The terrorist atrocities carried out by Osama bin Laden on Sept. 11, 2001, and the fervid talk of war with Iraq and the forces of Saddam Hussein have led to an American obsession with national security. The mild curiosity we once had about the agencies and departments that handle this function has blossomed into a full-blown fascination. Enter former Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North. Best known for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, North has also been a businessman, a Fox News war correspondent in Afghanistan, an unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia, a radio personality, and a spokesman for the Christian right, in addition to finding success as a best-selling author. North’s recently novel Mission Compromised (along with Joe Musser) tells the fascinating story of Maj. Pete Newman, USMC, during a stint at the Clinton White House. While many have said military intelligence is an oxymoron, Maj. Newman is truly a shining example of those we hope to have serving our nation. Newman, a military aide at the National Security Council, heads up the Special Projects Office—a position left vacant since the shamed departure of its last incumbent, a Marine colonel named Ollie North, in 1987. His mission is to command an international battle group in an effort to assassinate those who carry out terrorist acts—warlords including bin Laden, Milosevich, and Saddam Hussein. Like many others in Washington, Newman gets caught up in a power-struggle while simply trying to carry out his mission and follow his conscience. North’s masterful job of intertwining this fiction with true historical information makes it very easy to forget that the book is a novel rather than an accurate, extremely enjoyable, account of American history. For example, North describes a number of the atrocities recently committed throughout the world, such as the 1993 killings of U.S. servicemen in Mogadishu (as depicted in Black Hawk Down), and provides a full list of bin Laden’s exploits, as well as a monologue by Newman predecessor North justifying the actions he had taken in the Iran-Contra situation. This work is definitely a political thriller, outdoing such top writers such as Tom Clancy in many respects. As in Clancy’s works, elements of international affairs, military action, and classic “inside-the-beltway” politics are tied together. The details that North was privy to from his time in the Corps and at the NSC are prominent in his descriptions of settings and procedures of Newman’s work. However, Mission Compromised is multi-dimensional, also discussing both religion and social relationships (Newman has marital problems)—something not surprising to those of us familiar with North and his Christian view of life. Politics are prominent, especially commentary on the Clinton Administration. Contempt for the administration by men and women in uniform—and vice versa—is widespread. A flagrant disregard for ethics in the granting special favors of information and aid—as long as campaign war chests are getting filled—is tellingly described, but without bias. It is made clear that these lapses occur at both ends of Pennsylvania Ave. and on both sides of the aisle. Religion is an important part of this book, not surprising for a novel dealing with terrorism. Many novels of this variety contain some discourse on the Islamic faith and this one is no exception. What makes this novel different is that both the Christian and Islamic faiths are discussed. Their Christian faith aids several characters who are dealing with difficulty and pain. Inga Linstead, for example, a stewardess on a TWA flight hijacked by the Hezballah, discusses how she used her faith as a way to deal with the loss of her fiancé on that flight as well as the strength it gave her to withstand the turmoil. Ollie North’s Mission Compromised is highly recommended to anyone interested in political intrigue, espionage, and terrorism. It provides not only entertainment but also extremely interesting historical background on many of the people and events that affect our world today.
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