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The War Nerd / June 26, 2009
By Gary Brecher

Banquo’s Ghosts

Summer Reading: Banquo’s Ghosts, by Richard Lowry and Keith Korman, Vanguard Press (2009), 352 pages.

You have to feel a little sorry for the two neocons who co-wrote Banquo’s Ghosts. The idea seems simple enough: a Tom Clancy-style thriller about a plot to kill an Iranian physicist before he can cook up a nuke for the mullahs. The problem is, where do you get your hero these days? Back in the day, when Clancy was keeping Reagan awake way past 9 pm with Hunt for Red October, it was easy to make US agents like Jack Ryan look good; after all, they were going up against the dregs of the poor old USSR.

It’s not anywhere near as easy to convince readers nowadays that our spooks are superhuman, not after Iraq and especially not where Iran is concerned. The grim fact is that Iran has outplayed us since I was a kid. I mean that literally. Some of my earliest and nastiest memories are from the hostage crisis in 1979, scared blindfolded hostages, then the wreckage of Desert Storm, a greasy mullah holding up the roasted arm of a dead American solder. From Carter to Bush Junior, it’s been one embarrassment after another at the hands of those sneaky Persians.

So Lowry and Korman have changed with the times. Their patriotic agent characters, Banquo and his lieutenant Wallets, are sort of tired and weak in this book, bummed about the way Iraq turned out. When you meet Banquo, he’s looking over a lot of high-tech surveillance of Nasrullah, the Hezbollah leader—except Banquo realizes the guy wearing the chemically-dyed turban may be a body double, or a nobody. Banquo is bummed, realizing all the satellites in the world won’t make up for the fact we’ve got no humint worth mentioning in the Middle East: “‘We’re losing,’ Banquo whispered to the walls.”

Yes, Banquo’s world, Tom Clancy’s world, is going to Hades. The CIA isn’t what it used to be, thanks to all this new touchy-feely crap:

…’voluntary’ sexual harassment and racial sensitivity seminars. … Delays and overruns had slowed the men’s bathroom renovations—an installation of two hundred quality Care Bear changing tables ‘for your convenience.’ When what—Mr. Mom wet himself? … And … at 4:30 pm, the Agency employees lined up in the Langley parking lot, shuffling off to their minivan carpools for their suburban commute home.

Minivans! Diaper-changing tables! Car pools!  With friends like that, it stands to reason that poor Banquo can’t count on the usual allies to take on the Iranians.

But the biggest blow to Tom Clancy’s world is pretty clear, as this book admits in a weird, very interesting way. We’re in Banquo’s office, while the depressed old agent thinks about why “we’re losing.” He settles on a poster:

A couple of years back one of Banquo’s staff hung a framed replica of Fox Mulder’s famous alien saucer poster on the wall. … Except this poster showed Saddam’s noble profile superimposed over a mushroom cloud. The caption stayed the same though, a comment on the Agency’s egregiously wrong ‘slam dunk’ insistence that Iraq had WMD’s when none could be found:
“I Want to Believe.”

So for the good of the firm and reasons of professional grit, the senior and only partner of Banquo and Duncan had left it there.

To hang forever as a warning.

I was amazed to read that bit in a novel by the editor of a neocon outpost like National Review. It’s about as close to admitting, “We messed up,” as these guys are ever going to come. And it helps to explain the big plot twist in the novel. Since the neocons and the CIA are so bummed, depressed, and discredited, you can’t just find a Jack Ryan and put him on the bad guys’ trail. You need to find a new kind of hero. And that’s where these two co-author dudes really outdid themselves. See, they need someone to kill that pesky Iranian physicist, but their boys are weak, car-pooling losers. Where’s the energy, the drive, these days? Why, across the aisle, among those damn lefties and peaceniks. They’re the ones on the attack. So Banquo recruits an antiwar Lefty, a Brit reporter named Peter Johnson, who took Saddam’s money and spends most of his time telling TV audiences that Iran is harmless, and only wants nukes for peaceful energy.

