THE DAYS AFTER THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENED
A Visit To Kazakhstan
(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 Presidential plane flew high as it began its circling before landing. Although the plane had, of course, precedence over any others landing at the midsized field, this was done as a tactic to ward off enemies who might have successfully hid themselves in the terrain with anti-aircraft weaponry. The high altitude would induce them to shoot, but they would be beyond their range. Satisfied, the plane began its long coast downward.
Cheney gazed out at the Kazakhstan landscape below him. He could already see the State vehicles and personnel awaiting him. Of course a big show would be put on for the President of the mightiest nation on earth. Anything less would be an insult. He thought of how impressive this must be to these backwoods hicks. He thought of how easy it must be to manipulate these people- so bound by a dominant religion, so used to being controlled by the government after being conditioned by the Soviets for so many centuries.
The plane eased itself to the ground. From this angle he could see the banners the crowd awaiting had for him. Too professionally done to be from themselves. No doubt a majority of them were paid a pittance to show up as though being regular, enthusiastic citizens. And no doubt many were part of the security apparatus that couldn’t dare let anything happen to the leader of a country who could squeeze the life out of them if anything disastrous happened to him while he was there.
Russia had become a major player in the world oil industry. In a way the break up of the Soviet Union had hastened their entry into this most capitalistic of enterprises. It made them wake up to the realities of the way the rest of the world worked financially. It also made them realize everything was going to be different from then on.
Kazakhstan, for decades a satellite of the Soviet bear, was now on its own. But of all the ex-Soviet satellites, it stood upon the firmest ground, for under that ground was a wealth of oil, enough to keep the former communist republic from getting buried by the Tsunami shock of having to deal with foreign currencies that had more punch than the disregarded ruble. Oil has, in our century, become an international currency in itself, and a highly valued one.
Realizing their mutual need for each other; the Russians needed the international currency of fluid resources and the Kazakhs needing the support that was suddenly pulled out from under them by the fall of the Iron Curtain, so they supported each other almost as much as in the old days. The Kazakhs pumped the oil, the Russians built the pipelines. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was the Russian whiz and the country’s richest man who put it all together, then President Putin had him thrown in prison and made the oil industry a governmental concern. International financial troubles solved! Everyone wants to be friends with a land that has lots of oil.
Now the United States wanted to be their friend too. Russia, as big as it was, did not need all the oil that Kazakhstan produced. The bright brains of the Pentagon and CIA wanted to make sure we got it before the Chinese or Indians did. Being a Muslim country didn’t make it easy, but they were not as easily inflamed as their counterparts down south over religious matters. They were happy just to have abundant money for the first time in their lives. In a way it made it easier since the Russians didn’t care who they sold it too as long as they got their share. Hence Cheney’s trip. Thought was that if the President himself showed up at their door, they were more likely to open it.
Cheney’s briefing on his visit gave him to believe that it would be an easy journey. Despite their Russian handlers, the Kazakhs were still pretty politically naive, having been cut off from the world for so many years. A visiting American President coming would trump most religious and political sentiment there was. This time, though, there would be no super safe Green Zone to bed down in. Cheney would have to stay at one of the palaces belonging to President Nursultan Nazarbayev . The best hotel in the capital would still be the equivalent of a third tier D.C. dig. Plus the palace offered a greater security. Even in this land there were a few radicals who would love the legendary status of bringing down yet another U.S. President.
That is why Cheney found it odd that President Nazarbayev had so little time to confer with him. Normally this would have tripped off an alarm in Cheney’s head, but with all the other exotic distractions around him Cheney did not think of it as anything strange. After his conversation with Nazarbayev the next day he thought otherwise.
“We are very sorry, President Cheney, but we have already promised 30% of our oil reserves to the Peoples Republic of China. Russia has an automatic 30% of it as well due to our ties with them. For the rest it is easier and more prosperous to ship that which we do not use ourselves to Europe. They are willing to pay what we ask and the pipeline cuts the distance. Should we ever find more reserves of oil we would of course be happy to create a relation with the United States as well.”
Cheney was inwardly gagging. They were being rejected by the Kazakhs. This whole trip had been for nothing.
Leaving had all the pomp and circumstance of his arriving, but somehow it was lost on him. One of the major hopes for America’s energy crisis had been yanked out from under him, and soon the whole world would know of his humiliation. He had to work to hide his sourness the rest of the visit.
