To: David Petreaus, Director-General of the Central Intelligence Agency
From: Serena Massoud, Granddaughter of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of the Panjshi
I beg your indulgence, Kind General, I am the Lost Granddaughter of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the erstwhile, sadly al-Qaeda assassinated Lion of Panjshir. Mine is a dismal tale to tell and it is yours to be patient, I hope with utter nonindifference, while I explain.
Let me preface this dawn of the weighted heart by assuring you that it will be worth all your whiles. I, Serena Massoud, out of my full heart and deep love for America and the CIA, and You—I, a poor Afghan woman awash in her times, wish to return to you $125 million. This, you will agree, is part of the $360 million that, according to one of your most esteemed news sources, "has ended up in the hands of people the American-led coalition has spent nearly a decade battling: the Taliban, criminals, and power brokers with ties to both."
I must beg your forgiveness. To explain how such fundings came almost into my own hands and how—with barely no effort on your part—you will get them back, I have a tangled tale to tell of a dark and stormy decade in my country whose breezes and gales buffeted me. But if I told it all to you, dear General, you would stumble into Incredulity.
Let me just state that, after many and various adventures of the terrible kind, I found myself, against my uttermost will, in the grips of marriage to Omar Fahim Dadulah, whom you would know as a War Lord. He was a man of Evil Incarnate and his treatment of yours truly was not to be described. He was, moreover, In League With the Taliban, and among those whom Navy Times so rightly describes as absorbing your moneys with obscure nefariousness of purpose.
Without straining your patience, My Darling Director-General, in the end he was expectably poisoned by the self-same proclaimed Taliban and, as death came upon him, called me to his bedside. He then informed me in tones too solemn to mistake of that fund of $125 million, the very dollars which you have slipped upon the Taliban in trucking fees and safety passes and the like, which he had hidden in a spot unmentionable and which he meant for me.
I beg of you, my dearest General, lend me a helping hand to assist me in claiming this money. Be my guardian, let me be your orphan ward, and receive the money in your account. Also promise to invest a small part of it for me in a lucrative business since I am still a young woman and make arrangements for me to come over to your country to further my education and secure a beloved citizenship permit.
I have seen the photos of you. Your chest of medals is the light of my day. It is with the most profound and sincerity that I make this gesture to you from deep within my loving soul. Your open heart has touched me. I eagerly await your tiptoed words.
Humbly Yrs and Only Yrs,
A Further Note: The "Nigerian" letter scam is, in its own way, remarkable. Smart grifters from another land generally pose as highly (or strategically) placed individuals, but also ignorant yokels and innocents with a minimalist grasp of over-the-top nineteenth-century English. It's a highly skilled compositional con and it works, evidently to the tune of tens of millions of dollars yearly. If you want to explore how it operates, fleecing significant numbers of people, the Snopes.com website is most useful. (Click here.) For a wonderful older essay on the charms of those scam letters, check out Douglas Cruickshank's "I crave your distinguished indulgence (and all your cash)" at Salon.com.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to explore the scams Washington has been involved in these last endless years of war, you could start with Adam Weinstein's recent Mother Jones piece "The All-Time Ten Worst Military Contracting Boondoggles." The individual scams from this period are a dime a dozen (or rather, unfortunately, billions of dollars a dozen, making the "Nigerians" look like the rubes they aren't). These would include, to mention just a few examples, that missing $31 to $60 billion in contractor waste and fraud in the Afghan and Iraq war zones; the $6.6 billion (evidently largely Iraqi oil money held in US banks) that the Bush administration sent in pallets of shrink-wrapped bills to Iraq, and which then went missing-in-action; the $360 million in US taxpayer dollars that, according to a special military task force, headed directly for the Taliban and other Afghan lovelies; the $65 billion that went into the development of the F-22, the most expensive fighter jet ever built not to be used—since May, all of the F-22s in the US fleet have been grounded indefinitely; and the more than $140 billion in contracts the Pentagon awarded to companies in 2010 without a hint of competitive bidding, up from $50 billion in 2001.
Believe me, the "Nigerians" have a great deal to learn from the Pentagon and from US operations in the Greater Middle East, as do the real rubes in the larger scam of things, gullible American taxpayers!
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), will be published in November. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.