In the autumn of 2030, Megastan elected a new Prime Minister. His name was Malik Henna, and he was the son of the Prime Minister who had carried out Operation: Snow Storm. Henna was a young and inexperienced politician whose history of failure in nearly all endeavors public and private strangely endeared him to large blocs of Megastani public opinion. He was also strongly supported by the Neo-pros, and after Henna took office, Neo-pro ideologues were placed in positions of great power(46) in the Henna Administration.
A year later, on November 9, 2031, something much worse than Pearl Harbor hit Megastan. An extremist gang of Venezuelan Communists known as Los Quaidos executed a horrific terrorist attack against the Megastani capital of Megadina. The attack toppled two of Megastan’s most prized and symbolic towers, damaged its central military headquarters, and killed over 3,000 innocent civilians.
The vast bulk of global public opinion was aghast. However dissatisfied anyone was with Megastan’s hegemony, people of all races and backgrounds understood that indiscriminate attacks against civilians were both morally reprehensible and counterproductive to global peace and security.
Los Quaidos promised global peace, prosperity, and equality under their rule (they advocated “The Anti-Imperial Revolution and the Restoration of Global Comradeship”), but their belief system was brutally intolerant of spirituality, religion, and dissent and notoriously callous toward the loss of innocent human life. It was, in short, a relatively small organization with limited ideological appeal whose attacks against civilians and refuge in an isolated island nation (they operated out of Cuba) underscored their weakness, not their strength.
Some analysts suggested that Los Quaidos should be ridiculed and treated as the absurd, murderous thugs they were. The world could have united into a coalition of anti-terror law enforcement as well as reconciliation for many outstanding political problems in the face of the global empathy engendered by the shocking attacks. Megastan could have taken the opportunity to highlight and augment its moral and physical strength by showing restraint and humility. They could have taken the opportunity to re-examine some of their policies that global opinion most opposed, many of which were not even in the Megastani public interest, in order to address legitimate grievances and vastly diminish motivation for terrorism worldwide.
It was a shining opportunity to transform Megastan’s darkest moment into a much-needed restoration of its waning soft power and shore up its peaceful (and advantageous) relationships with countries all over the world. Megastan could have led the drafting of mutual security and cooperation pacts that could have quelled unrest and marginalized and demoralized extremists worldwide.
Astonishingly, Henna and his Neo-pro backers instead played directly into the hands of Los Quaidos. They exaggerated LQ’s power and acted dangerously arrogant and belligerent toward the rest of the world, which alienated many of Megastan’s staunchest allies. Henna freely issued indiscriminate ultimatums and offered no room for the smallest dissent about tactics or strategies. Anyone who did not agree with Megastan on all counts was implicitly threatened and politically marginalized. (“You are either our partner or our enemy,” Henna said on numerous occasions.) In one of his most damaging rhetorical flourishes, Henna named three nations, including the United States, “The Bloc of Badness.” What this portended was clear: There could be no negotiations or compromises with these countries—only ultimatums, followed, if necessary, by force.
The countries that found themselves thus classified immediately accelerated their efforts to arm themselves in order to deter a Megastani invasion, bombing campaign, or regime change. Instability and paranoia increased worldwide.
Even citizens of countries that seemed to benefit from their partnerships with Megastan—favored nations such as Morocco and Indonesia—grew wary. They worried for their long-term prosperity and security if the all-important veneer of soft power was lost or abandoned and if international law were thrown into the dustbin of history. Europeans were particularly haunted by the specter of another total war like the ones that had destroyed their continent twice in the last century.
Soon the world at large, though overwhelmingly opposed to Los Quaidos, began to fear that the bigger danger to world security might actually be Megastan. It had much more weight to throw around, and its mistakes in judgment had the potential to resonate on every corner of the globe.
With only two apparent options of whom to support—Henna or Los Quaidos—the moderates of the world who favored neither power found themselves marginalized, and thousands of powerless and angry people who strongly opposed Megastan’s policies were driven into the open arms of Los Quaidos.
Operation Enduring Markets
A violent retaliation from Megastan was inevitable, but Megastan could not attack Venezuela, which was one of its most important strategic allies and business partners. Their first target was Cuba for harboring LQ.(47)
The Communist regime was quickly overthrown, and Cuban ex-pats from Florida were invited by Megastan to take over. Their rule was shaky, ineffective, and unpopular, and Megastan failed to capture the ringleader of the 11/9 terrorist atrocities as promised.
But as it turned out, this war was merely a sideshow for Henna and the Neo-pros. For them, the real target was America.(48)
They claimed Houston posed an imminent threat to the entire free world. Glaring proof that he was too evil to be trusted, said Prime Minister Henna, was how Houston had “gassed his own people” during his war with Mexico and then brutally crushed the popular rebellion following Operation: Snow Storm.
The hypocrisy and mendacity of these statements boggled the minds of anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of modern history. But most Megastani citizens did not realize that their government had had a part in allowing these massacres, and Megastani policymakers and journalists did not enlighten them now.
The Neo-pros also claimed America had ties to Los Quaidos, though it was clear to anyone with the most basic knowledge of American politics that the American government had no love for Communists of any kind, much less Cuban or Venezuelan ones.(49)
If this was not enough to convince Megastani citizens that Houston needed to be deposed, Henna’s Administration claimed it had “slam dunk” evidence that Houston had secretly implemented Reagan’s Star Wars initiative and actually built a planet-destroying device called the Death Star. A fanatical nation ruled by a tin-pot dictator, they said, had no business being in possession of such dangerous technology. The freedom of the entire solar system was at stake.(50)
UN weapons inspectors said there was no firm evidence for the claims Megastan was making. Even Megastani Central Intelligence said that invading America would only make terrorism against Megastan more likely and that the Death Star hypothesis was highly improbable. (To say nothing of the fact that, if the allegations were true, the surest way to prompt Houston to use such dangerous and suicidal technology would be to invade his country and offer him no hope of victory or amnesty.) International weapons inspectors said the same.(51)
When no competent analysts would tell the Neo-pros what they wanted to hear, they established their own intelligence agency, the “Office of Special Plans,”(52) under a Neo-pro director, to proclaim it.
In fact, effecting regime change in America had been secretly adopted(53) as a government policy by the Henna Administration the day after Los Quaidos’ 11/9 attack. All seemed fair in their single-minded pursuit of implementing the war, including cherry-picking intelligence, employing terrifying scare tactics,(54) and intimidating Megastani moderates by accusing them of cowardice or even treason if they opposed the war.
Perhaps the worst betrayal came when respected Megastani moderate Khalid al-Bawwal gave a forceful, high-tech presentation at the UN Security Council explaining the Megastani case for war. Almost all of what he said was subsequently proved to be false, but it swayed the Security Council and Megastani public opinion at the time.(55)
The Megastani regime cobbled together another coalition of allies, which they called the League of Volunteers. The League was composed largely of small island nations that depended on Megastan for their patronage, such as Palau and England, most of whose citizens strongly opposed the war.
Millions all over the world demonstrated against the war, the staggeringly dishonest way in which it was being promoted, and the danger it posed to global security. Vast protests took place in nations inside and outside the League and even within Megastan itself. But it was to no avail.
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