(Hermione Alopecian, Brunhilde Liebesbombe and Actaeon Zedmaster, reporting from Musaylima, somewhere in Northern Syria near the Turkish border. Ogden Orffe, photographer.)
(Musaylima Air Defense Base, Syria) We were a bit surprised to find no soldiers at this sprawling military site which our Free Syrian Army host referred to as “the biggest, best and most important military base in the history of the world!” The base was so sprawling that it seemed to have no borders. We saw no fences for the base so we asked Col. Riad Al-As’ad to explain its dimensions. Col. Al-As’ad, who referred to himself as former “Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army”, “King of Kings”, “Lord of War”, “Shah of Shahs”, “Sword of God” and “Captain Jolly”, seemed stung by the question.
“Do you deny that this base is a base?”, he asked sternly. “Can’t you see all the equipment?”
Our team tried to detect any silhouette that might hint at an air defense base, but could not. There was a discarded, vintage Volkswagon Vanagon south of our position, but it seemed to have no military purpose.
We approached the van carefully, fearing it might have been booby-trapped by what Col. Al-As’ad called “desperate fleeing stooges and cowards of Assad’s junta“.
The VW Vanagon seen here at the “sprawling” Musaylima Air Defence Base gives no idea of how serious the fight was to control it. In truth, we could not find a single spent bullet casing as we reconnoitred in the shadow of the Taurus Mountains.
Col. Al-As’ad assured us he had disabled the bombs “which the criminal regime had left in order to kill helpless civilians and journalists”. As we approached the vehicle with some measure of trepidation, we noticed absolutely nothing. In fact, the license plate on the vehicle was Turkish, not Syrian. We asked the Colonel about that curious discrepancy. He responded that Syrian soldiers regularly violated Turkish sovereignty by infiltrating and stealing Turkish vehicles to “advance their nefarious cause”. Brunhilde, who is a curious sort, noticed that the van contained children’s toys. She asked the Colonel about that.
“Oh, Assad’s army killed the children and sold the mother into slavery”, he responded. “The father was hanged in front of his children because he would not pray to Assad!”
As the day wore on, the desert heat reached 103 F. and Hermione decided she would “dress down” for the occasion. Col. Al-As’ad encouraged her, but warned that Assad’s killers were everywhere and would seize her and sell her, too, into bondage. “The Makhloufs deal in the white slave trade”, he muttered before starting to sing: “Buy Makhlouf, for your roof, don’t be aloof, we don’t goof, we got the proof, for your roof”. Brunhilde startled the Colonel by asking him: “Are you sure we’re in Syria?”
The Colonel ignored Brunhilde’s question about our location. We arrived in what we think is Northern Syria after meeting up with the Colonel in Gaziantep. He claimed he “had just been released from the hospital after a minor surgery” and was in “great shape”. He proved this to us by performing two hundred jumping jacks as we feigned amazement. He then challenged Ogden, our photographer, to an arm wrestling match, all the while ogling Hermione and Brunhilde. As it turned out, he arm-wrestled Brunhilde who nearly crushed the Colonel’s hand just before sitting on him and demanding he cry “Uncle!”. We were all delighted that the Colonel was such a good sport, but later learned that he was not telling us the truth about his hospital stay. We were informed he was committed to a mental hospital and had escaped.
Brunhilde is Austria’s 2003 Women’s Wrestling Champion. Col. Al-As’ad did not know that.
We continued our inspection of the Musailima Air Defence Base but could not find a single trace of military hardware. The Colonel explained that all equipment was seized by the FSA and taken to Turkey for use by what he called “the bearded ones”. We asked if any member of the FSA was trained to fire Syria’s S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. We were dismayed by his reply: “All our soldiers are defectors from the air defense corps. Assad has no more people to operate his missiles.” Actaeon Zedmaster then argued with the Colonel over what he knew was false:
Actaeon: Colonel, there’s no way you have all the air defence crews of the Syrian military.
Colonel: Do so.
Actaeon: No way!
Colonel: Yes, way.
Actaeon: No can do.
Colonel: Yes, can do.
Actaeon: No sir!
Colonel: Yessirrrreeeee Bob!
Actaeon: Nosirrreeeee Bob no way!
Colonel: Yesserrrrreeee Bobbie Baby all the way!
This badinage continued for another ten minutes during which time we all concluded that Colonel Riad Al-As’ad was a raving lunatic. To further confuse matters, Richard Engel, NBC investigative journalist and schlockmeister, complete with a movie production team came up from a culvert under the same road which brought us to this air defense base. He was also accompanied by a unit of Turkish MPs who immediately arrested the Colonel. Engel was very upset by our presence saying that “we took a long time finding this place. Get out!”
Colonel Al-As’ad began another argument with Engel:
Colonel: We found this place!
Engel: Did not!
Colonel: Did so!
Finally, Major Paruk Bandersnatchoglu silenced the two and had the Colonel put in shackles. We asked the Major if we were in Syria. He said we were 80 miles north of Gaziantep. “Syria is the other way. But, he’s making a documentary with this place posing as the Aleppo countryside.”
Colonel Riad Al-As’ad was put in a strait jacket and returned to this cell at the Gaziantep Krankhaus fur Die Kooken Weirdos. He remains under the care of a physician.
We are still looking for someone who can take us to Syria. So much for the Musaylima Air Defence Base.