The Last Jihad (Political Thrillers Series #1)

The Last Jihad (Political Thrillers Series #1)

by Joel C. Rosenberg

ISBN: 9781414312729

Publisher Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Published in Literature & Fiction/United States

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Book Description

Jon Bennett is a top Wall Street strategist turned senior White House advisor. But nothing has prepared him for the terror that he will face. Saddam Hussein dispatches his top hit men to assassinate the President of the United States. Iraqi terrorists spread carnage throughout London, Paris, and Riyadh...and the Butcher of Baghdad has a nuclear ace in his hand that he has not yet played.

Only a solid Arab-Israeli coalition against Iraq can keep the U.S. and other Western nations from certain devastation. And only Bennett and his beautiful partner, Erin McCoy, can make that happen. Their secret project - a billion dollar oil deal off the coast of Gaza - could be the basis for an historic peace treaty and enormous wealth for every Israeli and Palestinian.

But just before the treaty can be signed, Israeli commandos foil an Iraqi scud missile launch, recovering a nuclear warhead and evidence that the next attack will level Washington, New York, and Tel Aviv.

Now, the Israeli prime minister gives the American President an ultimatum: melt down Baghdad within one hour...or Israel will do it herself.

From Jerusalem, Bennett and McCoy must summon all of their stealth and savvy to save themselves - and the world - from absolute destruction.


Sample Chapter

A PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE is a fascinating sight, particularly at night, and particularly from the air.

Even from twenty miles out and ten thousand feet up-on approach to Denver International Airport's runway 17R-both pilots of the Gulfstream IV could clearly see the red-and-blue flashing lights of the entourage on the ground at about one o'clock, beginning to snake westward down Pena Boulevard.

The late November air was cool, crisp, and cloudless. A full moon bathed the flat plains below and the Rockies jutting heavenward to the right with a bluish tint and remarkable visibility.

A phalanx of two dozen police motorcycles led the way toward downtown Denver, forming a V, with the captain of the motorcycle force riding point. Then came a dozen Colorado State Patrol squad cars, four rows of three each, spread out and taking up all three lanes of westbound highway with more lights and more sirens. Two jet-black Lincoln Town Cars followed immediately, carrying the White House advance team. These were followed by two black Chevy Suburbans, each carrying teams of plainclothes agents from the United States Secret Service.

Next-one after the other-came two identical limousines, both black, bulletproof Cadillacs built to precise Secret Service specifications. The first was code-named Dodgeball. The second, Stagecoach. To the untrained eye it was impossible to know the difference, or to know which vehicle the president was in.

The limousines were tailed closely by six more government-owned Suburbans, most carrying fully locked-and-loaded Secret Service assault teams. A mobile-communications vehicle followed, along with two ambulances, a half dozen white vans carrying staffers, and two buses carrying national and local press, baggage, and equipment. Bringing up the rear were a half dozen TV-network satellite trucks, more squad cars, and another phalanx of police motorcycles.

Overhead, two Denver Metro Police helicopters flanked the motorcade-one on the right, the other on the left-and led it by at least half a mile. All in all, the caravan lit up the night sky and made a terrible racket. But it was certainly impressive-and intimidating-for anyone who cared to watch.

A local FOX reporter estimated that more than three thousand Coloradoans had just packed a DIA hangar and tarmac to see their former governor-now president of the United States-come home for Thanksgiving, his last stop on a multistate "victory tour" after the midterm elections. Some had stood in the crosswinds for more than six hours. They'd held American flags and hand-painted signs and sipped thermoses of hot chocolate. They'd waited patiently to clear through incredibly tight security and get a good spot to see the president step off Air Force One, flash his warm trademark smile, and deliver one simple, Reaganesque sound bite: "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

The crowd absolutely thundered with approval. They'd seen his televised Thanksgiving-week address to the nation from the Oval Office. They knew the daunting task he'd faced stepping in after Bush. And they knew the score.

