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Prayers for the Assassin: A Novel

Prayers for the Assassin - Robert Ferrigno Abandoned on page 100.I don't really want to review the book as a story, but more like the book as a piece of our recent history, because that's what I was reading it for. First, let me build up some context... Do you ever look back on the past ten years or so, and wonder how Americans allowed so many of our freedoms to be trampled on? It happened so fast, didn’t it? We used to have due process in this country, but now it's accepted that you can be detained indefinitely as a terrorist, on suspicion alone, with no trial. We used to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, but now the government routinely listens in on and records your phone calls with no warrant. Look at what we've become: we still collectively can't decide whether we want to be a nation that tortures people, and our public has been remarkably calm about all the extrajudicial murders we've been conducting with our drones, in countries whom we aren't even officially at war with.What happened? We used to call ourselves "The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave". But would "The Brave" gladly hand over all our hard-won freedoms... freedoms people in past generations DIED FOR, just because a newly-created "Dept of Homeland Security " declares a "Threat Condition Orange"? (Whatever the fuck that means.) Wouldn't you expect the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave to be out on the streets, raising hell, chanting in unison to repeal the PATRIOT ACT, because even if it makes us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, we'll be damned if we're going to let an act of terror make us sign away the Bill of Rights? How did we get here? Was it all 9/11?Yeah, that's part of it, but it wasn't just the trauma of 9/11; it was the constant fearmongering that followed on its heels. From 9/12 on, terrorism was treated (in the media, I’m saying) the way the prospect of nuclear war with the Soviets was during the cold war: as an existential threat which could spell the end of our civilization at any time. Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno is very much part of that fearmongering. It was first published in January of 2006, when we had been in Iraq for nearly three years, and it was obvious there were no weapons of mass destruction… but for some reason we weren’t leaving. Daily news reports informed us of American soldiers killed by roadside bombs, even though six months earlier our Vice President, Dick Cheney declared the insurgency in Iraq to be in its 'final throes'. …And I guess enough people believed him, because we never did see public protest about it, like we saw in the VietNam era. We fucking believed him. A five-time draft dodger who wouldn’t know an insurgency if it introduced itself at the country club. Why did we believe him? Partly because our national media is owned by a small group of giant corporations...…who wanted us to believe him. Because believing him meant continued support for the wars. The luscious, sweet profitable wars.So that was the state of the media in 2006. Whether part of the social engineering, or just cynically profiting off of it, Prayers for the Assassin would be hilarious for its absurdity, if it weren't so deadly dangerous. The premise of this turd is that in 2040, America has had New York and Washington D.C. destroyed by atomic bombs, and that somehow this has resulted in most of the rest of America falling to a sort of cultural occupation by fundamentalist Muslims who have not only converted millions of Joe Sixpacks to Islam, but a sort of military and political occupation as well. There are some holdouts in the Bible Belt, and Utah, but you can read those details for yourself. As a result of this improbable alt-history, you have the usual setting-by-messing-with-our-iconography trope: here it’s renaming Coca-Cola to “Jihad Cola”, renaming Seahawks Stadium in Seattle to Khomeini Stadium, and changing the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to the USS Osama bin Laden. (Yes, really; it's on page 84.)Back up a second… OCCUPIED??DID SOMEBODY REALLY SAY OCCUPIED WITH A STRAIGHT FACE???America’s experience projecting power into Iraq should help put the difficulties of occupation into perspective. We are a nation of 300 million, and ours is currently the most powerful military force on the planet. During the Iraq conflict, our occupying troops struggled with variable success to maintain order in a nation of 33 million, where the majority of the public held us in either positive or conflicted regard. And as far as cultural conversion/occupation goes, consider this: America liberated Iraq from a dictator who all sides agree was a bloodthirsty tyrant. We came bearing all the libertine freedoms typically associated with consumerist liberal democracies. Our leaders told us the Iraquis would welcome us with open arms. Instead, they had to stage the taking down of Hussein's statue to look like a spontaneous event, so it could be passed off as war propaganda. Changing peoples' culture and values ain't so easy, is what I'm saying.