The Warriors of God by William Christie - Read Online
The Warriors of God
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Summary

This acclaimed 1992 thriller amazingly anticipated the terrorist scourge of the next decade. Now brought up to date by the author and available again as Iran defies the world by pursuing nuclear weapons, it’s plot may just be the stuff of tomorrow’s headlines.

The long-simmering conflict between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran finally turns hot with an act of terrorism against a U.S. navy ship in the Persian Gulf. American military retaliation shuts down Iranian oil production, and it is war. But not the war we’ve known in the past. Not the war of armies, ships, and planes. No, the war we’ve come to know today. The war of the weak against the strong. War in the shadows. With battles aimed not at the destroying the enemy’s armies, but bent on making headlines.

A handpicked team of elite Iranian commandos are silently making their way to the United States. To Washington D.C. Their target is the President of the United States. In the White House.

Major Ali Khurbasi of the Iranian Army leads the assault team. Tough, experienced, American-educated and ready to die for a mission whose wisdom he secretly doubts. Former Marine officer Richard Welsh is the Pentagon liaison to the FBI investigation that begins once it is clear that some violent force has landed on our shores. It is a headlong race as the Iranians fight to reach their objective and the elite of America’s law enforcement and military struggle to stop them.

The White House was burned by the British Army in the War of 1812, an act that shook the new American nation to its core. Could such a thing happen again?

Because if the most powerful man in the world is not safe in the most famous and heavily defended building in the nation, then who of us is? 
Published: Open Road Media an imprint of Open Road Integrated Media on
ISBN: 9781497621466
List price: $7.99
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The Warriors of God - William Christie

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Page 1 of 1

For my mother and father

AUTHOR’S NOTE

I began this novel more than twenty years ago, shortly after returning from deployment with the 26th Marine Amphibious Unit (as it was then called). Over a month of that deployment was spent off Beirut during the hostage crisis, which was when the idea for the story first came to me.  At that time international terrorism was exclusively Iranian (through its Lebanese entity Hezbollah) and Palestinian. The month the hardcover edition of The Warriors of God was published, Al Qaeda (which no one had ever heard of) set off a van full of explosives in the car park beneath the World Trade Center in New York City, their first but as we now sadly know not last attempt to destroy those buildings. The month the paperback edition appeared in bookstores, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a truck bomb.

Now in 2011, in the midst of two wars, we find ourselves still hearing about Iran, its nuclear program, the possibility of more war, and terrorism as an effective way for an otherwise militarily weak nation to wage war against a superpower.

So as I returned to the text of The Warriors of God for this electronic edition, I found myself with two choices. To leave the book in its original form and have it remain a historical curiosity of an earlier age of terrorism, or bring it up to date. I chose the latter. Unfortunately the aspects of terrorist operations did not have to be touched at all. Beirut was a long time ago, and I can’t say that I predicted an age when we bombed our enemies with machines and they bombed us with human beings, but I can say that I was one of the very first to write about it. For this new version I’ve merely updated some weapons and technology, scrubbed old politics and institutions that have since evolved, and streamlined the story a bit. It was shocking how little really needed to changed. An early chapter insisted upon by my publisher at the time, because that’s how thrillers are written, is gone. Trust me, you won’t notice its absence.

And finally, for those familiar with the Navy and Marine Corps, to me the idea that an amphibious ship would ever be named Makin Island was, quite simply, ridiculous. The 1942 attack by the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion on the island in question, though seized upon as a propaganda triumph in a year of very bad news for America at war, was a near disaster that had the unintended effect of making the later battle for Tarawa even more bloody. It's appearance in the original book was just my way of having some fun at the expense of the Navy amphibious force which, after six months aboard ship, I was none too impressed with. And yet today LHD-8, the U.S.S. Makin Island, sails under the nation’s colors. Truth definitely is stranger than fiction.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to express my thanks to:

Joellen Sumner, for her time in researching material that, unfortunately, did not make it into the final draft.

All my friends, particularly those in the Marine Corps, for their constant support and encouragement.

Larry Gershel, my first agent who sold my first book. I’ll never forget you, Larry, and I’ll never cease being grateful for my career as a writer.

Richard Curtis, my current and hopefully last agent, who spearheaded the return of The Warriors of God to print. Thanks, Richard.

PART ONE

Therefore I say: Know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.

When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning and losing are equal.

If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.

