Edge of Apocalypse: pages 40-44 (Chapter Eight)
It’s been two weeks since the big nuke redirection event.
We now switch to a rather improbably introduced individual.
Meet John Gallagher. That’s Special Agent John Gallagher.
In the interest of doing some name analysis, the kinds of people who LaHaye and Parshall want us to root for seem to have Biblically rooted names in some fashion and whose names are generally Anglo-Saxon derived when not so Biblically rooted.
Consider Pastor Paul Campbell. His first name evokes the well-known apostle of Christian theology. His last name goes straight back to Scotland, if you look it up in a name-meanings book or online.
Now Agent John Gallagher. Well, his first name calls to mind the apostle as well. And that last name – you say it. It just rolls off the tongue. GALL-uh-ger. (Clarification: the way I pronounce it, the first syllable rhymes with “pal”, not “hall”) Sure as shooting it goes back to Ireland if you look it up. Sure calls to mind the stereotype of those Irish cops of the 1920s and 1930s. 😀
I have to admit, I’m envious of authors who pick just the most memorable names for their characters. I’m a Hardy Boys fan, having grown up with the books, and there’s one book starring a corrupt prosecutor: Patricia Daggett. Whoever that ghostwriter was, they picked a helluva name to remember. ‘Cause I still do after a decade.
Looks like John Gallagher’s gonna be another one of those names I’ll remember and wish I could use for a character’s name somewhere. 😛
So, let’s move into the chapter:
“After all the political speeches and public outpouring of support and relief, New York was beginning to get back to normal. Special Agent John Gallagher of the FBI cursed the traffic as he sat gridlocked on Broadway, trying to head uptown during the morning rush. Then he thought back to the terror they had all felt that morning, popped another Ho Ho into his mouth, and was grateful to be driving through Manhattan today.
Gallagher was part of an elite counterterrorism unit. On the evening of the attack, he’d taken the ferry out to Staten Island to conduct an investigation into chatter on a popular social networking site, chatter that seemed to be targeting the Statue of Liberty.”
Turns out to have just been a false alarm. Bunch of kids acting up.
“He was older than most of the other agents in his unit and probably exceeded them in weight by at least fifty pounds. That was the price of riding a desk for most of the last ten years. They kept him on the unit for his local expertise. But the truth was–and deep down he knew it–he was little more than glorified set dressing. It looked good to have a bona fide hero on the team.”
Okay. So Agent Gallagher’s been an FBI man for – what – twenty years probably? He’s likely a man in his forties, law enforcement through and through. Probably the kind of guy who’s a stereotypical pain in the ass to his bosses, but never shows up late and never calls in sick. He’s shown as being overweight, but this isn’t a black mark against him, unlike in some fiction books where the fat guy’s usually there for comic relief or to be the baddie.
So why’s he a hero?
“The recent missile attack wasn’t his first experience with real terror in New York. On the morning of 9/11, he’d taken the PATH train into the World Trade Center, with the intention of walking the few blocks up to 26 Federal Plaza, to the New York field office of the FBI. But just as he came out of the Port Authority train station, the first plane hit the North Tower. He spent the next hour trying to get as many of the injured to safety as he could.
By 9:59 a.m., he was crossing the plaza in front of the towers, helping an injured office worker, when the South Tower came down. That’s the last thing he remembered of that day. But he was lucky. He woke up in a hospital bed with a broken back, a broken arm, and several cracked ribs, not to mention all the toxic dust he ingested. But he was alive, more than could be said for over three thousand souls.”
His story after September 11, 2001 (incidentally, this roughly dates the “not-too-distant future” of Edge of Apocalypse to approximately 2011 or 2012) oddly reminds me of that fireman who was featured in Sicko by Michael Moore – he had gotten a chronic lung condition that was only treated properly when he got ferried to Cuba, and the man had gained quite a bit of weight due to being laid up.
“He received the FBI’s Medal of Meritorious Achievement and an honorary Citation of Valor from the New York City Fire Department and the City of New York.
After 9/11, when the FBI was looking to beef up its Counterterrorism Unit in New York, he was the first on the list. But after a couple of years his injuries began to get the better of him, and he had to curtail his fieldwork. Out of necessity he’d become somewhat of an expert in using the Internet to track terrorist cells since it didn’t require him to leave his desk.”
The book goes on to say he was on the Staten Island ferry when the nukes came down and then got redirected.
We then find that Gallagher is at least one of the vehicles by which the authors start pushing their political viewpoint:
“The fact that America hadn’t immediately leveled the entire country of North Korea in retaliation surprised Gallagher. The 9/11 attack on American soil had launched two wars. But this time the leader of the Free World was playing things more cautiously. Back when he was a senator from Iowa, Virgil Corland had tacitly supported the War on Terror. But now, as president, he was weighed down by indecision and a devastated economy that became more indebted to foreign nations each year.”
This portrayal of American decline has been a staple of conservative and liberal rhetoric in recent years, though for different reasons.
In the liberal paradigm (full disclosure: I have left-wing political views and I vote NDP in Canada) this decline is traced to rising economic inequality and purposeful realignment of government interests with those of the wealthy and powerful.
