More Marginal Notes on Benghazi

Tom Avitabile - More Marginal Notes on BenghaziOn November 1st, 2012, I posted Marginal Notes on Benghazi.

Essentially it was a look back at an early, denoted manuscript of my book The Hammer Of God, in which – around the margins – I made notes about alternate plot lines.

The one which I wrote about saw the “bad guys” orchestrating the kidnapping of our ambassador in order to use him as a bargaining chip. Their goal was to free the blind sheikh (the first world trade center terrorist who tried to bring the towers down in 1993). The sheikh was supposed to be the prize in a high-level diplomatic exchange for the life of the ambassador.

In that instance, it was a case of “It’s an alternate fiction until it happens.” Well it’s happening.

On March 14th, though we just heard of it yesterday, “An al Qaeda terrorist stated…that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed by lethal injection after plans to kidnap him during the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack in Benghazi went bad.”

So, suddenly, that wild-ass, out-of-the box dose of fiction, that even I rejected as a little “out there,” is now coming a little closer to “in here.”

If you read the previous blog then you know the triangulation of my supporting thesis, (purely a supposition and creative exercise), summarized here:

  • The dubiously elected President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, made a promise to free the blind sheikh from American custody at his inauguration – and set it as a primary goal of his (American-backed) administration.
  • Getting this erstwhile national hero of Egypt returned to his home sands in the Maghreb would surely help Morsi score political points with his people. So the US decided to help him by staging a little theatrical play titled  – “Kidnap ours and we’ll trade ya for yours!”
  • Somewhere along the way, two ex-navy seals who either never heard, or disobeyed, the orders to stand down, went into this kabuki dance shooting real bullets, according to some accounts killing up to 60 of the enemy (sorry to all the men cast as ENEMY).

Those darn snipers ruined the whole performance. But the cover stories were set and the word went out that it was a YouTube video that caused the murderous attack.

Of course, even then I called the script above a fantasy oozing dramatic embellishments of actual events. Today, after the boastful “confession” of the al Qaeda guy, maybe not so much.

Production Value = Life or Death

“Did you hear about this guy named Ben Ghazi who killed a bunch of people in Libya? It was in the news a while back, and they said it was because of a video that some guy produced.” *

Tom Avitabile  |  Production Value = Life or DeathWhen I looked into it, I found that it’s wasn’t actually a video, it was just a trailer – a couple of minutes long posted on the internet. And at the time of the attack, maybe less than 500 people had seen this trailer. Yet it caused riots in Egypt, Libya and the Middle East. But more importantly, it really pissed off that Ben Ghazi guy.

Last week the North Koreans released their own YouTube video trailer. In this video they depict a nuclear attack on the United States, complete with missiles, computer graphics and the destruction of New York City. They even scored it with the counterpunctual melody of the Michael Jackson song We are the World… and yet there has been no outcry.

American people have not surrounded North Korean embassies or interests, screaming and yelling for the blood of the North Korean ambassador. As far as I know, no American named Chevy Chase, or Austin Texas killed four Korean diplomats. There has been no outcry in the press anywhere in the world over this shameful video. A vile, disgusting video that hit America below the belt, right in that deep and dark nightmare of the previous attack on the United States. Not a word of disapproval even to the point of just pointing out that it was rude. Not one word, not one peep.

Here’s the reason, Production Value! The Ben Ghazi guy video thing was crudely done, horribly edited, had bad ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) in that the voices were chopped in after the shoot to change the meaning so that the actors who actually played the part didn’t know what they were saying because later on somebody went back in and edited different words. It was a real hack job. So bad, they arrested the guy who made it and he’s still in prison. (America defends good production values, and this dude’s were woefully inadequate)

But the North Korean video, now that’s excellent production value. It was a good CGI video, that’s the difference – good, clean production wins the day all the time. So nobody killed anybody, or lodged any complaint. Except for maybe one small group, BMI/ASCAP. Did those North Koreans pay the royalties to use the Michael Jackson hit? Forget about the whole thing about blowing up New York, illegal downloading may be the true crime here!

Oh, and this week, the North Koreans released another video, the one they shot of the detonation of their latest production – a nuclear bomb. But hey, at least they used High Def, so again, nobody anywhere in the world is saying nothing about anything.

*actually overheard in a Starbucks near NYU in New York City.

Tom Avitabile  |  Production Value = Life or Death

BS: For those of you who read my post from Monday but were wondering where the pictures were, scroll down to the updated post.

Tom Avitabile

Tom@TomAvitabile.com


The Case For ‘Kill on Sight’

imageThe circumstances in my book, The Hammer of God, that mirror both the deadly Benghazi attacks and the Algerian Natural Gas facility raid and hostage siege were the subject of my blog, ‘Marginal Notes On Benghazi.’  In that piece, I floated an abandoned plot line from the marginal notes I made as I was writing and developing the core action of my novel. In this alternate version, the American Ambassador to Egypt is kidnapped, held in a petroleum facility in the desert and used as a bargaining chip to release a terrorist mastermind in U.S. custody.

Current events seem like a reshuffling of those pieces around a game board. But the result is the same.  Yesterday, the terrorists holding the hostages announced they were willing to trade the American prisoners for the Blind Sheikh. Now for those who don’t know, the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman was convicted in the First World Trade Center bombing in 1993.  Although in the book, the “Mastermind” that the bad guys want released is not the Blind Sheik, but Sheik Alzir El Benhan, the architect of a Bio Terror Attack, in the terror game he holds the same point value.

