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In 2009 Hamas began digging a secret network of 40 terrorist attack tunnels from Gaza deep into Israel. The object: kill, maim and take hostage as many Israeli men, women and children as possible, and achieve a "Divine Victory" over the Zionist enemy.
At the same time, Iran, Hamas’s Godfather, fearing a possible US attack against their nuclear weapons program, told Hamas to cut a deal with the Cartels in Tijuana, Mexico. Make them an offer they can't refuse; build them the exact same network of 40 tunnels running from Tijuana to downtown San Diego. They can smuggle all the drugs they want on condition that should the need ever arise, Iran and Hamas can use them for a deadlier purpose.
In 2009 Hamas began digging a secret network of 40 terrorist attack tunnels from Gaza deep into Israel. The object: kill, maim and take hostage as many Israeli men, women and children as possible, and achieve a "Divine Victory" over the Zionist enemy.
At the same time, Iran, Hamas’s Godfather, fearing a possible US attack against their nuclear weapons program, told Hamas to cut a deal with the Cartels in Tijuana, Mexico. Make them an offer they can't refuse; build them the exact same network of 40 tunnels running from Tijuana to downtown San Diego. They can smuggle all the drugs they want on condition that should the need ever arise, Iran and Hamas can use them for a deadlier purpose.
Now in the summer of 2014, with the rise if ISIS and the wars in Syria and Iraq, Iran has cut Hamas off.
Hamas is dead broke and because of that decides to do two things; 1) start a war with Israel using the tunnels to win them a "Divine Victory" and billions in "reconstruction aid" from an ever gullible US administration and international community, and…2) strike a secret deal with ISIS to sell them their network of 40 terrorist attack/smuggling tunnels, that run from Mexico into downtown San Diego.
ISIS's plan? To infiltrate 1000 ISIS terrorists armed with anti-tank missiles, machine guns, grenades, tranquilizer shots and hand cuffs.
Sink the Pacific Fleet at anchor in San Diego. Wipe out one half the US Navy Seal Force (since US military personnel are not allowed to carry weapons on US Military installations!), and... kill, maim and kidnap as many American women and children as possible, drag them back through the tunnels into underground cells in Tijuana, and execute them on YouTube in the worst terrorist attack in history; a combination of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor together.
And who will stop them? San Diego PD vs RPG's?
And does anyone think America's feckless President, Rafiq Kabilla will invade Mexico!?
It will be up to an ad hoc team made up of a Black, twenty year veteran, Navy Seal, a tormented Hispanic DEA agent, a drop dead gorgeous born again female CIA Agent (and Liberty University Alum), with her own tortured past, and an embittered American born Israeli raised, half Irish, half Jewish, Israeli Military Intel officer, to literally lead an underground battle in the tunnels beneath San Diego to save America from the worst terrorist attack in history.
A Tom Clancy-esque thriller, ripped from today's headlines. A tale of espionage, combat, terror, love and ultimately, of faith.
Meticulously researched and imagined by award winning screenwriter, author, playwright and veteran of six Mid East wars including 2014 's Hamas / Israel Terrorist Tunnel War, Dan Gordon, Capt. IDF ( Res.).
With Day Of The Dead - Book I, Gaza, Gordon has created a new genre of fiction. Not Sci-Fi, but Terror-Fi. Soon to be a major motion picture from the studio that produced Act of Valor, Day of The Dead is the year's "must read".
A Clarion wake up call to a Clear and Present Danger
Captain Dan Gordon IDF (Res)
Dan Gordon is the author of fifteen Hollywood features, including The Hurricane, (Denzel Washington) Wyatt Earp, (Kevin Costner), Murder in the First, (Kevin Bacon), The Assignment, (Sir Ben Kingsley) and Passenger 57 (Wesley Snipes). Gordon has also amassed hundreds of hours of television programming as a writer, director and/or executive producer, including head writer of Michael Landon's long running series, Highway to Heaven. Gordon's plays have been produced on Broadway and London’s West End. Day of the Dead: Book One - Gaza is Dan’s seventh published novel and is a terrifying look into the warring world of today. It is soon to be a major motion picture from the studio that produced Act of Valor. With Day of the Dead Gordon has, in essence, created a new genre…not Sci-fi, but Terror-fi.
"Dan is more than a superb screenwriter; first and foremost, he is a man whose worldview encompasses patriotic, moral and humanistic values, a man who wields his pen critically to document reality with a judicious eye."
"In Day of the Dead, Gordon has written a frighteningly realistic thriller, a page-turner which paints a compelling portrait of Mid-East combat and espionage, in the age of ISIS and Hamas."
Steven Pressfield, Best-Selling Author of Gates of Fire and The Lion’s Gate
"Dan Gordon has crafted a tale about the vicious world of radical Islamists, criminal gangs, and their victims. His incredible 40 years of service in the Israel Defense Force, knowledge of the US and the Middle East, and ability to spell-bind enables readers to feel the pulse of terror and see into the dark minds of evil incarnate. Day of the Dead: Book One - Gaza is a gripping story as real as today's and tomorrow's shocking headlines."
General Robert Magnus, USMC (Ret)
"Dan Gordon is not only an accomplished filmmaker and a friend of Liberty University, but as a Captain in the Israel Defense Force Reserves who spent significant time on the front lines of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he is uniquely positioned to write this story like no one else could."
President Jerry Falwell, Liberty University
"Captain (Res.) Dan Gordon, of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, visited Israel during the recent military operation ‘Protective Edge’. We were then facing a constant barrage of attacks from some 5,000 missiles and rockets that were fired from the Gaza Strip toward heavily populated civilian areas under Israeli sovereignty. Dan took the time to visit at Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran – the Rehabilitation Village in the south of Israel that I founded on behalf of my beloved son Eran and people like him – those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It was there, in the line of fire, that we were privileged to get to know Dan as someone who deeply loves this country – especially the disabled children here – the most vulnerable members of our society. Dan is more than a superb screenwriter; first and foremost, he is a man whose worldview encompasses patriotic, moral and humanistic values, a man who wields his pen critically to document reality with a judicious eye."
Major General Doron Almog, IDF (Res.)
July 7, 2014. 9:00 a.m., EST
The meeting in the Oval Office was set for 9:00 a.m. sharp. Thus, Vice President Bo Fitzgerald had left the Old Executive Office Building and walked across the street to the White House, entering the West Wing lobby at precisely 8:45 a.m. He had been up since 6:00 a.m. prepping for the meeting. His ever-faithful secretary of thirty-five years, Jane Woodhall, a once-attractive woman in her late sixties, in bad need of a lifestyle lift, had made up a series of 3x5 index cards with overly-large print, so that the Vice President, always aware of the fact that, at seventy-two, he was the oldest member of the team, would not have to resort to using reading glasses. He had considered using Grecian Formula Number One to add touches of black to his already white hair, not unlike the recently appointed anchor of a cable news network who had, over the course of six months, gone from elderly white, to a sort of George Clooney, salt-and-pepper look. Vice President Fitzgerald was, however, aware that his early hair transplant, though infinitely more attractive than the bald pate it had replaced, had become the object of derision amongst right-wing radio talk show hosts. Thus, he was not about to give them more ammunition with which to take potshots against him, despite the certain knowledge that a more youthful appearance gave him a better chance against Edie Washington Howell, should he decide to run for his party’s nomination two years hence.
After entering the West Wing’s first floor lobby, he turned right, and then left, and made for the Vice President’s ceremonial office, where he would wait until the appointed hour for the President’s Briefing, which would take place in the Oval Office. At 8:55, he exited his ceremonial office, and turned right; ducking into the office of Chief of Staff Henry Clevinger, simply to make sure that the meeting was still on, and about to take place in the Oval Office. Clevinger was the equivalent of the Angel with the Fiery Sword stationed by the Almighty at the Gates of Eden, to keep Adam and Eve from returning to Paradise. But, on this particular morning, neither Clevinger nor his secretary, or “executive assistant” in the current, gender-neutral parlance of our times, was in the office.
Fitzgerald ambled down the hallway, passed the offices of various staffers, passed the Roosevelt Room on his left, and the President’s Private Dining Room and Study on his right. He made a left at the Roosevelt Room, and turned right into the President’s Executive Assistant’s office. Valerie Jeffers, the President’s E.A., looked up, smiling her condescending smile, and said, “Good morning, Mr. Vice President.”
“Top of the morning to you, too, Valerie. We all set?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “Didn’t you get the memo?”
“Didn’t you get the memo” were the words Vice President Fitzgerald had come to loathe.
No, he thought. He never got the memo! It was the latest in POTUS’ unending series of slights against the older man, who had once made the dreadful mistake of calling then-Senator Rafik Mohammed Kabila “The first mainstream African-American who was articulate, bright and clean… I mean, the guy is light-skinned, with no discernible Negro dialect – unless he needs it.”
Though Fitzgerald had apologized profusely, and publicly, the fact that Kabila had chosen Fitzgerald as his running mate had less to do with POTUS-Elect’s acceptance of the older man’s apology, and more to do with the fact that he wanted to deny the second-highest office in the land to Edie Washington Howell. He never wanted it to be said that an African American and a former First Lady were any kind of Dream Team. Indeed, Fitzgerald brought nothing to the ticket, which is why Kabila chose him. He wanted the victory to be his, and his alone. Moreover, he secretly relished the thought of humiliating everybody’s affable, crazy Irish uncle for the next four years.
“The meeting has been switched to the Situation Room, Mr. Vice President. I believe they’re already in session.”
This, of course, added another level of humiliation to the start of Fitzgerald’s morning. He exited Valerie Jeffers’ office, turned right, passed the conference room, and the President’s secretary, passed the press-staff offices, and the Press Corps Briefing Room, and the Press Corps Offices, thus making sure that members of the Fourth Estate saw him hurrying along, obviously late for yet another meeting.
This led him down into the White House basement, and yet another set of minor humiliations, as he passed through the lobby, sundried offices, the Wardroom, the Videoconference Room, the Briefing Room, the Navy Mess and Kitchen, and, finally, into the Situation Room, to which he was admitted by the Marine sentry on duty. As he entered the Situation Room, CIA Director James Francis Doherty interrupted his briefing in mid-sentence, and gave Bo Fitzgerald a smiling and understanding look.
“Morning, Bo. Glad you could make it,” POTUS said drily.
“I’m sorry, Mr. President,” Fitzgerald said, with as much dignity as he could muster. “Someone failed to notify me of the change in venue.”
“No problem,” said President Kabila. “We’re just getting started. Francis, would you mind briefly bringing Bo up to speed?”
“Of course, Mr. President.” As CIA Director Francis Doherty skipped through his notes, and backed up through his PowerPoint presentation, Vice President Fitzgerald quickly looked around the room. It was the full National Security team, plus one. The plus one in question was, as always, Attorney General Steadman, one of POTUS’ oldest, most trusted friends and confidants.
The National Security team included National Security Advisor Deborah Wheatley, a visibly hungover and puffy-eyed Secretary of Defense Dick Gaynor, the always pompously well-coiffed Secretary of State Jack O’Leary, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army General Matt Tunney, CIA Director James Francis Doherty, Acting FBI Director Jack Profitt, Acting DEA Director Mrs. Graciel Esteves, and POTUS’ ever-present political advisor, Mallory Mohsen.
Fitzgerald could not help but think that he’d never seen a room so full of people who had such obvious disdain for one another.
Both he and Secretary of State Jack O’Leary had run for the Presidency themselves, and both thought themselves infinitely more qualified than the former Junior Senator from Motown, who now sat in the black, high-backed leather chair at the head of the long wooden table and called the shots.
As for POTUS, he took the same opportunity, and glanced around the room, and the thought hit him, not for the first time, that, aside from Attorney General Steadman, he was the only black man in attendance in a room full of nothing but Irishmen, and Graciel Esteves, Acting Director of the DEA.
Actually, that wasn’t 100% correct. POTUS had more right to call himself an Irishman than did Jack O’Leary.
POTUS’ maternal grandfather was an affable, drunken WWII vet named Jim O’Callaghan.
Jack O’Leary’s grandfather, after whom he was named, on the other hand, was the former Yasha Levy who, upon arrival at Ellis Island, decided to shed himself of the burden of anti-Semitism, and was reborn as Jack O’Leary.
The dumb putz actually thought it was a step up to be an Irish Catholic, POTUS thought to himself, and smiled ruefully.
It was not lost on him that both O’Leary and Fitzgerald concealed, in their secret heart of hearts, the ironic jealousy they both felt for the color of POTUS’s skin.
If only they had been born black, POTUS knew they believed, they would have been sitting in the high-backed leather chair at the head of the wooden table themselves.
He felt a surge of righteous indignation against the key members of his own inner circle who were, indeed, not a team of rivals, but of men who harbored deep resentments and genuine loathing for one another, and their Commander in Chief.
Well, tough noogies, POTUS thought. I won.
CIA Director Doherty had now arranged his notes, and his PowerPoint presentation. The point of today’s sudden, but in no way emergency, meeting was that a message had come in from Hamid Berzingi, the leader of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. The Peshmerga, the military force of the autonomous region, had just captured a senior ISIS operative.
“You mean ISIL,” POTUS interrupted.
ISIS stood for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Syria was not a name which POTUS allowed to be tolerated in his presence, ever since its dictator, Bashar al Assad, had stepped across POTUS’ hastily-declared, and ill-conceived, redline of using chemical weapons against his own people.
In the showdown between them, POTUS had blinked first.
He had absolutely no intention of revisiting that most humiliating episode of his Presidency. Thus, ISIS was always to be referred to as “ISIL”, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“Yes sir, Mr. President,” CIA Director Doherty corrected himself. “The Peshmerga have recently captured an ISIL operative.”