It’s pretty clear, if you’re an old CNN fan like me, than this Johnson character is a pretty obvious take on Peter Arnett, the reporter who got fired after the first Iraq war. Johnson character is a drunk, a slob, an all-around mess, and an America-hater from way back—all the stuff the Pentagon said about Arnett.

But Johnson is only a leftie on the surface. Inside, he’s sick of himself, ashamed of having served the forces of evil all his life. And just in case you were in any doubt that they really are the forces of evil, there’s a long scene at a snooty Manhattan dinner party where the reader meets Johnson’s lefty boss, Josephine Parker von Hildebrand. Josephine is just about the evilest witch-queen since Snow White: “Josephine had practically every desirable personal characteristic, except wisdom and mercy.” Gee, that sounds like she actually isn’t a nice person at all! Well, this isn’t one of those subtle type novels. If it had a soundtrack, it’d be heavy on the Count Dracula organ notes every time Josephine appears.

The scene at her snooty dinner party is maybe the worst in the novel. Basically, all the cool lefties at the party turn into rabid Jew-hating Nazis after their second glass of wine. It’s the old line that anybody who ever criticizes Israel can’t really mean what they say; they must be secret Nazis just waiting for some pretext to spew up their hate. Even Johnson, the peacenik, is outraged at what he hears: “But of all the Jew-haters he despised—more than any neo-Nazi skinhead—were the pointy-headed intellectuals, the sophisticated, sleight-of-hand Jew-haters, the let’s-adopt-the-Saudi-peace-plan, and gosh-aren’t-these-people-awfully-pushy-and-greedy-for-such-a-little-country? Jew-haters.” Right. Meaning, anybody who ever quibbled with any Israeli policy. Ever. Well, that settles that. To show you how evil these non-neocons truly are, they start talking like little Hitlers. Now, I can’t speak from personal experience here—contrary to what you might expect, I don’t get invited to all that many cool Manhattan parties—but it’s a little hard to believe that this New York leftist magazine is secretly staffed by a bunch of Hitlerites. . .


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Add your own

  • 1. AIG  |  June 26th, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    great column

    i smell like real shit

  • 2. Realist  |  June 26th, 2009 at 8:53 pm


    Why is it that the foreign policy imbeciles feel compelled to write novels, autobiographies or memoirs after their life-defining fuckups? A last, desperate literary “We meant well” for posterity.

    No ceremonial seppuku, no Luger in the top drawer of the mahagoni desk, not even the modest grace of silence. Just a whimpering nostalgia for the good ol days.

  • 3. FSB Agent 008  |  June 26th, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    I hope I’ll never see or hear about this book ever again. From few quotes made available above it sure seems like a dreadful writing. And “Banquo”??? That’s the name these two brainless bozos ultimately came up with? I wouldn’t call my pet iguana like that.

  • 4. Mark Nuckols  |  June 26th, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Sounds dreadful. I once read a Left Behind novel, left behind in a London B&B, on my flight back to NYC. That at least was hilarious, in unintended ways.

    as for the CIA: one of my classmates at Georgetown Law was a CIA lawyer (he was taking an LLM program) whose area of responsibility was CIA legal issues in the Middle East. After I returned from a vacation that included a stop in Turkey, he asks me, what langauge do they speak in Turkey, Arabic?

    As for Upper West Side dinner parties, I’ve met enough of those people to feel nauseous. Only one comment: the same people who shed bitter tears for US soldiers killed in maimed in Iraq not so long ago would have derided those same guys as dumbfuck hillbillies. Who certainly would not be invited to such dinner parties.

  • 5. Strahlungsamt  |  June 27th, 2009 at 2:13 am

    This talk of “Lefties” being closet Jew hating Nazis, ready to convert to Rightist causes, reminds me of my days when I still believed in Xtianity.

    Go to any Xtian bookshop and browse through the literature about sudden conversions and you will believe that every one of us has a deep inner conviction waiting to come out. All those knock on your door Xtians believe they only need to keep harassing you and you will convert, discover Jesus and go to Heaven. Once discovered, Jesus cannot be undiscovered. Once Saved, always Saved.

