Friday 27 March 2015

Barbarians At The Gate

Anyone who’s aware of what’s going on in the world today – and that’s a shockingly tiny minority – will know that the Kingdom of Saudi Barbaria has just begun bombing Yemen. The official aim of this bombing is to force the Shia Houthi “rebels” to cede power to the “government” of “President” Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. This Hadi, a former general, was “elected” in an Amerikastani-backed “election” in 2012 in which he was the only candidate. Late last year, Shia Houthi rebels from the far north of Yemen captured the capital, Sanaa, whereupon Hadi (who had allowed Amerikastani drones to bomb his people with impunity for years) resigned. Later, Hadi fled south to Aden, Yemen’s second city and the former capital of South Yemen. There he unresigned and declared himself the president of Yemen again.

Meanwhile, there has been a multicornered war going on in Yemen. On one side are the Houthi from the far north of Yemen. On another is what is known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), allegedly the strongest and best-organised of all the al Qaeda franchises in the world.  It was allegedly to destroy AQAP that the Nobel-prize-winning President of the Imperialist States of Amerikastan, the darling of American liberals, Barack Hussein Obama, spent the last few years drone-bombing Yemeni civilians.  Yet it is the Houthi, who despise AQAP with a visceral hate, who are the only force actually fighting them.

Then a third faction are militias “loyal” to Hadi, who pretty much threw away their guns and evaporated like the morning dew as the Houthi stormed south towards Aden, whereupon Hadi escaped by sea to Saudi Barbaria. It seems he keeps on running away. And in the fourth corner are the only side for whom I have real sympathy, the South Yemen freedom movement, who are trying to break away and recreate the socialist, secular republic they had from 1967 to 1990. But in the current imbroglio they are the least important faction.

Now, the Houthi are Shia, but of a different sect from the ayatollahs of Iran, and there’s no evidence that Iran is aiding them in any way. Even if Iran wanted to, Yemen is geographically isolated from Iranian controlled territory, (as any look at a map would show) and it would be at least difficult to provide any substantial aid to the Houthi even if Iran wanted to. But facts, obviously, do not apply to the self-appointed rulers of the world and their vassals and proxies.

Of course, it should be obvious that Saudi Barbaria would not have attacked Yemen without Amerikastani approval, and the Imperialist States has admitted that it has given this approval. This ought to settle all doubts that anyone might have that the Imperialist States has no real desire at all to destroy al Qaeda. Since the Houthi would wipe out AQAP, and neither Hadi nor the Amerikastani drones have managed to do so, the only rational conclusion to be drawn is that the ISA and Saudi Barbaria want to rescue AQAP

Let's go over this again:

Saudi Barbaria is invading Yemen to oust the Houthis, with Amerikastani approval. The Houthis are the only force in Yemen fighting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Saudi Barbaria and Amerikastan are allegedly against AQAP, and Barack Hussein Obama has been drone-bombing Yemeni civilians for the last several years on the pretext of fighting AQAP. But now that the Houthis, who would destroy AQAP, have taken over Yemen, Amerikastan has ordered an invasion of the country to oust them.

Resolve this conundrum for me if you can, without coming to the conclusion that AQAP is an Amerikastani tool.

The reasons for this rescue are up to speculation, but may include:

1. The need for maintaining an “enemy” to justify occupying Yemen, an extremely strategically important nation in geographical terms, at the mouth of the Red Sea.

2. The need for maintaining a proxy army which can be used to attack secular Arab leaders like Bashar Assad of Syria. One should not forget that Barack Hussein Obama, Nobel Peace Prizident of the Imperialist States of Amerikastan, is still, to this day, arming and training so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels, all of whom are aligned with, or actually are, jihadists of various stripes.

That Saudi Barbaria can invade Yemen is unquestionable. It has a fairly large army, and claims to have massed 150 thousand men on the border to invade Yemen. If that is true, I would like to know just what forces it has to guard its other border, the one on the north against Iraq for instance. After all, according to Saudi Barbaria, it was going to build a border fortification against ISIS in Iraq. According to Wikipedia, the strength of the Saudi Barbarian Army is 150000. So that would leave precisely zero troops on the Iraq border, against ISIS...which is allegedly a grave threat to the House of Saud.

Resolve this conundrum for me if you can, without coming to the conclusion that ISIS is a Saudi Barbarian tool.

However, invading Yemen and holding on to Yemen are totally different things. Like their fellow qat addicts across the Red Sea, the Somalis, the Yemenis are fiercely independent people and will fight. They will fight in a manner the effete princes of the Saudi Barbarian army have never seen before. And the Barbarians know it, which is why they have accumulated a “coalition” of other Arab vassals of the Imperialist States. But those vassals all have strong internal fissures of their own, and their monarchs and dictators all sit on shaky thrones. They can’t strip themselves of protection just to please the obese parasites in palaces in Riyadh.