— Sun Tzu, The Art of War

CHAPTER 1

There would be no moon that night in the Persian Gulf. As the sun set, a single dhow slipped out of its berth in the port of Dubai and headed out to sea. The port, actually a wide inlet called The Creek, served as both harbor and sewer for the largest city in the seven states of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai had been a hub of regional trade even before the oil boom, and the port was usually so crowded that the dhows moored two or three abreast in the section of the long quay reserved for them. These large, distinctive wooden ships, with sharply pointed bows and high, square sterns, had been used for fishing, trading, and smuggling throughout the Middle East for over a thousand years. Sailing by their own schedules and manned with crews from all over the region, the dhow fleets were only haphazardly equipped with radios, lights, or more than basic navigational aids. This made them a continual irritant to commercial shipping, and their movements very hard to keep track of.

Nearing the outer harbor, the dhow came upon the Cypriot-registered freighter Antonia. She was anchored, presumably waiting for dawn to move into a berth. A painting platform hung from Antonia's side, and two crewmen were relaxing on it, enjoying the evening. They had obviously made little progress, as large streaks of brown rust still washed down the hull. Four large plastic paint containers sat beside them.

The dhow made a sharp turn to pass close by the freighter. As it slowly approached, both crewmen slipped off the platform and into the water. The paint pails were tied to their waists and floated along behind. The men swam with silent breaststrokes into the path of the dhow. As it passed, the swimmers grabbed ropes trailing in the water and pulled themselves into the boat. Once they were aboard, the dhow crew reeled in the pails.

From the bridge of the helicopter carrier USS Makin Island, the halo of light from Dubai was the only visible illumination. Makin Island was one of three ships of the Persian Gulf Amphibious Ready Group, embarking a twenty-two-hundred-man Marine Corps expeditionary unit: a reinforced infantry battalion, helicopter squadron, and support unit specially trained for short-duration amphibious and helicopter-borne raids and to support U.S. special operations.

It was the night before the amphibious squadron was scheduled to leave port, and the command ship—the dock landing platform (LPD) USS Franklin—was tied up at the Dubai Naval Base to entertain the base commander and local VIPs. The heavy shipping traffic meant berthing space was at a premium; Makin Island was anchored outside the harbor. Due to the same space limitations the third ship of the squadron—a dock landing ship (LSD)—was visiting about eighty miles away at Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirates, along with the commander of the Middle East Task Force.

With severe restrictions on the available airspace in the Gulf, the Marines were having trouble getting flying time. Anchored near the friendly port of Dubai, the Marine helicopter squadron embarked aboard the Makin Island took advantage of the opportunity to get in some night flying hours. Except for dimmed landing lights on the flight deck, the ship was blacked out. This was standard procedure. A line of helicopters circled overhead, practicing night formation flying.

As part of the general security precautions while at anchor, several two-man guard teams, made up of one Marine and one sailor, were stationed at various points on the ship. During special alerts rigid inflatable boats operating from the LSD circled the task force, and divers from the attached platoon of Navy SEALs checked the hulls and surrounding waters. But it was not possible to keep divers in the water all night nor to continuously operate the small boats. So they were used only when intelligence reports indicated a specific threat. In this case, the LSD was in another port.

On the dhow, the two swimmers waited on deck until the captain emerged from the wheelhouse. One swimmer began to walk toward him but was stopped by a loud hiss. Almost hidden beside a pile of fishing nets, a young Arab motioned the swimmer back with a wave of the muzzle of his AK-47 automatic rifle.

The captain, a short, burly man with stained work clothes and a three-day beard, came closer and looked the swimmers over. The younger of the two was visibly angry at being held at gunpoint, most likely offended that heroes such as they would be treated so badly. The older one was wary but patient, seemingly relaxed but balanced for quick movement. Much more dangerous, the captain thought. In Farsi, the dominant language of Iran, the captain quoted from the Koran: Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them.

The older swimmer replied, also in Farsi: In retaliation you have a safeguard for your lives; perchance you will guard yourselves against evil.

The captain smiled and motioned to the rifleman, who engaged the safety catch and slid the AK under the nets. Welcome, he said, as he strode forward to clutch the two swimmers in an embrace. May God protect you, and grant you success.

The older swimmer, obviously the leader, satisfied the demands of courtesy. "Inshallah—If God wills. You have our thanks; the pickup was perfect."

It was a good plan, said the captain. Far better than crossing borders. Fewer things can go wrong. He paused. The Americans are still anchored in the same place. Are there any changes to the plan?

