"I’m told Islam is a peace-loving religion and that Muslims are busy worshiping a merciful god." There was a touch of sarcasm in the General’s voice.
"Our last two Presidents preached that same sermon, so it must be true," Adams scoffed. They were in the Pentagon, having dinner in the Officer’s Mess.
"Sure," Sarah answered, "if by ‘peace-loving,’ you mean they’d like a piece of Israel and a piece of America."
"And not only are they happy to kill us for it, they do it all for a piece of aa...." Adams looked over at Sarah and thought better of it.
"What he meant to say, General, is that their minds are twisted. They believe they get seventy virgins as a reward for terrorizing us."
"Then what I’ve heard is true." Hasler was beginning to lose his appetite. He brought his linen napkin up from his lap and tossed it on the table.
An attentive waiter in a perfectly pressed uniform grew worried. "Can I get you something, General?"
"No, I’ve had more than enough." The others followed Hasler’s lead, telling the waiter he could clear their dishes. It was a shame really. The food was as magnificent as the setting. The Officer’s Mess is anything but. It’s a small, private dining room in an inner ring of the Pentagon, replete with crystal, silver, china, and white tablecloths. It’s a far cry from eating an MRE in a Quonset hut in northern India.
Sarah and Thor pulled out their notebooks. "It’s worse than you can imagine, Mr. Chairman," Adams resumed.
"Their ‘religion’ not only promises paradise to anyone who dies killing infidels for Allah; it’s the only guaranteed way to get in, as far as I can tell."
"Actually, I don’t think so," Thor said. "Not unless you know a god that lived in a rock. One that had three daughters who also lived in rocks."
"Not unless you know a god so small he changes his mind, one who craves monotonous ritual, and wants to be mooned fifty times a day." Sarah smiled at the thought.
"But will settle for five," Thor elaborated.
The waiter poured everyone coffee and retreated a discreet distance.
"Do you know of a god who condones - actually encourages - lying, stealing, revenge, rape, kidnapping for ransom, terror?" Adams looked Hasler directly in the eye. "How about selling women and children into slavery, or the assassination of innocent people? What did I leave out, Sarah?"
"Just the usual stuff: pedophilia, bigamy, money grubbing, mass murder, and genocide. Do you know any gods like that General?"
"Do you think there’s any chance God’s like that?"
"Congratulations, sir. You’ve just joined the world’s smallest club.
"Yep. There are now three Americans and four Israelis who know that Allah isn’t God. Seven people who know Muhammad was a fraud."
"If Allah isn’t God, what is he? And more to the point, who are his followers following?"
"Well, sir, Allah’s rock was worshiped as the Moon God. And if you forget to pray to it, Satan gets angry. How’s that for a clue?" The Admiral marched onto the battlefield of the mind, a place where as often as not, truth gets trammeled and messengers are maligned.
"Islamic scriptures promote war, lying, thievery, rape, bigamy, genocide...well, you know the list. That’s the kind of fun stuff Allah busies himself with. And Allah’s angels are killers, fixated on pain and punishment." Sarah followed Thor into the "mind field." If they were going down, it would be together.
"That’s like the opposite of the God I know - the God who wrote the Ten Commandments and gave them to Moses, the God who inspired the Pilgrims to come to America, the God who guided the framers of our Constitution." The General, it turned out, was a closet Christian. He believed, but he kept quiet, knowing that being typecast in the military wasn’t good for his career. Don’t ask; don’t tell.
"Allah didn’t inspire such things, sir."
"And as for his Apostle," Sarah said, "he was...." She shook her head. Nottingly didn’t like Muhammad very much. "You’re a military man, General. You must be aware of the parallels between der Fuhrer and der Messenger, between the rise of Nazi Germany and the rise of Islam. Surely, you’ve studied this adversary."
"And more importantly," Thor added, "have you contemplated the parallels between Europe in the early 1930s and the fix we’re in today?"
"No. What did I miss?"
"Our destiny." Sarah was about to share some unpleasant history with the man who had saved her almost-fiancé’s job. "Let’s begin by comparing the bad boys: der Fuhrer, ‘the Leader,’ and the Messenger, a title which Muhammad interpreted as ‘leader’.
"Hitler, not unlike the Prophet before him, started by asking his compatriots to view him as their long-awaited savior, a prophet called by fate to save Aryans, or in Muhammad’s case Arabs. Hitler, like Muhammad, capitalized upon the people’s pre-existing beliefs, their jealousies, and prejudices. Both feigned support for prior religious sentiments in order to form bonds and to smooth the transition."
It was Thor’s turn. "Just like Allah’s Messenger, halfway through Hitler’s life, he had managed to lure only a hundred or so followers into his ranks. As in Muhammad’s Arabia, the Fuhrer’s motley group meandered aimlessly until their insecure leader imbued them with his spirit, a sense of rage. In both cases, when the leaders demonstrated a willingness to employ violence and thievery, the number of adherents grew at a geometric rate. In less than a decade, both causes expanded from less than three percent of the local population to a controlling presence. This was a direct result of Muhammad and Hitler providing youthful wannabe-warriors with a sense of adventure, giving them the green light to savage others." Adams paused. "Their story is the same."
Hasler sat stone-faced.
"‘None but Germans may be members of the Nation,’ Hitler announced from a cellar below a beer hall in Munich - seems they both liked caves. The Fuhrer screamed so eloquently, ‘The Nazi Party will free you from the power of the Jew. My aim is a thorough solution, the removal of the Jews from the midst of our people.’ His mentor must have been Muhammad," Sarah hypothesized. "It’s what Muslims want today.
"Did you know, sir, that Allah’s Prophet removed the Jews from the midst of his people four times? The first two instances were forced mass deportations; the last two featured mass executions of Jewish men; their women and children were sold into slavery. He blamed all his people’s woes on the Jews. And, like Hitler, he even came up with some pithy sayings that soothed whatever consternation the pious bystanders may have felt at the time, an antidote for whatever discomfort their consciences may have caused them. Those that supported Jews in either culture found themselves sharing a similar fate."