So let me stick out my neck and prophecy what is going to happen. After a bombing campaign of some duration, which will kill a lot of Yemeni civilians but do only limited damage to the Houthi military effort (primarily destroying the Yemeni air force and Houthi armour), Saudi Barbaria will launch a ground offensive. It will have to launch a ground offensive because aerial bombing alone cannot win wars, and never have won wars. This offensive will proceed relatively well in the open desert to the south but will soon get into real trouble in the mountainous north. Saudi Barbarian convoys will be ambushed in the mountains, cut off and massacred down to the last Wahhabi Barbarian. When the Barbarians attempt to helicopter in reinforcements, said helicopters will be picked off by Houthi with surface to air missiles. When the Barbarians retreat to fortified bases, said bases will be mortared and rocketed on a regular basis. Let alone conquer, the Barbarian hordes from Wahhabistan will not even be able to sleep.

Hadi will be “reinstated” but will control nothing, not even his own presidential compound (which will likely be in Aden; Sanaa is too close to Houthi territory for comfort). He will be as much a puppet of Saudi Barbaria as Mussolini was Hitler’s puppet from 1943 to 1945, and as universally despised. The real controller of the country – such as is under Hadi’s puppet “government” – will be whichever Saudi Barbarian prince is given the job. But the mounting numbers of dead and mangled Barbarians flooding back to Riyadh will prove a real, unmanageable danger to the House of Saud. As it is, the slums of Riyadh are filled to the brim with frustrated young men seething with anger against the dynasty. The obese parasites in the palaces have followed a dual strategy to stay in power: on the one hand they have attempted to pay off the people not to rebel, and on the other they have exported the disaffected youth to fight the jihad elsewhere, in Libya and Syria. But that is a policy with diminishing returns, and dead and maimed Barbarian troops are not something that will do the House of Saud any good.

So, within a very short time indeed, the Saudis are going to find themselves forced out of Yemen. At this juncture Amerikastan will be faced with a choice of another imperialist occupation or a strategic defeat. Amerikastan does not want strategic defeats. So it will occupy the country.

Not that that occupation will go any better than it did in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or elsewhere. Amerikastan can destroy Yemen beyond recovery, but it can't conquer it.

But, hey, that’s why they give out Nobel Peace Prizes these days, isn’t it?

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015


Long dead men
With hands turned dust
Hold nations captive
With books written
Dead centuries ago

Long dead but not extinct
Crawling up like 
Smoke from the earth -
Poison in the air 
Poison in the water
Poison in the mind.

That's the way these things go.
I saw children playing
In broken mortar and shattered glass
And one of them said to the other
Don't jump there, that's where 
My mother is buried. 

And on the other side of the story

It was a great victory.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015 


Thursday 26 March 2015

Alligator Song

Imagine if underneath the city
There really were alligators
Blind and white, crawling in the sewers.

What might they think of us
Those who sent them down there
From a world of warmth and light and air
Flushed away where it is dark and cold and
Everything stinks?

Imagine if there were alligators.
Would they hate us, the two-legged demons who consigned them there?

Or imagine
That they would worship us
In their dark temples, where the sewers meet;
Singing songs of our greatness
And how we put them to the test
By sending them to live in the cold and the starvation –

Would they dream of a glorious return to the warmth and the light above
To us, the god-kings
If they lived good enough lives?

Imagine if they met one of us, down below.
And how they would be grateful for the gift we brought
Food of our flesh, drink of our blood
Energy and redemption,
And how they would hold songs in celebration.

Of how you are warm and tasty –
Thank you for giving us of you to eat


[I'm not too well today, so this is all you get from me till I'm better. Sorry about that.]

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

[Illustration by Bronwyn at Beemonster Illustrations]

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Down By The River

Come down with me to the river
She said
And I will show you wonders.
Lie down here in the grass with me
And look, up there is the sky
With ten million million stars.
Do you never wonder why
When we’re so tiny, so ephemeral
We spend our time killing each other
Over strips of coloured cloth
Books of fairy tales?
Look at that meteor flying by
She said. That’s us, you and me
All we know, in the eyes of eternity.
She looked over to me, her eyes shining in the starlight.
Kiss me, she said
I am afraid, because I am so tiny and so alone
And tomorrow I will be gone.
Kiss me, she said, and hold me
Against the night.
We kissed and held each other
Tender against the night
And a policeman, coming by
Arrested us for public indecency.
It cost us five thousand

To buy our way free.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015


The Great Big ISIS Movie Extravaganza Part IV

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Always By Your Side

When you sleep I'm by your side. 
When you wake up I'm there too.
When you're happy, when you're sad
I'm there, right beside you. 
In life's weather foul, in sunshine or in rain
Reach out and I'll be there
I'm in the music, I'm in the walls
I'm in each breath of air. 
When you walk in the streets alive
With noise and people and hopes anew
You can't see me, but, my darling
Be assured I'm there too.
I'm there in the sky above
I'm in the malls and markets too -
I'm by your side always, for, my friend
Big Brother Is Watching You.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015 


Ghostcatchers Ltd

That’s simply crazy.” Priya shook her head. “It’ll never work.”

Sujay frowned. “Why don’t you at least let me tell you about it before you shoot me down?”

“Because it’s crazy.” Priya sat back and studied Sujay over the rim of her mug of beer. “There’s nobody who’s going to go for it. Capture ghosts, indeed!”

