Authors: John Spikenard
Copyright © 2008 by John Spikenard.
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
1. Nuclear terrorism—Deterrence. 2. Radical Islam—Goals—Means. 3. Submarine warfare—Air warfare. 4. Treason—Personal conscience. 5. Western civilization—Islamic civilization—Clashes. 6. Intelligence gathering—Constitutional rights—United States. 7. Mass media—Freedom of speech—United States. 8. Western democracies—Open emigration—Change. 9. Freedom of religion—Christianity—Islam. 10. Israel—Palestine—Terrorism. 11. Religious texts—Veracity. 12. Muslim future—Despair—Hope. 13. Violent change—Peaceful change. 14. Martin Luther King, Jr.—Muslim version.
Printed in the United States of America
To all veterans, active service members, and their families who have sacrificed and served with honor.
, National Mall, Washington DC
Mahfouz al-Bedawi slowly made his way under the midday sun to the middle of the National Mall. Al-Bedawi was an angry young man. Ahead of him, concealed in a cart labeled “Ice Cream,” he pushed a bomb. Tourist season was in full swing in Washington DC, so no one thought twice about the presence of an ice-cream vendor on the mall.
Sweat ran down al-Bedawi’s brow as he pushed the large, heavy cart to the middle of the mall. It was warmer than normal for spring, although not the kind of hot and sticky day Washington DC was known for during the summer—when your clothes stuck to your skin like flypaper. Al-Bedawi surveyed the area around him. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom around the Tidal Basin, and tourists were lined up at the White House and the Washington Monument, just feet away from his bomb. Along one side of the mall, he could see a line of school buses carrying students on field trips to the National Museum of Natural History and the National Gallery of Art. On the other side, a steady stream of visitors went in and out of the Smithsonian Institution Building and the National Air and Space Museum. He heard cheering behind him and turned to see a soccer match being played on the grounds next to the Reflecting Pool.
In the midst of all this life, al-Bedawi knew the bomb would kill many Americans. Doubt flashed through his mind. The people in this country had not been what he expected; since coming to the United States on an educational visa, he had gotten to know many Americans and learned they were not the evil and corrupt people he had been told about. In fact, he had been astonished at the friendliness and kindness that Americans expressed toward him, a Palestinian, considering the attack they had withstood on September 11, 2001. But there was something else about them…something he had not been able to identify until now. As he looked around the mall, he was amazed at their
. There were Americans of every race, color, creed, and national origin. There were whites, blacks, Native Americans, and Asians. There were Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims. And they were all living here together—
. Al-Bedawi had never seen anything like it.
The bomb was set to go off at 12:30 p.m. Were the seventy-two virgins he had been promised in heaven worth the death and destruction he was about to unleash on the men, women, and children of this great city? He wasn’t sure. But then the words of his leaders in Gaza flashed through his head: “This strike atones only partially for the years of death and destruction in Muslim lands caused by America’s unyielding support of the Jews. America has much to pay, and your act of destruction unleashed upon
is but one small payment.”
Al-Bedawi checked his watch: thirty minutes to go. Seeing it was noon, he stopped and pulled a compass out of the pocket of his khaki pants. After finding the direction of Mecca, he opened the ice-cream cart, then pulled out a rolled up prayer rug. His superiors had told him never to pray in public in America because it would raise suspicions. Now, he figured, it didn’t matter.
He placed the rug on the ground next to the cart and rolled it out in an eastward direction, knelt on the prayer rug, and began his midday prayer. A few passersby looked at him curiously, but in this international city where diversity was strongly promoted and protected, his act was not challenged by police patrolling the mall. As al-Bedawi prostrated himself onto his rug, the smell of warm, freshly cut grass drifted up his nostrils. On his third prostration, he heard a noise and opened his eyes. At the end of the rug, two pairs of feet facing toward him stood in the grass just beyond his fingertips. Following up the feet, ankles, and legs with his eyes, he saw a young lady probably in her late twenties or early thirties and a little girl about three years old in a brightly flowered sundress. The little girl looked up nervously at her mother who gave her a reassuring smile while placing a gentle hand on the back of her head and quietly telling her, “Go ahead—it’s okay.”
