AS A U.S. NAVY SEAL, RICHARD MARCINKO KNEW NO LIMITS -- AS THE ROGUE WARRIOR, HE OBEYS NO RULES!
SpecWar master Richard Marcinko has revealed classified, kill-or-be-killed operations in a series of New York Times bestsellers: Rogue Warrior, his #1 blockbuster autobiography, and four scorching Rogue Warrior novels. Now in an electrifying new adventure, the Rogue Warrior battles an ultra-secret, ultra-lethal military plot.
The Rogue Warrior's taking a flying leap -- a high-altitude jump over the South China Sea. His mission: scuttle a Chinese freighter's cargo of nuclear hardware and its crack crew of naval commandos. It's a leave-no-tracks, take-no-prisoners operation -- in short, business as usual. But on board Marcinko makes a chilling discovery: a cache of state-of-the-art command and control equipment, all made in the U.S.A. -- and primed for America's destruction!
Marcinko takes his findings back to Washington, where he runs into a wall of doublespeak and double deals. But not everyone wants to see America go down the drain. General Tom Crocker, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, unleashes the SEALs of war -- Marcinko and a Pentagon-based unit, SEAL Force Alpha -- to neutralize a global maze of political deceit that begins all too close to home.
The Chinese sense victory. They have a mole in the White House, and five thousand years of military strategy on their side. But neither the traitor nor all the wisdom of Sun Tzu are prepared for Marcinko and his men. They, after all, live by the Rogue Warrior's Tenth Commandment of SpecWar: "There Are No Rules -- Thou Shalt Win At All Cost."
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January 01, 1999
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Excerpt from Seal Force Alpha by Richard Marcinko
The pilot, whose name was Arch Kielly, blinked the cargo bay lights twice, then twice again, to signal he was descending to thirty thousand. Once there, he'd crack a hatch, depressurize, then lower the C-130's ramp. That was so we could jump at twenty-nine thousand five hundred -- the minimum height we'd need to carry us to within striking distance of our target.
I was so preoccupied with checking the cargo straps on the assault craft (it was tied down astride the double-tracked rollers) that I got caught pants-down inattentive when Arch turned the interior lights off. He did that for a perfectly good tactical reason: so no one would be able to see anything untoward from the western shore of Borneo, five and a half miles below, just in case anybody happened to be looking in our direction, which was, of course, up.
So, I was blindsided (literally) by the sudden blackout. Then Arch the fucking pilot did something else I hadn't remembered he was going to do (although he'd told it to me in simple declarative sentences during the preflight briefing): he banked sharply to starboard as he brought the plane onto a due north heading. Surprise. Doom on Dickie. Which is a polite way of saying in Vietnamese that I was being fuckee-fuckeed. One second I was checking the quick release harness on the ICRRC, an acronym that stands for Improved Combat Rubber Raiding Craft for those of you who aren't familiar with SpecWarspeak. The next, I'd lost sight of everything and everybody else as the plane's interior went completely lightless. It was like, WTF?
Then he plunged the nose earthward, dropped the right wing about forty-five degrees, and knocked me completely off balance. I rolled around in the dark like a fucking pinball SEAL, caromed off a bulkhead, got turned around the wrong way (is there any right way in these situations?), tripped over the rollers, lost my balance, and went skidding face first into one of the hard-cast, H-shaped, reinforced aluminum mounting beams that support the plane's forward seating module. It was like, slip, s-l-i-d-e, SMACK -- whaap.
Oh, that smarted. Belay that. It fucking hurt. Instant agony. My oxygen mask was knocked askew. My goggles were spun halfway round my head. My helmet strap cut off my air. Now, those of you who know me at all, know that I have a unique relationship with pain. In actual point of fact, I have an existential relationship with pain. By this, I mean that I see pain not as a vague, generalized physiological concept to be explored; not as a cryptic, enigmatic problem to be analyzed; but as a real-time, essential, individual challenge; a subjective, personal confrontational experience.
Pain is an ordeal; a physical encounter to be lived through, relished, and explored, crack by smack by whaap. My pain exists so I can demonstrate to you, my constant and gentle readers out there, that I am inexorably...alive.