"The god of the Qur’an calls Jews his enemy, senseless, vile creatures, donkeys and apes. He says that they are destined to burn in His flaming fire. It could have been where Hitler got the idea for his crematoriums. The Prophet’s biographer, Ibn Ishaq, claims Muhammad directed Muslims to, ‘Kill any Jew.’ Not very ambiguous, is it?"
"This is getting creepy," the General moaned.
"Yes indeed," Adams agreed. "These were men on a mission. Focusing on the young and capitalizing upon their impetuousness, Hitler and Muhammad formed bands of armed marauders - Storm Troopers and Caravan Raiders. These men were encouraged to attack, to terrorize, and loot for Lebensraum - living space. They were especially keen on killing Jews and political opponents. Both were racists, preaching that their people and their doctrine were pure, superior, and undefeatable. All others were beneath them, infidels or non-Aryans. Jews in particular were evil, deserving to be exterminated."
"Der Fuhrer’s inspiring speeches and Nazi doctrine motivated the Hitler Youth just as the Messenger’s speeches and Muslim doctrine inspire a plethora of youth organizations today, clubs with names like al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Jamaah Islamia, Fatah, and Hamas," Sarah said. "The sermons haven’t changed, nor have the results." The agent and the Admiral were taking turns enlightening the General.
The waiter’s eyes were as big as his ears. Standing near the galley door, he was but a few paces from the table.
"Violence was the key to victory for both men," Thor said.
"Thin skinned and paranoid, Hitler had his Storm Troopers, Brown Shirts as they were called, attack anyone who annoyed him, beginning as early as January 1930." Sarah explained.
"With that first kill, they developed a taste for blood. They reveled in the spoils. So did the Prophet’s pals. They called it booty. The Qur’an says ‘the spoils of war are lawful and good. They belong to Allah and His Apostle.’ He also said that anyone who ‘annoys’ him will receive ‘a painful punishment.’ So with Allah’s blessing, Muhammad’s killing and plundering started, as had Hitler’s, ten years after his doctrine was conceived, just as Islam was faltering, on the brink of extinction. It was as a direct result of his peers calling him a charlatan."
"How have we missed this?" the General pondered quietly. "What are the implications?"
Sarah plowed ahead, knowing what she was going to say would answer the General’s questions. "Because no one had either the foresight to recognize what they were about or the fortitude to stand up and stop them, they made it through the lean times. They signed their treaties, forced their annexations, stirred their followers with dramatic speeches, and wielded ever-sharper swords. They seduced some, forced their will on others, and ultimately impacted much of the world. They both said that treaties they had signed were not binding on their people. In this, sir, their lives and their movements are identical. And by recognizing this, we can predict what will happen tomorrow."
"General, early on, the destruction they caused could have been nipped in the bud with minimum bloodshed. But it was not to be - in either case." Thor paused. "As a result, the world has paid and will continue to pay a horrible price." Adams let that sink in.
Nottingly marched on, making certain to provide sufficient evidence to transcend the gulf between opinion and truth. "Both men maintained their grip on their followers by manufacturing an enemy, inventing someone to blame for their pain. Poverty breeds thugs like cesspools breed maggots, Bill. Its stench gives rise to all kinds of warlords and prophets, charlatans with charismatic charm and spirited speech. Hitler and Muhammad propelled their parasites out of poverty, if only temporarily, by finding someone productive to rape and plunder. They used the spoils of war to equip and reward their followers. It instantly swelled their ranks. Two leaders, one victim: the Jews."
Adams looked at Sarah as she spoke.
"On January 30th, 1933, President Hindenburg gave Hitler the break he couldn’t win at the ballot box, making him his Chancellor. Hindenburg had given him an inch, but Hitler took a mile, quickly changing the rules and becoming Germany’s dictator."
Now Thor picked up the torch. "As thugs are wont to do, the Nazis intimidated the electorate in the March elections, just five weeks later. Then for good measure, they counted the votes themselves, announcing, not surprisingly, that they were the overwhelming winner. Four days later they started killing Jews in earnest, opening the first concentration camp in Dachau, outside Munich.
"It was no different with the early Muslims. After their first ‘win,’ they took control of Medina and began killing and expelling Jews. Think of it, General, with Jews less than one percent of the world’s population, what are the odds that both men would blame their problems on this tiny minority, confiscate their wealth, and slaughter them in genocidal rage?"
"Not good," the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs muttered.
"The media played a starring role in the ascension of both men," Sarah continued. "They had their thugs kill anyone who said bad things about them, a move designed to dissuade their peers from likeminded foolishness. Then they used the plunder they’d stolen to enthrone their own personal ‘journalists.’ These upstanding men and women condemned any attempt to critique their leader and his methods: Jihad or Blitzkrieg."
He gave an example. "The German newspapers reported in November ’33 that 99.5 percent of the inmates in the Dachau concentration camp voted in favor of a plebiscite, a referendum designed to solidify Hitler’s power. When others protested the obvious prevarication, they labeled their objections ‘Mad Jew Propaganda’ in banner headlines. With the press in his pocket, Hitler initiated a blockade and boycott of Jewish areas; he created ghettos. His craving for death yet unsatisfied, der Fuhrer sent those who survived off to forced-labor and extermination camps. He called anyone who befriended a Jew a ‘traitor’. The propagandists justified it by quoting from Hitler’s inspired speeches."
Sarah picked it up. "Muhammad, in like fashion, created blockades of Jewish settlements. But starving and robbing them was insufficient to satisfy his bloodlust. Der Prophet sold the women and children of Beni Quraidha into slavery and massacred the men. Then he justified his violence against these defenseless Jews with this verse from the Qur’an." She looked down at her notes and read, "‘Allah drove back the unbelievers.’ ‘He was sufficient for the believers, so that they did not have to fight.’ And ‘Allah brought low the People of the Book, the Jews, some of whom you killed and some you made slaves.’"