    Yet nobody ever writes about ex-Xtians (like me) who became disillusioned about the whole scam and started questioning if Jesus even died on the cross in the first place. It’s all propaganda to advance one belief and to stamp out any alternative thinking. To make you think the Right is Right and that all Lefties and other Blasphemers are wandering about in darkness.

    It’s not that everybody will be Saved. It is that they don’t want you to believe anything different. And they want you to keep “believing” and never knowing.

  • 6. Allen  |  June 27th, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Pathetic, sniveling, childish, pitiable, are all adjectives that seem apt here. No wonder the so-called “neo-cons” have fast become objects of contempt and scorn to all.

    Who else would pen such a petulant empowerment fantasy complete with facing down the emasculating power of black youths and super villain Persians who have nothing better to do than randomly poison a few New Yorkers or rush head long into a nuclear war for no particular reason.

    If only it wasn’t for the “Liberal media” Americans would all surely embrace the comic book version of reality, and ignore gross self indulgent vainglory and incompetence. (They save ignoring incompetence for the economy, I guess). So this is what the right-wing version of adolescent nerd rage is …

  • 7. AIG  |  June 27th, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    why does a man like me have the need to be righteous on the web ?

    Yeah, this is because of my horrible life.

  • 8. marquelot  |  June 27th, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    If you really want to be disgusted, look around the site the second half of that was posted on. Jew apologists and right-wing fucktards would love that shit hole. I guess that must be one of Brecher’s newest haunts, or something.

  • 9. Simon  |  June 28th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    “…all the cool lefties at the party turn into rabid Jew-hating Nazis after their second glass of wine…”

    Here in London, that would not be implausible. Can’t say for New York, but seems more unlikely.

  • 10. Simon  |  June 28th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    “ew apologists and right-wing fucktards would love that shit hole…”

    Ah, Taki, that well-known philosemite.

  • 11. mechagodzilla  |  June 28th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    man, “little Hitlers.” They get any smaller we’re gonna have to use bug spray.

    Great review.

  • 12. nomdeguerre  |  June 28th, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    The bungled rescue of the hostages in 1979 was operation Eagle Claw, not Operation Desert Storm.

  • 13. YT  |  June 28th, 2009 at 10:09 pm


    Re : And they want you to keep “believing” and never knowing.

    Amen to that. Just proves how simple-minded the masses are to marketing/propaganda. All for the MONEY, dude.

    Man, this book seems like somethin’ a neo-con would masturbate to, ain’t ever gonna be on my shoppin’ list for sure.

  • 14. Pizza de Oveja  |  June 29th, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Have you noticed how easy righties put things for lefties most of the time? With arguments like that or that the holocaust never happened and so forth they just don’t need to make any effort to mock them righties and their arguments, even when there is overwhelming evidence of the constant failure along history of socialism, even when the most horrid regimes are 99% ultra-left..It seems somehow that the bad guys of history are the Nazis and that left is a synonym of freedom and social justice (yeah right!)
    I subscribe to the idea of John Gray that in reality the generation of neocons that we saw in the government in the states and most of their supporters, far from being the right are in practise and ideology nothing more than a bad remake of the good ol Jacobins (like the communists, Nazis, most socialists and a dreadfully long etc..) They only have the name of conservatives It aint nothing conservative about what they did.
    All Jacobins, despite being always in fights to the death among them, at the core they all share the same arguments that ultimately always fail when a society allows them to put it into practice, with terrible consequences. But one thing you can be sure, is that nobody will learn anything of it and pretty soon we will yet again see another Jacobin screw-up. God damn Robespierre and his damn croissants..

  • 15. Plamen Petkov  |  June 29th, 2009 at 7:32 am

    One small fact you forgot to mention:
    there is documented evidence the hostage crisis could have ended MUCH sooner except Bush Senior went to Iran and made sure the hostages won’t be released for a while thus ensuring Reagan’s win.
    Just wanted to mention that. Puts things in MUCH better perspective.

