was lucky to get a room at the Hotel Tajikistan in downtown Dushanbe.
Since George W. Bush announced the Great Crusade it's been hard to get
a room anywhere in Central Asia. The US State Department, the CIA, the
British Foreign Office and various "adventure travel" companies
operating as fronts for everything from the SAS to the New York Police
are block-booking anything with running water and even B-grade backpacker
are most lucky we have a cancellation", the young Tajik man remarked
as he carried my pack to 6th floor. "Osama bin Laden himself stayed
in this very room in 1992 during the troubles, when we are fighting
where is Osama now?" I asked casually.
have reliably heard he is in Malaysia with Dr Mathahir".
tipped him a few Tajik rubl and wondered if my quest for Bruce Possum
was as futile the hunt for bin Laden, or the war on Afghanistan, or
whatever it was that the West was doing.
the years, more rumours of Bruce have come out of Central Asia than
anywhere else, so when Sergi, my well-placed contact in St Petersburg,
emailed me with a new lead, I was drawn to Tajikistan as if by marsupial
am talking to officer I know from our 201st Armoured Division in Tajikistan
who are patrolling border Afghanistan. He met Australian possum who
is in some way connected with anti-Taliban of Northern Alliance, he
thinks perhaps as drug-runner or supply guns. After the attacks on
America there are now many Americans there and also British commando
forces. Perhaps is not a good time to go.
took Bruce's last note out of my wallet. It was grubby and faded now.
I found it in '88 after he vanished, taped to the lid of the tin box
in which he kept his 9 mm Browning: So long partner, Have gone to
Afghanistan. Sorry, will make it up to you. Keep the gat.
I knew the words by heart, they looked like they always did.
downstairs bar was full of Russian soldiers, CIA operatives, British
SAS types, French spooks posing as archaeologists and Pakistani spooks
posing as journalists. The ceiling was still pock-marked with bullet
holes from the last time the boys from the 201st Division let off steam.
was ordering a cider from an impassive barman when a Russian officer
weaved towards me. "Afstraliya, da? Kak vas zavut? Your
name? I am Evgeny. I have cousin in Bondi. What brings you to yis place."
Evgeny looked as good a place as any to start. "Nick, Nick Possum.
I'm looking for my business partner, Bruce Possum. He disappeared in
1988. I think he might be here, or in Afghanistan". I thought I
saw a flicker of interest cross the barman's face.
Dushanabe? Nyet". Evgeny slapped me on the back and laughed
uproariously. "I am only knowing you are possum from Afstraliya
because picture book my cousin send. Perhaps you will have more luck
near the border, but there yis much danger.
Americans are welcome to Afghanistan. Yis pipple all crazy, you know.
We give Americans air base, whatever. Our President Putin says he will
give arms to Northern Alliance but you know this: we have been giving
them for years! So nothink change. Except now you fight our war to secure
Russian border here! And you give us, how you say, free hand,
in Chechenya, so your Chechen freedom fighters of yesterday become now
our terrorists today, da?"
middle-aged man who looked like a process-server sat gloomily over a
whiskey. I asked him if he had a role in the Great Crusade.
I'm a process-server. Gotta FBI warrant for Mr bin Laden. Don't happen
to know where I can find him, do you?" A weak smile crossed his
bell boy says he's in Malaysia. You've got a bummer of a job. How did
you get it?" I asked.
I volunteered. See, I know bin Laden. Met him a few years back when
his brother, Salem, was George W. Bush's partner in George's failed
Persian Gulf oil venture."
a small world isn't it? Get any leads from the other brothers? The ones
that lived in Boston?"
luck. They complained that he never keeps in touch these days; not even
buy everybody drink in yonour of Great American Crusade against Yislam!"
click here for for Part 2 of The Great Crusade
of Bruce, the story of our hero's search for his long lost business
partner, can be downloaded in PDF.