On his way back to the U.S. the advisers had set up a number of meetings with the leaders they considered to most important to woo over in the mid-east. It was believed that Cheney held a decent amount of respect with the leaders of the Mideast because they saw him as being a smart, wise, practical leader. They also saw in him his dictatorial style, which they also associated with strength and stability.
Qatar, a small territory of the former United Arab Gulf States was the last on his agenda. Basically an oil-less land on the Arabian Sea, Qatar had made up for this defect by being the broker for a huge amount of transactions between all the Arabic lands, skillfully weaving relationships between even the most radical of them. At this they had been quite proficient, reaping enough profits from their managerial skills to open world class hotels and resorts and making themselves a place to go on the world map. While not as successful or as magnificent as Dubai, they had none the less done fantastically well for a small desert country.
Qatar being an important cog in the Middle East world, Cheney’s advisers had suggested he pay a visit to the tiny nation. They were seen as a line of communication with Iran and the US opposed Muslims in that part of the world. Their open minded policies even made them a possibility as an intermediary between Israel and all those nations surrounding them that wouldn’t mind seeing the Jewish state dissolved. But, compared to the powerhouse oil countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia they were still small fish. Cheney would only be spending one night there and leaving the next day.
All went well until the final dinner just hours before Cheney was to fly out. Shamakol, the Diplomat for Qatar, had had enough of Cheney. His tongue loosened from the irritation that had grown in him and from the wine that was officially illegal in Qatar, but only among the lower castes of the country. He was an expert at needling people he didn’t like and had already started a subtle acupuncture on Cheney.
“So now with the violence of 911 America has experienced what the much of our world experiences on a daily basis.”
Cheney’s eyes flashed. “What do you mean by that?” he asked, a harshness unconsciously slipping into his voice.
“I mean just what it sounds like. America has gotten back a little of its own medicine.” retorted Shamakol.
Before he could think, Cheney’s hand whipped out and struck the smaller man across the cheek. The diplomat’s hand went to his face in pain and he reeled unsteadily. His body guard in trained reaction came forward towards Cheney, his hand going towards a gun in his belt. The Secret Service man quickly stepped in front of the President going under his jacket for his as well giving the Qatari man a meaningful glare. The body guard halted, but didn’t back down, keeping his hand where it was. U.S. President or not, his job was to protect the representative of his country. They glared at each other, neither willing to budge.
Cheney recovered himself and realized his mistake. This would be in every paper in the world by the next morning. His voice still had an angry edge as he said, “Let’s go. We’ve got somewhere else to be.” He cast a still angry look at the diplomat. Shamakol caught this and spit out “Yes, this is how America acts!” As Cheney’s back continued up the hall he raised his voice “America has no respect for any other land! Or for anyone!”
Cheney did not react to the accusation, merely showed his stony face to the man. He knew already how wrong he was in striking the man, but inside himself thought “How true, how true.”
Cheney was awakened at one AM that night. It is probably the worst time to find him in a bad mood.
“What is it? He demanded in a surly tone, not being awake enough to remember where he was or that he was in a foreign land.
“Neal, Sir.” answered the Secret Service man. “We have a code Red, sir. We need to get you out of here. The word has gone around about your incident with the diplomat and the local people are getting uptight about it. We have the plane ready.”
The shock of the news pulled Cheney roughly out of his sleep. “I’ll be ready in five minutes.” he called back. He knew he had made a bad mistake with striking Shamakol. Now it had blossomed into major trouble. He had angered the local populace. And he was a white man in a dark country. And he was in a Muslim land with all the attendant sensitivities to watch out for.
Cheney got dressed and hurriedly packed his bag for a quick exit.
The Presidential limo was waiting when he exited the Palace. The whole energy of everyone working to get him out of the country was controlled panic. As he passed through the airport he could already see clusters of people along side the road appraising his vehicle and its content. As they whisked through the down town a few rocks hit the vehicle. Behind him he could hear the rattle of a machine gun. The President surmised to himself that whoever had been responsible for the rocks had now been answered back with bullets.
The limo pulled up directly next to the plane. As Cheney mounted the stairs to the plane he could hear a roar of voices far behind him. The skin crawled on the back of his neck and a clammy perspiration seeped out of his back. An ease came over him as the heavy door shut and he heard the airlock take hold. But he knew he wouldn’t be able to totally relax until the bird was high in the sky and away from this infernal land.
As the jet finally took off he could see a few crowds of people viewing his departure and shaking their fists. Suddenly the sky seemed so inviting to him. And so comforting.
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.