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The War After Armageddon

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About The Author

Ralph Peters

Ralph Peters is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and former enlisted man, a controversial strategist and veteran of the intelligence world; a bestselling, prize-winning novelist; a journalist who has covered multiple conflicts and appears frequently in the broadcast media;... More

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He stood on the deck in the darkness, stealing a moment to discipline his thoughts. A few blind missiles streaked across the sky, desperate shots that fell between the waiting ships. A killer drone exploded in orange freworks, stopped short by antiaircraft guns. Ashore, on the horizon, artillery fre lifted the night’s skirt. The Marines were pushing inland, beyond the crest of Mt. Carmel. But Lieutenant General Gary "Flintlock" Harris remained intrigued by the war he couldn’t see.

He had warned of the danger. Still, he had been appalled by how badly his generation had judged the coming wars. The overreliance on technology had troubled him for years, while his peers had dismissed him as an eccentric, hopelessly conservative, backward. His insistence on training his troops to fght on without their advanced systems had earned him the mocking nickname "Flintlock."

Now the military he served was fghting a longer- range version of World War II, scorched by the few technologies that still worked.

Science had undone itself. Harris tried to visualize the wild electronic war playing out in the darkness, with each side canceling the other’s capabilities with hyperjammers, signal leeches, and computer plagues. Only a handful of his country’s satellites remained aloft, and the devastating effects of electromagnetic- pulse simulators destroyed every electronic system with the least gap in its shielding. Harris recalled the easy days when, as a company commander in Iraq, he could e-mail his wife on the other side of the world. Back then, generals could talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime they wished. Later, as a battalion exec, he had cursed the BlackBerry that kept him on an electronic leash. Now he longed for such a tool, but had none he could trust.

The sky pretended to be empty. But a mad duel raged on wavelengths no human eye could see. Harris turned back to the battle of metal on metal, of fesh and blood. He was waiting for the signal from Monk Morris and his Marines to send the 1st Infantry Division ashore. The 1st Cav would follow. Given the shortage of appropriate landing craft, the operation was bound to be a mess. This time, the Army had to rely on the Marines for support. Their new "get- ashore" boats were the operation’s lifeline, given that every port facility that hadn’t been destroyed remained hot from nuclear ground bursts and bombs with dirty triggers.

The Jihadis had expected his corps to land to the south, where the terrain was more inviting and Jerusalem waited. Instead, only the MOBIC corps obliged the Muslim high command, plunging ashore through the patches of radioactive debris just north of the ruins of Tel Aviv. Harris’s chosen landing zone, the Mt. Carmel sector, had been lightly defended. Relatively speaking. Monk Morris’s Devil Dogs faced rugged terrain, ambushes, and suicidal fanatics. But Monk thrived on that kind of fghting. The last message received before comms went down again had been a sitrep describing the slaughter of Druze civilians by the retreating Jihadis. According to Monk, the atrocities were the worst he’d ever seen.

And Monk had seen a great deal, from Anbar a generation before through the Saudi intervention— where they’d frst served together—and on to Nigeria. More recently, he’d brought his Marines up from Pendleton for the recovery operations after the nuclear terror attack on Los Angeles. Monk joked that he’d never need a night- light, since he glowed in the dark himself.

A volley of rockets scrawled arcs in the sky. Again, they were as in effective as holiday freworks. But it would take only one to hit the wrong ship. Then the pyrotechnics would be a great deal more dramatic.

It was hard to resist ordering the lead brigade of the Big Red One ashore immediately, to get things moving, to push deep and hard and fast. But the narrow beachhead, with the cliffs and steep slopes shooting up behind it, would be on the verge of chaos as it was. Harris didn’t envy the beachmaster. And he could trust Monk, who knew how much time mattered. The Army, with its heavy gear, couldn’t go ashore until the roads winding into the hills had been secured.

Harris heard footsteps descending a metal ladder. A moment later, his aide, the newly promoted Major John Willing, stumbled from a hatch.


"Word from General Morris?" Harris asked.

A head shook in the darkness. "No, sir. Nothing yet. But the Deuce has an update. One of the overheads got clean imagery."

"Tell him I’ll be down in a few minutes. And tell the Three I need to know the status of the MOBIC landings down south. Even if he has to swim down there to fnd out."