“But I’ve got the apparatus for the job.” Sujay lifted the heavy canvas haversack off the floor and put it back down. “I told you, it’s all taken care of.”

Priya looked from Sujay to the haversack and back again. “I can’t believe it,” she said wonderingly. “You’re actually serious about this.”

“Of course I am.” Sujay looked quickly around the pub to check if anyone was listening. Even if they were, they’d have had to be lipreaders to be able to make out what he was saying even from the next table, and with night vision to be able to see his lips in the semi-darkness. Reassured, he turned back to Priya. “It’s going to work,” he said earnestly. “Look, we live in a superstitious country, right?”

“Well, yes.”

“And a lot of people believe in ghosts, isn’t that so?”

“Yeah, but –“

“And they’re willing to pay good money to useless tantriks and witch doctors and the like to rid them of these ghosts. You’ll agree with me on that?”

“Yes,” Priya admitted. “But,” she added firmly, taking advantage of the chance to get her word in, “why would they pay us money to get rid of their ghost instead?”

Sujay sighed with satisfaction. “Two reasons. In the first place, technology. This is the age of technology. We aren’t going to mutter chants over chalk pentagrams drawn on the floor. We’re going to do it properly.”


“Yes, with modern technology. People trust technology. And why do they trust technology?”

Priya shrugged. “Because it works?”

“Precisely. And this works.”

Priya stared at him. “Oh no. Please don’t tell me you said that. Don’t tell me you said you can really catch ghosts.”

“Shhh.” Sujay looked around again, but since there were only about a hundred and fifty other people in the pub he seemed to be reassured. “The second reason is, yes, this really catches ghosts. Look, let’s assume for the sake of argument that ghosts really exist, OK?”

“Um, yeah. All right.” Priya propped her chin on the knuckles of one hand. “Suppose we assume it. So?”

“So, suppose ghosts exist, what would you assume they are? What’s their nature?”

Priya shrugged. “You and I both don’t believe in this ‘soul’ crap, so, shall we say...electromagnetic energies of some kind?”

“Good, that’s pretty much what I think too. Electromagnetic waves or radiation, whatever. Now, of course electromagnetic waves or radiation can be detected. Right?”

“Physics isn’t my field, but, yeah, sure. So?”

“So if we have the right kind of detector we should be able to detect ghosts.” Sujay patted the haversack. “And if we can detect them we can trap them. You know, like radiation can be trapped in a box.”

“You think so?’

“Sure.” Sujay leaned earnestly across the table and only avoided spilling his beer because he’d already drunk it all. The mug clunked over on the table, unnoticed. “Look, by all the accounts, ghosts don’t wander far, do they? You don’t get ghosts flying all over the world. They tend to stay in one restricted spot, like a haunted house or something like that. So whatever kind of radiation they are, it’s one of those which don’t move far from their point of origin. And those radiations can usually be captured and trapped.”

Priya blinked. “Trapped? How?”

“I’ll show you later. Now, listen. Suppose we could actually, you know, trap ghosts. We’d have to find a market for people to ask us to trap their ghosts for them, right? So we’d have to prove to them that we can, actually, trap ghosts.”

“And then –“

“Then they’ll jump at the chance to get rid of their ghosts by hiring Priya and Sujay, Ghostcatchers Ltd. Why wouldn’t they?”

Priya tapped her cheek with her index finger while she stared across the table at him. “Don’t tell me,” she said eventually. “Let me guess. We’re going to go out and trap a ghost to use as an advert. Am I right?”

“Full marks.”

“And we’re going to go do it now, am I also right?”

“And here I was thinking I’d have a hard time convincing you.”


This,” Sujay said, as he awkwardly manoeuvred several chunks of metal and plastic out of the bag, “is the detector. I haven’t put it together yet, of course.”

Priya glanced across at him from behind the wheel. Outside the car’s windows, the night flashed by. They’d already left the main city behind. “Have you checked that it actually, you know, works?”

“Well, there aren’t exactly too many ghosts available in a modern city, and there are far too many additional sources of electromagnetic waves. That’s why we’re going out to this lake. But, yeah, I did come across a couple of readings which were a little...strange.”

“How do you mean – strange?”

Sujay shrugged. “Just strange. I can’t identify it as from any other source, that’s all.” He connected some leads and flipped a couple of switches. Lights blinked and flickered. “Right, we’re all set,” he said, and turned off the switches. “Got to conserve the battery power.”

“You think we’ll find ghosts up by the lake?”

“Why not? It’s creepy enough, even by day. I mean, we don’t exactly have haunted houses available.” He looked gloomily out of the window at the night flowing past. “Just think, if this was fifty years ago, we could have had our pick of haunted houses. No self respecting town didn’t have at least one. If it were only fifty years ago...”

“If it was fifty years ago,” Priya pointed out, “you wouldn’t have any of this fancy equipment available. If it works, that is.”

“Don’t worry about that. It works.” Sujay pulled a long grey pipe like an elongated cone out of the bag. It had a bulbous rubber structure at the narrow end while the wider end was covered by a grill. There were buttons and USB ports along a strip on one side. “Now this,” he said, “is the actual ghostcatcher.”

“Fascinating,” Priya said. “How does it work?”

