Monday, April 09, 2007

The Last Jihad

I've never been one to do an actual review of a book. As I've previously done, I'd like to share bits & pieces from a book I've read. I just finished The Last Jihad, by Joel C. Rosenberg. If you like political thrillers and/or apocalyptic novels, you'll want to check this book out. As taken from the dust jacket, Rosenberg "has worked for some of the world's most influential and provocative leaders, including Steve Forbes, Rush Limbaugh, and former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu." Learn more about Rosenberg here, and his spiritual journey here. Or take a look at his blog.

Now that I've gotten some links out of the way, on to some parts of the book that really caught my attention. I wouldn't necessarily consider this stuff "spoiler" information, but if you think you might want to read this book, then you may want to skip the rest of this post. And if you've read his other books, please refrain from spoiling them in the comments section, as I have yet to read them. Without further ado...

In Rosenberg's story, the President of the United States is considering, along with the National Security Council, the possibility of attacking Iraq, who has been found responsible for assassination attempts on the leaders of several countries, including the U.S. President. When asked to voice his thoughts, the Vice President offers these words:
     "Could we invade Western Iraq and move towards Baghdad and occupy the city and find Saddam and shut him down? Given six to nine months? Yes. Given the willingness to lose upwards of ten thousand to twenty thousand American soldiers, at least, maybe many more? Probably. Would U.S. public opinion support that? Doubtful. Would our alliance hold, particularly in the Arab world? Absolutely not. Could it become our next Vietnam? Absolutely. You were there, Jim--Mr. President. You know what it was like. You want to go back?" (p. 236)
The Secretary of State opposes any thoughts of using nuclear force against Iraq:
     "How can you even begin to consider incinerating several million souls with the push of a button, in the blink of an eye? We cannot become the barbarians we've been forced to fight. The end never justifies the means. Never. That was the lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That was the lesson of Vietnam. And that was the lesson of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. My God, how can you..."
     "Mr. Secretary, that's absolutely not true," the president shot back, firmly but fiercely. "That is not true. It just isn't. The lesson of Vietnam was never fight a just war--a war against an Evil Empire and its proxies who seek to enslave mankind--unless you intend to win. The lesson of Afghanistan was don't fight a war you have no business winning. And the lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mr. Secretary, was that a president must never--never--flinch from using any and all means necessary to prevent the wholesale slaughter of American citizens and our allies." (p. 248)
Here, Dietrich "Deek" Black, a 25-year veteran of the FBI, is sharing some insight with Jon Bennett and Erin McCoy. The subject is Dr. Eliezer Mordechai, an Israeli intelligence officer who Black considers "One of the best in the world:"
     "I met with Dr. Mordechai at this party and then we had lunch the next day. We talked a lot about Saddam and Iraq and the prospect of something going down. And I'll never forget something he said."
     "Why? What was it?" asked McCoy.
     "He said, and I quote: 'The problem with you Americans is that you don't believe in evil.' "
     "What's that supposed to mean?"
     "That's what I said. So he went on to explain that in his opinion, the CIA and FBI and definitely the guys at State don't properly anticipate horrible, catastrophic events because we don't really believe in the presence of evil, the presence of a dark and wicked and nefarious spiritual dimension that drives men to do the unthinkable. So I say, 'I don't know that you're talking about.' And he goes, 'Exactly. A man like Saddam Hussein, for example. Saddam tells the world for years that he has a territorial claim on Kuwait. Builds up his armed forces. Develops weapons of mass destruction. Moves troops to the border. Signals everyone he's going in. But all the boys and girls at the CIA and DIA say Saddam won't do it. Just wants to drive up the price of oil. Just saber-rattling. Just flexing his muscles. Couldn't possibly invade. Why would he? It would make no sense. It would be irrational. No Arab nation has ever invaded another Arab nation. Why start now?' "
     "And the good doctor thought our guys were wrong?" asked Bennett, apparently listening more closely than Black had realized.
     "They were wrong."
     "Well, obviously. But we couldn't have known that at the time."