"Yes, sir. Got it."

Harris liked and trusted his G-2. But the man was a little too eager to brief when there wasn’t anything vital to add to the picture. Loyal, but too demonstrative about it, he needed to learn to listen to things he didn’t want to hear. The G-3 was his opposite: taciturn, with the quiet sort of loyalty that would sacrifce life and limb but might explode if disappointed— the kind of man you didn’t dare let down.

Flintlock Harris granted himself a few last minutes of quiet. Watching the manmade lightning on the horizon, he remembered.


The northern sky threatened rain. The Germans had torn the roofs from the dockside ware houses out of spite, and the vast herd of refugees waiting to board a ship to safety had no protection against a downpour beyond what they wore on their backs. The tentage the U.S. Army had brought to Bremerhaven barely met the requirement for sick wards. Half of the kids in the dockyards had diarrhea, the shitters were too few for one- tenth the number of refugees who staggered from the trains, and Doc Brodsky worried about cholera. The doc wanted the Navy to give priority to bringing in saline solution. But his claim for aircraft space was just one among many. There weren’t enough rations aboard the advance vessels to feed the refugees. A shortage of potable water meant that the throng on the wharves was dehydrating. They already smelled of death.

Harris heard gunfre. Inland. Less than a kilometer, he judged. Inside the fence. Near the railhead.

His greatest worry had been a shoot- out with the German border police, who were behaving a little too much like the worst of their ancestors. Given all that had occurred, he understood the Germans’ anger. He just couldn’t fathom their cruelty. In his more cynical moments, he wondered if it was in their DNA.

The simultaneous detonation of dirty bombs in Berlin, Hamburg, and Frankfurt, as well as in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, London, and Manchester, had been the signal for the Great Jihad. Muslim radicals told their kind that Europe had lost its will, that it needed only a push to topple and leave a new caliphate standing.

It had been all madness. The Islamists hadn’t had the numbers. The majority of their fellow Muslims in Europe wanted no part of the violence. But enough rose up to seal the fate of the rest. The Muslim rioting had been severe, with atrocities committed in the streets against any ethnic Europe an on whom the radicals laid hands.

In less than a week, the equation shifted decisively. The anti-Muslim pogroms that followed did not distinguish between those who had committed crimes and those who had only tried to wait out the chaos. In every country, the authorities either tolerated or abetted the revenge killings.

Within a month, the counterattacks on Europe’s Muslims spread so widely and grew so brutal that the United States led the world in demanding that Europe’s governments end it. But the governments answered to the people, and the people wanted blood. Mobs ruled, even in parliaments. It was as if the rebellion had broken a dam behind which decades of fury had been rising.

NATO dissolved amid the threats aimed at ending the butchery. Infected by the continental hysteria, the Europe an Union— whose Islamic delegates had gone into hiding—voted overwhelmingly to expel Muslims from the continent. The United States demanded a monitoring role to ensure that the refugees were treated humanely. Of course, that was more than a year before the nuclear destruction of Israel and the terror attacks on Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The Great Evacuation had come frst. Bringing the U.S. military back to Europe for the last, brief time. From Bremerhaven to Brin-disi.

With his frst star on his uniform and the clouds brooding overhead, Harris turned to his forward staff and snapped, "Find out who’s shooting. Now. And get the Rapid Reaction Force out where everybody can see it." Wind slapped canvas down along the wharf.

"Already moving, sir."

"Hold them at the ware house line. I just want them visible. I’ll call if I need them."

"Sir? It’s Cavanaugh. He’s at the railhead."

Harris drew on his headset. "This is Trailmaster Six. What’ve you got?"

The voice that answered sought to be steady and failed. "Rodeo Six Alpha. No ketchup. We had to shoot in the air to get their attention. But you’ve got to see this. The bastards."

"Get yourself under control, Six Alpha. Now. I’ll be there in one-zero mikes. And I don’t want to hear any more shots unless you mean it." Harris looked around at the what- the- hell? faces. "Let’s go."

"Want the RRF to make a hole, sir?" That was the Three.