America's economy was stronger than ever. Housing sales were at a record high. Small businesses were being launched at a healthy clip. Unemployment was dropping fast. The Dow and NASDAQ were reaching new heights. Homeland security had been firmly reestablished. The long war on terrorism had been an unqualified success. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban had been obliterated. Osama bin Laden had finally been found-dead, not alive.

Forty-three terrorist training camps throughout the Middle East and North Africa had been destroyed by the U.S. Delta Force and British SAS commandos. Not a single domestic hijacking had occurred in the past several years-not since a U.S. air marshal put three bullets in the heart of a Sudanese man who single-handedly tried to take over a U.S. Airways shuttle from Washington Dulles to New York. And thousands of cell members and associates of various terrorist groups and factions had been arrested, convicted, and imprisoned in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Overseas, however, the news wasn't quite as good. The global economy still struggled. Car bombs and assassinations continued to occur sporadically throughout Europe and Asia as remaining terrorist networks-unable to penetrate the U.S.-tried to find new ways to lash out against the allies of the "Great Satan." One newspaper editorial said the U.S. seemed to be playing "terrorist whack-a-mole," crushing the heads of some cells at home only to see others pop up around the world. This was true. Many Americans still felt unsafe traveling overseas, and global trade, though improving, remained somewhat sluggish.

But within the U.S. there was now a restored sense of economic optimism and national security. Domestically, at least, recessions were a thing of the past and terrorism seem ed to have been quashed. Presidential promises made were promises kept. And the sense of relief was palpable.

As a result, the president's job-approval ratings now stood steady at a remarkable 71 percent. At this rate he'd win reelection in a landslide, probably pick up even more House seats and very likely a solid Senate majority as well.

Then the challenge would be to move to the next level, to bolster the U.S. and international economies with his sweeping new tax cut and simplification plan. Could he really get a single-rate, 17 percent flat tax through Congress? That remained to be seen. But he could probably get the country back just to low tax rates, say 10 percent and 20 percent. And that might be good enough. Especially if he abolished the capital-gains tax and allowed immediate write-offs for investment in new plants, buildings, equipment, high-tech hardware, and computer software, instead of long, complicated, Jurassic Park-era depreciation schedules.

But all that was a headache for another day. For now, it was time for the president to head to the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver and get some rest. Wednesday night he'd attend a Thanksgiving-eve party and raise $4.2 million for the Republican National Committee, then join his family already up at their palatial lodge, nestled on the slope of the Rockies in Beaver Creek, for a cozy, intimate weekend of skiing and turkey and chess. He could smell the fireplace and taste the sweet potatoes and marshmallows even now.

* * *

The motorcade cleared the airport grounds at 12:14 Wednesday morning.

Special Agent Charlie McKittrick of the U.S. Secret Service put down his high-powered night-vision binoculars and looked north, scanning the night sky from high atop the DIA control tower. In the distance, he could see the lights of the Gulfstream IV, a private jet chartered by some oil-company executives that was now the first aircraft in the holding pattern and waiting to land. Whenever the president, vice president, or other world leader flew into an airport, all other aircraft were prevented from landing or taking off, and the agency tasked with maintaining complete security put an agent in the tower to keep control of the airspace over and around the protectee. In this case, until Gambit-the code name assigned to the president-was secure at the Brown Palace, McKittrick would maintain his vigil in the tower and work with the local air-traffic controllers.

The holding pattern was now approaching five hours in length, and McKittrick had heard the G4 pilots repeat four times that they were running low on fuel. He hardly wanted to be responsible for a foul-up. It wasn't his fault the flight crew hadn't topped their tanks in Chicago rather than flying straight from Toronto. But it would certainly be his fault if something went wrong now. He glanced down at the radar screen beside him and saw thirteen other flights behind the Gulfstream. They were a potpourri of private and commercial aircraft whose pilots undoubtedly couldn't care less about the White House victory lap or the Secret Service. They just wanted their landing instructions and a good night's rest.