"See any similarities so far, sir?" Adams asked.
"I’m starting to believe in reincarnation," the General professed.
"Perhaps it was just the same character flaw, raging insecurity."
"Both Muslims and Nazis based their new pseudo-religions on the pagan practices of their forefathers. They both relied on ritual to stupefy the masses. When conflicts arose they simply revised history to suit their agendas. Call it situational scriptures."
She added, "In Germany, burning twenty-thousand books in a massive bonfire was merely a good start. Goebbels’ propaganda machine turned out to be the perfect antidote for everything that ailed their bruised egos. Working together with Hitler, Goebbels helped compose the Third Reich’s inspired doctrines. As in Muhammad’s day, the best and brightest were either driven away or exterminated, so the dummies who were left thought it all sounded perfectly reasonable. In similar fashion, Muslims burned conflicting versions of the Qur’an. The Bible, the most influential writing of Muhammad’s time, was condemned as errant and unenlightened. He called its rise in influence the ‘Period of Ignorance.’ The Qur’an was the only acceptable antidote."
Thor took over. "Unrestrained egos caused both men to claim that the message and the messenger were one, equally worthy of acclaim. Muhammad said, ‘Believe in Allah and his Messenger,’ and, ‘You will not have faith until you love me more than your own family.’ Hitler said, ‘The Fuhrer is the Party and the Party is the Fuhrer.’ These guys were two peas in a pod. Both were gifted orators. They had a way with words."
The uniformed waiter moved in closer, refilling all three coffee cups.
"They created a cult," Adams said. "Their zealous fervor was manifested in militarism, violence, terror, heroism, martyrdom, banners, flags, mysticism, ritual, inspiring rhetoric, and all kinds of religious symbolism."
"But it didn’t start off that way," Sarah shared. "In Munich, those in power initially viewed Hitler as little more than an irritant, a vulgar crybaby, a petty demagogue. In Mecca the empowered viewed Muhammad pretty much the same way, as an irritant - an insecure and thin-skinned whiner, a harmless but annoying charlatan."
Thor continued. "But their followers saw them as other-worldly, godlike, supreme. They became blindly devoted, pledging in the form of an oath to protect their leaders personally as they would their women and children. For this, both leaders promised utopia, a paradise of their own making, one in which their followers’ every craving would be satisfied." It sickened the Admiral, and wasn’t doing much for the General, either.
"And speaking of cravings, they both had an unnatural desire for young women. Hitler’s young cousin was his first love. Muhammad’s favorite was six when they were betrothed. He was a nifty fifty."
"I have been told," the General confessed, "that the church, both the Catholic and Protestant branches, supported Hitler. Is that true?"
"The truth," Sarah said, "for both the Prophet and der Fuhrer, is far more revealing." She let that linger for a moment. "In Germany, the Nazis - the National Socialists Workers’ Party - were atheists, just like their counterparts in Russia, the Communists. As a result, there was a tremendous conflict between the Nazis and the church, Catholic and Protestant. But Hitler, being a master of deceit, lured them to his side by incorporating their symbols into his movement and by falsely presenting himself as one of them. During his rise, when the movement was fragile, he promised to protect them - not kill them - if they agreed to be passive about his atheistic and militaristic ways."
"You’re familiar with how the Fuhrer cult grew out of the Goebbels-inspired Leni Riefenstahl propaganda film, The Triumph of the Will, right?" Adams asked.
"I’ve seen it. If you want to understand the mindset of megalomaniacs, it’s a must-see," Hasler answered. "Most every rally in ‘support’ of a dictator tries to emulate Hitler’s success. Similar displays of adoration became commonplace in the old Soviet Union, in today’s China, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran."
"If you recall, the film begins with Adolph’s airplane descending out of the clouds like the Messiah, casting a cross-shaped shadow over a sea of elite troops in ceremonial garb. They’re all shown waiting reverently, in eager anticipation of his arrival. The Party faithful were gathered in Nuremberg to praise their exalted leader, der Fuhrer. Hitler was only filmed alone, and only from below. The camera looked up at him as he looked down on his people. Remember Heb’s stirring words? ‘Hitler is Germany just as Germany is Hitler. Sieg Heil!’
"Islam’s story is the same, though not so high-tech. Muhammad incorporated the Ka’aba, an old pagan shrine, into his religion. Then he added Allah, its Moon God, and his stone. He followed this by telling his faithful to celebrate the idolaters’ holy month of Ramadan. Then he announced that he agreed with their theology, via his brush with the ‘Satanic Verses.’ Finally, after he was empowered militarily, he handed down laws which said in essence, don’t annoy me and I’ll let you live.
"Now, as for the Meccan merchants who had a vested interest in the Ka’aba, the source of their wealth and power, Muhammad took care of them the same way Hitler took care of the clergy, especially the Catholics. Muhammad kept the Meccans in business. All of the stones in the Ka’aba were removed except Allah’s. Then he made the Ka’aba the center of his religion, which left the Meccans financially whole. In Hitler’s Germany, so long as there was an ostentatious display of Nazi symbolism and prayerful respect was shown for Hitler himself, the churches continued to fleece the flock."
"Ultimately, Bill," Sarah added, "the biggest difference between these guys was that Muhammad didn’t have Germans working for him, and no modern technology, so it took his followers a little longer, although Muslims ultimately managed to conquer as much territory as the Nazis did."
"In either day," Thor jumped back in, "with either thug, you were perfectly free to express your concern over their assassinations, mass murders, thievery, or their brutality toward their citizens and neighbors so long as you didn’t value your life. Critics were few and far between. Interestingly, in Germany, while the Cardinal capitulated early for political reasons, the lower-ranking priests were defiant for a good long time."
