It is not known exactly who first brought the tulip to Northwestern Europe, but the most widely accepted story is that it was a 16th Century Flemish diplomat, Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, an ambassador for the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, to the court of the great Ottoman Emperor, Suleyman the Magnificent.
Enchanted by the flowers and on hearing that the Ottoman Emperor in turn had received them from an envoy to Libya, Busbecq had brought some over and planted them in his city of birth, Amsterdam. And there they flourished.
Since then, it didn’t take Europe too long to turn tulip-crazy. Today the Netherlands and Denmark turn golden, crimson, orange, pink and purple, in the early summer, with tulips bursting forth in every garden and every street corner. Millions of tulip tourists travel to Denmark and Holland from all over the world just to take in the sights of undulating rainbow-colored tulip fields.
The May of 2009 was no different, a time of the year when Copenhagen had as usual turned into a tourists’ Mecca. It was teeming with strange new faces, mainly young European and American students taking a sabbatical from their studies for a bit of fun and frolic.
In the hubbub, the city of just 600,000 didn’t take particular notice of the man from America who had come here ostensibly on business, but wanted to enjoy some tulip-gazing first.
Even though he was 39 at the time, the American – robust and boyish – seemed like not a day more than 25 and just as any young tourist would do, he rented a bicycle. He began pedaling around the busy streets of Copenhagen, balanced precariously on his bike, with one hand on the handle-bar and the other recording the sights and sounds with his Sony Handycam.
And as any young visitor was apt to do, the American freely mingled with the local Danes, especially the girls, who fell for his eyes. He had very distinctive irises in his eyes – one was hazel blue and the other deep brown, a rare condition that is known as heterochromia iridium. This made him instantly recognizable to those who had seen him before.
The American might have been playing the part of an ordinary visitor but his true intent was to study the layout of the city and to this end, he wandered around, recording not only the sights but also his own voice as he narrated into the camera the places that he filmed, including whether some of those places could be considered as his Plan-B strategic targets.
One building in particular caught the American’s fancy, even though it appeared unremarkable. It was a nondescript office building that had the offices of Thai Airways, the Dexia Bank and other commercial firms. He biked by the building multiple times, studying not only the structure but the traffic patterns around it, throughout the day. He also noted the presence of one vehicle that seemed to be a permanent fixture in the scenery – a police van, parked across the road from the building.
Of course, the American knew why there were cops permanently stationed on the scene – because, besides the airline and the bank, that building also housed the offices of Morgenavisen Jyllands Posten (The morning Jutland Post), an independent center-right newspaper which supported the Danish Conservative Peoples Party. Four years prior, the Posten had published twelve cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that had outraged the Muslim world.
Now he, the American, was going to take it down, with every living soul working within it’s walls.
The American went about posing as a businessman who needed media coverage for the launch of his products, through advertising and publicity. This cover allowed him to simply walk into the offices of the Posten one day and zero in on a comely female staffer. He charmed her pants off and soon she invited him in, showed him around the layout of the office and even introduced him to her colleagues. She hoped that this was the start of something more than just a business relationship. You’ll be amazed at how ‘open’ girls in the west can be.
To the American, being recognized as a familiar sight by those who worked in the Jyllands Posten was critical to the success of his plan. More importantly, since the building was under constant police surveillance after the publication of those cartoons, letting the police officers see him come and go and thus establishing an ostensibly harmless pattern, was critical.
The American tourist’s Copenhagen trip was actually a reconnaissance mission that had been sponsored by a very scary man named Ilyas Kashmiri, who was at the time a member of Osama Bin Laden’s inner circle and leader of the Pakistan-based terror group, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. Prior to that, Kashmiri had been a decorated officer of the Special Services Group (SSG), the special operations black ops wing of the Pakistani Military. Some in the western intelligence circles believe that he had never really left the SSG but had been officially seconded by the ISI as an advisor to Bin Laden.
Kashmiri was quite a piece of work. He gained notoriety in the Jihadist community when he wrote an ‘instruction manual’ in the art beheading. He spent time in Pakistan’s terrorist training camps, showing rookie militants how to carry out a beheading without much fuss and blood.
But here’s the good news – we needn’t worry about this piece of lowlife anymore. Two years after he was done being the American’s handler, an unexpected guest suddenly dropped in at his hideout in Pakistan’s South Waziristan mountains, right when he was sitting down cross-legged on a mat, waiting to be served supper. It was an American MQ9-launched Hellfire missile. The titanium-sheathed warhead tore him apart, just as it was designed to do. He was identified by the pieces of tissue found at the scene. It’s a pity, because I would have wanted his demise to be way slower, but one can’t have everything one wishes for, can one?
While he biked his way round Amsterdam, the American was getting detailed briefings from Illyas Kashmiri on how the plot would go down. Three, maybe four heavily armed militants would gain entry into the premises of the Jyllands Posten, taking advantage of the American’s familiarity there.
Once inside the premises, they would lock down and massacre everybody inside. To this however, they would add a twist of ‘lime and soda’ – they would behead the victims and throw their heads out the front window onto the street below. They would then simply hunker down and fight off the security personnel to the bitter end, giving away their lives in the process. It was a simple plan. To any individual who is ready to die, unburdened by the stress of having to keep an escape route in focus, no plan is too complicated.
In one of the briefings, Kashmiri was heard telling the American,”Make sure the hostages are dead before you behead them. Beheading alive is messy. They are not like chicken, you know.” Kashmiri then made the kokro-ko sound of a chicken and the phone line dissolved into raucous laughter.
Unbeknownst to the American however, every move he made, every step and every bike ride he took, was being monitored and recorded by a branch of the US security services. Why wouldn’t they? He had been working for them. He had become an informant for the US Drug Enforcement Agency, after he was nabbed with a kilo of pure heroin that he had tried to smuggle in, from the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
The American was a wily survivor. He promptly gave up all his associates and while they got lengthy sentences, he copped a plea deal and became an informant. Later on, as his work with the DEA chugged along, he would slip off, out of sight, for brief periods but to the DEA he was a young rich kid and hey, boys will be boys, right? To the DEA, he was one of the good guys. Why his many phone conversations with Illyas Kashmiri didn’t raise alarms remains a mystery.
Also inexplicable is the fact that the US security services didn’t realize he was, in espionage terms, the equivalent of a double agent. They stood by and watched as he made frequent trips to Pakistan and disappeared in Waziristan’s poppy fields for weeks at a time. They were hopeful he would be able to map the drug trafficking in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region. Instead, having been gradually radicalized, the American was visiting terrorist training camps. With Caucasian looks, an American accent and a tall and swarthy build, he had become international terrorism’s perfect weapon.
And why not? David Coleman Headley had in fact been born Daood Sayed Gilani, son of prominent Washington-based Pakistani diplomat and radio host, Sayed Salim Gilani, and Irish-American socialite, Alice Serill Headley. Fortunately for him, he got most of his mother’s genes and looking at him, it was impossible to tell that he was anything but white.
Denmark was happy with it’s tulip tourist.
And the Iblis …….. with his velvet glove.