     "No, we could have. That's what he was saying. Saddam was painting us a road map, and we simply didn't believe he'd start the car and take the trip."
     "Nobody did, Deek. You'd have needed a crystal ball to get inside the mind of Saddam Hussein and divine what he was going to do next. The guy's a lunatic."
     "No, no, no," said Black. "You're missing the point. That's exactly what Dr. Mordechai was trying to say. On the one hand, we tell ourselves that Saddam is a rational person but a liar. He says he'll invade Kuwait, but we say he doesn't mean it. He's just lying. He's just bluffing. He's just playing with our heads. But then when he did invade, we decided he was a lunatic--crazy, unpredictable, irrational, a nut case."
     "So what's your point? Or his?"
     "Dr. M's point is that there's a third option--Saddam Hussein is not a lunatic and, in that case, he wasn't a liar. He was rational and calculating and evil. So he told the world what he was going to do--commit an act of evil, not an act of madness--and then he did it. It took a bunch of highly paid analysts with Harvard degrees to completely miss the simplicity of the moment."
     "Hey, I resemble that remark," deadpanned Bennett, with his MBA from the Harvard Business School.
     "Hey, so do I, brother," Black reminded him, another Harvard alum.
     "That's why I went to Wharton, boys." McCoy smiled. "But seriously, he thinks he could have done better?"
     "He did do better. We were having lunch at an outdoor cafe in the Old City and he told me point-blank Saddam was going in, even told me the day--August 5. He was only off by three days."
     "Did he have some inside info?"
     "No. He said he didn't need any. He said everything a person needed to know in terms of basic intelligence, basic fact-finding, could be found in the newspapers. But he stressed that intelligence is about more than simply finding out facts. It's about properly analyzing those facts. It's about drawing the right conclusions, even based on incomplete evidence. In this case, the only difference between Dr. Eliezer Mordechai and the top leadership of the U.S. government was that Mordechai took Saddam Hussein at his word, and we didn't. Or, to put it in his words, and I quote: 'I believe Saddam Hussein is both capable of and prone to acts of unspeakable evil, and you don't. I'm right, and you're wrong. It's not because I know more than your government. I don't. I know less. But I believe that evil forces make evil men do evil things. That's how I anticipate what can and will happen next in life. That's how I got to be the head of the Mossad, young man. And why I'm good at it. It's going to be one hell of an August, and my country is going to suffer very badly because your country doesn't believe in evil, and mine was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.' " (p. 279-281)
And finally, a part that wasn't really a major part of the storyline, but it stuck out to me nonetheless. Bennett is asking McCoy about losing her mother to cancer:
     "How'd you handle it, losing your mom, I mean?"
     "I don't know. The only good thing was we both knew she was dying. We knew she only had a few months left. She really wanted to prepare me for it. We did her will together. We picked out songs for her funeral. Flowers. The whole thing. I remember she once heard a sermon about a woman who'd also died of cancer. And the woman had come to her pastor and told him exactly what she wanted at her funeral and what Bible verses to read and everything. And then, when she was all done, she told him that she wanted to be laid out in an open casket with a fork in her right hand. And the pastor says, 'A fork? Why a fork?' And she says, 'When I was a little girl, I used to love church suppers. And when the meal was done, and the people were clearing the dishes, one of the older women in the church would always come over and lean down and whisper to me, save your fork. And I loved that. Because I knew it meant something better was coming--apple pie or chocolate cake or blueberry cobbler, or something. And pastor,' she said, 'when I die, I want people to come by and see me and then ask you, Why's she got a fork in her hand? And I want you to tell them my little story, and then tell them the good news--that when you know Christ, you know there's something better coming. There's something better coming.' "
     Bennett could see McCoy holding back her emotions.
     "My mom loved that story. She had a tape of that sermon and she played it over and over. So she asked me to make sure she had a fork in her hand at her funeral. She wanted her friends to know--she wanted me to know--that when you know Jesus Christ in a real and personal way, there's something better coming."
     McCoy turned and looked Bennett straight in the eye.
     "That's how I deal with it, Jon. I know there's something better coming." (p. 300-301)

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