"The Protestants, however," Sarah said, "were pretty much a lost cause, top to bottom. Germany was crawling with liberal theologians who viewed the Bible as moral mythology, a pick-and-choose smorgasbord sort of affair. Their faith had become meaningless. It wasn’t so much that the church supported the atheistic Nazis. It’s that without a vibrant, grounded faith, parishioners lost the ability to tell right from wrong. And equally important, they lost the courage and character they needed to stand up and thwart the evil that had grown among them."
"How’s that any different from America today?" the General asked.
"It’s not," Sarah replied, flipping through her notebook. "I’d like to pose a riddle. The ‘faithful’ said of one of these men, ‘We believe that Fate has chosen him to show the way to his people. Therefore we greet him in devotion and reverence, and can only wish that he may be preserved for us until his work is completed.’ Was that spoken of the Messenger or the Leader, the man of faith or the man of politics?"
"Sounds religious. I’d say it’s Muslims speaking of Muhammad."
"Nope. Goebbels, 1929. Okay, how about this one?" She looked down at her notes again. "‘Salvation can only come about through a leader/ messenger selected and blessed by Providence, who can rescue his people from their plight, restore them, make them honest, and serve as the embodiment of their longing, the bearer of Godly power, destiny, and grace; an organ of a power transcending him.’"
"’The bearer of Godly power?’ That’s Muhammad, for sure, God’s Messenger."
"Wrong again. This stirring wisdom was conceived by Sontheimer in Munich, not Muslims in Medina."
"Which one do you think changed the rules," the Admiral queried, "so that he could justify assassinating his political opponents, kill anyone who uttered something critical of him? Who was it who murdered the media in their beds to silence them?"
Hasler shook his head, frowning.
"Who ‘worked the miracle of faith, enlightening the people like a meteor before their astonished eyes, instilling in them a belief that eliminated despair?’" the Agent asked the General.
"Um, Muhammad, right?"
"Hitler," Sarah revealed. "You’re not very good at this game, are you, sir? That was propaganda from Goebbels. Der Fuhrer’s brand of socialism was propelled by a religious zeal. His inspired vision became doctrine; der Fuhrer became godlike, commanding great reverence. The ‘Heil Hitler’ was similar to Muslims being required to add ‘and Muhammad is his Messenger’ every time they ritualistically repeated ‘There is no god but God.’ The Qur’an even instructs the faithful to ‘salute the Prophet with a worthy greeting.’ Both portrayed themselves as selfless servants of the people, but they lived and acted like kings - above the law."
"As with the Muslims’ Pledge of Aqaba, Nazis pledged their loyalty: ‘Friends, raise your right arm and cry out with me proudly, eager for the struggle, and loyal unto death, ‘Heil Hitler!’" The Admiral thrust out his palm in mock praise.
The waiter jumped, asking his only customers if he could be of service.
Sarah held her hand above her cup, as did the others. "They both required unwavering devotion from the faithful. In Goebbels’ words, Hitler was ‘The Leader of a new, young Germany, der Fuhrer, the Prophet, the Fighter...the last hope of the masses.’ It was a leap into the darkness, just as it was following Allah’s Prophet."
Sarah gazed down at her notes. "Rudolf Heb, a Nazi big shot, embodied the spirit of both movements when he wrote, ‘The Leader must be absolute in his propaganda, in his speeches, and words. He must not weigh the pros and cons like an academic, he must never leave his listeners the freedom to think...The great popular leader is similar to the great founder of a religion: he must communicate to his listeners an apodictic faith. Only then can the masses be led where they should be led. They will then also follow the leader if setbacks are encountered; but only if he has communicated an unconditional belief in the absolute rightness of his cause.’"
"Although that was written by a Nazi for Hitler, it’s a flawless description of Muhammad and Islam."
Hasler scratched his head. "Are you reading too much into this? I mean, the similarities are shocking, but aren’t all dictators the same?" the General wondered.
"Not this similar, sir, but think about what you said." The Admiral wanted to make a point. "Muhammad didn’t portray himself as a political dictator. He said he was on Allah’s errand. There are over a billion people who trust this bad boy with their soul."
"They can’t be that naïve."
"Sure they can." Sarah knew. "Like Heb said, propaganda sells. In a vacuum of truth, lies are irresistible. And remember, General, these people have been fed nothing but lies for fifty generations."
"And lies that speak to our preconceived notions, our deepest longings, can be very seductive, sir," the Admiral reminded him. "That’s especially true when there’s collusion. Today, in the Muslim world, Arabs are bombarded from all directions, but with the same message. They hear it repeatedly in the media, learn it in their schools, have it preached to them in the mosques, and have the same rubbish dictated to them by their leaders: we are worthy of hate. It is their duty to kill us."
"Hitler and Muhammad both knew that the best way to deceive an audience was to include just enough truth in their lies to make them seem plausible, believable," Sarah pointed out. "I could give you a million examples, from yesterday and today."
"The source of such deceit is often insecurity." Thor knew from experience. "It’s a monstrous cancer that causes its victims to attack everyone who doesn’t submit. The insecurities of the Prophet and der Fuhrer are revealed in their cravings. They coveted power, sex, and wealth.
"These people religiously, hypocritically, tear others down to elevate themselves. They can’t tolerate being criticized. You see, Muhammad and Hitler were both ridiculed by Jews," Thor added. "In Medina, religious Jews made a game of teasing Muhammad after he’d embarrassed himself by convoluting their heritage and beliefs. In Munich, secular Jews, members of the Communist Party, mocked Hitler. They said he was a prima donna with his rehearsed gestures and pathological vanity, a sham and a coward. They made a game of tormenting him with sarcastic caricatures, slurring him with reckless abandon. In both instances, they kindled a rage that devastated Jews and eventually impacted the whole world."
Hasler leaned forward. "Even though the Jews were right about these creeps, it would have been prudent for them to keep their yaps shut."
"Yes, sir. Speaking out against evil is only effective if you’re willing and able - if you have the character and means - to do something about it."