The operative in question, Yehyeh Al-Masri, claimed to have direct knowledge of what he said would be a mass-casualty attack against the United States heartland, carried out by ISIL, and, somehow, involving members of Mexican and South American drug cartels, as well.
The Peshmerga were evidently willing to trade Al-Masri for heavy weapons, which they desperately needed to fight off the growing threat from ISIL, whom they believed were spreading from non-Kurdish Iraq and Syria into the heart of the autonomous Kurdish region.
They were on the verge of capturing Mosul, had basically obliterated the border between Iraq and Syria, and were claiming the lands they had conquered for the Caliphate, or Islamic State, run by their charismatic leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi’s parting words to his former American captors, upon release from his prison cell at Camp Bucca, where he had been held as a “civilian internee”, were “See you in New York.”
For his part, POTUS wanted no part in taking custody of an ISIL terrorist.
“I mean, if we did that, it would make us an ISIL target. It would give them an excuse to kidnap American personnel, to negotiate for the release of this Al-Masri. I don’t want any part of that!”
Indeed, POTUS wanted no part of ISIL, nor, for that matter, anything to do with the entire Middle East, from which he had been trying to extricate the United States for the first six years of his Presidency.
“I mean, are you all new here? Do you not know that’s the policy of my administration? To get us out of the Middle East, instead of finding ways to allow ourselves to be dragged back in!”
Most annoying, though POTUS did not mention it, was that POTUS would have to cut short his Fourth of July holiday. Not only because of this Peshmerga nonsense, but because the Israelis were making his life difficult for a change. Both they, and Hamas, looked as if they might begin lobbing rockets, mortars and bombs at each other again, in the wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli schoolboys somewhere in the Hebron region of the Palestinian Authority, where they had no business being in the first place, and thus no one to blame for the kidnapping of the three Israeli schoolboy settlers, but themselves.
Israeli Prime Minister Akiva “Kivi” Natanel, would, of course, have taken issue with that last comment. Indeed, Kivi Natanel, whom POTUS thought of as nothing more than a kind of redneck, Jewish, bull-headed cowboy, had the unmitigated gall to publicly upbraid President Kabila, in the Oval Office, no less, for exactly such a suggestion.
POTUS had stated, quite rightly in his own mind, that the presence of five hundred radical Jewish settlers, artificially implanted in the clearly Arab city of Hebron, with several hundred thousand Palestinians residing therein, amounted to little more than a needless provocation, and an impediment to the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, which POTUS viewed as essential.
POTUS was indeed one of the key proponents of the theory that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the heart of all of America’s problems in the Middle East, and that America was paying a disproportionate price for its support of the Jewish state, and thus inflaming the passions of all its surrounding Arab neighbors.
POTUS had delivered that last observation in his usual polite, but stern, and indeed dismissive, professorial fashion. Kivi Natanel, on the other hand, had responded with ill-concealed disdain for what he charitably viewed as President Kabila’s naiveté, if not his downright sympathy for Israel’s enemies. This was evidenced by what he considered the massive indignity of the President of the United States bowing to a Saudi monarch. It was, Kivi Natanel reasoned, the gesture of a Moslem schoolboy, and not the President of the most powerful nation on earth.
Thus, Kivi Natanel had the effrontery to lecture the President of the United States in his own Oval Office.
“With the greatest respect, Mr. President,” he said, “the five hundred Jews living in Hebron, the second-holiest city to the Jewish people after Jerusalem, can hardly be called either artificial, nor an implant. Indeed, we are the aboriginal people, not only of Hebron, but of the land of Israel. We speak the same language, Hebrew, as our forebears did four thousand years ago, we worship the same God, we read the same holy book, the Torah, that we did four thousand years ago, and any Israeli high school student can read the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written seven hundred years before Mohammed was born, as easily as he reads the sports page in his local newspaper. If anyone is a foreign implant, it is the people whose language, religion, and culture differ completely from that of the original Canaanite inhabitants, and whose religion was born two thousand, seven hundred years after the patriarch Abraham purchased, in Hebron, the tomb for himself, his wife Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Rachael, and Leah. These are the founders of our religion. Hebron was also the city in which King David reigned, before he came into Jerusalem, and it had a constant Jewish presence for four thousand years, until its inhabitants were massacred by their Arab neighbors in 1929, which was not only before there were any settlements in the West Bank, and any so-called occupied territories; it was before the creation of the State of Israel itself. To call Jews ‘foreign occupiers’, or ‘artificial implants’, in Hebron or Jerusalem, is like calling Frenchmen ‘artificial implants’ in Paris.”
It was a masterful presentation, and Rafik Kabila came off looking like a child talking to a man.
To make matters worse, a photograph had been making the rounds of the internet, which featured a picture of a very stoned twenty-year-old Ralphie Sukerto, as Rafik Mohammed Kabila was then known, during his Whittier College undergraduate days. Ralphie Sukerto was smiling a stoner’s sloppy grin, and sporting a kind of Superfly, half-baked afro.
In contrast, there was a picture of a twenty-year-old Kivi Natanel in combat fatigues, weapons belt, and an Uzi submachine gun, looking very much like an early seventies incarnation of Rambo, while serving as a lieutenant in one of Israel’s most elite commando units.
The only visual contrast that put Kabila in a more negative light was the photograph of POTUS in a Styrofoam bicycle helmet, pedaling around Martha’s Vineyard, compared with a photo of a bare-chested Vladimir Putin, astride a snorting, galloping steed, looking like a cross between a Native American warrior-chieftain, and Genghis Khan.
Putin stripped off his shirt faster than a drunken sorority girl on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.
But the implication could not possibly have been clearer, especially to one who touted his street cred as a black man. Vladimir Putin and Kivi Natanel could whup Rafik Kabila on the best day he’d ever had.
Now Kivi Natanel was exploiting the kidnapping of the Israeli schoolboys to launch an all-out offensive against Hamas’ infrastructure on the West Bank, in what had been dubbed Operation Shuvu Achim, or, “Return Our Brothers”.
POTUS rightly suspected that the operation was not so much an all-out search for the schoolboys, as a much sought-after opportunity to crack down on Hamas’ growing popularity in the West Bank.
“How do we know,” POTUS asked, “that this isn’t just another attempt on the part of the Kurds to drag the US back into Iraq?”
“Well, we don’t know it for sure, Mr. President, until we have the opportunity to evaluate the intelligence they’re offering us.”
“What we do know, Mr. President,” interjected General Tunney, “is that ISIS is getting stronger by the day.”
“ISIL,” corrected National Security Advisor Wheatley, noticing her boss all but twitch like Herbert Lom reacting to the mention of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau, in the Pink Panther movies.
“Whatever,” said General Tunney, who regarded Wheatley as a rank amateur, a political hack who had no business commenting on international policy, regardless of being the President’s national advisor on same. “What we do know,” he said, “is that they’re gobbling up territory. They’re expansionist, and they make no bones about their desire to strike at the West. I believe, sir, we would be remiss, at the very least, if we did not seriously consider that this intelligence might just be of vital importance to our nation’s security.”
POTUS sat there for a bit. He hated this. Truly hated it. It was like the Al Pacino character in The Godfather: Part III. Every time he tried to get out of the morass that was the Middle East, they kept dragging him back in. That, in turn, reminded POTUS of Little Stevie Van Zandt’s impersonation of Al Pacino’s delivery of the same line in one of the opening episodes of The Sopranos. Was that the pilot episode? he wondered. He’d have to get someone to pull that up. He loved that show, though his wife, Jocelyne, couldn’t stand it. But then, there were so many things that Jocelyne couldn’t stand. She couldn’t stand him filling out brackets on ESPN during March Madness. She thought it was beneath The President’s dignity, which just proved that she had no real political instincts. People loved the fact that he filled out brackets; it made him an average Joe. Whereas, they couldn’t stand all her organic garden nonsense, and taking pizzas off of school menus. I mean, he knew it played to the base of radical, organic, anti-virus-shots, upscale, Upper-West-Siders, but filling out brackets cut across party lines. He was one of the guys. He could be white, and black, at the same time. East Coast and Midwestern. SEC and PAC-12. In fact, this year, he thought, Oklahoma State might just have a chance. Of course, there was always the possibility that a school like Florida Gulf Coast could come along, and spoil everything. What was that new kid Oklahoma State had?
“Mr. President,” he heard General Tunney say, pulling him out of his reverie.
“Yes,” POTUS replied tersely, realizing that he had completely lost his train of thought.
“He was talking about the Israelis, Mr. President,” Bo Fitzgerald said, thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to get back at POTUS for the memo that had never arrived.
“Actually,” said Jack O’Leary, in his stentorian tones, “He was talking about what we do about the proposed trade for this Al-Masri character that Kurdish Prime Minister Barzini has just offered.”
“Actually,” said Acting FBI Director Jack Profitt, “it’s Hamid Berzinji who is the Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan. Barzini was Don Corleone’s nemesis in The Godfather.”
“Great movie,” said a still very hungover SecDef Gaynor, finally finding a point of reference in the conversation he could relate to.
“Look,” said POTUS. “The most I’m willing to do is, uh… Y’o, send a team to evaluate…”
I wish he wouldn’t say “y’o” like that, thought Mallory Mohsen. It’s his tell. Every time he says it, you know he’s off script. She made a mental note to send Ralphie, she was one of the few people who still thought of him as Ralphie, a memo to knock that stuff off. No more “y’o’s”, no more “you knows”, no more “uhs”.
“…Y’o… You know, uh,” said the President, “whether or not uh… This supposed intel is, uh, y’oh, you know, of any value to the US…”
“It could just be another attempt,” said Bo Fitzgerald, “on the part of this Barzini character to drag the US back into Iraq.”
POTUS flinched at the second Godfather “Barzini” reference from Crazy Uncle Bo, but let it slide.
“Well, make no mistake,” he said, slipping into campaign-speak. “That is something I, under no circumstances, am willing to do. I don’t care what happens to the Kurds. We are not going back into Iraq. Period.”
Mallory Mohsen made another mental note to send a second memo to Ralphie, telling him not to say “period” anymore. It had too many negative connotations about the failed healthcare rollout of the previous year. People didn’t need to be reminded of that, especially with the upcoming Senatorial elections within the next few months.
POTUS looked around the room. The truth was, in addition to the feeling of true personal disdain for most of the people present, POTUS deeply distrusted his military, the CIA, the FBI Counter-Terrorism unit, and the DEA, all of whom he regarded as a bunch of cowboy holdovers from a bygone era of US interventionism, intent on finding enemies everywhere so they could bolster their various budgets, at the expense of the domestic programs which he intended to be his legacy. This has got to be the summer we do immigration reform, he thought. If we lose the Senate, it’s dead in the water.
“Mr. President,” said General Tunney insistently. “You were saying the most you’re willing to do… Is what?”
POTUS looked around the room. It was as if the TelePrompTer in his mind had suddenly gone blank. The most he was willing to do was…
“…Appoint a team to evaluate whether or not the information that this Al-Masri has is of any use to the US, or if this is just another attempt by the Kurds to drag us into Iraq, which is something you have told us, in no uncertain terms, that you are unwilling to do.” said Deborah Wheatley, proving yet again what an invaluable aide she was to Rafik Kabila.
She’s kinda hot looking, too, thought President Kabila, but yielded not to the temptation to let his thoughts drift again. “Precisely,” he said.
Thus, POTUS reached a decision, which many came to regard, increasingly as the Kabila Theorem:
TAKE AN ACTION, DESIGNED TO POSTPONE A DECISION, AND APPOINT AN ESSENTIALLY POWERLESS BODY TO DO IT.
“Okay,” POTUS said. “Y’o. I want a representative from the CIA, a representative from the Defense establishment, one from the DEA, and one from FBI Counter-Intelligence.” He looked around at each head of the of the various departments he had just ticked off, as if in so-doing, he had acknowledged their importance, and was acting in their interests.
“Matt, Francis, Jack, Graciel, I want you each to pick top people from your agencies. The best you have. You have this team assembled within twenty four hours. They are to travel, at my personal direction, to Kurdistan, in order to evaluate the intelligence that the Kurds are offering on this Al-Masri character.”
“And who, exactly, will command this team?” asked CIA Director James Francis Doherty. This was, after all, not his first rodeo.
“No one,” said POTUS, with what he hoped resembled Solomon-like wisdom. “I want a consensus opinion to be arrived at by a team of equals, with no outside pressure from anyone. And,” he added, “I want them to report directly to me. With all due respect to everyone present, I don’t want any one agency running this show. This is a Presidential team, not a CIA, FBI, military, or DEA team. Is that clear to everyone?”
Everyone around the room nodded.
“I need to hear that, for the record.”
“Yes, sir,” said CIA Director Francis Doherty.
“Clear as a bell,” chimed in Acting FBI Director Profitt.
“Understood,” said Acting DEA Director Mrs. Graciel Esteves.
“What, exactly, is State’s role in all of this?” asked Secretary Jack O’Leary, sounding more and more like a Muppet character every time he spoke, thought POTUS. Sam the American Eagle, that was the Muppet he sounds like!
“I’d be happy to chair the team, Mr. President, to provide an objective point of reference.” said the VPOTUS. “I mean, I don’t have a dog in this fight, sir. My loyalty is to you.”
“Not necessary, Bo.” said POTUS. “Though, of course, your loyalty is noted, and, as always, appreciated.” Clean negro, my foot, thought POTUS. Then, he continued evenly. “Now, if there’s no further business, I have a fund-raiser in Beverly Hills to get to. We’ve got a Senate election to win. Besides, if you ask me, I’m convinced, y’o, these ISIL clowns are all-in-all nothing but a JV team of wannabes, wearing Kobe Bryant jerseys.”
