Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • Blood And Memory: The Cycle Has Started

    Blood feuds flourish where family ties are strong and the rule of law is weak. Add the righteousness of competing faiths along with fierce memories of ancient wrongs and you have the makings of savage, seemingly endless conflicts from Northern Ireland to the Balkans, the lake regions of Africa to the arid Holy Land. And Iraq--well, Iraq is in a class by itself: a breeder reactor where explosive hatreds were both incited and contained by Saddam Hussein's brutality, only to become an uncontrolled chain reaction after the U.S.-led invasion liberated both the country and its vendettas. Arab culture cannot be solely blamed for the furies that have been unleashed in Iraq since 2003. But it guarantees they will not be soon, or easily, tamed.The tradition of "an eye for an eye" is so ancient and dangerously ingrained among the desert Arabs that 1,400 years ago the Qur'an called on good Muslims to forgo vengeance in order to expiate their sins. But the old codes of honor remained, and in the...
  • Death of a Tyrant

    President George W. Bush was sleeping at 9 p.m. at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when Saddam Hussein's body plunged through the trapdoor of a gallows in Kadhimiya Prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. It was dawn in the Iraqi capital, and the 69-year-old Butcher of Baghdad wore no blindfold. He had carried a Qur'an for the last few steps before his death, looking uncertain, even afraid, according to one of the witnesses close to him, but mouthing words of defiance. He sneered at Shiite guards--the warlord Moqtada al-Sadr's men, by one account. He praised God and, as he neared the gallows, proclaimed, "Iraq without me is nothing."Like the war that overthrew him in 2003, the hanging of Saddam Hussein did not turn out as planned. Instead of a study in modern justice, the tyrant's end looked more like the result of a sectarian show trial. From Crawford, the only comment was a muted, written statement: no proclamation of "mission accomplished," just of "an important milestone" after "a...
  • Dickey: Why Saddam Lynching Shames U.S.

    It is precisely because of the horrors Saddam committed that the trivialization of his death is such a shameful milestone on the road to American perdition.
  • SÉGOLÈNE ROYAL

    An "iron lady" might have been easier for France's old boys' network to deal with. Europe has seen a lot of ferrous females since Margaret Thatcher first appeared across the Channel in the 1970s. But in her rise to front runner in the French presidential elections, scheduled for next April, Ségolène Royal has caught her macho opponents completely off guard. After she announced her ambitions for the top job, Royal was dismissed as a lightweight; critics asked "who would mind the children" if she ran, and derided her glamorous style as "too much container and not enough content."Big mistake. Last month Royal won the Socialist Party nomination by a landslide, not least because of her style. For a country weary of the same moldering male politicians--current President Jacques Chirac began his political career while Mao was still convulsing China--Royal is the face of change.She is even something of a surprise to her closest associates. Royal has lived for decades with current Socialist...
  • The Syria Gambit

    Holed up in the grand Serail, the center of government in the heart of Beirut, five surviving members of Lebanon's cabinet have been living in fear. Just last year they were leaders of a mass movement that forced Syrian troops out of the country and seemed to open the way for a thriving democracy. But those memories now seem as old and fragile as shards of Phoenician glass. One by one, brutally and spectacularly, Syria's high-profile opponents in Lebanon have been eliminated. The most recent: Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, the son of a former president, gunned down in November. Since then, no minister has been sure if, or when, he'll be next.As its enemies cower, the Syrian regime crows--even as it denies responsibility for the murders. "Our relations with Lebanon will be stronger than when we had our Army in that country," Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa boasted in the Arab press earlier this month. "Syria is on a roll," concedes Jonathan Paris, a fellow at Washington's...
  • Royal Touch