Bill Hasler put his hand over his open mouth as he processed the implications of what Thor had just said. He sensed its importance.
"Both Muhammad and Hitler became anti-Jew and anti-Christian," Sarah resumed as the two men stared at one another. "Yet they both began their mission by identifying themselves with, even embracing, Jewish inspired doctrines. Hitler did so when he drew rhetoric and inspiration for his National Socialism from Lenin and his people’s revolution in Russia. Hitler called himself ‘the People’s Leader’ and ‘head of the Worker’s Party.’ And Muhammad drew similar inspiration from Moses, another Jew. He regularly compared himself to the Great Liberator. They stole their ideas before they stole their possessions."
She took a sip of her coffee, now cold. "For a while, both men tailored their pronouncements to appease the establishment. Muhammad lapsed from monotheism, worshiping three pagan goddesses to appease his tribe. Hitler appeased the Catholic clergy by claiming he was ‘deeply religious’."
"In both cases, the deception worked," Adams said, staring intently at the General. He saw in his eyes the look for which he had been searching. The General understood. "The lies bought the madmen time. The opposition was lulled to sleep, only to awaken to a nightmare. Both promised peace while plotting war. Both signed non-aggression pacts with those they later attacked. Think about that in today’s context, sir."
"Two men, one footprint." Sarah touched the General’s hand. "They craved and obtained absolute power and dictatorial control. They desired and achieved complete submission and unquestioned obedience. At the head of killing machines, they spoke and people died."
"Sir, these men, and their missions were identical," Thor said. "And fortunately both were egotistical enough to leave us a memoir so we could get to know the better. Their books speak of their megalomania, their fixation with punishment, and, of course, their hatred of Jews."
"Why would anyone want to know what these nutcases had say?"
"Because their demented doctrines led directly to the world’s worst wars. And that’s because they had the same motive: racial hatred. Their tactics were similar as well: terror and deception," Sarah concluded.
"Muhammad’s Austria was the Jewish settlement of Beni Qainuqa in Yathrib. His Czechoslovakia was the Jewish clan of Beni al Nadheer. Both were annexed and plundered, with the Jews expelled from their homes. Beni Quraidha was his Poland. Those that weren’t killed were forced into slave labor. It was the beginning of genocide."
"Oh my God," the General said softly as the lessons of history began to close in upon him. "How have we missed this?"
"The nature of man has not changed in four thousand years," the Admiral admonished. "If we do not learn from past mistakes, Palestine will be our Czechoslovakia, our Beni Qainuqa. And America will be the next Poland."
"I’ve arranged for the shipment," Omen grumbled, upset that he was still stuck in the shifting sands of Iraq.
"And as you know, I’ve had one of the Imam’s boys make our suitcase nukes look like scuba gear. He made the other cases look like they were holding photographic equipment."
"That plays nicely into the sailing theme."
Kahn was thrilled that his comrade was playing with his atoms. He was actually being civil. "Hey, did you know they have a terrorist school here in Baghdad? They gave me a tour - they’ve got a Boeing jetliner to practice hijacking, classes on bomb-making, kidnapping, even how to play the media. You should check it out, Omen, maybe take a class or two."
"Some other time. I’m leaving to escort our bombs to Egypt. As a country of origin, it sounds more benign than Iraq, don’t you think? And I’m going to pick up Aymen’s bomb launchers. He had his contraptions fabricated by our agents in Cairo."
"Holy moon-god, this is fun," Kahn squealed, rubbing his hands together. "We’ve got missiles after all."
More restrained, Omen explained, "With the help of our Bahamian faithful, I arranged for someone to modify the v-berth on each vessel to conceal the cargo. We’ve also enlarged the forward skylight. The design allows us to catapult the weapons through the hatch and launch them a hundred meters into the air. " Omen suddenly burst out laughing.
"What’s so funny?"
"Blacks submitting to Islam and helping us out. They have no idea who sold them into slavery. It’s delicious."
Kahn nodded, smiling. "Yes, and there’s something equally elegant about using a sailboat to deliver nuclear holocaust, don’t you think?" Haqqani waxed poetic. "Gliding on Allah’s breath, the Devil gets his due."
Omen was unimpressed. "It’ll take a few weeks for all of the sailboats to pass through Paradise Island and pick up their gear. Six will stow three cases up front, one will get just two."
"What about the other five boats? The dirty ones."
Omen raised his hand, quieting his friend. "Take it easy. The following week five more are scheduled to sail for Jamaica, also one at a time. Each will pick up ten kilos of our nuclear material."
"Yes. It’s not weapons grade, as you know. But that makes it better for dirty bombs. I’ve had our isotopes tested, and the stuff is plenty nasty, half-lives of five to thirty years. Eighty percent of those exposed are gonna die."
"And the explosives? Are we going to use Iranian C-12?" Omen asked.
"As you wish. I’ve been busy kissing up to the Iranians, and I found that envy is a beautiful thing," Kahn said gleefully. "I told the Ayatollah that the Iraqis were getting all the credit. After all, they were their anthrax spores. He darn near forced me to use his nuclear technicians to recharge the triggers. And I swear, he would have given us enough C-12 to blow up America even without the nukes."
On a starboard tack America’s couple glided down the Severn River. They were headed toward the Chesapeake Bay. Annapolis was fading out of view off their stern. The chapel dome at the Naval Academy was the last discernable landmark.
It was a glorious day. Just enough clouds drifted across the sky to make it interesting. The late spring sun warmed them. And they had a sailor’s wind: a steady blow from the southwest filled their sails.
Thor scanned the horizon. "Sarah, if you had your choice between being First Lady or Vice President, which would you choose?"
"Are you running for something, proposing, or recruiting? Or are you just waffling?"
"Are you always this much trouble?"
"Yes," she smiled.
He shook his head. "Prepare to come about," he said, finding his next point. "About ho."