Which is probably why that precise, painful, and even Heideggerian instant was exactly the second the C-130's crew chief -- who was waiting for his cue -- received said signal from the pilot and cracked open the port side hatch. I heard a Perot-size giant sucking sound, and felt the accompanying tremor as the Hercules lost pressure and its interior temperature dropped about 106 degrees in four and a half seconds. Oh, fuck me very much one more time! Was I ever inexorably, existentially, alive.
I struggled to readjust my helmet, mask, and goggles, but the environment wasn't making things easy for me. One problem: it was dark, remember? Another problem: I was wearing a shitload of equipment, and it was difficult to move quickly since I kept catching my straps, loops, lashes, or laces on one of the 130's numerous interior hooks, hangers, pylons, or braces every time I tried to shift my body position.
You do not, after all, jump out of an aircraft at twenty-nine point five thousand feet to go kill bad guys wearing nothing but skivvies, sneakers, and a K-Bar knife. Everything you plan to use, you must carry with you. And when your operational plan calls for a thirty-mile parachute ride followed by a ten-to-fifteen-mile boat ride, followed by who-the-hell-knows-what, you have to carry enough for contingencies. Contingencies, hell -- there's the omnipresent Mr. Murphy to worry about, so you have to go out of the plane loaded down with more junk than you'll find in the Brigade fucking Quartermaster catalog. And things get even more knotty, intricate, complex, when you are operating, like I am, in the black. (No pun intended. What I'm talking about right now are black -- as in untraceable -- ops.)
Which is why I wore a wet suit (generic, French-made) covered by your basic black Nomex flight coveralls (German manufacture). Over those sat a UDT-style life vest (also in basic black), as well as a Brit Royal Marine CQC (that's Close Quarters Combat) vest equipped with class-III body armor and a flotation bladder, not to mention pockets that held twenty or so pounds of lethal goodies that ran the gamut from plastique (in this case an RDX-rich Czech Semtex) and Bulgarian pencil detonators to a point-and-shoot digital electronic camera, (it produces bits-and-bytes computer images on a three-and-a-half-inch disk rather than using conventional film), and half a dozen extra magazines for my pistol, each of which contained vintage East German-manufactured frangible Plus-P load ammo.
From the starboard side of the padded pistol belt around my waist was suspended the ever-fashionable ballistic nylon tactical thigh holster containing a Portuguese knockoff of a Heckler & Koch USP 9mm semiauto pistol. The compartment usually reserved for a spare magazine held a suppressor for the pistol. Suspended from my waist's port side and cinched around my left thigh sat a ballistic nylon mag-holder for six thirty-round magazines (filled with the same Kraut ammo that was inside my pistol mags), so I could reload the suppressed HK MP5-PDW I would be carrying. My belt also held a canteen of water, a pouch holding a pair of small but powerful bolt cutters (British), my first-aid kit (also French), and a K-Bar assault knife in a Kydex sheath. I've already told you about the oxygen mask (Japanese) and helmet (Israeli). I don't think I mentioned the O2 bottle, navigational chest-pack, and radio.
My normal weight is in the 220-pound area. If there'd been a scale on this flight, I'd have weighed somewhere in the 270 range. And I wasn't even three-quarters loaded up yet. The point of all this inventory description is to illustrate that there were a lot of possibilities when it came to the "materials that catch on protuberances" category.
I noticed that my fingers were going numb under the Nomex gloves. Now, I don't care whether you've jumped from thirty thousand feet once, or whether you've done it a couple of hundred times like I have: when they depressurize the fucking plane, it gets real goddamn cold, real goddamn fast. Even with the coveralls and the quarter-inch-thick neoprene foam wet suits below 'em, we were suddenly in a d-d-d-deep freeze.
I could sense my guaranteed fog-proof Bolle combat goggles frosting over on the outside, which would have made it hard to see the O2 connector in front of my nose -- if I could have seen anything in the blackness. I stumbled through the plane until I found an oxygen outlet. I identified it by Braille, fondled the nozzle, shoved it sans foreplay into the female connector, and (unlike the president) inhaled as deeply as I could.