If they are where they should be, said the swimmer, then there are no changes.

No changes! the captain roared incredulously. This is unprecedented. God willing, we may succeed after all.

How long before we are in position? asked the swimmer, immune to the captain's good spirits—and his sarcasm.

Fifteen minutes, said the captain. Or as long as you require. We will simply slow down. It will be even more convincing.

We will need at least thirty minutes, perhaps more, to prepare.

You shall have it, replied the captain. And whatever else you require.

Only the time, and a place to assemble our equipment.

Under a frame draped with fishing nets, the swimmers opened the paint pails by lantern light. The first two pails held swim fins, diving masks, weight belts, sheath knives, an instrument board, and two oxygen rebreathers. The remaining two contained limpet mines and time fuses. The leader anxiously asked, Kharosh, are the fuses and the lime intact?

Perfect, replied twenty-two-year-old Junior Lieutenant Kharosh Rajabi. No water entered the pails or the wrapping. What shall I do?

You prepare the mines, and I will attend to the rebreathers, said Lieutenant Commander Bashir Sa'idi. He was in his early thirties. Both were Iranian Revolutionary Guard combat swimmers.

Sa'idi removed the rebreathers, the small oxygen tanks, and cans of lime from the protective plastic wrapping. The rebreathers were brand-new and the best available, purchased from an English firm that supplied commercial divers. Different from the more common scuba system, the rebreathers looked like inflatable rubber life vests. They were fed by an oxygen tank; but, instead of being expelled into the water, exhaled air was returned into a rubber bladder, scrubbed through a soda-lime absorption unit to remove carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and breathed again. A rebreather could be used underwater longer than scuba gear, and did not leave a telltale stream of bubbles. The plastic unit containing the oxygen tank and scrubber was worn across the chest. Sa'idi disassembled and checked all the components with the dogged thoroughness of a man who did not lightly trust his life to a piece of machinery.

Rajabi unpacked the four limpet mines from the other pails. The mines, a Russian model purchased by Iran from North Korea, were designed to be attached to the side of a ship by a diver and held in place by magnets. The limpet bodies were made of plastic, and each weighed less than ten pounds. The filling was plastic explosive, and the undersides were indented to direct the full force of the blast into the hull of a ship. Rajabi carried the limpets to the anchor of the dhow and tested the magnets. They all worked perfectly.

Each mine had three chambers for fuses. Rajabi carefully removed the fountain pen-sized time-delay fuses from the padded carrying boxes. The fuses were the old standard Russian lead-increment type. Removing the safety allowed a strip of soft lead to be stretched between two springs. When the lead broke, a firing pin was released to explode a blasting cap. Different lead increments took specific periods of time to break, from minutes to days, at various temperatures. Rajabi prepared two different fuses for each mine, so there would be a backup if one failed. Making sure the safeties were in place and the blasting caps firmly attached, he screwed the fuses into the mines. Into the third chamber went an anti-handling switch. Once it was activated any attempt to pull the limpet off a ship’s hull would cause it to detonate.

By the time the two Iranians finished, the dhow had reached the outer harbor. Sa'idi and Rajabi stripped down to black cotton shorts and long-sleeved T-shirts. They wore a combination depth gauge/compass on one wrist, and a waterproof watch on the other. The sheath knives were strapped to their ankles. They donned weight belts and swim fins. Each brace of mines were stuck to a nylon-covered light metal plate with attached shoulder straps, worn across their backs.  The packs were backed with a layer of Styrofoam to make the mines negatively buoyant and easier to swim with.

As part of a deception plan in case they were captured or killed, none of their equipment or clothing could be identified as Iranian issue. Both men carried forged Iraqi passports.

The captain of the dhow saw the landing lights of a helicopter before he saw the Makin Island. Then, clearly, he picked up the red glow of a cigarette high up in the island, near the bridge. The dhow was eight hundred yards away from the carrier, and the captain did not dare go nearer. He cut the engine and ordered the crew to drop anchor.

As the dhow stopped, Sa'idi took a compass bearing to the Makin Island. Quickly, before they attracted any attention, the two Iranians straddled the side of the allow farthest from the American ship. They filled the rebreather bladders with oxygen, carefully expelled the air from their lungs, and took the first breath. They gave each other the thumbs-up to signal that the rebreathers were working. Then they set the units for maximum oxygen flow to compensate for the heavy load and exertion of the first leg of the swim. Sa'idi reached over and clipped his three-meter nylon buddy line to Rajabi's waist, so they could maintain contact in the darkness. They adjusted their masks, leaned out over the railing, and fell backward into the water.

