactics and explosives, sometimes taught by Ramzi Ahmed Youssef. Indoctrination into the Abu Sayyaf’s singular style of Islam was conducted by the Janjalani brothers, with Abu Bakr delivering the sermon. Their brand was badly bastardized:
What the hell type of religion was this? I knew that religion stunk but this was a new low!
ASG was going and growing. According to HH, its membership had already passed the 500 mark. With a few more recruits and a little more time-in-training, the Abu Sayyaf would be ready to take on the tough guys.
The Prince reported that Arabs and “Afghan Jordanians” were coming and going like 9 to 5 commuters. He did not like all the foreign involvement. This problem had to be settled Moro-to-Moro.
Our party of potential casino partners had dwindled down to one. That was o.k.; their interest level was running high. After a flurry of phone calls I sent their representative on his way, confident that we had a done deal. After all, it was all in the Datu’s hands now. What could go wrong now?
A couple of weeks later I found out. I rang through to the Prince to ask how the inspection trip had fared. He was eloquent in his enthusiasm. The gaming group was going to do it.
Forty-eight hours later, after allowing suitable time for jet lag recovery, I phoned the casino representative, confident of a successful conclusion. His recitation of the trip was diametrically opposed to the
I rang through to the Datu. In detail, I gave him the complete commentary I had received ‘from the American viewpoint.’ In the more ecumenical non-Protestant terms of Catholicism, I ‘read him his beads.’
Enough was enough. Even his diction wasn’t that bad. Boula-boula, the Tagalog version of bovine excreta, blossomed with every bombastic utterance.
Why the hell was I wasting time on this guy?
He had just led me down the garden path and slammed the gate behind me.
Prince or no prince, this guy couldn’t tell fact from fiction if his life depended on it.
Hell, perhaps it did.
I had had enough of this crap!
Since Indonesia, Belle and I had become ‘de facto’ partners. She had come up with one of the potential gaming partners. After I had righteously reamed a new royal orifice, I dutifully called her and filled her in on the debacle.
Belle told me not to worry – it would all work out somehow. At the time, she was being mentored by a new-born Christian prophetess and asked me if I wanted the prophetess to pray for wisdom. After the epitaph, I couldn’t say no.
A couple of days later, she rang through. Judith, the prophetess, had had a vision. Previously, she told Belle that in the vision I was ‘Joseph to Pharaoh.’ Now, I had taken off my ‘Robe of Many Colours.’ I needed to put it back on. Now!
What the hell was this all about?
The Prince was the only qualifier in the ‘pharaoh’ category.
He had to be the ‘pharaoh.’
If he was ‘pharaoh’ was I to play ‘Joseph’ to him?
Why would I want to continue to play with a guy from whom I couldn’t even get a straight answer?
He couldn’t tell fact from fiction on a good day let alone a bad day!
I hung up the phone and began to replay the ‘prophesy’ in my mind. By all earthly evaluations, I was playing with a ‘non-desirable.’
Why would God want me to play with a non-believing ‘infidel?’
I was no new-born Christian, but I was also no longer a non-believer.
My epitaph had taken care of that.
I DID believe. I just hadn’t figured out the rest of it yet.
I better check this out.
I dug out my Bible, dusted off the cobwebs and began to read Genesis. Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, thrown into prison by false accusation and ultimately resurrected through God after he gave Pharaoh the correct interpretation to his dreams. In the process, he saved Israel and Egypt from famine.
Damn, I don’t think that I want to be “Joseph.’
Thirteen years in prison is highly overrated!
In the quiet of my room, I began to ruminate on the ‘prophesy.’ After my epitaph, I could no longer discount the existence of God. That He had arranged my introduction to the Prince was becoming all too apparent. No earthly entity could have connived to bring the Datu and I together. It had to have been divine intervention.
O.K. God, I get it.
I don’t have to understand it.
But I do understand that I don’t even have to like it.
I just have to obey.
So be it.
It’s Your call, not mine.
Prophecy is prophecy. You either believe or you don’t. I believed. After my epitaph it was hard not to.
So what does this do to my ‘reality’ now?
A year ago, I had lived contently in one earthly reality. I got up in the morning, had my coffee, went to work, did my thing and then went home.
Then, I got backdoored in counterterrorism and added an additional ‘reality’ to my life. All of a sudden I was starting every day by checking scoreboards for terrorists’ activities while I tried to figure out a way to counter them.
Now, God enters the picture and with His Divine Direction; He is now going to take over responsibility for driving the bus!
I’m just along for the ride.
Just what I need; a third reality to totally trash my life!
My life was confused enough. I didn’t need Divine Direction or Eternal Intercession to confuse it further. I had enough problems dealing with the normal day-to-day reality and the added reality of terrorism/counterterrorism as it was.
What the hell would I tell the Bureau?
How the hell do I explain Divine Direction?
Oh, yah, “I was talking with God the other day and He said…”
What little of my ‘creditability’ with the FBI that had not been destroyed by their ‘eccentric’ epithet would be cremated if they learned about my Divine Counsel.
That would make their day!
Nobody would believe anything from me anymore.
I decided to hand it over to God and let Him sort it out. After all, He was driving the bus; I was just along for the ride. I continued to communicate with the Prince and dutifully report my data back to the Bureau. The Abu Sayyaf were keeping very busy, putting their Arab money to work.
That also meant that Datu and I were busy as well.
