We met the leader of the rebel forces on a rural airstrip carved onto the top of a mountain. Looking like we had just interrupted his Bob Marley concert, he didn’t seem too impressed with us either.
“America promised support!” he demanded of our handler, another spook who had been in-country for several months gathering intelligence on the cartel’s movements. “You bring me two soldiers? Two?!” he bellowed.
Now I’m not one to toot my own horn – if I were I wouldn’t be in this line of work – but this was all blather that Gaz and I had heard before. One of the drawbacks to being a fantastic “Quiet Professional,” as the agency likes to call us, is that nobody ever hears about your exploits, and so with every insertion we get to listen to the same incredulous locals mad that the Americans short-changed them somehow when it came to furthering their little local conflicts.
Eventually Anna was able to calm the guy down, and now come to think of it I doubt that’s her real name anyway, and we had our first set of directions: one of the rebel leader’s schoolboy idols had been captured by the cartel and was being used for propaganda. Real popular among local kids, he was something of an inspirational figure, now made to denounce the old ways and praise the cartel. Not our usual kind of job, but something we could handle.
Maybe the tie-dyed leader figured this would be a good test for us, or maybe he really did care about the old man. Really his motivations didn’t matter one whit as to us doing our job – that’s something a lot of people can’t handle once they get into the field, the idea that everything we do is both political and completely devolved from reason at the same time.
Every time we’re called, it’s because some politician somewhere did something someone else didn’t like, that understanding is easy. But the realization that the why doesn’t matter, the truth doesn’t matter, that’s what gets to them. We’re not paid to ask questions, we’re not paid to take a side or care about the conflict, we’re paid to follow orders. Gaz and I, we talked about it once, and really we both just shrugged. We fight other peoples’ wars for them, then go home until the phone rings again.
I never said this job was for everyone.