Monthly Archives: January 2009

Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille

The downside is that there are no Middle Eastern terrorists in this one, and Asad “The Lion” Khalil is just a memory whose name gets brought up a couple of times by our old friend, protagonist John Corey.

John Corey is one of those characters who I get a kick out of in print or on screen, but who I would stay far away from in real life. He’s a police officer cum federal agent who never follows a rule that isn’t absolutely convenient. Yet his abrasive humor is sometimes funny, and I like funny.

The name of the book does not derive from the seventies song that has something to do with a horse. It’s supposedly the code name of an ultra super secret government program. Remember how, during the cold war, supposedly the USSR wouldn’t nuke the US because if they did, we’d nuke them right back? This was the principle of deterrence, or as DeMille calls it over and over again in the book, mutually assured destruction. Remember how Dr Strangelove made fun of this concept?

Wild Fire in the book is a supposedly current government program wherein the US has supposedly warned all the corrupt governments of the “Land of Islam” that if any weapon of mass destruction is used against the United States, the United States will automatically launch dozens of nukes against basically the whole Muslim world.

You can probably see flaws already. There’s the fact that we’d probably miss hitting anybody actually involved with the attack, that it might not have been Muslim terrorists in the first place, that we’d kill hundreds of millions of innnocents, that millions would be non-Muslims, anyway, that remaining Muslims would still be around and able to seek vengeance, that governments of Muslims countries can’t necessarily prevent a small band of determined bad guys from carrying out a terrorist attack (after all, we couldn’t), that irreplaceable wildlife and historical artifacts would be destroyed forever, etc.

Sure, you can see those flaws, but apparently most of the characters in this book can’t. Nor can the author, who mentions in an author’s note at the beginning of the book, “I personally believe that some variation of Wild Fire (by another code name) actually exists, and if it doesn’t, it should.”

The funniest thing of all is that most of the characters in the book who think Wild Fire is a good idea are motivated by their desire not to be wanded at the airport. Not to say that any of them ever have been. In fact, it’s very unlikely that any one of them has ever been inconvenienced in flying, since they are a megabillionaire, a couple of military generals, a presidential advisor, a CIA agent, and John Corey. And I think a good, baseline rule of humanity is that if you are willing to have hundreds of millions die, many of them in a really horrible ways, so that you don’t have to maybe get wanded at the airport someday, you need to immediately kill yourself.

DeMille cleverly explains how such an asinine program ever could have come to be: it was started during the Reagan years.

Now, the main antagonist, the megabillionaire, is insane. So that makes sense. It doesn’t explain why so many other characters also think that Wild Fire is a hunky-dory idea. Maybe the fact that they refer to “The Land of Islam” as “Sandland” repeatedly is a clue. It’s as if they see it as a cartoony place that nobody ever goes except people who dress funny and eat funny food. But no, they all do take time to reflect that a massive nuclear attack on “The Land of Islam” would kill millions of non-Muslims along with all those bad, bad Muslims who are all responsible for terrorism everywhere in the world. But hey, shorter lines at the airport.

DeMille, having stated that he hopes we have a system to automatically launch nukes at “The Land of Islam” in case we are attacked with WMD, nevertheless cheerfully thanks a Bob Atiyeh in the Acknowledgements. “Sure Nelson, no hard feelings about your desire to obliterate my homeland.”

DeMille wrote the book wrong. He should have had everyone sane and rational except for the bad guy. Instead, he had the presidential advisor, the generals, and the CIA man all on board with the nutcase’s plan from the get-go. Except for the CIA guy, you’d expect all of them know better than to buy any of this:

Even when the United States was attacked on its own soil–the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center–we did nothing. He looked at Harry. “Correct?”
“Yeah…but that changed things–“

Did nothing? We caught the perpetrators and put them in jail, where the are now.

“…Wild Fire is a pro-active response. It is a gun to the heads of Islamic countries–a gun that will go off if they fail to keep their terrorist friends from going nuclear. Undoubtedly most, if not all, terrorist organizations have been warned of this by the Islamic governments that harbor, aid, and have contact with them…”

Neat. All terrorist organizations, besides being Islamic, are also harbored and aided by Islamic governments, their friends. That’s why Wild Fire works!

And here’s his answer to the question of the environmental impact of dozens of nukes:

“I told you, the answer to global warming is nuclear winter. Just kidding. Look, the effects of fifty or even a hundred nuclear explosions detonating across the Mideast have been studied extensively by the government. It won’t be that bad.”

Hey, that puts my worries to rest.

This guy here has a review of the book from back in January 2007, not long after it first came out. You have to scroll down a ways to get to it.

Naturally, Madox is a right-wing nut — what would American fiction writers do without the standard right-wing nut? — but John Corey is something of a right-wing nut himself. For that matter, one has to wonder the same thing about DeMille himself, since in his foreword, speaking in his own voice, DeMille candidly says that he hopes a plan like Wild Fire exists.

