HEART OF TERROR Craig W. Dressler All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, except for the inclusion ofbrief quotations in a review without permission in writing from the author or publisher. Prologue The enthusiasm of his parents had waned years after the fact when Daoud, or David in English, heard about Shah Mohammed R’eza Pahlavi fleeing Iran. Massive demonstrations caused the progressive leader’s downfall. His government, though
forward-thinking was corrupt, and, amazingly, it was the movement away from strictsharia, Islamic law, more than corruption which turned Muslim leaders and the populaceagainst him. The U.S. had supported the Shah, so the U.S. took him in for the fewremaining years of his life. Likewise, Daoud had been too young to remember when the Ayatollah Khomenireturned from exile in France. Daoud’s parents related with bitterness the massivecelebration two million strong when Khomeni’s plane set down in February of 1979. Thehopefulness in Ayatollah’s new regime had long since dissipated as secular corruptionhad simply been replaced by corrupt clerics who got almost all government contracts fortheir inefficient companies. With unemployment over thirty percent and inflation aboutforty percent bitterness is a way of life for those who at first supported Khomeni and hissuccessor once Khomeni died. Just to get a business license one needs a bribe, and it iscommon to be stopped on the street by police and hit up for protection money. Eighty-five percent of the population refuse to pay income taxes, so lack of support for thegovernment is a serious problem. Into this mix waltzed Saddam Hussein who thought he saw an opportunity to gainprecious Iranian oil fields and invaded about a year into Khomeni’s rule. Craziness canbeget craziness. Surprisingly, Islamic fanaticism kept Iran from being soundly defeated.Thus began the Iran-Iraq War which lasted for years. Daoud’s childhood was filled with patriotic images of war. Older cousins, even asyoung as eleven years old went off to war never to return. Iranian lives lost amounted tonearly one million with many dying because the Ayatollah, now called Faqih or supremeleader and commander of the armed forces as well, fostered martydom as a way of life.
With forty thousand teachers fired by the Ayatollah, Daoud grew up lacking a realeducation except for in Arabic. Seven years learning the “holy” language of the Koranbecame the central aim of education. Islamic indoctrination knew no bounds. In 1987 with the Iran-Iraq War still raging Daoud turned eleven and with fear-filled pride he set out shortly thereafter to serve his country. What little schooling he hadreceived had instilled in him blind patriotism. He still remembered his mother’s partingwords intertwined with a hug, Khoda hafez. It was all he could do not to cry as whisperedthe same words of good-bye. The training he underwent was cursory at best and lunacy at worst. Daoud withboys in the same age group stayed in barracks on the edge of a lifeless plain. Daily theywould rise at sunrise and after prayer and a little flat bread would train to march out overthe plain at evenly-space intervals. Their sergeant voice grew hoarse while yellingattempting to keep his charges the proper distance apart as they marched. Eventually, thesergeant pronounced them ready. The battlefield near Basra was littered with destroyed tanks, trucks and deadbodies. Vultures circled overhead, and the stench gagged Daoud. The terrified boy heardthe command to march and recalled also hearing a few boys saying, Loftan, loftan orplease, please… wanting to turn back, but a stick in the hands of the sergeant propelledthem back into formation. The boys’ training worked almost well enough to accomplish their goal. Everyfew minutes an explosion could be heard as the battlefield was cleared of mines. Screamsof the dying and those having lost limbs rang in Daoud’s ears for months afterwards. His
closest friend in the barracks, Ahsan, died that day, and his childhood innocence was alsoforever lost during that horrific event. Fleeing the memories of that day became a driving force in Daoud’s life.Thankfully, a truce between Iran and Iraq was soon brokered creating an uneasy peace,and Daoud was spared anymore battles. Yet he could not escape the recurring nightmaresremaining from that experience. Hearing this story after the fact did not make it any less intense. My connection toDaoud began some years later in Japan. Part of the thousands of Iranian immigrants in thecountry, Daoud came from the Azerbaijani ethnic group, the largest in Iran besidesPersian. He spoke Azeri not Farsi as a first language. Still scarred from the past thosememories continued to plagued his dreams. By chance we met in Shibuya Park in Shinjuku, a centrally located section ofTokyo. I was teaching English at a YMCA conversation school a short train hop awayand would occasionally spend Sunday afternoons at what was then called Little Tehran inShibuya Park. The walk from the train stop took me past Meiji Shrine, where theJapanese would flock to pay tribute and even worship a long, dead emperor. The walkalso included passing through a sector of the park where disenfranchised Japanese youthlistened to blasting rock music and hung out. Eventually, I reached Little Tehran. Cross-cultural activities fascinated me, and the booths selling great smelling, spicy dishesattracted me. Even the fact that the Japanese translator of a book disparaging Islam hadbeen murdered did not stop my jaunts into Persian culture.
