Thursday, March 03, 2016

We are experts, yeah?

I have watched every iteration of The Expendables, Die Hard, The Terminator (yes, even the execrable Rise of the Machines and Salvation), Lethal Weapon, Rambo, James Bond, Blade, and Transporter. I can, therefore, speak on authority on the merits or otherwise of AK-47s, Sig Sauer P224s, BTR-80s, the Abrams M1A2, the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion and the various merits and, yes, demerits of Israel's Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, the United States' Central Intelligence Agency, the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service, and similar acronymed spy organisations of dubious repute.

Do not labour under the illusion that armchair spymasters have no merit. After all, having immersed ourselves in the vast bulk of spy movie and action movie offerings of the past quarter century, we can predict to an eerie certainty when the bad guy will make an appearance, what he is likely to say or demand, what outfit he and, increasingly, she is likely to wear, and whether or not the protagonist/hero/anti-hero gets the girl or boy, or dies while heroically piloting a doomed airliner/cruise ship while saving the lives of the president/prime minister, et cetera. We are national security experts without the hassle of a relevant university degree, practical experience or inner circle information. And boy do we like to prove our intelligence chops.

Kenya is funny that way. Everyone is an insider. Everyone knows what is going on at State House, Vigilance House, that Survey of Kenya place that houses the NIS, GSU HQ in Ruaraka, DoD HQ somewhere in Karen, and similar places that usually have a "No Photography Allowed" sign emblazoned all over so that you can be in no doubt that they are "Security Zones." (Funny story: Did you know there's a police cell in the bowels of Parliament? No? Neither did I till I made a stupid joke the other day. Smelly place. I don't recommend a visit.)

We are all security experts because of our Rambo-James Bond-John Maclaine obsessions and our rather too frequent extortionate interactions with Joseph Boinnet's boys, AK-47s at the ready with their hands out for a handout, and I don't mean the handouts Rautta-Athiambo refused to hand out when Hiram, Joseph, John B and I were struggling to make heads or tails of "bankruptcy." We watch the Northrop F-5s fly past during Jamhuri Day flypasts and think of ourselves as aces-in-the-making. We watch my friend Eric and his brothers in arms maneuver through the sky in their Harbin Z-9s and imagine we could pull the same stunt Bond pulled in the opening sequence to Spectre. We are security experts in the same way that the Chairman, Qweh, is the boss of me. (Okay, he's the boss of me, but still.)

So because we are experts, we snigger with smug self-satisfaction every time there's a snafu with the President and Commander-in-Chief's safety and security, and we knowingly wink and nod about "security failures." We think to ourselves, "If I was in charge..." and daydream like the Hollywood-addled zombies that we are about how we would kick down doors, takes names and put bullets in heads in the name of the State forgetting that we had the opportunity, once, to wake up in the asscrack of dawn, join other shivering juveniles from our village in the nearby primary school with a football pitch, opened up our jaws wide enough to swallow the morning water buffalo for the potbellied afande to inspect our teeth, outrun the zombies from the village over in the ten kilometre foot race, paid the required bribe and joined the ranks of the kurutus at Lanet or wherever it is they send the army types for training.

We are experts because we are ashamed to admit that by the time we were getting shoved out the doors of Masaku School or Patch or Changes or Quabbz or Bush, most of us were probably twenty-five kilos over the recommended weight for our height, had worked through all our teeth enamel with our enthusiastic quaffing of fizzy drinks, were diligently and assiduously working towards advanced vodka-induced cirrhosis of the liver and were about as patriotic as a general selling charcoal in Yemen. If we were called today, between the order being given and the Land Rovers being despatched to find us, we would have found every conceivable loophole in Chapter Fourteen of the Constitution and the Kenya Defence Forces Act, 2012. Experts we may be, but we are the only ones who know it. As it should be, my friend Eric will say as he lines up the thirty milimetre cannon on his target.

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