Sunday, May 03, 2009

Body of Lies by David Ignatius .

CIA agent Roger Ferris is on the verge of penetrating the network of the master terrorist known only as 'Suleiman'. Weaving a daring web of lies and deception, he hopes to trick the enemy into believing a CIA operative has infiltrated their ranks...

...This 418 page novel is a thriller based on the "War on Terror". This book is written by David Ignatius who is an Op-ED Columnist for the Washington Post. In his columns David writes about the Middle East and the CIA. In this novel he writes about the Middle East and the CIA. Because of his day-job this novel is spot-on and David shows that he has his finger on the pulse. It is a joy to read this story as it is told with such local colour that you get a great feeling for the Arab culture. Another nice touch is where Arabic phrases are included in the dialogue which gives you the feeling of being there.

This story is about spreading lies and the mechanics of deception. David explains the history of this deception as part of the story when on page 133 he writes...

'I know what you have been doing. We have an expression for it in Arabic, called taqiyya . It comes from the time of the Prophet. It is the lie you tell to protect yourself from the unbelievers. They are the ignorant ones, so you can tell them any lie you want. That is what you and Ed Hoffman have been doing to me with your deceptions. Taqiyya . But you have made a very bad mistake.'

...David continues on page 140...

In the drowsy stump of the long flight, Ferris pondered what Hani had said about taqiyya , the necessary lie. In the Islamic texts he had studied back at Columbia, the term usually applied to Shiites, who were taught to dissimulate when necessary to avoid danger. Indeed, this slipperiness wass one reason Sunnis viewed them as inveterate liars. But there was a deeper meaning that went back to the Koran. It concerned a companion of the prophet named Ammar bin Yasir, who was imprisioned in Mecca with his family after the Prophet fled to Medina in the hijrah . Bin Yasir's parents were tortured and killed for their allegiance to Islam. Bin Yasir was more devious: He tricked the infidels by pretending to worship their idols, and then escaped to Medina, where he rejoined Muhammad. When he asked the Prophet if he had done the right thing by lying, Muhammad assured him that he had done his duty. Bin Yasir had surrounded the truth with a bodyguard of lies, as the British put it many centuries later. He had treated the infidels with the contempt they deserved. He had gone into the heart of their encampment and deceived them, so that he could fight another day.

...So the story develops and the CIA builds their Body of Lies. It is an enjoyable plot and everything is spot on. Everything is believable and by observing current affairs through the press you understand that this is how things happen in the ongoing War on Terror. Everything makes sense until you get to page 378...

Suleiman cocked his head suddenly, like an animal that has heard a noise he doesn't like. 'I am sorry. What are you saying? Who is Alice?'

...And then the reader thinks - WOW! what the hell is going on? I do not understand, this does not add-up. You are confused and you do not know what to think. This is a big and very clever twist in the plot. The story moves on from here and everything works out. You then realise that the ending is right and it makes far more sense than the direction this novel was taking before page 378. Towards the ending of this novel you are nodding in agreement with the dialogue between the leading characters.

I vote this book a HIT and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It gave plenty of room for thought into what happens behind the scenes in the War on Terror.
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