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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”
—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
Jimmy Marzan’s eyes opened in complete darkness. He sat up and stared at the sliver of bluish light beneath the door just beyond arm’s reach. He had lost count of the number of times he had woken this way, in his tiny, tomb-like cell. His mind had resigned itself to the confinement, driving out every thought of the outside world, banishing the thoughts the very instant they appeared. He felt his wounds. They had healed into tender scars after surgery and months of convalescence.
Then, as it did every morning, the itching appeared. It started in his scalp and then spread down into his face the instant he began scratching. He was not permitted to cut his hair or shave. His hair and beard had grown thick and long. He showered only once per week. Perhaps that was a means of determining how long he had been held prisoner. How many showers had there been? He racked up the specific memories in his mind but lost reliable count after a dozen. He had been there many, many more weeks—months even, and he couldn’t really be certain that his showers were spaced at seven day intervals. He gave up, conceding that it had been many months.
The light came on in his cell. Intensely bright, it pained him like an unbearably loud noise. He was sitting on a vinyl bedroll on a steel bunk with a wool blanket in his lap. His bare feet rested on a cool concrete floor. To his right was a stool and sink, no mirror. The walls were painted cinderblocks, seven feet high. The ceiling was a slab of gray concrete with an unbreakable halogen light fixture set in the middle of it. He scratched his face and then examined the scar in his side again, all that remained of the wound he obtained in the firefight near Sheep Mountain; how close that bullet had come to gutting him. Luckily, it had only torn through his oblique, two inches below his rib, exposing but not damaging his intestines. Now he had a pink scar that had widened over time to resemble a miniature shark bite.
Boots shuffled outside the door. Jimmy kneeled onto the concrete floor and placed his hands behind his head. Fists pounded. Keys jingled. The lock clicked. The door flew open and men in black riot gear stormed in. He was hooded and zip-tied, put in a wheelchair and pushed out into the hall. Down the corridor they rolled him, past a dozen identical cell doors on either side, then through a sliding steel door, and another that finally led out of the stale air of the cellblock and into the outside world. He felt the sun on his arms and a cool, dry, dusty breeze permeated his jumpsuit. They rolled him across an open area, perhaps fifty yards or so. The sun warmed his head beneath the black hood and filled him with vigor and calm. But then it got dark and cold again as they went into another building, through two doors, down another hall, another door, and into another cell. They lifted him up and sat him in a chair but they left his black hood and zip-ties on. He knew this place and what came next.
“Good morning, Mr. Marzan,” came a familiar voice.
Jimmy didn’t answer.
“How is your recovery going?”
Jimmy didn’t answer.
“Do you know where you are, James?”
“Do you know what day it is?”
“Do you know what country you’re in?”
“Have you ever visited the town of Hermosillo, Mexico, Mr. Marzan?”
Marzan sensed at least two other persons in the cell.
“Do you know why you’re here, James, in this foreign country?”
“You are here because here is outside domestic legal jurisdiction. Does that mean anything to you?”
His interrogator leaned in and spoke directly into Jimmy’s ear. “In other words, civilian law does not apply. No lawyer for you. No right to speedy trial.”
James didn’t believe he was in Mexico. The helicopter flight from Camp Constantine wasn’t long enough. He was hooded for that trip, too, but he had sensed that he was facing aft and he felt the sun hitting his right shoulder during the flight. Judging by the time of day, they had to have flown north, not south.
“You know you’re a dead man, right?”
Jimmy Marzan remained silent.
“I know you can hear me, Doc.”
Jimmy lifted his hooded head in acknowledgement, hoping his response would be enough to prevent some form of terror that would be delivered by one of the other two in the room.
“You don’t have to speak to us today, James. We’ve been over your story enough times, already. However, we do have some information you may want to hear so listen carefully. Are you listening?”