Really? A plan to respond to the destruction of an American city by killing a hundred million Muslims all over the world? I suppose DeMille really means that he hopes we have told the heads of the governments of Muslim countries that such a plan exists, so they’ll keep a tight rein on the terrorists that operate in so many Islamic countries.

But to really carry out such a plan would be a monstrous crime against humanity on a par with Hitler’s and Stalin’s and Pol Pot’s. Especially since some Islamic terror groups are so fanatical that they might accept the deaths of a few hundred million Muslims as an acceptable risk — betting, of course, that the United States would never actually make good such a threat.

Bonus:

I do wish, however, that writers like DeMille would stop using the pathetically lame device of trying to persuade us that a couple of lovers (or a husband and wife) are really really really in love, by explicitly showing them having sex in some weird circumstance. In Wild Fire, it’s lovemaking on a Long Island beach in icy weather; apparently DeMille thinks it’s extremely significant to their characterization that we know who’s on top and other details.

And yet somehow we manage to get by without knowing which hand they use to hold the toilet paper, so DeMille must know there are some intimate details we just don’t need to know. Come on, my fellow novelists, don’t throw in meaninglessly detailed sex scenes — if it doesn’t tell us something that matters to the story, then get over it. You’re not twelve years old anymore, faunching over the Sears catalog, and nowadays explicit sex in fiction is a trite waste of time.

Word.

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Filed under books, domestic terrorism

Some People Have No Shame

I was just over on Mantiq al-Tayr’s blog reading his post about Norma Khouri (not her real name), who wrote a book a few years back purporting to be a real-life account of an honor killing in Jordan. Except it was complete fiction and Norma is a con woman who’s currently on the lam.

Here’s a pretty good story about the whole thing in The Independent online newspaper.

Mantiq al-Tayr is talking about what he calls the Islam Sucks Industry (the ISI), which is currently making rich people out of soulless demagogues.

Just for fun, let’s copy and paste a few comments posted by the people who hang out at the website of one of these villains:

Why do people still call the muslim book a holy book? Please, let’s call it what it is, it is a terrorist manual and not only is it the most dangerous terrorist manual, it is also legal. Go figure! Shouldn’t all terrorist books be banned including the worst one, the koran?

Mo Man how about you go blow up yourself somewhere in Iraq ; ” your false god will reward you with virgins

You and your fellow Muslims are the barbarians. You are calling for 7th century Sharia law to be imposed upon us in the here and now of the 21st century, and it is you and your fellow Muslims who call for us to be murdered, even after we have saved your worthless lives. Your sort don’t need any excuses for terrorism because it is all enshrined in the Koran, and not being a Muslim is reason enough to be murdered.

Islam promotes hatred, terrorism, idiocy, ridiculous insecurity, lying, backwardness, stagnance, violent crime, pedohilia, narcissism, female genital mutilation, etc.. Islam is always the common denominator.

Man, that was disgusting. I have never spent much time over there before, hewing to my general rule of not lingering on unpleasantness. Possibly the saddest part is that they are all “learning” “information” about Islam and armed with that “knowledge” they can write for paragraphs and paragraphs. It’s like a modern-day Protocols of the Elders of Zion, except they can’t get a big enough audience for fomenting hatred against Jews, so they’re going after the fair game, the Muslims, instead.

Gross. Now I’m going to take a shower.

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Filed under arab, books

Is That What You’re Wearing?

I still haven’t seen any of Little Mosque on the Prairie yet, but this clip from YouTube just makes me want to see it more.

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Well Said

Sir Gerald Kaufman, British member of Parliament, addresses his colleagues.

“My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

“The boycotting of Hamas, including by our own government, has been a culpable error, from which dreadful consequences have followed.”

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A Cat in a Bag

cat in bag

cat in bag

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What Book Would You Use?

I’m reading various blogs for news of the inauguration today, and I just found out that Theodore Roosevelt and John Quincy Adams did not swear on Bibles, and Franklin Pierce affirmed rather than swore the oath on a Bible. Barack Obama used the same Bible as Abraham Lincoln.

John Quincy Adams swore on a volume of Constitutional law. I like that idea. So in a flight of fancy, I asked myself, “What book would I swear the oath of office on?”

My first thought was the Hans Wehr dictionary, which continues to amaze me with its wealth of words. That book has meant a lot to me for a long time. My first copy was “pocket-sized,” if your pocket is an extra-large pocket like the biggest ones on the side of a pair of cargo pants, and even then, I’m not sure it would fit. Then I got a much bigger copy, but still green and paperback, and eventually I acquired a hardback version* that’s holding up pretty well. I still have the first one, because it still has a handy verb chart taped to the back, but a few pages have fallen out.

But then I thought harder and decided that if I were to take a meaningful oath that required a book as a prop, the book for me would have to be Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, which I first discovered more than twenty-five years ago and which made a huge difference in how I deal with people and cope with contretemps.

*Disappointingly, not green.