    The French have been watching sego-lène Royal's irresistible political rise with a combination of rapture and disbelief, if not downright wonder. Now it's the world's turn. Who is this woman who never held a senior cabinet post but rode a tide of "Ségomania" to overwhelm her opponents and seize the Socialist Party's nomination for president of the republic? How could a once rather drab junior minister suddenly emerge, in her early 50s, as a radiant public performer? Her supporters have embraced her as the incarnate image of change, a break with the past. But what sort of transformation can she bring to a nation where it often seems les jours de gloire are gone forever?For now, answers are elusive. But beginning soon, France's April 22 presidential election will become topic A for Europe--and much of the rest of the globe. Can she or her strongest opponent, right-wing Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, wrench the French out of their decades-long torpor and help turn the continent...
  • This Is the Way the War Ends…

    Not so very many years ago, Baghdad thrived with intellectuals and artists, a few of whom survived even during the decades of Saddam Hussein’s single-minded tyranny. The poets considered T.S. Eliot something of a god, and his iconic work, “The Waste Land,” a kind of scripture . They found hope in the notion that love and sacrifice might triumph over the despair and sterile devastation of their own “cracked earth.”Today, those I knew in Baghdad who remembered Eliot and wrote about him have died or, long since, abandoned a city that has become the epicenter of a widening civil war. But as I watched President George W. Bush give his press conference yesterday, I couldn’t help thinking of another Eliot poem. In “The Hollow Men,” there is that line about “paralysed force, gestures without motion,” and the famous conclusion about the world ending “not with a bang but a whimper.” And there was Bush: trying desperately to contrive some way to claim a triumph in a country he has turned into...
  • Past Newsweek Coverage

    Three people were responsible for the death of Princess Diana in the hot dark hours after midnight on Aug. 31, 1997, and all of them were killed that evening: Henri Paul, who drove the Mercedes that crashed beneath the Place de l’Alma near the Seine River in Paris; Dodi Fayed, who was riding in the back seat, and Diana herself, who was sitting beside him.A massive three-year investigation of conspiracy theories surrounding those deaths, to be issued in London tomorrow by Lord Stevens, may not put the case so bluntly. But the British press has reported that Lord Stevens will conclude, as the French police did very quickly after the fact, that Diana’s death was an accident. Reports that the CIA was bugging Diana’s communications (flatly dismissed as “rubbish” by an agency spokesman) and that the U.S. National Security Agency has files mentioning Diana’s name (which is hardly surprising) do not change the basic narrative at all.This is a story I have followed for a long time. I was in...
  • The Taliban's Book of Rules

    An extraordinary little document is making the rounds among the Taliban of Afghanistan.  As first reported in NEWSWEEK by Ron Moreau and Sami Yousufzai on Dec.3, the stapled pamphlet called simply “ Layeha ,” or “Rule Book,” is only nine pages long. But it speaks volumes about the Taliban: their strategy, their following, their potential virtues and their persistent vices, and the full text is well worth reading.At a moment when the Kabul government of Hamid Karzai is under increasing threat and NATO troops are engaged in ever fiercer combat, the rule book suggests what an elusive and mercenary concept loyalty is on the Afghan battlefield. Just as American power and money helped pull warlords and fighters away from the Taliban in 2001 to bring down their regime, the surviving followers of Mullah Omar are now hoping they have the momentum to win back defectors to their side. But the leadership clearly worries that Taliban recruits will start freelancing: the rule book cautions...
  • Closer to the Abyss

    On this the day of the Grand Plan, such as it is, let’s dream that a year from now there are a new set of givens in the Middle East growing out of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group: the United States, working with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has trained up an efficient military and police force. Baghdad is secure. Tens of thousands of American ground combat forces are on their way home. (Many tens of thousands more remain for air-to-ground combat, intelligence, logistics, training, advising, embedding and such.)Meanwhile, the Palestinians and Israelis, prodded by Washington, are moving ahead toward a resolution of the issue that has bled the region like an ulcer for more than 50 years. Damascus is tilting away from Tehran and democracy is allowed to flourish once more in Lebanon. We’re still spending more than $2 billion a week on the Iraq adventure, but there seems to be an end in sight.RELATED CONTENTRead the Iraq Study Group ReportAnother...
  • Yes, In My Backyard