  • 16. mullah  |  June 29th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    @pizzaface 15
    The Jacobins in all their prior versions were basically a bunch of idealistic fairies – thinking that most of the right/fascist/aristocratic/nobility/burgeois scum can be rehabilitated after you wack their emblazoned leadership. This type of thinking will not be repeated in the next send-up, so pack your bags, PizzaMan. Although there’s gonna be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide

  • 17. La Bouchet  |  June 29th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    This piece itself looks like a sequel to the book it critises – starting with the image of “burned hands” and compliments to Persian war talents. Brecher seems to have no problem with CIA actions in Iran per se. He just doesn’t quite accept some minor propaganda cover-up stylistic, sexual details of this particular neocon policies (fictional) implementation.

    Where are all smart people in Pentagon? as if he asking

    Show us a couple burned hands again like you did in my
    childhood and nuke the damn ayatolla crap already- we are missing all next Hanuka preparations!

  • 18. aleke  |  June 29th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Alright, pizzaboy, I’ll let you mend your ways and come into the light of rationality and science as the way to guide economic efficiency, not grotesque reactionary ideology:

    Or, you can stickywicket them ears and shout Gravity Is Just A Theory at the world for the rest of your life.

  • 19. mephistopheles  |  June 30th, 2009 at 11:53 am

    gotta love these mary sue adventures where the protagonists have no depth beyond being the fantasy of the authors to hype or abuse. The only reason these characters exist is to validate the neocon position.
    Also Pizzaman, if you think nazis are left wingers, play that Budd Dwyer game where you stick a loaded pistol in your mouth and see how many times you can pull the trigger. Nobody can be that fucking stupid.

  • 20. rick  |  July 1st, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    The only thing exiled readers can agree on is that they’ve read the Wikipedia article on Budd Dwyer.

  • 21. RobW  |  July 3rd, 2009 at 8:19 am

    “Peter Johnson?” Why not “Dick Hardon” or “Cock Member?” Too subtle?

  • 22. Carpenter  |  July 6th, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Yes, those poor American hostages. Iranians being pissed at Americans, can you believe it. Never mind that CIA in its Operation Ajax helped install the shah, deposing the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh, which led to 25 years of tyranny. Mossadegh had wanted to nationalize the oil, you see, take it from the hands of the Western oil companies. Plus that the shah was far more Israel-friendly, which made it a clear case as far as the Israeli lobby was concerned.

    When the Iranians rebelled, the U.S. tried to strangle them financially, and financed their strongman Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran, with two million deaths as a result.

    I have no idea why Iranians would dislike Americans, after all that nice treatment. And with two Israeli nuclear submarines outside their coast at all times, ready to nuke millions of Iranians at an hour’s notice, with illegal weapons paid by unwitting American taxpayers – it is clear those Iranians are a threat to the region.

  • 23. Veer Savarkar  |  July 6th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    People like ‘mullah’ are the useful idiots who believe that once you have a commie revolution where all elites are killed, we will have a true utopia of exploitation free living. Except that the leaders of the revolution will become the new aristocratic/nobility/bourgeois scum (it is human nature after all) and the first thing they will do is get rid of useful idiots like ‘mullah’. Then ‘mullah’, you will have nowhere to hide or run. All revolutions are the replacement of one set of elites with another. This is how it always will be till the end of time.

  • 24. Big Orange  |  July 7th, 2009 at 7:04 am

    “Here in London, that would not be implausible. Can’t say for New York, but seems more unlikely.”

    People like are the main reason why relations between America and Britain are strained over Israel in the ME, and why Europe laughs at the US.

  • 25. Frank McG  |  July 7th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    No one’s mentioned the very Clockwork Orange move of the hard line Right government recruiting street thugs as enforcers?

    I always love how failure, fictional or real, is never due to a fault with the self, but from LIBERAL SOCIO-COMMIE TRAITORS who stabbed us in the back otherwise we totally would have won for sure.

    Blame it all on traitors from within, a classic standard operating procedure from reactionaries for centuries. Nostalgia is for cowards, and reactionaries are cowards, basing everything off of their pride & paranoia trying to mask their cowardice.

