Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Regrets

[Note - sorry, I was out of town for a few days and my internet connection went inconveniently missing! Produced an utterly unintentional (but hopefully tantalising) break]

When Kirk worked counter-terrorism he was a captain - a quite low ranked officer. Further, he was an Air Force captain at a navy unit, and worse he was working in Virginia where you can't spit without hitting a senior officer. So he had access to information that only a handful of people even knew existed, and was given enormous responsibility, but actually had very little real clout. Rank matters, and it matters to civilians as well as military.

So if Kirk had stayed in, and if he had managed to piece together what was going to happen on 9/11, there's a chance that even then no one would have listened.

But then... they did listen over Y2K. And if he had been there for those few months, already thinking along the lines of a hijacking, maybe he could have made the connections and seen the signs that could have stopped it.

If.

Kirk wasn't someone to spend endless time agonizing about the if's of life, but he also wasn't able to forget it. He did regret, he did wonder, and he did feel terrible grief and pain, and yes anger over what happened. But his response was to try and find something to do now. What happened can't be changed, and all the guilt in the world won't reset things. So figure out what needs to happen next.

And that was the question. He was approached about going back - not into the military, but as a civilian. There were a couple of offers, and he did seriously think about it. It would mean uprooting again, returning to the East Coast and taking the kids out of school yet again. And it would mean accepting the counter-terrorism world as his world for the rest of his career; there would be no going back from this one.

It was a long, and drawn out decision. We talked endlessly, he called friends for advice, talked to people still in the world, tried to get a feel for what was happening. There was chaos of course. This hit the intel world hard, and people were still trying to sort out the aftermath. Much of it sounded good though - many of the people who were most blind, most hidebound and obstructionist were gone. Change was happening, change that had been needed for years. What sort of useful role Kirk could play, however, wasn't clear. In the end he was afraid that once again he would be drawn into a dark and horrible world and still be unable to make a difference.

And then a chance came up to play a small part right where he was. His company made software that could, with a little tweaking, be incredibly useful if applied to intel work. Homeland security was a brand new phrase, but it was obvious that some major needs were recognized, and Kirk's company could fill some of them. They quickly set up a unit to make a pitch for a government contract, and Kirk was unofficially approached to advise these guys on the marketing plan they had in mind - PowerPoint, naturally.

He came home late the day they showed him their presentation.

'Well?'

He looked at me.

'I don't think they liked what I had to say.'

'Why not?'

'Because I told them the truth.'

'Which was...'

'They gave a ten minute presentation, with a couple of scenarios laid out demonstrating how the product could be used.'

'And?'

'What wasn't laughable, was illegal.'

'Ah. And you said this?'

'Yes.'

'So I suppose they don't want you on their team.'

'Not really. Then I told them that they missed the main point.'

'....'

'The military is there to break things and kill people. I don't think they see themselves in that sort of business.'

'But they still want to sell to the government?'

'Oh yeah. They just want it to be giving the rest of the world a stern lecture and sending everyone home with a cookie. That and doing a whole lot of things that are completely unconstitutional'

The company hired an outside consultant for a huge fee. They spent several months on their pitch, and devoted a group of highly paid people to put the whole thing together. The basic structure and message, however didn't change.

They did not get the contract.

2 comments:

child 2 said...

that's what dad was really good about. He always said, so, something bad happened. now what? what can be done to fix things, now that they've been broken. there are very few people in the world like that, and the ones that are make the biggest difference i think.

For Kirk said...

True. Sometimes he was ready to do the fixing before the rest of us were done getting all worked up about the breaking, but it was one of the things I really admired about him.