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Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 2002 / 11 Teves, 5763

David Limbaugh

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The Last Jihad | I assume that many of you fellow right-wing conspirators have heard about Joel Rosenberg's gripping page-turner "The Last Jihad" by now, but have you bought or read it? If you like to read fiction, especially fiction that eerily foreshadows fact, you must add this one to your library.

As you may have heard, the book begins with a chilling segment, written some nine months before 9/11, where a private jet is used as a missile to attack a presidential motorcade on the outskirts of Denver. Joel unfolds that scene with ever-increasing tension culminating in a climax that is more complex and mysterious than predictable, leaving you thirsting for more. (If I didn't know better, based on his depiction of the interplay between the Secret Service, FBI and CIA in the opening scene and beyond, I would assume that Joel had once been a covert operative.)

The reader is next catapulted halfway around the globe to Jerusalem's Old City. Here, Joel exposes us to another central character, who happens to be a close, personal friend of the president, and to the beginnings of an international business deal with significant political ramifications.

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As with most good works of fiction, "The Last Jihad" involves many separate strands advancing on parallel tracks that eventually converge in neat coordination and culminate in a nicely wrapped package. While the characters in the various subplots often overlap, it is impossible for the reader to predict how they are ultimately interconnected until the closing pages.

Without missing a beat you are taken back to the crisis centers of government to witness firsthand how the presidential cabinet responds to this growing terrorist threat, which, by the way, goes way beyond the mere assassination of the president. As you observe the interchange between the government's highest officials, you begin to smell the slightest odor of the presence of a mole. Or was that my imagination running wild?

Skipping forward, we go back to Israel where the president's entrepreneurial friend is getting ready to board a plane to return to the States, where he will become a key player in the international crisis. Because he is the president's friend, who is also the author of the pivotal Middle East business deal, he finds himself in serious jeopardy at the airport in Tel Aviv.

What happens next is one of my favorite and most imaginative action scenes in the book. Sorry, I can't disclose more about this one without Joel hiring a hitman to come after me.

I don't want to tease with any more specifics, but I want to tell you a few more things about the book that made it so compelling for me. We often hear about art imitating life, and vice versa. Well, this book illustrates that phenomenon about as masterfully as any I can remember. Since it was written mostly before that fateful September 11, I'd have to say that in this case, it's closer to life imitating art. It is uncanny how Joel seemed to forecast the magnitude of the role Iraq would play in our war on terrorism.

But more than that, it's almost scary how a scenario Joel constructs concerning a preemptive nuclear strike against Iraq by the United States so closely mirrors today's headlines. The Washington Post recently reported that the Bush administration has reluctantly considered such a possibility as a last resort.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the book for me is its stark realism, to the point that it made me think that what Saddam was considering in "The Last Jihad" was precisely what he was contemplating in reality. (This is not just a matter of being so wrapped up in a vicarious experience that you begin to believe it's possible. Joel is a political analyst and writer in his own right, and is intimately familiar with political and international events.)

If nothing else, he'll make those skeptical to deal militarily with Iraq seriously reconsider their position. And that brings me to a final, but very important point. Conservatives often lament that their soulmates are not having enough of an impact on our culture. turner "The Last Jihad," written by a thoughtful conservative, is the type of relevant cultural work that can have a positive influence from a perspective you'll appreciate. Regardless, it's a riveting and captivating book -- already a New York Times best seller -- that you won't want to miss.

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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.