“Your little insurgent unit—Company Z, as you call yourselves—well, I’m very sorry to report that it has been completely annihilated. All of your comrades were killed in an engagement with Charlie Company, 1st of the 20th Americal Division, near a mountain town called Ridgeway. I’m sure you know very well where that is. It seems that your unit was using several abandoned mines as weapons caches. We found quite a bit of Doc materiel there. Lucky for you, you were in here with us. Report says it wasn’t much of a battle. Your comrades were starving to death. Many were frostbitten, hypothermic. It was cold, but clear and sunny that fateful day. DSF first tore them apart with artillery and drones. It ended up a real turkey shoot. Charlie Company dropped in and wiped out the remnants. Prisoners? You’re probably wondering if we took any. Yes. Six survived in all. They’re at Guantanamo now. Have you ever been to Cuba, James? It’s nasty hot there. It’s nasty, nasty hot. Maybe we’ll send you there, too. You can sit and sweat in your little 5 by 8 cell until we decide we have no more use for you.”
James sat quiet and still, hands tied behind him, trying not to make any sound or reveal anything by his manner—neither defiance nor submission. An exhibition of either would unleash terror upon him. He had already told them everything they wanted to know, even if he had to make a good portion of it up. They always got what they wanted. Resistance was futile. What was happening to him now wasn’t about getting more information. There wasn’t anything actionable in what he still knew and he knew they knew that. What it was about was power.
To the insurgents, the federal government’s forces were known as “Freddy.” For Freddy, it was all about power and power was constructed by obtaining dominance and submission. It wasn’t about breaking a single man. Jimmy knew this. No single man was worth all the effort. He was but a single brick set in a giant foundation impacting the will of a multitude. The men who served at the interrogation centers bore witness to the dehumanization of the enemy. They had acquaintances in other units and contact with civilian friends and family. The chaperones of torture, stationed at numerous bases, were the conduit of terror. Their tales of humiliating and torturing the enemy spread beyond the compound and throughout the country like wildfire. They had perfected their craft with years of experience practicing upon foreigners in foreign lands. They brought it home with them like it was a venereal disease.
The fuel of war is morale. Without morale, defeat is certain. But with morale, victory is always attainable. To Freddy, Docs like Jimmy Marzan were the enemy. They were traitors. Tales of their capture, their imprisonment, their torture, were purposefully leaked out, stoking the morale of the regimists. The acts of domination and dehumanization of the traitors demonstrated and validated the power of the regime. Making an enemy submit, even if he is already helpless, was deeply symbolic. It appealed to the tribalist baseness of human nature. Terror is employed by all sides in war, without exception – without exception. The purpose of torture is torture and nothing more. Tales of woe done unto the enemy were leaked out by design, by both sides.
Quelling the domestic insurgency was a Twenty-First Century war. Gone were the days of the sprawling pitch of battle where mechanized units flanked and outflanked and charged and repelled. The old model was too expensive and put too many eggs in one basket. Post-modern warfare had evolved into a paradox, becoming ever grander, global in scale but with the battles being fought at the unit to unit or even man to man level. Twenty-First Century war was executed in isolated firefights, ambushes and assassinations, and with keyboards and red buttons pushed by paunchy, pimply-faced contractors in corporate cubicles. It was fought impersonally with laser-guided missiles fired from unmanned aircraft, concussions of expanding, superheated gas blasting the flesh of targets and bystanders clean off their bones right where they stood. Post -modern war was fought everywhere, but few battles were ever fought by more than a score of human beings. The discernible pitch of battle—the fronts, the lines, the echelons—were gone, replaced by markings on a heads-up display or digital analogs in a computer. The muddy trenches and foxholes of ages past now existed as algorithms in the digital ether. Objectives were no longer plotted on maps. Victory had become a persistent state of existence rather than the the event of capturing an objective. Even torture had evolved in this new era. Beatings and blunt force trauma were replaced by a psychosis-inducing mind game. Conquering the mind is always the ultimate goal of torture. The old means of bodily trauma was deemed an inefficient route to that end.
“Your leader Captain Rick is dead,” said Marzan’s interrogator. “Your rebellion is over.”
Marzan had an urge to clear his throat and cough but he held his breath instead, trying not to bow his head or slump his shoulders defeatedly.
“In case you were wondering, he was killed by a drone strike.”
