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The Good Ship Gitmo

Posted by on October 13, 2015

January 1, 2016

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Aboard the Holland America ms Eurodam

            Ting, ting, ting.

            Katrina tapped the cocktail fork against the Waterford crystal champagne flute, careful not to spill even a drop of Clos d’Ambonnay.  She couldn’t afford to – donations from the Nation Builders were down 17 percent last year.  If it weren’t for those damned Republicans stonewalling the President’s progressive programs and policies…

            Ting, ting, ting.

            The crowd in the bar carried on, oblivious to her presence.  She set down the flute, cupped her hands around her mouth, and shouted, “Comrades!  Your attention, please!”

            As the din died down, Katrina pasted on a smile for the two hundred odd guests who’d joined her for The Nation’s 18th Seminar Cruise.

            “Welcome aboard, everyone.  We have a fantastic group of speakers lined up for you.”    She winked at Mayor de Blasio.  His inspirational leadership and efforts to eradicate police brutality made her tingle in special places.  “All are brilliant, and all are doing their part to advance the progressive cause and stop the conservatives’ destruction of our country.”

            Cheers erupted, particularly among those who were on their third or fourth drink.

            “Yes, yes, thank you.” Katrina smiled.  “As you know, our first stop this year is Havana.”

            Cries of “Ha-van-a!  Ha-van-a!” rang out.

            Katrina gave them their moment.  This was, after all, a truly ground-breaking cruise.  After the crowd settled down, she continued, “What better way to begin this historic voyage than with a word from the man who made it possible.  President Obama is due to address the nation momentarily, so if you’ll turn your attention to the televisions at the bar….

            Two-hundred pairs of eyes widened.

            Katrina nodded at the head bartender, who cranked up the TVs’ volume.

            A hush fell over the gathering as Barack Obama appeared on screen, his well-manicured hands folded on the Oval Office desk.

            “My fellow Americans, good afternoon and Happy New Year.”

            “Happy New Year, Mr. President,” several of the inebriated replied, glasses raised.

            “Today marks an historic anniversary.  Seven score and thirteen years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the states that bitterly clung to the evil of slavery.  America has made progress since that day, but we still have a long way to go to achieve true justice.  Racism and bigotry remain in the hearts and minds of too many in this country.  America has an ugly past and in many ways, we have an ugly present.  We judge entire groups of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and immigration status.  That needs to change.  And it will change, starting today.  Moments ago, I signed the Barack Obama Emancipation Proclamation in order to fulfil a promise I made years ago, a promise that the Republican Party has tried to derail at every turn.  Today, I released the remaining 72 political prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  These men, whose long imprisonment was unjust and cruel, are now free.  Free to return to their countries.  Free to pursue their dreams and aspirations.  Free to reunite with their families, from whom they’ve been separated for far too long.  Abraham Lincoln would approve.  Indeed, like him, I have chosen to advance the cause of freedom over prejudice and fear.  My fellow Americans, 2016 will be a year like no other.”

            The Casino Bar’s patrons erupted in tears and high-fives.  Chants of “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!” reverberated off the walnut-paneled walls.


January 2nd, 6:15 a.m.

Deluxe Verandah Spa Suite, Deck 2

Somewhere between Florida and Cuba

            “What the hell?” Katrina mumbled, burying her head under the silk sheets.

            There it was again – shouting.  It sounded like Allahu Akbar.  Those damned Muslims had to let the entire world know they were praying.  It couldn’t be anyone from The Nation group.  No, they were all very rational and progressive about that whole Flying Spaghetti Monster nonsense.  And even the “religious” among them were more social justice warriors than dogmatic fanatics.


January 2nd, 10 a.m.

7th Floor, CIA Headquarters

            Anita Hernandez crossed and uncrossed her legs.  In her seven years at the Agency, she’d never been called in on a Saturday.  And she’d never stepped foot on the 7th floor, the CIA Director’s floor.  This couldn’t be good news.

            The receptionist rose from her chair.  “The Director will see you now.”

            Anita followed the stout woman into a spacious conference room with a gleaming cherry wood table and plush leather chairs.  To the right, a wall of windows overlooked the woods surrounding CIA headquarters.

