Man in the Middle - By Brian Haig


Like the other Sean Drummond novels, this is not a war book; it is a murder mystery--and a legal mystery--that happens to have a military backdrop, and that backdrop happens to include Iraq.

I thought long and hard before writing a novel that deals with an ongoing conflict. No novelist--no commercially ambitious author, at least--writes a political polemic. The political climate in America is passionately divided, sometimes hysterically, which in my view is mostly for the good. In a healthy, functioning democracy, citizens are supposed to care, to participate, to raise their voices--and war should definitely hold our interest.

I entered the Army just as we shifted from a large draft force to a lean, all-volunteer one. Other issues aside, what most worried me, and many others, was that America's army no longer would be reflective of a very diverse nation, and that the country no longer would regard us as citizen-soldiers, just as soldiers. Fortunately, this second fear never materialized. Americans never have lost their love and unique concern for our people in uniform, and those in power in Washington never have been tempted to regard our soldiers as fodder, as an expeditionary force, a term that sounds too ominously like an expendable one.

Most authors want their books to be enjoyed, read, and bought-- not necessarily in that order. This is doubly true for a writer with four wonderful children who demand food, clothing, housing, and, in the not too distant future, somebody to foot their college bills. It was not my intention to write a politically biased novel, and I hope it is not perceived as such.

So why risk a novel about Iraq? Quite simply, we are today at a crossroads over a country--and a region--about which most Americans know surprisingly little. I have met thousands of Americans who have visited Paris or Hong Kong or even Kenya; I have yet to meet one who can tell me about the lovely beaches of Yemen (actually, Yemen's beaches aren't that lovely).

In 1983, as a captain, I found myself laboring for the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an action officer working on Lebanon. We had put a Marine Expeditionary Unit into that country as an experiment in peacekeeping after a disastrous Israeli invasion. Lebanon, formerly the jewel of the region, by then was a scarred relative of its former self, a horrifying spectacle of what happens after a decade of vicious civil war. Long before we came, it was riven and rocked by religious conflicts, tribal competitions, family feuds, and by intruding neighbors who exploited the violence and stoked the hatred, often by terrorism. It was very, very different from modern Iraq; and it was not at all different.

Because of our all-consuming fixation with the cold war, every military officer of that era was an expert on the Soviet threat--or at least sounded like one. Yet, had anybody asked me to name a single difference between Sunnis and Shiites, a major source of intra-Arab friction and conflict yesterday, today, and likely for the foreseeable future, the long silence would have been deafening. Then one morning a suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives into a building filled with Marines, and I realized that Captain Haig was not alone in his ignorance--much of our civilian and military leadership had barely the foggiest idea about what we had gotten into. It was scary and confusing at first; ultimately, it was tragic. To this day, I am convinced that 284 fine Marines gave their lives because of our ignorance.

So here we are again, in a country we knew surprisingly little about, and once again their disgruntlements, their feuds, and their conflicts have become ours. As then Secretary of State Colin Powell paraphrased to the President prior to the invasion, "Once you break the pottery, you own it." Yet we, meaning most Americans--meaning most voters--know very little about these broken shards our troops are attempting to glue together with blood, sacrifice, and courage into a functioning democracy.

Thus, Man in the Middle. I hope you find the novel fun, entertaining, and stimulating. As I mentioned, it is a mystery, but one that dances around some of the thornier issues regarding Iraq and, I hope, one that broadens your knowledge and interest.

I should also emphasize that the characters are all wholly fictional creatures, though many of you will recognize certain historical parallels and mysteries around which the plot is based.

That said, there are a number of people I must thank. First, for the loan of his fine