    Even in 1953, "atoms for peace" sounded like an oxymoron. The Soviet Union had just exploded its first hydrogen bomb, and the thermonuclear-arms race was shifting into very high gear. "The dread secret and the fearful engines of atomic might are not ours alone," said U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, predicting that nuclear technology "now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others--possibly all others."Eisenhower's paradoxical answer to the threat of proliferation was to limit the spread of weapons by sharing the fissile materials that went into them, to use the technology to serve development and "provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world." In his December 1953 "Atoms for Peace" address to the United Nations, Eisenhower didn't exactly say nuclear swords would be turned into atomic plowshares, but that was the great dream, and perhaps the grand illusion.More than 50 years later, the reality has gotten very complicated. Not...
  • The Poison Pinpoint

    On a visit to London late last week, I kept walking past the now-infamous Itsu sushi bar on Picadilly, marveling at the crowds stuffing their faces with hot noodles and cool sashimi. Hadn’t they seen the news? Hadn’t they caught the pictures of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in hospital, dying from some mysterious poison that started to work on him the night after he’d met a contact at Itsu?On Saturday, craving a little miso myself, and figuring I could be as daring as the clerks and shoppers in the usual lunch crowd, I went to Itsu. But by then the door was locked and a scrawled sign was posted where the menu used to be: "As a result of the Russia/KGB business, we are temporarily closed while Scotland Yard investigate. Sorry!!" Litvinenko had died. The poison used on him was determined, at last, to be the radioactive isotope polonium 210. Traces of it were turning up in just about every place he’d visited on Nov. 1, the day he got sick.Since then, the story of Litvinenko’s...
  • Periscope

    One of the first things U.S. President George W. Bush would have noticed on his trip to Asia last week is the region's economic buoyancy. From Hanoi to Jakarta, waves of young Asians are driving sports cars, watching flat-screen TVs, listening to iPods. But this gilded generation, beneficiaries of capitalist reforms and the hard work of their parents, is increasingly preoccupied with more than money. As George Wehrfritz writes in this week's Issues Asia special report, a new "we first" generation is rediscovering the virtues of community and philanthropy, forming NGOs, helping in disasters, fighting bureaucracy and unscrupulous authorities. In places like Bangladesh, this grass-roots activism is actually fueling economic growth, too. Doing good, these youth are finding, can also mean doing well. --Nisid Hajari, Managing EditorAmir showed up at Baghdad's Ministry of Higher Education last Tuesday hoping for a ticket out of his lawless country. An instructor at the local Institute of...
  • When Villains Might Be Allies

    James Bond once had trouble parsing the bad guys from the good guys, which is to say the folks he ought to kill from the folks he ought not. The British secret agent’s ruminations came in the very first novel of the series written by Ian Fleming, “Casino Royale,” which is out as a new movie, of course, but which I haven’t seen. The chapter called “The Nature of Evil” is a killer’s contemplation of moral relativism circa 1953.Bond has been tortured within a millimeter of his manhood by one of the bad guys (the sinister gambler Le Chiffre), only to be saved in extremis by a murderer working for the worse guys (the Soviet government’s squad of professional assassins). “When one’s young, it seems very easy to distinguish between right and wrong; but as one gets older it becomes more difficult,” the convalescing 007 tells a colleague. “At school it’s easy to pick out one’s own villains and heroes, and one grows up wanting to be a hero and kill the villains.” But “history is moving pretty...
  • Terrorist Hold ’Em

    We’re about to begin our retreat from Iraq. Whether it more resembles a “phased withdrawal” or a rout will be determined by Iran and the complicated game of Texas Hold ’Em being organized right now by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. He will use all the cards in America’s weak hand (most of the best having been thrown away by President George W. Bush), but there will have to be a lot of bluffing. And as James McManus pointed out a few days ago in the Los Angeles Times, poker was, to all intents and purposes, invented by the Persians.As the antes begin in the next few weeks with the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, the administration may not say it—indeed must not say it—but the Iranians and their Arab acolytes in Syria know the basic bargain already: if they make it easy for the United States to leave, it will; if they try to make the process humiliating, the U.S. will stay longer. There may be side bets about the Iranian nuclear-enrichment...
  • Now What?