“We hook it up to the detector. When it detects a ghost, we home in on it and pinpoint the source at which the signal is strongest. Then we simply press this bulb and release it, and the ghost’s sucked right up the tube into the bulb.”

“There’s something wrong with my hearing. I think I drank too much. It sounded like you said we suck the ghost up into the tube by pressing the bulb.”

“That’s what I said. Of course, the ghost won’t stay confined in that bulb forever.”

“Fancy that,” Priya murmured, shifting up to fifth.

“So,” said Sujay enthusiastically, and fished out another object from the bag. It was a box about the size of a shoebox, and obviously very strongly built, with rivets at all the corners. It was also obviously very heavy. “So,” he resumed, “we squirt the ghost into this.”

“And how...”

“I said ghosts must be locally isolated radiations, didn’t I? This box is lined with lead.”

“Why lead?”

“It blocks radiation. The thickness determines how much radiation it blocks. In fact it’s only about a third as big inside as it is on the outside. The filling is all lead. Let’s see how the ghost gets out of that. Of course,” he added, “the clients have to actually see the ghost inside the box. In order for it to have any effect, you know, as advertising.”

“Yes, I was wondering when you were going to come to that.”

“Look here.” Sujay pointed to a small projection on the roof of the box, with a button beside it. “That’s an eyepiece with lenses set inside the box. Lead glass lenses, just so the ghost can’t get out that way. And the button is for lights to come on in the box.” He waxed enthusiastic. “Now, when our business is all established, we can offer the clients their ghosts to keep, imprisoned forever in these lead-lined boxes, and with or without lenses as they want. If they feel like talking to the ghost...”

Talking to the ghost?”

“Why, yes, there’s a facility for a microphone as well.” Sujay pointed at an inconspicuous aperture. “If they want to talk to it, all they have to do is plug their headphones in.”

“Great idea.” Priya concentrated on driving for a few minutes. The road was getting steep and narrow as they headed up into the hills. “There’s one big flaw in your plan,” she said eventually. “Both of us are assuming there aren’t any such things as souls. So what would be the source of these ghosts of yours, and how would they be able to communicate in any fashion?”

“I don’t know,” Sujay confessed. “If we catch one we can ask it. But I’m sure there must be an answer.”

They were coming to the lake. It lay, glimmering in the faint moonlight, like a crumpled black mirrored cloth flung across the space between four hills. In the daytime, there would have been people around. Not many, because this lake wasn’t popular with the tourists, but there would be a few.

At night, they were totally alone.

“One of the reasons I think we have a better chance of finding a ghost here,” Sujay said, “is that there aren’t people around. No competing radiations, no disturbance. If there are ghosts we’ll find them.”

“It’s cold,” Priya said. She rummaged in the back seat of her car and brought out a couple of hoodies. “Here,” she said, handing one to Sujay. “Luckily I came prepared.”

“What, you knew I was going to bring you up here to catch ghosts?”

“I’m always ready to go anywhere there’s a chance of catching ghosts.” Priya watched as Sujay turned on the ghost detector. A dial lit up with a pale greenish glow which lit up his face. The effect made him rather resemble a ghost himself.

“See anything?” Priya asked after a while.

“...not yet,” Sujay said, twiddling knobs on the control box.

“Maybe it’s not working.”

“It’s working.” Sujay pointed at a green light on the box. “See?”

“Well then, maybe there aren’t any ghosts up here.”

“There ought to be,” Sujay said. “Let’s make a circuit of the lake. If there are any we’ll detect them.”

They began walking around the lake. It was dark, and Priya had open sandals on, which made her fear for her toenails if she came up against a rock. She thought about turning on her cell phone torch, but remembered that Sujay had said that the electronic interference from mobile phones could stop ghosts from being detected.

There was a sudden noise in the darkness. Sujay turned quickly. “Did you hear that?”

“It was just me.” Priya smothered another belch. “The beer, you know.”

“Oh.” They’d covered almost half the lake, and come to the jetty which extended a few steps out over the water. The overturned hulls of a few derelict boats lay among the weeds like slumbering seals. “Hey, wait.”


“Look.” Sujay bent to one side to allow Priya to peer over his shoulder. “The readouts are going off the scale. There’s something here.”

Priya looked at the dial. The needle was over on the red zone on the right, almost at the maximum. Sujay took a step forward, and it moved even further to the right.

“Whatever it is,” he said, “it’s on the jetty.”

“On the jetty?” Priya peered at the jetty. It was almost invisible except for the tops of the supports, faintly picked out by the moon. “Can’t see anything.”

“It’s there, though.” Sujay started out on to the jetty, holding the detector before him. “The signal’s getting stronger by the minute. It’s...ooh.”

There was a splintering crack and a splash in the dark water, and the detector thumped on the wood of the jetty. Priya stared in dismay at the broken plank and the spreading ripples.

“Sujay?” she asked. “Sujay?”

There was no answer, and no time to waste. Sujay could swim, but he was stewed to the gills and might not be able to get back up with all the weight of the ghostly things he was carrying. Pausing only to kick off her sandals and pull off her hoodie, she dived into the water.

