By Kani Xulam
March 4, 1997
Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Acts of War, the newest Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik novel is sure to sell well, if for no other reason than their introduction of the new bad guys of the Middle East, the Kurds.
To be sure, Clancy and Pieczenik do an okay job of compiling the facts of the present Kurdish conflict with their neighbors. They have the American Secretary of State note, “As things stand, [the Kurds] are among the most persecuted people on Earth. … Until 1991, they weren’t even allowed to speak their language in Turkey.”
And, that is all the sympathy one gets for the Kurds in a volume that is 492 pages. In the rest of the book, they are terrorists. Hardy, self disciplined, devout Muslims, and torturers too, they plan to undo the oppression that has denied them a country of their own.
They are engaged in a war of wits, acts of sabotage, feats of valor to wear down an enemy that, although devoid of humanity, is a friend of the United States and has recently signed a strategic agreement with the ever resourceful Jewish state, Israel.
The Kurdish-Turkish war has been going on since 1984. More than twenty thousand people have died. The Kurds of Syria, Iraq and Iran are also suffering. As the old adage, misery likes company, would have it, the leader of the Turkish Kurds al-Nasri and the Iraqi Kurdish leader Mirza agree to take on the Kurdish foes together.
The Middle East is arid. The water sources emanate from the land of the Kurds. Turkey has built dams over these rivers. Syria and Iraq are denied water by Ankara. Americans may fight for oil; the people of the Middle East fight for water.
A mobile Kurdish unit embarks on a journey to blow up the dam over the Euphrates. An American Regional Operation Center, ROC, an all eyes and all ears surveillance minibus is in the neighborhood. A general, two marines and three technicians operate it.
The Kurdish unit does its job. Ataturk dam is blown up. The American general wants to get closer to the scene. He is taken prisoner by the Kurds. The crew of the ROC and the big bosses in Washington are furious.
The minibus goes to the rescue. Kurdish fighters put the minibus out of commission and take the remaining Americans hostage too. Washington is flabbergasted. The Kurds are somewhat impervious to the importance of their catch.
They want to head home, first to Syria and then to Bekaa Valley. On their way and at the camp they torture the chief of the ROC operation. The Americans are demoralized. Washington and Tel Aviv make plans to rescue the Yankees.
The ROC crew is an interesting bunch. One is a former environmentalist, whose years of dissent in the Greenpeace movement come in handy in dealing with the Kurds. Another member is an African- American woman, who tells her Kurdish torturer fighting oppression does not license one to abuse the captured.
The Kurd, as you would expect, is speechless. He is not versed in Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X to engage her in a philosophical dialogue. You admire the African-American woman for putting oppression in perspective so eloquently.
At the end, the Israelis help the Americans locate the camp in Bekaa Valley. The Kurds, together with the Americans, are attacked and incapacitated by means of gas. The American general angry with his tormentors, kills the Kurdish leader out of revenge.
The White House is in a conundrum. The general either has to face the court of law for giving in to the feelings of personal vendetta or the President has to pardon him. The latter is done. The general remains a general.
Of course, there are also sub-plots. The American counsel in Istanbul is murdered by Kurdish sympathizers. The Kurds attack Damascus to take over the government, but to no avail. The general asks and is given the authority and a budget to fight terrorism on his own.
Rest assured, the Turkish war mongers will make this newest concoction of Clancy and Pieczenik a required reading for their officers who are versed in English.
One wonders how much influence the government of Turkey had over the much touted warrior in disguise, Tom Clancy, to pen this novel. His and Pieczenik’s construction is grievous to an indigenous people who are fighting to preserve themselves.
Why is it that the secular fighters of the PKK are portrayed as devout Muslims? 4,000 women fighters in their rank would make a mockery of Clancy’s claim. This infantile look at the world must come to an end.
The end of the Cold War and the beginning of the Peace Process in the Middle East has depleted the market for adversaries. The identification of the Kurdish struggle for dignity as a form of terrorism and inimical to the values of Americans is deplorable.
The Kurds have enough adversaries of their own. Adding Americans to the list reminds one of the popular Israeli song: “The whole world is against us, who cares!”