  • 26. Frank McG  |  July 7th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Oh, and if you really want some nauseating conservative reading material, check out Liberality, starring G. Gordon and Sean Hannity (with cyborg arm!) as comic book heroes, fighting the good fight against those SICK liberals sticking condom dispensers in grade schools and putting the troops in harms way (by pulling them out of conflict?).

  • 27. John Hardy  |  July 12th, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Are you sure the Peter Johnson character doesn’t also have a dose of Christopher Hitchens to him?

  • 28. Jamesk  |  July 16th, 2009 at 2:19 am

    To add to John Hardy’s point it seems likely that the inspiration of Johnson’s lefty boss – Josephine Parker von Hildebrand could be Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. This would make the Hitchens link more noticeable – given his departure from the periodical.

  • 29. dummidumbwit  |  July 27th, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    If the Ruskies weren’t impressed with Adolf or Charles the XII, I’m sure Biden has em quaking in their felt galoshes, ha ha!!

  • 30. afu  |  November 11th, 2009 at 8:20 am

    From Peter Arnett’s wikipedia page,

    “In 1964 Arnett married a Vietnamese woman, Nina Nguyen; they had two children, Elsa and Andrew….

    Elsa Arnett is married to controversial former White House lawyer John Yoo.”

    That has got to be some awkard holiday dinner tabless

  • 31. Reality Check  |  December 18th, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Actually, the far right are bigoted jerkoffs who usually scapegoat Jews, but the far left do the exact same thing.

    The only difference is, the far right is honest about being dishonest bigoted scumbags, while the far left lies and pretends they are ‘peace activists’ and then blames every bad thing they can possibly come up with on Jews or Israel.

  • 32. porkers-at-the-trough  |  January 1st, 2010 at 7:57 am

    re #15, Plamen Petkov, well stated:

    Here’s one of many articles on the “OCTOBER SURPRISE” TREASON of the Neo-Cons, the Republican Party, & the CIA:

    Yes, the need to CONFRONT, MINIMIZE, and diminish the THREAT TO AMERICA posed by RIGHT-WING TREASON _is_ the challenge of 2010, especially with the Obama presidency and “Democratic” Congress & Senate being HIJACKED by the radical Right-Wing Golddamn-Sachs/JPMorgan-Chase/Citi bankster gangsters.
    This is of course nothing but a new, modern variation on the old US Civil War, with the hyper wealthy slave lords trying to DESTROY the United States in order to maintain their slavery system and financial & political supremacy.
    Then, as now, the TREASON was SUPPORTED by BANKERS, both European AND American bankers, who TRIED TO PROFIT FROM the war, most notoriously the Rothschilds & other London bankers WHO SUPPORTED the CONFEDERACY, hoping for America’s destruction or partition into two competing factions.
    Today, as then, SABOTAGE and PRE-MEDITATED DESTRUCTION, whether of Iran’s democratically elected regime in 1950s, the majority of votes for Al Gore in 2000, or THE DESTRUCTION of the ENTIRE US ECONOMY in the 8 years since stolen election 2000
    – (the better for those with deep pockets to scoop up from cash-strapped Americans real assets for pennies-on-the-dollar) –

    ….PRE-MEDITATED SABOTAGE of both US foreign policy, AND an strong, vibrant, upwardly mobile US economy, ARE THE SIGNATURE AIMS of the TREASONOUS Right.

    Today (thanks to TRILLIONS of taxpayer-extorted dollars PUMPED IN TO the Golddamn-Sachs, JPM, Citi, & _________s coffers by first the Bush-Paulson Treasury & Greenspan Fed, and now by the Obama-Geithner Treasury & Bernanke Fed) The NEO-CONS are the DOMINANT PARTNERS in the unholy, treasonous, Neo-Con + neo-Confederate alliance, of, those who SEE DESTRUCTION and SABOTAGE as their highest calling.

    Also see Carpenter, #22, who forgot to mention that in addition to having Israel nuclear subs off their coast, Iran has INVADING US ARMIES on TWO of its borders, Afghanistan & Iraq (the latter, the US Army invastion of Iraq, seeing a death toll over a MILLION killed in past 7 years, alone – an “outcome” the Neo-Cons WOULD LOVE TO SEE inflicted on Iran.)

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