Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chapter 8. The Earth Moves

Morrell called out another “Excuse me!” which was getting to be annoying as the Pentagon wire to the Situation Room was now streaming information at an ever-increasing pace.

“What ‘cha got?” asked the President.

“More images from the Gulf.”

“Put them up,” requested Obama.

“The Hueys are lifting off. These are about 15 minutes old. The wire says they’ve begun a path up the middle of the Gulf toward Basra.”

General Holland ventured a guess at their strategy. “Sounds like they’re going to hug the border until they can break off for their LZs in Iran. They’re counting on the Iranians to respect the border.

Morrell interrupted again, “Holy shit, sirs! Missiles, Pentagon can’t even count them. Ha Ha! Israel’s got a sky-full of birds headed east.”

Morrell’s enthusiasm for Israel’s decisive offensive was almost out of place. “Analyst estimates are 72 incoming Jericho 2s. Trajectories are being calculated but they’re all coming down on Iran.”

“Have Aegis batteries track and stand down. Have them prepare to track and destroy any retaliation on the President’s order, my order, or SECDEF. Let me know the minute you see them light up anything in Iran.” ordered Admiral Mullen.

“Why all three of us, Mike?” asked Obama.

“We may all be on the phone at the same time, sir, talking to different people. We won’t want to be passing phones around.” explained Mullen.

The Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor had arrived just a few minutes before the Hueys lifted off of the Netz Class missile frigates the Israelis had parked in the Persian Gulf. Morrell had a real-time radar scan ordered up to watch the helos march up the eastern Iraqi border, but he got a lot more than he bargained for.”

“Look, Mr. President,” said the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, rising from his chair and approaching the 60-inch plasma screen. Here are the eight helos in a nice loose line all tracking up the gulf.” Looking back toward the console he waved his right arm toward the Air Force Captain on the video controls. “Captain, add borders to the display, please.”

“Yes, sir. Borders on.”

“There you go. There’s the Persian Gulf. And this...My God are they going to get punished. Ah, I’ve never seen anything like this. That swarm is about seventy-two medium-range ballistic missiles with who-knows-what in their warheads.”

The volume of cross-talk in the room and the sound of electronic communication being used by each member to communicate with their subordinates was rising fast.

“Can we cut the chatter, people?” demanded the President. “I need to hear Admiral Mullen right now.”

Mullen continued, “Standard issue is a 5-ton warhead. High explosive. But, there could be thermobaric or cluster warheads on any of these.

“What do the frigates have?” Obama asked.

“I’m not that familiar,” conceded Mullen. “Can you take that one General Holland?”

“Well, sure. Depends, of course on the mission. My guess is they’ll be sitting there waiting to use surface-to-air Arrows on any missiles headed west. If they have a belly full of those, they won’t have room for much offensive weaponry.”

“Makes sense, Bill.” Admiral Mullen knew it was important to reply. Like the EOS beep at the end of a radio transmission telling both parties that the communication hasn’t dropped off.

General Holland unexpectedly jumped back into the conversation. “I see missiles heading into Iran from the Persian Gulf. Anybody there see this?”

The Secretary of Defense spoke up, “Bill, this is Bob Gates. We’ve got ‘em.”

“Those are not long range. They’re either big surface-to-air missiles or surface-to-surface. Those frigates can only reach out about 150 kilometers.”

“A hundred miles or so,” offered SECDEF to the room.

Holland began a narration to accompany what everyone was seeing on the screen.

“They’re spreading out. God, gotta’ be a hundred of ‘em. They’re hitting everything near the Gulf, I’ll bet. Looks like they want to take down command and control, airfields, personnel, missile sites, radar. This is definitive Shock and Awe. I’m, I’m really flabbergasted.”

“Bill, this is Jim Jones. Why no response from the Iranians?”

“Shit. I don’t know.”

Jael and Alon were out on a deck at the apartment building in modern Jerusalem. Jael had a tobacco habit and every hour, or more, she disappeared for a smoke. This time, she invited Alon because, well, the war was getting close and she liked him.

From the deck they could see down to the Old City, to David’s Tower and the dusty gray dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was a beautiful sight, and if you overlaid the eons of history that have played out in the narrow space between them and the crenelated parapets of Jerusalem’s walls, you would have all the raw material necessary to describe the entire drama of human existence.

