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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tom Clancy"s next novel

Unbeknownst to all, techno-thriller blockbuster novelist, Tom Clancy, was in Singapore recently to gather material for his next novel. His stay coincided with the first visit of the USS Kitty Hawk carrier battle group at Changi Naval Base. The author left behind this sheaf of notes apparently for his next novel, set in Singapore and the region. A cleaner at the Raffles Hotel where he stayed brought this to us. Although his notes were rough, we have managed to piece together his outline for the novel. Our readers will no doubt be very interested as Clancy's techno novels have a way of coming true or at least cleave very close to the truth.


It is the USS Kitty Hawk's third visit to the Changi Naval Base, expressly built to accommodate US carriers and battle groups as the RSN's biggest warships are only frigates. The carrier's first visit was in March 2001. The 5,500 sailors aboard left only a skeleton crew to man the carrier while the rest went on shore leave to shake off their sealegs, take in the sights, get drunk in the bars and night spots and finally spend their two hours in the budget hotels in Geylang with their pick ups for the night.

Back at the Pentagon, Admiral Zumwalt was perusing a CIA report on Osama bin Laden's latest terrorist plan. The CIA's electronic eavesdropping report warned of a possible terrorist strike across the Straits of Malacca at the Kitty Hawk battle group using the break-off provinces of Sumatra as a base and launching point. (Indonesia had broken up a year earlier but the resulting upheavals were largely contained within its borders and did not infect the neighbours as had been feared).

He decided to issue a Class 3 Alert to the Kitty Hawk's Commander, as it was judged too preliminary for Osama to mount anything concrete. He had been cultivating ties with the Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia but had been unable to establish a base of operations, so the threat was low-level.

His electronic communication to the Kitty Hawk Commander was intercepted by, of all people, the Chinese. Now, the Chinese had been angered by the US's sale of advanced Aegis battle radar systems to the Taiwanese and had been concerned at President Bush's harsher policy towards them. Also, a hawk had risen to the top of the Chinese military and he prevailed. The Chinese would attack the Kitty Hawk but covertly, and leave the blame to unknown terrorists like Osama.

This was ridiculously easy. It was literally easier done than said. There were lots of Chinese in Singapore who had come from Mainland China for work or permanent residence. They moved among the local people like fish in water. There was a great deal of trade and movement of goods and people between the two countries. So, the several kilos of advanced explosives were smuggled in on regular China airlines flights, some in diplomatic pouches, others as equipment destined for the many Chinese companies operating in the Republic.

Meanwhile, the efficiency and the tight security of the Changi Naval Base led to a complacency on the part of the Kitty Hawk that was to result in its destruction. The American sailors always liked the Changi Naval Base. It was so efficient, so well guarded. Re-supplying went like clockwork. Truck after truck of food and other requirements drove right into the Kitty Hawk for storage. Local contractors went in with their workers to fix the little leaks, wirings, carpentry and the small welding jobs that needed to be done. It was all so peaceful.

Unknown to even the dreaded Singapore secret service or the CIA, some of the contractors who went in to do the repair jobs were Chinese operatives trained in sabotage and the use of explosives, which were smuggled aboard.

So, on a Sunday night, when most of the 5,500 sailors were still out painting the town red, the Kitty Hawk blew up, hit in the nuclear engine rooms.

It was not a nuclear explosion but radioactive gases and radiation were released, enough to make the Geiger counters click nonstop in a blur of sound. Radiation badges left on the coats of engine room workers turned black instantly.

The aftermath was, curiously, not chaos as might have been expected. Singapore ended with a whimper instead of a bang.

For a start, the Singapore Government defused the situation by regular, if heavily doctored (as usual) reports. The people were assured that very few would die from the radioactivity. In fact, the number of cancer deaths would only increase threefold in the next few years, well within manageability. Parallels were drawn with the Chernobyl explosion in Russia, which was described as "far worse". Prominent doctors allayed the fears of the populace.

The end was ironically, political. Malaysia had always disliked Singapore, largely because of the latter's leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who constantly insulted and baited the Malaysians for his own purposes. Now, they conceived a masterstroke: all Singapore Malays would be allowed to emigrate to Malaysia. This would increase the Malay majority in Malaysia, bring in many well educated and trained Malays and most important of all, scuttle Singapore's efforts to survive this catastrophe. At the same time, Chinese companies in Singapore were to be allowed quick and easy relocation to Malaysia, which almost all did -- patriotism was never an issue.

All the Singapore Malays left for Malaysia. Overnight, the economy was crippled. The many Chinese companies that left also took with them their capital, skills and businesses. Some Chinese and their businesses went to Hongkong and Taiwan. Some emigrated to Australia, which took many on compassionate grounds.

Back in Singapore, the streets fell silent. Things began to fall apart. Electricity, now operated by the military, began to fail. Blackouts added to the gloom. Rubbish piled up. Rats multiplied and became very visible all over the island. The TVs went blank.

Back at the Pentagon, Admiral Zumwalt was concerned. He asked for daily briefings on the situation but began making alternative plans. He would transfer a Sixth Fleet battle group to cover the loss of the Kitty Hawk. Also, he would request that budget be set aside to build a new, more powerful carrier. "Ah, well," he said, echoing one of the Kitty Hawk's sailor's parting words to his pick up when he bid goodbye to her, "it was fun while it lasted."

As for Lee Kuan Yew, who had invited the USN to Singapore in the first place, and who had signed the military pact with the US, the terms of which are still kept secret from even Mr Jeyaretnam's questions in Parliament, he emigrated to Britain together with his entire clan, as did all the ministers and the elite.

Only the ordinary Singaporeans who did not have the money or the qualifications or the youth to emigrate, were left behind to an unknown fate.

Note: The US never did find out who bombed the USS Kitty Hawk although they suspected Osama bin Laden.