It was bitterly cold, cold enough to send a shock to the centre of her body, but it wasn’t deep, and she was a fairly good swimmer. Diving under the surface, her fingers encountered Sujay’s collar. Getting a firm grip on it, she began dragging him up to the top.

“You’re choking!” she said as they clung to the supporting posts of the jetty. “Did you breathe in water?”

“No,” Sujay managed. “You almost...strangled me...dragging on my collar.” Then he began gasping and grooghing again.

“You sound really bad,” Priya said, concerned. “Let’s get ashore and we’ll go to a hospital and...”

Instead of replying, Sujay pointed up at the jetty. Priya turned to look, and then started gasping and grooghing herself.

Something sat on the jetty, dangling its feet over the edge. It was white and misty and almost human-looking except that when it moved, it flowed like gas, with streamers and wisps drifting behind. It peered down at them through huge eyeless sockets.

“Why are you splashing about in the lake?” it asked. Its voice was thick, like muddy water. “You’d better get up here before you...” it paused and sneezed so violently that pieces of it drifted away into the air for several seconds before coalescing. “...catch your deaths of cold,” it finished.

“Are you,” Priya asked, vaguely aware of how stupid it sounded, “dead?”

“Of course I’m not dead,” the ghost said indignantly. “I’d not be hanging around here if I were dead, would I?”

There seemed no ready answer to that, but Sujay tried anyway. “But you’re a ghost.”

“Of curse I’m a ghost.” It started laughing at its own stupid pun, and then sneezed again. “But how does that have anything to do with my being dead?” it asked, watching them squelch their way out of the water. “Have you ever heard of a dead ghost?”

Sujay and Priya glanced at each other. “Well, come to think of it, no. We just assumed...”

“Everyone assumes,” the ghost said angrily. “Nobody wants to find out anything or confirm anything. They just assume! I’ll bet maybe think I’m a dead human or something, right?”


“I knew it,” the ghost said with gloomy triumph. “You lot aren’t even satisfied with assuming things about us. You want to assume the worst insults you can think...” it sneezed. “...of,” it finished.

“Actually,” Sujay said, “we didn’t think you were a dead anything. We were trying to find out what ghosts are.”

“We thought you might be some kind of electromagnetic radiation,” Priya said.

Sentient electromagnetic radiation,” Sujay put in quickly.

“Thinking, feeling, sentient electromagnetic radiation.” Priya suppressed another belch. “Really nice electromagnetic radiation.”

“The best in the world,” Sujay nodded.

“That’s easy for you to say,” the ghost said, quite unmollified. “You can go anywhere you want, so you can say this or that is the best in the world. All I can do is take your word for it.”

“Why, can’t you go anywhere too if you want?”

“No,” the ghost said miserably. “I’m stuck here in this damp and cold. Achchoo! Why do you imagine I’m always sneezing?”

“Let me get this clear,” Priya asked, carefully. “You’d like to go away?”

The ghost rubbed at its empty eye sockets as though wiping away tears. “What I wouldn’t give to be able to go away,” it said dreamily. “Imagine seeing the world, instead of this damned lake, day in, day out, nothing ever changes, all I do is freeze and sneeze, and –“

“Well then,” Sujay said. “Listen, ghost, we have a proposal for you...”


And that was how it all began.

Today, Sujay and Priya run the best ghostcatching firm in the business. If you want a ghost caught by them, there’s a six-month waiting period before your turn comes up, they’re that sought after. But then it’s only right. After all, they do, absolutely, guarantee success.

And if you have any doubts about their ability, you’re simply referred to the third partner in the firm. That’s another guarantee, that you’ll never have a doubt along those lines again.

Partner, did I say? Oh yes. It didn’t get called Priya and Sujay Ghostcatchers Ltd. after all.

The name of the firm is Priya, Sujay, and Ghost.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015 

(With many thanks to Sujay Paniyadi and Priya D'Souza for permitting me to lampoon them unmercifully in this piece. I had fun writing it!)

Monday 23 March 2015

Being a History of the First Water War, for the Eyes of His Divine Majesty, Conan XVII

To the Great Monarch Conan XVII, Scion of the Dynasty Barbaria, Emperor of the World, Despot of Asia and the Americas, Lord and Master of Africa and the Antipodes,

Greetings and salutations.

Your Majesty,

It will be no secret to you that the Empire is facing an acute water scarcity – amounting almost to drought. Of course, Sire, we cannot use that word in public without your express sanction, but I believe that we are all aware of how precarious our situation is, owing to lack of water. The rains, for year after year now, have failed catastrophically. The rivers are thinned to mere trickles, the wells are long since dry. Famine threatens Your Majesty’s realms.

Once famine comes, rebellion is sure to follow – and the armed forces have, I beg leave to state, become weakened in recent years and can hardly be depended on to resist a popular upheaval. Should one come, and I am convinced that unless the water problem can be solved it is inevitable, we face fragmentation of the Empire and a return to endless war and the loss of all that your illustrious ancestors achieved since the founding of your august dynasty, the House of Barbaria, so many years ago.

It is due to these factors that your Council of Ministers asked me, as the official Historian of the Realm, to explore the archives to discover how our predecessors had attempted to solve similar crises in the past. And so have I long pored over the ancient books, in the light of guttering oil lamps in the dark of the night, forgoing rest and sleep while the crisis drew ever closer.

