Secret SanctionSome time ago a generous friend gave me a collection of audio books that he had used to wile away the hours during various long-distance road trips. There’s been a bit of driving recently, and so I have at last got around to listening to some of the CDs, which are mainly of titles I would not otherwise have read. The latest book ‘read’ was Brian Haig’s Secret Sanction (published in 2001). Haig, now sixty, is the son of a General, and a former U.S. soldier himself who studied military strategy then, in his mid-forties, changed career, working in communications, becoming a media commentator and, gradually, establishing himself as a thriller writer. Oh, yes, and he is also the son of former Secretary of State Alexander Haig. No thriller writer sets out to produce great literature. Haig gets in a few formulaic wisecracks: ‘about as welcome as a proctologist with big fingers’; ‘she could make rocks cry’; and, writing about an inveterate liar, ‘if he ever told the truth it was a mistake’. But otherwise this is a tough, dry story about a maverick military lawyer called to investigate an atrocity committed in the Balkans during the former Yugoslavia’s long, painful death rattle. Two aspects of this book are remarkable. The first is that, amidst all the ghastliness that was occurring, the perpetrators of Haig’s imagined atrocity are American Green Berets and, indeed, the story is all about the plots behind the plots that led to such a terrible act. Haig courageously opted for a less evident but ultimately more intriguing seuqence of events. The second aspect is that the war-torn lands Haig describes have now gone and are rapidly becoming history, the latest development being the June 2013 European Council’s decision to open accession negotiations with Serbia, and in two days’ time Croatia will become the EU’s 28th member state. The past is indeed a foreign country.