Nothing happened. I sucked again. Nada. I tried a third time. Bupkis. This particular oxygen outlet wasn't working. But no O2 at thirty thousand feet is a course of action frowned upon in every one of the military's field manuals and instructional course materials -- not to mention the long list of personal do's and don'ts I carry in my Slovak brain.
So I fought my way aft in the darkness, found a second nozzle, and rapid-switched. Of course, that one was screwed up too. It was right then I realized that my old and constantly consistent nemesis, Mr. Murphy of Murphy's Law fame, had stowed away for the ride.
I yanked the tube connector out of the plane's oxygen supply and shoved it into the O2 bottle strapped to my chest along with the altimeter, compass, large digital readout watch, Magellan GPS module, and secure radio. I inhaled, and was rewarded with a lungful of oxygen. At least I'd be breathing when we went off the ramp. Of course, after that, things might get sticky. There were twenty minutes' worth of air in the bottle strapped to my chest. We were jumping at twenty-nine-thou five hundred. The estimated descent rate given the air temperature, crosswinds, humidity, and load, was eighteen feet per second. You need oxygen until you pass below ten thousand feet. Well -- this was combat, and in combat we might get away with a twelve thou ceiling.
Okay, you do the math. Twenty-nine five thou minus twelve thou, divided by eighteen feet per second, gives us approx 972 seconds (I'm talking fast because I'm using up oxygen) which, divided by sixty, comes to just over sixteen minutes of air. So if we jumped in the next three minutes, I'd be hunky-dory. If not? Sayonara, Dickie -- it would be hypoxia city.
You say you don't know about hypoxia? Well, lemme explain. The condition is a manifestation of pulmonary insufficiency. That's a twenty-dollar way of saying that your blood ain't gettin' enough oxygen. The manifestations include cerebral vasodilation, and changes in sensorum ranging from confusion to narcosis. In the kind of two-bit plain English I understand, this polysyllabic souffl? means that if I jump from too high an altitude I don't get enough oxygen in my brain (that's the cerebral vasodilation stuff), and I can also experience (here come the sensorum goodies): confusion, drowsiness, sluggish reaction time, loss of muscle control, blurred vision and a confused, almost drunken thought process. Bottom line -- if something goes wrong, I can kill myself because my reaction time and sensory perception mechanisms will be off-kilter. Not a favorable condition for the old Rogue Warrior to be in.
Arch turned the emergency lights in the cargo bay on, and everything was all of a sudden bathed in dim red. Now I could see again. There were eight of us making the jump tonight, a HAHO -- that's High Altitude, High Opening -- insertion, which would take us on that aforementioned thirty-mile airborne parasail, followed by the ten-mile boat ride. And all that -- that was going to be the easy part. Because after our half-the-fun-is-getting-there fun, we'd have the second part of the good time. To wit: assaulting a ship whose crew was augmented by zhongdui -- Chinese naval commando reconnaissance units -- who were, the intelligence reports surmised, probably almost as well trained as we were. Zhongdui notwithstanding, we'd take the ship down and send it to the bottom before they could get any message to the outside world that they'd been attacked.
Not that executing any of the above would be a problem. Not with the merry band of hop-and-pop shoot-and-looters I had with me tonight. Tonight, I was traveling with Warriors. Over there, Duck Foot Dewey ran a second swipe of Russian duct tape around his magazine pouch so it wouldn't come open midair and leave him sans ammo for the suppressed HK submachine gun secured to his chest. Just to his left, Gator Shepard checked the tape that wound around the tops of his Adidas GSG-9 tactical boots. The shock of jumping out of a plane can rip your boots right off. That's not a good idea when the outside temperature's about fifty below zero, Fahrenheit. Lose your bootie like that and you get to play "This Little Piggy Froze Solid."