In my studies of the past, I could not, I regret to say, access all the knowledge of bygone ages, for so much of the records are long since lost, especially in the long gone era, now almost mythical, when the world knew relative plenty and had not yet been destroyed by population, pollution, and pillage. Others I found irrelevant, since they affected only part of the planet at any given time, and – according to political imperatives – aid could be despatched to help the afflicted, or the localised disaster could be isolated and allowed to burn itself out over time, enough people dying so whatever food and water was left sufficed for the survivors. But things are different now.

The most significant of those crises, however, the one in which I found a clear warning to us, was the one that led to the First Water War. This was in a time so long ago that only fragmentary records survive to this day, but your humble slave is glad to be able to report that he has managed to find enough to be able to put together a narrative of the conflict.

Back in that distant time, Highness, the world was split up into multiple states, but the greatest of the powers was an empire in the far west, occupying what we would call today the continent of North America. I have been unable to ascertain what that empire was called, but I have found some reference to the Untied States. Why they were untied, and what they were untied from, are open to speculation, but are immaterial to our present purposes.

These Untied States, as I said, comprised the pre eminent empire in the world, but it was already an empire in steep decline. The causes of this decline are not fully known, but seem to have included constant warfare and an extreme tendency to over consume resources.

In any case,  a point arrived when the Empire had spread its military occupation to much of the globe, but controlled almost nothing outside its own territory. Its vassals had grown restive, and were openly questioning its authority, except for one or two semi-colonial possessions too minor to matter. But it still had the most powerful military the world had ever known, a military grown so strong it might have successfully waged a war against creatures from another planet – and yet had forgotten how to fight tribesmen in turbans hiding in caves.

Meanwhile, the pressures of the population, pollution and pillage of resources had so devastated the world that it had reached a point of runaway climate change. The effects of the climate change on the Empire included a massive drought, not unlike our own. In a relatively short period of time, the rivers had run dry, the lakes were puddles, and yet the Empire refused to admit any such thing was happening, because to admit it would mean that it would have to clamp down on the terrific levels of consumption to which the people had become accustomed – and which, more to the point, had become essential to the continued profits of the corporations on whose earnings the economy had become totally based.

In those annals, Your Majesty, I have also come across some mention of a term called “fracking”. What that is I couldn’t tell you, but it seems to have involved utilisation of what little water remained, not in irrigation or for drinking and basic hygiene, but in further exploitation of the resources which, as I said, had already been stretched beyond redemption. It seemed that a total loss of available water resources, followed by protests and rebellion, was inevitable. And although the Untied States had taken precautions against rebellion by forming a huge and heavily armed internal security apparatus, backed up by a level of surveillance of the population which we today can only dream of, it still could not be certain of surviving an uprising on terms which left the profit-making abilities of the business interests intact. And since the business interests ran the government of the Empire, what affected them affected everyone.

Clearly, then, since overconsumption was not to be curtailed for fear of harming corporate profits, and since the government could not risk a revolution for the same reason, the only solution was to look for a new source of water.

Now, fortunately as it seemed, there was a ready source of fresh water not all that very far away. Only a little south of the Empire, in the northern part of the South American part of the continent, lay several nations with huge rivers, whose water was still fresh, unpolluted, and ready for exploitation. In fact, since those nations were not using the water in their rivers, it would have been a criminal waste not to appropriate them for the use of the needy citizens of the Untied States themselves.

Now, it will come as no surprise that the nations of the South American continent would not welcome their waters being taken away to serve the needs of the Empire. There was bound to be resistance, and it seemed that short of military invasion and occupation, there was no easy way to overcome this resistance. But even military invasion and occupation was no easy feat to justify, for a population which had grown increasingly restive over the decades to sending its children off to be maimed and killed in lost wars.

Fortunately, though, for the Empire, there was a readymade enemy available. This was a nation whose name seems to have been Vinizula or something of the kind. This Vinizula, having dared to throw off a government imposed by the Empire, had been subject to so many years of vilification and propaganda that the people of the Untied States were willing to go along with an invasion on any pretext whatsoever. Besides, apart from water, Vinizula had many other natural resources which could be plundered to help pay for the invasion and occupation which would be necessary.

So, on a date carefully chosen to maximise potential benefits in upcoming Imperial elections, the Empire sent a fleet of ships loaded with soldiers to attack Vinizula. It was expected that the country would be conquered within days, and then the pumping stations could be set up along the rivers to suck water into the water purification plants which would make the liquid fit for use by the citizens of the Empire. Then, it was planned, the water would be pumped into the hulls of a fleet of gigantic water tankers, which were even then being constructed, and shipped north to its intended destination.

At first all seemed to go well. Though Vinizula’s armed forces fought bravely, they were relatively small and their organised resistance was soon broken. But the soldiers – abandoning their bases and fortifications – melted into the forests, from where they began a vicious and effective guerrilla war against the occupying army.

