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Monday, February 22, 2016

#SundayReads 2016-02-21 Tears and Watchmen

#SundayReads 2016-02-21, a day late...
Two books this week. The first, Tears on the Sand was a page-turner that kept me up for a night or two. Dr. Joseph Agris, a cosmetic surgeon from Houston, narrates an adventure in Pakistan. He had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan multiple times on medical mission trips, repairing cleft palates and other facial defects, as well as injuries caused by drone attacks of the US and the collateral damages of the war on terror. After thousands of these surgeries all over the country, he decides he wants to meet with Osama bin Laden to try to understand what sort of thoughts and habits motivate that man. As his bodyguards tell him, he will not find Osama, but if Osama wants to find him, the meetings will take place. The "crazy Texan" notices some Pepsi that he cannot buy, and figures out where Osama is getting his fix, and shortly after, emmisaries manage to kidnap him and deliver him to the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad for a series of conversations. Just minutes after his last conversation with the leader, Dr. Agris is able to witness the Navy seal assasination squad arrival, and then has to beat a speedy exit from the country. The doctor's musings about the impact of drones and the nuclear ambitions of Pakistan makes one pause and think about how so much money can be spent to so little improvement of the situation on the ground. He also highlights how al Qaeda, when cut off by the financial lock-down by the international banking system, turned to the refining of grade four heroin as a mechanism to extract billions of dollars of revenue from enemy states. And he realized how efficiently al Qaeda was able to wage war, with an unheard-of kill ratio by its suicide bombers. Most upsetting for me to read were claims that Osama supposedly made to the doctor about suitcase-sized dirty nuclear bombs that he claimed had already been smuggled into sleeper cells at dozens of US cities. If true, this could be the next phase in the global war on terror. All in all, a disturbing, but reasonably plausible story. Also interesting is his report of an ambush on the road that required him to kill four men in order to rescue his bodyguards after being thrown from the vehicle by an improvised explosive device. Not exactly a typical tourist jaunt! The second book this week was Harper Lee's second book, Go Set a Watchman. It was kind of spooky that I finished the book the day before the author died. My host at a missions conference in Helena, outside Birmingham, AL, had a copy her aunt had read, and the Accra Book Club had read it and "To Kill a Mockingbird" for their January meeting, so it was one that had been on my list. It was short, and written in a simple style. The story picks up after the story reported in her first book, as Scout returns home for a visit after moving to New York. The theme is coming to grips with a human father who is not the hero she had portrayed in the first book, but I found the psychological portrait very realistic. Books such as these make for great conversations about race relations in the USA, and understanding life in Alabama. As a yankee who lived in Atlanta for a generation, the culture is still mysterious, and books like these are a good way for me to try to understand southern culture. Oh, and the newspapers here reported the author's original title had been "God sent a Watchman" but in today's book-publishing environment, such a title was not perceived as viable, apparently. So they took off one letter... Ready anything good lately?

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