He gave the command an instant before he pulled in the main and pushed the tiller toward the sail. Sarah released the jib sheet, winching it in on the other side. Thor eased the main as the boom crossed above their heads. They were now running downwind, on a port tack.
"I just want to make sure I understand the question," she said. "And I want to know why there are only two choices."
"How many do you want?"
"At least two more - ‘all of the above’ and ‘none of the above.’"
"Would you just answer the question?"
"I don’t like having a multiple choice. If you want to know what I think you’ll have to ask them one at a time."
She wasn’t making this easy.
Once again he picked a point, one ninety degrees from their present heading. "Prepare to come about." He paused a moment, pulling in the line he was holding in his right hand. With the boom more amidship the jolt would be less severe. "About ho." Thor pushed the tiller toward the sail, again changing course. Sarah released and then re-cleated the jib sheet on command. Adams, like his first mate, shifted to the port side of the boat, providing ballast.
The old but meticulously maintained wooden sloop swung through the stiff breeze, settling in on a new tack. Her sails filled, pulling her forward. She was Adams’ pride and joy. He had christened her "Sunrise."
"Should things continue to progress as they are, and should I be encouraged to accept the Republican nomination at the next election, as the Senate Minority Leader suggested, would you want to be Vice President?"
"Yes, but I’m not old enough."
"Now, see how easy that was? Why didn’t you just say so?"
"You didn’t ask."
He sighed. "If I were to win, would you rather be First Lady?"
"No hypotheticals on that one. Sorry, sailor."
Distracted, the wind went out of Thor’s sails. They luffed, making a terrible racket. Fortunately, he knew just how to recover.
Adams reached into his pocket and removed a small box. He opened it. Inside was a beautiful stone standing proudly on an elegant platinum mount. Sitting tall and strong, it reminded him of her: brilliant and multifaceted, breaking down whatever illumination it found into its most basic elements.
The ring had been a gift. The Israeli contingent of Team Uniform had been so moved by the way Thor and Sarah had reached out to Mary, they’d bought it in anticipation of the big event. Not by themselves, mind you - they were mere men. Yacob’s wife, Marta, had helped them pick it out.
"Sarah Nottingly, will you marry me?"
Forgetting where she was, Sarah leapt into Thor’s arms, knocking the tiller out of his hand. The boat responded appropriately, spinning out of control. No one cared.
"I’ll take that as a yes," he grinned.
Alternating glances between her eyes and her new ring, Thor couldn’t decide which sparkled more. Their boat was adrift, but they were going somewhere. The sun, sea, and warm breeze all smiled in agreement.
"Before I blow out of here, I need to know if you’re ready," Yasman Alafat questioned his young engineer.
"Piece of cake, sir," Aymen answered. "The Dome’s only got four primary support columns. They’re huge rectangular structures, but you’ve given me enough C-12 to take out twenty buildings its size."
"Down boy, careful now. This is not about sending the shrine to Allah. It’s about sending the Jews to hell. Implicating them. Politics, boy."
"Yes, sir, I understand," Halaweh said. "We’re bribing Jews to carry the bombs inside our SFG packs. But they’ll get caught before they can set them off. He looked over at the high-tech gear. "Mamdouh told me to disable their triggers. So I’ve created a short that will cause them to fail in a way no one will ever detect. Mr. Salim also asked me to make an operable one for him just in case." Aymen Halaweh was much more comfortable working with Alafat than with Kahn.
"Good, son. But we won’t have to bribe the Jews. There’s a gang of right-wing radicals called the Temple Faithful who are committed to the destruction of the Dome. I plan to use them."
"They want to rebuild their Temple on its original site. Something about it having to be there for their Messiah to come. They’re religious zealots. They say they’ve already made the Temple furnishings to God’s exacting specifications."
"How do they know what God wants?"
"They claim Moses told them."
"Moses? Moses is our prophet. He met with Muhammad, peace be unto him, here in the Temple during the Night’s Journey."
"They don’t seem to think so."
"Then they’re wrong!"
"Well, they’re just Jews. What do you expect? They don’t see it our way, which is probably why they’ve already tried to blow up the Dome."
"They did? When?"
"About ten years ago. They lied, said they were from National Geographic doing survey work of some sort. What they called ‘measuring devices’ were really bombs. We caught them in the nick of time."
"As we will with this operation, won’t we, sir?" A giant grin swept across Aymen’s small face. "When they set the bombs against the columns, our brothers will ‘discover’ them. The Jews will be caught red handed."
"That’s right, boy. Then the world gets steamed at the Israelis for trying to desecrate our Holy Shrine. It’s despicable behavior."
"Ahh, but it’s a brilliant plan, sir."
"Thank you, Aymen. But for the plan to fool the media, the bombs must actually work. The size of the explosion and the placement of the packs needs to be such, that if they were ignited, they actually would bring the Dome down. It can’t look like a setup or the Shin Bet will smell a rat."
"That’s the way I’ve designed them."
"And Mamdouh Salim’s remote triggering device must work as well."
"I understand. I’ve combined a remote trigger to the telemetry and video data coming from the SFGs. It’s all on a laptop PC."
"You know the reason for that, don’t you?"
"Yes, sir. You want a second set of triggers in case the Jews get second thoughts, become cowardly, and start to run. As soon as they’re in the clear, far enough away from the Dome - boom! No evidence, no tattletales."
"That’s it. And with the computer link to the SFGs, Mamdouh will know exactly where they are at all times, right?"
"To the meter. The SFGs have built-in GPSs with transponders. There’ll be live pictures from the helmet cams, too, so there won’t be any question as to where they are or what they’re doing."
"Or who tried to perpetrate this heinous act," the Chairman smiled. Then he got serious. "I’ve invited Omen Quagmer here. He’s going to help out with the organization after I’m gone. Like you, he’s a Palestinian. My top ministers are going to work with you as well. Mamdouh Salim will be in charge after I’m gone. Talib Ali will help with recruiting."