Next to Gator, Half Pint Harris fondled his swim buddy Piccolo Mead's rucksack, pulling on it hard to make sure it wouldn't separate when the chute opened. Hunkered down just across the aisle from Half Pint was Chief Gunner's Mate Eddie DiCarlo -- I call him Nod, as in Wynken and Blynken -- taking a long and loving last look at his suppressed Heckler & Koch MP5-PDW before he stowed it in the padded scabbard that would ride on his right thigh. Leaning against the bulkhead just aft of Nod was Master Chief Nasty Nicky Grundle, whom I'd rescued not three weeks ago from a drab training assignment in Hawaii. Nasty's web gear was being checked over carefully by his new swim buddy, a former UCLA linebacker named Boomerang, the only West Coast surfer-puke in my current group of shooters.
Boomerang (he pronounces it "Boom-rang") had earned his nickname during BUD/S. Had he ever. The first time he went through training, he broke his ankle the fifth week. So they held him back until the next cycle. The second time around, he broke his collarbone at the end of the sixth week. This time they tried to wash him out. But the sonofabitch refused to go. He kept coming back for more. And the third time through, he graduated at the top of his BUD/S class -- with two broken toes and a cracked rib.
I'd tell you more about Boomerang, but I see that Arch the pilot just blinked the red lights three times. And that whining noise you hear? That's the sound of hydraulics. The sonofabitch is lowering the ramp. And over there, the crewmen are unfolding the tracks so the ICRRC package -- specifically the Kevlar-reinforeed rubber assault craft, engine, fuel bladder, communications package, and assault gear, all lashed together in one ingenious, parachutable bundle -- can roll right off the end of the ramp.
Arch blinked the lights thrice again. That was the get-ready sign. The next signal -- the green jump indicator -- would be roughly five minutes from now.
Shit -- I wasn't ready to go-go-go yet. That was on the one hand. On the other hand, there was that old Rogue Commandment that had to be observed. You know the one. It goes, "Thou hast not to like it -- thou hast just to do it."
And, there was much "it" to do. So, I scampered up to the cockpit, gave Arch a thump on the shoulder, a hearty "fuck you, cockbreath," and an upraised middle finger to show how much I cared.
Arch handed the controls to his copilot and swiveled in his chair. "Fuck you, too, asshole," he said through his mask. I could see the smile in his cobra's eyes. "Just stay in one piece, huh?"
I nodded. "I'll try."
He extended his big, gloved hand. "If there's ever anything else I can do -- just call. I'm in the book at Kadena -- there are lots of Kellys, but only one, spelled my way, with an ie."
"We come from the Cuban Kiellys. Grandpa was a Rough Rider who stayed behind. Over the years, the spelling got changed."
I grinned behind my mask, took his hand and clasped it. "Well, Kelly with an i and an e, don't make any fucking offers you don't mean."
His eyes grew serious. "I never do." Arch swiveled, settled back behind the wheel, made sure he had his feet firmly on the pedals, then nodded to his copilot that he was assuming control.
I plugged my Magellan into the navigator's satellite data display. His radar had our target ship on the screen. It was some 125-odd miles from our current position, traveling due north at a steady six knots an hour.
What was our current position? Well, we were over water now -- the South China Sea to be precise -- west-northwest of Belitung Island, about 200 miles south of the equator, and 110 degrees east longitude. FYI, we'd flown out of Guam eleven-plus hours ago on this here MC-130E Combat Talon aircraft, which had been custom painted for us in a dull, black radar-defeating stealth paint. The craft itself bore no identifying markings whatsoever. Neither did anyone in crew. Even so, I can tell you (don't breathe a word of this, okay?) that the plane -- as well as its crew -- came from the Air Force Special Operations Commands 353rd Special Operations Group, First SpecOps Squadron, based at Kadena Air Base, on Okinawa.
I'm not usually a big fan of the Air Farce. But these guys knew what the fuck -- they were pros. So far as I was concerned, Lieutenant Colonel Arch and his aircrew could fly me A3, which stands for anyplace, anytime, anywhere. He was the type you wanted on a mission like this one. He'd get the job done, sans complaint, no matter what it took. I'd known that the moment we'd met: he had the look of a stone killer in his eyes, and he'd never said anything that wasn't in the affirmative.
