After Desert Storm
"Shooting off the sergeant's testicles and half his penis was a bit
extreme, wouldn't you say, Captain Aden?"
"No, sir. I fully intended to kill him. I was aiming for his heart,
but my hands were shaking badly and I missed."
Jade watched as Vice Admiral Hubert Roberts, Chief of Naval
Intelligence, shifted his tall, bony frame in his chair behind the long,
wooden table on the raised platform before her. He coughed lightly, and
then made a note on the yellow legal pad in front of him.
Of the four men sitting in judgment of her, Roberts was the only one in
uniform, and the only man Jade knew. She suspected that the two men in
dark business suits sitting to Roberts' right were from the intelligence
community, but she gauged them as bureaucrats, not field operatives. One
would almost certainly be a C.I.A. liaison, and the other would probably
be from Army Intelligence or some other lair deep in the belly of the
Pentagon, where Roberts dwelled. The two men looked to be about the same
age, in their early 60's, with cold eyes and the pale, waxy pallor of
men who spent too much time in stale air out of the sun. The man in
the ill-fitting brown suit to Roberts' left was older, perhaps in his
mid-70's, but he looked healthier than his companions, with a tan Jade
suspected might have been acquired on the White House tennis courts.
Unlike the others, this man did not project hostility. There was warmth,
perhaps even sympathy, in his blue eyes. The faint smile that teased the
corners of his mouth could mean anything. He had the bearing of a
diplomat, not a military man. This would make him political, and he was
the man Jade feared most, for she was certain he would be the one to
make the final decision on what was to be done with her.
Roberts finished writing and looked up from his pad. His brown eyes
narrowed. "I hope that comment wasn't an attempt to inject humor into
these proceedings, Captain."
"No, sir," Jade replied in a flat tone, meeting his gaze. "I hadn't
slept for forty-eight hours at the time of the incident. I'd come across
the desert, through enemy lines, and I'd been forced to kill five men. I
was feeling a bit stressed. Sir."
"Why didn't you come to the sea like you were supposed to, Captain? We
had a boat waiting for you there."
"The first strike wasn't going to come from offshore, sir. It wasn't
the Navy that needed my information."
"How the hell did you know where the first strike was coming from?"
"I knew, sir. My orders were to complete my mission and get out of
Baghdad as quickly as possible. That's what I did. Since the first
strike was going to be launched on the ground, I reasoned that it was
General Schwarzkopf who would have the greatest need for the freshest
intelligence on the grouping of enemy forces in the desert. I had a
Republican Guard uniform and ID papers, a vehicle, and I was armed. I
wore a scarf to cover my face and hair."
"And if you were stopped and questioned? How did you plan to explain
what a woman was doing in a Republican Guard uniform?"
"I was stopped, sir. As I mentioned, I had to kill five men."
"Your job was to track, to the best of your ability, the movements of
"I did that, sir, as you know from my communiqués."
"What if you had been captured or killed? Invaluable information would
have been lost."
"I had good reason to believe that my cover had been compromised just
before I left Baghdad. The Iraqis would have been looking for me on the
road to the sea. I judged a run across the desert to offer the best
chances for escape and survival. Besides, I knew we weren't going to
take out Saddam, even if he was at one of the sites I'd indicated. I
judged that additional intelligence I could gather on a desert crossing
would be more valuable than what I'd already reported. I tried to show
"What the hell made you so sure Saddam wouldn't be targeted?"
"Sir, I have been the Navy's top Middle East covert intelligence
operative for the past eighteen years. It's my job know what our enemies
are thinking, what they think the United States and its military are
thinking, and what you think they think you're thinking. From the
beginning of the buildup, the common wisdom among the rulers and
diplomats here was that Saddam would be spared, no matter what happened
to his people, because the risk of Iran stepping into a power vacuum was
"That was their thinking, Captain. How could you presume to know what
we were thinking?"
"I agreed with their assessment, sir."
"So you decided to cut yourself new orders, go on an
intelligence-gathering mission behind enemy lines, and then ignore your
chain of command in order to report directly to Army Ops."
"I had no way of communicating with my superiors after I left Baghdad,
sir. My primary objective in crossing the desert was to evade capture."
"What happened when you reached Ops?"
"I reported to the CO on site, and I was debriefed by Colonel
Michaelson, one of General Schwarzkopf's tacticians. I described the
placement of enemy forces I'd observed, told him about Saddam's likely
movements, and then I was dismissed."
"How did you and Sergeant Bolo cross paths?"
"He was assigned as my personal aide, sir. He didn't like that."
"Why didn't he like it?"
"You would have to ask him, sir. I assume it may have had something to
do with the fact that he'd been pulled from a first-strike force and
ordered to look after a woman while the rest of his unit was going into
combat. I think he was afraid he was going to miss something, and he may
also have felt humiliated."
"Did he have any idea who you were?"
"No, sir. Colonel Michaelson assumed you would want my identity, rank
and mission closely held. All Sergeant Bolo knew was that he had
suddenly been separated from his unit to wait on a very dirty, very
smelly Arab woman dressed in a Republican Guard uniform. His orders were
to make sure nobody approached or tried to speak with me. He wasn't even
supposed to speak to me himself, only bring me whatever I asked for."
The dark-suited man sitting to Roberts' immediate right cleared his
throat, then leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table as he
stared hard at Jade, who stared back impassively. In contrast to
Roberts' face, which was craggy and angular, this man's face was oval,
and his brown eyes were cold. Although this space in one corner of a
vast, empty and otherwise deserted airplane hangar wasn't particularly
warm, the man's completely bald head glistened with sweat. After a few
moments he said, "You can understand the man's frustration, can't you,
Captain? He was a highly decorated Army Master Sergeant being pulled
from imminent combat duty to baby sit for an indeterminate amount of
time an unidentified, unwashed Arab woman he knew nothing about except
that she wore the uniform of the enemy."
"It wasn't Sergeant Bolo's frustration that caused the problem," Jade
replied evenly. "It was his behavior. I'd always assumed that Army
Master Sergeants rose to that rank by following the orders of their
superiors. Do you wish to correct that impression?"
"That's impertinent, Captain Aden."
"I'm sorry if it sounded that way, sir. Perhaps I misunderstood. I
thought you might be implying that it was perfectly understandable that
Sergeant Bolo should rape me because he was frustrated and unhappy with
the orders he'd been given."
The stout, bald man in the dark suit flushed, and then took a
handkerchief out of his pocket to wipe his face and the top of his head.
When he spoke again, in was in a mock-friendly, conspiratorial tone
belied and rendered absurd by the anger that was obviously driving his
words. "You led him on, right? You were feeling a little high and horny
after killing five men. It happens."
Jade stared in disbelief at the sweating, bald-headed man. She knew she
should probably feel outrage, but in place of anger she felt only a
bone-deep weariness. She had hoped one day to make admiral, perhaps even
replace Hubert Roberts, but now she knew that wasn't going to happen.
Her career had been raped along with her body, but she no longer cared.
At the moment the only thing she wanted was to escape from this hangar,
but she could not do that until these men were finished with her.
"I wasn't feeling high or horny, sir" Jade replied quietly, pointedly
looking away from her interrogator and directing her answer to her
commanding officer. "I was totally exhausted, and I could hardly stand
up. Sergeant Bolo started asking me questions. He wanted to know my
name, what I was doing there, and why some Arab bitch - - his words - -
was getting all this special attention. He said he'd never had an Arab
woman, and the way I smelled turned him on. He told me he'd heard Arab
women knew all sorts of tricks to please their men, and he said he had a
few tricks of his own he'd like to show me. He invited me to take off my
clothes and lie down on the bed, and I invited him to leave. Then he
asked me if I was a lesbian."
The dark-suited figure to Roberts' far right, a burly man with eyes so
pale they almost matched his white hair, spoke for the first time. "Are
"That question is impertinent, mister," Jade answered in an even tone
as she continued to stare straight ahead at the vice admiral. She could
feel heat rising in her face and the muscles in her stomach begin to
knot, and she struggled to remain calm as she considered her options and
the possible consequences of what she might say. She decided she
couldn't very well be charged with insubordination to a man in a
business suit whose identity was unknown to her. She also decided that
she had little to lose, for there was no question in her mind where this
secret, unrecorded inquiry was headed. In the same steady voice she
added, "Fuck you for asking it."
Roberts and the two men in dark suits stiffened and drew back in their
chairs as if they'd been slapped, but the man in the brown suit seated
to Roberts' left simply continued to study her with the same enigmatic
trace of a smile on his face and a faint hint of amusement in his eyes.
"You're way out of line, Captain!" Roberts said sharply.
"I meant no disrespect to you, sir. The gentleman's question was out
of line and deeply offensive to me."
Roberts glanced down at his legal pad, and then once again fixed Jade
with his cold brown eyes. Jade calmly met his gaze. Although she felt
like a mongoose facing three cobras and one dangerous sphinx, the knot
in her stomach was gone and she felt a little better.
"You can occasionally give offense yourself, Captain," Roberts said
at last in a tight voice as he began to tap his pad with the eraser end
of his pencil. "You didn't simply ask Sergeant Bolo to leave, did you?