“Mr. President,” said Jack O’Leary.
“Yes, Jack,” answered POTUS impatiently.
“There are still some unanswered questions, sir.”
“Of course there are.” said POTUS, and left the room.Back to the top
At the same time that POTUS was reaching what he hoped was a Solomon-like decision with regard to the JV team in Kobe Bryant jerseys, two of the most dangerous ISIS terrorists in the world, Khalid Kawasme (Code Name: The Engineer), and Abdul Aziz Al-Tikriti (Code Name: Sayef Al Islam – The Sword of Islam) were disembarking in Egypt from what had already been a long and arduous journey. From ISIS-controlled Iraq, they had made their way into Turkey in disguises and with false papers indicating they were Sunni-Iraqi refugees driven out of their homeland by the ISIS onslaught.
In April of 2003, Turkey had instituted its new law on foreigners and international protection, relating to the status of refugees. There were already almost one million refugees from Iraq and Syria living in Turkey: three hundred thousand living inside the camps, and seven hundred thousand living outside the camps.
This, of course, made it remarkably simple for the two “refugees”, who happened to be two of the most dangerous men in the world, to slip through the cracks, obtain new false papers identifying them as Jordanian textile salesmen traveling to purchase Egyptian cotton with money, new clothes, new passports, and new disguises, supplied by ISIS agents in Istanbul. Al-Tikriti and Kawasme were able to travel by train to the Turkish port of Mersin, where they were able to book passage to Nicosia, Cyprus.
From thence, outfitted with yet another set of identities, this time as Lebanese importers of licensed Egyptian antiquities, they booked separate flights to Cairo, on Cyprus Airways.
Once in Cairo, they were met by yet another of the growing network of ISIS operatives. They were outfitted with a third set of identities, this time as Kuwaiti tourists booking an eleven day/ten night, all-inclusive tour of Egyptian Sinai. Day one had them join their tour in Cairo, and proceed by air-conditioned motor coach to El Arish, in Northern Sinai, for a stay at the Palm Beach Hotel along the Mediterranean coast.
There, they paid their guide, an ISIS sympathizer, to erase any record of their ever having been part of the tour. They next rendezvoused with Sheikh Ahmed Abu Ali, a Bedouin smuggler, descended from one thousand years of Bedouin smuggler ancestors.
The Bedouins had a saying: “Allah created the fallah, or farmer, from the turd of a donkey. He created the Bedou from the wind.” The Bedouins of Sinai recognized no national boundaries, nor held allegiances to any country. They were completely tribal in every way. Abu Ali was a member of the Hawetat, and, like virtually all Bedou, was a migrant goat herder, brigand, and smuggler.
As times changed, so did the goods which the Bedou smuggled across the Sinai desert.
In the seventies and eighties, their main stock-in-trade had been hashish.
The hashish was molded into what were referred to as “soles”, because they resembled nothing so much as the sole of a shoe. These, they wrapped in plastic, and then inserted into the rectums of that reliable ship of the desert, the Bedouin camel. They were, thus, impervious to any authorities who might have the audacity to interfere with their smuggling operations. They plied the routes between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Gaza. From Gaza, in a remarkable, and indeed admirable show of Israeli and Palestinian cooperation, Palestinian gangs bought the hashish from the Bedouins, and in turn sold it to Israeli Jewish gangsters, who marketed the much sought-after Nafas to Tel Avivian hipsters. From Israel, the hashish could then be smuggled north into Lebanon, and from thence, into Europe. The crime families of the Middle East, and the Bedou of the Sinai, had no problems whatsoever in terms of peaceful, albeit criminal, coexistence.
When Hamas seized power in Gaza, in a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority, both Israel, and Egypt’s now-deposed President Mubarak, acted to isolate the terrorist group.
Thus were born the smuggling tunnels, which became Hamas’ main source of income. Rather like purchasing a medallion for a taxi in New York City, Hamas sold licenses to independent contractors to dig and operate the dozens upon dozens of smuggling tunnels which ran from Egyptian-controlled Sinai into Gaza.
At first, the main stock-in-trade was weapons; AK 47s, Iranian-made rockets and, later, Libyan weapons from the arsenal of the deposed Libyan dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Soon, the laws of supply and demand, however, took over, and there were so many weapons in Gaza that their prices plummeted.
The tunnels, though, and their various smuggling tunnel contractors and sub-contractors, had created a new class of millionaire entrepreneurs in Gaza; the tunnel millionaire.
This, in turn, created a new demand for consumer goods.
Soon, the Bedouins were smuggling flat screen TVs, European espresso machines, and even luxury automobiles from Cairo, through the desert, through the tunnels, and into Gaza.
Car theft rings flourished in Cairo. One could order a Mercedes with a tunnel contractor, who would transmit the order to someone like Sheikh Abu Ali, who would then transmit the order to one of dozens of car theft rings in Cairo. Whatever you wanted could be had, at a discount price.
Everyone was making out like bandits, which, of course, is what the Bedouin were. The market truly flourished once Mubarak was deposed, and the Muslim Brotherhood took over.
But all good things must come to an end, and Egypt’s President Mursi, who began his own jihad against Egypt’s minorities and “Secular hedonists” who rebelled against the notion of a strict Moslem society, was overthrown, much to the chagrin of President Rafik Mohammed Kabila, who oddly viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderating influence in a world of Islamic extremism.
This attitude puzzled many old-hand Arabists within the State Department, who viewed the difference between the Brotherhood, and its offshoots of Al Qaeda and Hamas, and now, ISIS, as the choice between Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. It was true that one guy didn’t eat the corpse, but both were serial killers, nonetheless.
At any rate, Egypt’s military prevailed, deposed and outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, and replaced them with former General Mahmoud Ibrahim Fahmi.
Fahmi promptly clamped down on the smuggling tunnels, ordered them flooded with sewage, and literally drowned their operatives in a sea of feces. Thus, there were now only a few tunnels still in operation.
At the same time, The Sinai Peninsula, itself, had become a kind of no-man’s land. Al Qaeda offshoots had allied with Bedouin tribes, and few deadlier combinations ever existed in an already treacherous Middle East. A guerrilla war developed between the Al Qaeda-Bedouin alliance, and Fahmi’s Egyptian army.
Thus, when Sheikh Abu Ali of the Hawetat tribe of Northern Sinai, was approached with the proposition of smuggling two men into Gaza, he quickly assumed that the two in question, despite their false identities, must be high-ranking ISIS operatives, since no one in their right mind wanted to be smuggled INTO Gaza, BUT terrorists.
Ideologically, he was neither for, nor against, ISIS. From that standpoint, he subscribed to the age-old Arab adage: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
ISIS had its sights set on Egypt’s Fahmi.
Egypt’s Fahmi had his sights set on Sheikh Abu Ali.
Therefore, Sheikh Abu Ali would be happy to render a service for the ISIS operatives.
For a price.
A large one.
Despite being a desert-and-sheepskin-tent-dweller, Sheikh Abu Ali possessed a satellite television, powered by state of the art, stolen solar panels. As such, he kept in touch with the news of the day, supplied by Al Jazeera. Thus, he was aware that ISIS had taken possession of numbers of Iraqi oil wells and refineries, which provided it with an income of some two to three million dollars a day. In addition, they had robbed numerous Iraqi and Syrian banks, relieving them of dinars, dollars, and gold bullion. They sold stolen antiquities on the black market for truly outrageous amounts. Yet there were always buyers.
And, added to that, was a lucrative kidnapping enterprise. In that context, the YouTube beheading videos could later be seen as strategic marketing, the likes of which a Steve Jobs would have applauded, were he, too, a terrorist.
ISIS had kidnapped literally several thousand foreigners, primarily petroleum workers, and was quietly ransoming them off to their respective countries, who were paying an additional roughly one million dollars per day.
All in all, this gave ISIS a slush fund in excess of one billion dollars, making it the wealthiest terrorist organization in history.
Thus, Sheikh Abu Ali decided to charge the same price he would have charged for a BMW, for the smuggling in of the two ISIS operatives.
Unlike what most perceived to be the custom in the Middle East, neither Al-Tikriti nor Kawasme hesitated, nor bargained. Their dream of conquest was about to become a reality. They would not quibble about price. The two devout Muslims paused in prayer. They washed their faces and their hands, their forearms up to the elbows. They passed wet hands over their heads, and washed their feet up to the ankles, in order to purify themselves. Then they offered up a prayer of thanksgiving.
The hour in which they would bring America to its knees, and displace Al Qaeda in terms of the number of Americans killed in a single attack was at hand. Allah be praised, and peace be unto his messenger!Back to the top
POTUS’ trip to Beverly Hills was to be a short one. Less than twenty-four hours. Jocelyne Kabila hated those kinds of trips. There was no time to see friends, or sights. No time to shop, even if the stores agreed to stay open privately for the First Lady, after hours. So, she opted to go to Chilmark, in Martha’s Vineyard, instead, with her son and daughter. The Hamptons were more the stomping grounds of Jamie and Edie Howell, though they were equally welcomed in the Vineyard. But it was as if a secret divorce settlement had been reached between the families of the former, and current Presidents. They simply could not stand one another. Sensibly, each had agreed tacitly to stay out of the others’ territory. Accordingly, the Hamptons became the province of the Howells, and the Vineyard became the retreat of choice for POTUS and FLOTUS. On those rare occasions in which FLOTUS was advised that the Howells were staying at the home of one of their East Coast literati, or West Coast glitterati friends, in the Vineyard, FLOTUS referred to the place as the Occupied Territories. Thankfully, Edie Howell had no intention of hitting the Vineyard this summer. Instead of dining on the vegan specialty of White Beans and Heirloom Grain Pilaf at The Chilmark Tavern, Edie Howell would be gazing at the Butter Cow, a life-sized sculpture of a bovine, with detailed veins bulging in the Butter Udder, while munching on deep-fried turkey legs in Iowa, trying to convince the locals she was just plain-folk, and worthy of the votes they had denied her, in her race against POTUS, six years before.
As for POTUS, he ambled out to Marine One with that strange, loose, strolling gait; a cross between faux ghetto, and movie star red carpet promenade. The ramrod-straight Marine sentry snappily saluted the Commander in Chief, and POTUS returned the salute with as much military flair as he could muster. He had, in fact, like Jamie Howell before him, practiced saluting in the mirror. It had to have that certain je ne sais quoi; a military bearing, yet, still, somehow, above it all, and oddly hip.
He did not pause at the top of the stair unit to wave to the entourage of press and staffers gathered on the White House lawn. It was too much of a Nixonian gesture. He contented himself instead with simply entering the helicopter. He nodded to the Marine aviators designated to pilot Marine One, who, rather than wearing flight suits, were dressed in Marine Blue Dress Charlie-Delta uniforms. Then he took the Presidential seat, and gave a brief, almost royal, wave of the hand, through the Presidential window, at the receding crowd, and then, majestically, ascended skyward.
Once airborne, Marine One was promptly joined by five identical helicopters, which began to shift in formation as a security measure, in order to obscure the location of the President. It was yet another Presidential shell game.
Within minutes, POTUS would disembark at Andrews Air Force Base, and board Air Force One. The Presidential 747 was, perhaps, along with the Marine Corps Band, the single perk which most occupants of the White House missed the most, once they were no longer in government housing.
Mallory Mohsen, who almost always accompanied POTUS on such fundraising events, was tasked this time with remaining behind, together with National Security Advisor Deborah Wheatley.
They met in Mohsen’s office, just down the hallway, and significantly closer to the Oval Office than Bo Fitzgerald’s ceremonial Vice Presidential digs, at the far end of the corridor. Here, Mohsen and Wheatley would spend the night, vetting all recommended personnel from each of the relevant agencies named by the President to form the powerless team which would travel to Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in order to evaluate the intelligence to be gleaned from the supposed ISIL operative, Yehyeh Al-Masri.
POTUS had two criteria for the team:
One, it had to be made up of people who were unquestionably top-flight in their respective fields, and
Two, the team itself had to be completely powerless.
Its point, after all, was to look absolutely credible on paper, while affording POTUS the opportunity to avoid making a meaningful decision.
In addition, there was a third, unspoken qualification for the makeup of the team.
It had to be both multicultural and multi-gendered. That meant, of the four members of the team; one from the FBI, one from the DEA, one from the active military, and one from the CIA, only one member could be a white male. Otherwise, there had to be a complete racial and gender balance.
Mohsen would have preferred that the CIA operative be a black female. After poring through the curricula vitae of various potential candidates, there did, indeed, seem to be a perfect black, female CIA operative. Sort of an African-American Valerie Plame. The problem was, she had just that morning been dispatched on assignment to Nigeria, to interview and debrief sixty-three women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Kumm Abza village in Northern Borno State on June 18.
Mohsen thought briefly about having CIA Agent Sana Johari recalled immediately, but then realized that this would surely incur the wrath of FLOTUS, who had distributed green “cause bracelets” to all White House staffers, emblazoned with the phrase “BRING BACK OUR GIRLS”.
That, combined with the celebrity-packed YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, meant that it would be more prudent for Mohsen to chew on a rusty razor blade, than to dare mess with FLOTUS’ current passion du jour.
