By Gaither Stewart
In view of a threatening US/NATO – led war against Iran, the concluding chapter of my 2012 novel, Lily Pad Roll, in which I invent a US boots-on-the ground invasion of Iran, is a curious read today six years since I wrote this part of the novel. Since Iran is a country I know pretty well, especially geographically, I show a likely scenario of such an invasion arriving there from East, West and South, the attacking forces converging toward the capital Tehran and the alleged ballistic nuclear centers in the South of the country while the Iranian strategy is to pull back into its impenetrable mountains marking the geography of the entire country.
People often ask me, “Why did you call this novel Lily Pad Roll?” The answer is simple and should be known by most Americans, but unfortunately isn’t. This colossal and largely manufactured ignorance weighs heavily on the course of history today, and, in fact, endangers us all. For as the US seeks total strategic supremacy around the world, and its military deepens and broadens its hold upon scores of nations, especially as it maneuvers to contain Russia, the old foe (and China, too) the chances of a global, terminal conflagration increase exponentially. In this scheme lily pads play a nefarious role.
A lily pad is a floating leaf of the white water lily family. A bullfrog sits on a lily pad in a pond. The lily pad does not sink under its weight. The giant water lily, victoria amazonica, has the world’s biggest lily pad, up to four feet, which can support the weight of several people at once. The lily pad is quiet. It lies tranquilly on the surface of the pond water, offering refuge and camouflage for the frog, protecting it from predators. The lily pad fits in with its natural surroundings, as does the frog.
Human beings are the only creatures which do not fit in with the rest of nature. Nature is simple. But mankind rejects simple living. The American military has adopted the lily pad concept. In military jargon, a lily pad means an outpost, an advance camp, a foreign base, or a staging area, only one in a series. It means a scaled down military facility with theoretically little permanent personnel, often used as a staging ground for Special Forces and Intelligence operations. Soldiers may then leapfrog from one lily pad to another. The outpost aspect of the military lily pads follows the model of the multiplying lily pads. Especially the giant water lily leaf. They not only multiply but also grow in size and in time tend to become permanent military bases now encircling the world. For example, Afghanistan is a gigantic lily pad; permanent, also a place to move out from, a place from which soldiers go out to ‘conduct operations’ against other people around that part of the world.
In American military thinking, the huge city-like bases for 100,000 troops in Germany are no longer necessary. So America is “reconfiguring its footprint”–that is, reviewing its global deployment of troops in order to be able to apply military force anywhere rather than be tied to a small number of bases. That is the lily pad concept, the analogy of frogs hopping around a growing number of foreign bases. Frogs equal battle-ready troops. Saudi Arabian restrictions on the use of U.S. bases there resulted in the construction of the Qatar lily pad. The air war against Serbia and the theft of its historic territory of Kosovo made possible the creation of the giant lily pad-state in the Balkans. Lily pads now dot Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic, northwards to the Baltic States, across the Black Sea to Georgia, another lily pad-state, to lily pad-state Iraq, and on to Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan and to Singapore. The only limit today is the surface of planet Earth, but the moon and Mars are not excluded from military “Strangelove” ambitions and dreams. At the last count–no one can be precise since the U.S. maintains secret bases and Intelligence installations all over the world–the United States of America had 737 bases and more than 600,000 soldiers manning garrisons or involved in countless operations in some 200 nations, spanning the globe from Europe to Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Far East, the Pacific, Africa and Latin America. To this figure one must add hundreds of thousands of “private contractors”, aka mercenaries–their exact number is also secret–serving the interests of the global American empire. Like the lily pads. It is safe to assume that their number is growing.
We were following the TV news in the communications room when a flash interrupted the BBC morning news: the International News Agency reported that early that morning three Iranian torpedo boats appeared on the radar screens of the USS Abraham Lincoln anchored near Iran’s Persian Gulf island of Kharg. The boats headed straight for the supercarrier.
Quoting the ship’s commanding officer, a BBC journalist on board reported that “the torpedo boats emerged from the Gulf mist and sped in a provocative and threatening manner toward the carrier.” According to the Admiral, the carrier at first undertook no special defensive measures. At that hour, activity on the decks of the massive vessel-fortress was minimal.
Another journalist on board testified that when the torpedo boats were about one kilometer away, they began firing at the carrier.