    What happens when the gloating stops? That’s the question that struck me several times when I read the European coverage this morning of the midterm election results in the United States.The conservative and right-wing European media that might once have aligned themselves with the Bush administration, like the Italian daily Il Giornale or the Spanish paper El Mundo, strained for neutrality in the face of the Democratic victory. Much of the rest of the press surrendered to elation, and bloggers piled in, too.All portrayed the vote as a plebiscite on Iraq and on the Republican president who took us there. THE GREAT BUSH REFERENDUM was one headline on the Web site of the German weekly Der Spiegel, while the leftish French daily Libération described the elections on yesterday’s front page as Bush’s “trial” and followed up this morning with the judgment that he’d received “a stinging rebuke.” One Libération reader’s comments suggest the angry distaste on this side of the Atlantic for...
  • Hanging Judgments

    So Saddam Hussein is slated to die. Good. Had he been executed, assassinated, or simply expired a few years ago, the world would have been saved a great deal of pain. Few dictators have ever been more loathsome or long-lived, their methods more cruel, their regimes more totalitarian. His government was every bit as ruthless as Adolf Hitler's, but the Nazis only ran Germany for a dozen years, Saddam—behind the throne and then on it—ruled Iraq for 35. It is good to know he will pay some price on this earth for evils that will live long after him.But what about the Americans—the Republicans, in fact—who helped Saddam remain in power all those years and then, changing their minds when the monster proved beyond their control, launched the ill-planned and shamefully executed war to eliminate him that continues to this day? The dictator killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, it is true. According to the most recent study by the British journal The Lancet hundreds of thousands more have...
  • Interview: 'I Saw This Coming'

    On Monday, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington. Before leaving Vienna, he gave an exclusive interview to NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey about the challenge of keeping a lid on nuclear proliferation. Excerpts: ...
  • A Brother's Rage

    Anger has its moments, and this is one of them. You will hear that those who vent their fury about the Iraq war offer no solutions. You will hear that they want to cut and run. You will hear all sorts of things. But there is one common theme in the anger you’ve heard of late, and it’s the outrage that the people who have watched this disaster unfold before their eyes—up close and personal—feel for the politicians who have never been held responsible for the horrors they’ve loosed upon Iraq, America and the world.We have reached the point where men of experience and wisdom can no longer contain themselves, even if in the end they allow their politician bosses to spin them back into line. So, Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt recently told the British newspaper “The Daily Mail” of his doubts about how wise it was to “kick the door in” in Iraq. So, the spokesman for the Middle East division of the State Department, Alberto Fernandez , spoke on Al-Jazeera television about the American “arrogance...
  • The Cold Peace

    The anniversary went almost unnoticed. There were no major commemorative events. Only a few perfunctory articles appeared in the Egyptian, Israeli and American press. A quarter century after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on Oct. 6, 1981, the shooting spree that took his life during a military parade has come to seem just another blood-soaked footnote in the long chronicle of Middle East violence and despair.Yet we know now that it showed the shape of things to come. The shooters were caught and executed. But several of the Egyptian Islamists rounded up in connection with the murder, including Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, would go on to become core figures in Al Qaeda. And radicals on all sides discovered the power to disrupt plans for peace with a single spectacular act of terror. (The murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the hands of a Jewish extremist would come in 1995.) Today, almost three decades after President Jimmy Carter negotiated the Camp...
  • Interview: 'I Am Frustrated'

    The Camp David accords that U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiated in 1978 between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were supposed to be the beginning of the end of the Middle East's terrible conflicts. Yet the situation in the region continues to deteriorate. In his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," to be published next month, Carter takes a tough look at the reasons. Last week the 82-year-old former president spoke with NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey. Excerpts: ...
  • Excess of Evil