[Staged!]Robert Ferrigno wants you to take seriously the idea that loose bands of terrorists could not only overwhelm American military forces, but could also indefinitely subdue a public of 300 million. And this is supposed to happen because America magically lets itself be culturally taken over by Islam, after Israeli terrorists nuke two of our cities? Is that the most absurd thing you've ever heard in your life? Excuse me for calling bullshit here, but I think pretty clearly the subtext of this cautionary tale is "America lost because they didn’t hate the Muslims enough."That’s it, isn’t it? See what happens when you don’t join in the anti-Muslim hate mongering? No more alcohol… and burqas for all the women. If only Americans hadn’t protested the manufactured wars in the Middle East, how much better off they would have been…You want to know what else is absurd? The media's reception of this repulsive hype. Instead of laughing Ferrigno off the stage of public attention, THEY TOOK HIM SERIOUSLY!! Here's the New York Times calling this book "genuinely frightening", and a "thriller [...] with substance! " Here's a blogger recommending this book, not as fantasy, but as topical! The same blogger seems to be an Ann Coulter fan, to give you an idea of what playground he plays in.The back cover of the book has a quote from USA Today: "[A] believable alternate history… A chilling tale." Believable!?! Well, that’s USA Today for you.Actually, my favorite praise for this book is at the inside front, right before the title page: "An awesomely good writer.", by somebody named Elmore Leonard. That's not even a sentence, even though it's punctuated by a period, so this little sprinkle of adulation about Ferrigno’s writing skill ironically clues you in that Elmore Leonard doesn’t know the first thing about skill in writing. If the publishers reprint the book, they are free to add the following praise on the inner cover: "Robert Ferrigno does English-making real good." -BirdBrian Barbies with burkas, and no more pork for Americans? This sort of alt-history is fine if you take it as the fantasy it clearly is, but to treat it so seriously is moronic. ("genuinely frightening"!? Really?!?!) Am I supposed to believe that THIS is what our nation is fighting to prevent? Is THIS supposed to be the reason over 5000 American servicemembers died in Iraq and Afghanistan? Because I'm very sorry to pop the bubble, but the premise of this book is about as firmly rooted in reality as The Wizard of Oz.Here's the Seattle Times calling Robert Ferrigno's new book "a provocative and compelling success!" Compelling, huh? No joke? What part was compelling, and what are we now compelled to do?January Magazine tells us "[Ferrigno] demonstrates in Prayers for the Assassin a real understanding and appreciation of Islam". That in itself is pretty funny, because according to this article Ferrigno’s research into Islam comprised six Islamic websites, one book and two articles.So enough with the reviews. People are going to say what they're going to say. What's pissing me off is that we never had a real national conversation about going to war... we were rushed along by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld giving us the used car salesman treatment: "Quick! Quick! Sign now! Hurry up before the opportunity is gone!" And now we've got innocent blood on our hands, a staggering war debt, departed loved ones who died on foreign soil... and nothing to suggest we are any more secure than when we started it all. ...And books like this, and reviews like the ones above were instruments to help push us along. Prayers for the Assassin isn't art standing back and reflecting reality; I think it’s interventional; a tool intended to support a political objective. As it says at the top of the page: this is war propaganda, and we are the targets.In this case, the political objective was to completely distort America's view of what the realistic threat of terrorism is. (Hint: it's not occupying us as a foreign conqueror) Consider: you've got 21% of Americans still smoking cigarettes, with 400,000 per year dying of smoking-related illness (Reference); 35% of the population obese, with 6% "morbidly" obese (i.e. 20% or greater over ideal body weight); nearly 12,000 people per year killed by drunk drivers; diabetes hitting the population in epidemic numbers; and what are Mr and Mrs Middle America worried about? They’re scared out of their wits that Al Qaida is going to get them! …which, frankly, is less likely than the chance of being struck by lightning. (Reference)Oh, but what about the nuclear threat? What about "We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud?" Fine- you want increased security around the world’s nukes, go ahead; increase security. It doesn’t explain going to war- especially in Iraq.The other thing that pisses me off about this book, is how- true to form for war propaganda- it serves to dehumanize the intended enemy. The Muslim villains in this book are complete clichés.... leering fundamentalist psychopaths delighting in evil for evil's sake. Why does anybody buy into images like that anymore? Isn't the intent of this so transparent as to make it ineffective? The Bush II era was an era for asking "Why do they hate us?" (Google that phrase!), and being told "They hate us for our freedoms".Can somebody be forgiven for accepting that answer in 2006? I don't know. Maybe. But in 2013, no way. So far there have been 176 kids killed by our extrajudicial drone strikes. Our officials can blow off those numbers as acceptable collateral damage, but to every community where a drone killed kids, that was a Sandy Hook to them. And the killer wasn't a lone deranged mentally ill man; it was "America"... the whole package, not the military-industrial complex; the whole package including you and me and your best friend and your family. That's the nature of [b:Blowback|40709|Blowback The Costs and Consequences of American Empire|Chalmers Johnson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316130435s/40709.jpg|40294]. You can’t kill somebody’s children and then seriously believe that the reason they hate you now is because of your freedoms.What does that have to do with this book? I'm just saying that this book was part of the cacophony of war propaganda which hit our nation shortly after 9/11, and in some degree still exists. I point that out because by distorting the situation and dehumanizing everybody outside of our proverbial "camp", propaganda has whipped up the chickenhawks into a rabid blood-frenzy, and stunned the rest of us to either support them or stand idly by. To this day, our national priorities favor getting felt up at the airport over respecting the Bill of Rights, and that's just fucked up. And that's the