By Adam Scott Glancy, © 2007
[Editor’s Note: This article was published five years ago. Many things about the Long War have changed since then — not least the fact that we’re years into a new presidency altogether — and the vision for the present and future of Delta Green has evolved. With that caveat we present this article in its original form. —Shane Ivey, November 7, 2012.]
The 21st century opened with America ‘discovering’ an enemy that had been making no attempt to hide itself for the past decade. Radical Islamists had been blowing up western interests around the world for the better part of the decade proceeding the 9/11 attacks. Nevertheless, few in the west were particularly interested in picking up that gauntlet no matter how many times the Islamists threw it down. The complacency about terrorism in the 1990s is almost the mirror image of the public panic about the subject in the 2000s. In the 1990s the American public was secure in its belief that the United States government was the most potent and unassailable power on the planet. Today many Americans see their country as helpless and impotent in the face of the Islamists’ fanatical devotion to obtaining a martyr’s death.
So what’s all this got to do with Delta Green? Well, following 9/11 there have been huge changes in U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as well as the U.S. military. In some cases government powers of surveillance and detention have been expanded; in other cases legal restrictions on government power have simply been ignored in the name of national security. New agencies have been created, budgets have been expanded, and new missions and responsibilities have been assigned. The question before Keepers and Investigators is, “Does this situation make it easier for Delta Green to pursue its mission, or does it make it more difficult?”
The unequivocal answer to that question is “Yes.”
The New Delta Green
Pagan Publishing has a number of very radical changes planned for Delta Green in the post-9/11 world. Most of these changes are a direct result of the organizational and budgetary changes in the federal intelligence and law enforcement apparatus that followed the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The old structure of Delta Green was a classic cell structure, much in the fashion of resistance movements and spy networks. Delta Green relied on the idea that members of the conspiracy could find time to be assigned to fictional training cycles, impromptu hardship leaves, and unscheduled sick leave and vacations in order to get away from their legitimate federal job and fight the forces of the Mythos. The new priorities of the “War on Terror” mean that for federal intelligence and law enforcement agents there is no spare time, there is no getting away from the office, there is ducking out of the office. The old way of running Delta Green simply won’t work like it used to. More and more Delta Green operations would have to be run on the ground by Friendlies instead of actual Agents who cannot get away from their legitimate assignments.
In order to adapt to the new conditions Delta Green is going to have to change. None of these changes are set in stone yet, but one of the strongest ideas we’ve considered is having Delta Green reunited with its wayward cousin Majestic-12. One version of this plan involves Delta Green seizing control of Majestic-12’s steering committee in a secret coup that purges those members of Majestic-12 who are compromised or corrupted by their contact with the mi-go. If Delta Green does accomplish this coup d’etat, they would gain access to the vast covert resources of Majestic-12, but they would find themselves taking control right about the same time the Bush Administration was reacting to the events of 9/11.
Historically Majestic-12 did not inform presidents of its existence unless the Majestic-12 steering committee deemed such action ‘in the national interests.’ Delta Green’s leadership is likewise suspicious of any kind of institutional oversight, especially the elected kind. The members of Delta Green and Majestic-12 both see themselves as protecting America, and because they take all the risks they don’t believe that anyone else has the right to tell them how to do their job. The last thing Delta Green is going to do after taking over Majestic-12 is tell any president what they’ve been doing for the last fifty years.
If the White House becomes aware of the existence of Majestic-12, it’s going to be a little surprised that there is a massive covert alien technology research agency that’s been conducting diplomatic relations with space aliens for the past twenty years without the president’s knowledge. The first thing the president is going to want to know is why this twenty-year relationship with these oh-so-smart-aliens didn’t provide either a warning about the 9/11 plot or some technological trinket that could have averted the tragedy. If Delta Green is running Majestic-12 by that time, then the mi-go and their puppets, the Greys, won’t be providing any more intelligence via The Report, any new technological trinkets, nor any assistance with high technology projects.
Disappointed with the answer to his first question, the president would have wanted to know how Majestic-12 and its assets could be used to overthrow the Taliban, depose Saddam Hussein and find Osama Bin Laden. After all, Majestic-12 is a completely black-budget project with no congressional oversight. Few in the international intelligence community even suspect that Majestic-12 exists. If the Bush Administration found out about Majestic-12, they would not be satisfied until Majestic-12 was brought completely under White House control: a completely off-the-books and utterly deniable weapon in the arsenal of ‘freedom.’ I leave it up to the political prejudices of individual Keepers as to whether the White House would also use Majestic-12 assets against political opponents or anti-war activists.