Once we cleared Guam, we'd climbed quickly to our cruising altitude, the Combat Talon's operational ceiling of thirty-three thousand feet, and headed south by southeast on a route that would take us just under four thousand miles. We skirted Palau, cut a wide swath past Mindanao, refueled from an unmarked tanker over the Makassar Strait, then flew due west over the Borneo jungle before turning north for our final approach to the target. We'd stayed away from radar sites and flown (we hoped) between Russian, Chinese, French, and Israeli satellite passes. We'd maintained strict radio silence. This mission had to be fucking stealth all the way.
I stared through the pilot's windshield. It was the perfect operational milieu: there were no lights to be seen anywhere. I turned away, plugged my Magellan into the naviguesser's console and puffed the latest information from the navigator's forward-looking radar into my own. Then I plugged into the EWO -- that's Electronic Warfare Officer -- console, and dumped his target information into my own unit, too. That way, I could set a heading after we'd jumped -- a course that would bring us down exactly where we had to be. The info loaded, I punched a series of commands into the unit and watched as it responded properly.
Then I turned the Magellan off, waited fifteen seconds, switched it on again, and repeated the cycle. I see you waving your hand out there. You say what? I'd just checked the GPS once, and I was wasting time? Hey, bub -- remember the old Rogue's Eighth Commandment. Thou shalt never assume. So I didn't. I double-checked to make sure that the information I'd transferred was stored properly, and that it was displayed the way I was going to need it displayed. I peered down at the screen. Everything was copacetic. Now I knew there was at least one thing Mr. Murphy couldn't screw with tonight: my Magellan system.
The navigation and target info elements secure, I slid down the ladder rails, found the remainder of my own web gear, pulled it on, double-checked all the straps and Velcro closures, shrugged into my reserve chute, then attached my weapons scabbard, rucksack, and all the other miscellaneous goodies necessary for the night's activities. I punched the display screen of my Magellan and called out the coordinates of our target ship to my shooters so they could program their own GPS units. When I got "OK" signals (and a chorus of "Fuck you very much, Skipper") from everyone, I clambered astride the assault craft and clipped my harness straps to the big, black thirteen-cell Vector assault chute I'd ride tonight. I pressed my thighs up against the Kevlar-reinforced rubber.
"Hey -- does that feel good, sir?" Nasty Nicky Grundle shouted. If his voice hadn't been muffled by the oxygen mask he wore I would have sworn that he'd spelled sir with a c and a u.
I nodded affirmatively, then did a pretty passable Rin Tin Tin humps Lassie against the gunwale. Ooh -- it did feel good. Still laughing, Nasty and Boomerang released the tie-downs and began to slide the ICRRC package aft, holding it steady with a pair of safety straps secured to a pintle in the forward cargo area while I waddled behind, looking not so much like your generously endowed Richard as a fifteen-foot rubber-cocked Dick.
I hand-signaled the guys to circle wagons and watched as Gator, Nod, Half Pint, Duck Foot, and Pick flanked the ICRRC, then began to edge slowly aftward, their progress hampered by the hundred-plus pounds of equipment that each man carried.
I looked up to see the air crew chief's face, obscured by oxy mask and goggles, waving Boomerang and Grundle off. They gave the crew chief a thumbs-up, backed away from the ICRRC, and joined the other swim buddies. Seamlessly, they were replaced by two crewmen whose coveralls were crisscrossed by long yellow nylon safety harnesses secured to the aircraft's bulkheads.
We moved aft until we came to the ramp hinge. There, the crew chief signaled a halt. I looked down. There was nothing to see -- only, blackness and the void. I raised my eyes and looked out horizontally, and saw a constellation in the moonless night. The Southern Cross? Perhaps. Who knew. Certainly not I.
And then the two green lights came on and blinked twice. I drew my right hand across my throat. The crewmen nodded and unhitched the safety lines. I put my whole weight against the ICRRC, screamed a heigh-ho Silver and a hearty "Fuck-you" as I r-o-l-l-e-d it toward the void, tossed the crew chief the bird, and lumbered off the ramp, pulled by the weight of the assault craft.