Marzan knew it was likely a lie. It was part of the mind game. Still, the possibility of it pained him.
“Your unit is wiped out. Uncompahgre III was a total success. All hope for victory is lost for you.”
Marzan assured himself it wasn’t true. Times for the resistance were indeed tough, but before he was captured, the insurgents were adapting and routinely achieving their mission objectives. They were preparing to move into the next stage of the long struggle—Phase 2 of Dau Tranh. Their morale had bounced from its nadir and was strengthening.
Freddy was pulling back and consolidating its forces and assets in the larger towns. The feds had relinquished vast swaths of the western states, deeming them outside the zone of control. It was simply too big of an area for the Domestic Security Force to control. They would be spread too thin to maintain operational effectiveness if they tried. Originally one division, the DSF had swelled to four—army corps strength—and yet, the territory outside the ZOC remained increasingly unpacified.
Homeland Security, with the consent of the president, withdrew ground forces. They turned their satellites on and watched and waited, launching concentrated incursions like Uncompahgre III here or there, but otherwise standing back from the giant tracts of land that evoked the sprawling Indian reservations so common two centuries earlier. Doc wouldn’t be too much bother so long as he was dispersed in the empty quarter of America. The president’s justification for the pullback was that it was better to have the enemy diluted in the wilderness than operating covertly in the metropolitan areas. So long as there was no significant loss of life or assets in the ZOC, Freddy could declare a state of “ongoing victory.”
James was convinced his interrogators were lying about his unit. They were trying to break his will and compel the submission of his mind.
“I should let you know that we also paid a visit to your family,” the interrogator said.
Everything you say is a lie, James repeated to himself.
“Your mother, we had someone go to Irvine and see her.”
They wouldn’t go after families, he thought.
“She was very disappointed to hear about what you’ve done.”
“So let’s go over your list, again, just to make sure I told her everything.”
“You were a very busy little terrorist. Let’s see, how many civilians have you murdered, James? First up, 01 20. A Pitkin County official by the name of Donalds. Killed by a .50 caliber round from long range. Head shot.”
James couldn’t resist. “I was not a part of that operation, but Donalds was no civilian. He was CIA.”
“02 22. Three state congressmen and their security team murdered by ambush in Colorado Springs. Your team put 130 rounds into their car at close range.”
“I had nothing to do with that.”
“05 15. U.S. 285 ambush at Grant. Your team destroyed four MRAPs. Twenty KIA.”
James didn’t respond.
“05 21. U.S. 285 ambush near Crow Hill. Destroyed one MRAP by remotely activated IED. Led assault on survivors employing use of white phosphorous—recently outlawed by the Geneva Convention.”
Marzan remained silent.
“06 15. Foxton Road. Shot down a U.S. Army Black Hawk with a Chinese-supplied RPG. 19 KIA.”
“The Chinese have never supplied us with anything,” James replied.
“Funny, we find Chinese and Russian hardware all over these mountains. RPGs. AK47s. Crates of 762. Night vision. Miniature drones. Rocket propelled phosphorous. Mines. Nearly all of it is Chinese or Russian.”
“I thought you said we were in Mexico.”
The interrogator cleared his throat. “That’s correct. May I continue? 06 28. North Turkey Creek Road. Took out an entire convoy. Five MRAPS. Twenty Six KIA. I’m afraid that I have to concede that was an impressive operation, tactically speaking.”
James felt the other bodies in the room closing in.
“06 28. Gunnison. County Sheriff Joseph Everson murdered by sniper round.”
“Not me. But he was an operative, an NSA plant. Why don’t you mention the elected sheriff who was assassinated by your people three weeks earlier?”
“Actually, we pinned that on you as well.”
“Everyone there knows Freddy killed him.”
“That’s not what the official record says,” answered the interrogator. “And the official record is the history. Remember, James, the victors write the history books.”
“Who says you’re going to be victorious?”
The interrogator laughed.
“You forgot one,” James said. He couldn’t stay quiet.
“Ah yes. Jefferson County Undersheriff Robert Garrity. Tortured, found with a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the chest. Now that was a particularly cruel assassination. You made him do himself in.”
