Thursday, September 26

Caliphate (2008)

By Tom Kratman

I'll put up a warning for those who perhaps would prefer to read no further. This post will probably be accounted, as has been the book, as “Islamophobic.” So be it. As, I believe, may be inferred from my long-ago post commemorating the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 [link], I have some pretty strong views regarding how pathetically weak has been our reaction as a civilization to what became obvious that day is a ongoing war between two largely incompatible cultures. It is a conflict that we have little hope of surviving without recognizing the reality of the situation. After the initial shock of that day wore off, and our subsequent national rallying petered out into partisan bickering, our chances have diminished, and continue to do so at an alarming rate. I wish it were not so.

I have known and consider to be friends individual Muslims who do not seem to share the hatred of western civilization and non-Muslims in general that motivates the jihadists, and would like to believe the pathetically weak protestations that Islam is “the religion of peace,” but the deafening silence of such protestations within the Islamic parts of the world, and the hypocritical double standard whereby Muslims demand tolerance – indeed, special privileges – for themselves from us in our homelands while so blatantly denying the same for non-Muslims in their own, coupled with the violence which they continue to send our way, makes their claims sickly ludicrous. And the more I have learned of Islam in the past dozen years, the more I am convinced that so-called “peaceable” Muslims are the ones who are outside of the mainstream and departing from the standards and traditions established by Muhammad and maintained by the jihadists. The Muslims I’ve known are themselves likely considered apostate and just as hated by the jihadists as are kafirs – non-believers. Just this past weekend we've had graphic re-emphasis of the jihadists’ evil intent in the horrific attack on a shopping mall in Kenya, in which the attackers reportedly specifically called out non-Muslims for massacre [link] – news which ironically preempted from the news cycle a suicide-bombing which killed scores of Christian worshipers in Pakistan [link]. That those incidents occurred “over there” is only illusory comfort for the willfully ignorant given that similar efforts are actively being made “over here” and indeed are successful in more cases than our government is willing to admit – Fort Hood? – “workplace violence”? Give me a break [link]. How long?, How many terrorist attacks is it going to take?, before we learn that the jihadists mean exactly what they say when they proclaim their intent to subjugate or destroy us?

A couple of weeks ago I came across a news item (not this one, but link) concerning Christian villagers in Syria and Egypt being forced to pay the Islamic “religious tax,” which had attached to it a comment recommending a near-future military science fiction novel by Tom Kratman, Caliphate. Finding it available from Baen Free eBooks (link), I downloaded it. It's compelling reading, set a hundred years in the future when current demographic trends have Islamicized Europe and the world is in a hundred-years-plus-old religious war – the very same one we as a civilization seem bent on not acknowledging. A hundred years hence, it's an ugly world, polarized into essentially two camps – broadly speaking, the semi-fascist American Empire and its allies such as the United Kingdom and Australia versus the Caliphate of Europe and Western North Africa. A good part of the rest of the globe – mainly the present Middle East, the historical homeland of Islam – is a desolate wasteland, ruined in a massive retaliatory strike after coordinated jihadist nuclear-suitcase strikes on 11 September 2015 left Boston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and London glowing craters – and several misfires resulted in essentially “dirty bombs” contaminating other cities such as New York, Houston, and Washington. There are a scattering of other powers as well, such as a restored Socialist Tsardom in Russia, the restored Celestial Kingdom of the Han (China), and the Boer Free State of southern Africa, which warily contemplate and despise both the American Empire and the European Caliphate. (The geography is largely laid out at 15% ff., Location 848 ff. Of 5910) In interlude chapters which constitute a parallel narrative featuring Gabrielle von Minden, the German great-grandmother of two of the main story's central characters, we follow the events leading up to that day, beginning with the Europeans' culturally suicidal reaction to the US invasion of Iraq in 2002, and leading from it, as Gabi slowly – and far too late – comes to recognize the reality of the situation, the inexorable slide of European civilization into darkness, which comes all too quickly, by the mid 2020s.