If Majestic-12 gets dragged into the War on Terror, it will only hamper Delta Green’s mission. While being part of the War on Terror would allow Delta Green to cast its nets wider in the search for cultists, sorcerers, and others working with the forces of the Mythos, the demands of the actual search for terrorist cells, financers and propagandists would strain Delta Green’s newly acquired Majestic-12 resources to the breaking point. In fact, depending on the White House’s mood, Majestic-12 might even be broken up among the various agencies with which it shares facilities. Majestic-12 has very few facilities that it exclusively runs. More often there are Majestic-only buildings at a military bases and federal reservations or restricted offices at CIA, NSA and NRO facilities around the world. If the White House is particularly vexed with Majestic-12’s inability to predict or deflect the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the entire organization could be disbanded and all its shared assets returned to the host agencies. Delta Green could either find themselves in charge of an over-taxed and over-burdened Majestic-12, or in charge of a Majestic-12 that is being pulled apart by the other members of the intelligence community jealous of its power.
The other possibility is that the White House has not yet discovered the existence of Majestic-12. In order to prevent their newest asset from being drafted into the War on Terror or broken up and parceled out among the rest of the intelligence community, Delta Green could find itself expending a great deal of energy and treasure keeping Majestic-12 hidden from the president. This would prove far more difficult for than at any other time in Majestic-12’s history. George H.W. Bush was aware of Majestic-12’s existence from his time as CIA director, as vice president and finally as president of the United States. He was aware that the Greys routinely delivered a comprehensive world-wide intelligence report to Majestic-12 pinpointing the position of every single weapon on the planet — from Soviet SS-20 ICBMs to rusty AK-47s in hands of Somali tribesmen. The Report was immensely large, difficult to analyze and ultimately impossible to confirm through normal intelligence techniques. While The Report would have been useless stopping a hijacking plot that was accomplished with box-cutters and psychotic determination, it seems likely that at some point former President Bush would ask his son a question along the lines of, “What did you learn from your Majestic-12 briefing?”
At that point the president would want to know about this so-called Report that the Reagan and Bush administrations found so helpful in winning the Cold War. In fact, the president might become preoccupied with tracking down The Report and the agency that produced it. As White House staffers and Defense Department appointees fan out to track down The Report and uncover whether Majestic-12 still exists, Delta Green may find itself spending more time misdirecting, obfuscating and concealing the existence of Majestic-12 than actually fighting the Mythos. This would require Delta Green Agents to cover their tracks even more thoroughly than before they took over Majestic-12. Before taking over Majestic-12 and 9/11, all Delta Green needed to do was keep a low profile when conducting a “Night of the Opera.” The White House would be actively scouring the country for Majestic-12’s personnel, facilities and assets, not to mention any signs of unusual or unexplained activity that might be a sign of a Majestic-12 operation. Delta Green would not be able to act as quickly, decisively or forcefully as they might have first hoped when they seized control of Majestic-12.
And what of the radical Islamists themselves? Where do they fit into the Mythos?
My immediate impulse is not to inject the Mythos into Al-Qaeda. If the Mythos is behind every human atrocity and violent philosophy on the planet, the Great Old Ones are not going to remain secret for very long. Not to mention that such ubiquity will leave the Mythos a bit trite. The world of Delta Green would start looking like White Wolf’s World of Darkness, where there’s a supernatural force behind every historical event from the Great Flood to Hurricane Katrina. That can get a bit cluttered.
On the other hand, there is a good chance that H.P. Lovecraft himself would have written an Avatar of Nyarlathotep with a staff job at Al-Qaeda, writing speeches, making suggestions, designing the newest propaganda campaign, but never, ever taking front stage.
H.P. Lovecraft was an imaginative and original thinker, except where issues of race and religion are concerned. In that, he was pretty much a product of his time. If he were alive today, I have no doubt that he would see the current War on Terror as nothing less than a war between civilizations — the moral, civilized West versus the savage, barbaric East. Lovecraft wouldn’t have had to spend much time contemplating the motives or philosophy of the terrorists. For Lovecraft, the Islamists’ suicidal fanaticism would simply be more evidence that Muslims are less human than the white Anglo-Saxon protestants that populated his native New England.
Lovecraft knew how to play on his audience’s fears. In the 1920s and 1930s, one of the most disturbing concepts Lovecraft could deliver to his readers was the idea that mankind was not special. The God of Abraham does not look down on us. God did not send his one true son down to wash away our sins. We have no souls, there is no heaven and we are nothing more than modestly clever monkeys. It may seem strange to us today that audiences back then would be disturbed by the idea that mankind was not the center of the universe, but it sure worked.
Today, thanks to Al-Qaeda, what scares Americans is Islam, not just Islamic terrorists, but the entire faith of Islam. Many Americans are flat out scared of Islam. I have no doubt that Lovecraft would have mined that vein of xenophobia for all the pulp horror scares he could. He’d have found a way to introduce some swarthy, lean Egyptian man into Bin Laden’s circle of advisors: another Mask of Nyarlathotep to whisper dreams of power in the ears of desperate men. It is that desperation that makes Al-Qaeda an attractive target for Mythos infiltration.