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Wow, the Onion

I found the link to this on Mantiq al-Tayr’s site:

Vacation To Israel Canceled Due To History Of Israel
January 19, 2009 | Issue 45•04

HOBOKEN, NJ—With only three weeks to go before embarking on a much-anticipated vacation to Israel, 34-year-old Jeff Kaufmann made the difficult decision to cancel his trip yesterday, citing unfavorable exchange rates and the entirety of the Jewish nation’s 60-year existence. “I’d been looking forward to this for months, but hotel prices started going up, things got kind of crazy at work, and also Israel’s whole history is basically a decades-long horror show of ethnic violence, harsh reprisals, and geopolitical madness.” Kaufmann said. “The Negev Desert is supposed to be amazing, but on the other hand, ever since its founding in 1948, Israel has been spinning downward in a chaotic spiral of fear, hatred, and death. So it’s a tough call.” Kaufmann added that he hopes the Arab and Jewish peoples will be able to put aside a century of bloodshed before his travel voucher expires in June.

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“An Old Man in a Cave”

I’m just getting a little tired of hearing OBL being referred to as an old man in a cave.

Osama bin Laden is fifty-one. I’m not a fan, but while he might or might not be in a cave, he’s not an old man. Not a spring chicken, but not old. Sure, he has a lot of grey in his beard, but so would lots of men, if they had beards.

For the sake of comparison, here are some celebrities who are the same age as bin Laden: LeVar Burton, Steve Buscemi, Daniel Day-Lewis, Fran Drescher, Michael Clarke Duncan, Dolph Lundgren, Donny Osmond, Shannon Tweed, Caroline Kennedy, Madonna, Kevin Bacon, Alec Baldwin, Holly Hunter.

not an old man

not an old man

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Dear Congressman

A few days ago I went to my congressman’s website and sent him a short email expressing my dismay at his recent vote expressing solidarity with Israel’s “defense against terrorism” in the Gaza Strip. Odds are your congressperson voted the same way; only five of them voted ‘nay.’ (Results are here).

To my dismay, instead of writing me back to let me know he appreciated my concerns, he sent me this:

Thank you for contacting me about the current situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

The right of self-defense of any nation or people cannot be challenged. Israel has exercised that right in the face of an ongoing barrage of rocket attacks by Hamas. Any conflict that is waged in a densely populated urban setting will inevitably produce civilian casualties and the tragic loss of innocent life. Beyond this, there is a humanitarian crisis on the ground in Gaza that has been aggravated by the intense fighting of the past days.

I do not believe that it is the policy of the Israeli Government or the desire of the Israeli people to inflict suffering on innocent Palestinian civilians. I believe Israel seeks only to eliminate the terrorist attacks upon its soil that have inflicted fear and casualties. The parties must strive for a meaningful ceasefire, one that permits the flow of economic and humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza, but also will ensure that Hamas is unable to smuggle weaponry across the border with Gaza.

Again, I appreciate hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to contact me about other issues of concern to you in the future.

The effrontery! I probably would have let it lie, and stewed over it intermittently for months until I finally forgot about it, but I read it aloud to my friend and she prodded me to write him back. I voted for this jerk!

So I wrote him back:

Dear Congressman [x],

I am disappointed that instead of listening to my concerns about Israel’s recent actions, you gave me AIPAC’s talking points about Israel’s right to defend itself. That you haven’t bestirred yourself to learn anything more than this about such an important issue does not reassure me that you are acting in my best interests as my elected representative.

In a poll taken last summer, 71% of Americans said they would prefer the United States not take sides between Israel and Palestine, but 99% of our representatives support Israel. Fortunately, the Internet has made it much easier for Americans to get real news and learn that the rest of the world is not in Israel’s pocket and is generally opposed to war-mongering powers. I predict that in a few years, the American politicians who wish to remain in office will have a change of heart about our country’s unswavering support of Israel.

I just urge you to do it now and look like a brave man taking a stance.

Writing to your representatives can be cathartic. I recommend it.

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Was it an Accident?

Israel shelled the UN headquarters in Gaza.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, engulfing the compound and a warehouse in fire and destroying thousands of pounds of food and humanitarian supplies intended for Palestinian refugees.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in the region to end the devastating offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, demanded a “full explanation” and said the Israeli defense minister told him there had been a “grave mistake.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who met with Ban later Thursday, said the military fired artillery shells at the U.N. compound after Hamas militants opened fire from the location. Three people were wounded.

“It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place, but the consequences are very sad and we apologize for it,” he said. “I don’t think it should have happened and I’m very sorry.”

John Ging, director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, said the attack at the compound caused a “massive explosion” that wounded three people.

A senior Israeli military officer said troops opened fire after militants inside the compound shot anti-tank weapons and machine guns. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal army announcement later in the day.

Ging, who was in the compound at the time, dismissed the Israeli account as “nonsense.”

And by the way, Israel has killed over 1,100 Palestinians since December 27th 2008.

Just out of curiosity, what do you think? Did Israel shell the UN building intentionally or accidentally?

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