The little girl turned to al-Bedawi and thrust out her hand with a dollar bill. In a very practiced manner, she asked, “May I have an ice cream, please?”
She quickly turned her head back to meet her mother’s gaze, to get the reassuring look she needed. Then they both turned and looked at al-Bedawi.
“No, I have none. All out,” he said, dismissing them with a wave of his hand.
The little girl turned back to her mother with a look of horror and disbelief. As she started to cry, her mother picked her up while telling her, “I’m sorry, Melody, but the man said he doesn’t have any ice cream left. We’ll find you some ice cream somewhere else.”
The lady turned back to al-Bedawi. “It’s only noon. How can you be out of ice cream so early?”
“Hey, it is warm day. People buy more ice cream.”
The lady seemed exasperated. She looked around the mall, searching for another ice-cream vendor, but there were none in sight. The little girl cried louder, burying her face in her mother’s shoulder.
The lady comforted her distraught daughter and then asked, “Well, do you know where another vendor is?”
“No. I don’t know,” al-Bedawi answered curtly as he returned to his prayer position.
She stood pensively for a few more seconds, gently bouncing Melody on her hip while trying to think of a way to placate her. Hoping to get in one more question before the man resumed his prayer, she asked, “Do you work for a company that has other vendors? Maybe you could call them and ask them if they have another vendor on the mall.”
Al-Bedawi grew angry. Not only was this lady interrupting his midday prayer, she was potentially jeopardizing his mission. He stood up and began to shout, “No, I am student. I buy few ice creams wholesale and sell them retail to earn little extra money. That all I know—I know nothing about other vendors!”
“Is there a problem here, ma’am?” The question came from a uniformed police officer who had approached the trio from behind al-Bedawi.
Al-Bedawi whirled around and faced the tall, thin officer wearing a sharply pressed black uniform with a polished silver badge and broad leather belt. Attached at various positions around the belt were a cellular telephone, a two-way radio, and a holster with the handle of a pistol clearly visible. On his chest opposite the silver badge was a nametag that read SALES.
Al-Bedawi let out an audible gasp.
The young woman responded, “No, not really, officer. It’s just that this guy is out here on the mall with an ice-cream cart, but he doesn’t have any ice cream. He’s awfully rude, too, but I doubt that’s a
” she added with a laugh.
Officer Tom Sales scrutinized al-Bedawi carefully, resting his right hand casually on the handle of his pistol. “I’m out here a lot, and I know most of the vendors, but I don’t recognize you. Let me see your vendor’s permit.”
Al-Bedawi was close to panicking. He fumbled through his pants pockets as if looking for the permit he didn’t have. What if the officer asked to look in his cart? Would he find the bomb? If so, would he recognize it for what it was? Would he call for help and be able to disarm it? Would this carefully planned mission end in failure and al-Bedawi’s eternal disgrace?
Officer Sales smiled at the lady and her daughter. “Ma’am, I can handle this here if you like.” Pointing across the mall, he added, “There’re usually two or three ice-cream vendors over there on the sidewalk between the Smithsonian Building—that’s the one that looks like a castle—and the Air and Space Museum to the left. You should try over there.” Reaching out for Melody’s hand, he asked, “What’s your name, pretty little girl?”
“Melody Ba-ba-na,” she answered.
Officer Sales laughed. “Ba-ba-na?”
,” the lady explained. “She has a little trouble with such a long name. She should have a name like
and then she could say it!”
Officer Sales laughed and patted Melody on the arm. “Your mommy will get you some ice cream, honey; you just have to go over there by that big red castle.”
“Thank you, officer,” the lady said. She smiled, wandered away, and set Melody down—who soon went to look at some small yellow flowers next to the walkway.
Al-Bedawi raised his hands in a gesture of futility. “I cannot find permit,” he blurted as he glanced at his watch.
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Officer Sales responded as he motioned to a second police officer who had remained on the walkway rather than get involved in this seemingly minor situation.