Al-Qaeda’s desperation is born of their weakness. Terrorism is the tactic of the weak. No political or religious struggle has ever been won by terrorist tactics alone. If Al-Qaeda’s goal is truly the re-establishment of the Caliphate, a single Islamic theocratic empire ruling from Morocco to Java, then terrorism isn’t going to get them any closer to that goal. All they can manage is to blow up a few planes, trains and discos around the world.
Al-Qaeda needs power. The Mythos has power. At some point some scholar of ancient Arabic will find himself mulling over some fragments of Kitab Al Azif (later translated as the Necronomicon) and wondering, “Would it really be so bad if some of that power was borrowed to save Islam from the Zionists and Christian crusaders?” And that’s how devout, righteous people find themselves spilling blood and calling down horrors that stride from star to star.
The Nazi Karotechia, for example, wasn’t created to bring the Great Old Ones back to Earth or to venerate the Outer Gods. It was created to harness the supernatural power of the Mythos to serve the Third Reich. The mystical and occult beliefs actually held by many of the Nazi party’s inner circle means that it doesn’t strain credulity to imagine the Nazis trying to develop supernatural super-weapons.
For Al-Qaeda, of course, there is the added complication of their fanatical devotion to a strict and medieval form of Islam. It somehow seems unlikely that such men would embrace daemonic sorcery as a weapon to fight their godless enemies.
Certainly desperation can lead to bad decisions. And by ‘bad decisions’ I mean worse decisions than using suicide bombers to bomb Muslim wedding receptions. There could be factions within Al-Qaeda that believe that any means justify the end, and with the dispersed way that Al-Qaeda functions it is unlikely that they would be in a position to prevent a group of Al-Qaeda-inspired madmen from resorting to Mythos magic. The days of a top-to-bottom command structure for Al-Qaeda are gone and have been since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Nowadays Al-Qaeda is more like a clearing house for ideology, propaganda and inspiration for violent Islamist radicals around the world. They issue audio and video speeches and fill websites with Jihadist content. Acts of terrorism become Al-Qaeda-inspired rather than Al-Qaeda-directed.
It’s far more likely that an Al-Qaeda-inspired group or individual would turn to the Mythos than a policy would be promulgated by the core of Al-Qaeda’s leadership. In fact, it is possible that Al-Qaeda might be horrified at the possibility that a group acting in their name would turn to the sorcery of the thrice-damned Kitab Al Azif and its daemonic author Abdul Alhazred. The real question is whether Al-Qaeda would do anything to stop such a group from acting in their name.
I doubt Al-Qaeda would actively stop an Islamist group that is executing terrorist operations using Mythos sorcery. When an Al-Qaeda-aligned group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi began bombing Shiite shrines in Iraq and the three hotels in Amman Jordan, it was rumored that Al-Qaeda’s leadership had grave doubts about the public relations damage caused by killing their fellow Muslims, even if they were heretical Shiites. Despite these concerns Al-Qaeda did not publicly disavow al-Zarqawi’s tactics and even took steps to justify his actions on their websites. Through its propaganda machine, Al-Qaeda managed to convince millions of Muslims that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were carried out by agents of the Mossad and the CIA in order to justify America’s oppression of Muslims. If some group of Islamist terrorists were to perform a human sacrifice to call down Yog-Sothoth on Washington, D.C., there is no doubt the soul-shattering horror would be blamed on Zionist agents, or that the reality of the event would be denied. After all, Holocaust denial is not a lunatic-fringe belief in the Islamic world. It is widely believed that the Holocaust has been vastly exaggerated in order to justify Zionist occupation of Palestinian land.
It’s Never Over
Because Delta Green is set in the modern era, albeit in a dark reflection of our world, it is important for Keepers to take into account how current events will affect their game-play. To do otherwise would make as much sense as playing a game set in the 1940s and ignoring World War II. The drawback to doing this in the modern era is that events are continuing to unfold. Any predictions about the future or even presumptions about the recent past can change with a moment’s notice. The trick is to take these events into account without getting entangled with the politics of the moment.
I am sure that some readers out there will view my comments on the Bush Administration as partisan and unpatriotic, and others will see my comments on Islamic terrorists as racist and xenophobic. As much as I’d like to avoid those sorts of conflicts, they are ultimately unavoidable when writing about current events. The only real responsibility I have is to create a role-playing game environment where the Investigators have to fight impossible odds, defy ugly moral compromises, and ultimately do the things no one else will do to save the world.
Welcome back to Delta Green. The mission isn’t over. The mission is never over.
Adam Scott Glancy