By Senator Bob Graham,
Author of Keys to the Kingdom
At 10:15 Friday morning Tony arrived at the senator's hideaway in the Capitol, one of seventy offices secreted throughout the Senate wing. Ranging from cubbyholes to ornate suites, they were assigned depending on that truest acknowledgment of status in the upper chamber, seniority. As seventeenth in years of Senate service, Billington had a room that overlooked the east lawn, decorated with furniture from the Senate storeroom and landscape art of his state.
"Mr. Ramos, have a seat," the senator greeted Tony.
"Thank you." He sat on the end of the sofa closest to Billington's desk.
The approving smile and tilt of the head indicated the senator was intrigued with Tony's athletic grace and presence. "Mr. Ramos, before we go to the subject of our meeting, may I ask if you had a relative with your name who played infield for the Havana Sugar Kings? As I recall, you look a great deal like him."
Impressed but not flustered, Tony replied, "Yes sir. That was my grandfather in the old Florida International League. I'm surprised you would remember that."
Billington placed his hands behind his head and stretched out in the desk chair. "My father loved baseball. When I was growing up, we had season tickets to the Miami Sun Sox, and he and I drove in from the farm to almost every home game. The Sugar Kings were the dominant team in the league. Dad especially liked your grandfather's grit and hustle."
"I wish I'd been able to see him play."
"You would have been proud. I remember when Dad told the sports editor of the Post about Tony Ramos and several of the other Cuban ballplayers. He said the Washington Senators should pick them up; the only thing they could do would be to improve the weakest team in the American League. But that was a couple of years before Jackie Robinson broke the color line, and the Senators were not about to do that in a southern-culture town like this one."
"That was my grandfather's dream, to play in the major leagues, and I know he would want me to thank your father."
Billington paused to pour two glasses of water. After offering one to Tony he sipped and continued, "That was yesterday and today is now. I'd like to ask a question."
"Mark Block is not an easy grader, and he has given you very high marks. I'm satisfied you have several of the aptitudes we will need for the inquiry, so I'm more interested in motivation. Why do you want to break your INR career path to take this on?"
Tony leaned forward. "I think the president has fundamentally mischaracterized 9/11 as the beginning of a war on terrorism. It is not a war unless we make it one. This is not a war. It is an intelligence and paramilitary operation against a relatively small and enormously out-gunned enemy."
"What do you mean by ‘relatively small'?" the senator asked.
"A week after 9/11, my current boss asked the head of the INR how many terrorists were there in the world?"
"And what did he estimate?"
"He said if you define a terrorist as a person who has been through training camps like al-Qaeda's in Afghanistan, or Hezbollah's in Syria or Lebanon, and who belongs to an organization prepared to use those acquired skills, he estimated 100,000. I don't disparage that figure, but it's hardly the Viet Cong, or Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf."
"So, that's why you want to join our inquiry staff?"
"Yes sir. To understand the nature, objectives, and capabilities of our enemy. And also to understand why we have exaggerated its threat. Those are some of the questions I think your inquiry can answer."
"Tony, that is a very thoughtful statement of our mission. I want you on the team."
The above is an excerpt from the book Keys to the Kingdom by Senator Bob Graham. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2011 Senator Bob Graham, author of Keys to the Kingdom