Normally, I like to throw a hump and watch the plane disappear behind me. But tonight that was impossible -- jumping attached to the ICRRC meant a static opening -- that is, with the chute's line attached to the plane -- and it came real fast. Some invisible giant hand grabbed me by the nuts and slammed me up against the gunwale of the ICRRC two or three times, then took me by the helmet, tried to twist my head in a complete three-sixty like something out of The Exorcist, gave up, and finally slapped me up against the boat face first half a dozen times so I'd feel VMA -- very much alive. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it was over, and, the ICRRC hanging under me, the descent smoothed out.
I retrieved a red-lensed minilight from a pouch on my chest, tightened its lanyard loop around my wrist, then checked the steering fines and risers to make sure there were no tangles. I counted cells and saw thirteen. The chute appeared to be in textbook perfect condition. Compass heading was north-northeast. I put some of my weight on the steering line and swung the chute twelve degrees to the right, sending the ICRRC and me due north. Altitude was twenty-nine six and falling. I heard flutter around me and looked for the seven other canopies. Nada. Well -- it wasn't cause for concern. After all, they were jumping with dark chutes and without lights.
Besides, every man with me tonight had made hundreds of HAHO jumps. They knew they had to key on the infrared strobe lights strapped to my ankles. And if they missed the IR lights, or the strobes died, each man had a Magellan GPS unit on his chest. And if their Magellans crapped out, and they missed my strobes, they'd have a very, very long swim.
But this was no occasion to dwell on failure. In fact, failure is a word I do not recognize. I have only one way to deal with my life, and with my missions: I attack, attack, attack.
And so, I rolled my head back and looked up at the stars. There are times when Warriordom is perfect -- and this was one of them. Believe me, there are few experiences as exhilarating, energizing, or invigorating as jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft at an excessive altitude in order to initiate a mission that will stretch one's physical, mental, and operational capabilities way past the 100 percent mark.
And this Mission Impossible would certainly stretch our operational capabilities. We had been tasked by the powers that be (in this case the White House) with carrying out a stealth-quiet component of national policy. As long as I have a couple of minutes here, let me give you some of the background.
According to those solons in charge of things back in Washington, it is crucial to keep our relations with China on an even keel these days. First of all, China has the potential to become a superpower -- and you play politics with superpowers differently from the way you do with other nations. Then there is the economic factor. China, you see, is one of our biggest overseas trading partners. From oil companies, whose investments in China total billions of dollars, to American telecom corporations, where tens of thousands of jobs depend on their selling equipment to the Chinese, to industrial machine toolmakers who hope to modernize Chinese plants, to toy manufacturers who buy cut-rate goods there and sell them at top-dollar prices here, China is important to the American economy. How important? Our trade deficit with China was more than fifty billion smackeroos last year. That gives the Chinese a lot of crout.
And, of course, there is also the Machiavellian ingredient. During the Cold War, China was our way of keeping the Soviets off guard. That was one of the major reasons Richard Nixon resumed relations with Peking back in 1972. If the Sovs had to keep a million Red Army soldiers on the Manchurian border, that was a million fewer potential adversaries for NATO to face in the West. Today, there may be no more Soviet Union. But the Russians still want to expand their sphere of influence -- and one of the most pragmatic ways to keep them bottled up is to employ the Chinese trump. But these days, Peking -- which is now spelled Beijing -- is a much harder -- and wilder -- card to play.
So much for history. Now let's look at the current situation. One problem we are facing is a recent rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing -- a potentially dangerous political situation because it means that they could coordinate policy to work against the United States. Another complication: the Chinese are finding new ways to flex their political and economic muscles. They've just taken control of Hong Kong, which adds billions of hard currency dollars to their economy. And they're looking for new ways to expand their influence in Asia and elsewhere, all across the Pacific Rim.
One way the Chinese have done so is through weapons. They are the number two weapons exporter in the world -- second only to us. Moreover -- and more dangerous -- the panjandrums in Beijing haven't bothered to act within "conventional" borders. Over the last year, they have started shipping nuclear missile components (a clear violation of U.S. non-proliferation laws as well as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty they'd signed not two years ago) to Pakistan, Libya, and Iran.
Now, it has been obvious to me for some time that the Chinese have decided to use their new-found position and clout to squeeze the United States whenever possible. The problem is that we have not pushed back.
