A Novel Look at 9/11, Iraq
If you have any interest in national politics, I think you’ll find Mark Spivak’s political thriller, The American
American Crusade focuses on the events leading up to what’s commonly referred to as 9/11, the terrorist air attack on the World Trade Center in New York, and its aftermath, the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Except that this book has a plane crash into the enormous Mall of America outside of Minneapolis, the country’s second-largest shopping mall. But as in 9/11, a second plane aims for Washington, D.C., before going down. The real disaster happened in 2001, we all know, disqualifying Crusade as a historical novel, which generally must cover an event at least 50 years old.
The names are changed, of course: President George W. Bush becomes George Cane, and Vice President Dick Cheney is Robert Hornsby, who has had abundant political experience and tactfully calls the shots for the neophyte Cane while boosting his public image.
Spivak identifies himself as a “political junkie,” and what makes this novel so engrossing is the behind-the-scenes workings of government at the national level. The formal vernacular officials use in public events is starkly contrasted with their coarse language in private conversation. We know the historical facts, but aren’t privy to how the people in power operate. The author employs fascinating dialogue that reveals the cynicism, the duplicity, the ways in which government leaders manipulate information disseminated to the public.
President George W. Bush
Vice President Dick Cheney
Iraq is named Sumeristan, and Afghanistan is Kabulistan. The enigma of Bush’s lackadaisical attitude toward the perpetrator of 9/11, Osama bin Laden (Al-Akbar), and focus on Iraq’s Saddam Hussein (Hussein Ghazi) instead, is adroitly portrayed. Al-Akbar’s assistant runs breathlessly to the terrorist leader in their mountain hideaway: “Sir, I have remarkable news. The young American president has decided to invade Sumeristan rather than Kabulistan.”
“Is this so?” says Al-Akbar. “I’m not sure I understand.”
Osama bin Laden
“No one seems to understand yet, sir.”
The chasm between reality and messaging to the public is compellingly shown, as government leaders anticipate the public’s reaction to their actions and revelations about their personal lives. In real life, Cheney’s daughter Liz is a lesbian, but in Crusade it’s the president’s daughter, Courtney Kane, who is gay. The attempts to contain publicity over that and homosexual affairs involving officials in important positions presents suspenseful intrigue as the possibility of blackmail is dangled. Officials holding power react to human tragedies, not with sympathy toward victims, but with cold calculation of their political ramifications.
A striking feature of the story is the interspersion of italicized narratives from antiquity of wars perpetrated by European Christians against Middle Eastern Muslims in the Middle Ages. Their strategic placement is calculated to draw an uncanny parallel between the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the historical Crusades.
Mall of America
World Trade Center attacked
“These infidels are like the Crusades of old,” Al-Akbar tells his assistant. “They have many troops, they have excellent weapons, and they have knowledge of warfare. But they lack the fire of belief, as well as the support of their people. And they do not have Allah on their side.”
But the chief contribution of The American Crusade is a personalization of related events at the turn of the 21st century that constitute one of the most critical chapters in American history. You won’t want to put it down.