            The Directors of the CIA and the Clandestine Service entered through another door at the far end of the room.

            “Good morning, Ms. Hernandez,” the D/CIA said.  “Please, have a seat.”

            Anita’s throat went dry.  D/CIA Wilkerson was handsome, with just enough silver at the temples to look distinguished but still youthful.  “Good morning, sir.”

            Attractive though he was, Thurston Wilkerson was a political hack, reviled by the Agency’s rank-and-file.  The only reason he was in Langley was to implement the President’s political agenda, which many, Anita included, thought was at odds with the country’s national security.

            “Thank you for coming in on such short notice, Ms. Hernandez.”

            Anita smiled at Jim Brown.  She’d heard good things about the Clandestine Service chief, who’d recently been promoted to the position after years of recruiting agents in dark alleys and operating in dangerous terrain.  His name – if it was his real name – suited him.  Just shy of six feet, straight brown hair, dull gray eyes, he was exactly the sort of non-descript man who could move about unnoticed in almost any city in the world.

            Brown continued.  “This morning, at approximately 0600, a dozen Gitmo terrorists hijacked the Holland America ms Eurodam cruise ship.”

            “Excuse me, Jim,” the D/CIA interrupted.  “They aren’t Gitmo terrorists, they’re newly liberated political prisoners.”

            Brown looked at Anita, his eyebrows raised.  “These terr…these, these men are holding some 2,000 passengers hostage.”

            “Well, they’re not exactly hostages,” the CIA Director explained.  “The situation is a little unclear, but fortunately, we have a plan to resolve it peacefully and without force.”  Wilkerson opened a folder stamped “Eyes Only.”   “We’re calling this ‘Operation Jean Francois.’”

            “Jean Francois?” Anita asked.

            “Yes,” the D/CIA nodded, “the illustrious Secretary of State himself.”

            “You’re sending John Kerry to negotiate with a dozen terrorists?”

            “Freed political prisoners,” Wilkerson corrected.  “Secretary Kerry is an accomplished diplomat with a flair for handling difficult situations.  He’s the best man for the job.”

            The Clandestine Service’s director sighed and studied his cuticles.

            It took a moment for Anita to realize that Thurston Wilkerson was completely serious.  “I don’t understand what any of this has to do with me.”

            Jim Brown leaned forward, elbows on the table.  “Ms. Hernandez, we need you on that ship before the Secretary arrives.”

            “To do what exactly?”  She wasn’t trained to handle hostage situations or terrorists.  Her last two postings had been to Quito and Panama City, not exactly hotbeds of Islamofascist fervor.

            “To do the preliminary work,” Wilkerson chimed in.

            “Such as?”

            Brown took over.  “We’ve been in contact with the terrorists.”

            “Again, they’re not terrorists, Jim.”  Wilkerson shook his head in exasperation.

            “Fine, we’ve been in contact with the guys on the ship who aren’t paying passengers.  They’ve agreed to meet with our negotiator.  But first, we have to make sure it’s safe for Kerry.”

            “Of course the Secretary’s safety is paramount, but you’ll have another equally important task on board, Ms. Hernandez.”  The D/CIA consulted the folder again.  “In the event that the negotiations drag out longer than expected, you need to make sure that the accommodations are up to the Secretary’s standards.”

            Jim Brown closed his eyes and exhaled loudly.

            “His standards, sir?” Anita asked.

            “Yes, it’s all right here, Ms. Hernandez.  He needs a spa suite well-stocked with Evian, fresh fruit, warmed face towels on demand, a masseuse on call.”  The CIA Director flipped a page.  “Let’s see, what else?  Oh, yes, silk sheets.  Black.  Caviar, also black.”  He chuckled.

            Anita turned her eyes to Jim Brown.  He raised his hands in apology.  Or was it surrender?

            “You’ll be brought to the ship by one of our SEAL Teams.  SEAL Team Six. Or is it Four?”  Wilkerson waved a hand as if swatting a fly.  “Whatever.  One of those teams.”

            “Wait,” Anita interrupted.  “If you have a SEAL Team at the ready, why not have them storm the boat?”

