The Green Zone
(A serial book excerpt)
Previous installments: After Flight 93 crashes into the White House on 9/11/2001 killing President Bush as was originally planned, Dick Cheney, the Vice President, is made the leader of the country. He begins immediately to make changes.
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The bunker was hardly the Ritz. Lavish though, especially for a bunker. No view. Being underground one doesn’t really need windows. That didn’t matter, Cheney preferred the security it offered over any view it might have of this forbidding land. “Why does God always put oil in the most difficult of places?” he thought to himself.
The place was large for a bunker, comfortably so. The bed was full sized with a good mattress. A large screen TV in an oak cabinet dominated the room. Radio, full kitchen with an already stocked refrigerator. The all important bar, also generously stocked. Full bathroom. Cheney could see one living out a holocaust here. Hell, it was good enough for Adolf Hitler at the end, wasn’t it?
Cheney laid down upon the bed taking just his shoes off. He felt a little dizzy from all the hub-bub of getting over there and from the strange atmosphere. Even here, in a metal and concrete rat hole 50 feet underground he felt the strangeness of the area. It permeated everywhere. Although everything around him was American made or brought over by the military, the place still had that indelible Middle East air to it.
He would rest a bit. He was amazed how much prep work mentally he had to do to go out, meet and bullshit with people. Important things had to be said, but it all came down to the same- my way or the highway. He couldn’t prettify things or schmoozle people the way Bush had. He wasn’t built that way. He had a thin line of patience; were it not for 30 years of government service he wouldn’t have had any at all. But now that he was the top dog he didn’t feel he needed much patience. He could afford to push away most people. That is, as long as America was number one in the world.
Cheney hauled himself out of the bed. He had fallen asleep for a few minutes. There was a panic when he first awoke in the strange place. He looked around himself wildly for a few minutes , then realized where he was. He went up and pushed the button on the intercom.
“Yes sir?” it squawked.
He opened his door to find a Marine stationed outside it. The man said nothing, did not even look directly at Cheney, whether out of fear or orders he could not surmise. General Amis appeared at the elevator a moment later.
“Ready to go sir?”
“That I am!”
“Good. I know it is late but I thought I would give you a quick look at what is going on here. We can go over it more in depth tomorrow.”
“That sounds good.”
“Let us go up to the Tactical Room first.”
For a remote station The Green Zone tactical area had the most advanced computer and technical machinery available. Ranging over all four floors of a minor palace, it splayed over the interior rooms like an ivy gone wild. Despite being a supposed temporary setup, if researched it would probably rank as being one of the world’s top 10 military intelligence complexes. Of course, it services ranged into the commercial as well, but that was not announced or made apparent by those commanding the unit. On the surface it appeared pure military. It wasn’t only the gun emplacements that were camouflaged in this war.
Cheney was intensely interested in the commercial side of the Room. He nodded and paid the proper attention to the field surveillance’s and updates that were coming in. They were only seconds more direct than what he got in the conference room at D.C. General Ames lead him over to the web cam screens that were viewing the countries many oil wells.
Cheney eyed them critically. “How many of these have been attacked recently?”
“Strangely none, Sir. They don’t seem to be choosing them as objects of sabotage. Maybe they have finally realized how critical they are to their own survival.”
“Yeah, MAYBE!” snorted Cheney sarcastically. “Only after Hussein lit them up like birthday candles. Maybe once they don’t have money coming in anymore and they are starving do they realize that they need that oil too!”
“Fortunately after we got all the fires out and the wells capped there have been few attempts. But we are keeping a constant eye on them anyway, Sir.”
Cheney pulled the General over to one side out of earshot. “Please make sure that these guys are vigilant on these wells. It is they that are paying for this whole operation.”
“Yes Sir!” answered the General, for once intimidated by someone outranking him.
It was a specially armored Humvee that they sent to pick him up. The thing was even bigger than an ordinary Humvee, almost a limo version. He sat in the middle and was immediately flanked by a Marine armed with an assault rifle on either side. “Good day sir!” they uttered tersely, then put their attention out the window. The President had been informed that the vehicle was much better armored than the regular vehicles the troops were using in their patrols. The General had also said that the roads they were using had been cleared just a couple hours earlier. Cheney’s presence in Iraq was being kept a secret, but no chances were to be taken despite that.
The vehicle lumbered its way through the streets of Baghdad. Cheney could see through the window broad boulevards and palm trees. And sand. Everywhere sand. Strange smells came to him occasionally through the constant fragrance of diesel. He could see the women walking in their long skirts despite the hot air and the men with pantaloons and often peculiar head pieces. He had an impulse that he would like to get out of the vehicle and walk around a bit and observe them more closely, but just as fast the mental message came to him that it was a luxury a President could not afford. Unfortunately, being a top leader requires a proportional drop in personal freedom.
He could feel that there wasn’t much padding to the seats. They were utilitarian only. The whole vehicle was. A car built to resist war. It occurred to him then that the Marines on either side of him were not only there as snipers but as shields in case the vehicle was hit. Human shields of a different sort. It was amazing what you could get these men would do.
“This is the Green Zone ahead of us President Cheney.” The General looked back at him. “It encompasses ten square kilometers and has walls that are easily defended. We’ll be entering it from the west side.” He pointed towards a hole in the middle of the great structure well protected by guard boxes, anti tank stanchions and concrete barricades.
