Edge of Apocalypse: pages 45-50 (Chapter Nine and Ten)
These two chapters together form a kind of interlude to the next field of battle. First, we had the actual, military battle very handily won by the United States by Jordan’s new Return to Sender system.
Now, we come to the Congressional inquiry. We’re going to see how blatant a political axe is being ground by LaHaye and Parshall for the remainder of this book, and I urge the audience to avoid rolling their eyes too much at some of the more implausible things that will come up. 🙂
So, let’s dive in and meet Josh and Abby again:
“As Joshua Jordan strode through the halls of Congress on his way to the hearing, Abigail held tightly to his arm. For over twenty years she had been by his side, whether stationed at a military base in Europe, teaching at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, working while he studied at MIT in Boston, or moving their young family to New York City to start a new life. Even when he was away flying missions in the Middle East during the war, she’d always been there after every flight, waiting for his call.”
Aside from a rather nice resume of what Josh got up to all those years, notice something: it’s mostly about him, up to this point. Abigail’s role is secondary, where it exists. She’s to wait for her man and make sure he’s all right.
Now the authors try to recover with this part, but it seems more like it falls prey to the same problem that LaHaye and Jenkins had in Left Behind: they got so busy telling the audience what wonderful people their focus characters were they forgot to have them doing anything to warrant being wonderful.
“Jordan knew she didn’t have to choose this life. She’d been a highly successful attorney at a prestigious Washington law firm when they first met. He had been immediately taken by her beauty, dark hair, green eyes, and athlete’s tall tanned body, but he was ultimately knocked out by her brains. She never forgot a face or a fact, could cite football stats, particularly for the Denver Broncos, her favorite team, with the same ease as citing Constitutional law cases or federal statutes. She never made a bet she didn’t win and was an absolute killer at Scrabble.”
Smart lady. But we’ve already seen in previous chapters that as much as she’s this brilliant lawyer-lady, she’s still going to be stuck being Joshua’s wife. And it shows in this next section:
“Today, though, she wasn’t going to be by his side the whole time. He was going into a closed-door hearing with only his wits and his attorney to help him take on the full power of the U.S. Congress. He’d wanted Abby to be there, but she convinced him it was better to have an objective advocate instead of a loving and biased spouse to counsel him. Besides, she added, she hadn’t been in a courtroom, let alone a congressional hearing room, in years.“
(Ed. note: Bold mine)
And why hasn’t she been in a courtroom for years, folks? Because, in LaHaye’s universe, she is required to just be a woman and women don’t do anything but be male trophies. (cynicism mode is turned on, yes)
I grant that it’s likely smart to engage an outside lawyer on a complicated issue like a Congressional hearing, but it didn’t have to be phrased so misogynistically.
“The lawyer she’d recommended was Harry Smythe, a mentor and colleague of hers from her Washington days. […] Impeccably dressed, with small round glasses, sporting his famous bowtie, he was vaguely reminiscent of the old silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, yet he had a reputation as a cobra. He wasn’t Abby, but he’d have to do.”
It feels like LaHaye and Parshall are either having problems with the omniscient POV or are having trouble grappling with the third-person limited focus on Joshua, since the full paragraph seems to slip in some stuff that should come from Abigail.
Ok, now we move to the focus of why there’s a Congressional inquiry at all:
“After the euphoria of that day when the missiles were turned back, questions had started to pop up. First it was just a low murmur in the background, but now that murmur had turned into a steady stream of acrimonious questions. Who authorized the use of an untested system like the RTS-RGS? Why were the bombs retargeted to a live target? Why weren’t they destroyed harmlessly in midair over the Atlantic? Why weren’t the intelligence and defense committees of Congress even aware of this system? Who did Joshua Jordan think he was to make these decisions? As a private military contractor, was he making national defense policy for the whole country?”
Some of these are valid questions. Was it appropriate for the US military to keep such a tight lid on the RTS-RGS and not, say, report to Congress in closed session regarding a commissioning experiment of a missile defence shield?
Contrary to what LaHaye and Parshall seem to think of Congress, the oversight committees do seem to largely keep their lips buttoned, particularly about classified material.
