The Case for Torture (totally fictional of course): Vince Flynn’s bestseller “Memorial Day”

Mich Rapp is about as one-dimensional as a character can get. Oh sure, he has a wife, so when he returns to DC from Afghanistan where he has been busy killing suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers, the first thing he does is call her up, right? Nope. He goes to the Facility, a place “so secret, it didn’t even have a name,” where he can torture some more suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers.

So begins Vince Flynn’s 2004 bestseller Memorial Day. Throughout the book the twin themes of torture and secrecy are explored, however shallowly, and in this fictional scenario they are the only tools standing between America and its certain destruction by terrorists.

Rapp didn’t like torture, not only because of its effect on the person being brutalized, but for what it did to the person who sanctioned and carried it out. He had no desire to sink to those depths unless it was a last resort, but unfortunately they were quickly approaching that point. Lives were at stake. Two CIA operatives were already dead, thanks to the duplicitous scum in the other room, and many more lives were in the balance. Something was in the works, and if Rapp didn’t find out what it was hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent people would die.

Sure enough, something is going on, at least in this fictional account, that justifies torturing this particular prisoner, who is, after all, “duplicitous scum”. It is nothing less than a plot to kill the president of the United States, along with several other heads of state who will be attending a Memorial Day ceremony, hence the novel’s title. The Terrorists have managed to assemble a bomb made from nuclear materials scavenged from a former Soviet nuclear test site in Kazakhstan. A twenty-kiloton bomb capable of destroying the capitol, killing a hundred thousand people in the initial burst and double that many in the following month from radiation has been smuggled into the country. The bomb is getting closer and closer to Washington.

But Rapp has enemies. Lawyers who want public trials instead of secret torture. Politicians trying to make a name for themselves. “Haters of America’s capitalistic muscle.” Fortunately for the plot line, Rapp is “neither delicate nor squeamish”.

In a private interview with the president of the United States, Rapp sums up his argument for his methods:

We pulled five prisoners out of that village in Pakistan, sir, and none of them were willing to talk. I lined them all up, and started with a man named Ali Saed al-Houri. I put a gun to his head, and when he refused to answer my questions I blew his brains out, Mr. President. I executed the bastard, and I didn’t feel an ounce of shame or guilt. I thought of the innocent men and women who were forced to jump out of the burning World Trade Center, and I pulled the trigger. I moved on to the next terrorist and blew his brains out too, and then the third guy in line started singing like a bird. That’s how we found out about the bomb, sir. That’s what it takes to win this war on terror.

Although the book was first published in 2004, Amazon still ranks this book #98,926 in sales, and is about to reissue the book. Several of Flynn’s other 8 terrorist thrillers are doing even better than this one. Amazon.com does not yet allow for reselling used copies of this title, but you can get one at ABEBooks.com. Would I recommend the book? No. The characters are too shallow; the political message depends too heavily on emotion generated from a purely fictional event. But a lot of people have been reading these books. Who knows how many of them are buying in to the implicit message.

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