By B. Mary Oates
Although I regard myself as fairly well informed, especially on historical and political matters, I was surprised at the sheer amount of painless information I gained from reading Lily Pad Roll, which at first seemed no more than an enthralling espionage thriller. I will never look again at the relationship of America and Russia, for example, with the same innocent eyes. Now I have some solid context to realize that–propaganda aside– what American leaders are doing is literally risking a Third World War.
As an aficionado of the genre I’ve read just about everything done by le Carré, Graham Greene, Ludlum, Follett and other great storytellers who usually mix world politics with superpower intrigues with intricate plots full of human complexity. John Le Carré’s Spy Who Came in From the Cold Cold remains in my estimation a simply amazing book, a modern tragedy, and a classic of the genre, as is Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. After reading Lily Pad Roll I am now convinced that those who have called Gaither Stewart a new giant in this type of literature, a rightful fellow in this pantheon of greats, were not exaggerating. Pad Roll is a story likely to leave you thinking: about America’s role in the world, about our country’s direction in foreign policy, about the thick layers of lies that hide America’s true motives, and the literal criminality of our mass propaganda system (the so-called “free press”) –the “doctrinal system” Noam Chomsky often talks about–which sells the public a foreign policy almost guaranteed to trigger one disaster after another, until the mother of all disasters wipe us all out of the face of this tortured planet.
Focusing on the cancerous expansion of our military bases (the lily pads of the title) Stewart unfurls a story that in the end may serve to dispel the disinformation encrusted in our minds after decades of seamless systemic indoctrination. The propaganda levels have risen palpably since 9/11, and so have the stakes. In this horrid period we have been told repeatedly by one president after another that these endless wars are necessary crusades to protect our nation from multiple enemies. What these politicians will not tell us, cannot tell us, is that most such threats have been directly manufactured by our government, or indirectly caused as “blowback” for our attacks on other nations. This is not opinion, it’s a fact now recognized even by some in the almost completely prostituted mainstream media, not to mention honest members of the intelligence community. It is a matter of record that, as Zbigniew Brzezinski himself bragged about it, our meddling in Afghanistan, besides having geopolitical purposes in controlling access to Central Asia’s oil and menacing both Russia and China, had as a first objective to give the Soviets “their own Vietnam.” How corrupt and criminal can you get? And isn’t the manufacturing of needless wars (wars of aggression–even by proxy– not justifiable by self-defense of own territory) an international war crime punishable according to the rules first worked out by the Nuremberg Court in the aftermath of WW2? We hanged plenty of Nazi and Japanese big wigs under such rules. But apparently such justice does not apply to our own criminal leadership. In the meantime, in the dirty wash, while meddling with the Soviets in Afghanistan, we created and armed Osama bin Laden and the whole Jihadist islamic plague that now has turned its bombs and swords on us. By the way, the same cast of unsavory characters, with the support of the utterly reactionary and tyrannical petrodollar Gulf sheiks, are now being used as proxy fighters to topple regimes we “don’t approve of”–read Libya, Syria, and probably Iran. The constant amoral twists and turns of US foreign policy can give anyone far more than a mild case of vertigo. (I’m talking here about religious fanatics, not nationalists who resist occupations).
Lily Pad Roll is as good a read as one can find. The novel’s characters are engaging and unforgettable, and the action is totally credible. But, as I indicate above, it is the backdrop for the plot that sets this novel apart, indeed, in my view, it surpasses even le Carré’s and Greene’s towering achievements, for while le Carré and Greene insinuated the perfidy of the Western intel agencies and the morally bankrupt policies they helped to implement, their books remained stuck in the self-limiting boundaries of the Cold War, suggesting that such antics were a thing of the past. Stewart’s tale goes beyond that, taking us to our time of truly colossal conflict in the 21st century, with NATO being used as the new spear for American power, and where cynicism in politics have attained new highs and a misled humanity toys with its own–and the planet’s–demise.
By the way, this is the second volume in Stewart’s EUROPE TRILOGY. The first volume was The Trojan Spy, also a must read. (ver.3)