The only other candidate who, on paper, seemed to fit the bill was a former CIA operative turned analyst, by the name of Tera Dayton. Dayton was thirty-five years old, certainly photogenic, if not downright beautiful from her file photo, with a PhD in Near-Eastern Studies from Harvard, a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University, and, unfortunately, a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty University, having been founded by that redneck, Bible-thumping bigot, Jerry Falwell, meant that Dayton, at least, in her undergraduate years, was a Born-Again Christian. Hopefully, she had gotten over it. She was, according to her file, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, with a specialty in counter-terrorism and Egyptian politics. Her career as a field operative had been cut short in May of 2011, when she was given medical leave for unspecified injuries suffered in a riot in Quetta, Pakistan. Since then, she had been working as an analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence, Office of Near-Eastern Analysis.
What Mohsen and Wheatley did not glean from her file was the fact that it had been altered by the legendary Clive Harriman Walker III, Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA, and a relative of both Averil Harriman and George Herbert Walker Bush, meaning his blood, in intelligence circles, was as blue as it got.
Harriman Walker III had a particular affection for Dayton. He regarded her, almost, as a surrogate daughter, and had personally recruited her while she was still pursuing her Master’s Degree at Georgetown, where Harriman served as a visiting professor. He brought her into the Agency, and encouraged her to pursue her PhD at Harvard on the Agency’s tab.
He was not disappointed.
Dayton combined a set of rare qualities. She was beautiful enough to make men do very foolish things in order to impress her. This was an almost indispensable quality in a female field operative. In addition, she was brilliant, with not only an almost photographic memory, but a superb analytical sense, which allowed her to connect the dots between disparate factions of little-known terrorist groups and the shadowy financial entities that backed them. In addition to this, she was utterly fearless, and a complete action junkie. She was thrilled by the adventure of it all. Finally, she possessed a religious fervor which, combined with a real sense of patriotism, meant that she would risk her life, willingly and repeatedly, in order to carry out whatever mission had been assigned to her.
In the spring of 2011, she was assigned as a paymaster working in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Working as a field operative, with the cover identity of a correspondent for a major news-gathering organization with whom the CIA had developed a long and special relationship of creating just such “legends”, Dayton had developed direct evidence that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Chief, Lieutenant General Achmed Shuja Pasha, had direct information about the location of Usama bin Laden. There were, in fact, numbers of informants, whom the CIA had been paying to ferret out, and confirm, the location of bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad.
Dayton continued in her undercover role as part of the CIA-led Operation Neptune’s Spear, which resulted in the assassination of Usama bin Laden by Navy SEAL Team Six, with the able assistance of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and fellow CIA operatives, like Dayton herself.
After the death of bin Laden, Dayton was dispatched to Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan Province, in central Pakistan. Quetta was known as the Fruit Garden of that country, due to the numerous and varied orchards in and around it.
It was also home to one of the CIA’s leading informants, for whom Dayton acted as paymaster.
Unfortunately, it was also base of operations for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in Quetta, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, whose members took to the streets, rioting at the news of bin Laden’s demise at the hands of SEAL Team Six.
When they saw Tera Dayton making her way back to the three-star Quetta Serena Hotel, at the corner of Zarghun and Concilgin Roads, the crowd of frenzied men surrounded her taxi, and pulled her from it. They did not see in her a CIA agent. They simply saw a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman, who was obviously somehow connected with the Great Satan, America, which had just killed The Sheikh, Usama bin Laden.
Clinging to her “legend”, Tera flashed her press credentials, and said, “Journalist!” first in English, and then, “lekhaki!” which meant “writer” in Urdu.
“Lekhaki!” The men shouted derisively at her.
“Kafir!” They shouted at her in Arabic, meaning “infidel”, and they began pulling at her.
They ripped off her head scarf, and tore at her long-sleeved blouse, which she had worn in keeping with the customs of modesty.
They ripped off its buttons.
They tore it away from her, as she screamed, shouting, “Limaadhaa?” “Why”, in Arabic.
The frenzied men, laughing and lustful now, mocked her accent, and shouted back at her, “limaadhaa, limaadhaa!”, and she recognized the Arabic word for “whore”, “sharmuta!” as they tore her brassiere away from her body.
She tried to cover her breasts with her hands, as one of the men spat on her, and another hit her with his fist.
Suddenly, a red slash of pain tore through her head as first one rock struck her, and then another, and she felt their hands ripping away at her long skirt, and then, at her underwear.
At first, she struggled to remain conscious, but then began to pray for another blow to the head, that would render her mercifully unable to see, or think, or feel. But, no such blow to her head followed. Only fists pummeling her body, and the knife held to her throat as she was carried into one of the fabled orchards of Quetta, the Fruit Basket of Baluchistan.
There, she was raped, and beaten, again and again and again, violated, spat upon, as they laughed, and cursed, and lusted.
All the while, she prayed for death that never came.
She prayed to her Lord and Savior to be saved. And salvation never came.
She prayed for an end to the seemingly endless pain and humiliation and terror, until their fury and lust were spent, and, with parting kicks, and spittle, and saying she was lucky they did not behead her as they had the American journalist, Daniel Pearl, or cut out her tongue, they left her naked and bleeding, in the fragrant orchard, staring up at a merciless heaven, in a growing pool of her own blood.
She did not remember how she made it back to the hotel; whether alone, or with the kindness of a stranger, whether naked, or clothed. Indeed, she did not remember the hotel. Her first real memory was of being in a hospital room, with the sounds of Urdu swirling around her, and the kindly face of Clive Harriman Walker III looking down at her, tears filling his eyes, trying to smile bravely.
Tera Dayton, however, neither smiled, nor cried.
She simply stared at the ceiling.
Abandoning her “legend” completely, Clive Harriman Walker III had a team of ten CIA operatives, all of them former SEALs, enter the hospital with weapons drawn. They took Tera Dayton, as gently and lovingly as only comrades in arms can, and took her, in an armored SUV, to a waiting chartered jet. There, CIA medical personnel tended to her on the flight back to Rhein-Main Air Force Base, just outside Frankfurt, Germany. Harriman Walker III insisted there be no debriefing there. He stayed with her every day at the base’s hospital where she was checked for AIDS, and other STDs, until, gradually, she began to speak once again, in the deadened voice of the truly traumatized.
He brought in DVDs of whole seasons of Seinfeld, which had been her favorite show.
She watched blankly the neuroses-filled antics of Jerry, George, Kramer, and Newman, until the episode in which Elaine’s boss forces her to go see The English Patient, and Elaine bursts out in the middle of the movie, “Quit telling your stupid story about the desert, and just die already! DIE!”
And then, Tera began to laugh; quietly at first, a chuckle, and then raucously, until, in the midst of the uncontrollable laughter, she was sobbing.
Within three months, however, back in the United States, and with her iron-like self-discipline, she willed herself back into the world of the living. At least, seemingly so. She was wise enough to know that she could no longer be a field operative, that she could no longer depend upon her nerves holding steady, that she could no longer find herself in a sea of Middle Eastern men without the growing and overpowering sense of total panic. But, still, she had that wonderful analytical mind, and the ability to connect the dots. Clive Harriman Walker III had her transferred to the Directorate of Intelligence, Office of Middle Eastern Analysis, and, to all outside appearances, she thrived there. There was, of course, the nickname she earned amongst her male colleagues: she was the Ice Queen, the beautiful, but unapproachable, woman. What they didn’t know, was how hard she struggled to keep from falling apart any time a man touched her arm. What they didn’t know, was that her sense of shame prevented her even from discussing her trauma with her pastor. There was no question that she would not seek a CIA psychiatrist. That, she rightly feared, could jeopardize, if not end, her career entirely, and her career was the only thing she had left to hold her together. And so, she began to drink herself to sleep each night with a secret flask of vodka.
She lived with the quiet terror, shame, and guilt that only a Born-Again Christian, living in sin and denial can know.
The irony, of course, was that Mallory Mohsen, looking at her file, pronounced that Tera Dayton was a perfect fit for the team.
Force Master Chief Petty Officer Darwin Washburn was the next to be picked by Wheatley and Mohsen. He was an anomaly in the Navy SEAL Teams.
He was black.
He had been in the Teams twenty years, and was referred to as a “Bull Frog”. As Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, he was widely regarded as the top enlisted authority on SpecOps capabilities in the US Military. His journey into the world of Naval Special Warfare Operations was an odd one, to say the least.
A native of Atlantic Avenue, near 4th Street, in Southeast Washington, DC, which consistently made the list of twenty-five most dangerous neighborhoods in America, the then twelve-year-old Darwin Washburn, Jr, had been watching Al Campanis being interviewed by Ted Koppel on the fortieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Major League Baseball debut. As Washburn recalled it, Koppel had asked the Dodgers’ General Manager why it was there were no black General Managers in Major League Baseball. Campanis said that it was because they didn’t have the necessities to be a General Manager. Sort of like the fact that blacks couldn’t swim, because they didn’t have the buoyancy.
It was at that point that Darwin Washburn, Jr. said bad things about Campanis’ mother, and told the televised image to perform a physically impossible act.
The next day, seething with anger, he presented himself at the local YMCA, announced his decision to become a Navy SEAL, and demanded to be taught how to swim.
Extraordinarily strong, and a gifted athlete, Washburn was, within one year, participating in, and winning, YMCA swim meets across the country. He balanced those activities with mastering the necessary survival skills one needed in order to stay alive on some of the meanest streets in America.
He dropped out of high school, got his GED, and never forgot his dream of becoming a Navy SEAL.
It was at that point in time that his cousin Darren, who had done time in a federal penitentiary for selling drugs across state lines, had told him about a guy he had met in the pen, a former Navy commander of SEAL Team Six, named Mark Dicek. Dicek had spent thirty years in the Navy, and had founded and commanded its most elite special ops team. He had, since his release from prison, written a New York Times best seller called Rogue Operator, and now ran a counterterrorism training school in Virginia. Darwin’s cousin, Darren, had the address and provided an introduction to his former cellmate, Commander Mark Dicek, winner of the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, and Bronze Star with Valor Device and three gold stars.
Washburn made his way through the Virginia countryside to Dicek’s home cum counterterrorism school, whimsically named Rogue Manor.
As he drove up the winding path to the large ramshackle home, he saw the hand-lettered sign, which read:
TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT
SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN
Armed with an appointment and letter of introduction, Washburn felt he was on safe ground.
At 8:00 that morning, he rang the doorbell of the aforementioned, imposing, Rogue Manor.
The door opened to reveal one of the largest and most intimidating white men Washburn had ever seen in his life. Dicek had black hair, down to his shoulders, and a bushy biker’s beard, and looked as if he could punch a hole in your chest, and rip out your still-beating heart.
“Mr. Dicek,” Washburn said, trying not to let his eighteen-year-old voice crack.
“Yeah,” said Dicek.
“I’m Darwin Washburn.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” said the former Navy SEAL, and convicted federal felon.
“I’m Darren Washburn’s cousin? He said he wrote you about me?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Dicek. “Come on in, kid, have a seat. You’re the one who wants to be in the Teams.”
“The Teams?” Washburn said.
“You want to be a Navy SEAL. A Sea-Air-Land Warrior. That’s what we call ‘Being In The Teams’,” said Dicek, with ill-concealed disgust and impatience.
“Yes, Sir,” Darwin answered.
“And why, exactly, is that?” asked the Rogue Special Operator.
“Because Al Campanis said black people can’t swim.”
“Can they?” Dicek asked.
“I can,” Washburn said, looking Dicek straight in the eyes.
“So, why don’t you take that up with Campanis? What are you busting my balls for?”
“Campanis can’t help me become a SEAL, Sir.”
Dicek just looked at him.
“You want a beer, Derek?”
“Darwin,” said Dicek,. “You want a beer?”
“Are you having one, Sir?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Dicek, pulling out a sixteen-ounce can of Colt .45 Malt Liquor. “Wanna brewski?”
“Darn straight,” said Washburn.
“Then crack a goldie on me, kid,” Dicek said, and tossed him a can.
Three six-packs later, Darwin Washburn was completely blitzed, and Mark Dicek was as steady as a rock.
“Would you like to try to shoot my counterinsurgency course?” Dicek asked.
“You have a counter’surgency course?”
“Absolutely”, Dicek said. “Come with me, kid, let’s see what you’re made of.”
So saying, Mark Dicek led a none-too-steady Darwin Washburn through the woods, up a rise, into a full-scale, special ops counterinsurgency course. Mark’s number two, Harry Andrews, was running some trainees through the course of pop-up targets. These were men who wanted to find work as independent contractors in foreign lands, where the US government did not like to have uniformed American personnel. Most were veterans of police departments, or various units of the military.
“Clear the course,” Dicek said to Andrews. “We have a distinguished visitor. A close, personal friend of Al Campanis, who is about to demonstrate his prowess with the firearm of his choice.” Dicek turned to Washburn. “What would you like, Derek?” he said.
“Darwin, Sir,” said Washburn.
“…A .45, or a Glock 9mm?” said Dicek, ignoring Washburn’s correction of his given name.
“Uh…” said Darwin.
“I don’t have an ‘Uh’,” said Dicek. “I’ve got a .45, or a Glock 9mm.”
“Glock,” said Darwin.
“Give my man a Glock,” said Mark Dicek to Harry Andrews.
Now, there were three things in life which Darwin Washburn knew how to do really well. One was swim. One was shoot a Glock 9mm. And the other would win him the affections, if not downright admiration, of numbers of women around the world – including, but not limited to, his soon-to-be wife, LaDonna.
“The course is simplicity, itself,” Dicek explained. “There will be a series of rooms, which you will have to clear. Various and sundried targets will pop up. Some will be of bad guys; others will be of terrified hostages. You can, if you’d like, shoot them all, just to be on the safe side, but that would reveal an undiscerning eye. In addition, this is a timed course. There are fifty-three targets, which you will be expected to shoot. Each magazine contains seventeen rounds of ammunition, and you will be given four to complete the course. Here is your weapon. Here are the spare clips. You will commence at Mr. Andrews’ command. Go with God, my son.”
