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A Frank Letter Home From an Undisclosed Front

14 December 2001

Hi Mom,

Hope you are well over there deep inside homeland security territory. I’m not allowed to tell you where I am ­ even if I knew ­ but you’ve probably guessed it anyway.

If you’re watching the news ­ between Merry Christmas perfume ads and Law and Order and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns, sure signs we’re involved in total war ­ you’ll know even less than I do about what’s really going-on here.

It’s like the old mushroom-growing joke, they keep us permanently in the dark and throw dung on us from time to time.

But don’t worry about me. Apart from dodging occasionally unfriendly-fired 15,000lb Daisy Cutters dropped from 37,000ft I’m in no danger. All wars should be so safe and peaceful. Our main job is to shepherd journalists in trendy Banana Republic foreign-correspondent jackets from one sound bite opportunity to another. Keeping them ­ and ourselves ­ as far away from anything remotely resembling death and destruction as possible. Or hand-to-hand combat.

Recently I’ve been pondering if we really are at war there must be an enemy around here somewhere. But I haven’t seen one.

Of course, everyone looks and dresses alike so even if one came up and bit me I wouldn’t know the difference.

The locals seem happy to have us here when the cameras are on them and a microphone shoved in their face. But I can’t go anywhere alone. And driving around is real dicey.

Especially at night. They say before we came you could travel from city to city without fear of being pillaged by highway robbers along the way. Now I wouldn’t risk it.

The few token British lads sharing our feed don’t know what they’re doing here either. So they keep us all in stitches with Monty Python skits of their top generals standing like deer trapped in headlights and saying nothing as our Joint Chaffs of Stiff give a briefing.

I have met lots of nice Pakistanis. The ones working for us and heading towards the alleged front get a huge kick out of sharing a joke then kicking the ones from the other side fleeing back to Pakistan.

I’m not so sure about the thousands of deeply disgruntled Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajikistanis, Kazakhstanis, Karakalpaks, Tartars and Turkmen. Who seem most resentful about having bombs dropped on them from great heights. Who knows what they’ll get up to later?

I suppose because 80% of us here are under 21 they don’t want us to worry. So we haven’t seen photographs of the 35 people who started this and who are still at large. Sergeant did show us a picture of someone called Moeller Oman and said we should nab him if we see him. But the friendly Pakistanis say he’s long gone and is probably now watching fixed limited-over one day international cricket in Karachi.

Yesterday we had a pep-talk from the guy who thinks he’s now running the whole shebang. Seems we dug him up to be the next designated President because he speaks English and gets his hair cut regularly. But no-one I’ve met ever heard of him.

There’s also a rumour we’re having big problems scratching a peacekeeping force together before we pull-out completely next Tuesday.

Whoops, must end now. Just got marching orders to another impoverished country I can’t mention.

Wish I could be home for the holidays and Seinfeld reruns.

Have a drink on me ­ I can’t because I’m under 21 ­ your ever-loving son,


PS. Is your anthrax scare over? Who could do such a terrible thing? I’m so happy we renounced all biological weapons in 1969. I wish all countries had such compassionate governments.

A “Sorry Frank” Rebuttal: Pentagon officials today acknowledged that US Army scientists in recent years have made anthrax in a powdered form that could be used as a weapon. Despite the USA renouncing all biological weapons in 1969 and assuring the world it was destroying its entire germ arsenal.

Next Week: Survey shows 95% of ‘American People’ under 21 believe ‘War on Terrorism’ has much greater chance of success than ‘War or Drugs’, ‘War on Poverty’, ‘War against Racism’ or ‘War on Illiteracy’. When asked why, 87% said they’d never heard of any of them.

David Marsden.
(c) David Marsden.

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