Hey team, a journalist friend of mine, Milly, helped me research my latest book, PRIMAL Inception. She also recently published this article on PRIMAL. Check it out.
By Milly Stilinovic
Jack Silkstone, military intelligence and special ops, has dedicated a life to weeding out and roughing up those he considers to be “global douche bags”. His PRIMAL series of action thrillers focuses on a team of heavy-hitting vigilante operatives who deliver justice where governments fail. In his latest novella, PRIMAL Inception, he delves deep into the heartland of Kosovo and emerges with a confronting truth about humanitarian intervention and the wheels behind military action.
“They’re all dead, boss.” The man Simeon had dispatched to check on the Spetsnaz team had returned. “One car was flipped over, no survivors. The other had been shot to pieces. Fucking disgusting.”
Simeon was sitting at the table in the villa’s dining room. There was no way he was going outside again, even after Aslan’s bloated carcass was removed from the pool. He sat in silence contemplating his options.
“What do you want us to do?” the man asked.
“Get everyone packed,” said Simeon. “We’re going back to Russia. Tell the men in Dubai that we’re pulling out.”
“You sure, boss? I mean, that seems a little drastic.”
“Are you a fucking moron? Did you see what those animals did to us? They came into our territory, infiltrated our home, and put a fucking bullet in Aslan. I’m now the head of this organization and I don’t want to provoke people with that sort of capability! We go back to Russia, we lay low, and we find new territory to exploit, you hear me?”
“Yes, boss.” The man scampered away to make the necessary arrangements.
Simeon poured himself a drink from one of the bottles on the table. He wanted to get as far away as he could from this place, and from the man whose voice would haunt his dreams for the rest of his life.”
With that, author Jack Silkstone cracks his knuckles and removes his fingers from the keyboard to step away from Simeon’s dire straights. He takes a swig of his own whiskey neat, having realised that his own, confronting ghosts are manifesting before him. Ghosts that urge him to use his pen, rather than a procession of high-tech weapons, to propagate a message. One that, not only Simeon but the world needs to hear – one that deals with the remains of intervention.
Silkstone is a military man who has spent the good part of twelve years honing a career in military intelligence and special operations. He has worked alongside some of the world’s most elite units and within the world’s most hostile conflict zones.
“I’ve spent a lot of time overseas in really crappy places ranging from the Middle East to South East Asia,” he says. “The majority of my time was spent tracking down bad guys so that door kickers could serve out a bit of rough justice.”
His eyes have surveyed scenes of broken bodies and battered skulls, fractured societies and the impact of war on territories that have rarely known peace. He knows the feeling of attempting to save lives as death clutches at war’s latest casualty.
“I remember a moment very early in my military career,” he says. “I was a Platoon Commander in an infantry unit deployed on a UN peacekeeping mission. It was late one afternoon and we were in our patrol base when one of the locals requested help for an accident. My platoon medic, myself and some of my soldiers ran down to the local hospital to help. A truck carrying over thirty people had rolled on a narrow road in the mountains. People had been flung from the truck like dolls. Many of them had already died on the way to the ill-equipped medical center. Death literally walked among us. I could feel her presence. She snatched lives from our hands as we fought desperately to save the lives of men and women, children and the elderly. I felt like she was breathing down the back of my neck every time I knelt next to a stretcher to triage a victim. That day was an eye opener. I was a fit young man and thought I was immortal. Trying in vain to keep a five year old alive tends to remind you how fragile the line between life and death really is.”
He has also experienced the pain of separation. The moment when a soldier realises time does not stand still in the free world. When the minds of those you’ve left behind slowly succumb to the idea that you may not return. It was during his second deployment to Afghanistan when Silkstone received a Dear John from his fiancé, the name given to communiqué from lovers citing an end to your relationship.
“Rather than let it eat at me, I turned to writing in what little spare time I had,” he says. “It helped me keep my head clear and stay focused on the job.”
Through the pain of loss, PRIMAL, a series of hard core action thrillers, was hatched.
“One of my fans called the books revenge porn and I tend to agree,” Silkstone says. “They’re fast-paced, violent, emotional and they address a lot of the injustice in the world.”
