Read an Excerpt
A J. B. Collins Novel
By Joel C. Rosenberg
Tyndale House PublishersCopyright © 2017 Joel C. Rosenberg
All rights reserved.
THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
I had never been in the Oval Office before.
But I'd always imagined my first time going differently.
The tension wasn't immediately apparent as I stepped into the most coveted executive suite on the planet. But it would come. It had to. I would force it. And when it did, my fate would be sealed.
At first, the president and I were both on our best behavior. As far as he was concerned, our past battles were water under the bridge. Yes, in Amman he had been blindsided by an enemy he neither truly understood nor saw coming. But in his eyes, the successful rescue effort had been enough to shift the balance of power, and he had adapted quickly. Tonight, as he addressed the nation and the world in a live televised speech to a joint session of Congress, he was at the top of his game. Soaring in the polls. Confounding his critics. Seemingly destined to leave the American people the legacy of peace, prosperity, and security they so desperately longed for.
The president beckoned for me to be seated, then took a seat himself behind the Resolute desk, built from the timbers of a British naval vessel abandoned in a storm in 1854. As he did, he opened a black leather binder embossed with the presidential seal. He picked up a Montblanc fountain pen and excused himself for a moment to make a few final edits to his speech before we loaded into the motorcade to head up to Capitol Hill together.
With every passing moment, my anxiety grew. In less than an hour, Harrison Beresford Taylor, the nation's forty-fifth president, would deliver his annual report to the legislature. He would assert unequivocally, as he had on every other such occasion, that "the state of the union is strong."
Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
I could take it no longer. It was time to say what I had come to say.
"Mr. President, I very much appreciate you inviting me here. I know you have a great deal on your plate right now. But I have to ask you, not as a reporter, just as me. Do you have a plan to kill Abu Khalif or not?"
It was a simple, direct question. But it immediately became apparent that Taylor was going to avoid giving me a simple, direct response.
"I think you're going to be very pleased with my speech tonight, Collins," he said, leaning back in his black leather chair.
"Why?" I asked.
"Trust me," he said with a smile.
"That's not exactly in my nature, sir."
"Well, do your best."
"Mr. President, are you going to lay out for the American people a plan to take down the ISIS emir?"
"Look, Collins, in case you haven't noticed, in the last two months we've ripped ISIL to shreds. We're targeting all of their leaders, including the emir. We've stepped up our drone strikes. We've taken out twenty-three high-value targets in the last six weeks alone. Is it going as fast as I'd like? No, and I'm pushing the Joint Chiefs. But you need to have patience. We're making great progress, and we're going to get this thing done. You'll see."
"Mr. President, with all due respect, how can you say we're making progress?" I shot back. "Abu Khalif is on a genocidal rampage. As we speak, he's slaughtering Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, and anyone who gets in his way: beheading them, crucifying them, enslaving them — men, women, and children. We're getting reports of unspeakable acts of cruelty, worse every day. He's murdered your friends and mine. This is the guy who held you captive. If we hadn't gotten there when we did, he would have taken a knife and personally sawed off your head — or put you in a cage and burned you alive — and uploaded the video to YouTube for the entire world to see."
"And now we have them on the run," Taylor countered. "We're blowing up their oil fields. We're seizing their assets. We're blocking their ability to move money around the world. We're shutting down their social media accounts and cutting off their communications."
"It's not enough, Mr. President," I insisted. "Not unless you're going after the emir directly. You're hitting his men and his money, but, sir, you can't kill the snake unless you cut off its head. So I must ask you again: have you signed a presidential directive to take Abu Khalif out, or not?"
Excerpted from Without Warning by Joel C. Rosenberg. Copyright © 2017 Joel C. Rosenberg. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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