Damascus Airport September 2013: It was late night in the waning days of summer, rain steadily falling from the sky beading upon the windshield of a waiting SUV. Air Farce one rolls across the tarmac after just landing from its long journey. There is no fanfare or pomp and circumstance to be played as the door opens near the 747’s cockpit. A truck of indeterminate make positions the mobile stairs to the Jet. The long figure of the President emerges wearing a black pinstripe suit over a white button down with a cornflower blue tie. Making his way down the stairs and onto the tarmac, he now walks over to the awaiting SUV. Two military figures wearing khaki uniforms with AK-47’s slung over their shoulder, brandishing polished helmets that harken back to those worn by American GI’s in the second world war, escort the President to the front seat of the SUV, opening the door for him to enter. The President takes his seat and the SUV rolls away.
Sitting behind the President in the SUV in the shadows are Syria’s President, Bashar Assad, and his defense minister. Bashar Assad, dressed in a khaki overcoat and fedora speaks to the President, “Listen, I’m sorry it had to turn out this way. It was only business. Never personal. I always liked those 500 civilians”.
The President responded, “I want to settle these international affairs once and for all.”
The defense minister leans forward to speak to the President, his face illuminated by the street lights from the Damascus roads. “He’s a good kid. Listen, I’m sorry about the terrorist bombing the other night” The minister extends his hand in reconciliation to which the President accepts. “Now, turn around on your knees. I have to frisk you.” The President turns around and complies as the minister busily moves his hands across the President’s body looking for hidden weapons. “I’ must be getting too old for this.” Finishing the search, the minister said, “He’s clean”, confirming what all parties in the vehicle knew would be the outcome before the search began.
The SUV continued its journey through the rainy Syrian night. They approached a bridge with signage that said ‘Tehran, 200 miles’. The President became nervous as this was not his understood destination. “We’re going to Iran”, he asked his fellow occupants.
“Maybe”, replied Assad.
“Maybe”, replied Assad.
The SUV rolled across the bridge. Suddenly, the driver jerked the steering wheel and performed a high speed uturn, crossing into oncoming traffic to change direction back across the bridge. “Good job, Ali”, Assad said to his driver putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. The President knew this was done to lose any tails Assad might have worried about, but in actuality, the President was relieved to be back on track to his expected destination.
Several more minutes went by before the SUV pulled in front of Jack Dempsey’s Italian Restaurant, and odd establishment for a country such as this. The President, Assad, and the minister all stepped outside of the vehicle and entered the restaurant, the SUV departing behind them. Despite its location in Syria, the restaurant had all the ambiance of a 1940’s Italian joint in the US. A mustachioed waiter with a white apron and thick Italian accent seated the trio. The President’s mind was not on the menu, but on his task ahead.
Bashar Assad settled into his chair focusing on the President across from him. The defense minister proceeded to snatch a napkin off the table and tuck it into his shirt, anticipating potential drips of saucy food. “How’s the Italian here”, he asked Assad.
“The best. Try the veal”, Assad replies. Turning to look at the President, Assad spoke instead to the minister, “I’m going to speak Italian to the President”
“Go right ahead” replied the nonchalant minister.
It was only by chance that the President, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, happened to speak Italian. The two men began to converse about everything ranging from the NBA finals earlier in the year to the upcoming NFL season. “Tell me Mr. President, how do you get all of these teams to visit your home, “ Assad asked the President.
“It’s simple. I just offer them an exemption from the upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act, “ the President confidently answered. “Listen, I gotta take a leak.” The President asked the two men taking advantage of the break in the conversation.
“You gotta go, you gotta go,” responded the minister, now enjoying the plate of veal that was just placed in front of him by the waiter. The President stood up to go but before he could take more than one step, the suspicious Assad frisked the President’s crotch one more time. “I already frisked him, he’s clean. I’ve frisked a thousand young punks, “ the minister reassured Assad.
“Alright, but don’t take too long,” Assad instructed the President, put out at this break in conversation.
The President walked into the vacant bathroom. It was very old. The two sit down stalls still had the old box and chain design of the turn of the 20th century, but that is exactly what the President hoped for. He walked into one of the stalls and stuck his hand behind the box holding the water. His hands met nothing but porcelain. His pulse quickened as he continued to feel around for his objective. Just as desperation began to creep into his mind, his fingers felt the cold metal of a gun secretly stashed behind the box. The president removed the gun slowly revealing a 6 shot revolver with tape around the handle and the trigger. As he held the heavy weapon, he remembered standing in the White House bowling alley with Leon Panetta. Panetta put the gun in the President’s hand. “I put tape around the trigger and the handle to make it untraceable. It is as cold as they come,” Panetta explained to the younger President.
The President held the gun out to squeeze off a practice round. The gun rang out with a loud bang to which the President exclaimed, “that’s loud.”
“Yeah, I did that on purpose to scare the crap out of the other customers. Now listen, what are you going to do after you shoot.” Panetta asked the President with concern on his face.
“Sit down, finish my dinner,” the President smartly quipped.
Panetta was more stern in his response, “No seriously. You shoot them each twice in the head. Then you walk out slowly and drop the gun, that way everyone still thinks you’re armed. The customers will be so scared they won’t look at you in the face. Then, you go off on long vacation to Martha’s Vineyard playing golf, and all the rest of us catch the fallout.”
“Do you really think it will be that bad,” the President asked the seasoned Panetta.
“Oh, these World Wars have to happen every now and then to get rid of the bad blood. 1914, 1939. If we had stopped Hitler back in 38, “ Panetta replied.
The President was done reminiscing. He put the gun in his suit pocket, flushed the toilet as if it had been used and proceeded to wash his hands. The sounds of normal bathroom use reassured Assad back in the dining area, though he thought what a waste of water it was for the President to wash his hands. The President returned to the table with the two awaiting and unsuspecting men. He sat across from Assad as Assad picked up talking to the President as if he had never left the table, still speaking in Italian. The President was more aware of his surroundings. He felt a lump rise in his chest as the moment to pull the trigger came closer. The sound of a street car passing increased the stress, and the President chose this moment to make his move. He stood up to the incredulous looks of his dinner companions. Removing the revolver from his suit, he aimed at Assad and squeezed off a single round into his head. He then drew on the minister and shot him once in the throat. The minister grabbed his neck choking, looking at the President unable to utter words. The President the fired another round into the top of the minister’s head, forcing the minister back into his chair, feet kicking over the table. The President stood looking over his work for a moment, the other patrons were stunned. He turned around with his gun still in his hand held high. He walked to the door dropping the weapons and exiting the restaurant. A stealth drone made a landing outside on the street. The President scurried over and hopped on the back of the drone, taking off for the airport and year’s vacation. Dreaming of the lush links awaiting him, he thought it was all worth it.