Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • Target Practice

    Murdering someone with a missile or a bomb is a little like surgery with a chain-saw. You can target the operation very precisely, but once you let it rip the thing's going to make a mess, it'll take a while to figure out if the procedure was a success, and almost always it isn't.The American record on killing ostensible enemies with precision-guided munitions, whether JDAMs dropped from planes or Hellfire missiles from Predator drones, is absolutely dismal. During the Iraq invasion in 2003, the campaign to blow up Saddam Hussein and his cronies resulted in nothing but collateral damage. "All of the 50 acknowledged attacks targeting Iraqi leadership failed," Human Rights Watch concluded in a study reported immediately after the fall of Baghdad. But what the bombs did do was kill dozens of innocent bystanders. In one particularly disastrous incident, the United States slaughtered its most important tribal ally in Anbar province, Malik al-Kharbit, along with 21 members of his family....
  • Confidence Game

    Lest we forget amid all the second-guessed accusations and explanations in the air these days, the Bush administration did not launch its invasion of Iraq some 2,200 dead Americans ago because it knew Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It invaded because it did not know. We went to war--and remain mired in that war--because of a hunch.Remember Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's famous little discourse on "unknown unknowns" in the summer of 2002, just as Washington and London were secretly committing themselves to invasion? He'd been asked about claims that Saddam's WMD arsenal and links to terrorists were worse than many analysts thought. Undeterred, Rumsfeld explained that lots of intelligence only comes to light years after the fact, and that proves you just can't know everything. "There are no knowns," he said. "There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown...
  • 'Mafia State'

    The cold blue eyes of Abdel Halim Khaddam shed no tears for Ariel Sharon this afternoon. For more three decades, Khaddam was the right-hand man of Syrian dictator Hafez Assad in open wars and diplomatic showdowns with Israel, often turning Lebanon into the main battleground. Sharon's drive on Beirut in 1982 handed the Syrians a stunning defeat. But Syria slowly won its vengeance, supporting Hizbullah's relentless campaign of terror and attrition--a war that has never really ended. "As far as Sharon is concerned, his death or disappearance will not change anything," Khaddam told NEWSWEEK after the Israeli prime minister suffered a major stroke. "The difference between the Israeli factions is less one of substance than of degree. There will [at most] be a change in the map of Israeli political alliances." He sees no chance of negotiations or peace agreements any time soon.Yet this same Abdel Halim Khaddam, who continued to serve as Syria's vice president after Bashar Assad inherited...
  • Terror vs. Justice

    We ended 2005 in a time of trials--show trials, in fact. Saddam Hussein was in the dock for allegedly ordering massacres in an Iraqi Shiite village. Libya (our new friend) expediently ordered the "retrial" of six foreign medical workers sentenced to death by firing squad for plotting to infect patients with AIDS from bad blood; this in a country where bad hygiene is pervasive and so is paranoia. Turkey (the great example of a pro-U.S. Muslim democracy) hauled a novelist into court for talking about the Armenian genocide of a century ago. An Egyptian judge sentenced my old friend Ayman Nour to five years of hard labor, ostensibly for forgery but in fact for offering a liberal alternative to the country's U.S.-funded one-party, one-family political machine. And in Washington, speculation about the impeachment of President George W. Bush hung in the air like mist over the Potomac.Show trials are about raw power, of course, not blind justice. They're spectacles put on by winners to...
  • Fiddling After Paris Burned

    Kids in football uniforms run laps around a lit field in the early December twilight. They are specks in a vast cityscape of massive gray housing projects on the far fringe of the Paris sprawl. "Don't cut corners!" their coach calls out, breath steaming in the frost and his voice harsh amid the neighborhood's silence. Parents peek out from the high-rise windows as the kids start their game. The largely immigrant ghetto of Montfermeil is anything but heaven, but it doesn't feel like hell, either.Hell was last month, when riots convulsed this and so many other outer-city ghettos across France. Beginning in nearby Clichy-sous-Bois, the violence raged for three full weeks: 10,000 cars and more than 200 buildings were burned, including schools, day-care centers, gymnasiums and small businesses. Thousands of people were detained, more than 400 were jailed, hundreds of others were injured--among them 234 cops and firefighters. The fate of some of France's leading politicians seemed to be...
  • Women of Al Qaeda

    Jihad used to have a gender: male. The men who dominated the movement exploited traditional attitudes about sex and the sexes to build their ranks. They still do that, but with a difference: even Al Qaeda is using female killers now, and goading the men.
  • Europe's Time Bomb

