UN Civil Affairs, Region Bihac
HAPPY HOUR (2)
Those of you who have been wondering what happened to Civil Affairs Happy Hour are probably unaware of the troubles visited on me during my short-lived leave. I had hardly disembarked at Washington D.C. Dulles airport when a consortium of lawyers descended on the terminal, falling over each other to slap me with subpoenas (boy! was I glad John wasn’t among them!). One said he represented a Baron Radoukov who alleged that I had threatened to give him a haircut (I wasn’t even aware of the restoration of the Monarchy in Bulgaria). Another said he represented the Canadian Defense Ministry suing me for slanderous remarks I reportedly made about a Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson’s cuisine (truth be told, the BBQ at SFOR TSG was the only sustenance to help me endure all those Principals meetings). A third said she represented a Ms. Mulic who was accusing me of ‘palatable’ harassment of her coffee. This case was the first I deftly defended in court. I pleaded that I actually liked Ms. Mulic’s coffee so much that I actually dreaded going back to Bihac and so I actually started dreading going to Livno because after savoring the coffee there I actually dreaded going back to Bihac! The judge bought it hook, line and stopper. (Which made me wonder if I had chosen the wrong vocation but then I thought of John and decided I hadn’t). Others were shouting allegations of copyright infringements of A Christmas ‘Carol’ and Elise in Wonderland. (Which, incidentally, reminded me to do something drastic about two of my international staff). I had no difficulty recognizing the IPTF attorney (the two NCRs sticking out of his uniform’s pocket like sore thumbs) even before he started co-locating me. (That was my second deftly defended case. I pleaded Suchada’s absolute absence of malice’ as she methodologically decapitated the entire IPTF contingent in Prijedor. The good judge took one look at her innocent face in the photo I presented as Exhibit A and promptly threw out the case. IPTF had threatened to retaliate and were desperately trying to enlist SFOR support. Mr. Gravelle was reported to be on the warpath, which probably means the whole IC in BiH would be history before I returned from leave. Nice exit strategy, Bob.)
So to all of you who have survived, I rest my case. Little did I know in overcoming these travails, I would be coming back to a Bihac under Security siege. So read on if you want to know.
How to Beat Security and Live Happily Thereafter without Tickets
The visitor to our RHQ may be forgiven for assuming that we are running an auction for UN vehicles. What with all these stranded 4-Runners and Patrols and IPTF personnel milling around, poking their heads under bonnets and kicking at the wheels as though to ascertain that the vehicle would still stand intact. The visitor, however, will be surprised to see the cars still in sedentary positions with none being taken for a test drive or driven off after a sale. The unsuspecting visitor may then assume that our RHQ is suffering from an acute fuel shortage. This mistaken assumption is certainly reinforced by the sight of Janet arriving to work on a bicycle, Eckehart jogging his way in (and looking twenty years younger), John atop a skating-board (and looking twenty years older), and myself uncertainly negotiating the RHQ gates on the back of a donkey. (And looking exactly like my usual fun-loving twenty-year old self). Brendan, with typical Irish shrewdness, has elected to stay home (“nothin’ movin’, mate” he cheerfully proclaimed).
Truth of the matter is that all UNMIBH personnel (except Security) had been disqualified from driving by the edicts of UN Regional Security Supervisor. Now, Mr. Noory is a fine specimen of a gentleman with an ever-present smile decorating his unmistakably Afghan face. Trouble is Mr. Noory is addicted to issuing traffic violation tickets the way some people are addicted to eating and breathing. My own personal tally is 15 tickets dished out within a two-week period. 10 were for driving under the influence (of music); 4 for keeping the engine running at a traffic light (gross disregard for energy conservation); and one for failing to give a lift at night to a suspicious looking character. (Mr. Noory swore that the character in question was Radovan Karadzic and lamented the glory that would have been ours, or more specifically his, had I given the guy a lift all the way to the Hague).
I don’t know what the others did to deserve their tickets but it must have been for infinitely more serious violations because Mr. Noory keeps on saying that he has a special consideration for me. Neither do I know how or why I earned that dubious distinction but I suspect it has to do with my nationality. ‘Cause for unfathomable reasons, Mr. Noory’s heart (if any such thing exists) seems to have a soft spot for countries suspected of sponsoring international terrorism.
