Bordering on Chaos

Do you believe you might have to defend yourself from terrorists in this country?

From a security standpoint, things don’t get much worse than the opening scene of Lee Dodson’s Infiltration. The book’s protagonist, a 67-year-old rancher named Rand (picture a cross between Tommy Lee Jones in “No Country for Old Men” and Sly Stallone in “Rambo”), is awakened in his home in the middle of the night by the subtle but unmistakable sound of a silenced gunshot.

By the novel’s third paragraph, Rand’s wife and son are dead. Before the end of the first chapter, his ranch is razed and, from the sound of reports in the distance, the same nightmare has played out at the home of his closest neighbors. Thoughts of security are swiftly supplanted by those of survival, and from there, the situation does not improve.

Rand, whose past is shrouded in the mists of Vietnam, recognizes professionals when he sees them and, even though he can’t fathom the reason, soon realizes he’s up against a coordinated and highly strategic attack by a small army of well-trained killers. What gradually unfolds is that the infiltrators—a combined force of Mexican and Middle Eastern terrorists—have special plans for the 20 square miles of Arizona desert that includes Rand’s land, and those plans are aimed at hurting America. What also comes to light is that the terrorists have used the nearby porous southern border to stage the assault and that the plot’s leaders have been in the United States for years, making the connections and gaining the skills needed for the larger attack to come.

It is a violent, bloody, and often tense book, and, unfortunately, the particulars of its plot are plausible. On that point, though, not everyone agrees. According to Dodson, some early readers of the novel have taken issue with the very idea that, more than 11 years after 9/11, an attack of the same magnitude— or worse—could happen again or likewise from within.

“I’m getting that kind of feedback now— you know, ‘What are you doing writing a book like this because this is America—we’re safe,’” the author said. “The gist of that feedback is that this country is impregnable, but actually that stopped being the case in the War of 1812 when the British burned the White House. And if you really want to talk about being attacked, our consulate in Benghazi was American soil, and that just happened. The fact is, we are at risk. I think people sense it, but it pisses them off to sense it.”

Domestic Intranquility

In an effort to ascertain what else his potential audience might sense on the subject, Dodson made the unusual move for a novelist of posting a brief survey online; links to the survey’s 10 questions were picked up on 50 different websites, mostly news sites. Beginning the first week of October, he began hearing from people all over the country. And then the thing went viral.

“This is by no means a scientific survey,” Dodson said. “Just a few questions to see if terrorism awareness still has a pulse. . . . People I know and speak with often are still on edge, but are those just folks who were around to hear World War II stories, or is there a consciousness that because nobody in power is talking about it, terrorism on our soil is a thing of the past?”

Judging by responses to the survey, titled “Today’s View on Homeland Terror,” awareness is alive and well. After two weeks, Dodson had collected more than half a million responses and at least two crashed servers.

Of those who responded by mid-October, 94 percent said they do expect another major terrorist attack on the United States, and 89 percent expected a weapon of mass destruction to be involved in the attack. Asked, “Do you think you might have to defend yourself from terrorists in this country?” 90 percent said yes. Interestingly, however, to the question, “Do you know enough about what to do if a terrorist attack strikes near where you live or work?” only 15 percent answered in the affirmative. Also interesting, 80 percent said yes to “Do you think sleeper cells are already in the United States?” and 77 percent said no to “Do you believe the current administration is truthful about terrorism in this country?”

Comfortably Numb

“I wrote a scary book, but I wasn’t prepared for what I’m seeing in the letters of people who write me,” Dodson said. “There is an undercurrent, an unspoken thing, and it’s not fear or resignation—two big intended results of terrorism. It’s an undercurrent of determination, a feeling of ‘We will not be defeated, no matter what they do to us.’ And that’s largely the feeling of the book; it essentially says that at some point you’re going to have to fight.”

Dodson added that, meanwhile, he also is aware of a prevailing undercurrent of unpreparedness— a certain portion of the citizenry composed of, as he put it, “unserious people in a serious world.”

“I think some of us have failed to recognize exactly how bad things can get,” he said. “And I’m by no means pessimistic because holding this country would be hard to do— hard—but the bad guys can sure make us uncomfortable in a lot of ways.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Security Today.

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