Back in 1995, when John le Carré turned in the manuscript for his novel “Our Game,” one of his editors wondered if the places depicted in it – Chechenya and its capital Grozny – were real or made-up. “By November she had her answer,” he wrote in The New York Times Book Review; the civil war there had recently begun. “I felt no triumph, just a kind of nausea,” he adds.
I know what he means. My novel “11/9 and the Terrorist Who loved Bonsai Trees,” which took four years to write – an embarrassing amount of time for just over two hundred pages of print – deals with a false-flag operation designed to propel America into war against Iran. And here we are today, with attacks on oil tankers and American officials wringing every bit of drama from them in order to get into a war. After years of arguing to skeptics that 9/11 was brought off for a similar purpose and writing a novel that illustrates how easy it is to do, I find current events now bring me a tickle of smugness, true enough, but also le Carré’s same nauseating sense of the suffering to come.
Suffering because this time America’s opposition is a sophisticated people with a real army. And united. They may have their differences with their glum ayatollahs, they may enjoy Michael Jackson tunes and download into cell phones every app imaginable, but the American-led installation of the hapless Shah and the U.S. Navy’s 1988 shootdown of one of their airliners are recent memories. And American sanctions have bitten deeply. Americans will not be greeted as liberators.
Suffering because while the U.S. Air Force is putting on another performance of shock, awe and shameless brutality, Iranians or their proxies will attack any of the dozens of small American installations in the region, making Afghanistan look like a Sunday picnic. And then there’s the Strait of Ormuz, the blocking of which means barrel prices in the hundreds. In that case, the casually sadistic Trump, one of whose favorite words is “obliterate,” may well make good on his threat to use nuclear weapons.
Even apart from that, it is a sure bet that the country’s best and brightest will turn their skills against the United States. Cyber attacks – the poor man’s nuclear bomb – in America could become commonplace. Not that airports and power plants will be shut down; I’m always amazed that moviemakers and armchair catastrophists can be so short-sighted. Cyber attacks really mean that coal doesn’t get delivered to power plants on time because spare parts for the train engines have mistakenly ended up in Paraguay. Attacks could take the form of news items saying that Facebook is going to be broken up into ten companies and Chase Manhattan is actually bankrupt, of oil refineries breaking down, of sporting events where the lights go out. Hospitals could run out of the blood supplies and schools out of lunches. If you need a graphic example of the new age of war, remember that false nuclear-attack alarm in Hawaii that sent the locals running for cover. That’s war with Iran.
A wired society is as vulnerable as a newborn baby.
And the rest of the world will look on with complacency, if not provide help, and in places where they hold no truck with jihads or visions of virgins in the afterlife. I don’t mean Russia, whose smeared, vilified, slandered and demonized leader is a pillar of reason compared to that coiffured pro-wrestling heel in the White House. War on Iran would mean the fatal blow for America’s relations with western Europe. Where I live, in Spain, the protests would be multitudinous. The pressure to disengage politically and militarily from the U.S. would be intense.
All of this is evidently lost on our foreign policy mandarins. In my novel, I create a portrait of the Deep State – by no means the type you see in movies, with Marine guards standing tensely at attention, computers blinking, insipid clocks showing the times in Paris, Moscow and Tokyo. Over the years that I wrote and re-wrote those scenes, I had reservations about not deepening the characters that participate in the meetings. But figures like the cantankerous John Bolton or Mike Pompeo, the latter visibly straining the seams of his suit in his enthusiasm for whacking one antichrist or another, relieved me of those doubts. We were assured by an anonymous writer in the New York Times that there are “adults in the room” keeping President Trump away from his dumber ideas. For the life of me, I cannot detect their influence. Was it they who urged the president to attack Iran? Or who informed Trump, once his forces were all in position fingering the safeties on their guns, that 150 people would die for the drone that Iran shot down, so maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea after all? Bravo, adults!
But no matter. The president’s spasm of humanity regarding casualties, however dubious, surely reassured the folks in Peoria: We are a decent, feeling people. One of the most enjoyable parts of my book to write was about the manipulation of the media and public opinion. And not only was it fun, but it was also easy. At one point in my story, the government version of the false-flag op needs to have a full makeover. But with a shocking revelation here and a clever leak there, everything comes off as smoothly as a pop singer changing her image from sweet to racy, with scarcely a break in sales flow.
My “11/9” is a reflection on 9/11 and how the “narrative” – hateful word – is sold and reinforced to launch America into another Asian war. As one of my characters, a hard-boiled senator from Connecticut, moans, “Oh, narrative. Sometimes I wonder if all government has come down to these days is the telling of a goddamn bedtime story.”
The most amazing narrative on 9/11 was clearly the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the crash of Flight 93. Here the public was shown a smoking depression in the ground and assured that down below, an entire commercial airliner lies buried, having burrowed into the ground upon impact – all the way out to its wingtips, all the way up to the stabilizer, scarcely a tray-table left in sight. Incredible – literally. No wonder Osama bin Laden hastened to assure the world that he had nothing to do with 9/11, rather than take credit for it (as the real perps were probably counting on): he must have figured the whole charade would be exposed within a month.
But I was talking about false flags and getting it right on Iran. Having written a novel about how easy it is to stampede the public, I have no faith in either the president, his top advisors, or those “adults in the room” to avoid war with Iran – and certainly none in the Deep State, whose record over the past twenty years has been dreadful. Maybe – maybe – sundry political calculations regarding the economic consequences will stay their hand. But the false-flag-driven narrative is theirs to write, the media will do nothing but embroider it, and Truthers stumbling along behind them like the sand-and-shovel brigade will never get an audience.
But their version of events will ultimately end up the most accurate.
So history has ended – history, that is, as a nurturing tissue joining the past to the present and defining a nation. As the comedian in my story sums it up: “People will believe you have eyes on your ass before they believe the government plays dirty.”