Featured Column
Week of 10.31.2005
"We can't win"
          The wind funnels off the lofty summits of the Hindu Kush and Karakorams, offshoots of the Himalaya. Evenings turn cold in Afghanistan and the winds are always polishing the rock outcroppings, blowing the top layers of soil into sandblasts covering thousands of square acres. When the winds blow the men of the mountains know to cover their faces with scarves, leaving only a narrow horizontal slit for their eyes.
          It had taken 27-days for Al Zarqawi to travel from his secret location in the mountains east of Kirkuk in Iraq through the barren valleys of Afghanistan, over the Khyber Pass to the small village of Charsadda, midway between Kabul and Islamabad.
          Zarqawi had been driven in SUV’s the whole distance to get to his destination high in the hills of Charsadda, changing vehicles every few hours to avoid detection. Spotters all along the way looked skyward for the familiar purring of the American robot camera airplanes. Twice during the journey robot planes had flown overhead and both times they were noticed by Zarqawi soldiers who signaled his driver to pull over, where mountain men covered the SUV’s with brush and vegetation, making the autos undetectable to the approaching planes.
           Local affiliates of Zarqawi had advised him and his drivers of any American or government troops that would be near his route to Charsadda and the most important meeting of his life.
           At night, Zarqawi, his driver and two armed guards stayed with safe friends who lived in huts and caves along the way. The trip was nearing its conclusion as the Ford Excursion strained to reach the summit of the Khyber Pass and head further east to Charsadda.
           Finally, the SUV climbed the last rise and pulled up under an outcropping of granite, hidden from any view from above. The two armed guards covered the rear section of the vehicle with brush. 
          Zarqawi, dusty and tired from the long, uncomfortable trip, stretched his legs and headed for the small, almost perfectly concealed opening to the cave. Immediately inside the cave’s entrance two guards nodded as Zarqawi walked past them.
          A hundred feet into the cave Zarqawi glanced ahead and there he was – the cause of his long journey – Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden held out his hand for Zarqawi’s and then the two embraced and exchanged religious greetings of good fortune.
           “You must be tired, my friend,” offered Bin Laden. “I have traveled many miles to see you, Osama, I am refreshed to be in your presence.” “Good, my friend, let us dine and then we shall discuss the reason I have asked you to come to this place, my temporary home, until I am forced to move again to defy our enemies.”
          Following the meal of lamb, chicken, skewered kabab, rice and nan bread, followed by glasses of strong tea, Bin Laden waved all others but Zarqawi out of the dining area, deep inside the cave. Finally, the two were alone with each other.
          Bin Laden stretched out his long legs, ran his fingers through his graying beard and said, “My friend, you have been a loyal compatriot and a fearless fighter for our cause. You have risked your life and you have achieved many of our joint goals. You have slaughtered many of the enemy and ended the lives of thousands of their followers in your country. But now is the time for both of us to face the reality of what is happening to our cause. Although we continue to rain death upon the Americans, the British and our own people we are not winning our war. The recent turnout of voters in your country has shown me that the way we are waging our battle to defeat the Jews, the Americans and the British is not succeeding. My friend, we are losing our war.
          A stunned Al Zarqawi’s eyes widened and his mouth had fallen open as he listened to his idol admit defeat.
          Bin laden continued, “We have caused death and destruction on Bali, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Israel, America and many other countries. We have kidnapped and beheaded our antagonists. And yet, with each action we take, more of the world turns against us. Our own people and their Mullahs are tired of the violence.
          “The American president has shown to be stubborn and vindictive. He is a worthy adversary. He is not a smart militarist, nor does he know how to gather his forces and the forces of allied countries to him, but his stubbornness has created a problem for us. His only talent is being stiff-necked, but that is the strength his cause needs.
          “I suggest to you, my friend, that starting this day, we cease killing, stop the bombings and gather our friends in Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim friendly countries and agree on a set of principles of our desires to protect our home lands from the crippling and degrading influences of the West.
          “Our goal is to do everything in our peaceful power to permit our Muslim heritage to thrive wherever our people live around the world. We shall win our way – we shall conquer America and the West and we shall accomplish these goals in a way that would make Allah proud.
          “We have the power of right and justice on our side and Allah will guide us to our ultimate victory – as long as it may take. Starting today we stop the killing. We will announce to the world that you and I are in agreement and tomorrow we are calling a meeting of the heads of all of our countries and then we shall send representatives to the United Nations to argue our cause.
          “My dear friend, Zarqawi, the time of killing is over. Tomorrow dawns a new day. Tell your people to lay down their arms.
          “Our cause remains the same, but we shall fight with words instead of bombs.”
          Al Zarqawi slowly sipped the last of his tea, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve. He stood as did Osama. The two shook hands again, embraced and separated, standing a few inches apart, staring into each other’s eyes.
          Al Zarqawi lowered his eyes and said, “My friend, what you have said is truth. It is time.”
The impossible dream of peace
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger