The H2 Limo pulls up to the curb. It's 117 degrees in the shade and I can hear the Hummer's dual AC compressors loud hum, working overtime to try and keep the interior cool. The 22" chrome wheels glint in the bright desert sun and I climb in. The floor is shallow and not as deep as your average Cadillac Escalade limousine, but then again armored Hummers were never really designed by engineers to be turned into limousines.
The driver is ex-Special Forces and looks vaguely familiar. The President doesn't like using the Secret Service drivers for such errands and often qualified, resourceful one-man-armies take their place in situ. I try and remember those with whom I've worked and seldom forget a face. Then it comes back to me - Pakistan in '96. The failed attempt to abscond with Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and machinery - perhaps the most humiliating special forces resume item one can have next to Carter's ill-fated hostage rescue attempt in '79. They knew we were coming because the Clinton White House sent them telegrams in advance. Lost a good number of talented folks that day.
"So this is where the Pakistan veterans wind up!" I say with a smile.
"Yeah. A little slice of hell on Earth. Is that why you are stationed out here?"
"No, I love the heat. Flirting with sunstroke and repeated heat exhaustion are things that make this assignment so fulfilling. Besides, I'm sitting in the back - and you're driving."
"Good point. Driving this behemoth isn't the worst assignment in the world though."
And I know he's correct. He's still where the action is - on the periphery of the circle of power that determines how the world is run. And today if he doesn't get me to the meeting on time, the world will be impacted adversely. I like to drive myself whenever possible, but I know the vehicle is in skilled hands.
Usually these off-the-record meetings are held in hotels or private homes with no ostentatious trappings, but this one involves foreign dignitaries and so all present must arrive in attire and vehicles that uphold the precious image of dignity and prosperity the United States possesses and wields so productively.
After leaving the roads behind for twenty minutes, I see why the H2 was called into duty and why a qualified military type is at the wheel.
This meeting is to be held, literally, in the middle of nowhere. These are places man may never set foot in. The last visitors were overheated conquistadors looking for the famed City of Cibola, one of the legendary cities of gold which lured greedy men to their deaths in the heat. 122 degrees can be beautiful in a rugged sort of way.
Arriving in a H2 limo is like arriving in a parade float. One loses the most powerful tool in the world - anonymity - and the ability to blend into an environment without drawing attention to oneself - and by doing so placing oneself in the crosshairs. Of course out in the middle of nowhere any vehicle becomes a parade float so it really makes no difference.
The location is one which is not in any known US or foreign spy satellites tracking loop. Cell phones are useless in the middle of nowhere. Communications are by scrambled mil-sat rigs, like this limo is equipped with.
Finally we arrive. I see Cheney standing next to his limousine transport with the door open, another H2 in a desert sand color, probably trying to soak up some cold air, and some middle eastern gentlemen standing beside him are gesturing wildly with their arms as though they are unhappy. Cheney's Secret Service escorts are nowhere to be seen, only his driver stands nearby, probably another carefully chosen one-man-army type. Something that looks like a derivative of a Mercedes Geländewagen is parked near Cheney's limo. Two more distinguished looking middle eastern gentlemen wearing thawbs and ghutras stand nearby.
What transpires in the next two hours may decide the 2008 Presidential election and will likely also impact the economy.
I'm putting my laptop down to go and join them. It's far hotter than hell and I certainly hope folks appreciate the price one has to pay for living the good life.
Oh, and if I get the chance, I'll do my best to try and bring gas prices down a bit for the next two years.
Wish me luck. ;-)