Harris looked out over the mass of refugees and shook his head. "They’ve already had enough of men with guns." But he reset the holster on his thigh, a refex action. There were radicals seeded among the refugees, those who hadn’t quite been up to suicide attacks but who were dangerous enough— and bitter that the United States, the Great Satan, had come to the aid of Muslims, queering their schemes. In Marseilles, a Marine colonel had been stabbed as he reached to lift a child, and there had been a riot on the wharves at Rotterdam, with a Navy SP beaten to death. Here, on the Bre-merhaven docks, where the U.S. armed forces long had shipped out the autos of its members returning from Germany, Harris’s biggest problem had been preventing the radicals from further terrorizing their fellow Muslims.

Followed by his forward staff, Harris jounced down to the dock and pushed beyond the cordon of soldiers and sailors that kept the command ship from being stormed by desperate human beings. He walked fast, with his face set hard to warn off anyone with a complaint or petition. He had no time now for the dead- eyed women picking the lice from their children’s hair, or for the shattered fathers struggling to put together a few words of beggar’s English. Most were ethnic Turks, their pride broken, as recognizable by their somber looks as by the olive tinge to their pale complexions.

The wind flled his nostrils with a smell that made him think of concentration camps.

A few hands reached toward him, some voices called. But these were people who had learned fear and learned it suddenly. Only those who had lost their last grip on reality cried out for his attention.

Even aboard the ships putting in— most of them contracted freighters— there wouldn’t be enough of anything. The makeshift showers wouldn’tsuffce, nor would the medical care. The entire effort had been cobbled together so swiftly that even the rules of engagement remained in dispute, with the EUreps venomously obstructionist.

Europe, the continent of peace.

Harris saw a thin girl in a headscarf standing up amid the thousands huddled on the gravel. She wore jeans, an orange sweater, and a red plaid cape, and she watched him as if he were an alien being. He fgured her for a rape victim. Given the Muslim obsession with chastity, rape had been a common sport in the retaliatory pogroms.

He refused to think too much. There would be time for thinking later on. He had to keep his head and make things happen.

His pace quickened to a range- walk. Flipping his headset to "talk" he said, "Rodeo Six Alpha, Trailmaster Six. We okay?"

The voice did not respond so quickly as he would’ve liked. Then the captain, who had struck Harris as solid since the day they docked, repeated, "You’ve got to see this . . ."

"Your location in five."

The sea of refugees parted as he advanced.

He turned a ware house corner and passed a plot used as an open-air latrine, as foul as anything he had ever smelled. Before him, at the railhead, a half- dozen Bundesgrenzschuetzen sat on the ground by a line of boxcars. The German border police no longer had their weapons, and they looked extremely unhappy. U.S. Army Infantrymen stood over them with their rifles ready.

Harris ordered himself to maintain his self- control, not to judge before he had the facts. But young Captain Cavanaugh would need a damned good explanation for this one.

Wiping his face, the captain trotted toward him. Harris realized the man had been crying.

"What going on, captain?"

"Sir . . . You’ve got to see this."

"You told me that. Twice. What do I have to see?"

"You’ve just got to see it." The captain turned back toward the rust- colored boxcars with the white letters "DB" on their sides.

"Sergeant Z," the captain called. "Help me."

The sergeant shouldered his rife, reluctantly, and moved toward the frst boxcar.

They opened the door. And the stench hit everyone like a fst. Even the Germans winced.

The corpses rose almost to the middle of the car’s interior. Men.Women. Children. Stiff. Wide- eyed. Mouths agape. Even a day or two into death, they retained their Turkish pallor. Hands had literally clawed themselves to the bone in their last, desperate moments.

As Harris watched, a woman’s corpse broke from the mass and began to slide, accelerating as it dropped to the ground. Dead bones broke.

One cold raindrop struck Harris on the lips.

"They thought it was funny," the captain said. His voice had broken to a child’s tone. "Somebody closed all the air vents. They suffocated. And the Krauts thought it was funny."

Harris allowed himself a long look. He needed time to master himself.

When he felt ready, he strode over to the Germans. Half of them looked worried. The rest smirked.

"Who did this?" Harris asked an Oberleutnant, the highest ranking fgure he could see among them.

"I don’t speak pig En glish," the offcer said. With quite a good accent. He made a spitting sound. "Ihr sind doch alle Rassenver-raeter."