Another marginal note I did not reveal in the blog was “Why not kill him?” That was a thread of “fiction” where one of my special Ops guys who captures, El Benhan considers putting a bullet in his head and thus ends the cycle of attacks, kidnaps, ransom and repeat, that he knows will ensue if American Justice is carried out and this mastermind killer is allowed 3 squares and a cot for the rest of his natural born days.  His fear is, the Sheik, while enjoying constitutionally guaranteed protections as our prisoner, would become the rationale and prize that spurs further kidnapping and death in attempts to get him released.  The soldier’s math; kill one guilty guy now, save many, maybe even thousands, of innocents later.  Of course as a writer, I quickly nixed that idea, because it would kill my book. If my ‘Sheik’ died the whole story would die with him.

Tom AvitabileSo my question is, why is the blind Sheikh still alive? Whose story is the Government of the United States trying to keep going? Who is deciding that letting one high value terrorist live is worth the retaliation and death that his followers and fanatics in the future will bring.

If that sounds harsh, consider this, the Sheikh was captured tried and sentenced in the mid 90s. Recently, the new President of Egypt was not more than a few minutes in office before he promised his electorate, the 80 million people of Egypt, that he would free the Blind Sheikh from American prison.  By the way, the same guy the current hostage takers want to trade American lives for.

For those keeping score. The American reporter, and first ‘YouTube’ execution victim, Daniel Pearl is still dead from brutal decapitation. The Ambassador and 3 other Americans slaughtered in Benghazi also remain dead. (No one has been charged or even accused in the Benghazi Attacks and no one has lost their jobs in the U.S. government either!)  Monica Smith and her unborn child (7-months) and 5 other New Yorkers are still dead from the First Attack on the World Trade Center.

I believe the Blind Sheikh will have U.S. taxpayer funded, breakfast and lunch and diner today and probably be allowed to listen to TV and hear the reports from Algiers.

As of this posting it has been reported that all the hostages in Algeria are dead.  Our prayers and sympathies go out to their families.

Marginal Notes on Benghazi

On page 130 of my novel, The Hammer of God, the Ambassador to Egypt is kidnapped. This becomes the center issue of a dramatic debate, which is, I am sure, as old as terror and as fresh as yesterday:  Do you negotiate with terrorists?

As I was writing the scenes that take place in the Oval Office, the words got heated between the Secretary of State and the President. Both entrenched in their diametrically opposed positions, with the President not wanting to accede to the kidnapping and thereby instantly create an open season on US Ambassadors worldwide, while the Sec State wanted some back channel trade to release a mastermind terrorist that America was holding – in a super-max in the middle of the country.  To help me keep the beats of this ethical dilemma straight, I made a note: “The President is saving all future Ambassadors, the Sec State is trying to save the current one.”  This sub-textual motivation helped me keep the arguments between my characters aligned.

Yesterday, I was cleaning my desk, and found my notes from the blog I wrote, “Benghazi and Impotence”. Posted on September 15, 2012, when I ran across something that, even though I had seen, had no meaning on Sept. 15th but I believe does today.  I will attempt to retype it as I wrote it in marginal chicken-scratch of my early 2010 draft of my novel (pictured below).

The writing process: Plot twists and chicken-scratch.

“DS inside plot SS .  Take Amb, trade Sheik, back ch.  B&R disobey ‘unmolest’. Start real FF w/Friendlies.” Bring back CS to unc? Does JeA have GF?”

Okay, so that’s how I really write (misspellings and all) and it even took me a minute to decipher what I jotted down two years ago, here’s the handy-dandy index:

DS inside Plot SS – The kidnapping of the Ambassador was a plot hatched within the Diplomatic Security Service at the Direction of the Sec State. The plan was to force to force a back channel, out-of-the-news prisoner exchange of the Ambassador for a terrorist mastermind Sheik who was caught and held in America.

Continue reading “Marginal Notes on Benghazi”

Benghazi and Impotence

I received many E-mails the night of September 11th and Wednesday morning, most from fans and readers, but a few from friends as well. They all pretty much echoed the same theme… Did you see where they kidnapped an ambassador, just like in your book?

Even though this blog is called “It’s only fiction ‘til it happens,” I hate when something as God awful as this happens. I have been lucky enough to know a few ambassadors and my thoughts immediately went to them and their families.

When I wrote The Hammer of God, I thought that the taking of ambassador would be the high level type of offense that would serve as a prelude for my President Mitchell to send in Special Forces… Those forces then stumble across a dastardly plot to kill millions of Americans and so my plot had its inciting incident.

The last ambassador to be attacked was back in the late 70’s. In the early hours of the morning of September 12th, the grim reality was very soon revealed when the kidnapping became murder. We found out that our Ambassador was brutalized and killed along with 3 other Americans. I only wish it were fiction.

The threat matrix against which my stories are set is often deemed exaggerated or indeed a work of fiction. Then something as horrible as this happens to real people, real Americans and it makes me feel angry and impotent. The angry part of me wants to fly to Libya find the bastards that did this and deliver swift justice. Then the reality of my civilian impotence sets in and I realize that the closest I’ll get to avenge this act and assuage my anger is this keyboard and the creation of another cautionary tale wrapped up as fiction for people to read and sense the threats – between the lines.

To my friends and readers; although in Hammer, it is the American Ambassador to Egypt that is kidnapped, the reality of this real act of war, which played out in Libya this week, does not follow my storyline.

I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of those slaughtered. They were dedicated professionals, who in the end, were representatives of diplomacy. Diplomacy being the last step before hostilities, these radical fools may have just killed, along with the Ambassador and his staff, their best chance, to avoid being ‘terminated with extreme prejudice’, and talk their way out of this. At least I hope that’s the way this story ends.

In The Hammer of God, Bill said to Janice upon learning the news that an ambassador was kidnapped, “…This is just a guess, but I’d say there’s a Delta Force or SEAL strike team warming up the coffee right about now…” I hope that bit of ‘Fiction’, happens.