Andrews counted down from five, clicked a stopwatch, and a very drunken Darwin Washburn entered the first of twenty different scenario rooms, each of which would contain a number of “Bad Guy” pop-up targets.
There is an old saying amongst Olympic trap shooters. Olympic trap is one of the most demanding of all shooting events. The saying is, “shoot with your eyes, not with the gun.” What it means is you must learn to be an instinctive shooter, if you are to survive. Unlike the art of the sniper, it is not a matter of careful aim and fire in between heartbeats to minimize gun movement. It is fire in motion. It is run and gun, with the weapon sweeping from target to target. Aim is important, of course, but it must be intuitive, and not studied, for while you are studying, your opponent will be shooting, and you will be dead.
Had Darwin Washburn been stone-cold sober, he probably would have done poorly on the demanding course. But, it was as if the alcohol liberated him from all hesitation and thought processes, and allowed him to shoot almost out of his subconscious, in a completely instinctual manner.
He aced the course.
All fifty three targets, dead center-mass.
And he had done so in near-record time.
“Judas H. Priest!” Dicek bellowed. “Did you pukes see what this child of the ghetto just did? Cursed! Verily, I say, cursed be Al Campanis, and the horse he rode in on!”
He crossed over to Darwin Washburn, and relieved him of the 9mm and spent clips. He did not congratulate Darwin, did not pat him on the back, nor award him a certificate of merit. He simply said, “Derek, would you like to drive my amphibious vehicle?”
“Do you have an amphibious vehicle, sir?” Washburn asked.
“Well, sure,” said Dicek, as if that were a foregone conclusion.
Dicek led Washburn to his amphibious vehicle, which he joyously piloted through the marshy land, the long way back to Rogue Manor, where Mark Dicek, founder and first commander of SEAL Team Six, personally wrote out a workout regimen for Darwin Washburn, whom he continued to call “Derek” for the next twenty years. One year later, Darwin Washburn had a golden trident pinned to his Dress Whites.
By the time he was selected by Mohsen and Wheatley, he had spent almost twenty years in the Teams.
Raul Peña was thirty-two years of age, a New Mexico born-and-raised DEA agent. He was movie star handsome, completely fearless, and a total action junkie, which trait, would spark an immediate attraction to Tera Dayton. This would, in turn, be noted with a good deal of disapproval by Darwin Washburn, who, like any sailor, realized that women were trouble aboard ship, especially with guys like Peña around.
What neither he, nor Tera Dayton, nor Deborah Wheatley, nor Mallory Mohsen knew, however, was that Peña possessed a secret which, like Washburn’s fixation on Al Campanis, had led Raul Peña to become a deep-cover DEA agent.
Like many New Mexico-born natives, Peña was raised speaking a peculiar dialect of Spanish that dated back to the time of the Conquistadors, from which many native-born New Mexicans were, in fact, descended. Thus, in order to blend in with the thugs of the cartels in Old Mexico, Peña had to, in effect, learn what was, for him, an almost foreign language.
But, then, in a sense, there was nothing new in that.
For Raul Peña had been a spy his entire life.
So had his parents.
And their parents before them.
At an early age, Peña became painfully aware that there was something different about his family. They were raised in the tiny Northern New Mexico village of Abiquiu, about an hour north of Santa Fe, and around thirty miles south of the equally small village of Chama, and eighteen miles south of Ghost Ranch. It had a rugged beauty not unlike that of the Red Rock country of Sedona, Arizona. It was, in fact, that beauty, which drew to it the famous painter, Georgia O’Keefe, who immortalized the landscape locals called Plaza Blanca, the White Place.
Abiquiu was a village of only some two hundred souls, ninety percent of whom were Hispanic. In such a place as that, everyone knew each other’s business. Everyone knew what color underwear you had, and how, and when, it was soiled.
Gossip in such a place is not only a unifying factor, but a ruling one. Ancient communities have ancient superstitions. And Abiquiu was nothing, if not ancient, tracing the roots of most of its inhabitants back to the very first Spanish explorers of North America.
The superstitions ran the gamut of all provincial and long-isolated communities.
“Beware of this one; her grandmother was a bruja, a witch!”
“Beware of that; he has mal de ojo, the evil eye!”
“Beware of those, because, somehow, they are not like us. Somehow, they are different.” And, being different, they are to be feared. And, being feared, they are to be despised.
So it was with the family of Raul Peña.
They had odd customs.
Like virtually everyone else in their village, they were Catholic. Indeed, the adobe church in the center of town dominated the village and its life, physically, socially and spiritually. Every Sunday, virtually the entire village filled the pews of the seemingly unassuming edifice. Mass and Sacrament were as much a part of the fabric of life as bread and water. And Peña’s family dutifully attended.
Yet, there were things about them that set them apart from their neighbors. Peña’s Abuelita, Sara, lit candles on Friday nights.
When someone died in their family, they covered the mirrors.
Unlike their neighbors, they refrained from eating pork.
And, one day a year, in the early autumn, they fasted.
All of these things were done in secret, hidden from their neighbors’ prying eyes, and never explained to their children.
Still, they were felt by all the other villagers in Abiquiu, and thus, the Peñas were shunned.
The daughters of the village were warned away from the sons of the Peña family.
Then, on Raul’s fifteenth birthday, his Abuelita, Sara, suffered a fatal heart attack. As she was dying, she called her children and grandchildren around her. It was time to reveal the family secret, just as it had been revealed to her upon the death of her Abuela, Raquel.
They were Jews.
More specifically, Cripto Judíos, Hidden Jews. Their family had escaped the Spanish Inquisition, by traveling with the Conquistadors to the New World. Anything, even a wild land full of untamed savages, was preferable to the rack, or being burnt at the stake.
But the Inquisition had followed them from the Old World, to the New, and its officers set up their hunt for Los Moranos, those Jews who, on the surface, had converted to Catholicism, but continued secretly to follow the religion of Moses. And so, those hidden Jews, those Cripto Judíos, pushed Northward into New Mexico, and tried to blend in, and secrecy became, not just a part of their religion, and their life, but the very core of it. It was not that they were living a lie, it was that, like spies, or DEA Agents posing to be drug runners, they were living undercover. It was the perfect training ground for a secret agent.
Indeed, Peña had dreamed of becoming a CIA operative, not unlike Tera Dayton, but that was something which was reserved for college boys, and college was not something within Raul Peña’s reach. His family lived below the poverty line, and then there was something else, as well. The nearest medium-sized town to Abiquiu was Española. It was where you went for groceries, or the coin-op laundry, and was known as the Low-Rider Capital of New Mexico. If Harvard and Yale were the recruiting grounds for the CIA, then Española was the fertile soil in which future DEA agents were hatched. Raul Peña vowed to get as far away from Abiquiu as was humanly possible, and the DEA was the low-rider that would take him there.
He, too, had Wheatley and Moseley’s stamp of approval.
Now, all they needed was a white guy.
They did not need just any white guy. They needed a pliable one. One who could be counted on if the fahzool hit the fan, to dutifully clean it up. To take one for the team. To manage whatever cover-up became necessary. And cover-ups, in government work, were almost always necessary.
Clint McKeever was a fifty-year-old Irish, lapsed Catholic, FBI counter-terrorist senior Special Agent. His identical twin, Bud McKeever, was also an FBI counter-terrorist agent. But, it was Clint whose career had outpaced that of his nine-minutes-younger brother. His career had taken off not so much because of the cases that he had successfully cracked. His career had taken off, because he was the Bureau’s go-to guy when it came to covering for the foul-ups and conspiracies, the bureaucratic mishandlings, and sometimes just plain incompetence, which had cost thousands of people their lives, and weighed down heavily on the conscience of Clint McKeever.
In the opening hours of the Oklahoma City bombing, for instance, two suspects were identified, and composite drawings were made of them. The drawings were widely disseminated through the press, and on local and national television news programs. The two suspects pictured in the composite drawings were labeled “John Doe Number One”, and “John Doe Number Two.”
John Doe Number One bore a striking resemblance to the man who would shortly be arrested for what was, at the time, the worst terrorist attack ever perpetrated on American soil. He was tall, Anglo-Saxon in appearance, with a long, thin face, and a crew cut, and his composite drawing was so exact that no one had a problem matching it with Timothy McVeigh.
John Doe Number Two, on the other hand, was short, stocky, dark-skinned, with a roundish face, jet-black hair, and appeared to be of Hispanic, Filipino, or Middle Eastern extraction.
Indeed, within one day of the Oklahoma City Bombing, the FBI had taken statements from no less than twenty-four witnesses, who had seen John Doe Number One, Timothy McVeigh, in the company of the man they recognized from the composite drawing, who appeared to be of Mexican, Filipino, or Middle Eastern origin, and who was called, John Doe Number Two.
The witnesses placed John Doe Number One and John Doe Number Two, together, in Oklahoma City the night before the bombing, the morning of the bombing, on the way to, at the scene of, and fleeing from the Murrah Federal Building. In fact, two separate witnesses had seen John Does Number One and Two exiting the Ryder truck minutes before it exploded, killing 168 people, and injuring 680 others. Nineteen of the victims were children, and three were pregnant women. The victims ranged in age from three months, to seventy-three years.
McVeigh had been arrested within ninety minutes of the explosion. He had been stopped by an Oklahoma State Trooper for driving without a license plate. The Trooper then noticed the weapon sitting on the seat next to him, and McVeigh was arrested for unlawfully carrying same. The VIN number of the Ryder truck was recovered, which led to the agency from which the truck had been rented, and quickly linked Timothy McVeigh, and a Kansas farmer named Terry Nichols, to the bombing.
There was only one problem. While Timothy McVeigh was an exact match for John Doe Number One, Terry Nichols looked nothing at all like the composite drawing of John Doe Number Two. He was tall, where John Doe Number Two was short. His hair was thinning, where John Doe Number Two’s was thick and black. Nichols wore glasses. John Doe Two did not. Nichols was white-complected, whereas John Doe Number Two was dark-skinned. Terry Nichols was the quintessential WASP, and John Doe Two was either Mexican, Filipino, or Middle Eastern.
To make matters worse, the night manager and handyman at a motel some ten minutes outside of Oklahoma City clearly recognized Timothy McVeigh, and John Doe Number Two, as being in the presence of six other, clearly Middle Eastern, men.
Indeed, a gas station attendant vividly recalled John Doe Number Two pulling up in a Ryder truck, and in a thick, Middle Eastern accent, demanding fifty dollars’ worth of diesel fuel, which he paid for in cash. The service station employee told John Doe Number Two that he would certainly sell him the diesel fuel, but that the Ryder truck that John Doe number two was driving did not take diesel; it took unleaded gasoline. John Doe Number Two angrily demanded the fifty dollars’ worth of diesel. The gas station attendant turned on the pump, and watched as John Doe Number Two opened up the back of the truck, and pumped the diesel fuel not into the gas tank, but into waiting fifty gallon drums.
The bomb, which exploded the Ryder truck and the Murrah Building, was composed of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel.
Clearly, the Justice Department had a problem.
They had arrested two white suspects, and neither of them matched the description of the man twenty-four witnesses had placed in the company of Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City.
They had two solutions to their quandary, from which to choose. They could either say that they had caught two white guys, but that up to six Middle Eastern terrorists had gotten away, and thus, they had failed to catch the perpetrators of the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States, or they could declare victory, and say the two white guys had acted alone.
As for John Doe Number Two, that was a mistake.
There was no John Doe Number Two.
He had never existed.
The person they chose to institute the cover up, to make John Doe Number Two disappear, to dissuade or discredit witnesses, and, in one case, to destroy the career of a brother FBI agent, who was not willing to comply with the cover up, was none other than Clint McKeever.
It would not be McKeever’s first cover up, and, God help him, it would not be his last. Thus, McKeever, too, became a secret drunk.
But as far as Wheatley and Mohsen were concerned, Clint McKeever was, as well, a perfect fit for the team.
The irony, of course, was they had just put together a team of some of the most deeply flawed individuals imaginable.
While National Security Advisor Advisor Deborah Wheatley, and Senior Political Advisor Mallory Mohsen were putting together a team, which, technically, did not exist, to vet intelligence from a source POTUS was determined to ignore, in order to postpone a decision the President was loathe to make, Major Dani Kahan, a forty-four-year-old, American born, Israeli raised, IDF intelligence officer, assigned to the elite Givati Brigade, was scouring the rugged hillsides of the Judean Desert, near the ancient Biblical city of Hebron. He and his men were part of the massive effort to locate the three Israeli schoolboys who had been kidnapped a little over two weeks before.
They were searching near the village of Halhul, just north of Hebron. Kahan saw something which, to his trained eye, simply didn’t look right. He had with him an Israeli Army Bedouin tracker. He nodded in the direction of a small rise.
“Khaled,” he said to the tracker. “What do you think?”
Khaled took one look at the place Dani indicated, saw plants that looked out of place, and moved them away, revealing a small pile of rocks that seemed hastily arranged.
Slowly and carefully, Khaled and Dani Kahan approached the scene, looking for tripwires of possible booby traps. It was certainly not out of the question that Hamas, which was the prime suspect in the boys’ abduction, would arrange what looked like a hastily-dug grave, and then lace it with IEDs, which would blow apart the torsos of any Israeli forces not professional enough to detect them. So, Dani and Khaled moved slowly and methodically, telling the rest of their men to take up defensive positions, in case this were an IED, coupled with an ambush. The Bedouin tracker saw no signs of tripwires, while Dani removed a probe from his sixty-pound pack, and began carefully inserting it every few inches, looking for pressure plates of improvised explosive devices that could kill them both. When both he, and the tracker, were satisfied that no such devices were to be found, they began slowly removing the rocks. Then, they saw the maggots. And then, the decomposing skulls of the teenage boys, each of whom had been shot numerous times in the backs of their heads.