The fantail lookout on the Makin Island had been following the movement of the dhow by watching its lanterns in the darkness. When the sailor saw the lights stop, he pressed the button on his sound-powered phone and called the bridge.

The captain was sitting in his padded leather chair, facing the flight deck. He was always there during flight quarters, and he was exhausted. When anything went wrong on a U.S. Navy ship the captain was summarily fired. This led the more insecure skippers to bolt themselves into their bridge chairs 24 hours a day. When informed of the message from the fantail watch, he snapped, Well, what's it doing? This prompted another exchange over the phone, and the crewman on the signal bridge began to scan through the huge observation binoculars.

Sir, it's sitting there dead in the water, reported the seaman at the phone.

How far away?

About nine hundred meters.

The captain reached for the phone at his side and pushed the button for Primary Flight Control. This is the captain, let me speak to the air boss. There was a slight pause. Boss, we've got a small boat nine hundred meters off the stern. Have you got a bird available to take a look? ... All right, I'll be listening on HDC. The captain turned to the signalman, a third-class petty officer. Punch up HDC-1.

Aye, aye, Sir. The petty officer turned to pipe the primary Helicopter Direction Control frequency into the speakers on the bridge.

In response to the summons, a Marine Corps AH-1W Cobra gunship broke off from its escort position on the flank of the helicopter formation circling the ship. The Cobra pilot headed for the dhow. The copilot/weapons operator focused his night-vision goggles on the boat. The nose-mounted 20mm cannon, slaved to a sight on his helmet, followed his every move. There was little natural light for the goggles to magnify so he flipped them up off his eyes and transitioned to the thermal sight that gave him a crisp black and white image based on heat differentials. He carefully scanned the deck and pressed the microphone button on his control stick.

"Just a regular dhow, fishing nets and all. Looks like their engine quit. The engine hatches are open, and they seem to be working on it. Makin, you read that?"

That's affirmative, replied the air boss, Do they look like they need any help?

Negative, said the Cobra copilot. They're waving at us, signaling everything is okay, and pointing to the sail.

Roger, said the air boss. He spoke into his phone. Captain, did you read that?

I got it, Boss, said the captain. It's the same old story. We'll give him time to get out of there, but if he stays too long or gets closer, I'll move him. He put down the phone and turned to the officer of the deck. I want to know immediately if that dhow drifts toward us, the captain ordered. You make sure there's a goddamned pair of eyeballs on that thing every second, you understand me?

Aye, aye, sir, replied the officer of the deck.

The two Iranians swam at a depth of fifteen feet, deep enough to avoid agitating the phosphorescent organisms near the surface and leaving a visible trail. In his hands Sa'idi carried an instrument board—this was a small plastic tablet with a compass and depth gauge mounted in the center and a luminous line down the middle to indicate direction. Holding the board in front of him, he could continually follow the preset compass bearing without interfering with his swimming motion. Nothing else was visible in the solid darkness. The temperature of the water was over eighty-five degrees, and the small amount that seeped into his mouthpiece tasted of oil.

Rajabi swam directly above, holding onto the back harness of Sa'idi's rebreather so there would be no stop-and-go jerking on the safety line or the dragging that would occur if the swimmers were not in physical contact. Sa'idi was pleased that the hull sounds he was hearing were on the same path as the compass bearing and that there were no sounds of underwater explosions. A sure protection against divers was to periodically drop explosives into the water around a ship. But the Americans had never been known to do this. With a tap Sa'idi signaled to Rajabi that he was moving nearer the surface, and Rajabi tapped back. They rose gradually, so they would not mistakenly pass under the ship in the darkness.

Then the compass needle began to oscillate. It meant they were close; the metal hull of the ship was interfering with the compass. Sa'idi signaled Rajabi, and they swam carefully toward the now-loud noises that emanated from the ship.

A few more meters and the water seemed to become even darker. The instrument board touched the steel hull. Sa'idi had not seen the hull, though he sensed it. Rajabi began to move down the hull, and Sa'idi pulled angrily on the buddy cord. They had to proceed carefully, since they had no idea of their exact location on the ship. It was easy to become disoriented in the pitch blackness, especially when the compass did not work.

