EXT. A large, dark, forbidding stone building. It is the Al Qaeda Ministry of the War. The bronze letters on the facade -- in both Arabic and English -- proclaim it to be so -- "the Al Qaeda Ministry of the War". Corinthian columns flank the entrance, except the ornate part appears to be made up of the phalanges of bony hands. Camera enters through window, follows a torch-lit corridor, in which pages and officials and clerks are moving briskly, arriving at...
INT. ...A war room type of interior. A mosaic on the wall appears to depict an abstract version of a skull and crossbones. General Tariq Aziz, CinC-Helmand, is standing at a massive desk, studying a volume by Clausewitz with furrowed brow.
A picture of Osama bin Laden is on the wall, smiling benevolently from behind a desk. Behind Osama in the photograph is the same elaborate mosaic, perhaps of a human skull, perhaps not.
General Aziz closes the book as an adjutant enters, and looks up, adjusting his spectacles.
ADJUTANT: Sir, he's here.
AZIZ: (consults schedule) The....Estonian?
ADJUTANT: Yes, small country in Northern Europe. Waterlogged and...
AZIZ: (waves his hand) Yes, yes, yes. Discovered by Al-Idrisi in 1154. What schoolboy doesn't know that? I'm just making sure of his ethnicity. And is he the leader of the group rescued in the ambush?
ADJUTANT: Well, he speaks for the group. To the extent that any of them speak. Being Estonian and all.
AZIZ: Show him in, and let the group speak. Not all at once, hopefully.
(The Estonian enters; a teenager, with more than a trace of acne.)
AZIZ: I'm Tariq Aziz, Al Qaeda's commander in chief of southern operations. No, no relation to the former Iraqi foreign minister. I get that a lot.(He peers at the Estonian through his spectacles) Good lord, son, how old are you?
AZIZ: Yes, and Iran is developing nuclear power to make the desert bloom. Tell me again, how old are you, son?
JAAK: I just turned eighteen.
AZIZ: And President Osama is actually hiding behind that wall watching us through the eyes in that picture. Come on, son -- I need to know if we need to scare up a wet nurse.
JAAK: I turn sixteen on the 30th of December.
AZIZ (raises eyebrows, to adjutant): And I thought children were in short supply in the West.
AZIZ (to Jaak): You're in good company. Hamid here is eleven. I'm nineteen. Anyway, here you'd be old for your rank. I'd have to wonder about the merit of any able-bodied fourteen-year-old who isn't an officer. Are you an officer?
AZIZ: Well, so be it. I'm not judgmental. You still have time. (Aziz's face crinkles into a look of fatherly concern.) Though you better get moving. And you should shave, though, even if it seems there isn't much to shave. It doesn't actually make the beard grow back fuller, you know, but it looks and feels that way. OK. Enough beard talk. Look, I don't want to do a lot of propaganda in your little informal debriefing here, especially under the circumstances. But one thing that is key to remember is that we don't operate out of caves. The President excepted of course, but that's for his own safety and his own...well, he's the president, and a wartime president. I hope you will be able to meet him. Basically, Jaak -- it's Jaak, right? -- we're not a bunch of savages. For a long time, we tried an asymmetric warfare image, hoping it would win sympathy. We were a disorganized bunch of militias and special operations groups. It backfired. Now we have uniforms. We're an institution. I don't know if you follow the American talk radio, but have you heard the expression "a real card-carrying member of Al Qaeda"? Well...
(Aziz opens his wallet and displays the contents to Jaak)
It's not laminated, but it's official. (Sighs) Trouble is, some people think Al Qaeda has become too secular for our own good. And they complain about bureaucracy. One day, I even heard, can you believe it, someone use the term 'military pre-industrial complex'. (Pauses for emphasis.) If the French sell us some weapons, there might be some truth to it. Looks like the deal might go through.
(A woman clad in only a burkha brings in Turkish coffee on a tray. Aziz takes a sip of coffee.)
Mmm. Good coffee. Thank you, Fatima.
(Fatima offers him a sheet.)
AZIZ: Ah right. (Aziz signs it. Fatima clears her throat. Aziz signs the other side of the paper, winks at Jaak.)
Bureaucracy, yes, that's my main concern. I don't want you to get caught up in its wheels. We're undergoing a difficult transition to civilian control of the Ministry of the War. I think the less you come into contact with bureaucracy the better. The better for all of us. Am I right? We're agreed, then? Very good.
JAAK: What? What are you trying to say? Are we prisoners of war or not?
AZIZ: No, of course not. You're our guests. We take guests very seriously. I sign for your coffee here. Remember, POWs don't drink coffee with generals. And they don't eat couscous with spring lamb and almonds after being...yes, Jaak, rescued. You were rescued.
JAAK: So when do we get to go home?
AZIZ: (Puts tips of fingers together.) Yes, that. If it seems like your status is unclear, keep in mind we're in a transitional phase. We're transitioning to civilian control. In fact, I don't know whether to keep my uniform on or not anymore. (His voice trails off.)
JAAK (eyes wandering around the room): What's with the human skull?
AZIZ: What skull?
JAAK: On the mosaic, for example. And some of the furniture is made of bones.
AZIZ: What? I don't see it. Where? (Aziz stands up and walks up close to the mosaic, examining and caressing the stones). This is a geometric pattern, very regular... But a skull...Well, I hear the people of your religion sometimes have visions. Things pop out, how to say, out of the woodwork... But..but a skull is an ancient symbol of eternal life, surely you do not find eternal life disturbing?
AZIZ: I agree. Didn't the count tell you about the virgins when you were eating lamb? But a symbol is just a symbol. What about the eye on the pyramid on your money? I find it frightening, personally.
JAAK: We don't have an eye on our money.
AZIZ: You don't use dollars?
AZIZ: No? Euro? Estonian darahim?
JAAK: (shrugs, reaches into pocket and removes a 100-kroon note.)
AZIZ: Is she the queen?
AZIZ: Does she not wear a veil? How is that possible?
JAAK: She is dead now.
AZIZ: Ah, so she was stoned to death. And yet she is a martyr?
JAAK: No, not quite right.
AZIZ: How much is this? When you take a girl out, do you buy things for her. Or...(voice is low as if hardly daring to suggest such a thing) do the women in your country buy you things with the woman-money?
JAAK: (face relaxes for the first time) No, General Aziz. It's just a banknote. Anyone can use it. It's about ten dollars. And usually kids just hang out. At shopping centres and things. It's really not formal anymore.
(Camera tracks toward the picture of Bin Laden to reveal there is an adjacent room behind it. Stalactites hang from the ceiling. A gaunt man with a turban and long white beard is peering through a hole in the wall into the room where Aziz and Jaak are talking. He is accompanied by a mullah, who is also looking through a hole at the same level, but the mullah is standing on a stepladder.)
OSAMA BIN LADEN: That Aziz is a fool and a moral relativist. He talks too much. He is talking about women now! Worse, he is asking questions about them.
MULLAH AHMED: Yes, you can never get him off the subject.
OSAMA BIN LADEN: Civilian control is a very bad thing. Is this Aziz really being groomed for a position after the transition?
MULLAH AHMED: Afraid so. He's only 16, and at the same time he's one of the older local officers.
OSAMA BIN LADEN: God damn it. Some days I think we should do something, you and me. Bring back the old theocracy. But of course, that would mean coming out of hiding.
MULLAH AHMED: Forget the hiding part of it. That's the least of your problems. The Americans don't care anymore. What about your kidneys? Think of your health.