The cave, located somewhere in mountainous western Afghanistan, is well appointed with air conditioning, electronic equipment and many TV screens adorning the cave walls. There is food and drink everywhere. It is the lair of an edgy collaborative of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and a few other splinter groups who wish us ill. The mood is oddly festive, not unlike an American sports bar on a typical autumn Sunday. The members mill about taking in the images and Arabic subtitles. Every now and then there is a cheer from a cluster near one of the TV screens. The gathering is pretty much like those that have been going on since the Americans were diverted from Afghanistan to run after Saddam Hussein in Iraq. On the wall of the cave is a large bullet-point chart of the unifying strategy of the group.

The Road to Victory over the Great Satan:

• Create a climate of fear and distrust of government in the U.S.
• Divide the citizenry of America so parties, ethnicities, religious groups and social classes don’t trust each other.
• Undermine the government by eliminating trained, informed career personnel in all departments with an emphasis on the Department of State, National Security related offices, research entities, and other agencies linked to security and the quality of daily life in America.
• Foment a visceral and unabated distrust of the media.
• Build walls (literally and figuratively) between the U.S., its neighbors, allies and unaligned nations.
• Foster wealth inequality and use every strategy imaginable to create personal debt at every opportunity.  Debt is forever and people in debt are more servile.
• Encourage wide distribution of instances and images of domestic crime in the media so that over time, to Americans, America looks less safe and secure.  To that end, never criticize the NRA or any organization that fosters gun rights. Americans kill over 30,000 men, women and children every year so now we don’t have to do it.
• Make access to higher education so expensive that America becomes dependent on other nations for its most talented human resources.

We join Abdullah and Hassan in a casual, familiar conversation as they consume food and an unidentified beverage.

A reflective Abdullah muses, “It is amazing how things have changed in recent years. We have learned a lot since the bad old days of overt acts of terror. Remember how we thought an attack on the U.S. mainland would weaken and divide America? It had just the opposite effect. It made them united and dangerous but it was part of our learning curve.”

“You got that right”, nods a concurring Hassan, “It was our goal to drive wedges of doubt and discord in American society so that it would be ripe for another world view or at the very least it would be so preoccupied with its own internal security issues, it would stop paying attention to us and others who wish to see the great Satan destroyed. But now, the once dominant super power is doing our work for us. It is beyond our wildest dreams.  I love it!”

A cheer goes up in a corner of the cave. “That was probably another zinger by a well-known talking head on the Internet. He is terrific. He will say almost anything to rile up people against the U.S. government with a particular level of animosity against almost anyone with a finctional brain. He is one of my favorite guys, sort of like a neo flat-Earther who exists in another plane of reality and so dumb he can’t fully appreciate the depths of his own ignorance. But, bless his heart, he is useful for people and causes like ours.” Abdullah snickers in agreement and adds with a wry smile, “And they all do it regardless of their political preferences.”

Abdullah asks, “Did you see the latest anti-U.S. democracy demonstrations by the Trumpsters? People were carrying signs that labeled the opposition party as anti-American and socialist. In the same demonstration, one sign called the former President a Communist and another branded him a Nazi and they were standing just a few feet apart…Where do they find these guys? Only in America!”

Another cheer goes up from in front of the MSNBC feed. Hassan looks up. “Must be Rachel going after Sessions or Flynn again. I don’t blame her but it helps us by ratcheting up the polarization of American society and in doing so, it obscures the true essence of democracy and how it is supposed to work. Democrats and Republicans are looking more and more like Shiites and Sunnis or Israelis and Palestinians every day…fueled hatred with no chance of compromise. In the absence of an unlikely epiphany, those lazy, care-free days of a functioning, civil democracy are numbered for the USA.”

“Those guys who founded the nation must be turning over in their graves as the profit-hungry, socially oblivious media stirs up the political food fight to the point of effectively shutting down the government. I’d love to meet those guys, Rupert what’s-his-name and Steve something and lots of others including the current President, who are doing so much for our movement. I’d be honored to shake their hands and thank them on my knees.”

“The most amazing thing to me,” declares Abdullah, “is how Americans could be so stupid to fall for the simplistic garbage they hear on TV and radio?” “Yup.” replies Hassan, “They are being sucker-punched and they don’t even know it. How could that be? I don’t know. But, actually, I don’t care as long as they continue trashing one another enough to keep the fire going. Sort of like that old adage about gradually turning up the heat under the frog who didn’t even know he was being cooked until it was too late.”

Abdullah chimes in, “Don’t you love the way the loudest voices claim to be the most patriotic Americans? They aren’t of course but as long as they help us do our work, I am for them.” Raising his much-used, battered flagon, he intones, “Here’s to all those self-appointed great Americans!”

“Americans no longer give a fig about what is said,” declares a thoughtful Hassan, “They only care about who says it. If it is one of their kind, they support it; if it is said by one of their political enemies, they vilify it. The issue doesn’t matter. It will be twisted to fit whatever agenda works for the base of the party. It is all about the messenger and not the message, the style and not the substance. The only thing that can bridge that gap is an external threat like 9/11 so for tactical reasons, we will lay off that stuff for a while. Watching them slowly self-destruct is cheaper and a whole lot safer. Jihad by remote control…what a concept!”

”Where’s Khalil and Ali?” asks Hassan beginning to feel the effects of whatever forbidden liquid was in the flagon. “They’re outside getting some rays and checking out some radio action.” A huge cheer is heard from outside the cave. “They have a couple of stations with our favorites, Rush, Michael Savage, a random interview with Anne the lame reply from the remnants of Air America….the usual, pathetic cast. I love those people.”

“Me too”, Abdullah concurs. “They make our job so much easier…ripping the legacy of Obama and anyone who may be supporting their own, freely-elected government. Wait’ll they see what’s next in a new, post-democracy world in America.  The closest example is the experience of taking an economy class, commercial plane flight almost anywhere.  Americans have no clue about how truly free they are or what the alternatives are like. They will long for a return to the past and they will rue the day they let democracy slip away on their watch. But, hey, letting them do our dirty work is better than all that expensive, risky plotting we had to do in the old days. Undermining the U.S. government and the American people and this time doing it on auto pilot…. This is great!” He gets up. “I’ll be right back. I gotta get some more of those water buffalo wings. Those things are really good. I wonder who invented them?”

The party goes on. The celebration in the cave will continue as America staggers aimlessly down a very sorry path secure in its own ignorance and oblivious and resistant to any public discourse above a third-grade reading level.

But rest assured my fellow Americans.  We’ll be safe from external attack by extremists as long as the likes of Mr. Trump are in office and the government, the media and our politicians continue their sophomoric food fight. There is no need for the one thing that would unite us in a heartbeat, an attack like 9/11. Mr. Trump and his myopic ilk across the political divide have assured that.  Without any help from our sworn enemies in the Middle East, we are making all of those objectives on the wall of a cave in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan a reality every day of our strange, misguided and very dangerous lives in 2017.



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