"All right, open 17R," McKittrick told the senior air-traffic controller, his voice suggesting an unhealthy combination of fatigue and fatalism. "Let's get the G4 down and go from there."

He cracked his knuckles, rubbed his neck, and swallowed the last of his umpteenth cup of coffee.

"TRACON, this is Tower. Over," the senior controller immediately barked into his headset. Exhausted, he just wanted to get these planes on the ground, go home, and call in sick the next day. He desperately needed a vacation, and he needed it now.

Linked by state-of-the-art fiber optics to the FAA's Terminal Radar Approach Control facility three miles south of the airport, the reply came instantaneously.

"Tower, this is TRACON. Over."

"TRACON, we're bringing in the Gulfstream on 17 Romeo. Put all other aircraft on notice. It won't be long now. Over."

"Roger that and hallelujah, Tower. Over."

The senior controller immediately switched frequencies to one-three-three-point-three-zero, and began putting the Gulfstream into an immediate landing pattern. Then he grabbed the last slice of cold pepperoni-and-sausage pizza from the box behind McKittrick and stuffed half of it in his mouth.

"Tower, this is Foxtrot Delta Lima, Niner Four Niner, on approach for 17 Romeo," said the Gulfstream. "We are going to increase speed and get on the ground as quickly as possible. Roger that?"

His mouth full, the senior controller thrust his finger at a junior controller by the window, who immediately jumped into action, used to finishing his bosses' sentences.

The young man grabbed a headset, and patched himself in. "Roger that, Foxtrot. You're cleared for landing. Bring her down."

Special Agent McKittrick didn't want to be here any more than these guys wanted him to be. But they'd better get used to it-all of them. If Gambit won his reelection campaign, he might as well open up his own bed-and-breakfast.

* * *

On board the Gulfstream, the pilot focused on the white strobe lights guiding him in and the green lamps imbedded down both sides of the runway.

He didn't have to worry about any other planes around him, because there weren't any. He didn't have to worry about any planes taxiing on the ground, because they were still in the Secret Service's holding pattern. He increased speed, lowered the landing gear, and tilted the nose down, taking the plane down from ten thousand feet to just a few hundred feet in a matter of moments.

A few minutes more and the long night would be over.

* * *

Marcus Jackson munched on peanut M&M's and tapped away quietly on his Sony VAIO notebook computer as the motorcade sped along at well over seventy miles an hour.

As the New York Times White House correspondent, Jackson was permanently assigned Seat 1 on Press Bus 1. That put him just over the right shoulder of the driver, able to see and hear everything. But having awoken at 4:45 a.m. for baggage call in Miami-and having visited twelve states in the past four days on the president's Thanksgiving Tour-Jackson couldn't care less what could be seen or heard from his coveted seat. All he wanted to do now was get to the hotel and shut down for the night.

Behind Jackson sat two dozen veteran newspaper and magazine reporters, TV correspondents, network news producers, and "big foot" columnists-the big, brand-name pundits who not only wrote their political analyses for the Times and the Post and the Journal but also loved to engage each other on Hannity & Colmes and Hardball, O'Reilly and King, Crossfire and Capital Gang. All of them had wanted to see the president's victory lap up close and personal. Now all of them wanted it to be over so they, too, could get home for Thanksgiving.

Some dozed off. Some updated their Palm Pilots. Others talked on cell phones with their editors or their spouses. A junior press aide offered them sandwiches, snacks, and fresh, hot coffee from Starbucks. This was the A team, everyone from ABC News and the Associated Press to the Washington Post and the Washington Times. Together, what the journalists on this bus alone wrote and spoke could be read, watched, or listened to by upward of 50 million Americans by 9 a.m.