Specifically, you told him that if you wanted any shit from him you'd
squeeze his head. Is that a correct quote?"
"It is essentially accurate, sir."
"Then you said he sounded like he was talking with his head up his
ass, and you told him to fuck off. Is that correct?"
"That is essentially correct, sir."
"You don't consider this provocative language?"
"It was meant to provoke him into leaving me alone, sir. May I remind
you that I hadn't eaten or slept in forty-eight hours?"
"Then you said that if he didn't leave you were going to shoot his
"Yes, sir. However, I was speaking figuratively. My act was not
premeditated; his was. We come back to the fact that he was disobeying
orders by even speaking to me, and I do not believe that my use of
abusive language gave him the right to rape me."
"What do you suppose gave you the right to shoot him?! If you had
taken some sort of defensive action before the attack -"
"Excuse me for interrupting, sir, but, as I explained at my first
interrogation, I had no opportunity to try to defend myself before the
attack. I turned away from him, and he punched me in the back of the
head. He threw me face down on the bed, tore off my slacks and
underpants, and then proceeded to rape me anally while he held a knife
to my throat. I was only half conscious, but I could hear him mumbling
something about not wanting to catch any Arab clap. When he was finished
he said he'd kill me if I told anyone, and that nobody would believe me
anyway. I got the distinct impression that I wasn't the first woman
Sergeant Bolo had raped since arriving in Saudi Arabia."
Jade paused and shifted her gaze to the bald-headed, sweating man, then
continued in a sharp tone, "Of course, Army Intelligence would know
more about that than me. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the Army
knew or suspected it had a psychotic master sergeant in its ranks, and
chose to do nothing about it - - maybe because of his combat record. I
don't know why Colonel Michaelson assigned this man as my aide, but I'd
like to think that he just wasn't aware that Sergeant Bolo was a loose,
disobedient, murderous cannon with a constant erection."
The sweating man in the dark suit flushed angrily, and then abruptly
looked away. Roberts dropped his pencil, folded his hands in front of
him, and then said, "Whatever the sergeant's unfortunate proclivities,
the fact remains that you shot him after the attack, which makes it an
act of revenge."
"I don't view it that way, sir. I was acting in self-defense. After
the attack, Sergeant Bolo gave no indication that he was intending to
leave. On the contrary, he told me how much he'd enjoyed himself, and
said he was thinking of having another go at me after he'd rested for a
while. He said that if he couldn't fight he might as well fuck. This was
a man who'd brutally raped me inside a tent right at operational field
headquarters, and he seemed absolutely confident that there would be no
consequences for his actions. He was way around the bend, and I feared
for my life."
"Why didn't you scream or cry out for help?"
"The impulse to scream or cry out for help was cut out of me a long
time ago, sir. You saw to that. In this instance I reacted
instinctively, in the manner in which I'd been trained, to a
The Chief of Naval Intelligence started to ask another question, but
immediately fell silent when the brown-suited man to his left raised his
hand slightly. The other men at the table now turned their heads in this
man's direction, and Jade sensed a distinct deference, perhaps even
anxiety, in their manner. The man said, "You have two teenage children,
don't you, Captain?"
The question took her by surprise, and she found it disturbing for
reasons she could not immediately identify. There was nothing
threatening in the man's manner, or in the question itself, but she had
not expected to be reminded of Max Jr. and Fatima in this setting, and
she found it unnerving. She stared back into the man's expressive blue
eyes, which now seemed to reflect mild curiosity more than anything
else. After a few moments she replied tersely, "That is correct, sir."
"It must be difficult for you, Captain - - raising them by yourself
with their father dead. It would be difficult for any woman to raise two
children alone, but especially so for somebody with your demanding
career and assignments. In addition, if I understand correctly, one of
your children is handicapped, and that makes your burden even heavier."
"I'm not the only single parent in the U.S. Navy, sir. The Navy has
provided most excellent support services and facilities for my children,
thank you very much." She paused, looked back at the craggy faced man
in uniform. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
Vice Admiral Hubert Roberts smiled thinly, but there was no trace of
amusement in his glittering brown eyes. "I got the impression you've
been speaking quite freely all along, Captain. What's on your mind?"
"I don't believe the gentleman on your left would be following this
line of inquiry regarding my family if I were a male officer, sir."
"Captain, your family situation and responsibilities could have an
important bearing on the disposition of this case."
"I don't understand why my family situation should have anything to do
with the disposition of this case, sir. I merely defended myself against
a man who attacked and brutally raped me at knifepoint once, and was
threatening to do it again."