Dani radioed in the information, and, within minutes, agents of Israel’s Shin Bet, or, Security Services, the domestic counterpart to Israel’s vaunted Mossad, were on the scene.
For the past two weeks, a frantic manhunt, one of the largest in the history of the Israeli army, had been conducted throughout the West Bank, in search of the three missing boys.
In truth, however, it was not so much a search for the boys, as it was both a search for their bodies, and a chance to break up Hamas’ infrastructure throughout the West Bank.
In 2005, Israel had withdrawn all of its troops, and uprooted all of its settlements, in a unilateral move to end its occupation of the Gaza Strip. It left the area to the troops of the Palestine Authority, in what had become known as “the Gaza First Policy”. The notion initiated by Israel’s ultra-right-wing Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was enthusiastically embraced by Israel’s left-wing parties. The idea was, if disengagement, and the end of the occupation could work first in Gaza, it could be a template for the end of the occupation in the West Bank, and the creation of a Palestinian State, living side by side, and in peace with Israel.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be a pipe dream. In short order, Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that was dedicated to reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate of a thousand years before, seized power, in a bloody coup, from their secular rivals of the Fatah Party. They machine gunned almost two hundred of them, lined them up against walls, and gunned them down, blindfolded and bound them, and pushed them to their deaths from high-rise buildings, and shot the kneecaps off those whom they did not murder. For Hamas, the destruction of Israel was simply a stepping stone to the establishment of the Islamic State. For Hamas, it was not the West Bank that was occupied territory, nor even Tel Aviv. For Hamas, Spain was occupied territory. And now, they were rising to power in the West Bank, as well.
Thus, Prime Minister Kivi Natanel seized upon the kidnapping of the three Israeli schoolboys, as an opportunity to uproot Hamas from the West Bank, arresting some four hundred Hamas operatives in the process. Hamas, in turn, had begun launching rockets against Israel, from Gaza, and tensions were already at a fever pitch.
Now, the bodies of the three murdered boys had been found, and identified, and their families notified of their deaths.
The Jews of Israel, like their biblical counterparts, were a stiff-necked and quarrelsome people, almost always at each-other’s throats; secular against religious, left wing against right wing, Jews of Middle Eastern origin against Jews of European origin. But, for over two weeks, the country was united in anxiety and prayer for the missing schoolboys.
And now, they were united in grief, and rage.
Prime Minister Natanel called an emergency session of his security cabinet, and spoke to the press before it began.
“This evening,” he said, “members of our security forces found three bodies, and all the signs indicate that they are the bodies of our three kidnapped youngsters.”
There were audible gasps among the members of the press, as the rumors that had begun to circulate were confirmed by the Prime Minister.
“Hamas is responsible,” he said, “and Hamas will pay. These boys were kidnapped, and murdered in cold blood by human animals. Satan, himself, has not yet invented the vengeance for the blood of a child.”
All across the country, there were spontaneous outpourings of grief. Memorial candles were lit in the square named after slain Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin. Israel’s left-wing, ninety-year-old president summed up the country’s emotions, by saying, “All of Israel bows its head today, in grief…”
At the conclusion of the meeting of Israel’s security cabinet, the Prime Minister, without hesitation, gave the green light to the targeted assassination of seven Hamas leaders, via an airstrike, to be carried out by the Israel Air Force, on targets in the Gazan village of Khan Younis. They had real-time, actionable intelligence, and, unlike POTUS, no committee was formed to verify it. They knew where the operatives were, and they were going to kill them.
At Netivim air base the call came in from the “Pit”, the main war room in the Kirya, Israel’s version of the Pentagon. The call was for two air crews to be scrambled immediately. They would be flying two F15I Ra’am aircraft. These were the two-seater, Israeli-modified versions of the American F15 Strike Eagle.
Unlike the Americans, the Israelis could not afford a fighter plane designed as a designated bomber or interceptor. Its planes had to be both unbeatable in a dogfight and able to bomb the eyes out of a snake at altitude. The Israeli version could not only rule the skies with eight air to air missiles. But the Israelis, not wanting to place all their faith in Buck Rogers technology, had also insisted upon a twenty millimeter Gatling gun, which could fire a hundred rounds per second. In addition the F15I could also carry a full load of bombs, with a navigator to guide each precision guided weapon to its target, be it a few minutes away in Gaza, or in the Ayatollah’s bathtub, in Iran.
Kadosh Mintz, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, took his seat in the war room, as did Kobi Golan, The Defense Minister, and Major General Rahm Efron, Commander of The Israel Air Force. They would all sign off on the final decision to hit the target, which in this case consisted of seven senior Hamas operatives, meeting in what they thought of as a safe-house, in Gaza.
The green light was given to start engines.
When eyes on the site indicated no civilians were present, a second green light was given for takeoff.
The lead pilot switched from Tower to Tactical Controller and within minutes both planes were over their targets. The navigator in Eshkol 1, the lead aircraft, keyed the mike on the squadron radio and gave the code word, “Hammer”, indicating she had ID’d her target, and was illuminating it with the laser designator in her LITENING targeting pod.
In addition, an IAF Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle hovered above the target, sweeping its sensors in search of any tell-tale signs of uninvolved civilians.
Still good to go.
As they approached the target, both Eshkol One, and Eshkol Two, signaled the Controller that each had locked on to their targets. As the range to target on the Multi-Functional Heads-Up Displays counted down, each navigator said the silent prayer that all pilots have prayed since the days of Chuck Yeager. “Dear Lord, please don’t let me foul up!”
The Controllers relayed their final status reports and clearance requests to the “Pit”. Then the Chief of Staff of The Israel Defense Forces and the Commander of the Air Force looked at their monitors one last time, consulted with their aides, and then gave the final okays.
The code word “Anvil” was flashed to Eshkol One and Two, and the pilots pressed the “pickle” button on their joysticks, each releasing their four 500-pound bombs, as a new countdown began. The “Time To Go Until Impact” was displayed on the Heads-Up MFD. Each navigator held their cursor on the precise spot of their target, hoping there would be no last minute call that civilians were present, meaning they would have to “drag” the bomb off target to harmlessly explode in a pre-designated open area.
No last minute abort order came in.
The countdowns flashed Zero.
Then, the screens filled with blinding light and smoke, as the first four bombs hit their targets, followed by four more precision-guided weapons from the second F-15I. And seven Hamas senior leaders had an opportunity to see if the seventy-two almond-eyed virgins thing was true or not, as the air crews turned for home.
Within an hour, CNN was reporting the bombing, Israel was confirming that it had carried out the targeted assassination of seven terrorist commanders, and Hamas was declaiming yet another genocidal attack on the helpless Palestinian people.
But for Dani Kahan, it was not as simple as the usual Hamas Kabuki dance of victimhood. Hamas, he knew, was brutal, genocidal, imperialistic, theocratic, and fascistic, but they were not irrational. There was always a logic to what they did, and how they did it, and when they did it.
If they knew anything at all about Israel, it was that children were its soft spot. Hamas’ founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, before the Israel Defense Force had arranged for him to meet his very own seventy-two almond-eyed virgins in Paradise, had summed up Hamas’ extremely accurate differentiation between themselves, and the Israelis:
“The Israelis,” he said, “love life more than any other people on earth. We worship death.”
And of all the lives that Israelis loved, it was the lives of their children that meant the most to them. It was absolutely Israel’s weak spot. They could not tolerate casualties, especially the deaths of children. And, since everyone’s son or daughter served in the military, they were casualty-averse even when it came to the Israeli Army. How much more so, then, when it came to the lives of schoolboys?
No one needed to instruct Dani in this basic truth. He knew it in the marrow of his bones. It visited him each sleepless night, in the nightmare visions of his son and ex-wife being blown apart in a pizza parlor in Jerusalem, in 2001.
So, why would Hamas kidnap, and immediately kill, three schoolboys, knowing full well that Israel’s response would be a vengeance that not even Satan had yet created?
Kidnapping, in the Middle East, was a way of life. One kidnapped hostages to gain the release of one’s own hostages. Thus, Hamas had kidnapped a nineteen-year-old Israeli soldier, named Gilad Shalit. And so high was the price that Israel put on the lives of its sons and daughters, that it released one thousand captured Hamas terrorists, for the release of one kidnapped Israeli soldier.
In 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War, Israel had released hundreds of convicted terrorists, simply for the bodies of two slain Israeli soldiers, which had been spirited away by Hezbollah operatives for precisely such a trade.
Knowing all that, why would Hamas not kidnap, and hold, the three schoolboys, and then demand the release of three thousand imprisoned terrorists? If one nineteen-year-old soldier yielded a thousand returned prisoners, what could they not then get for three imprisoned schoolboys?
It made no sense. The only sense it could possibly make was if the object of the kidnappings and murders was not for the release of hostages, but to initiate a war.
And why would Hamas initiate a war against a technologically superior force like the IDF, unless they thought they possessed some new secret weapon, some surprise, which they believed would allow them to win it?
As Dani Kahan was sharing those musings with no one but himself, Khaled Kawasme, The Engineer, and Abdul Aziz Al-Tikriti, the Sword of Islam, the two most dangerous ISIS terrorists in the world, were meeting in Gaza with the leader of the military wing of Hamas, Yasser Darwish. They were celebrating the discovery of the bodies of the Israeli schoolboys, and indeed, the Israeli air strike which would provide them the public relations excuse for a new war.
Now, it would begin, both for Hamas, and for ISIS.
For Hamas, the Divine Victory against the Zionist Occupier was at hand.
And, for ISIS, the final countdown to the attack that would supplant 9/11 as the most catastrophic blow against the Great Satan of America had finally begun.Back to the top
Hamas’ main command and control bunker, unlike the supposed safe house, which proved to be less than safe for the now dead Hamas commanders, was absolutely impervious to Israeli air attack. This was so for two reasons. The first was that it was located deep underground, with a five story building on top of it.
The second reason was that the five story building in question was, in fact, a hospital.
The great irony, which almost always brought a smile to the lips of Yasser Darwish, was that it was the Israelis themselves who had built the beginnings of the complex of bunkers beneath Building #2 of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital. They had done so in 1983, in order to create an underground operating theater and patient facilities which would be impervious to Palestinian terrorist attacks, or resistance actions, depending on what side of the suicide bomb you happened to find yourself. All this was at the height of the Israeli occupation, when the hospital was meant to treat not only Palestinian civilians, but to provide immediate care for severely wounded Israeli soldiers, as well.
Hamas, after having gunned down their Fatah rivals during their coup in 2007, engaged in one of their first acts of civic improvement: a major construction project at Shifa Hospital. None of it had anything to do with patient care. Instead, they enlarged the original Israeli underground facility, and built a huge command and control bunker, as well as luxurious, secure living spaces in which all of the Hamas elite could hide comfortably in times of the wars they were planning to initiate against Israel.
There was a very conscious decision, on the other hand, not to provide shelters for ordinary Gazans above ground.
This became part of what was later referred to, even amongst themselves, as “The Dead Baby” strategy.
The modern “Dead Baby Strategy” was born in 2002, during Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield, in the West Bank. This full-scale reoccupation of the West Bank came in response to a wave of suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, culminating in what the Jews called, “The Passover Massacre”.
The “Passover Massacre” was a modest affair, as our more contemporary massacres go. Still, it killed a respectable number of the Zionist enemy. A Palestinian suicide bomber, Abdel-Basset Odeh, disguised as a religious Jewish woman, detonated himself at a Passover Seder, at the Park Hotel in the Israeli seaside town of Netanya. Thirty Israelis were killed during the holiday celebration, and another 140 wounded.
Some of the victims were Holocaust survivors.
Those killed ranged from twenty years of age, to ninety.
Numbers of married couples were killed together, which was either a blessing, or a curse, depending upon one’s point of view. All, however, agreed that the father who was killed alongside his daughter, could only be seen as a tragedy.
Israel responded to the “Passover Massacre” by re-occupying the West Bank, especially the refugee camp in Jenin, which proudly called itself “The Suicide Bombing Capital of the world”.
Dani Kahan, who’d returned from Hawaii to become the Intel Officer for the reserve Paratroop Battalion that went into Jenin, vividly recalled the posters that lined the walls of the small town of cinderblock houses, which was still referred to as a refugee camp, conjuring up images of long gone tents and soup kitchens, some half a century after its founding, and the tent city’s demise.
At first, he thought the posters that lined the walls of Jenin were for cheesy Arabic action films. Each one featured a Palestinian warrior with a Rambo headband, crossed bandoliers, and an AK 47. But the posters that were on and inside virtually every home, were not of young Palestinian would-be Stallones or Schwarzeneggers. They were all suicide bombers whom, it was fervently hoped for in Jenin, were now enjoying the favors of the seventy-two promised virgins. These holy “martyrs” were responsible for killing some one thousand Israelis, including Dani’s ex-wife and nine-year-old son, who had been ripped to shreds by sixty nails that tore through his body, two of which lodged in his brain, which turned out, Dani supposed, to be some sort of blessing, because his son was burned over sixty percent of his body as well. Unfortunately, his ex-wife, Anat, a sweet girl, whose only fault that day was in succumbing to her son’s desire for a slice of pizza, lingered to watch her child die in front of her, before she succumbed to her own wounds.