So they were handled with care by a White House press operation that wanted to make sure the A team didn't add to their generally ingrained bias against conservative Republicans by also being hungry, cold, or in any other way uncomfortable. Sleep was something national political reporters learned to do without. Starbucks wasn't.

A former Army Times correspondent who covered the Gulf War, then moved back to his hometown to work for the Denver Post, Jackson had joined the New York Times less than ten days before Gambit announced his campaign for the GOP nomination. What a roller coaster since then, and he was getting tired. Maybe he needed a new assignment. Did the Times have a bureau in Bermuda? Maybe he should open one. Just get through today, Jackson thought to himself. There'll be plenty of time for vacation soon enough. He glanced up to ask a question about the president's weekend schedule.

Across the aisle and leaning against the window sat Chuck Murray, the White House press secretary. Jackson noticed that for the first time since he'd met Murray a dozen years ago, "Answer Man" actually looked peaceful. His tie was off. His eyes were closed. His hands were folded gently across his chest, holding his walkie-talkie with a tiny black wire running up to an earpiece in his right ear. This allowed him to hear any critical internal communications without being overheard by the reporters on the bus. On the empty seat beside Murray lay a fresh yellow legal pad. No to-do list. No phone calls to return. Nothing. This little PR campaign was just about over. Do or die, there was nothing else Murray or his press team could do to get the president's approval ratings higher than they already were, and he knew it. So he relaxed.

Jackson made a mental note: This guy's good. Let him rest.

* * *

Special Agent McKittrick was tired.

He walked over to the Mr. Coffee machine near the western windows of the control tower, out of everyone's way, itching to head home. He ripped open a tiny packet of creamer and sprinkled it into his latest cup. Then two packets of sugar, a little red stirrer, and voila-a new man. Hardly. He took a sip-ouch, too hot-then turned back to the rest of the group.

For an instant, McKittrick's brain didn't register what his eyes were seeing. The Gulfstream was coming in too fast, too high. Of course it was in a hurry to get on the ground. But get it right, for crying out loud. McKittrick knew each DIA runway was twelve thousand feet long. From his younger days as a navy pilot, he figured the G4 needed only about three thousand feet to make a safe landing. But at this rate, the idiots were actually going to miss-or crash. No, that wasn't it. The landing gear was going back up. The plane was actually increasing its speed and pulling up.

"What's going on, Foxtrot?" screamed the senior controller into his headset.

When McKittrick saw the Gulfstream bank right toward the mountains, he knew.

"Avalanche. Avalanche," McKittrick shouted into his secure digital cell phone.

* * *

Marcus Jackson saw the bus driver's head snap to attention.

A split second later, Chuck Murray bolted upright in his seat. His face was ashen.

"What is it?" asked Jackson.

Murray didn't respond. He seemed momentarily paralyzed. Jackson turned to the front windshield and saw the two ambulances and the mobile-communications van pulling off on either side of the road. Their own bus began slowing and moving to the right shoulder. Up ahead, the rest of the motorcade began rapidly pulling away from them. Though he couldn't see the limousines, he could see the Secret Service Suburbans now moving at what he guessed had to be at least a hundred miles an hour, maybe more.

Jackson's combat instincts took over. He grabbed for his leather carry-on bag on the floor, fished through it frantically, and pulled out a pair of sports binoculars he'd found handy during the campaign when the press was kept far from the candidate. He trained on the Suburbans and quietly gasped. The tinted rear windows of all four specially designed Suburbans were now open. In the back of each of the first four vehicles were sharpshooters wearing black masks, black helmets, steel gray jumpsuits, and thick Kevlar bulletproof vests. What sent a chill down Jackson's spine, however, wasn't their uniforms, or their high-powered rifles. It was the two agents in the last two vehicles, the ones holding the Stinger surface-to-air missile launchers.


Excerpted from "The Last Jihad (Political Thrillers Series #1)" by Joel C. Rosenberg. Copyright © 2006 by Joel C. Rosenberg. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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