            “President’s orders.”  The D/CIA sat up straighter.  “POTUS wants no violence, no casualties.  It’s all about peace and understanding.”

            Jim Brown hummed the chorus of “We are the World.”

            Under the table, Anita pinched her arm so she wouldn’t laugh.  “When do we start?”

            “Now,” Wilkerson and Brown said simultaneously.

            “But…I’m not dressed for an operation…or anything.”

            “No worries, Ms. Hernandez.  We have your maid uniform and a small pack of necessities, including three burner cell phones, in my private lavatory.”  The CIA Director gestured towards the back of the conference room.

            “A maid uniform?”

            Jim Brown averted his eyes.

            “My cover is a cruise ship maid?”

            “Would you prefer we call you a housekeeper?”  The D/CIA grinned.  “Surely you’ve made a bed or two in your life, Ms. Hernandez?”

            “Are you…is this…this is because I’m Hispanic and female, isn’t it?”

            “Well, not exactly,” Wilkerson replied.  “We considered Juan Jiménez but he’s hosting a college bowl game party tonight.”

            “Let me guess, Jiménez doesn’t know how to make a bed?” she snapped.

            The D/CIA crossed his arms and leaned back in his leather chair.  “Surely you’re not suggesting that we chose you only because of your demographic category?”

            Brown shook his head at her in warning.

            “I don’t think I can do this,” Anita mumbled.

            Thurston Wilkerson stood, pumped his fist, and shouted, “Si se puede!”


January 2nd, 5 p.m.

Somewhere between Florida and Cuba

            The SEAL Team approached the cruise ship’s bow in a Mark V Special Operations Craft.  Once they were sure no hostiles had spotted them (courtesy of a ScanEagle UAV flying overhead), Anita and three SEALs hopped into an inflatable raiding boat and motored to the ship’s port side.   The SEALs helped her into a harness and threaded a thick rope through a belay.  One of the men used an automatic crossbow to shoot a large hook over the ship’s rail.  Another secured her to the rope leading up to the deck.

            “Ready?” the dark-haired SEAL asked.

            “No,” she squeaked, to no avail.  They hoisted her upward towards the ship’s deck.

            A half a dozen Hail Mary prayers later, Anita swung her body over the ship’s rail.  She shed the climbing gear, tossed it overboard to the SEALs, and ran for the empty poolside restaurant.  She ducked behind the bar and slid to the floor, shaking in her sea water-soaked uniform.  The plane ride, rough seas, nerves, and a feeling of doom all added up to a hot mess of a spy.  With trembling fingers, she poured herself a shot of Grey Goose vodka from a bottle under the bar.  “Ah,” she sighed, savoring the warmth spreading through her.  After a second shot, she pulled one of the burner phones from the waterproof backpack.

            She texted the number the D/CIA had provided.  “On board.  Proceeding with recon.”

            “No time for recon.  Jean Francois arrives at 1800 hours.”

            In an hour?  Anita couldn’t possibly secure the ship for the Secretary in sixty minutes.  Especially with no firearms of her own.  This was nothing but a suicide mission.

            “I don’t even know where the terrorists…”  She hit the delete button ten times. “subjects are.”

            “Focus on your other task,” instructed the D/CIA.  “Secure proper amenities.”

            Anita dropped the phone into the backpack, and grabbed the vodka bottle again.  “What the hell,” she muttered.  “If I’m going to die, I might as well go out with a buzz.”


January 2nd, 5:45 p.m.

Mainstage Theater

Holland America ms Eurodam

            Katrina watched the five hijackers chatting near the stage.  Other than confiscating everyone’s cell phones, they’d let the passengers converse and mill about, so long as they stayed out of the first twenty rows of seats.  It was going on almost eleven hours in captivity.  The first two hours had been the worst, when the hijackers had forced The Nation group into the Grand Ballroom with other passengers.  Screaming children, hysterical women, men spewing Islamophobic venom under their breath – what a pathetic spectacle of Fox News-watching racists.