On one particular Sunday I had just purchased a Persian meal and sat down on apark bench when I was approached by a burly young man. He was not tall but gave theimpression of strength. “You American?” he asked. “Yes,” I responded a little reluctantly not sure where the conversation washeaded. “What your job?” he inquired. “I teach English.” That was the only opening he needed because he would invariably watch for meon Sundays and sit and chat trying to improve his English. Daoud, as I later learned tocall him, worked in construction on the tiny bamboo scaffolding stories high placed onthe outside of buildings. One day, though, he fell and badly broke a leg. After learning ofhis plight from a friend one Sunday afternoon, I visited him in the hospital taking along afew books in English I thought he might like. One was a biography of a doctor, which heread almost immediately. The following Sunday he told me of his dream of becoming adoctor and asked if I knew of a way to help him get to the U.S. Unable to see anyway tohelp, I let the question slide. Shortly thereafter, my contract finished; I returned to theU.S. and lost track of Daoud. CHAPTER ONE BLINDMAN’S BLUFF
Was there cause for concern? When U.S. Customs’ officials handcuff and haulyou into a cubicle with a window that reflects your image, certainly your ire begins toincrease. Being an English teacher I understand gerunds and transitive verbs, but U.S.Customs’ officials, the CIA or whoever had locked me in this tiny room were beyond myrealm of experience. Perhaps, some paranoid grandma returning from Europe hadoverheard me speaking about working in Saudi Arabia and done here civic duty byinforming on the suspected terrorist planning on wreaking havoc on American society byreleasing numerous dangling participles on trusting citizens. I really don’t know; I wasstumped. Sure, I had taught Arabs of different stripes, mostly Saudis, but I was a teacher.That’s what instructors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia do. Sure, I had played volleyballwith Arabs late at night out in the desert on the outskirts of Riyadh, but nobody in theirright mind would want to do anything athletic in hundred-plus temperature during theday. Sure, I had eaten dinner out after class with Saudi students while listening toconstant harangues as to why the U.S. is so bad for supporting Israel. But what else isthere to do except enjoy legendary Arab hospitality in a country where even Porky Pigcartoons are banned. Do not get me wrong, I would much rather have the current Kingthan a Muslim extremist ruling the country. But, hey, lighten up a little, would you? As Isaid, though, why I was locked in this little room was beyond my ken. A big, burly man stepped into the room interrupting my thoughts. His light, short-cropped hair gave the appearance of a balding head; yet his powerful presence wouldhave kept any derogatory remarks on his looks at bay.
“My name is Agent Smith,” he flatly stated. “Yea, right. And I’m King Kong,” I sarcastically replied. Unperturbed, he continued, “We have a situation, and we need your cooperation.You have been cavorting with known terrorists.” “Cavorting! I’m a single guy who doesn’t cavort with anyone. I may have beenan acquaintance of a terrorist, but not being privy to your watch lists I wouldn’t know,” Iheatedly responded. “Because of your activities, you may be charge with aiding and abetting theenemies of the U.S. and may face prison time,” Agent Smith deadpanned. “That’s ridiculous. What are you going to charge me with? I inquired. “Teachingprepositions to the enemy?” “The Saudi secret police have been quite thorough in their investigation withphotographs and recordings, but there is an alternative to prosecution,” he interjected. Quickly I replied, “You don’t have a leg to stand on with those charges. Still I amcurious as to what the alternative is.” “Work for us on the inside,” Smith bluntly stated. “Are you crazy? I’m no operative; I don’t even know Arabic except for shishkabob, bukra and the never-ending inshallah. The Saudis have their own police for suchwork. I even had one in class that gave me a Christmas card with a camel eating aChristmas tree. Recruit him,” I rambled on. “Our intelligence sources have informed us that Al Qaeda and splinter groupshave been trying to recruit nonarabs because they have so miserably failed after theWorld Trade Center disaster. We, on the other hand, have also failed to place any
operatives of real value within said terrorist groups. That’s where you come in,” theagent informed me. Heading out the door Smith left me with one parting statement,“Ponder your options until I return.” Rising, I nervously paced back and forth in my cubicle occasionally stopping tostare at my reflection. A thirtyish, slightly overweight male about six feet tall with curly,unmanageable hair stared back. “How did I get into this predicament?” I asked myself. “My dream was to live anunencumbered life free of strictures. Here I am about to be thrown into the maelstrom ofhumanity. No, I’ll go to prison first. My name is Chase Harte; I am not to be trifledwith.” Agent Smith and his superior watched intently as Chase fretted and paced. Smith spoke first, “He’s right, you know. If he refuses, we have to let him go.There’s not a thing we can charge him with.” “Yeah, you’re right. Nevertheless, I believe he’ll surprise us. Predictability isn’tone of his character traits. He has that adventuresome spirit that’s a distinctive of mostin our field of work.” Smith reentered the room. “Well, what’s your decision?” Looking down in defeat, I whispered, “I’ll do what you’re asking. I must be ascrazy as you, but what choice do I have?”
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