Jael was leaning back against the building as Alon, his back to Jael, put his hands out and rested his weight on the wrought iron railing.

“Alon? I’m chilly”

He turned and took a step toward her. She reached her hands into his jacket, grabbed his belt above his back pockets and drew him toward her. Her face was barely illuminated by the glow in the eastern sky. But her eyes were filled with lights reflected from the world around them. She closed them.

Alon took her head in his hands and tilted it just a bit. Jael let her head drift back and thrust her half-open mouth toward him. He tasted the tobacco on her lips, but it was sweet, and he didn’t care. At that moment, Alon Rosen did not have a care in the world.

“You two!” They were startled by Avi’s sudden appearance at the doorway. “Incoming. Let’s go.”

The three electronics wizards disappeared into an apartment that contained an elevator to the basement bunker. They quickly completed retinal scans, the elevator door opened and they entered the car. In a moment they were back at their computers.

Ballistic missiles were on the radar and ten minutes from touchdown. Aegis calculations on each missile were transmitted in real time to the bunker. 3D displays showed where each missile would impact if they continued unabated on their flight paths with a GPS grid projected onto the topography of the nation of Israel.

“Get me the Topcon list display,” barked Peled. Let’s test the signals on Missile 34.

“Confirm 34,” replied Ben-Tzvi.

“Toggle A,” called out Peled.

“Still on. Still on.”


“Still on. Still on.”


“Whoa! Flat, she’s flat out looking for the longitude.”

“It’s the L-5 signal.”

“Works like magic, Danny! Damn!”

“Stretch her out!”

“You got it!”

“Take it to 12 minutes, 30 seconds of arc. And I want a check of every other bird. MAke sure their all tuned in to L5 and not channel surfing.”

As Ben-Tzvi manipulated a variable capacitor on the transmitter in front of him, the lines of longitude on the 3D display began to move apart on the western side. They no longer formed squares with the intersecting lines of latitude over Israel. They became elongated.

In fact, any line that had fallen over an Israeli city, like Tel Aviv, was now 42 miles to the west. Those were the new positions in space that the Iranian missiles were chasing. They were going to fall exactly where programmed, but where they were programmed had been moved by four young Israelis who hacked into a satellite 120 miles over their heads. All the new positions were in the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.

“Wanna watch, asked Jael?”

Peled spoke quickly, “I’ll stay, take your cell phones. And take the camcorder for me.”

“Recommendations?” asked the President, with tension clearly in his voice.

“We take down any ballistic missiles heading East,” volunteered Director Panetta.

“Then we’re perceived to be on Israel’s side and we could be attacked,” countered Mrs. Clinton.

“Attacked by whom?” asked National Security Advisor, Jim Jones. “Iran? Looks to me like Iran’s about to get the ever-lovin’ shit kicked out of ‘em. And it’s high-time, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“Most of the country feels the way you do, Jim,” added Emmanuel. “They’d love to see these guys get their butts kicked. Anymore, there’s no difference in perception between Ahmadinejad and the Taliban and Al-Queda. They’re all bad guys and they all deserve what they get.”

“We need to be more measured though in our response, no matter if we all feel that way,” suggested Mrs. Clinton. No one asked why, although Mullen thought the question was obvious and flashed a look at Gates that said so. Gates averted his eyes. Panetta caught it all.

“We’re going to be blamed for helping the Israelis.” announced Panetta.

“But we didn’t help them, did we?” asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, entering the Situation Room.

“No. You’re right,” agreed Obama, “we didn’t. We didn’t obstruct them, but that’s a different thing altogether.”

“Panetta countered, “Suppose I’m an Iranian. What would be happening differently to me this morning if the United States had or had not helped the Israelis?”

“Leon, we need a reason we can give the world for allowing the Israelis through, some compelling need we had that gave us no choice.” suggested President Obama.

“I’ll work on it, sir.” replied Panetta dutifully.

Well I want everyone working on it. Think people, think!”

“Mr. President?” Hillary Clinton said as she rocked back in her chair. “Maybe to help us work out an acceptable statement, we should know, why DID we let the Israelis fly over Iraq?”

It was the elephant in the room question and Obama’s most likely opponent in the future presidential contest was asking in order to get him on the record.

He paused briefly and looked her straight in the eyes and said, “It was the right thing to do.”

It was a beautiful, innocent - almost Reaganesque - answer. And everyone in the room knew instantly that it was a lie.

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