Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Scorpion's Gate

Do you remember Richard Clarke? He was a terrorism expert who left the Bush administration in anger and frustration, seeing the administration as fixated on carrying out an invasion of Iraq instead of curbing terrorism.

Clarke wrote a memoir, Against All Enemies, that received alot of fanfair. Of all of the betrayals that the Bush administration experienced, Clarke's was the strongest, in his expertise being on terrorism and the Middle East - the issues that were crystallizing George W. Bush's presidency.

After he wrote the memoir, he wrote several thriller novels. The first one, The Scorpion's Gate, portrayed Saudi Arabia overthrown by Islamists:

It's 2010, and the newly established Republic of Islamyah; the former Saudi Arabia; is trying to destabilize Bahrain: the Diplomat Hotel has been bombed, and, as the first chapter of this intense debut thriller closes, the Crowne Plaza is "pancaking." Meanwhile, the deposed House of Saud is holed up in Houston; the Chinese are providing arms and training to Islamyah; the Iranians have the bomb. Secretary of Defense Henry Conrad thinks the time is ripe to invade Islamyah and seize its oil, for which the U.S. is locked in deadly competition with China. Cooler heads in the U.S. (and British) hierarchies are very, very alarmed. Sound familiar? Clarke's Against All Enemies delivered an apostate critique of the Bush administration's counterterrorism efforts, along with a vision of the future very much like today. The writing's nothing special; what is special is Clarke's passionate and deftly detailed version of the present, albeit one told in terms of its consequences. It's a brilliant conceit, and though it's sometimes drowned out by the din of various axes being ground ("It''s 68 degrees [in Washington]on January 28 and the White House still claims that global warming isn't a problem?"), the story is crowded with terrific double crosses, defections and deceptions. They're icing, though: Clarke's dramatic micro explanations of how things "really" work; from a hand who served Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes;are the true story. This is the first novel to shift all the way from Clancy's Cold War to the present war on terror.

The timing - 2010 - is ominous in that Clarke was only one year off. And how on earth could Clarke have known that Bahrain would start to destabilize on its own, without outside intervention? Or that numerous countries throughout the region would experience revolutions simultaneously?

If you're interested further, The Scorpion's Gate is for sale through the Amazon.com widget on the right side of this blog.

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