            Bill de Blasio deserved the credit for convincing the hijackers to move The Nation group to the Mainstage Theater.  Surprisingly enough, the Muslims hadn’t heard about the mayor and his progressive stances on race and justice.  Even so, after about ten minutes of discussion, Mohammad, the apparent ringleader, relented and ordered five of his younger charges to move the group.  Katrina was grateful, but after eleven hours, even the luxurious theater seats were getting uncomfortable.  Surely they could release the help – the chefs, waiters, and bartenders – so they could get back to work.  Damn it, she needed a drink.  Or ten.  And if they could get the hijackers drunk, it might diffuse the situation.

            Katrina considered approaching the Somalis/Yemenis/Pakistanis/whatever the hell they were (as if it mattered), but sent the Reverend Dr. William Barber and Rabbi Leonard Beerman instead.  With that whole religion thing in common, maybe they could win over the hijackers, or at least get some cocktails and appetizers rolling.

            As the reverend and the rabbi approached the young men, a cell phone rang.  A hijacker snatched his phone from the stage, and spoke in rapid Arabic (or Urdu, or Farsi, or something).  A moment later, he hung up and pointed his evil assault weapon at Barber and Beerman.

            “Hands up, don’t shoot,” said the Reverend.  “You know, we should talk Black Liberation Theology.  I know it’s not really your gig and all, but the Jesus part isn’t really the point.”

            “Seet down!” commanded one of the captors.  “Everyone!”

            Amid lots of muttering and complaints, the rest of The Nation’s benefactors, speakers, and fans shuffled back to their seats.

            “Young man,” began the rabbi.

            The hijacker eyed the elderly, bespectacled man.  “Are you a Jew?”

            “Why as a matter of fact, I am.”  He grinned and looked over his shoulder.  “Lots of us are.  But don’t you worry one bit.”  He lowered his voice.  “We hate Netanyahu, too.”

            The hijacker scanned the crowd.  “All the Jews, stand up!”

            At this, Katrina’s shoulders and neck tightened.  A massage and a visit to the steam sauna was in order.  She stood.  “Mr., um, sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”


            “But, you told the Jews to stand.”  Katrina realized that she was the only one standing.

            The hijacker advanced towards her.

            “Look,” Katrina began, “It’s like Leonard said.  None of us supports Israel.  Israel is the problem in the Middle East.”  She turned to face The Nation cruisers.  “Isn’t that right?”


            “War mongers.”

            “Damned Zionists.”

            Katrina faced the hijacker.  “Besides, a peace activist Presbyterian minister married my husb—partner and me in a non-denominational ceremony.  That has to count for something, right?”

            The hijacker frowned, his thick, scraggly brows joining together as one.  “Death to the Zionists,” he sneered.  A sudden commotion behind them cut short his rant.  Everyone turned to the back of the theater, where a group of hijackers, led by Mohammed, surrounded two white men, one tall with a certain je ne sais quoi sophistication, the other smaller and softer with an aura of peace about him.

            “My God, is that…”

            “Oh, it is!”

            “We’re saved!”

            Excitement spread through the crowd.

            Katrina leapt from her seat.  “Mr. Secretary!”

            The cold metal tip of an evil assault weapon suddenly pressed into her temple.


            “Seet down or I kill you.”

            “Little friendly advice.  Brush your teeth, young man.”  She slid into her seat, but managed to catch the Secretary of State’s eye.

            “Ms. vanden Heuvel, what a pleasure to see you.  We must do dinner!  Just the other day when we were at the chalet in Geneva, Teresa suggested we get together.”

            Katrina basked in the envy of everyone in the theater.

            The surly captors forced Secretary Kerry and his companion onto the stage.

            “Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. vanden Heuvel, thank you for inviting us to your little soiree.”

            Katrina squinted.  Maybe it was the lighting or perhaps it was his rather prominent brow, but she couldn’t determine if the Secretary was winking or blinking back tears.  What she could see, however, was a little Mexican maid sliding a few rows closer to the stage.  Now where had she come from?

            “President Obama sent me here today to secure your release.  Peacefully and amicably.”  John Kerry smiled and nodded at the hijackers, who stared back, expressionless, their evil assault weapons trained on him.  “I’m confident that we can come to a reasonable agreement that will allow all of us, you fellows included,” he gestured towards the unshaven, disheveled men, “to return to our daily lives.”

            A smattering of applause broke out in the audience.

