The Public Relations Programme
The Vizier's Tent 17 July 1683
5 minutes read
“We don’t really need all this bloodshed, do we?” asked the vizier, much too animated for that time of morning for the Osman Bey, the Janissary Aga’s liking. He hadn’t had his tea yet.
He also thought Kara Mustafa was a fucking idiot.
“No, not really, sir.” The Aga rubbed his trim, jet-black beard and looked off absently to one side.
They were standing in the vizier’s garden in front of his castle-sized tent, almost every square inch gleaming in brocade silk. A garden, Osman Bey thought. We’re at war, and the clown leading us has a garden. A peacock waddled by. He shook his head as slightly as he could manage.
The vizier always had a lot of ideas, most of which were at best mediocre, and all of which came at bad times. Osman Bey didn’t like where this was going. “It’s a war,” he said. “Wars have bloodshed.” He rubbed his droopy eyes with determination.
Osman Bey was remarkably fit for his age. He had seen and done it all, and was now the top Janissary. Each year of campaigning seemed to have added one more vertebrae to his back, strengthening and making him stand up taller than ever. He had a deep, sunken stare, and it was much too early for this bullshit for him.
“Why won’t they surrender? We give them a chance on what seems like every damn day, don’t we?” the vizier asked, his head thrusting forward like a turtle, eyes bulging excitedly.
“Well, sort of. Yes, I suppose we do. I know we did when we first got here. And after all, don’t we demand surrender all the time by the mere fact of our presence?” The Aga’s mind wandered to breakfast. “Apologies, effendi Vizier, my job is that of men and arms, not of politics.” He tried to swallow his yawn. “Okay, yes, we demand surrender.” He had no idea.
“Then what is the problem? Why won’t they surrender?” The vizier was now waving his hands as if trying to shoo away the notion, the camp, the walls and everything that stood in front of his ideas.
“Something about the last people who surrendered to us at that village around here a little while ago? We went through, they gave us keys to the city – well, town, really, whatever …” The Aga did yawn now. ‘We enslaved a bunch and put the rest to the sword. Anyway … hmmm.”
“Oh yes, that. Hmmm.”
“They’re not extremely confident we won’t do the same to them.”
“Well, they should believe me this time. I’m the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa. I will create my new Ottoman Vienna and will bring them a Golden Age the like of which they have never seen before.” He paused. “Can’t we blame that last ah, hiccup, on the Tatars? That is their job, after all – rape, slavery, roaming the countryside and that.”
“But the Tatars are fighting for you and the Sultan, aren’t they? Perhaps you have forgotten His Eminence.”
“Yes,” Kara Mustafa conceded. “Yes, perhaps you have a point.”
“Right. Well then, if effendi is bothered by the bloodshed and such trivialities of war as his lowly servants are here for, perhaps what Effendi wishes for then is a soft campaign. One not of steel and fire, but of words.”
“Hmmm.” The vizier looked at the Aga. “I’m intrigued. Tell me more.” He tried to ignore the fact that his clothing suddenly felt constrictive, and his skin was now flushed.
“Well, your eminence” – Osman Bey winced at the word for a second then caught himself – “has expressed on numerous occasions that we need to take the city leaving it as intact as possible…" Osman Bey was digging as hard as he could through the fog of morning and the clamour of his stomach for what to say next.
He didn’t know what he was going to say next.
“Yes, of course.” The vizier speared an apple from the platter in front of him with his knife and held it aloft. “This is to be our Golden Apple. I want to make my summer home here as well.”
“Of course, effendi. And the siege is, how should we say … taking a tad longer than expected. Summer is coming to a close.”
At this Kara Mustafa glowed with a light rage, but decided that he didn’t want to let it ruin his mood that morning.
The Janissary commander continued. ‘We need to convince them through other means that it is in their best interest to surrender.”
“A soft campaign, as I mentioned. You have done fear well, effendi. Your Eminence has done magnificently bringing terror to the hearts, minds and souls of the Christians wherever we go, from our own territories through to the Hapsburg territories we are now in. People know, from the peasant working in the field to the duke in a castle, that when the Turk and Tatar comes, he comes to take and will not do so nicely.” He paused. “However, this tactic does makes them more determined to resist, as they then think that they need to fight to the last, or we will wipe them out.”
“So, what you’re proposing is that we need to convince them that we’re not that bad—?”
“Brilliant. We start today.”
“How, Eminence?” Osman Bey looked up. He hadn’t truly expected anything out of what he had just said: he had just wanted to keep the conversation going so he would be invited to breakfast. The vizier took breakfast very seriously. He often times had chocolate.
“We need to tell them. We need to tell them in a beautiful manner befitting our designation in the sun and befitting the beauty we will bring to their city – once we fix it up a bit. We shall make banners!” As the vizier warmed to his theme, his lips parted, eyes shining with something approaching fanatical delight. “We will have the largest banners we have ever had, and fly them for all the men on the walls to see. And on these banners we will put comforting messages encouraging them to surrender, and that we’re not a bad sort of people, and all that. Yes! We will do this, starting today.”