Read an Excerpt
SADDAM HUSSEIN AL-TIKRITI stood at the open flap of his desert tent some miles west of Baghdad, the skirts of his flowing galabia ruffling in the cool evening breeze. He was alone for the moment, which he seldom was, and it gave him a curiously disquieting feeling. As if he were the very last man on earth. Cities were empty. No one worked the land. No one lived across the sea. Emptiness.
Far to the southeast he picked out a slow-moving pinprick of light against the brilliant backdrop of the stars. His advisers told him that it was the CIA's latest spy satellite, the KH-15, sent up on the tail of an infidel rocket to watch them.
He edged a little deeper into the darkness of the tent. This night he felt as old as the desert hills and wadis around him, almost one with the spirits of the ten thousand years of history here. This was the Fertile Crescent. The valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The birthplace of a dozen religions, of civilization itself.
Like Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi, Hussein had begun coming to the desert to find solace among his ancestors after his defeat over the reclamation of Iraqi homelands in Kuwait. The Revolutionary Command Council was still his to control, and therefore the nation was his. Western forces had, for the most part, finally withdrawn from the region. And once again his oil was flowing, bringing his people the much-needed revenue so long denied them by the infidels.
And yet it wasn't enough. A people could either grow and prosper, or wither and die. Iran to the east and Israel to the west would have to be defeated. Decisively. But the Gulf War, as the Western media called the battle, had taught him an important lesson. One of patience. One of cat and mouse.
"General," the voice of one of his bodyguards called from the darkness.
Hussein's hand went to the pistol in the pocket of his felt jacket. "'Ay-wa," Yes, he said, softly.
"He is here." The guard was visible now just beyond the ten-meter proximity detectors. A dark figure stood behind him.
The man was an old friend and comrade in the jihad against the West. Munich, Hama, Beirut. A dozen places, a hundred times, he'd proved himself. And yet there was something different about him in the past months since he'd gone to Germany. Hussein had seen it in the man's eyes, and he wanted to see if there'd been any change.
He reached to a panel on his left and flipped a switch that would interrupt the elaborate protective alarm system for ten seconds.
"Come," he said, and his grip tightened on the pistol. So much was at stake, and they were so close this time, that he could not afford to take any chances. This time there would be no Desert Storm.
The dark figure came forward, his hands spread outward in a gesture of humility and peace. Seconds later the alarm circuits tripped back on with an audible snap.
"I serve at your command," the man known to the world only as Michael said graciously.
He was taller than Hussein and just as thickly built. His features, which, unlike Carlos's, were in no police or intelligence file anywhere in the world, were dark and handsome, his hair only slightly gray.
They embraced; left cheek, right cheek, and left again, then separated. Hussein managed a slight smile. All was right with Michael. Some tension, perhaps, but nothing was amiss.
"How was your trip?" the Iraqi leader asked, taking Michael's arm and leading him into the more secure rear room of the tent.
"Tedious, in part because of the security precautions I had to observe. But it is good to be among friends. Believe me."
"You are not tiring yourself out? The strain is not too much?"
Michael shook his head in sadness. "Germany has deteriorated since the reunification. Nothing is the same. Nothing will remain the same. They watch us continuously."
"It is why we must be victorious," Hussein said.
"Yes, my general. There is no God but God."
Hussein thought of Michael as his soldier of Allah. The righteous fist of God will come down and smite mine enemies dead. It was written.
"Now, come and tell me what progress you are making," Hussein said, motioning Michael to take a place among the cushions at a low table laden with food and drink. Of all the men and women he'd sent to Germany on the project, Michael was the best. Michael would be the tool of Iraq's salvation.
Copyright © 1993 by David Hagberg