Monday, October 19, 2009

Chapter 14. Target Acquired

The US attack on Teheran was devastating. The fact that it was the only attack of the 4-hour war to specifically target personnel was not lost on Obama and his assembled senior advisors. It had to be done. This was the first chance to get Bin laden since Spring, when with Musharraf’s cooperation, there had been a joint strike in Waziristan. Of course, someone - or everyone - in the ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Service had tipped him off and the valley where Osama was guaranteed to reside was devoid of everything except footprints and feces. The raid was scrubbed after the Predators couldn’t spot a living thing in the valley after an hour of scouting.

There was someone looking back, however. Because for the first time since they began using the drones over Pakistan and Afghanistan, a Predator returned with a cal. 30 hole in the left wing. No accident.

The fact that UBL was in Teheran was also important. It meant several things to Obama. For example, Obama could now de-emphasize the war in Afghanistan, claiming that the cabal between Al Qaeda and Ahmadinejad had been broken up. The threat was gone or reduced to a point where the enemy could never recover. Plus, Obama could hasten the departure from Iraq. With Al Qaeda humbled, there was no chance they could supply lines from Pakistan to Iraq without great difficulty. The time it took them to rebuild was time the Iraqis could build their own defenses.

Politically, it meant Obama could return to his base with a promise kept, while simultaneously handing the head of Osama to the right. It was a beautiful thing.

The Situation Room watched the attack play out. It was great theatre. It was the best reality show on TV and had the most limited audience. It was also the most expensive pay-per-view.

The Chinook landed in a nearly-vacant parking lot 12 blocks from the apartment complex. That maneuver gave the guards on the upper floors something to look at. The satellite view showed them looking through field glasses and pointing. They had to have seen the Iranian markings. To add to the legitimacy, some crew exited the helicopter and ran around to the other side. A couple others walked away from the craft, toward the apartment complex and examined maps and papers on the top of an automobile. They returned to the helicopter, the rotors returned to full revolutions and the craft rose into the air.

It made a large sweep away from the apartment complex in order to appear to have no interest in that particular district. As it did, it gained altitude until it was at 2,500 feet. At that altitude the beating of the rotors was still very loud and would cover the sound of the incoming F-22s until it was too late.

The chinook made certain that it wandered south far enough to no longer be heard. That would be a couple miles. Then, it performed a few lazy loops until the Raptors were 10 miles out. At that point the lumbering workhorse made a graceful turn and began to bear down on the apartment complex. At one mile, the argon laser was charged and aimed at the target. The crosshairs were set two floors below the roof so that there would be some DNA to recover. The giant helo would pass to the west of the complex after bombs were released. Until then it had to maintain laser fix on the target - a task which was largely automated unless the helicopter went around the building.

The Chinook was close now. A half mile away and 3,000 feet. It climbed in order to appear to the guards to be moving without sacrificing a good angle on the building. At a quarter-mile the word was relayed, “Bombs away.” The Chinook was put into a fast climb as a monstrous package was released from its gaping cargo bay. The box fell three-thousand feet in about eight seconds and a parachute popped open.

At the very moment the chute opened, a half dozen of the guards saw it pop as the floor exploded under their feet. The men’s legs and hips were instantly broken as the lift of the building’s roof sent their appendages flying before their greater mass could accelerate. Now, helpless on the concrete tiles they rose into the air like pancakes on the end of a spatula, flipping and flopping.

Some in the crowd were tossed clear of the roof and into space. They were still conscious of the upper portions of the building passing them as they fell to earth. One or two were seen rolling from a relatively unscathed section of the roof that no longer had an ornamental railing, they fell at the same rate as the debris, which had now fallen back upon itself.

It was at the moment when it looked like the building might remain damaged but standing that the package beneath the parachute shed it’s case. In a microsecond, the metal shroud of the fuel-air bomb was parted from the contents by a precise explosive. That blast also distributed a lethal mixture of ethylene oxide and a metal particulate over an 80-foot diameter. The shock wave of the initial explosion causes the metal particles to slam together and ignite at the same time. The detonation of the metal creates a blast wave that has more devastation per ton of explosive than any other conventional weapon. It would be heard over the chatter of a conversation forty miles away. Anyone within a block or two would suffer permanent hearing loss even indoors, that is if the flying glass did not kill them first. There would be no glass untouched for about a mile from ground zero.