Feeling their way, the Iranians slowly swam down the length of the Makin Island. The mass of the ship projecting over their heads created the illusion of being enclosed by the steel hull. They fought the claustrophobia by concentrating on swimming and staying in contact with the ship. Their movements made little swirls of phosphorescence in the water, but they were so close to the hull that it could be seen only from the side catwalks. And the catwalks were closed during flight operations.

As they reached midship Rajabi did not pay proper notice to the increased turbulence of the water. One more kick of his fins and he was caught. Realizing what was happening, he kicked and clawed at the water, to no avail. Bouncing about in the swirl, Rajabi was slammed into one of the underwater openings that sucked seawater into the ship. The snap of the buddy line jerked Sa'idi away from the hull. In one cool movement he swept his knife out of its sheath, cut the line, and kicked backward.

Judging he was clear, Sa'idi floated motionless, listening quietly in the dark for the hull sounds. Hearing nothing except machinery, he moved back to regain contact. Touching the cold steel once again, he slowly slid down the hull to find Rajabi. He felt the turbulence, but it was lessened—Rajabi's arms and upper body were pinned against one of the gratings and were held in place by the strong suction. Feeling a leg, Sa'idi moved his hands up Rajabi's body. He was alive but unable to free himself. Sa'idi paused to think. The intakes probably became obstructed often. Discovering the blockage, would the Americans turn off the flow and free Kharosh? He decided not. Several different intakes must flow to the same system. Sa'idi moved in front of Rajabi until their face masks were touching. Rajabi's eyes were wide behind the mask. Sa'idi squeezed his friend's shoulder, then reached down and turned off the oxygen flow. Rajabi began thrashing wildly, but the suction still held him fast. The thrashing continued until Rajabi had breathed all the oxygen in his bag, and then the exhaled carbon dioxide. It seemed to take forever for him to be still. Sa'idi cut the shoulder straps of the mine carrier and had to brace his flippers on Rajabi’s shoulders to gain enough leverage to pull the mines out. But there would be no prisoner to interrogate, and no blood in the water to attract sharks.

Sa'idi swam on. Reaching the stern, he felt his way along the cool steel to the twin propeller shafts, following them back to where they entered the base of the hull. This was where he would place the mines. He pried a limpet from the carrying plate and had to carry it one-handed, because Rajabi’s mine pack was looped around his forearm. As he pushed the mine through the water toward the hull the ship moved and the limpet slipped from his grasp. Windmilling with his hands, Sa'idi brought up his feet, and the mine landed on top of his swim fins. Holding his breath, Sa'idi carefully lifted his feet. Using one hand to keep himself level, he grabbed the mine with the other. The plastic mine was slippery, but juggling it, he managed to get a grip on the underside indentation. Sa'idi was furious with himself. After all the hard work and training, to nearly ruin the mission with a careless mistake.

Determine not to lose his grip again, he thrust the mine at the hull. Then his stomach dropped again when he realized what he had done. The magnets leaped toward the steel, and before he could pull it back the mine attached itself to the hull with a loud clang. Now the anger was replaced by terror that the entire ship had heard him. He froze, listening for signs that he had been discovered, before realizing that only speed would prevent failure now.

Concentrating on slowing his breathing, he followed the routine of his training and gave the mine a tug, but of course it was firmly attached to the hull. He pulled the secondary safety from the first fuse. The pin came out easily. If the fuse had been defective and the firing pin had fallen, it would have pressed against the safety, preventing it from being removed. Reassured, Sa'idi pulled the primary safety. He did the same for the back-up fuse and activated the anti-handling switch.

The second mine went four meters farther down the hull from the first, and the second pair at the base of the other propeller shaft. Finally free of the extra weight, Sa’idi turned his oxygen flow to a lower setting, took a compass bearing, and began swimming steadily.

On the bridge of the Makin Island, the officer of the deck hung up the phone and turned to the captain. Sir, the dhow is still in the same location.

Very well, said the captain. Signal the command ship and request they inform the U.A.E. Coast Guard.

Aye, aye, Sir. As the OOD walked by the phone, it buzzed again. He picked it up and listened a moment. Sir, the dhow got its engines working and is clearing the area at this time.

Good, said the captain. Belay that signal.

Sa'idi checked his watch to see how long he had been swimming. He should be near the dhow. The compass bearing would get him in the general vicinity, but either he or the dhow could have moved with the current. He would go a little