"I’m going to miss you, sir. But I know there will be a great reward for you in Paradise."
"Yes, I’m sure."
"Your plan to implicate the Jews will work, sir."
"Praise be to Allah," Alafat mumbled as he headed out of his office for the last time. At the door he stopped, turned, and looked at the boy sitting at the far side of the dark conference table. He could see his reflection along with the blueprints of the Dome of the Rock. Three Israeli SFGs were hanging against the far wall, helmets mounted above them, packs to one side. Politically speaking, this was Alafat’s Holy of Holies. And soon his Ark of the Covenant, the SFGs themselves, would be proclaiming his message to the world: the Jews are my chosen people.
Sarah could hardly wait to tell her folks the great news. They hadn’t even met Thor, not in person anyway. Life had been a swirl.
Likewise, Thor wanted to ask Sarah’s father for her hand in marriage. Although he knew almost nothing about him, he wanted to meet the man who’d helped mold the woman. Sarah had described him as a wonderful dad and a great husband. Living up to his standard wasn’t going to be easy.
And then there was her mother. What would she be like?
Fortunately, Thor wouldn’t have to wait long to meet them. Sarah’s parents lived on a narrow peninsula nestled between Harness Creek and the South River. It was a leisurely sail from where they had lost control on the Severn. As the seagull flies, Sarah’s home was but a few miles south of Annapolis.
The bride-to-be told Thor as much as she could about her parents as they sailed toward them. To his surprise, she said she had been adopted and was an only child at that. Dad, she explained, had been a hard-charging businessman, but he now spent his time writing books. Like Thor, he was a pilot and a sailor. He liked to scuba dive, ski, and play golf in his spare time. He had made a shekel or two in his lifetime, setting enough aside to buy a private airplane.
Mom, she told him, was mom. She was the organizer, German through and through, a nice contrast to dad’s more relaxed Irish nature. Leisel Nottingly had given up her career as a banker to raise her daughter.
The newly engaged couple entered the mouth of the South River and sailed alongside the picturesque Quiet Waters Park. Inside Harness Creek the wind became squirrelly, requiring the crew to lower the sails and motor the last hundred yards. Negotiating their way around a series of submerged sandbars, they arrived at an old wooden dock. Sarah handled the lines as Thor carefully managed the tiller. Bumping into one of the pilings would have been easy enough, but repairing the damage to the brightly polished mahogany hull would have taken days.
Surviving their first crisis as an engaged couple, they safely secured the Sunrise to the pier. Sarah smiled as they walked up to the house from the dock. This was home. Adams smiled, too, for it was some home. Sarah was evidently rich, or at least her folks were.
The home looked like it belonged in New England, along the coast, perhaps in Nantucket or on Martha’s Vineyard. It had cute written all over it. Shingle style, it came complete with white columns, impressive stonework, brightly colored gardens, and a plethora of ornate flower boxes, one beneath every window.
And then there was the view. Framed by an old red barn on one side and magnificent centuries-old trees on the other, panoramic snapshots of the South River loomed large. The setting sun danced off their private pond, one strategically positioned between home and the sailor’s paradise beyond.
"The Muslims are right," Thor said, provoking a response.
"Right about what?" she asked as she rang the doorbell.
"There are virgins in paradise."
Sarah laughed, but hit him on the shoulder all the same.
"Ouch," he said as mom opened the door.
"Nice to meet you, too."
"I’m sorry, ma’am. Not you. Your daughter just hit me, that’s all."
"Sarah, play nice. She’s always been hard on the boys."
"Yes, ma’am," he said, "I know."
She hit him again.
"Is she always this much fun?"
"’Fraid so." She smiled, opening the door wide. It’s good to finally meet you, Admiral Adams," Mrs. Nottingly said, holding out her hand. "Our daughter has told us a great deal about you. And then, of course, there’s the TV news."
"Well, you can’t believe everything you hear. Those folks with the microphones have been known to make stuff up."
"Come in, Admiral. What brings the two of you by?"
"We were out sailing and thought we’d say hello," Adams said, stepping inside. "I’d sure like to meet Mr. Nottingly. Is he home?"
"Yes, in his usual spot...."
"He uses the study above the garage to write," Sarah interrupted her mom. "It has the best view."
"It’s so good to see you, sweetheart." Mom gave her daughter a hug. "I want to hear all about Israel. Did you have a good time?"
"Ma’am," Adams said. "Excuse me for interrupting, but could you point me in the direction of Mr. Nottingly’s study? It’ll give you girls a chance to catch up on things, chat about our trip."
"Sarah, go and introduce your...." She wanted to say boyfriend but didn’t. Adams was way too much man for that. "...Admiral Adams to your father. I’ll make some tea."
"More tea!" they laughed in unison. It was an inside joke, they explained, without really explaining.
Climbing up the curved stone stairs, the Agent and Admiral found themselves on a large balcony knocking at the door. A tree loomed overhead.
"Sarah!" her father exclaimed, not even seeing Thor by her side. He gave his daughter a warm embrace. "You’re back!" he added, finally noticing she had company. "Admiral Adams," he burst out, half in surprise, half in admiration, "to what do I owe this honor?"
He wanted to say, "Her," but settled for, "Hello, sir." He extended his hand. "Please, call me Thor."
"I’m Troy," he responded with an enthusiastic vice-like grip.
"Come in, come in. Please. Does your mother know you’re here? She’d be so excited to meet you, Admiral - Thor."
"Yes daddy, she does. She’s making us some tea right now."
"Then let’s go down and help her out."
"I’ll go, daddy. We’ve got stuff to catch up on, girl stuff. Why don’t you and Thor get to know each other. Talk about airplanes or sailboats. Or whatever guys talk about when you’re together."
"She’s pretty bossy, don’t you think?" Troy said.
"Cute, though." Thor could have said more but thought better of it. She packed a mean right hook.