After repeated Iranian provocations, the Admiral’s office reiterated, the carrier finally responded with cannon shots, destroying one of the attack PTs. The other two withdrew. The U.S. Navy reported that one carrier crewman had been shot dead.
“So it has finally happened!” Elmer exclaimed. “The provocation they were waiting for.”
“And who knows who really shot that crewman?” I answered, now automatically thinking conspiratorially as old Nikitin had drilled into my head.
“At Novo Selo everyone felt it in the air,” Elmer said. “So now it’s reality.”
“Those troops in East Georgia Alvin told me about were a clear sign.”
“Karl Heinz, America will retaliate. And it’ll be a nightmare. The war in Iraq will seem like maneuvers.”
Zapping over various channels I stopped on a press briefing underway at the top of a skyscraper overlooking the Danube in Vienna. U.S. Intelligence officers had unveiled the contents of an allegedly stolen Iranian laptop computer to leaders of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a restricted group of journalists. They disclosed selections from over a thousand pages of what were labeled Iranian computer simulations. Accounts of Iranian military experiments flashed across a screen to demonstrate Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear warhead to fit atop its Shahab-3 missile. According to unconfirmed Israeli reports a Shahab-6 exists with a range of up to 5000 kilometers, about 3,500 miles.
“The Shahab can reach Israel and other countries of the Middle East,” the spokesman said. The word Shahab, he explained, means shooting star, luminous, or king of the world.
The excerpts from the stolen laptop, another U.S. official stated, “disprove once and for all Iran’s claims that its nuclear program is peaceful.”
“Iran also obtained missiles from North Korea,” the spokesman added. “Those missiles are capable of striking capitals in Western Europe and Moscow. Some of them may be nuclear-tipped. These disclosures prove conclusively that Iran has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles, posing an immediate threat to global security.”
Silence fell in the conference room until a young journalist at the back stood up and without being recognized asked pointblank: “But why should Iran nuke European cities?”
The spokesman stared, apparently astonished at the naïve question, raised his arms in dismissal and muttered: “I believe the reasons are obvious to any sensible person.”
“So Iran is declaring war on all of Europe!” the journalist said matter-of-factly.
“Good God!” Elmer gasped. “Well, it’s time to put to good use all this radio equipment you installed. I’ll contact our old Bulgarian pal, Alvin. God knows where he has lily-padded to by now. I believe I can communicate with him safely.”
“How do you mean? You’ve taught me that anything that can be transmitted can also be intercepted.”
“Yes, but there are a few tricks. Too complicated to explain. Let’s see, it’s close to noon in Georgia. I hope we can reach Alvin.”
“And it’s noontime south of Georgia too,” I said, watching Elmer work. Fast, smooth, silent.
Suddenly he whispered: “Got him on the line. Put on your earphones and listen.”
There was Alvin’s voice. Faint but clear, wary but curious.
“Old friends here,” Elmer said. “Wanted to say hello. We just heard the news.”
“All grim. I’m there. Floods of us are pouring in. Exactly where I told you. Many more behind us. Don’t know where they all come from … Germany, I suppose. At this moment, everything seems quiet.”
A click and the line fell silent.
In the afternoon, we listened to confirmation from NATO European Headquarters that Operation Persian Paradigm was underway. U.S. and NATO troops had crossed the Iranian border from Azerbaijan and Armenia into the northeastern corner of the country. NATO troops marched into Tabriz, Iran’s fourth largest city with 1.4 million people. A center of heavy industry, Tabriz is located only 260 miles south of Tbilisi, the capital of America’s ally, former Soviet Georgia. Embedded journalists alternated describing the situation as tranquil.
“Things are deathly quiet in this corner of Iran,” commented the French correspondent of a Paris weekly magazine in a TV interview on France 2, adding that U.S. soldiers spoke of intentions of moving on Iran’s capital of Tehran, 328 miles away but separated by the rugged Elburz Mountains. The journalist reported U.S military claims that the Azeris, the major nationality of multinational Tabriz, hailed the arrival of NATO troops with garlands of flowers for the liberators.
Unconfirmed reports mentioned sounds of small arms fire. A freelance Dutch journalist, speaking on the streets of Tabriz, said he had heard reports that two U.S. soldiers had died of gunshot wounds. Roaming foreign journalists reported many civilian victims.