Because of the paucity of records, it is not possible to say now exactly how long the Empire’s occupation lasted, but it cannot have been longer than a few years. Because of the level of resistance, only a tiny fraction of the expected water managed to reach Imperial shores, and that at a much higher expense than even the Empire could afford. Coupled with continuing defeats elsewhere, the Empire’s war making capacity finally collapsed, and so did its economy, and it disintegrated into civil war and chaos.

And in this lies the vital lesson for us, Your Majesty. We can continue to hope for the rains to come, for new wells to be sunk which will – with due respect to the Royal Dowser – fail to find any trace of water. Sire, I have even heard it suggested that we invade Your Majesty’s vassal states to make use of their water, such as it is. The only argument I have not heard is the only one that has any hope of success – that is, to limit our consumption of the liquid to only the extreme essentials, and to impose, if necessary with force of arms, the social changes such limitation will inevitably bring.

All other courses of action lead us to the same fate as befell the Empire, which once imagined it had a divine right to rule the universe and is now so completely vanished from the pages of history that we cannot even be certain of its name.

In all this sad tale, though, there is one account of which I read that I believe will be of interest to you, not only because it is vividly presented, in great detail, but because it is full of courage and drama and all that goes into making us human.

It was already in the latter part of the occupation when the tanker Humanitarian Intervention was laid down in the shipyards of the Untied States, and of the ships built, she was by far the largest, being able to haul no less than a million tons of water.  And apart from the usual fittings of her type, she was a unique craft in another way, for she carried a complement of fighter aircraft to protect her from increasingly effective attacks from Vinizulan naval units, which operated from hidden coves and harbours in the rain forests along the coast, and which had already sunk the tankers Manifest Destiny and Exceptional America with all hands.

A ship so gigantic and so unique required a crew of exceptional ability, and was captained by the most experienced officer available, Barack Clinton. A passionate believer in the Imperialist cause, he had had experience of several past voyages to Vinizula, on the last of which his ship, the Liberal Values, had been severely damaged. Even so, he had managed to nurse the stricken vessel back to Imperial territory before it had finally broken up and sunk, and as a reward he had been given command of the Humanitarian Intervention.

She must have been a truly grand ship. On her maiden – and as it was to turn out, her only – voyage, she was dragged out of harbour by an entire flotilla of tugs, which had to stay with her until she was well out to sea, for she was far too large to manoeuvre in shallow coastal waters. And fortune seemed to be smiling upon her, for she arrived at her destination in Vinizula, Pumping Station Bush III, without even a single bullet fired in her direction.

Not that there were no bullets being fired. Even from the bridge of the tanker, as she lay as close to the shore as her gigantic bulk allowed, Captain Barack Clinton could hear the sounds of shooting and explosions as Vinizulan guerrillas fought the Imperial military units guarding the pumping station. In all his prior voyages, he had never heard the fighting come so close. And as the huge hoses filled his four gigantic holds with a quarter of a million tons of water each, he anxiously followed the sounds of combat and realised uneasily that they were coming closer to the station itself.

It must have been with relief that Captain Clinton finished loading his ship with water and made ready to return to the sea again. He must surely have suspected that the Humanitarian Intervention was among the last ships which would ever manage to load water from Pumping Station Bush III; as a matter of fact, the Vinizulan guerrillas managed to capture the base just the next morning and blew up all the buildings before withdrawing into the forest. But by then Captain Clinton had much greater problems on his hands.

The first problem was how to make his way back to the ocean. Unlike the fleet of tugs which had dragged the Humanitarian Intervention into the ocean in the Untied States, there never had been many such vessels available in Pumping Station Bush III. And, of those that had been there originally, many had already been sunk and disabled by Vinizulan guerrilla attacks, while others were unusable due to breakdowns and lack of spare parts. So Captain Clinton had only three tugs which joined forces to pull him away from his mooring; and one of them almost immediately blew up after striking a mine planted by Vinizulan terrorist saboteurs. Still, Clinton, with the help of the other two tugs and his own immense ability, managed to find his way out into the sea.

But, even as he began to imagine that the worst was over and all it remained to do was sail his gargantuan ship back to the Untied States, disaster struck. Night had just fallen, and the occupied coast had vanished into the darkness, when the Humanitarian Intervention was attacked by Vinizulan speedboats. These tiny craft, moving far too quickly for the lumbering tanker to outrun, sailed in circles round her, lashing her superstructure with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine gun fire. The complement of soldiers on board the Humanitarian Intervention made attempts to shoot back, but owning to the great speed and evasive manoeuvres of the speedboats it is unlikely that they hit anything at all.

By the time the attack was over, the superstructure of the tanker was ablaze, and the bridge itself was wreathed in flame and smoke. Showing the great heroism and presence of mind that marked out a true leader of his calibre, Captain Barack Clinton stayed at his post until the fires were brought under control, though they were never fully put out until the end of the voyage.

Meanwhile, under the surface of the ocean, a new and far more dangerous threat was approaching.

As I said earlier in this account, the Empire had enemies all over the planet, among whom was a country which seems to have been called Norkorea. This Norkorea had produced large numbers of tiny midget submarines, small enough to conceal themselves in creeks and bends of rivers, and able to operate with great stealth in shallow coastal waters. And, no doubt driven by greed and hatred of the Empire’s freedoms, it had seen fit to smuggle several of these to Vinizula and hand them over to the guerrillas.