"Sit down." Troy motioned to his future son-in-law. "I converted this place into a study. That couch in the corner makes into a bed but I only use it when I’m in the doghouse," he chuckled. It wasn’t true, but it made for a good story.
Adams scanned the room. It was littered with memorabilia, personal encounters with some of the world’s best and brightest. There were family photos as well. Some were shot underwater, some in the clouds, others on golf courses in exotic tropical locales. There were also a myriad of business treasures, announcing one success after another. Then there were books on all manner of subjects. Thor felt right at home.
"I understand you’re a pilot."
"Yes, but not like you. No carrier landings, no mach two, no bombs or guns. But that notwithstanding, I’ve gotta pretty sweet ride, a Pilatus."
"Swiss-built. Pratt and Whitney PT-6, right?"
Troy nodded. They were bonding, sharing something in common - something they both loved. "You know your airplanes. Cruises at nearly three hundred knots, flies at thirty thousand feet - coast to coast nonstop. Yet it’s nimble. Able to take off and land from strips as tight as Lee Field here in Annapolis - it’s only twenty-four hundred feet."
Troy studied Thor over the top of his reading glasses. "I suppose we could talk about flying all evening, but that’s not why you’re here, is it?"
"I couldn’t help but notice."
"That and the smile she was wearing. You know she’s my pride and joy, but she’s a handful, that one."
"Yes, sir, she is."
"Got a mind of her own."
"She intimidates folks. Drives ’em crazy. She may be too smart for her own good."
"Yeah, she’s smart, smarter than me, I’ll give you that. And she drives me plenty crazy, but in a nice sort of way."
He just listened, smiling.
Thor got down to business. "I’m in love with your daughter, sir. With your permission, I’d like to marry her."
Troy Nottingly smiled broadly, stood, and reached for the Admiral’s hand. "Welcome to the family, son." He pulled Adams up, giving him the official Nottingly family greeting, an all-encompassing hug.
"I’m sure her mother has noticed the rock. Fair warning: she’s into jewelry."
"I suppose there’s something special about an engagement ring. Particularly one on your daughter’s finger."
"Yeah, but don’t worry. Leisel’s too classy to ask about it, not with us up here anyway. All the same, she’s dying to know, so we’d better go down before she explodes."
Downstairs in the living room, the announcement was made. The champagne was opened. Well wishes filled the elegant room.
"Have you set a date?" Leisel asked.
Thor looked at Sarah. That was her job.
"Soon," she answered. "We’re expecting our first child - a daughter."
They both looked at her stomach, and then at each other. Where did we go wrong?
"No, it’s not like that, ma’am, sir. I’m not responsible."
That sounded even worse. "I mean, I’m not the father."
That was worse still. Alarmed, Leisel and Troy looked back at their daughter.
Sarah put them out of their misery. "We adopted a little girl in Israel. She’s eight years old. Her name is Mary."
Thor explained. "She lost her father in a guerilla attack while he was on duty. Her mom died right in front of us. Victim of a suicide bomber."
"Where is she, little Mary," Troy asked, relieved and worried all in the same breath.
"She’s still in Israel, in a hospital in Jerusalem. Friends of Sarah’s and mine are with her. She’s doing great and should be here Friday morning."
"Because of Mary we’d like to get married as soon as we can."
Thor agreed. "Sir, my life has stirred up quite a squall, and I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’d like a small wedding, out of camera’s view. That is, if it’s all right with you."
"It’s your wedding. We’re happy with whatever makes you happy." In truth, Troy was happier about it than Leisel was. She had dreamed of planning the perfect wedding for her little princess.
"Soon, as in the next week or next month?" Leisel asked.
"Early June, mom."
"And where are all of you going to stay in the meantime?"
Thor scratched his head. His apartment was perfect for one, awful for three. Sarah’s was in the middle of the anthrax zone.
With no answer forthcoming, Leisel volunteered, "Then you’ll stay right here with us. Sarah can have her old room back, and Mary can have one of the guest rooms. Thor, you can have the room over the garage."
"But that’s...." His protest was cut off at the knees.
"It’s all settled." It was easy to see where Sarah got her assertiveness....
"We’re grandparents," Leisel said, squeezing Troy’s hand.
...and where she got her love.
Diplomatic immunity was Chairman Alafat’s ticket in. His private jet, a gift of the Saudis, wasn’t even inspected by the American authorities. As with all senior diplomats, he didn’t pass through customs. Even his luggage was considered state property, hence off limits.
It was good to be out of the depressing sewer of Gaza. While the Chairman acted more like a weasel, he felt as proud as a peacock. After all, he was carrying a secret, one that would make him a legend in his own time. Further, he was a celebrity here in America. The press treated him like royalty, hanging on every word he muttered.
And then there was the ride that loomed large behind him. This was no humble Gulfstream or Challenger. The Saudi Princes knew how to live. Their private airlift included 757s, 777s, and 747s, like this one. Well rested and out of Palestinian purgatory, life was suddenly good again.
Under the glaring eye of the media, the Chairman’s luggage was carefully loaded into one of the three stretch limousines that had pulled up under the mighty plane’s wings. Speaking into the microphones the press had provided, Alafat complained about everything he could think of, especially about how unfairly his people were being treated - how they were suffering as a result of America’s corrupt foreign policy and Israeli occupation. And while he did the obligatory, "I’m sorry a million of your people were poisoned" speech, he was quick to add, "America had it coming," or words to that effect.
He even played the political card, sharing how neither he nor his people were responsible for suicide bombers. "Palestinians are angry. We have been oppressed too long. My people’s response to Israeli occupation is only natural. The Jews are the real terrorists."
Asked if he thought he would share another Nobel Peace prize, this time with the current President, he scoffed. "This is my initiative."
Lip shaking, Yasman Alafat snarled, "Coming here, we flew over an armada of American warships. Every gun was pointed at my people."
With that, the cameras flashed and the stories were filed. The Chairman and his entourage headed off into the darkness.