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December 30, 2009

Extreme Measures

Vince Flynn - ISBN - 978-1416505044

I am generally disinclined to read books of this genre, and I never write reviews on them; at least until now. It is too often said "this is a page turner." I've said it myself. But after reading this book I will be more cautious with that observation. This really is a page turner.

Flynn's plot is elaborate but tight, and he really does keep you on the edge of your chair, figuratively, for the entire read. There is passion, threat, violence, profanity, all you'd expect--and a lot you wouldn't. There are no sex scenes. They're unnecessary.

This episode again involves Mitch Rapp, a 20 year veteran of the CIA. He's an unbelievably tough, dedicated, competent man involved with terrorists for much of his career. His second is Mike Nash, a former U.S. Marine and an agent for 10 years.

The CIA has begun surveillance of Muslim mosques in Washington, D.C. because the FBI will not. The CIA is forbidden to operate within the U.S., which invites trouble. They have discovered a terrorist plot, but haven't sufficient detail to act. One cell leads to a related second cell. Both have been wrapped up, but it is rumored that there is a third cell under the same al-Qaeda command.

The story begins at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, moves from remote training camps, thru Cuba and finally on to Washington. The well integrated sub-plot is the Washington establishment, which is out to get Rapp and others. They've been after him for years. Nasty senate hearings are proceeding in the attempt to crucify the recalcitrants since they don't play nice. They "torture" and violate the rules, including those of the Geneva Convention. (We hear it all the time.) But this time the Harry Reid of the Senate (a lady indistinguishable from Nancy Pelosi, except that she's smart) seems about to succeed. The judiciary committee is stacked with kindred souls who hate Rapp, the legend and the person. The long knives are unsheathed.

As now, 9/11 is all but forgotten. Back then anything done was o.k. Just gettum. But no longer. The fact that America treats terrorists better than its own citizens never seems to occur to them. Everyone gets a N.Y. trial, right? These disastrous "crimes" can be handled thru the courts. But terror attacks are not disasters. Hurricane, floods, and earthquakes are disasters. "You can't stop God or Mother Nature." But terrorists can be stopped, just not while playing by Mickey Mouse rules.

Rapp is finally adamant. He takes congress on. "We've spent the last six years avoiding this fight. I mean to end this s**t right here. . . . We've avoided the problem . . . We spend every day looking over our shoulders wondering if our government is going to ambush us." The fight is unavoidable, so he wants to pick the time and the place. He's convinced that an immediate strike is coming and observes that no senator has ever asked him why he would take gamble by running an illegal surveillance operation. Why would he risk losing his career, his pension, and risk spending decades in prison?

Rapp accepted long ago that most of the players intend no harm, but they downplay or ignore the threats. Most think the letter of the law is the most important thing; that we are a nation of laws and mustn't lower ourselves to "their" level. The first sentiment is naïve, the second is impractical. "Politicians are like parents." They adopt an issue--it's like their child--they lose all objectivity. Enough of this "we are a nation of laws." And "we can't just have the CIA running around doing whatever it wants." Just so!

Until the third cell strikes. Washington is devastated, important people are killed, the operations center is almost destroyed, panic and havoc reign. What went wrong? How did we not know? Who is to blame? Is there evidence of nuclear contamination? Will there be follow-up attacks? What's to be done?

What will Washington do? Will congress finally get the message? It is a riveting read and a far more than passable way to spend a few hours. It's entertainment, sure . . . but it's also very real, and likely a variant of what will happen after the next attack.

Posted by Curmudgeon at December 30, 2009 1:52 PM