James didn’t respond.
“Are there any others?”
“I’m not responsible for any of them.”
“But you are, James. You’ve already signed the confessions.”
“What I signed and what I did are two different things. What do you want from me? I’ll sign whatever you want. Just type it up.”
“We visited your father too, James.”
James shook his head.
“We went to his stucco ranch in Scottsdale. There’s a swimming pool with a slide in the backyard. Your half brothers and sisters grew up there. They spent their summers splashing in that pool while you and your mother moved into that shitty condo in Irvine. Did your daddy remember to send you a card on your birthday? It appears that he did quite well for himself out there in Arizona with his new family. ”
“Good for him,” Jimmy answered.
“James, do you want to know what he said about you?”
“Don’t lie, James. Of course you want to know.”
“I don’t care.”
“No, you only wish you didn’t care. You know as well as I do that the paths you’ve chosen are all a direct result of him. He may have escaped you, James, but you can never escape him.”
“What difference does it make?”
“Do you want me to say that your father said he loves you?”
“Well, he didn’t. What he did say was that you are an embarrassment to him. He said that he hopes we show you mercy but that he never wants to see you again, and you should spend the rest of your life in prison.”
“I don’t care.”
“I think you do, James. I think it affects you. You must admit that the most important role model and authority figure in your life abandoned you as a child. How could that not affect you, James? How could that not impact your attitude about authority?”
“Why don’t you ask a shrink?”
“There you sit, not a man, not a soldier, but a boy who was abandoned, thrown away, left for a new family. A boy who grew up and who ultimately abandoned his family for a new one, just like daddy.”
“Congratulations. You figured me out.”
“You shouldn’t be so smug, James. You’re in enormous trouble. You’re a traitor to your country.”
“I love my country.”
“Then why did you betray it?”
“You served your country, then you abandoned her in her time of greatest need. You’re no different than your father, James.”
Marzan shook his head.
“James, how many United States military personnel have you killed?”
“It’s a war. People get dead. They were trying to kill me.”
“You’re a traitor.”
“I’m a patriot.”
“No. You’re an insurgent, no different than the Hajis you fought overseas.”
“I’ve learned a lot since then.”
“Why do you hate America, James? Why do you hate freedom?”
“I don’t. I love America. I love freedom. That’s what I’m fighting for.”
The interrogator stepped back and began to pace. His tone changed from accusatory to contemplative. “Here’s something for you to ponder,” he continued. “When you look back over your life, what good can you honestly say that James Marzan has ever done? What good have you accomplished in this life? What difference have you made?”
James heard the door open, letting through the noise of panting and scraping claws on the concrete floor.
“When we visited your mother, James, she became very distraught. She’s angry, angry at you for the shame you’ve brought upon her and your family. She said she did everything she could to raise you right. She said she encouraged you to join the Army and serve your country. That it would make a man out of you. But now she regrets doing that. She blames herself for what you’ve become. She’s been in a deep depression since we told her everything.”
“Why are you doing that to her? She’s been through enough.”
“It’s not about her, James. It’s about you. We need you to realize that you are completely alone. We need you to know that so before we turn the dogs loose on you or we bury you in a hole or we drive you out into the woods and put a bullet in your head that you realize everything you did was for nothing, that you will leave this mortal coil reviled, unappreciated and totally alone. That is your punishment for being a traitor.”
“What are you waiting for, then?” James responded.
James heard the dog approach, choking and wheezing as it strained against the leash. He felt the animal’s hot breath as it nuzzled into his crotch, its teeth an inch from his testicles. James tensed and the animal growled in response.
“Are you sure about that, James? We could oblige you. We could end it right here.”
“I already told you everything. I signed everything you put in front of me. What else do you want?”
“We want you to beg us for forgiveness. Will you beg us, James?”
 Dau Tranh is the term used to identify the long term political and military strategy of the Vietnamese used to achieve independence. Although not a communist movement, the American insurgency adapted and implemented a significant portion of the revolutionary doctrine, referring to it by the same name.