    George W. Bush’s State of the Union address in January 2002 was nothing if not a victory speech. The Afghan war had just been won. “The American flag flies again over our embassy in Kabul,” Bush told the joint session of Congress amid the constant punctuation of enthusiastic ovations. “Terrorists who once occupied Afghanistan now occupy cells at Guantánamo bay. (Applause.) And terrorist leaders who urged followers to sacrifice their lives are running for their own. (Applause).”That speech—the "Axis of Evil" speech—makes strange but very informative reading today, in light of the nuclear test announcement in North Korea this week, as well as what's happened in Iran, in Iraq and to almost 2,800 Americans killed and 21,000 wounded in the line of duty fighting Bush’s wars since those words were spoken.The celebration of victory over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in 2002 was not enough, not nearly enough, for Bush and his team. The C-student president had found his mission: “History has...
  • ‘He Was Like a Brother To Me’

    The Camp David accords that U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiated in 1978 between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were supposed to be the beginning of the end of the Middle East’s terrible conflicts. Yet the killing goes on, and the situation in the region continues to deteriorate. In his book, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” ( Simon and Schuster ), to be published next month, Carter takes a tough look at the reasons why. Last week, on the 25th anniversary of Sadat’s assassination, the 82-year-old former president spoke by telephone with NEWSWEEK’s Christopher Dickey about the critical turning points in the long struggle to build on the accords, and where the process might go from here.NEWSWEEK: Do you remember the moment when you heard that Anwar Sadat had been assassinated?Jimmy Carter: Absolutely. I got a call directly from Cairo. I was at home and they told me at first that Sadat had been attacked but had only been slightly wounded. So I...
  • Bordering on Insanity

    One of the many infamous bits of collective memory that linger from the Vietnam War is the remark by an American officer trying to explain the utter devastation of Ben Tre, a provincial capital, in 1968: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” said the unnamed major.Now, it would seem, some American military analysts think the same reasoning should apply to the whole Middle East. In June, retired lieutenant colonel Ralph Peters, an essayist and thriller writer, published a provocative column in the Armed Forces Journal—with an even more provocative map attached —and it has been cropping up in policy debates ever since like a bomb in a Three Stooges movie.Under the headline “Blood Borders,” Peters argued that “the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region’s comprehensive failure isn’t Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats.” The fault for the present mess lies with the colonial powers of the early 20th...
  • Bytes: Wow, Cool Trike, Dude

    Don't ever call this beast a tricycle. The new three-wheeled motor scooter from Piaggio, due to hit American shores early next year, is like nothing you've straddled before. On an extended test-drive in and around Rome, the MP3, as it's called, ate up the cobblestones and maneuvered easily in traffic, cornered brilliantly on country roads, stayed stable even on slippery gravel, then cruised comfortably on the autostrada. At a standstill, with the press of a button it ... stands still, upright, so no need to prop yourself up with a foot on the pavement. To park, you just put on the brake. No kickstand required.Sure, the MP3's appearance is more than a little unusual. It has one wheel in back, and two up front that tilt into turns, then lock upright to stop. Coming at you head on, the MP3 looks like the maw of some sci-fi alien. Piaggio hopes it will become the next big thing in scooters, drawing in a whole new class of stability-conscious buyers. The MP3, already on sale in Europe,...
  • Living Underground

    The drinking water ran out seven days into the voyage. The cheap Global Positioning System onboard for navigation broke. Finally their fuel ran out, too. All those on the boat would have died but for happenstance. A Spanish naval cutter came across them foundering in high seas, picked them up and took them to safety--in precisely the place, ironically, that they were trying to reach....
  • Airline Security Must Make Sense

    Airline security needs to be based on common sense, not policies that will turn citizens into inmates of their own countries.
  • Shadowland: Flying Blind