If you think that the immobilization of all our vehicles has affected Mr. Noory’s insatiable appetite for issuing tickets, think again. A UN helicopter pilot who made the mistake of landing at our RHQ was slapped with thirteen tickets (why thirteen, only Heavens and Mr. Noory know). Mr. Noory told the bewildered pilot that if he could land through all the high-tension cables camouflaging our RHQ, then he was a sneaky… (expletive deleted). This was followed by a lecture (“what do you think this is, Pearl Harbor?”) and a stern reminder that in Afghanistan they used to take helicopters for a turkey shoot. Rumour has it that Mr. Noory had been moonlighting with the MUP, which might explain why the streets of Bihac seem almost deserted. It has also been noted that he was making forays into turf as far as Banja Luka and Mostar to pick on unsuspecting prey. SFOR was reported to be planning relocation to Belgrade (now that Mr. Milosevic is safely in the Hague) but were at a loss on how to move their tanks and APCs without their ticketed drivers.
Needless to say, UNMIBH mandate implementation has been brought virtually to a standstill. Janet, Eckehart, John and myself met to discuss the issue.
“Can’t the CAO do something about this?” an exasperated Janet asked Eckehart.
“Not since Mr. Noory ambushed him with a couple of tickets on the way to Mostar last week,” Eckehart explained.
John was going for the third time through the UN Charter for Human, Civil and Political Rights muttering miserably to himself, “I just can’t pin down this guy”.
I suggested it was time to have a serious talk with Mr. Noory; “explain to him, you know, that he cannot single-handedly ground UNMIBH”. The others agreed on condition that I did the talking. Mr. Noory joined us with a broad smile on his face and a huge UN Security Rules and Regulations under his arm. We all pretended not to notice that Noory’s assistant Haris (who also doubled as his bodyguard) was strategically positioned at the door with a cocked Kalashnikov in hand.
“Look Naqib, we know you’re doing your duty”, I said forcing a smile, “but we also have to do ours”
“That’s correct, sir, but who is stopping you?”
“How can we do that without using our cars” Janet implored.
Mr. Noory meticulously started leafing through his book. For what seemed to be ages, he lectured us on how car security was the cornerstone to the successful implementation of DPA and BPA. “UNMIBH must set an example to the whole country by adhering strictly to rules and regulations governing everything that moves on wheels”, he proclaimed grandly waving his book like a banner. I began contemplating how to strangle the guy and spare the world more pain but a look from John reminded me of the Kalashnikov outside. But Eckehart’s eyes alarmingly reflected that he was beyond caution or reason. At the very moment that his hand gripped the telephone and precisely a few seconds before that small communicating machine fatally impacted on Mr. Noory’s skull, Brendan burst into the room blurting out something to the effect that all our problems were solved. Without explaining how he managed to drag himself from bed, Brendan talked breathlessly and excitedly non-stop for about an hour after which John proceeded to give us a translation. “Brendan says we no longer need transport or indeed to move from our offices at all. Something about the UN subscribing to this virtual reality thing, like we can do all the field trips by just beaming there just like in Star Trek. Brendan swears he tried it himself and it works wonders. Been to Sarajevo and back in a jiffy. IPTF monitors could now safely break the sound barrier without SFOR breathing down their necks.”
The others left (Eckehart to make a bonfire of all MOP forms; Janet to plan a 10-minute virtual reality trip to the States; John to beam unannounced into the safe office of Mr. Mirsad Veladzic; and Brendan presumably to resume his siesta). I was left alone with a very despondent Mr. Noory. I could read his thoughts and suddenly felt very sorry for him. “Forget it, Naqib”, I said consolingly as I read his mind “these instant beaming machines don’t even have a windscreen to stick your tickets to”. There was along silence before Mr. Norry asked plaintively with tears streaking down his cheeks whether OSCE and OHR were also using these beaming machines. Much as his contemplation of a job change was appealing to me (I was even prepared to write a sterling recommendation for him), I did not have the heart to lie to him. “Look, Naqib”, I said honestly, “if the UN is now subscribing to these machines, then you can assume they are obsolete in other parts of the world”. The look of misery on Mr. Noory was enough to break the heart of Slobodan Milosevic. But suddenly his face began to brighten and finally broke into a huge grin. “Why didn’t I think of this before,” he kept on shouting triumphantly as he jumped around with joy. My heart began to sink as it dawned on me that he must have found a way to ticket our new virtual reality. So you can imagine my relief when at last he chanted gleefully, “no more cars, no more hops, Brendan now has lost his job!”