            The Secretary continued.  “After years of captivity in that hellhole known as Guantanamo Bay, we understand your anger and frustration.  But really, it should be directed at George W. Bush and the Republicans.”

            At that, all the infidels clapped.

            Mohammed pointed his evil automatic weapon at the ceiling and fired off several rounds.  Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. 

            Cries of terror rang out.

            “It’s a real gun!”

            “Mayor de Blasio, help us!”

            The mayor stood.  “Everyone calm down and remain tolerant.  This is how these people celebrate, you see.”  He blinked rapidly.  “Anyway, we’re all about hands up don’t shoot here, so maybe you can put that gun away?  You know that violence is never the answer.”

            “Silence,” shouted Mohammed.

            The Secretary cleared his throat.  “As I was saying, we want to help you.  We may not always understand each other, but we can try.  You see, what I’ve found in all my years of service is that the peoples of the world speak a common language.  And that language is music.”  He nodded to his companion who was dragging a stool to the center of the stage.  “Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you James Taylor.”

            Gasps spread throughout the audience.  Even Katrina had been so mesmerized by the Secretary of State that she hadn’t paid any heed to his companion.

            J.T. settled onto the stool and strummed his guitar.  “I wrote this little song on the helicopter ride to the ship.  It says that we understand you, we love you, and you can count on us.  In other words, you’ve got a friend.”  He smiled at the men with the big, evil guns and began to sing:


When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand,

And nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.

Close your eyes and pray to him, and soon he will be there,

To behead even your darkest foes.


You just call Allah’s name, and you know where there is Islam,

He’ll come gunning, to kill them again.

Ramadan, Eid, or Hajj, all you have to do is pray,

And he’ll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve got Islam.


            Mohammed jumped up on the stage.  “What is the meaning of this?  This, this heresy, this insult to Islam!”

            J.T. continued to strum.

            The Secretary clasped his hands as if in prayer.  “Relax.  It’s the official and enlightened policy of the United States that the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”  He put a bony finger to his pale lips.  “Shhh, this is my favorite part.”


If the sky above you should turn dark and full of drones,

And that old infidel should begin to crow,

Keep your head unsevered and call his name out loud.

Soon, he’ll be blowing those IEDs.


You just call Allah’s name, and you know where there is Islam,

He’ll come gunning, oh yes he will, to kill them again.


            The Secretary closed his eyes and began to sway.


Hey, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got Islam?  Jihad can be so bold.

Infidels will hurt you and convert you.  Well, they’ll take your soul if you let them.

Oh yeah, but don’t you let them.


            One of the younger hijackers cried out, “Allah, I cannot take another second of this.  A shahid I must become, inshallah.”  With that, he pulled a long knife from inside his jacket and ran the blade across his own throat.  “Allahu akbar!”  Blood spurted from the left side of his neck.  He took another slice, and then collapsed in front of the stage, his body jerking and throat gurgling.

            The remaining hijackers stared in helpless horror at their fallen comrade.

            “You will pay for this.”  Mohammed shoved the Secretary with the butt of his evil assault weapon.

            J.T. continued to strum the guitar, lending an air of tranquility and love-not-war to the situation.

            “Now, now.”  The Secretary backed away a few steps.  “Let me assure you that we understand.  This is not your fault, my friend.”

            Mohammed stepped closer.

            Je ne suis pas Charlie!”  The Secretary raised his hands in the air.  “I swear, Je ne suis pas Charlie.”

            “What the hell are you talking about?”  Mohammed pulled at his beard and looked skyward.

            J.T. resumed singing.


You just call Allah’s name, and you know where there is Islam,

He’ll come gunning, oh yes he will, to kill them again.

Oh baby, don’t you know ‘bout

Ramadan, Eid, or Hajj, hey now, all you got to do is pray,

And he’ll be there, yes he will, you’ve got Islam.


            Mohammed dashed back to the edge of the stage to confer with his men.

            “Mohammed, jihad against lunatics isn’t jihad worth waging,” opined one.

            “I want to go home,” whimpered a young Somali.

            “We can’t leave Adbul,” wailed a third hijacker.

            Back on stage, the Secretary turned to his confrere.  “Sing something.”