PRIMAL, according to the author, is written to highlight the true intentions of those who hone careers in the military.
“We all want to take the fight to the bad guys and we all want to shed the shackles of politics and rules and just get out there and hold the truly evil to account,” he says. “We are sick of douche bags fucking over the little people.”
The fiction-based-on-fact series follows two former CIA operatives, Vance and Ice, who join forces with Tariq Ahmed, the heir to an Arab air-freight logistics empire. The trio conspire to assassinate Tariq’s father, a Wahabist extremist responsible for ‘acts of terrorism’.
“Empowered with his father’s billion-dollar empire, Tariq offers the two men an opportunity to bring a little justice to the world,” says Silkstone. “They recruit additional operatives, Bishop, Mitch and Chua and set about raising Priority Movements Airlift (PRIMAL), the cover name for the independent team of vigilantes.”
From this the series broadened in scope and sent the covert operatives to the world’s most notorious hot spots – Sudan and South Sudan, India and Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iran…
“If there is justice to be served and governments won’t intervene then the PRIMAL team is not going to be far away,” Silkstone says.
The sixth and yet-to-be-released installation, PRIMAL Inception, follows Ice and Vance down the rabbit hole of western foreign policy and into the war-torn hills of Serbia’s former province, Kosovo. In 1999 the conflict between the forces of the federal republic of Yugoslavia and Kosovar secessionist rebels had escalated into a humanitarian crisis. At this point, the two former CIA operatives are propping the aspirations of the Kosovar rebels.
“War criminals by any standards,” says Silkstone. “These brutal fighters are an unlikely ally in a vicious ethnic conflict.”
Two years on and the region is run by a government comprised of former rebel fighters. The territory’s political infrastructure is increasingly corrupted. The streets are run by one of Eastern Europe’s strongest mafia rings and the citizens are left to air their grievances to the ears of apathetic decision-makers. Ice and Vance are faced with a stark choice. They must either abide by the façade of stability or fight a lone battle against, what the author refers to as, ‘war criminals now turned political leaders.’
“Kosovo was classic case of large-scale intervention gone wrong,” says Silkstone. “Replacing a legitimate government, albeit oppressive, with the Albanian Mafia was not a smart move.”
While the plot is specific to the region of the southeastern Balkans, Silkstone utilises the story line to confront the larger issues policy-makers, military folk and civilians must address when faced with the potential of military intervention.
“When the intent is to minimize loss of human life then intervention can be the best option,” he says. “But, when things like politics, ill-informed public opinion and national strategy cloud the issue then bad decisions can and will be made.”
Since the post-WWII era, with liberal states taking on the duty of care, the world has seen a rise of states and transnational bodies interjecting into conflict and protecting the lives of those whose governments are unable or unwilling to do so.
Intervention enjoyed a honeymoon period in the nineties with a string of military interventions deterred aggressor states from further committing gross violations of human rights – Bosnia and Hercigovina, Sierra Leone, Haiti…
The rise of intervention spurred the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan to plead with the international community to manifest a uniformed approach to intervention. He aspired to create a concept that would allow for ‘more Kosovos’ and ‘no more Rwandas.’ To do so, the international community needed to reach a consensus on what actions, orchestrated by states and non-state actors, would warrant coercion. Dizzy by, what was perceived as the success of Operation Noble Anvil in Kosovo, The Canadian Government forged the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) to compile a report that would establish common ground and a threshold that would justify action on behalf of the international community. The report, that attempted to dissolve the notion of non-interference and primacy of state sovereignty that has been upheld by the world order since the post-WW2 era, was titled the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). According to the principle of R2P, no longer would sovereignty and non-interference be a barrier for inaction when vulnerable citizens were faced with gross violations of human rights. Nonetheless, no matter how passionate Annan was to see the rights of individuals propagated as the main objective of intervention, R2P in its complete state was not accepted by the international community. The votes of those states who only had sovereignty to protect them from having their will overshadowed by the affluent assured that, at the 2005 World Summit, the execution of R2P would remain under the authority of the UN Security Council that was run by the permanent five – a body of states.
