Leary got the assignment from a Scottish paper and in one week was standing in Kuwait, accompanied by his military advisor, medic, and fully service body guard, and the only man he knew how to talk American, former fugitive Russell T. Hawley, which Leary had come to understand wasn’t really talking at all. No bother, Leary would sit in his tent, and wait for Hawley to go out, talk with the brutish Americans, perhaps kill something together and while Leary sat cooling himself inside his tent which came with an air conditioner, drinking the single bond malt sent from his home paper. Smooth wasn’t the word that describe the scotch, it was if each molecule of pure joy spontaneously collapsed in his mouth, leaving only a sparkling joyous taste that warmed his brain, tearing off years of crusty cynicism and leaving him as joyous as a newborn. If only Hawley could locate a brothel, but this more desolate landscape had none. Leary didn’t believe and he was certain to find at least one dark tent where naked maidens smiled, trading case for an ancient and honorable kindness.
Half the bottle had already disappeared down his throat, when Hawley appeared, and squatted down beside him, like soldiers in the field. He had found some new weapons since his last trip, a side arm from Italy, and a short machine pistol from some small countries elite special courses who wanted the m16 Hawley had found yesterday with the grenade launcher mounted underneath. Hawley felt about weapons, the way Leary felt about scotch, the more the merrier, and he was waiting for one to back up a jeep with a some large artillery piece “just in case.” Leary tried to explain that you needed to a siege barrage to photograph a picture, but Hawley would go silent in that American way which meant he had things to say but his position was so superior it wasn’t worth wasting words. That and radio gear. The humvee he’d appropriated already had three sets of radio and of course he’d gotten the codes, chatting with the others.
Thursday morning, hours before light, he woke Leary up at an ungodly hour and piled him into the humvee, Leary wrapped in a blanket, a bit more scotch in his hand. They drove up behind a large column of tanks spread out for a mile. The sound of the engines seemed loud until the horizon began to explode with air strikes, that basically bathed the world ahead in fire and noise. Then the tanks started moving forward, kicking up sand, thunderous noise. The front tanks fired, and a wave of fire descended on tank positions ahead, followed by rockets fired from above, the air force, pouring it on, and more flames scorched the land ahead. It went back and forth like that, cannon roar, rocket fire, bombs from dropped from so high, the noise of the planes were indecipherable, but not their effect. The column would suddenly stop. Futile fire would be received for a few moments, then the whole area the size of half a city block with lift in one great explosion, and the column moved on.
In the darkness, few victims were seen, occasionally they would see a blackened arm reaching futilely out of a burning tank, or the lights of the humvee would highlight a corpse in a ditch. But by day break the corpses were everywhere. Charred corpses in ditches, huddled in fox holes, hanging out and around vehicles…it was a terrain of death, so of course Leary was snapping pictures.
At noon they stopped. The tanks ahead called for diesel, and diesel truck came up for them to refuel. Hawley pulled out food and they ate.
“Get good pictures?” asked Hawley.
“Lovely,” said Leary. “The best since Rome and Carthage.”
“You were in Rome?”
“Not at the time,” said Leary. “But I remember the reports. Headline Ancient World: The Romans came and made a wasteland, and called it peace.”