A Feldwebel spoke up. "We have nothing to do with this. They are dead a long time. Days. We only make the Sicherheitsdienst here. Nothing with the trains. Da ist die Bahnpolizei verantwortlich."

"They knew," Cavanaugh said. "They knew. They were laughing about it."

The German offcer decided to speak En glish, after all. He snickered and said, "Maybe Osama bin Laden is in there. Was meinst du, Herr Brigadegeneral? Nach dreissig Jahren! Maybe you should look. If you Americans love these Dreck- Muslimen so much. But you have no right to take away our weapons. It is against the agreement. I will make a protest."

Harris looked at him. For a moment, he considered shutting the Germans inside the boxcar with the corpses and locking it shut. He would’ve loved to do it. And he wasn’t worried about protests. He would’ve faced a court- martial without blinking. But he realized that anything further done to the German guards would simply be taken out on other Muslims before the next train entered the compound.

"Give them back their weapons," he told the captain. "Unless you have evidence of their direct involvement."

"But, sir, we—"

"Just execute the order, Captain." He turned to the German frst lieutenant. "You have the formal apology of the United States Government for this misunderstanding. Now get out of here before I have you shot."

The lieutenant kept up his smirk as he met Harris’s eyes.

"Three," Harris said, turning back to business, "I want them put in body bags and taken out for burial at sea. They will not be buried on German soil."

"I’ll have to get the doc to sign off. They might be infectious and—"

"They will not be buried on German soil. Work it out, Three. Cavanaugh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Walk with me."

"Yes, sir."

Harris led him back toward the docks. Just far enough for privacy. And shy of the open- air latrine. "Look. I understand. I understand what you’re feeling. But an offcer focuses on his mission. And our mission is to evacuate the living." Harris gestured toward the sea of discarded humanity as the sky began to spit rain. "Focus on them. There’s nothing we can do for the dead. Got it?"

"Yes, sir."

He didn’t get it, of course. Not completely. But he’d be all right. Harris had been through his own moments years before, as a company commander in Diyala. Plenty to make a man sick, to make him angry. But a good soldier just kept marching and did his duty.

It seemed to him the world was going mad. His intel offcer had just briefed a report that concluded that the top Islamist extremists in Europe had never expected their uprising to succeed. The whole purpose had been provocation, to deepen the split between Islam and the West, to make coexistence intolerable. They wanted all this to come to pass. Even Iraq and all that had come after had not prepared him for the irradiation of cities, the rabid slaughter of the innocent, and Europe’s reverting to the continent’s age- old habits— such as the German tendency to stuff unwanted minorities into boxcars. Of course, the French were behaving worse, according to the daily updates. And of all people, the Italians had gone maddest. Maybe it was the destruction of the Sistine Chapel, but the dolce vita Italians had turned out to be militant Catholics, after all. They put down their espressos and killed with gusto.

When Harris had been a young offcer, pundits had warned of "Eurabia," of a Muslim demographic takeover of Europe. Looking out over the terrifed thousands for whom he was responsible, those warnings seemed a wicked, sickening joke. Strangers were never welcome, in the end. All men wanted was an excuse to kill.

Even before the attacks on his own country began, Harris sensed that this wasn’t an end, but a beginning.

Without waiting for his staff to catch up with him, Harris plunged back into the mass of refugees. That night, typhus broke out.

So much had happened in the fve years since he looked into that boxcar that the world in which he now led troops to war seemed unrecognizable. Dreamers had changed the world, but their dreams were grim. The great American effort to evacuate Europe’s Muslims had turned into a debacle. None of the states from which their ancestors had come would accept the refugees. Islamist frebrands declared that all that had transpired in Europe had been an American plot to oppress Muslims. Overcrowded ships lay at anchor in the Mediterranean or in the smack- down heat of the Persian Gulf. Arab governments took their cue to blame Washington for the suffering, unwilling to welcome Muslims who had lived in Europe amid liberal ideas. American counterarguments were mocked. The global media accused the United States of making pawns of the refugees. When a riot aboard a converted cruise ship turned deadly, the Europe an pogroms were forgotten as if they had been an embarrassing soccer match. All agreed that Washington was the true enemy of Islam.

Excerpted from The War After Armageddon by Ralph Peters.
Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Peters.
Published in September 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher

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