To this day, the concept of humanitarian intervention remains highly contested due to, what critics claim to be, a selective and politicised nature. This politicised nature of intervention allows states to refrain from action during large scale genocide in Rwanda in 1994. It permits the creation of an Axis of the Willing to pre-emptively strike Iraq in 2003. Orchestrated by states, or state-run bodies, intervention is still prone to being clouded by politics, interest and bias.
“It’s all about political will and strategic resources,” Silkstone says. “What does Rwanda have? Jack shit. What did Iraq have? A regime refusing to tow the party line and a fuck load of oil. At the end of the day, governments act in their own interests not the interest of the people suffering on the ground.”
Due to the interest of states shaping the outcomes of intervention, Silkstone believes that frequently the true objective of intervention is not to protect the vulnerable but to orchestrate a regime change. This state-centric approach, as claimed by Silkstone, litters history with a procession of failed interventions.
“The basic underlying foundation of humanitarian intervention should be the preservation of human life,” says Silkstone. “If it’s not then you’ve got a case of a government using it as a mask for strategic positioning. This is especially poignant when a despot is the only thing stopping multiple ethnic groups tearing each other apart. Maybe crushing that regime is not the best option.”
With regime change at the fore of intervention’s objectives, power vacuums are created which are often filled by regimes that are considered cooperative by interveners. The establishment of these regimes, considered ‘puppets’ by anti-interventionists, not only encroach on an intervened state’s right to self-determination but may not provide stability to a war-torn region that has been marred by ethnic conflict.
“Look at Kosovo as an example,” he says. “World opinion was against the Yugoslavian campaign to crush the Albanian insurgency but the reality is that the violence triggered by NATO intervention created a situation that inflicted far more casualties than the Yugoslavians ever would have. Just because governments decide to back one group over another doesn’t make them legitimate nor should it make them untouchable. Sometimes large-scale intervention is not the right model. Often political and strategic decisions need to take a back seat to common sense.”
The other option, interveners taking over the administrative responsibilities of a state by executing an interim government, further encroaches on a society’s right to freely elect their representatives. It blurs the line between intervention and occupation which further impacts on the validity of the humanitarian aspect of intervention.
“If a government overthrows a regime then occupation is necessary to replace the security and governance apparatus,” says Silkstone. “You can’t topple a regime and then provide no alternative. Iraq is a classic example of this. The Americans toppled the government and disbanded the security forces, then they were left holding their dicks as the sectarian violence spread like wild fire.”
However, the post-conflict violence that sets fragile war-zones alight with ethnic tension is, as claimed by the author, a testament to regardless of how many UN Secretary Generals plead for humanitarian-based operations, the underlying question will always remain – whose security are we really protecting?
“That’s the billion-dollar question,” says Silkstone. “At the end of the day governments are responsible for the security of their own people and their own interests. But what if we had a global entity to try and protect the security of the little guys. What about the UN? Please, the UN is an epic fail. It achieves little other than to fill third world countries with new Landcruisers and handouts of rice and plastic sheeting.”
If this be the case maybe we, the spectator, have perceived the definition of humanitarian intervention incorrectly. Maybe it is time to question what meaning we apply to the term and what actions we expect to take place in hot zones riddled with gross violations of human rights. Instead of assuming that the security of those left vulnerable in war zones is the main objective of militarily coercing a state or non-state actor into compliance, maybe it is time to consider compliance as the main objective. Compliance, based on the ideals of interveners, as a means to secure international peace and security.
“War is a tool of diplomacy,” says Silkstone. “It’s far more useful as a ‘threat’ than an action. Once war is declared only enough force to break the will of the government is required.”
While Silkstone harbours a somewhat pragmatic approach to defining humanitarian intervention, his aspirations for the concept a far more idealistic.
“In my opinion human life is more valuable than anything,” he says. “We need to balance strategic interests against the need to minimise suffering and mitigate the influence of evil. But hey, I’m just an altruistic soldier who believes in dealing out rough justice to power-mongering ass holes.”
Original article published in Sneaky Magazine here.
PRIMAL Inception is due out in August/September.