Important Note: I'm a loyal American. I don't admire the enemies of my country; but I do respect them, even knowing they wouldn't return the favor. I believe some of their grievances against the U.S. are legitimate. And while I'm sure some of our enemies are no better than thugs, I think the leaders are brave men, sincere in their beliefs, who perceive themselves as being in the right.

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It was my fault.

A commander always bears ultimate responsibility for the failures of his men. But this was different. What happened really was my fault, caused by my weakness.

I deserve to be locked away from the world like this. To be locked away forever.

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There were eight of us in the house, deep in enemy territory. We posted guards outside every night, four men taking the first watch and four the second. Either my onsite second-in-command or I was always in charge. I was determined to perform guard duty like everyone else.

On that last night, I tried to hide how ill I felt. I knew it was a reaction to medication. I didn't believe it was serious. But I couldn't risk eating much--I was afraid I'd throw up. My men caught on and began acting like mother hens, trying to coddle me.

I should have resisted. Should have dragged myself out for second watch.

But I didn't.

I tried. But I let the others--all seven of them!--convince me a three-man watch was enough, and send me back to bed.

Even then, if I'd just rested and stayed awake, checked on the guards periodically...

I didn't do that either. I fell asleep.

Apparently, so did they.

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If I'd been out there, I would have stayed on my feet the whole time, practiced balancing my rifle on my head, anything to keep myself awake. My second-in-command would have done the same. Neither of us would have let anyone else drift off.

But we weren't there. And I was the one who should have been.

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If the guards had been alert...if they'd caught the first sound that was out of the ordinary, the first glint of moonlight on a weapon...they could have warned us in time.

Men in the house could have armed themselves. Most could have escaped over the rooftops before enemies were posted there.

I'm not physically able to run, let alone leap from roof to roof. I would have wound up exactly where I am.

But I'd feel a lot better about it.

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The guards must have been taken out quietly. No alarms were triggered. And no one was looking at the video monitors.

The monitors to which only I had access.

I woke to see horror unfolding on other screens. My men were racing up to the roof, with pursuers at their heels.

They hadn't dared take time to get weapons. They'd given top priority to leading the enemy away from the room in which our weapons were stored.

The room that also sheltered me.

I sat frozen in shock as a video camera in a tree picked up the bloodbath on a nearby roof. One of my men--knowing there was no chance of escape, no hope of shooting their way out at that point--nonetheless wrested a gun from an enemy.

He used it to shoot my second-in-command. To save him from being taken alive.

Within seconds they'd all been gunned down. Dead, wounded? The merciless monitors gave me no clue.

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The monitors have shown no signs of life for a week now.

I sit in a virtual arsenal--well-stocked with food as well as weapons--almost hoping someone will come to break the door down. That would give me an excuse to blow the place up, and myself with it.

But it's not going to happen.

Soon I'll have to make a decision on coloring my hair and beard--if I keep a beard. I'll pick which of several custom-tailored outfits will give me the best chance of blending in. Then I'll let myself out of my prison, find a car I can hot-wire, and be on my way.

If online news reports can be trusted, no one suspects I was here.

Despite no weapons having been found...

Despite my name being on a duty roster on the kitchen wall...

None of those imbeciles guessed this safehouse had a panic room.

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The End

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Author's Afterword: This is of course another, even more far-out, speculation about what may have happened in that safehouse in Faisalabad in March 2002 (see my earlier story "Maybe, Just Maybe...").

According to Time, the safehouse was surrounded by a wall topped with wire that was both barbed and electrified. But despite that concern for security, no weapons were found. And the names "Osama" and "Abu Zubaydah" appeared on some kind of roster on the kitchen wall. (The Time article didn't make clear whether they were the only names listed, or two among several others. Either way, I recognize that there are possible explanations other than Osama bin Laden's having been there.)