by Eduardo Llull
Was Saddam developing an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction to use against Israel or the United States? Did he evade UN inspections? Did he nurture a relationship with Osama bin Laden as a means to carry out these attacks? Were the Russians and French complicit in Saddam’s attempts to pull the wool over Western eyes?
And at the root of it all, was the Iraq war-and is it-a struggle between good and evil?
According to Oliver North’s new novel The Jericho Sanction, you’d better believe it. And the consequences of indecision are clear too: nuclear holocaust. No time to wait around for UN Security Council resolutions on this one. In North’s novel, the burden of saving the entire world falls on one man who, aided by a small band of courageous and faithful accomplices, who can prevent Armageddon.
The reader may at times be confused as to whether North’s work is fiction or history. Of course it is both, but The Jericho Sanction, set in the second half of the Clinton Administration, is realistic enough in its fictional elements to leave the reader wondering where it is sharpening the ambiguities of history and media coverage with plausible yet unproven facts.
The characters are real enough: the sinister Qusay Hussein, the bumbling madam Secretary of State and the contemptible Robert Hallstrom-the literary version of infamous FBI mole Robert Hanssen. North appears to be giving the reader more than a good story here.
The world according to North also looks very familiar. The Middle East sports a host of fanatics bent on the proliferation of murder and mayhem and the ultimate destruction of the U.S., Israel and their allies.
The Russians, feigning friendship with the West, are more than willing to help the fanatics if it will line their pockets in the process, and the U.S. leadership at the time is more consumed with damage control over presidential misdeeds than with its nation’s security.
Standing in contrast to the fanaticism, mendacity and duplicity is U.S. Marine Col. Peter Newman, who, along with his wife, begins the novel as a fugitive from international law, abandoned by the U.S. government. An old friend, Gen. George Grisham, pulls Newman out of hiding to locate nuclear weapons that have disappeared in Iraq.
As Newman agrees to the mission, his old Russian nemesis, retired Gen. Dimitri Komulakov, kidnaps his wife with the demand that Newman locate the Russian’s longtime informant in the U.S. government (Hallstrom) and eliminate him. Newman must somehow locate the nuclear weapons and rescue his wife before the Israelis, threatened by a nuclear Saddam, implement the “Jericho Sanction,” a plan for a preemptive nuclear strike on an enemy that threatens them with weapons of mass destruction.
The plot of The Jericho Sanction is wrought with moral implications, and in it North refuses to blur the lines of good and evil. The evil are maniacal, self-seeking, godless and lawless hordes that prowl the post-Cold War world. The good are Newman and the men and women who fight with him to save the world, most of whom are members of a secret group of Christians called “the Believers.”
These “Believers” (who seem a lot like Evangelicals) carry a metal fish to identify one another, and live a simple and expressive Christian faith. They are the conscience of the story, giving the reader occasional moral sound bites like, “Yes, justice is good. But vengeance is not yours. Be sure that you know the difference.”
Newman is by no means perfect. He constantly struggles with carrying out the mission while living the faith into which he was “born-again.” Newman lost his life when his enemies tried to destroy it and he was forced into hiding. In losing his life, however, he finds his faith and saves his marriage. He can finally resurrect his life by combating the evil forces that threaten the world with Armageddon.
North holds nothing back in showcasing the heroes, implicating the villains, and singling out those in leadership who dropped the ball during the 1990s, leaving the nation vulnerable. His novel draws clear lines between the right side of the present conflict and the wrong, and without question his moral clarity separates the heroes in this conflict from the rest.
Mr. Llull is a freelance writer studying U.S. foreign affairs at Columbia University in New York City.