The ASG, more specifically, Ramzi Ahmed Youssef, after training ASG operatives on Basilan, had twice bombed the Miss Universe pageant on May 21st in Manila. Apparently he had not been overwhelmed by the pulchritude of the candidates, despite his extended excursions to Puerto Galera.
A few weeks after O.J. Simpson had cruised up the coast in his white Bronco, the Bureau boys called. Apparently, Abu Sayyaf stilled featured high on their agenda. Perhaps the bombings in Manila were putting them on edge.
In the interim, the Prince had explained a bit more about the Group. There were ‘sorta’ two parts to the ASG; the native ‘Moro’ part and the foreign predominately ‘Arab’ part.
He was O.K. with the native ‘Moro’ part. He approved of their goal for self-determination although he did not approve of their interpretation of Islam. After all, a sizable part of the Prince’s family was Christian, including some of his wives and children.
The Datu definitely did not like the foreign ‘Arab’ part.
“Outsiders had no reason to be there.”
“They had no right to interfere.”
“This was not their battle.”
His remote relations in the ASG were solely involved with the Filipino faction of the ASG. He would not allow them to associate with the ‘alien’ Arabs. Apparently, he also had the clout to enforce it.
On December 11th, Ramzi Ahmed Youssef, aided and abetted by the Abu Sayyaf, who has supplied him with the airport blueprints and other desired data, boarded a PAL airliner in Manila bound for Tokyo after a short stopover in Cebu. During the flight from Manila to Cebu, Youssef assembled and activated his bomb in the lavatory and then carefully cached it under his seat. He discretely deplaned in Cebu. An unlucky Japanese tourist took his place.
The plane continued on to Tokyo. The bomb exploded mid-flight as the plane neared Okinawa. The Abu Sayyaf called in to claim responsibility for the bombing. It turned out later that Ramzi Ahmed Youssef had actually made the call and the claim on their behalf.
The Prince and I spoke a day after the bombing. His reticence has vanished. He was royally riled and ripped. This had absolutely nothing to do with Moro independence. An innocent victim, the unlucky Japanese tourist who had taken Youssef’s seat on the plane, had needlessly died. Datu was incensed and it showed. He waxed eloquently:
“The Abu Sayyaf have betrayed the Moros.”
“Fighting for freedom was one thing.”
“Blowing up innocent tourists was another.”
“It was the ‘alien Arabs’ manipulating their money and influence who had committed this crime.
“They have mingled with the ‘bulgar’.”
With the ‘bulgar?”
Wow, where was this stuff coming from?
Ah, I get it, it’s a Spanish thing: ‘B’s and ‘V’s are interchangeable.
He means ‘vulgar.’
Who had rattled his royal cage?
The Prince’s viewpoint was simple and direct. Regardless of who placed the bomb, the Abu Sayyaf were sullied and soiled beyond saving. He unloaded with both barrels:
“The Abu Sayyaf are a blight on Islam.”
“They are an embarrassment to all Muslim Filipinos.”
“The Abu Sayyaf have set back the cause of Islamic independence by decades.”
“They should not be allowed to continue to exist.”
The Datu was definitely on a roll. Ultimately, he did simmer down but it took a long while. We made our farewells and I rang off. We had decided to talk together the following day after the dust had settled and his temper had simmered down.
After hanging up, I breathed a sigh of relief. That had been a phone call that I wasn’t going to forget for a while. Even my Vietnam War-worn ears were burning. The Prince definitely had a temper on him.
The following day, I rang through with some trepidation after having tried to divine the royal humour from the local tea leaves. My stomach surged as the call went through.
His Highness was happy!
Now I was confused! Totally.
What happened to yesterday?
The Prince quelled my confusion. He put forth a startling proposal:
With Uncle Sam’s financial backing and substantive support, he would oversee the smooth ‘dismantlement’ of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
I was stunned. It was a singular solution to the problem, but…
What the hell does he mean by ‘dismantlement?’
Does it involve guns?
Then, the other shoe fell. As HH’s Official Representative, I was to be the one to sort it out with Uncle Sam. Thoughts and questions collided in my brain.
“What the hell do I know about ‘dismantling’ a terrorist group?”
“How did one ‘dismantle’ a terrorist group?
“Who in the ‘American government’ handled ‘dismantlements?’
I sincerely doubted that Uncle Sam had a “Department of Dismantlements” stashed somewhere. Though with his burgeoning bureaucracy, one never knew?
There were no manuals on the topic, at least, none that I knew of. In retrospect, I probably should have checked with the Bureau. If anyone had a manual, they would have. They had manuals for everything else.
Since it was the FBI who had brought up the Abu Sayyaf in the first place, I decided to start with the G-men. I dutifully reported my dialogue with the Prince and his instructions to me.
They were equally stunned. Apparently offers of this nature were not frequently forthcoming.
We mutually agreed that we were at the wrong end of the food chain. Decisions of this magnitude were made at the other end, at Headquarters in D.C. Therefore, it seemed best to write it all down, run it up the flagpole and see who saluted.
The next few days were spent in rabid writing and rewriting. Daily, the Prince reviewed, altered and amended my work.
On 16 December 1994, the document was done and duly dispatched. With the Christmas barrage, it would have just enough time to settle into someone’s in-box while it awaited the New Year.
There was no telling what 1995 would bring. The Prince and I were embarking on a new voyage. ‘Dismantling’ was totally new turf.
The ball had been placed in Uncle Sam’s court; what he chose to do with it was up to him.