My office phone rang and I answered. A voice boomed, “Dick, I need a war!”
“Vice President Dick Cheney’s office”, I politely replied. “Who may I say is calling?”
“Demon. James Demon.”
It is assumed by Christians and atheists alike that Vice President Cheney has sold his immortal soul to one dark lord or another. As a result, I expect that when the Rapture comes our dear VP will be whisked away to hell by Asmodeus or Mephistopheles, or perhaps even Sauron. Demon struck me as a bit too generic a name. I wondered if it was an alias.
“I’ll put you right through, Mr. Demon”, I said.
Dick picked up his phone. I put mine on mute so that I could listen in.
“Dick, I need a war!” Demon’s voice boomed a second time.
“Yeah, yeah, tell me about your problem, Jamie.”
“You know my bank is long on state-sponsored violence. Well this summer one of our new traders went a little too long and we’re out of the money on some of our September options. So …”
“How are we going to pay for this war of yours?” the VP interrupted brusquely, to the point, as always.
Demon replied, “We’ll squeeze the poor. Our people in Congress are all on board.”
“Hrmph.” The Vice President replied. “Nothing humanitarian, right? Just profit?”
“Of course its just about money, Dick. I’m a fucking banker. But here is the deal.” Demon spoke these last syllables in a terse, staccato fashion. “This war needs to be land-based so it uses lots mine resistant vehicles.”1
“So you’re flogging that mechanized infantry shit? Whatever. Call me when you’ve bought the votes.”
“Don’t call MRAPs shit. You want to go into battle with a Kamaz …”
“Have your people call Marge when you’re ready.”
“Shively, get your ass in here!”
I was so excited I fumbled the phone into its cradle. And who wouldn’t be prior to meeting the finest extra-legal mind of our generation?
Dick’s admin Marge (the real leader of the free world, according to some) smiled as I threw on my jacket, straightened my tie and rushed into Dick’s simple but large corner office. On one wall was a six foot portrait of Richard Nixon, on the other a picture of President Clinton Dick, which liked to use for target practice. Facing me was a great glass wall which had a great view of the Rose Garden. It was spring. The cherry trees on the edge of the garden were flowering; the rose bushes were covered in buds, presaging a cheery, hopeful future. For a moment I was taken out of time: this could have been the office of a satrap, vizier or mandarin, and I guess in his dyspeptic, cantankerous way that was exactly what the Dick Cheney was, though with an in interest in oil not figs, apricots and pistachios.
The Vice President started to speak before I’d sat down. He said, “Shively, one of our clients wants a war, or at least a police action.” Dick likes to call the military-industrial complex our clients.
“Will a straight up arms deal do?” I asked earnestly.
“Yep. Do you have any suggestions? Maybe invade Basra and break the oil union there?”
“Well, in theory the Mahdi Army are allies …”
“Ahem.” The Vice President can convey so much with his phlegm.
“Erstwhile allies”, I amended. “Regardless, attacking the Mahdi Army might send the wrong message. And there’s a small problem with the British.”
“Fuck the British”, he said reflexively.
“Basra’s in their theater of operations.”
“Right. I guess that’s what I pay you for. What about one of the Stans? Maybe Tajikistan? They’ve got lots of natural gas.” Dick has a soft spot for meddling in former Soviet Socialist Republics.
“Uh, right”, I replied tentatively. “We already have mercenaries and drilling sub-contractors in Tajikistan, so I assume you’re suggesting escalating our presence. Perhaps we could take out President Rahmon? That would stir things up.”
“Fuck that idea. Too complicated just to sell some armored trucks. How about Iran?”
I replied that starting a war with Iran was a disproportionate solution to the problem at hand. Dick agreed. This was a career making moment. I needed an alternative plan. I fell back on my training. “What would John Galt do right now?” I wondered. This thought didn’t help much. Unfortunately, Ayn Rand never addressed the issue of corporate-sponsored wars. Then I had an idea, “Sir, if I may be so bold …”
“Spit it out, Shively.”
“What about an arms deal with Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan? There’s been a lot of trouble recently in Andijan.”
The VP was impressed. “It solves Demon’s MRAP problem – mechanized infantry are perfect for crushing popular unrest. But what’s the fossil fuel angle?” Dick is a fly to shit about fossil fuels.
“There’s no oil to speak of in Uzbekistan. But there’s lots of natural gas.”
“That’ll do. Good work, Shively.”
Vice President Richard Cheney, leader of the free world, swiveled the folds of his cellulite ridden ass into action. He shouted into his intercom, “Margaret, get that dipstick on the phone!”
“Do you mean President Bush, sir?”
“No, the Brit.”
“Prime Minister Blair?”
“No, the other dipstick. The peasant revolt guy.”
There was a pause while the Vice President was connected to Downing Street.
Once connected, the Vice President snarled into his speaker-phone, “Jack, its Dick Cheney. I need your help. We’re trying to sell some light armor in Central Asia. Yeah, MRAPs. I know they’re only good for crushing civilian unrest, but that’s what my clients want me to sell. I’m sending an agent named Shively to Uzbekistan to broker the deal. Can your people help? Of course you’ll get a cut. Would you prefer arms sales, land-rights or kickbacks? I agree. Arms sales are cleanest. We’ll settle the details when we meet at the next G7. Sure. What was her name, again? Evensong. My man’s named Shively. My admin Marg will set things up.”
The VP hung up, scribbled some names onto a piece of paper, and then turned to me. “Shively, here’s a list of contacts. Let Margaret know if you need anything. And I mean anything. Demon is an important client.”
When he finished speaking Dick started to cough as if trying to regurgitate both his stomach and his intestines. This commotion caused me to really look at the pasty-faced old troll. It was amazing that he was alive at all. “Fuck this shit!” the Vice President shouted while he pulled himself together with a loud hork. I realized then that even something as debilitating as dyspepsia can give you strength.
“Huh”, I replied smartly.
“Stop looking at me like I’m a Page for the House of Representatives and move your ass. We’ve got to sell some product.”