NATO spokesmen in East Georgia announced laconically that no further penetrations into Iran were contemplated at this time. Simultaneously, however, the BBC confirmed reports of thousands of Allied troops crossing the border from Iraq in the southwest.
Elmer and I sat in our “communications room” waiting for the next episode. An endless interlude at that hour. While pacing the room, drinking coffee and chatting about disconnected issues we discovered we shared a love of chess. The new American war in mind, I recalled I’d read somewhere that chess helps keep mad people sane.
“Yeah,” Elmer said, “but Bobby Fischer said to remember that chess is not psychology, but just good moves.”
“And what about this? Mirko, my political teacher in Belgrade, told me the story of a Serbian chess master, Maria Manakova, who fell in love with the Yugoslav Grandmaster. In a game with the great chess master she made a series of rash moves with her king as if in surrender—probably intentional moves—and then surrendered her body to him as well. The Grandmaster liked that and married her. Psychology or good moves? Crazy, eh?”
Around midnight we began a game. Elmer seemed elsewhere in his thoughts. Off-handedly, one eye on the TV screen, Elmer checkmated me in a series of lightning moves in less than ten minutes.
Silence reigned in the apartment in Berlin-Mitte. Lala and Antonia slept. Berlin slept. I took a double dose of lamotrigina. At about three a.m. a military communiqué flashed across our screen: just before dawn U.S. troops had crossed the border into Iran from Afghanistan. By late morning, we heard, they had taken up positions around the holy city of Mashhad, a city of 2.5 million people, capital of the Khorasan province, one hundred miles from the Afghan border and five hundred and forty miles northeast of Tehran.
European correspondents inside the country reported that the Iranian military strategy was to avoid head-on encounters. Tehran’s troops had headed for the mountains, they reported: the Elburz range running across north Iran between the Caspian Sea and Tehran and merging with the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan; the rugged Zagros Mountains spread from northwestern Iran to the Persian Gulf and joining with the minor range running south from Mashhad; and Mount Damavand hanging over Tehran, at 18,000 feet the highest point in the Middle East.
An Italian geologist recalled that the face of Iran is its mountains. A major nation, not the artificial land of the Fertile Crescent of Iraq.
Iran specialists in Germany agreed that the invaders were misinformed or mad to consider conquering Iran militarily.
“What kind of strategy is this?” I wondered aloud. “Cat and mouse? It was supposed to be a Blitzkrieg. And Iranians? What are they up to? Scorched earth policies? Only their mountains? Or are they readying their missiles? But against whom? Europe? And why Europe?”
“Mirko has always stressed that the U.S. invasion of Iran was inevitable.” Elmer said. “I learned from my interceptions that the conquest of Iran is an old dream. It’s the American military’s urge to control the three linked countries of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.”
“Persian Paradigm,” I snickered. “I would bet the generals themselves don’t understand the meaning … if it has any meaning.”
Three hours later came the news of the fourth wave: this time from the Persian Gulf. Following bombardment from U.S. warships and aircraft from different lily pads in the region, U.S. troops from Qatar, from the Emirates, from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and tens of thousands more pouring out of the bellies of the supercarriers as from multiple Trojan horses swept ashore from the Gulf. The spearhead pointed at the Iranian nuclear development center of Bushehr, on the Gulf Coast, one thousand miles south of Tehran.
Embedded journalists emphasized again and again the “Russian-constructed nuclear center of Bushehr as the target.”
Bushehr is part of Russia’s stake in Iran.
Bushehr is indicative of Russia’s push toward the Persian Gulf.
Bushehr was a down payment on Russia’s investment in the control of Iran’s petroleum.
Confused tactics. Confused objectives. Confused reactions. U.S. generals demanding to march straight to Tehran and to the seat of evil in Qom. Bedlam in the diplomatic world. French, German, Dutch and Danish foreign ministries demanding a ceasefire and NATO withdrawal from Iran. Socialist France again threatening to withdraw from NATO. China backing the elimination of Iran’s nuclear missile potential but condemning the invasion. Russia calling for both ceasefire and the total occupation of Iran while America is “perplexed” at Russia’s plotting and aiming at restoration of its empire: Russian troops on red alert north of Georgia and displacement of its missiles to Transdnestr south of Odessa.
Silently, during the night, Iran’s specialists had mined the straights of Hormuz near Bandar Abbas, sealing the Persian Gulf.