Let me pause here long enough to give you a theory about international relations. It is a concept propounded by Colonel Arthur "Bull" Simon, the Warrior who led the famous 1970 raid on the Son Tay prison in North Vietnam and who, in retirement, was hired by Ross Perot to rescue Perot's people in Iran, back in 1979.
"Bull" used to preach to us SpecWar youngsters. "If history is any teacher," he'd growl, "it teaches you that when you get indifferent and you lose the will to fight, some other sonofabitch who has the will to fight will take you over."
Those are words we should all take to heart. But "Bull" Simon's real-world experience wasn't held in very high esteem by most of those in the current administration. Our latest national security adviser, the newly installed Director of Central Intelligence, and the secretary of state are all practiced in the fine (and cowardly) art of appeasement. You -- yes, you out there. You what? You want an example of appeasement?
Okay. At the most recent Sino/American ministerial (a ministerial is when our secretary of state and their foreign minister get together and palaver), SECSTATE hesitatingly -- almost apologetically -- brought up the matter of the slaughter of students at Tiananmen Square, the use of prisoners to make consumer goods, the torture of political dissidents, and the persecution of Christians.
The Chinese foreign minister slammed his palm on the table and said, quote, "The allegation that anyone died at Tiananmen is a lie. Your other assertions are also without basis in reality."
And what did SECSTATE do? SECSTATE did nothing. SECSTATE swallowed hard. And did nothing. The exchange made all the nightly news programs. I felt sickened when I saw it.
And that wasn't the worst. The worst was that the matter of nuclear smuggling was never even brought up. The fact that SECSTATE lacked the cojones to confront the Chinese upset me. I was even more upset when I learned from a very good source that our secretary of state had evidence to the contrary in her briefcase. But instead of using it, she sat there and said nothing.
Officially, therefore, the United States had no-reaction to China's provocations. More to the point: our secretary of state has requested that the Chinese consider a schedule of summit meetings over the next three years, the first one to take place in six months. The Chinese have taken SECSTATE's request under advisement. Dammit, we didn't set the agenda -- we simply made a request.
What did SECSTATE's disastrous performance tell the Chinese? It told 'em we weren't serious. It indicated we didn't have backbone, determination, or guts. It demonstrated weakness. And weakness is something that should never be revealed -- not to other people, and certainly not to a nation like China, which is intent on creating a hegemony in its part of the world.
On a clandestine level, however, I am happy to report that not everyone in the administration assumes the same puppylike, belly-exposed, all-four-feet-in-the-air position that our secretary of state, the CIA director, and the national security adviser seem to adapt so regularly.
It had taken three weeks or so, but the president had finally been convinced (browbeaten may be a more accurate word, but I wasn't in the room) by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and SECDEF -- the secretary of defense -- that Beijing couldn't be allowed to operate unchallenged, especially when it was selling weapons of mass destruction to states that sponsor terrorism directed at the United States.
Indeed, after carefully working his way around the State Department, the CIA, and the NSC chairman, SECDEF actually convinced the president to sign a national security directive that authorized covert military action if it could be proved without possibility of error that the Chinese were in substantial violation of the nonproliferation treaty. SECDEF argued that by acting covertly -- by leaving State, CIA, and even the NSC out of the loop -- diplomacy could proceed unabated. The president could still hold his regularly scheduled summit meetings with the Chinese -- smiling warmly, acting nicey-nicey at the state dinners, but still let 'em understand that we weren't going to be pushed around.
That was where I came in. As you know, five months ago, the JCS Chairman, an Army four-star and lead-from-the-front warrior named Crocker, had me detailed to his office as his ASR -- that's Attack SEAL-in-Residence. I'd gone after a bunch of no-goodniks in Moscow and the Middle East (you can read all about it in Rogue Warrior: Designation Gold).
Now, my cage had been unlocked once again. The deal was simple: roughly six weeks ago, FORTE satellite surveillance had detected what appeared to be a shipment of nuclear missile components. It tracked them on a long, meandering odyssey from a location deep within China to the Chinese coast. There, after a two-week period i