First Strike

First Strike by Jeremy Rumfitt Read Free Book Online

Book: First Strike by Jeremy Rumfitt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jeremy Rumfitt
to resign. If no weapons of mass destruction are found I might not carry the Commons. My Premiership won’t survive defeat. The stakes are far too high for MI6 to let me down. You’ve just got to come up with something. Anything. After 9/11 the Yanks can go for Regime Change. I can’t. The electorate won’t buy it. I have to have WMDs.”
    “Prime Minister, I’m pretty sure there aren’t any.”
    “And why don’t they want us to verify that, Merlyn?” the PM smiled his most ingratiating smile. “Given the fact we’re about to bomb the crap out of Baghdad? That doesn’t make any sense.”
    “Saddam doesn’t want to lose face with his neighbours, Prime Minister. The Arabs are funny like that. Face is very important to them.” She made ready to leave. “But anyway, there’s not much more MI6 can do with limited resources, it’s all down to the cousins and the UN inspectors. All they’re asking for is a little more time.”
    “Did you try the Internet?”
    The PM flashed his boyish smile. He was only trying to be helpful.
    “The Internet, Prime Minister?”
    She wasn’t sure if he was joking, sometimes it was hard to tell.
    “Sure. There’s loads of stuff on the Internet. My kids use it all the time.”
    Merlyn Stanbridge now knew he must be joking.
    “We’ll do our best, Prime Minister, but all we can provide you with is inadequate information. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it wrong. At the end of the day it’s just our best guess at the time, based on incomplete, imperfect data. But the evaluation of the data, the final decision whether or not we should go to war, will always rest with you.”
    “Caveats! Caveats! Caveats! Jesus, Merlyn, does everything you give me have to be buried beneath a heap of caveats?” He wasn’t smiling now. “Just get me the data. And leave the politics to me.”
    The PM turned abruptly and mounted the staircase to the family flat on the top floor. As he climbed, he passed the portraits of his predecessors. The soon-to-be forgotten bean counters, Callahan, Wilson, and Attlee. His own unforgettable heroes, Wellington, Churchill and Thatcher who had led the country into war. The Prime Minister did not plan to go down in history merely as a competent administrator. This Prime Minister was determined to round off his CV with his very own Falklands Factor. He entered the private apartments and strolled into his eldest boy’s bedroom. The teenager was hunched over his computer.
    “Find anything, son?”
    “Hi Dad. Yeah, sure. The internet has buckets of the stuff. Come and have a look at this. It’s a complete PhD thesis.”
    Merlyn Stanbridge did not like being pressured but as she rode back to her office she took comfort in the thought no war had ever been declared based on intelligence alone. Not even the crude Pavlovian groupthink enveloping the intelligence community on both sides of the Atlantic was going to change that. But for now she had a more interesting problem to consider, something worthy of her time and effort, something more rewarding than the hunt for WMDs that intelligence suggested had already been destroyed. Even if unearthing them might secure the PM’s reputation. The FARC, drugs, the IRA; how were these three things related? The cousins were on board at last. It had taken them a while. It was only when the Irish Republican Army started showing up in the Colombian jungles that the Central Intelligence Agency had awoken with a start. The idea the IRA might be training Marxist guerrillas to place bombs in American cities scared them shitless. But what if the FARC wanted to make a major statement, put themselves on the international terrorism map? The whole world had seen what Al Qaeda could accomplish. What if the FARC had ambitions to emulate 9/11?
    Merlyn Stanbridge spent the next hour at her desk catching up on overnight dispatches. One particular item caught her eye, a CIA intercept that recorded Declan O’Brien flying

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