More importantly, some of these questions are slanted in a way that engenders contempt for the founding principle of civilian oversight of the military; every stable democracy ends up in this situation. Even some of the less stable ones do; Chile, for example, had a military led by a man named Rene Schneider who was politically not anywhere near Salvador Allende, but who understood the importance of the military’s defined role as guardian against invaders from without and the security of the nation as directed by the legitimate civilian authorities.
The irony is, the very last question posed in that list is actually one that does have real-world analogies. One of the big issues with military spending is that private companies who largely get their business often get Congress to push extra programs even the Pentagon wants to abandon, because military spending is a breeding ground for legitimately ripping off the taxpayer in the form of artificially bloated payrolls, “accidental” double invoicing, price inflating, and all the rest.
It’s “legitimate” because it’s easily attacked by questioning the patriotism of people who argue that the US government could spend $100 billion less a year and keep its military going just fine. Now try being someone on welfare living in a border town on a state and collecting welfare from both states. Holy good God! Duck and cover because if the politicians find out all manner of self-righteous hell and brimstone will be let loose!
But hey, it’s all good if you’re a corporate welfare bum defence contractor living off padding your bills for the taxpayer to pick up.
So in effect, military contractors have, in fact, driven decisions made by the Pentagon for their own benefit and to that extent they have made defence decisions for the whole country. Consider how theV-22 Osprey has somehow managed to survive 20+ years of controversy and even, at times, government decisions that it be shut down to redirect funding elsewhere.
And now we get the usual oh-those-venal-politicians spiel:
“Abigail had lived in this town long enough to know that it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk for her husband today. Careers were made out of crushing the bones of honorable men like him. It was a zero-sum game. Any advantage you could take, any weakness you could find, any crack you could pry open and exploit was counted as a political notch on your belt.”
Note the us-and-them with the “honorable” ex-military man being the “us” and the “them” being the ebil politicians.
We get a segue into some other aspects of Joshua’s personality and the family relations issue:
“But the real question was whether [Smythe] could save Joshua from himself? When Joshua got an idea in his head, he was like a dog with a bone; there was no getting it away from him. It’s what made him so brilliant, so successful, but it could also make him infuriating. Joshua knew no compromise. It was the biggest problem between father and son. Joshua had expectations that Cal would never be able to meet.
Abigail hadn’t told Joshua what really happened to Cal on the evening of the attack. She found out herself a few days later when Cal confided his terror to her.”
I’m going to interrupt right now and warn you all that this reaction of Cal’s is going to be used to beat him over the head as a perceived inadequacy. *whispers* Cal! Marry your sweetie Karen and GTFO! Quickly!
(would that literary characters listened to warnings from the readership)
Skipping ahead a bit, we see that Abby is falling into the role of mother-peacemaker that often seems to crop up in families modelled on more traditional gender roles:
“She didn’t like holding things back from her husband, but he was so preoccupied with the hearing in Washington. Besides, things had been touchy between him and Cal before he’d left for college. Now everything seemed better. The near tragedy had brought the family together. Debbie had been like a rock for her younger brother, and Joshua seemed at least to be trying to understand Cal’s decision to study art at Liberty. She didn’t want to take that away from them. Not now. Not yet.”
But, like a dutiful mother you better bet your britches she’ll tell Joshua.
While I get that rules of parenting often suggest purposely keeping a united front against a child (and when you think about it, treating one’s relationship with a child as though it had to be viewed through a battlefield mentality is pretty fucked up) and not thereby hiding secrets from one’s spouse – damn it all, sometimes there’s a reason why people confide in their fathers and not their mothers, or vice versa, and expect some goddamned privacy about it. It’s because they expect in good faith that their parent knows why the other parent isn’t the right one to talk to about something, and they also expect in good faith that their parents aren’t blabbermouths.
This won’t be the first time Abigail acts like a “for your own good” mother of the type I really really wanted to move away from when I was Cal’s age. And I’ll say that even my relationship with my parents wasn’t as confrontational, especially in retrospect.
Anyway, moving into Chapter Ten, we see the Congressional hearing.
