Sunday, November 26, 2006

Interview with the terrorist mastermind

It was early Saturday morning and time to interview Osama bin Laden. I and my translator went into the room, which looked like a high-ceilinged school auditorium without the seats, where there was a long sofa heaped up with blankets. My translator looked at me to begin.

"Good morning..." A one-word answer came back: Good morning!

A figure popped up out of the the bedclothes and began stuffing a colorful knit blanket (the kind I now realize in retrospect to be known as an Afghan) into the end of a 2m long cardboard tube standing on its end. It didn't fit. We were about to ask another question when the person, a girl apparently, darted away. My translator got up, went around the sofa and snuck a peek at the lower part of the tube. I asked him "what does it look like?" He gave me a look as if he didn't want to say aloud what was on our minds, which was that it looked rather like a bomb or something equally suspicious. Somehow I gleaned from his expression that at least he didn't see a fuse sticking out. "Oh, it's like a balilkbayan box - from Osama."

We laughed, then noticed something stirring among the blankets: a man, suprisingly young-looking, I took to be bin Laden. He looked as if he were still pretty sleepy.

I wa composing a question to him in my head, something about whether he had gone up to the mosque on the previous day, when up pipes a fellow on the opposite side of the room. He was sitting on the end of a piano bench and his face looked like a cross between Russell Crowe and Kenneth Branagh. He addressed bin Laden directly, ignoring the translator straddling the bench behind him, going into a rambling remark about religion - something about Catholic Masses and Protestant services and other things i thought irrelevant and clueless. He flashed a smile at me and at Osama, who rolled over a little and ignored him.

Freakydreams [via] completely ignored the al-Qaeda angle and preferred to focus on words like time, room, school, up... "Up?" How can that word be a significant part of my dream? I think it probably has more to do with a problem with getting information in the course of doing my job, or maybe tension dealing with people I meet.

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