I opened my Times Atlas of the World to plate 27: Indo-Arabia. “My Bible,” I explain to a curious Elmer. The extended American empire lay before us: the geopolitical unity of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, together with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the northwest and Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the north, the Emirates and adjacent territories in the south, spaced and controlled by the lily pad chain, the center of the world, forming the geopolitical heart of the New American empire.
“Just look at this plate, Elmer. Clear as the light of day. Right here for all to see in the Times Atlas of the World.”
While Elmer continued studying the atlas, I went for a morning run along the River Spree just to try to think. From my new vantage point, the whole region of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the heartland of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and farther eastwards, had never seemed so near.
Yet when I looked around me at the peaceful scene along the Berlin river, the late winter mists typical of Brandenburg, dim yellow lights behind curtained windows, a face in a window, a small Bateau Mouche slowing for a curve or for the passage under an arched bridge, that East seemed at the same time far away. Time and space seemed unreal.
I believe that in the mind of many Europeans and in the minds of most Americans, Iran is an abstraction, a theory, a mirage from a meaningless past of Ali Baba and Aladdin’s lamp, not a real, vibrant, modern society, simply wrapped in a veneer of antiquity. I have the sudden thought that for most Western Europeans, Iran, so close in distance, is on another planet, under another sun.
My atlases are right. Space is distorted, time bizarre and out of joint. Maybe it has always been that way. And, as usual, Western political power stubbornly steeped in vague academic ideas of Orientalism, still has no idea of the real reality of the East.
So now it has happened anyway. A great misunderstanding. A return to the past. War between West and East. The great war for civilization between civilizations. A huge, black, swollen, thick-skinned bellic bubble floats eastwards. America’s endless war machine moves inexorably from West to East. In this moment bombs are falling on Tehran and Isfahan.
“Good-bye, blue skies!” I pull my woolen running scarf tight and sing over and over the haunting jazz piece. “Good-bye, good-bye, blue skies, good-bye. Good-bye, blue skies. Good-bye.”
In silence, Elmer and I follow reactions from across the Atlantic. Cries for vengeance for Iranian chicanery echo over hysterical news channels and in the words of growing numbers of cynical neocon spokesmen speaking from the pages of the mainline press.
“Nuke the heathens,” cry the fundamentalist sects and cynical neocon spokesmen.
“Nuke’em,” America’s enraged rednecks scream. “Persian pear-a-dig’em. Nuke those Eyeranian basterds, fucking Mohammedan Islamist fanaticists,” cry agitated fundamentalists.
“Nuke ’em real good! Pear-a-dig ’em, real real good.”
Cliff was right. War is addictive. Once you shoot the drug into your veins, Cliff said, you can’t live without it. You can’t think straight. Once you set out down the war-drug path, turning back is as difficult as going cold turkey for a heroin addict. In the haze generals live in, unpleasant realities become bunk, Cliff had repeated.
The generals and the strategists do not know that Iran is a land of ancient traditions and a powerful nationalism that has resisted foreign invaders forever. The Pax Americana is meaningless for ancient Persia.
For the generals war against Iran is a strategic opportunity for U.S. control of all of Central Asia and thus of Russia. But the new war will soon be seen as an act of strategic desperation, though, the high passes and the delusions will remain with the war addict, strung out with nothing but more war to rely on.
Meanwhile, other good people of America gather in their churches and pray. Good Christians in the great cities and across the fruited plains of America pray for things greater than themselves. For victory over the sinful Iranians. For peace. For our boys over there bearing the American message of democracy and the true faith. They pray to their Lord God that He protect “our way of life and the future of our children.”
They pray that anti-American pacifists and traitors will see the light, repent their ways and face like men their just punishment.
They pray for pacification in that mysterious far away land.
But they neglect to lift a prayer for the redemption of a nation gone haywire. They still believe they are free.
“They still believe they are the chosen ones,” Elmer mutters. “The exceptional ones, because their material life was once so good. They preach that killing is wrong and yet annihilate entire nations. They claim to know God but are hated by all.”
“Maybe America was a lost cause from the start,” I add. “Maybe its Creator was evil … the Creator of an evil human stain. In which case, Americans must think, what does one war more or less matter?”
Parting shot—a word from the editors
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Parting shot—a word from the editors