“The public was barred from the closed-door, high-level security hearing, but the press was allowed in to take photos for a few minutes before the session started. Joshua was seated at a long, green cloth-draped table, looking uncomfortable while cameras clicked and strobes flashed in his face. He didn’t like having his picture taken, and he didn’t try to hide it as he leaned over to his lawyer seated next to him.
‘I’d take any amount of grilling from a senator over this form of torture.’
With a wry smile the lawyer shot back, ‘I hope you still feel that way after the hearing.'”
Torture, Colonel Jordan, is Abu Ghraib. Suck it up and stop whining about your picture. I have comparatively little sympathy for this in light of the fact that people like Rush Limbaugh pooh-poohed the seriousness of the issue by claiming it wasn’t any worse than fratboy hazing at a university.
“He looked around the room. Even though the public wasn’t allowed in, some pretty heavyweight bystanders sat in the mostly vacant audience section behind him: the president’s national security advisor, the chief of staff to the vice president, an aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff he’d met once but whose name he couldn’t remember, and various other high-level advisors and military personnel. It was a pretty heady peanut gallery.”
Then we get the Congresscritters and the Senators. Incidentally, I’m not sure if this is accepted practice in the US system that the House of Representatives committee and the Senate equivalent can both meet in the same chambers for an inquiry. If anyone could clarify I’d love to know.
“The senators and representatives began to file into the chamber in ones and twos, taking their places at the raised dais at the front. A few came over to shake Joshua’s hand enthusiastically, but most just took their seats and looked over their notes or conferred with their aides. They were a select group of experienced lawmakers, the so-called gang-of-eight, as they were commonly referred to in Washington political parlance: those members of Congress with whom the president traditionally conferred in times of grave national security, the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate, and the chairs and ranking members of their respective intelligence committees.”
And now for the big guy himself: the major antagonist to Joshua Jordan, Senator Straworth.
“The chairman of this select committee, Senator Wendell Straworth, was a powerful veteran of Washington politics. He was seated in the middle of the dais in a high-backed chair that set him apart from the others. A large, imposing man, with a shiny bald head and thick, tangled eyebrows, he took a minute to survey the room, peeking out over the reading glasses perched at the end of his nose.”
Since I’ve made a bit of a to-do over names, please note that “Wendell” is most certainly not Biblical, and “Straworth” evokes the words Straw-Worth, which obviously implies worth the value of straw, or hay, which isn’t actually much.
“‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ the senator began, ‘this will be a closed and confidential session of this special committee…created to investigate what I consider to be one of the most shocking and disturbing national security events in the history of this great nation,’
Senator Straworth took a long pause before he continued. ‘Now we are all painfully aware that this committee has issued letter requests for various documents pertinent to this investigation. Letter requests sent to Mr. Joshua Jordan, a private weapons contractor, as well as to his counsel. To date, Mr. Jordan has refused to produce a single document. I note that Mr. Jordan is present in this hearing room, along with his counsel, Mr. Harry Smythe.'”
And we end with this:
“Joshua was not a religious man, not in the way Abigail was. But just then, as he looked out over the congressional panel assembled in front of him, knowing as he did, the political and legal quicksand that lay all around him, he was happy about one thing: he knew Abigail was praying for him.”
This reminds me of a radio station a guy at work used to play at booming volume (I worked in a manufacturing-type facility, so loud noises were de rigeur). It was the Praise 106.5 FM radio station run out of Abbotsford, if memory serves.
Anyway the guy was bellowing on about prayer and how it let you put on the SHIELD of FAITH and all that.
This segment of the book is very reminiscent of that; the authors want to remind the readers that they don’t need/have to depend on their own wits or intelligence or strength to get out of a bad situation. Put everything in the hands of God and somehow His workings will guide you.
Even as Joshua is claimed to be “not religious like Abigail”, he’s going to put on the SHIELD OF FAITH.
Personally, in a situation like that? I’d be a little more inclined to hope my lawyer’s worth the money he/she’s being paid than depend on someone’s prayer.
And with that, we’ll take up chapter eleven soon. The Congressional-hearing battle will begin!