"You're an officer who performed a ballistic castration, as it were,
on an enlisted man. You horribly maimed a highly decorated combat
soldier. Do you think we can, or should, just let that go by the
Jade stiffened. "I do not object to this inquiry, sir. What I object
to are certain lines of questioning and your attitudes. I sense
hostility toward me. I am also highly decorated, a sailor who has served
in many different fields of combat. I acted in self-defense, and I have
yet to hear what charges, if any, are to be lodged against Sergeant
Bolo. I am the highest-ranking officer in Naval Intelligence working as
a field operative, and that's because I'm the best covert operative you
have in the Middle East. The U.S. Navy has invested a great deal of
money in my training, sir, and you know that better than anybody. I'm a
martial arts expert, weapons specialist, can fly anything from
helicopters to fighter jets, and as far as I know I'm the only female
officer to undergo SEAL training. I've been tortured by the enemy on
more than one occasion, and I don't see any reason why I should have
been forced to undergo torture at the hands of one of our own soldiers,
inside one of our own encampments. I believe I'm due a great deal more
respect than I'm receiving here, sir. I would like to get back to my
job. However, if you feel I should be disciplined for what I did, then I
would welcome a court martial."
"A court martial is absolutely out of the question," the man in the
brown suit said in a dismissive tone of voice that served to confirm
Jade's judgment as to who was finally in charge of these proceedings.
She also strongly suspected that the outcome of this inquiry had been
determined before it had even begun.
The three other men at the table looked around sharply, and there was a
faint note of disbelief in Hubert Roberts' voice as he said, "What?"
"I've heard enough of this bullshit, Admiral," the man in the brown
suit said in an even tone as he looked directly at Jade. "I can assure
you that the President won't want to hear about any court martial of
Captain Aden, because he most assuredly will not want the public to hear
anything about this whole sorry episode."
The bald, sweating man in the dark suit abruptly stood up and pounded
his fist on the table as he glared at the man sitting to the other side
of Roberts. "You're exceeding your authority!" he shouted. "You can't
just hush this up! The Army has a right to -!"
"Be quiet and sit down, Stanley," the other man said in the
same calm tone. "The Army should count its blessings, since
there'll be no court martial of Sergeant Bolo either, and it sounds to
me like he damn well deserved to get his balls shot off." He
paused to wait for the man he had addressed as Stanley to sink back
into his chair. Then he turned to Roberts and continued, "The
Navy is getting to be a real pain in the ass, Admiral, and this
administration is getting more than a little tired of being
embarrassed by you people. You've just gone through three years of the
most incredibly stupid foul-ups where servicemen lost their lives, and
then you complicated the foul-ups by even more inane attempts at
covering them up, blaming homosexuals, and then you top it all off
with that shit at Tailgate. Within the past seventy-two hours our
nation has achieved a spectacular military victory in this part of the
world, perhaps in part due to the intelligence Captain Aden gathered
during her remarkable run across the desert. The Secretary of Defense
will not risk having reports of that victory supplanted in newspaper
headlines by the story of a beautiful and heroic servicewoman
demanning some damn fool of an Army sergeant who raped her. This
administration does not want the Navy to make a laughingstock of
itself again, Admiral. Now, you'll offer Captain Aden the option we
discussed earlier. Considering her personal situation, I have no doubt
she'll find your proposal both generous and acceptable. Good day to
you, gentlemen, and good luck to you, Captain."
Jade watched as the man in the brown suit with blue eyes and a deep tan
rose unhurriedly from his chair and saluted her. She nodded in reply,
and then he stepped down from the platform and walked toward the open
end of the hangar, his footsteps echoing in the vast, empty space. The
two men in dark suits, their faces grim, rose together and walked
quickly after him, leaving Jade alone with her commanding officer. Vice
Admiral Hubert Roberts looked slightly stunned and decidedly
Jade wondered if the emotions this man she had once so admired was now
feeling were akin to the humiliation she had felt when she was raped.
She wished it were so, but she doubted it. She had long ago grown
accustomed to the curiously adolescent behavior and attitudes of the
U.S. Navy toward the women in its ranks, and so she would not be
surprised if Roberts blamed her for what had happened, and his
embarrassment at the hands of the political operative. What did surprise
her was the depth of anger and resentment reflected in his eyes as he
glared at her. His jaw was tightly clenched, and white lines had
appeared at the corners of his mouth.
Jade suppressed a sigh, and she struggled to keep her face impassive as
she stared back at the lone man sitting behind the table on the platform
before her. Now she felt emotionally spent and empty. She knew that the
most extreme measures available to the admiral would not be taken
against her; she would not be deliberately exposed to unnecessary danger
on some future assignment, she would not face a court martial and
possible imprisonment, and she would not even be officially reprimanded.
But her military career was at an end.