In the conservative paradign, this decline is traced to a loss of America’s strength and a society that shirks from doing its “duty” as it is conceived to be. The conception of American “strength” is basically boiled down neatly by this statement, attributed to Jonah Goldberg (thanks go to Gospodin Dangling-Participle for giving me the cite on this): “The US just has to pick up a crappy little country and throw it against the wall, and repeat this about every decade or so.”
Even if the US fails, so much disproportionate damage is done to the “crappy little country” that it presents formidable obstacles to redevelopment. Vietnam is a classic example – there’s still something like a zillion land mines buried there that prevent farmers from safely growing food, and hinders tourism because it’s not safe to go into those areas and take pictures.
Communism is part of it, too, but ever since 1985 when the Vietnamese government began slowly decontrolling its economy, the governmental friction against capitalist-funded economic development has become less and less, so it’s not the whole story.
Or consider Iraq. The US has purposely made such a dog’s breakfast of it under Bush Jr that there’s no chance it could be a threat to anyone again, ever. In fact, Iran is now a threat to Iraq’s territoral integrity, as is the renewed Kurd separatist movement.
Afghanistan. That little crappy country has been picked up and smacked around by the Soviets and the Americans. By now its economic development is somewhere around 1800-1900 levels, depending on who you ask. Land mines are a huge problem in Afghanistan as well. Defeat for the USSR and the USA in this country doesn’t change the fact that they’ve done a lot of damage; victory for the mujahedeen didn’t undo it.
Chile. While it was never militarily invaded, Richard Nixon purposely sabotaged the Chilean economy to prevent Salvador Allende from implementing his policies without outside interference.
So, in this man’s view (and by extension, LaHaye’s and Parshall’s), the USA not immediately blasting the bejeezus out of North Korea is a sign of weakness, not strength. Never mind that being impervious to any form of attack makes it kind of pointless to launch a return attack and smacks of even more bullying than is typically the norm for the USA.
We humans are essentially impervious to, say, a frog jumping on someone and trying to flick its tongue at that someone to eat him or her. So a human would just shrug the frog off and continue on his or her merry way. Squashing the frog flat would just be deliberate cruelty.
In this political paradigm, however, deliberate cruelty to another country is a sign of virility and strength in the United States of America’s government.
“The U.S. could have wiped out the little dictator with the push of a button, but President Corland hesitated, fearing it would plunge the world into a global conflagration. The United Nations counseled restraint, and after Kim Jung-un’s government indirectly seemed to admit that the attack may have been caused by a communications error, the U.S. backed away from any type of action against North Korea.”
Aside: Kim Jong-un being named here assumes Kim Jong-il has died, which is part of the “not-too-distant-future” motif.
You know, it is sensible, contrary to these folks’ view of the world, to realize that imperviousness to nuclear forms of attack does not obviate the need to be sensible internationally. And this, the President seems to understand.
Consider: if the US wiped out North Korea, who’s next on the we-can-get-you-and-you-can’t-get-us game? Probably China, given the habit of bashing China for a lot of things. Or Iran.
Even Russia would have reason to be concerned, here. Arms race, anyone?
“Gallagher thought they should have at least tossed a couple of nukes over there for good measure, but the country had bowed to cries of ‘One World, One Peace’ emanating from the new power centers of Europe and Asia. The time to act had been the first seventy-two hours, yet an ailing and increasingly ineffectual President Corland had faltered. And America had taken yet another giant step backward in the eyes of much of the world.“
(Ed. Note: Bold is mine)
Sigh. The visceral need for political conservatives to engage in military one-up contests in which the US demonstrates its ability to beat up any other country is really annoying. It’s not exactly a mark of honor or greatness to make everybody else afraid of you – which is what is implicitly stated in the bolded phrase. The “step backward” is in the perception, by conservatives, that nobody will respect the US unless it waves its nukes around like a crazy man with a gun*.
“Within an hour after the destruction of the North Korean vessel, rumors began to spring up like mushrooms on the Internet that the Korean ship hadn’t actually launched the two nuclear missiles at all but had been on the receiving end of a first strike by the United States. Most of this web chatter was silly ranting from the alien-abduction conspiracy crowd, but it kept the media bloodsuckers yakking and had the potential to fuel extremists around the world, feeding their hatred toward America.”
And LaHaye and Parshall punch the ol’ ZOMG THEY HAET US THEY HAETS US button Dubya Bush first pushed way back in 2003 or whatever. I just want to hit the desk with my head at this bullshit.
Now we learn why this chapter focusses on John Gallagher:
“There would be a new assignment…this one tailor-made for him. Dozens of people had been killed in the panic on the streets of New York that evening and nearly a thousand more injured. Someone high up in the government had leaked information to the media. That was tantamount to premeditated murder, or at the very least, reckless homicide–considering the resulting death and destruction it caused. One of the first rules everyone learns is you don’t yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater. Someone yelled fire, and now it was up to Gallagher to find out who.”
That’s actually sensible, comparatively speaking. After all, given such a short time span between launch and detonation of a nuclear weapon, there’s virtually no chance that any kind of evacuation could be carried out.