And it was one of these Norkorean-made Vinizulan midget submarines, the Hugo Chavez, which was approaching. The flames rising from the burning tanker marked her position clearly, and the captain of the Hugo Chavez had no difficulty in firing both the torpedoes his small submarine carried into the midsection of the titanic hull. It would have been amazing, in fact, had either of them missed.

The two torpedoes impacted the middle two holds of the Humanitarian Intervention on the port side. Each hold contained a quarter of a million tons of water, which cushioned the effects of the blast to a considerable extent, but which now began to leak into the sea through the immense holes blown in the hull. The ship began to take on a list, only slight to begin with, but one which might become unmanageable in case of a further torpedo strike. Captain Clinton therefore ordered his fighters to take off in order to provide air cover.

Now, as I have already stated, the Humanitarian Intervention carried on board a section of four F 35 fighter aeroplanes for self-defence. Of these, it was found, one had been damaged beyond immediate repair by a grenade hit during the speedboat attack. A second one was being serviced, its engine dismantled and strewn all over its deck hangar. A third could not take off because of a software failure, whatever that might be. So only one out of four was available, and – after being fuelled and armed – it began to clumsily rise into the air.

And it was at that moment that the second wave of Vinizulan speedboats struck.

This second attack was carried out by only one or two gunboats, and was much briefer and less intense than the first. But one of the first rockets fired struck the F 35 as it had just lifted off the deck of the Humanitarian Intervention, whereupon it fell right back on to the ship, a blazing wreck. Spilled fuel from the shattered plane set all the other three on fire, and this blaze soon joined the superstructure fire in one great conflagration that might have charred the ship to a cinder.

Fortunately, however, for the Humanitarian Intervention, Captain Barack Clinton kept his head. He had noticed, on his weather sensors, heavy thunderstorms to the east, and he now steered his burning ship into the area covered by the clouds. Heavy rain began to come down from the skies, so heavy, indeed, that although the fire still continued to smoulder under the decks and inside the superstructure, most of the blaze was quenched.

But the diversion to the east had cost the Humanitarian Intervention much time, during which the water had continued to leak out of the two holds amidships. As the day broke, Captain Clinton turned north again, trying to push his engines to maximum power in an effort to get home as quickly as he could. But the seas were now running very rough owing to the storms, and the tanker could only make headway with difficulty. When night fell, she was still struggling north against heavy waves, her gallant captain not leaving the bridge, guiding her every moment of the way with no thought of rest or sleep.

Such are the brave souls on whom great Empires depend, Majesty! Without them nothing is possible, and for them nothing is impossible.

It is hard, now, to imagine the mettle it took for the crew and captain of the tanker over the next days of struggle, but, eventually, late on the third morning after leaving Vinizula, the Humanitarian Intervention finally reached friendly seas. By then, Imperial aeroplanes and naval ships had formed a protective screen above and around her, though of course, so far from hostile shores, there were no more attacks. As the coast of the Untied States came clearly into view, and the flotilla of tugs came chugging out to take the great ship in tow, Captain Barack Clinton must have heaved a sigh of relief at his troubles being over.

And then the Humanitarian Intervention broke into two like a stick.

You will recall, Majesty, that the Hugo Chavez’ two torpedoes had struck the Humanitarian Intervention amidships and had holed the two central tanks. The water had kept flowing out of them, but not at such a great rate – there were half a million tons in the two tanks, after all – that it had been something to worry about, what with all the other dangers, the smouldering fires, the storm, and the threat of further enemy attack. But now so much of the water had been lost from the two central tanks that the middle of the ship had become too light compared to the bow and stern, and the plane crash, the fire and the buffeting from the storm had all further weakened the structure. Weighted down at both ends, the keel of the ship snapped in two, the metal skin tore like paper, and the bow and forequarters broke away and swiftly sank.

The same fate might have overtaken the stern half of the ship, with the superstructure and the engines and crew, but by great good fortune the first tugs had already made their lines firm to it. Captain Clinton ordered them to tow the remnants of his ship stern first towards the shore, as quickly as they could. But even so, the weight of the torn and crumpled metal hanging from the front end of this part of the ship slowed her down far too much, and it became evident that it would founder as well.

And so it might have proved, but for Captain Barack Clinton’s genius. Seeing that the ship had to lose the weight of the mangled metal if it had to survive, he ordered the naval ships escorting him on either side to open fire on it with missiles. The impact of these weapons sliced away most of the remnants of the third tank, enough for the stern section to regain equilibrium. Just think of the bravery that this entailed!

So it was that, to the cheers of a multitude, what was left of the Humanitarian Intervention finally returned to her mooring, along with the quarter of a million tons of water in her one remaining hold. And – even as Captain Clinton was carried on the shoulders of an adoring crowd to media appearances and meetings with Imperial politicians – that precious fluid was pumped out of her into the giant storage tanks built by the dockside.

And the next morning it was put into the pipes to the homes of the people, who used it to water their lawns and to wash their cars.  


With best wishes, Your Majesty,

I remain, your obedient servant,

Bill the Butcher.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015