In the main narrative, the early-21st-century character's early-22nd-century descendants are introduced as children, Petra and Hans, ripped away from their Christian parents as payment of the jizya, the pretty much arbitrary religious “tax” on kafirs living in the hell of dhimmi-tude (ironically enough, “protection”) that has become the lot of the few remaining European Christians. Separated, Petra becomes a slave at age nine– initially fortunate to be bought as a “sister” to a young Muslim girl, Besma (who, along with her father, seem to be the only kindhearted Muslims in the story – Gabi's lover, and father of her child, Mahmoud, doesn't really count, because he is only nominally Muslim before converting to the Christianity which Gabi despises), but then through the machinations of an “evil stepmother” cast out into the brutal life of a brothel sex-slave. In this passage and similar ones scattered all too frequently through the book, Kratman is sickeningly explicit – not that the gang-rape of a twelve- or thirteen-year-old girl can be anything but sickening. Possibly the author could have toned it down a bit – as it is, the description verges on pornographic. But I'm not sure he should have; its brutality achieves his intended effect of showcasing the abominable evil Petra is henceforth subjected to, again and again. (Without comment, I simply refer the reader to this link to be equally sickened by “real-world” events....) Petra's brother, Hans – a few years older – is conscripted into the janissary corps of the Caliphate, tortured into submission to Islam, and trained as a slave-soldier – until assigned to oversee the crucifixion of a Christian priest he is shocked back to the faith of his youth – secretly, of course, but from that moment longing for a chance to strike a blow against the Caliphate.

Their stories eventually converge with that of the third latter-day protagonist, John Hamilton, an American soldier whom we follow from training through cleaning Muslim insurgents out of the Philippines, eventually into service as a secret agent infiltrating the Caliphate to destroy a highly secret bioweapon and extract the trio of venal, renegade western scientists who have developed it. Many supporting characters are introduced along the way, of course, in a gripping narrative that rushes to a climactic chase across Lake Constance into the safety of Switzerland, a nominally neutral but embattled island of western Christendom in the sea of European Islam.

On a certain level, this is an engrossing futuristic adventure novel. Technological advances have produced military science-fiction staples such as the exoskeletoid battle suits and, more arcanely, surgically implanted “chips” which allow the recipient to be tele-operated by a remote controller. The main characters (more than just the three stressed above) are developed in sufficient depth that when, as is inevitable given the nature of the story which does, after all, depict a brutal war from the level of the battlefield to that of civilizations in contention, some of them do not make it out alive, you feel their deaths and know that the survivors will be affected for the rest of their lives.

But, far more importantly, it is a horrific but all-too-realistic imagining of what our own future might be if we do not open our eyes. The jihadists are frankly open about what their intentions are – to infiltrate and transform, subjugate or destroy all who do not submit to their way of life. And it is a cautionary tale not just for Europe, which seems demographically well on its way toward disaster much as depicted herein and driven home by an extensive author's afterword examining the demographic trends and their possible outcomes. The vision of America's future is pretty bleak as well, expressed very effectively in an extensive discourse that makes up the last section of Part One of this story, presented as excerpts from a history of the previous century to bridge the gap between the early 21st and early 22nd century time frames, entitled Empire Rising (at 43% ff., Location 2575 ff. Of 5910)  As a brief aside, this where the story broke down somewhat for me, because the two decades after 2015 are depicted as an almost cartoonish caricature of a nation's descent into fascism. That impression is reinforced by the rather transparent naming of the demagogue elected President in 2016 on the “Wake Up, America” Party as “Pat Buckman.” Near the end of this section, however, there appears the following assessment of the legacy of the 21st century, reflecting the culmination of trends that are already apparent: “an empire we [America] don't want, yet can't get rid of, the enmity of most of the world, a crushing military burden, and damage to our traditional civil liberties that has yet to be fully undone and may never be” (at 47%, Location 2783 of 5910). Nevertheless, as commented by one character regarding this assessment, “the difference between us and the people we are fighting is that we have a chance to get better on our own . . . and they don't and never will” (at 47%, Location 2802 of 5910).

Thanks for reading.

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