ISIS Caliph Speaks: The exclusive interview with Sean Penn
It’s October 30th, 2015. The call to prayer is blaring in my head as I wake up, the cocaine still hasn’t worn off and I don’t know where to hide this dead hooker. People keep yelling “habibi” at me, I correct them and tell them my character was named “Harvey.” They don’t listen, nobody ever fucking does. I’m sitting at my room in what feels like a mud-hut in Damascus, supposedly it’s a Hilton. I don’t know, but goddamn do they know how to cut coke here. I’m here with my tour guide, Ahmed, who I’ve only known for 4 days but I feel like we’re brothers. Maybe it’s because we killed a guy together, who knows, there’s definitely something that’s brought us closer.
Ahmed is the giant amongst a group of ragged Filipino pygmies, metaphorically speaking. Whether he’s at an oil rig in Riyadh, or an oil rig in whatever shit town of Iraq, his body hair and naturally rustic scent fit in just right. His dirty beard demands your attention to the fact that he’s also not wearing shoes. Ahmed is poor, I want to help him, but that won’t build his character. We’re in the same hotel as a Saudi Prince and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Which is great, since neither of them really care about the destruction so our dinner conversation isn’t depressing. We walk five blocks to a Nando’s Peri Peri, it’s been destroyed by the shelling, why wasn’t this reflected in the Yelp review? It’s getting 2 stars from me. A small village boy asks to take a selfie with me. Flash frame: I punch him in the face. “Courtesy of Uncle Sam.”
There’s something special about this current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He’s charismatic, he’s decisive and most of all he doesn’t listen to the outsiders. Don’t kill another journalist, you say? Fuck you, I’m crazy, responds Baghdadi. At age 11 I was already exploring my bisexuality, while Baghdadi was learning incorrect phrases from the Quar’an to help radicalize other foreign Muslims. That’s just how life is sometimes, he knew he only had one way out. I take no pride in going to great lengths to protect ISIS and Baghdadi, but I love the cut of his jib and the way he takes child soldiers, so I’m in my groove.
I took comfort in Baghdadi’s reputation. Not only is he merciless, he’s a businessman first, but now I guess that sounds redundant. The decapitations, the rape, forced famine, it’s all just a cover up for the real business – oil. But hey, Saudis have been doing it for over a century, why can’t ISIS?
I enter his cave. It’s not really a cave, it’s actually bigger than my piece of shit Hilton and there’s gold everywhere. But cave sounds cooler, and you thought “radical Islamic terrorist, must be living in cave,” you’re welcome. To my left is Ahmed, he’s even smellier than he was earlier. He wants to use my shower, I say no, let him build his character. To my right is my cousin Benny with a GoPro, he’s dyslexic which I’m pretty sure means he can’t speak Arabic. Guess I’m dyslexic too.
We sit down with Baghdadi, he offers me a single malt scotch and a child bride. I decline the scotch. Baghdadi starts speaking and calm washes over me, maybe it’s the horse sedatives I took earlier, maybe it’s the soothing nature of his voice. He begins to tell me about the empire he’s built. How the videos and the rampage are really a distraction from the cash cow he’s created. He asks me how much money I’m getting to do this article, I tell him that National Ave has to run ads for Fleshlight just so we can pay for the domain name.
I ask him what he thinks about the U.S. Presidential race, he tells me he’s excited about Donald Trump. “He makes my job a lot easier, he radicalizes the moderate Muslims for me” says Baghdadi. He’s unfiltered, it’s very incredible actually, he tells me about his childhood and how he always identified with Rachel McAdams’ character in The Notebook. This level of access is unprecedented. I feel like James Franco in the North Korea documentary he did. I ask him which area has been the hardest to take over, he says none, “Terrorism thrives on poverty and instability. The former already existed, I just needed the activists to create the latter.”
I ask him what his plan is if ISIS wins this war they’re fighting, if they do conquer the Middle East. “I’ll probably die before that happens, but you can’t kill an ideology, you can only hope to suppress it.”
Baghdadi’s guards are getting uneasy, he hasn’t updated their Twitter page in hours, I’m holding in a fart, there’s too much going on to explain this situation properly. Baghdadi hands me a bottle of Remy Martin 1738, calls me his Trap Queen, says he hopes to see me again in 8 days and wishes me the best of luck as I return to my Damascus mud hut. Ahmed hasn’t eaten in 3 days, he just fainted, I want to help him but I want to let him build his character. Benny and I run out of the cave and jump into our Jeep, speeding through the desert like Aladdin on a magic carpet. Baghdadi doesn’t know a drone is headed his way. Oops.