The 200-foot tall faces of the two apartment buildings adjacent to the blast disappeared from the screen as the camera struggled to adjust to the sudden brilliance of the blast. A massive fireball gathered, rolling into itself and becoming larger, then cooling and turning dark with a glowing underbelly. Debris could be seen rushing into the space that had been occupied by the fireball and falling away as chaff. Immediately, as the mushroom shaped cloud rose to 500 feet, the two cleft buildings fell helplessly into the street below.

The Chinook was about three-quarters of a mile away when the mushroom cloud appeared. Teheran would begin to panic. A mushroom cloud is a mushroom cloud and when you expect to be bombed with nuclear weapons, you will believe your own eyes.

It was fifteen minutes before the fires had died down sufficiently for the Chinook to return. No one was at the scene. Cars could be seen on every street surrounding the fallen buildings and the one thing they all had in common was that they were all headed away from that one spot.

The Chinook settled into soccer field across the highway from the devastation. The main doors opened and men in HazMat suits emerged. Some carried weapons, some Geiger counters with live radiological samples taped to the case to provide a constant rattle, like metallic popcorn in a frenzy. One man carried an HD video camera transmitting pictures back to the Chinook, and then via satellite, directly to The White House. It was also transmitting sound.

The camera bounced as the man struggled to maintain his balance in the cumbersome space suit as he stepped over chunks of debris searching for human remains.

Bodies were seen some distance from the base of the structures, but several had dropped with the structure and were expected to be found in the rubble.

About ten meters ahead of the camera there was burst of automatic weapons fire. None of the HazMat suited men reacted, one of the men was seen pointing his weapon and waving the others forward. Whatever he saw was no longer alive.

The camera moved forward. Several men ahead could be seen moving plywood, asphalt, concrete block and drywall, revealing a massive pile of bodies. Remarkably, there was not much blood. But it was difficult to see facial features because dust and soot covered many of the faces. Each man had a spray bottle they used to direct a stream of disinfectant-laced water. As each face was revealed a number was placed beside the face, digital photos were taken, a syringe was inserted into the neck of the victim and fluids withdrawn and the actual number tag and the contents of the syringe were placed into a plastic zip lock and dropped into a fishnet bag.

This grizzly activity moved rapidly, but there were so many bodies it was taking a long time.

It became apparent to the group at The White House that something was going on before the cameraman noticed. Two or three of the Special Ops fighters were gathered in one corner of the screen. They looked down, sprayed, moved a few objects, sprayed some more and for the longest time just stared at the ground. Then they stood erect, just looked at each other. One turned toward the camera and called out in English.

“You need to get that over here,” the voice behind the clear vinyl mask could be heard to say, and even though his face was obscured, there was a clear sense of urgency.

The picture bounced and bobbled, for a moment it revealed the damage to the remaining buildings, then quickly tilted down and spun toward a point just three feet below the lens. The auto-focus motor attached to the protruding tube of optical glass

spun the lens around until the unmistakable visage of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came into view.

“I got another one,” a voice called from a few feet away.

Again the camera swayed and rocked before finding its target, a hirsute and craggy face, now detached from its lifelong perch upon a pair of shoulders somewhere, elsewhere, in the rubble. A pair of blue-gloved hands reached down, grabbed the skull by the ears and pointed it right at the camera.

It was the remains of Ayatollah Khamenei.

In moments, a number of additional bodies were discovered, all in the clerical garb associated with the Ayatollahs. Each was being tagged and bagged. The Special Ops guys were suddenly on pins and needles. They didn’t expect what they found, and even though these guys were the most battle hardened in the service, it shook them up.

After all, at the suggestion of and with the help of Israel, The United States of America had just murdered the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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