It’s June 14, 1968; Flag Day; Washington, D.C.; 11:40 A.M. Morning radio programming across the nation and around the world is suddenly interrupted:
“We interrupt this broadcast with a breaking news bulletin from Washington D.C. Please hold . . . ‘Reporting live from Saigon, Breaking news: US sources in Southeast Asia have just announced that radar and missile tracking installations in both South Vietnam and Laos have detected what is an apparent missile launch from somewhere to the north, possibly as far north as southern China. Tracking data suggest the target is Saigon . . . wait, this just in, word of a second launch . . . not on the same tack . . . appears to be heading in the direction of Danang . . . [pause] . . . yes, two launches have now been confirmed . . . it appears as though South Vietnam is under missile attack . . . Sirens are wailing . . . people are scurrying outside, the streets are getting crowded . . . they’re looking skyward as if in anticipation . . . there is no obvious sign of panic, apparently curiosity only at this moment. . .’”
For each of the fifteen people gathered in the conference room of a mansion on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong listening with rapt attention to a radio tuned to the BBC, the interruption marks the approaching terminus of their project, a task initiated a scant seven weeks earlier when ROGER BURNETT, American author/journalist on assignment in Vietnam for Australia’s Asia-Pacific World Herald, stumbles upon a back street rumor. On the morning of April 30, 1968, J. DOUGLAS GREEN, APWH Editor and Publisher, receives and reads a dispatch from Burnett. The cover memo says, in part:
“Something big is going down, real hush-hush. All I’ve got so far is a codename–’Black Rose’–and nobody’s talking. Anteater mentioned it last month in Khe Sanh–thought it had something to do with nukes in the hands of the NVA, but wasn’t sure–and now he’s dead so I can’t follow up that way. I’ve got my sources here in Saigon working on it, but nothing yet. I’ll keep you posted.”
And thus begins a sweeping tale of intrigue and conspiracy, of treason, of war. It is, too, a tale of death–a manifest of the darkest side of human existence finally laid bare even as, in contrast, there springs a parallel tale, one of intuitive extrapolation, of geographical and spiritual exploration laced with revelations of grand love, of honor, and of loyalty to the highest ideals of human aspiration now become interwoven with the dire realities of the moment. Author/journalist Roger Burnettt along with J. Douglas Greene and Hong Kong taipan ALICIA DEDHAM begin the trek, assisted by Alicia’s numerous Hong Kong business associates and fellow taipans including JACOB DOUGHTY, ALISTAIR SEDGWICK, and TANG WAN-HAI. Soon, CYNTHIA SAUNDERS, J. Douglas Greene’s executive assistant, joins NICK DIXON–Burnett’s longtime Aframerican friend from Stanford and U.C. Berkeley via the Oakland ghetto–to bring their respective professional insights and expertise to the task at hand. The collective and collaborative goal is singular: to track down and expose the mysterious conspiracy of the whispered invisible organization known as BLACK ROSE.
The trail is long and complex, the time span is brief. Weaving integrally and throughout remains the historical thread–the thread of war, of a growing conspiracy in America to forever prolong and enhance war, to establish “a permanent wartime economy” via provocation, via bold aggression, via any means possible. War: the eternal thread that once again reveals itself to be integral to the fabric of unfortunate truth. War: the single thread that links the acquisition of money, of power–no matter how monstrously–to virtually all levels of human endeavor in this life. War: assassinations, political guile, smuggling of small arms, of illicit drugs; smuggling of illicit nuclear warheads, of launch vehicles. And slowly, from the darkness, a new and clever master conspiracy–a plot focused on pursuit of those old hegemonic dreams, a plan code-named OPERATION BRIGHT STAR–begins to emerge bit by ponderous bit. But always there are questions. What is it exactly? Who precisely is behind it? What does it portend?
The answers become slowly visible as the tentacles of embedded conspiracy rise, one by one and bit by bit, from murky depths. The plan originates in Washington. The funding is via the undercover banking consortium called Black Rose. The operation itself is a joint CIA/US Army Black Operation with direct links to the Bay of Pigs, to the coup d’etat assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, and by logical extension to various covert quasi-military operations in Central and South America. Finally, the immediate intent of OPERATION BRIGHT STAR becomes clear–a nuclear attack on South Vietnam scheduled for June 14 (Flag Day) 1968; the ultimate goal: war with China. The task to thwart by any and all means possible suddenly becomes the archetype of immediate necessity.
June 14, 1968, 11:50 A.M., EST; BBC:
“Something has happened. Radar installations are all now reporting that the two missile tracks have . . . have suddenly . . . we await further word . . .”
11:55 A.M., EST:
“. . . Stay tuned . . .”