“What’s the problem, Officer?” asked Sergeant Jim Kennedy in his usual businesslike manner. He approached stiffly and professionally, almost as if marching in a parade. Tom Sales laughed to himself. Working with Jim Kennedy was always a gas. The guy was so overly professional it was almost like watching a spoof! You had to hand it to him, though; he was very thorough and
“Sergeant Kennedy, I believe we have a doubly, no, make that a
challenged ice-cream vendor. No permit, no manners, and no ice cream. Rudeness isn’t a crime—just kinda dumb if you’re a salesman. But since he doesn’t have any ice cream, I don’t know if we can cite him for not having a permit. We haven’t seen him selling anything.”
“Well, don’t you think pushing a cart around that advertises ice cream is enough evidence?”
“I don’t know. You’re senior—what do you think?”
Kennedy scrutinized al-Bedawi and his cart, assessing whether the vendor posed any danger. “Kind of a large cart for ice cream, isn’t it? That thing must be nine or ten feet long.”
“I-I just push cart they give me,” al-Bedawi answered nervously, trying to remain calm.
Kennedy walked to the back of the cart and gave the handle a shove. The cart didn’t budge. “Jeez, heavy too!” He put his full weight behind it and managed to roll the cart a few inches. “Wow! I guess that’s why you’re sweating so much, huh?”
“It hot day.”
“Yeah, but why would an ice-cream cart weigh so much if it’s empty? Let’s see in the cart, please.”
Always the consummate gentleman
, thought Officer Sales.
Al-Bedawi froze. His worst fears were coming true. He had to stall them. He moved to stand between the officers and the cart.
“N-No!” he stammered. “Where is search warrant?”
The two officers laughed spontaneously. Considering that al-Bedawi was a foreigner, Sergeant Kennedy regained his composure and provided a long and professional explanation that search warrants were applicable to personal residences, but not to commercial vending carts. Therefore, he concluded, al-Bedawi would have to allow them to look in the cart. As Officer Sales reached for the lid, al-Bedawi grabbed his arm and pushed him away.
“No!” he yelled. “This
cart. You stay away!”
“Sir, don’t touch the officer,” ordered Sergeant Kennedy. “Now stand aside, please.”
Sales again reached for the lid and, once more, al-Bedawi stepped forward and shoved him away.
“All right, I’ve had enough of this. Cuff this guy, we’re taking him in!” ordered Sergeant Kennedy.
The two policemen handcuffed al-Bedawi’s hands behind his back and sat him down on the grass several feet away from the ice-cream cart. Officer Sales opened the lid and looked inside.
The interior of the cart was only about a third as deep as it appeared from the outside. The stainless steel bottom was covered in paper ice-cream wrappers. Sales reached in and brushed them around with his hand. “This thing is really shallow, and it’s not even refrigerated in here. There’s nothing but paper wrappers.”
“Let me see.” Sergeant Kennedy looked into the cart. “Hmm.” He reached into the cart and pushed on the bottom around the edges. After several tries, there was a scraping sound as one side went down and the other side rose up. He looked at Sales. “False bottom. Let’s see what’s under it.”
They lifted the false bottom out of the cart. Underneath, a large metallic cylinder filled most of the space. Red numbers in a small glass window were flashing and counting down through 15 minutes and 37 seconds, 36 seconds, 35 seconds,…
“What the hell is this?”
Praise Allah! Allah the Greatest! Allah the Most Powerful! Long live
The two officers stared at each other in shock.
Sergeant Kennedy recovered first. “It’s a bomb! Run! Clear the mall! No, wait—call it in! It looks like we have fifteen minutes to disarm this thing.”
“Dispatch!” Officer Sales yelled into the radio microphone in his shirt’s lapel.
“This is dispatch,” the radio on his belt sounded.
“We have a bomb on the National Mall. If the timer is correct, we have about…uh…less than fifteen minutes left to disarm it!”
“Roger, copy that. State your location.”
“We’re about a hundred yards west of the Washington Monument…near the Reflecting Pool.”
“How big is it? Is it in a vehicle?”