Now I don’t know the statistical chances of survival given a, say, 30-minute or even 15-minute warning in advance of a nuclear attack, but then again, under normal circumstances, whether or not the populace is told they will be nuked becomes a very academic question once it’s gone off.
Only because the nukes were redirected does it now actually become germane as to whether or not a news release was justified. Being as this is so unusual I’m not sure if it’s plausible that someone ought to be prosecuted or not, here. After all, what if the President himself gave the order? It’s a military situation necessitating a military response, and in this circumstance the Commander-in-Chief can give any legal order he or she wants, which, by the nature of his or her job, involves liaison with the civilian sector of the population.
So, is it a legal order to release to all news media that a nuclear launch is imminent? I’m not sure.
As it is I doubt, given the way the paragraph is structured, that a direct order from the President was involved. In that case it technically could be the leak of classified information.
“The first person to go live with the news was a shock jock named Ivan Teretsky at WFQL Radio. ‘Esteemed’ for his bombastic political pronouncements and on-air stunts, which once included the playing of a tape-recording of a prominent governor and a prostitute while they were going at it, he was best known to New Yorkers as ‘Ivan the Terrible.'”
Note the “FQ” in the middle of the radio callsign. 😛
Also, I’m impressed that a rather direct reference to sex was made in this book, though I suspect it was just for the “ooh those big cities are all Sodom and Gomorrah” effect.
“He gave his name to a pretty receptionist at the front desk and was told to wait. ‘Mr. Teretsky is just finishing up his show.’
Good, thought Gallagher. At least I know this interview won’t be going out over the airwaves. He sat down on the couch to wait. A television hanging from the ceiling played silently overhead. It was flashing images from Washington, D.C., with a heading underneath that read, ‘JOINT CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE PROBES RETURN-TO-SENDER WEAPON.’ “
Here we get some foreshadowing about what’s gonna probably happen to Joshua Jordan, but I’m verging into spoiler territory.
Note the “cute receptionist”. As Fred Clark has noted, LaHaye seems to inhabit a world that’s still largely set in the Mad Men world, where young females do all the scut work.
“The camera landed briefly on Joshua Jordan and his wife, Abigail, as they made their way up the Capitol steps flanked by a swarming army of reporters. Gallagher was hit with a sudden wave of anger.
This guy was an American hero, and now these idiots on Capitol Hill were going to barbecue him for their own selfish political agendas. Why? Because he’d single-handedly saved New York with a weapons system they hadn’t approved. Were they crazy? They should be giving him the Congressional Medal of Honor, a Nobel Peace Prize, an Academy Award, maybe even the Heisman Trophy–anything he wants.”
And more foreshadowing.
In the conservative paradigm, weakling “socialist” governments running the USA don’t acknowledge or care about American patriotism and would as soon sell the US out to its enemies and the United Nations if they could.
Never mind that FDR, a Democrat backed by a Democratic-majority Congress, authorized the US’s entry into World War II and managed the operation of the US’s war economy successfully for years.
Never mind that LBJ, no shrinking violet he, reluctantly took the US’s involvement in Vietnam to a higher level, but once committed, determined to see it through to the end.
Never mind that Bill Clinton, mindful of Slobodan Milosević’s tendency to start battles of aggression against ethnic minorities in Yugoslavia, authorized air raids over Serbia to prevent ethnic violence in Kosovo.
Each of these Presidents has had their American patriotism questioned and scorned, even as they executed the duties of their office to the best of their ability while a bunch of big-mouthed small-brained Republicans bit at their heels because Republicans in Congress seem to get a jackass gene implanted on inauguration to office.
So I am fairly safe in saying that in this book all the standard paranoid fantasies popularized by the likes of Rush Limbaugh are likely to be in full flower here: we’ll get the usual recipe of straw-man weakling Democrats more intent on political advantage by destroying RTPs (Real True Patriots) than in safeguarding their nation, and straw-man venal politicians intent on damaging the US economy for their own gain.
Funnily enough, it’s usually the Republicans that seem to be intent on pursuing political advantage while denigrating the likes of Max Cleland** and questioning their patriotism, and the Republicans that seem intent on damaging the US economy (purposely allowing companies to abuse workers, and purposely allowing wealthy people to pay far less in tax than they should) for their own gain.
It’s almost like LaHaye and Parshall are taking some fairly common leftist ideas and concepts and creating a bizarro-world version of inverting these things that exists only in their own minds.
Fascinating. We’ll see more of this bizarro-ness as the book moves on, trust me.
On that note, I’d like to say that initially I had planned only on just a brief summary of this chapter since it looked like just an FBI agent’s introduction and assignment, but it had a lot more meat in it than originally seemed. 🙂
So, chapter nine will have to wait, and that’ll be sometime this weekend or even Friday. And yes, we’ll go back to Joshua Jordan with that chapter. 😀
* An actual aspect of US nuclear doctrine was to occasionally “act purposely reckless” to convince leaders of other countries that the US could and would use its military however it pleased.
** Thanks to that asshole Saxby Chambliss.