The perpetrator of the suicide bombing was the twenty-five year old son of the wealthiest restaurant owner in the city of Jenin, which bordered the camp. His name decorated every home in the area referred to as the refugee camp. Ahmed Ahmal Al Shukeri was their favorite son.
Al Shukeri was escorted to the restaurant by an attractive, twenty-year-old Hamas activist, who disguised herself as an Israeli college student. Her name was Leila Dahlan. She was one of the one thousand terrorists released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. After her release, she gave an interview on Al Jazeera, in which she stated that she had made her escape from the scene of the bombing by taking an Arab bus near the Damascus gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The driver had the radio on, she said. As the first news reports of the suicide bombing came on, everyone started congratulating each other. “They didn’t even know each other, yet they were exchanging greetings, you know, as if our football team had just won a championship. When I heard the first reports and they said only three had been killed I was grief-stricken, but as the death toll rose to eight, I couldn’t hide my smile. And when they said fifteen were killed, I said, ‘Allah be praised’.”
No matter how much he drank, Dani could never stop hearing her voice in his head from that interview, after she was released. And in Jenin, in 2002, everywhere he looked, he saw the Rambo pose of the heroic martyr, who had ripped his tender young son’s body to shreds.
The battle to clean the terrorists out of Jenin was a difficult one. Twenty-three Israelis were killed and fifty-two Palestinians, of which over forty were wearing combat boots and had weapons next to them.
It was a battle the terrorists had prepared for, well in advance. Indeed, in retrospect, Dani suspected the suicide bombing in Netanya was carried out precisely to suck the Israelis into “The Suicide Bombing Capital of The World” in order to grind up the Israeli troops they knew would be brought in to retake the terrorist enclave.
The refugee camp had been largely evacuated of civilians before the Israeli forces arrived. After that, almost every room of every house in the center of the rabbit warren of streets that made up the “camp” was booby trapped. To that generation of terrorists’ credit, the “Dead Baby Strategy” had not yet become a matter of doctrine. Indeed, when compared to today’s breed of terrorist, they appeared almost quaint in their adherence to a certain ethical creed, which dictated that they first evacuated their civilians from the battlefield they had prepared, in which they intended to defeat the Zionist forces.
Now, in almost any Western army in the world, to say nothing of the armies of non-Western countries, when you have an area that has been clearly identified as a terrorist enclave, and in fact bills itself, proudly, as the Suicide Bombing Capital of the World, you flatten it.
You can do that in a variety of ways, all of which are, more or less, equally effective. You can bomb it out of existence, either with air assets, or heavy artillery, or you can bring in tanks. Usually you do all three, which is euphemistically referred to as “softening the target”, before you send in light infantry to mop up what’s left.
But Israel, even in 2002, knew it had to play by a different set of rules, knew that it would be judged as a war criminal for the exact actions carried out by the armies of those who would judge her.
Thus there was no “softening” of the target. No air strikes. No bombardment of 155 mm howitzers, and no tanks. This was not entirely done out of public relations, nor for humanitarian concerns. There was a certain amount of hubris or arrogance involved, as well. Israel had been going after wanted terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza for years. These operations were seen as “policing” actions, rather than war. Israeli special operators staged raids on an ongoing basis in the West Bank, surrounding the houses of “wanted” men, and arresting, or killing them, should they be foolish enough to offer resistance.
There was a difference, the Israelis reasoned, between terrorists and armies. They had contempt for the former, and respect for the latter’s abilities. What they had not yet imagined was the hybrid that was now in its embryonic stages; a terrorist army.
Thus, without softening up the target, they sent light infantry into the Jenin Refugee Camp. As an intelligence officer, Dani blamed himself for part of the hubris. But that was only part of the sin of which he was guilty.
He wanted revenge.
He wanted, personally, to kill the men who had sent Al Shukeri and Dahlan into Jerusalem, and murdered his ex-wife and nine-year-old son. The words of King David’s lament after the death of his son rang incessantly in his brain. O Absalom, my son, my son, would that I had died in your place, my son, Absalom, my son, my son!
And, not having died in his place, Dani would now kill, to avenge him, instead.
As many as he could.
He prayed for it.
There is a Rabbinic tale, that says hatred is like holding boiling water in your hands, hoping to find the person you want to throw it on.
It ends up burning you, instead.
So it was in Jenin. Through a combination of disdain, underestimating the enemy, hubris, and a desire for revenge, Israel sent in a reservist battalion of paratroopers. Thirty- five and forty-year-old married men, some with pot bellies, some who hadn’t trained in far too long a time, without softening the target, they sent them, marching like idiots, into the Suicide Bombing Capital of The World, the “refugee camp” in Jenin.
They knew the names of the terrorists they were after. This would be an arrest operation like hundreds of others before it. They entered the city of Jenin in Armored Personnel Carriers, and like ninteenth century dragoons who rode horses to the scenes of battle and then DISMOUNTED, and fought on foot, they went walking into the terrorist army’s lair.
Contrary to what had actually happened, Dani and other senior intel officers assumed the camp was still heavily populated with civilians. This was another reason for sending in light infantry and working slowly, house by house. They were seeking to avoid large-scale civilian casualties, which they were sure would occur if they deployed artillery and armor.
Ironically, after the battle you could see that not even a flowerpot was out of place on the porches of the suburban homes of the city of Jenin, outside the camp. The Israelis had parked their Armored Personnel Carriers, dismounted, and not so much as touched a one of those houses, because they knew that none of the men they were looking for were inside of them. The terrorists they were after were in the “camp”.
There was a main road that skirted the camp and then made a sharp right turn into an alleyway, which lead into the heart of it. They had no idea it was, in fact, neither a camp, nor a city, but a meticulously prepared battlefield.
A D9 armored Caterpillar bulldozer was sent in to widen the alleyway to clear a pathway for tanks or APCs if that became necessary, and to detonate any booby traps which might be present. It was accompanied by an Israeli-made Merkava III tank.
As the Reserve Battalion Intel officer, Dani rode in the armored cabin of the D9, pointing out the way from the map he had been issued in the briefing the night before. Suddenly, they were taking fire from every rooftop. At first, it was the ping of M16s and AK 47s against their armor, then heavy machine gun fire, and then anti-tank rockets.
“Go, go go!” Dani shouted at the driver and radioed back to battalion, “We’re taking fire from the rooftops! This is a trap!”
The Reserve Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Oded Zamir, turned to his Air Force close air support liaison officer. Dani was shouting that they needed an F-15 strike. But in the Kirya, the decision was made against anything that could create that much collateral damage. They dispatched AH-1 Cobra helicopters, instead, to take out the Palestinians’ rooftop positions with precision wire-guided missiles.
By the time the D9 and Merkava III had penetrated almost two kilometers into the heart of the camp, widening the alleyway, and then withdrawn, Dani counted 115 detonations of IED booby traps.
Back at the battalion forward command post, Dani said they were marching into a disaster. They had to go in, in force, in tanks and armored personnel carriers, and not on foot. If they didn’t want to use tanks and refused to simply flatten the houses from which they were under fire, they should hit the corner of the house with a D9 bulldozer, knock down a wall, and then jam up in an APC and dismount paratroopers straight into the opening, instead of marching them through the alleyways of the camp, where they’d be ground up like sausage.
“I’m not going to be tried for giving the order to kill a bunch of civilians!” Zamir shouted back at him. “You think CNN isn’t going to be all over this? I guarantee you, there’s some army lawyer in the Kirya right now, opening cases. It’s just a question of who they’re going to file against first. And I’m not going to be the one, because you’re afraid of a bunch of guys with headbands and Kalashnikovs!”
“I’m the battalion intelligence officer,” Dani said, fighting down the bile he felt rising from his gut, “and I am putting in writing my official assessment and recommendation. You want to give the order to go in on foot? You can bear responsibility for that, too! You’re more afraid of a commission of inquiry than you are of getting your own people killed!”
“Who the blazes do you think you’re talking to?” Zamir said, the spittle flying into Dani’s face, “You come waltzing in here from Hawaii, and just because they killed your kid you want a massacre?! Huh?! You think you can’t be brought up on charges, Kahan? You think you can’t be relieved?”
“The Devil take you!” Dani said, and stormed out of the tent. But Zamir followed after him.
“I’m giving you an order, Kahan! Refuse it and I’ll court martial you, right here, on the spot! You turn to me, and stand at attention!”
Dani turned to him, not sure if he would stand at attention, or kill him. He wasn’t thinking about a court martial, or prison time. He was contemplating murder. His hand slipped onto his M4 as if straightening it in its sling. He indiscernibly thumbed the safety up to semi-auto. All he had to do now was pull back the action, and chamber a round. He edged his left hand toward the action of the M4 as if adjusting its weight, and smiled softly.
Zamir eyed him. “You want to be a hero?” he said, “Tomorrow, at 06:00 hours, Company B goes in, as briefed, and you go in with them as Intelligence Officer. Now you salute and say, ‘Yes, Commander’, or we can start the court martial, for refusing a direct order in time of war, right now.”
Dani looked at him a long time. Men were going to die tomorrow. He could be with them or not. But this idiot was sending them to their deaths, and suddenly, death didn’t seem like such a bad idea to Dani Kahan.
“Yes, Commander,” he said, smiled more broadly, saluted, and left.
At 06:00 hours the next morning, B Company entered the camp on foot.
From his observation post inside one of the cinderblock houses halfway down the alley, Awad Hamadi, Deputy Commander of the Palestinian Forces in Jenin, could hardly believe his eyes. The arrogant, Zionist pig fools, were actually WALKING into the camp! No tanks. No APCs. Nothing. Just out for a stroll on a spring morning…
After the Israelis had widened the alleyway the day before with the D9, he had prepared his men to escape. There was no way their preparations could defeat the Israeli tanks and helicopters. But now they were actually entering on foot. He sent the ten-year-old boy runner, Daoud, to pass along the order to remain in position.
The Israelis were in for a surprise.
As B Company turned right into the alleyway, with weapons at the ready, the paratroopers eyed the windows of the cinderblock homes, and rooftops, swinging their weapons this way and that, on the alert for would be snipers.
There was a deadly quiet to the place.
That was the first thing Dani noticed.
It was quiet because all the civilians had been warned this would be the scene of the battle and ninety percent of them, if not more, had already gone to take refuge with relatives outside of Jenin. The only ones staying in the heart of the camp were those who, quite bravely, said, they would live and die alongside the fighters. There were a few children who, like Daoud, would serve as runners, and several women who had agreed to martyrdom.
As B Company rounded the right turn into the camp, Dani, as intel officer, was with the point man. It was Dani’s job to lead them, with the newly marked up maps they had gotten at the company briefing earlier, to the addresses of the “wanted” terrorists. They had up-to-date, actionable intelligence, Zamir had assured them.
There weren’t the usual smells of an Arab village, Dani remembered later. No smells of charcoal fires, or of coffee with cardamom, no sounds of livestock, dogs, or children.
Down the alleyway, Daoud had passed the word to the Palestinian cohorts, who were all thanking Allah for the gift they were about to be given.
As the Israeli paratroop company neared the wall of the third home on the left, in the alley, nineteen-year-old Mahmoud Zouabi held the cell phone Awad Hamadi had issued him.
He wiped the perspiration from his palms. He felt the beads of sweat, stinging, dripping into his eyes from his forehead, as the Israelis slowly advanced downhill, through the alleyway. He recognized one of the Israelis in front. He had seen him in the cabin of the D9 bulldozer, leading the way for the tank, the day before. Too bad he is up front, Mahmoud thought.
Buried inside the wall of the third house on the left in the alley, were five kilograms of explosives, wired to six propane gas tanks. With incredible discipline and sweat streaming down his face now, despite the springtime morning chill, Mahmoud waited until the first third of the company had passed the house, thus assuring that the main body of soldiers would be exposed to the full force of the bomb blast.
Then he whispered, “Allahu Akhbar!”, and pressed “send”.
The shock wave from the blast blew Dani across the street and into the wall of the building opposite him. Blood was streaming from his right ear. He couldn’t feel the right side of his face and he could hear nothing but the high pitched ringing in his ears. He fought not to lose consciousness and clear his head, but the ringing wouldn’t stop. Suddenly he was aware of the pain ripping through his left shoulder just below the protective covering of his flak jacket. He smelled cordite and blood. He looked back where his men had patrolled just moments before, and saw one of his friends, Yair Levy, cut in half, his entrails spilling out of his body. The sounds gradually began to override the ringing; men screaming, gunfire, more explosions of grenades, as he felt someone grab his flak jacket and pull him inside a doorway, just as machine gun fire stitched its way down the alley, where he had been lying, trying to clear the ringing from his head. His pal Chaimkeh, built like a bear, had dragged him with one hand, while firing his M4 with the other, to the sudden relative safety of the doorway.
Dani saw at least a dozen, maybe more of his men strewn, broken and bloodied, some still writhing, others staring blankly to the heavens, dead or dying, in an alley of blood that flowed downhill toward him.
Then he heard the woman shout “Allahu Akhbar!”
He wheeled his M4 instinctively, and he and Chaimkeh shot at the same moment. Chaimkeh had hit her in the head, but Dani’s shot hit her center mass and detonated the suicide belt. He felt the heat of the blast searing his skin, the shrapnel whizzing past him, the door behind him blown open from the force of the blast, the burning pain in his leg and saw Chaimkeh blown backward, blood streaming, and brains showing, from where his forehead had been only a moment before.
Suddenly he heard footsteps rushing downstairs toward him from inside the cinderblock house. He pulled a grenade out of the upper pouch of his combat vest, pulled the pin, though the pain now in his left shoulder was almost unbearable. He let the “spoon” fly off the M26A1 grenade, thus igniting its fuse. He counted to three in order to let the fuse burn down, so whoever was coming down those stairs to kill him, wouldn’t have time to pick the grenade up and throw it back outside at him. He threw it inside the doorway and dodged back against the wall for cover.