It must have been obvious to any careful onlookers that this procession was one of importance. The outsized Humvee, the armored escort vehicles and their rush to get inside made it clear that something more than mere soldiers was in the rubbered metal wagons. The guards did an overly quick glance at credentials, quickly nodding them in, immediately clutching their rifles tighter and gazing out in all directions as though expecting an attack. Everyone seemed to relax getting inside the compound.
On the other side of the walls the atmosphere changed perceptively. A different, more frenetic energy existed here, a more rushed atmosphere. White and black people were obvious amongst the brown, more languid folk he had seen on the drive. Desert camouflage uniforms were a more common dress amongst the baggy clothing of the regular Iraqi.
The Green Zone was huge. It was a city within a city. Here, existed cutting edge technology that was 20 years advanced over most of what existed outside. Here were health and housing standards of the 2000’s. Here money flowed like the gushing oil from the countries wells. Of course, it all existed because of the wells. Otherwise they wouldn’t be here at all.
The Green Zone was a fortress inside a city, just like those the kings built in cities all over the Euro-Asian hemisphere in the Middle Ages. Cheney had once seen magnificent photos of the castle in Salzburg Austria, built on a mountain in the middle of the town, a lone steep road running up to its ramparts; invasion difficult due to high walls and the security of its main gate with a tight entrance and deadly archers waiting inside of slits in the walls with instructions to shoot any threat before it became real. The Green Zone was a fortress built not for the running of the war, but for the commerce that the war would bring to the US. It was a financial center as much as a military one.
The Humvee had an excellent air conditioning, something not had in the regular vehicles. Cheney was able to observe this new Arab territory of America’s from the relative comfort of a car seat. The people in the street barely glanced their way, so used to the strange vehicles that had invaded their world were they.
Suddenly a rattle of machine gun bullets sounded from behind them followed by the sound of a crash. Cheney instinctively ducked. The Marine to his right coolly looked over to him and said flatly “Don’t worry Sir, that is one of ours. Someone just got too close to our vehicle and they let him have it.” Looking into the rear-view mirror Cheney could see a beat-up car smashed into a tree and a number of people running up to it.
As President it was now Cheney’s duty not only to kiss babies but to visit wounded soldiers in hospitals. Ibn Sina hospital in the Green Zone was the busiest American military hospital in the world at the moment. Soldiers and insurgents alike were crammed into its beds. Such a variety of injuries and ailments would be hard to find outside of Iraq.
He put on his most stoic face and tried to temper it with a look of concern and compassion. He had to control himself tightly for this duty. He knew it would not be pleasant and that he would need a couple shots of bourbon once it was over. The look of the hospital itself was enough to depress him. He had seen enough of hospitals in his life from his heart problems. As he entered with his Marine escort with their guns in hand at the ready, he could see that everyone there was being especially attentive to him, but out of the corners of his eyes he could see a lot of running around as new emergence arose amongst the debilitated and the dying. He was escorted into the amputation unit where he went around and shook hands from soldiers who, no matter how badly wounded they were, all wanted to shake hands with the man who was their leader. It amazed him how even hardened soldiers would become boy-like and humble when a top leader came into their presence.
He went into the burn unit. The smell upon entering alone nauseated him. Many there could not even shake hands and he would just put his hand upon an unburned part of their arms and give them words of thanks and stiff consolation.
As he was thanking a soldier who could not even raise any part of himself up in respect to his leader he could feel the eyes of the man in the bed next to him bore into him. Out of the corner of his eye Cheney saw a mask that covered the whole man’s face save his eyes and his mouth. Protruding from those rounded holes were perverse lumps of blackened flesh that framed two half opened eyes and the jagged teeth surrounded by what was once a mouth. Finishing with the one man Cheney turned to the masked figure who sat upright on the bed. He began to reach out his hand to him.
“Yeah, like I really want to shake your hand, mother fucker! You are the asshole who got us into this shit!”The voiced was a Hispanic man’s; you would never know from his exposed flesh what race he was. The Marine escorts unnoticing moved ahead along further down the room. The man’s voice raised in timber. “Why don’t you go out and grab a gun yourself and see what it is like? I bet you wouldn’t last long you shit!” Cheney could hear muffled voices trying to quiet him down. “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot say Jack! I paid my price. Much more than he ever will!”
His Marine escorts swiftly hurried back and hustled their leader out of range of the man. The hospital door swung shut mercifully behind the group cutting off the man’s rant as the doctors hurried Cheney along to the next, more friendly group.
But the incident left a shadow on his mind that hung about ever in the subconscious like the visitation of a ghost.
On the sly and well away from voracious news reporters eyes, Cheney visited the Halliburton headquarters in Iraq. They took him out to the field and showed the progress that was being made. The President could see that they had a firm hand in things and were running a show that was being successfully kept low profile. The immense wealth that was being mined in both Iraq and from servicing the U.S. forces was staggering. Cheney had wisely and bravely left all his bodyguards and military escorts behind for this venture, for were word to get out of just how much was being grabbed by his former compadres it would make for a scandal that would break his Presidency. It was so fortunate that he had been schooled under the master of the art, Richard Nixon, for so many years. He flew out of Iraq with a secure feeling for the war and for his own kingdom of wealth.
TO BE CONTINUED
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The complete book of 9/12/2001 is available from lulu.com under that exact title for $10.00 plus shipping. Now available as an e-book on lulu as well.