    Flying used to be about freedom. No matter where you intended to land, there was something magical about escaping to the heavens. Now, as we know, flying is more like going to prison, if not, indeed, to hell.As it happens, I once spent a week interviewing inmates and staff at what was then the main “super-max” federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. It was the successor to Alcatraz, and the predecessor of the facility that opened in Florence, Colorado, in 1994. “Security” was its aim, its ethos, its excuse for everything. Life in Marion had so many grim limitations and restrictions that the worst of the worst criminals convicted in federal courts—spies, drug lords, racist murderers, gang leaders—actually would try to behave themselves in hopes they might someday get out of its peculiar purgatory, even though the greatest escape they could achieve was transfer to another federal pen.The operative principle for prison security was that anything one inmate managed to make into a...
  • The Real Nasrallah

    Remember this about Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah: he grew up very poor but very smart, and although he wears the robes of a minor Shiite cleric, he is a world-class politician. The U.S. government defines him as a terrorist, but that is only one of his faces. If he survives the war he started with Israel--a war that may now be in its final stages, following the U.N. Security Council's passage of a ceasefire plan--he will remain what he has become during these last weeks of combat: perhaps the most charismatic figure in the Muslim world, and very possibly the most dangerous.Nasrallah's guerrilla force of a few thousand men has done what no Arab army has ever done before: stood up to the power of Israel's vaunted military week after week and kept fighting. Arab presidents and kings are humbled. Some of them spoke out against Nasrallah when the fighting began. Now they don't dare. Israeli leaders say they've heavily damaged his military organization, and he'll no longer be...
  • Shadowland: Pulp Fact

    The reliving of JonBenet Ramsey’s dying over the last few days—the story of a 6-year-old beauty queen found strangled and bludgeoned to death in her parents’ basement in 1996, perhaps by a stranger who has just confessed, or perhaps not—tells a lot about what we don’t know in this world, and why.The case was and remains one of those true-life police dramas that has all the elements of a great fictional mystery. And, let’s say it, for most people this tragedy is pure entertainment.  The life and death of JonBenet Ramsey has absolutely nothing to do with your past, your present or your future. It affects no one directly except that poor little girl, her family, the murderer, the investigators and those who look to make a profit off of the whole ugly tale.Like pulp fiction, pulp fact is purely vicarious. Heated debates can fill the empty air on 24/7 cable television, drunken arguments may disrupt summer barbecues, tears of sympathy can be shed, even vows of vengeance may be made now...
  • Eye for an Eye

    Hizbullah's fighters were as elusive last week as they were deadly. Thousands of them were dug in around southern Lebanon, and yet encounters with the hundreds of journalists also in the area were rare, and furtive. Like Hussein, as he chose to call himself, who popped out of the rubble in the blasted town of Bint Jbeil, site of what Hizbullah is calling its Great Victory, to crow a little. He was in civvies, the only way the Hizbullah fighters appear in public, but the walkie-talkie under his loose shirt was a giveaway. The hillside nearby glittered with metal in the bright sun. Here and there lay shell casings, mortar tubes, mangled shrapnel from artillery and bombs. Thousands of cartridges, the gold ones from Israeli M-16s, the duller brown from Hizbullah's AK-47s, all mixed together. This was asymmetrical warfare with a fearful symmetry. Hussein picked up a handful of empty brass. "Very close-range fighting," he said, jingling them in his palm. "You can imagine what weapons we...
  • The Wider War

    When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Assaf Sharon was only 8 years old. As a young man, he served as a reservist with the elite Golani Brigade occupying South Lebanese hillsides, which he remembers for their beauty, and as the place where his friends died. A few years later, in 2000, when those troops were pulled out, he wondered why they'd ever been there. And now that his own son is 8, this 31-year-old graduate student wonders why Israel is calling up its reserves again. "I was watching the news one evening with my son, and suddenly it struck me--a whole generation has passed and nothing really changed."Actually, though, a lot has changed--and not just because Hizbullah had transformed itself from the 1980s terrorist organization that trafficked in hostages and car bombs into a disciplined militia that was able to absorb everything the Israelis threw at it the past three weeks, only to emerge from the rubble and dare it to keep trying.There is another, even larger reality this...