The grenade exploded two seconds later, just inside the house, and he heard the screams. Then he thumbed the safety on the M4 to full automatic, led with the gun, and ducked inside the doorway, spraying a long burst into what was left of the four terrorists’ dead and dying, ripped bodies, flowing blood, staring, some of them, with that same vacant look of the dead Israelis outside. Chaimkeh no longer had eyes with which to see. His skull had been blown open from the middle of his face to his helmet, offering an obscene view of his brains blown apart by the shrapnel.
Dani looked across the street and there on the wall opposite him saw the heroic pose of Ahmed Ahmal Al Shukeri, and swore he would not die today, not in front of Shukeri’s Rambo gaze. Not today.
He had emptied his clip on the now-dead terrorists, but had a second clip duct taped to it, separated by a plastic wedge to allow it to slide into the weapon unobstructed. The second clip was upside down, so all he had to do was thumb the release, reverse the magazine and snap the action, chambering a new round. He kept the safety on “full auto” and led with the weapon, pointing it around the corner of the doorway, down the alleyway, and firing off a short burst to give himself cover as he ran across the street. Just as he made his dash, a kid, probably not more than fifteen, jumped from a doorway into the middle of the alley, and threw a grenade at Dani. It bounced between Dani and the doorway, so that if Dani had jumped back into the house with the dead terrorists, it would still have blown him apart.
So he did something insane.
The boy didn’t have a weapon on him. His only weapon had been the grenade, and not having had Dani’s experience in combat, he had not let the fuse ignite before throwing it. Thus there was time for Dani to save his life. Had he picked up the grenade and thrown it back at the kid, the fragmentation would still have gotten him. He might have had the satisfaction of knowing the kid would die with him, but he had already sworn not to die today beneath Al Shukeri’s heroic gaze.
So Dani charged the kid, grabbed him and spun him around, and used the kid for a shield. The kid was looking into Dani’s eyes in disbelief and terror as the grenade exploded.
It detonated with a blinding flash and the fragments tore through the kid as Dani looked into his eyes, heard him scream, and felt him twitch into his death dance, and dropped him.
Dani ran and dove into the open courtyard of the second house in the alley, where what was left of the company had sheltered. The company commander, Captain Benji Shiloach, was dead. The radio was destroyed. Those men still able to fight were struggling up the stairs, fighting room to room and setting off yet more booby traps. But they all knew they had to reach the rooftop if they were to survive the onslaught of Palestinians who now began advancing on their position, raining fire down on them from every direction.
The firefight went on for almost three hours, until they were finally rescued by a company of regular army special operators.
Zamir, meanwhile, had ordered in the D9 bulldozers and Armored Personnel Carriers, and they were doing exactly what Dani had laid out for him the day before.
The bulldozers led the way, punching an opening through the wall of whatever house the terrorists were using for cover. Then the D9 hit reverse and an APC jammed right up to the newly created hole and disgorged its fighters.
The Palestinians withdrew further into the center of the camp, and now, when they came up to a structure, Zamir had orders given over the loudspeaker for those inside to surrender. He gave them five minutes and then gave the order to bulldoze the house. If they came out and surrendered, they were taken prisoner. If not, they could stay in the house and be bulldozed along with it.
It’s hard to outrun a bomb, but pretty easy to outrun a bulldozer, so in terms of the way in which one could destroy the center of a town, it was without doubt, the most humane method.
Slowly, methodically, the Israelis bulldozed an area the size of a football field.
The Palestinians, seeing the bulldozers, almost without exception surrendered.
Dani was evacuated to Tel Hashomer hospital.
He had shrapnel in his left leg and shoulder, a torn rotator cuff, a broken collarbone, and a punctured right ear drum.
From that day on, he was determined never to underestimate the enemy again.
The battle of Jenin was over.
The Palestinians had fought bravely.
So had the Israelis.
But the PR battle was just beginning.
For, if the Jews had started this war because of the “Passover Massacre”, both Hamas and the PLO were determined to one-up them, and have a massacre of their own.
The Jenin Massacre!
Arafat began referring to the camp as Jeningrad!
Eyewitnesses swore that the Israelis had lined up whole families, and machine gunned them, killing at least five hundred people, and then shoving their corpses, Nazi-style, into a ditch that they hastily covered over with dirt shoveled in by a bulldozer. The entire world jumped on the story. The Jews had committed an horrific atrocity, “The Jenin Massacre”!
The UN promptly sent a representative to investigate the Israeli-committed slaughter of innocents. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larson, on his first day in Jenin, called it the worst war crime since Bosnia. Tearful widows wailed before the cameras about dead husbands and sons, mothers and fathers, buried in the mass grave that the Israelis had hastily dug, to mask their Hitlerian, barbaric act.
Dani watched it all on CNN, in his hospital room, in amazement. And, ironically, while the PLO and Hamas media spinners were bemoaning the “Jenin Massacre” in English, their newspapers were bragging, in Arabic, about the fact that they had killed scores of Israeli paratroopers, in a Divine Victory, while only losing a few dozen martyred warriors, themselves!
Israel demanded an investigation. It demanded that the UN find the mass grave and show the bodies of the slaughtered five hundred victims of “the worst war crime since Bosnia”.
A month later the UN issued its report which was carried in two-inch columns on the back pages of every newspaper that had screamed, in doomsday headlines, about Israel’s massacre of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians.
The result of the UN investigation?
Fifty-two Palestinians killed in a battle, which claimed the lives of twenty-three Israeli soldiers. Of the fifty-two dead Palestinians, some forty were military aged men, wearing combat boots.
No mass grave.
No hundreds of corpses of whole families slaughtered together.
No questions asked of the “eyewitnesses” who, weeping copious tears, recounted their tales of horror.
It was all a lie.
And it didn’t matter.
The “Jenin Massacre” was now part of the narrative of Jewish atrocities and Palestinian victimization.
And the “Dead Baby Strategy” was born. It thus became Hamas, The PLO and Hezbollah’s doctrine to carry out acts of terrorism, while making sure they wore, always, the mantle of victimhood.
One would not exist without the other.
To insure that there were dead babies to show an all-too-willing press, which followed the age-old dictum, “If it bleeds, it leads”, part of the doctrine entailed firing rockets and mortars from within schools and mosques, even from within UN schools, or at the very least, next to civilian houses.
The calculus was a simple one.
Fire a rocket next to a school or home.
If it kills an Israeli, that’s a victory.
If the Israelis fire back, and kill Palestinians, that’s a bigger victory.
If you fire a rocket, and kill an Israeli, and then they fire back and kill Palestinians, that’s the biggest victory of all!
Terrorism, wearing the mantle of victimhood.
In the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah brought the Dead Baby Strategy to a level of macabre perfection. Because not all reporters could get to the scene of an Israeli bomb attack at the same time, Hezbollah had crews “dig up” the dead babies and then race them to a waiting ambulance, which took off with sirens screaming, for the benefit of whatever news crews were on hand.
Then, when those crews left, they reburied the corpses of the dead babies, and waited for the next news crew to arrive, then dug them up again, and raced them once more to the waiting ambulances, which dutifully sped off with sirens screaming. And each tableau was accompanied by wailing women, shocked at the just-discovered remains of their loved ones, murdered by the Nazi-like Jews…
In one instance, they dug up, reburied, and rediscovered the same corpses for a half dozen different news crews. The fact that some of the dead babies were dug up in the morning, and then rediscovered at night, made no difference.
And when there were no dead babies, they staged funerals of martyrs wrapped in white sheets for the news crews. And when the crews got their footage of the tragic burial processions, and left, the corpses, magically, came to life, and got off their funeral biers. The fact that an Israeli surveillance drone actually filmed a supposed corpse magically resurrected, after the western camera crew left, and distributed the footage via YouTube mattered not a whit.
There was one narrative, and one only.
Israelis bombed, and Palestinian babies died.
The only Western reporter who resisted the “Dead Baby Strategy” during the Second Lebanon War was, as Dani recalled, Anderson Cooper. He was reporting from Beirut, and Hezbollah offered him the same faked footage his colleagues were gobbling up, and Cooper, not yet the rock star he would later become, refused, and left Beirut to cover the war from Israel. Dani referred to him as the Righteous Gentile.
However, it was that same “Dead Baby Strategy” which Dani so bemoaned from his hospital room, after the “Jenin Massacre” of 2002, which was about to save Israel from the greatest catastrophe in its history.
In Gaza, as Yasser Darwish now explained his original plan to Khaled Kawasme and Abdul Aziz Al-Tikriti, in the comfort of the underground lounge in the Hamas elite living space, below Shifa hospital, an aide brought cups of freshly-pulled Italian espresso for the three of them.
Darwish lamented the “Dead Baby Strategy”, which had won out over his original concept.
He sipped the espresso, which he preferred now to the thick Turkish coffee with cardamom, which had been such a fixture in their culture before the advent of the wonderful Italian machines with their individual pods. So convenient.
“What was the original plan?” Al-Tikriti asked.
“During the Jews’ holiday of Rosh Hashanah,” Darwish explained, “my original plan called for infiltrating between five hundred and a thousand Hamas fighters, each armed with anti-tank missiles, machine guns, grenades, plastic handcuffs, and tranquilizers. The Jews always send the majority of their soldiers home for their so-called High Holidays.”
This was how Egypt and Syria launched their surprise attack on Yom Kippur, forty years earlier. All along the border with Gaza, thousands of Jews, in little agricultural villages, with communal dining halls, would be eating the holiday meal. Some of the dining halls held up to eight hundred people.
“Can you imagine it, Brothers?” Darwish said, “We could have killed thousands and taken hundreds hostage.”
Al-Tikriti stared at him in disbelief, “What do you mean ‘could have’? Why don’t you? It’s perfect!”
“Money,” Darwish said, shaking his head at the lost opportunity to implement a plan, which was his life’s work, five years in the making.
Hamas’ benefactor had been Iran. But Iran, being a Shiite country, was backing Bashar Al Assad’s Shia government in their civil war against the Syrian Sunnis.
Hamas was a Sunni organization. And thus, they withdrew their support of Iran, for the latter having participated in the slaughter of over 100,000 of their fellow Sunni Moslems.
Iran, in turn, cut off all financial support to Hamas.
“Then,” said Darwish, “that Jew-loving pig, Abbas,” which was how he always referred to the PLO President of the Palestine Authority on the West Bank, “that Jew loving pig Abbas cuts off our money as well! All of a sudden, we can’t pay forty thousand of our bureaucrats… Or our fighters!”
“But,” said Al-Tikriti, “What about Qatar? They have promised to pay you. They are Sunni, just as we are.”
“Yes, but that’s the problem, my Brother,” Darwish said, leaning back in his leather wing chair and lighting up his nargilah, which he always enjoyed with the Italian espresso. “The political leadership is afraid that if we carry out the Rosh Hashanah attack without warning, and the Qataris support us, they will become pariahs. They will lose the Americans, the Saudis, the Emirates, the Jew-loving pig Egyptians; everyone will turn against them. The Qataris are like immoral women, worse than whores. They want to lie in everyone’s bed. So the political leadership says, ‘We cannot do the Rosh Hashanah plan. We have to go back to our doctrine. Make the Jews attack us, show the dead babies, and then we can attack their civilians with our Divine weapon’, and we say, ‘what choice do we have?’
“Do we have F-15’s?
“So, we must use the other means that we have planned, my brother, for five years, and which the Jews will never see coming in a million years.”
“Money!” said Al-Tikriti derisively. “That is why the first thing we did was to take the oil wells in Iraq, and rob their banks, and steal and sell their antiquities. You cannot be a true warrior of Allah, if you have to suck at the tit of the Qataris!”
“If only we had known you sooner, brother,” Darwish said, passing the nargilah to Al-Tikriti, “we would have been free of the political leadership, AND the Qataris.”
“Timing,” said Kawasme. “Everything is timing.”
Al-Tikriti took a deep drag of the fragrant smoke of the nargilah into his lungs and exhaled languorously. “If,” he said, “this weapon of Divine Victory is as you have described it, you won’t need the charity of the Qataris.”
“It is, my brother,” said Darwish. So saying, he finished his espresso, glanced at his Patek Philippe watch, politely excused himself, and entered Hamas’ main command and control bunker. There he gave the final order to proceed with the launching of over a hundred rockets at the Zionist entity.
Some were fired from next to Shifa Hospital, some from next to the Is Al A Din Mosque, others next to a hotel housing foreign journalists, while others were fired from next to Wafa hospital, and still others from next to the Shati Refugee Camp. Almost all were fired from pre-prepared underground sites, as they had learned to do from Hezbollah, in Lebanon. And almost all were fired from within the densely populated civilian neighborhoods and suburbs of Gaza City. Let the Jews fire back all they wanted. Whether the rockets hit their marks or not was of little importance. The “Dead Baby Strategy” always hit its bull’s eye: the foreign press.
And with that, the third war between Hamas and Israel, in five years, began.
But this one, Darwish knew, would be different.
This one, Insh Allah, unlike Jenin, or the Second Lebanon War, or the wars of 2009 and 2012, THIS war, would bring the Zionists to their knees.
And as one hundred rockets fired off toward Israel, Tera Dayton, Darwin Washburn, Raul Peña and Clint McKeever were all landing in Iraqi Kurdistan to see whether ISIL, and its operatives, now safely ensconced beneath Shifa Hospital in Gaza, were indeed just the JV team in Kobe Bryant jerseys, or not.Back to the top