            “I don’t have another song ready.”

            “Dig deep.  Your country needs you, James.”

            J.T. nodded, closed his eyes, strummed a few chords, and began.


Just yesterday morning, they let you know you were free.

Abdul, the plans they made put an end to you.

You hijacked this ship, and you did your jihad.

Now they’ll remember you’re a martyr, too.


Oh, you’ve seen blood and you’ve seen brain.

You’ve seen air assaults that you thought would never end.

You’ve seen waterboarders torturing your friend.

But you always thought that you’d see home again.


Won’t you look down upon me, Allah.

You’ve got help me…


            Mohammed wailed, “Make it stop!”

            Two hijackers grabbed the now very dead Abdul’s limbs, and the entire group of them exited stage left.

            Silence fell over the theater.

            “They didn’t like my singing?”  J.T. slouched even lower on the stool.   He pointed his guitar at The Nation cruisers.  “Did you like it?”




            J.T. stood and bowed.

            “I wonder where our Gitmo friends have gone?”  The Secretary rubbed his considerable chin.

            Katrina approached him.  His expression appeared frozen in bafflement.  Or does he always look that way? 

            “Mr. Secretary!”  The diminutive, dark-skinned maid jumped between Katrina and the Secretary.

            Katrina grabbed the woman’s shoulder and spun her around.  “Get us drinks and appetizers.  Now.”

            “I’m not a waitress.”  The woman turned to the Secretary.  “Sir, I need to move you somewhere secure.  I don’t know what the terrorists’ next move is.”

            The Secretary tried to furrow his brow.

            Katrina stomped her foot.  “Look, senorita, I don’t care who you are.  Get us some drinks immediately, or I’ll get your sassy little ass fired.  Comprende?”

            The Secretary, hands on his hips leaned towards the woman.  “Young lady, don’t you know who I am?”

            “Um, yeah.  Duh.  That’s why I’m here.”

            “Then get me a damned drink,” Katrina shrieked.

            “Get your own damned drink.”  The woman shoved her way past Katrina and dashed out of the theater.

            “Honestly, this is the worst service I’ve ever experienced.  And I thought the Germans were bad.”

            “Abhorrent,” the Secretary agreed, “simply abhorrent.”


January 2nd, 6:30 p.m.

Upper Deck

Holland America ms Eurodam

            Anita Hernandez leaned over the deck railing.  The terrorists were in two lifeboats that teetered halfway between the upper deck and the ocean below.

            “Hey, stop!”

            They craned their necks.  Mohammed spoke for the group.  “Leave us alone.  We’re going back to Gitmo.”

            “What?”  Anita fumbled in her backpack for one of the burner phones.  She had to alert the CIA.

            “You infidels have become imbeciles.  We refuse to martyr ourselves for idiots.”

            Anita dialed Director Wilkerson’s office.  “The ship’s secure, sir.  Hostiles are in two lifeboats, heading for Guantanamo Bay.”

            “Splendid, Ms. Hernandez.  We’ll send some folks to pick them up so they don’t get lost at sea or attacked by sharks or something dreadful.”

            Anita looked at the phone to check what number she’d dialed.  Yup, it was CIA headquarters.  “Sir, one of them is dead.”

            “Oh, that’s a shame.  He never got to go home….”



            Director Wilkerson cleared his throat.  “I assume that Jean Francois and Carl Simon are safe?”

            “Carl Simon?”

            “Yes, that’s our code name for the singing fellow.  We didn’t want to tell you about him in advance because he’s too valuable an asset to risk exposing.”

            Anita’s temples throbbed.  “Sir, I have to go check on things.”  Like vodka!  She jogged towards the poolside restaurant.  “Can the SEALs come pick me up?”

            “Absolutely.  They’ll be along soon.”


            “One more thing, Ms. Hernandez.  I’m awarding you the Intelligence Medal of Merit for your gallant efforts today.”


            “Absolutely!  We have a new award category for employees who resolve conflicts peacefully.”

            Anita took a swig of Grey Goose.  “Fantastic.”  She tossed the phone into the pool, poured herself a fresh shot, and contemplated whether the Secret Service would even notice her throwing the medal over the White House fence.


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