Saturday, October 22, 2005

The General & the Heretic!

Reading the name of my chief interrogator, AKA General Dashing, all over the “deleted” sections in the Mehlis Report, I find it hard to believe that such a figure found time to interrogate someone like me in the midst of all these developments. Was I really considered such a major threat? Or was he in the habit of interrogating everybody?

Whatever the case maybe, the decision to leave the country, as hard as it has proven to be on some deeper level, seems to have been amply justified.

My last meeting with General Dashing took place a little over four months ago. In stark contrast to our earlier encounter in March, this one had a sense of urgency to it, extreme urgency.

Due to some “construction work,” the meeting took place in an office in the old Officer’s Club. The General’s desk was cluttered with black-and-yellow files. There were also several law books with little colored bookmarks sticking from them. The General, it seems, had been busy marking those sections in our law books which I (and others, I am sure) were guilty of violating. I can easily get 15-to-life for my crimes, he noted.

And what crimes they were: fomenting civil discord and spreading false news (in my Daily Star articles and Tharwa editorials), accepting foreign funding (with regard to the Tharwa Project), and making contacts with enemy operatives in times of war (in reference to my stint at the Saban Center of Middle Eastern Studies at Brookings Institution, and seeing that the main sponsor of the Center is an Israeli-American).

So, “do you want to be a hero, Ammar?” He asked. Why, “do you want to make me into one, General?”

Yes, such defiance was probably as smart as my calling the President “Fredo Corleone” I guess. But then, tact has never been my strong suit with people who were unjustifiably self-asserting, not to mention self-possessed.

Oh well. My tactlessness could be quite useful as well, and I reckon this is so because it is equally unjustifiable. So, I shouted when the General shouted, flared my nostrils just as he did, and guffawed at his threats. Yes, it was a silly game by all measures, except that one of the players was a murderer and the other an aimless adventurer.

At one point, the tone turned more suave as the General hinted at the possibility of a ministerial or an ambassadorial appointment. "Indeed," I said, “I do think we need to create a ministry for youth in the country, but it should be more affiliated with culture rather than sports, as is the case with other Arabic countries.” The General flashed a wide smile and asked me to write him a proposal on the topic. I promised to do so (and I did a few days later, a promise is a promise).

On the other hand, “how about I stop writing those disturbing little pieces of mine and focus more on traveling for the next few months? Will that serve to reassure you as to my lack of political pretension, General?” Yeah, I often speak like that. After all, I am a natural snob.

The General’s smile grew instantly bigger, and then it faded. He just realized that the two offers were, in effect, mutually exclusive, and that the real offer I was making was to let me slip into exile.

Hmm. The General took a moment to consider my offer. In exile, he must have thought to himself, I would have even more latitude to say and do what I want. But, his brain must have gone on hyper-drive at this stage, I could easily be discredited as well, like all opposition figures who were forced, or “chose,” to leave the country. Teehee.

The General smiled again. The offer was accepted. He even hugged me on the way out and kissed me on the cheeks. Was it the kiss of a death deferred? A few days later I faxed the General my proposal for a Ministry of Youth and Intellectual Development. Yes, I am a natural tease too.

But so was the General really. After all, his was a kiss of a killing averted. A killing averted. Son of a bitch!