    The car-body count dropped dramatically in France toward the end of last week. So vast was the orgy of auto incineration--more than 1,000 vehicles burned night after night as gangs ambushed firefighters and police, raging against French government and society--that when "only" 15 cars were torched one night in the administrative department of Seine-St-Denis, where the violence began, the head of the National Police said that things there had returned to "normal."...
  • Europe's Time Bomb

    The car-body count dropped dramatically in France toward the end of last week. So vast was the orgy of auto incineration--more than 1,000 vehicles burned night after night as gangs ambushed firefighters and police, raging against French government and society--that when "only" 15 cars were torched one night in the administrative department of Seine-St-Denis, where the violence began, the head of the National Police said that things there had returned to "normal."...
  • Romano Prodi

    Romano Prodi is ebullient, and for good reason. The former Italian prime minister, who also served as president of the European Commission, is riding the momentum from a special primary election he organized last month to unify the center-left opposition against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Polls suggest he'll likely win national elections scheduled for April 9. The 66-year-old former economics professor recently spoke to NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey and Jacopo Barigazzi. Excerpts: ...
  • Rage on Rue Picasso

    Word of the deaths spread quickly through Clichy-sous-Bois, a grim collection of housing projects an hour by train and bus from the center of Paris. Two teenage boys had been electrocuted while trying to hide near a transformer the night of Oct. 27. Rumor said they were running from police. Soon, dozens of angry young men came from the soulless high-rises looking for cops to fight and cars to burn on streets named, as it happens, after heroes of French culture: boulevard Emile Zola, allee Albert Camus, rue Picasso. Dead white men. "It's Baghdad here," the rioters shouted. Night after night last week, rage spread through the ghettos that ring Paris, then beyond to every corner of France. When a tear-gas canister exploded near a mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois on the fourth violent evening, a new cry went up. "Now this is war," said one of the vandals. Others cried "jihad."...
  • The Fire This Time

    Word of the deaths spread quickly through Clichy-sous-Bois, a grim collection of housing projects an hour by train and bus from the center of Paris. Two teenage boys had been electrocuted while trying to hide near a transformer. Rumor said they were running from police. Soon, dozens of angry young men came from the soulless high-rises looking for cops to fight and cars to burn on streets named, as it happens, for heroes of French culture: Boulevard Emile Zola, Allee Albert Camus, Rue Picasso. Dead white men. "It's Baghdad here," the rioters shouted. By the end of that first night, Oct. 27, police would count 15 cars torched and six arrests. No firefighters or cops were injured and authorities claimed the situation was stabilized. But they were very wrong....
  • The Culprits Dialed 'M' For Murder

    Sheik Ahmed Abdel-Al was a busy man last Feb. 14, the day an enormous truck bomb in Beirut killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other people. The sheik is a central figure in the benign-sounding Association of Islamic Philanthropic Projects in Lebanon, and says he was in his office the whole time, innocent of any crime. But the calls made on his cell phone in the minutes before the bombing and the hours and days afterward have led the United Nations commission probing the murder to conclude that Abdel-Al, more than "any other figure," is "linked to all the various aspects of this investigation."There are other, much more high-profile names in the report, which President George W. Bush called "deeply disturbing" after it was submitted to the Security Council last week. The investigators cite "converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act." President Bashar al-Assad is not directly implicated, but an unnamed source in...
  • Center of the Web

    Sheik Ahmed Abdel-Al was a busy man last Feb. 14, the day an enormous truck bomb in Beirut killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others. He says he was working in his office at the benign-sounding Association of Islamic Philanthropic Projects in Lebanon at the time and is innocent of any crime. But calls made on the sheik's cell phone in the minutes before the bombing and the hours and days afterward have led the United Nations commission probing the murder to conclude that Abdel-Al, more than "any other figure," is "linked to all the various aspects of this investigation."There are other, higher-profile names in the report, which President George W. Bush termed "deeply disturbing" after it was submitted to the Security Council last week. The commission cites "converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act." President Bashar al-Assad is not directly implicated, but an unnamed source in the report "who claims to have...
  • Immigration: AT THE GATES

    The Africans had walked for days from the vast Sahara to reach those high fences topped with razor wire that are all that separates their world from two tiny outposts of Europe on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. They came from Senegal, from Mali, from Mauritania--from countries they wouldn't name, whose papers they had destroyed--and hid deep in Morocco's coastal forest, waiting....
  • Buried With Secrets

    Did he kill himself or was he killed? Had he blown the whistle on massive corruption, or did he just get too greedy? Could he have been the man behind the sensational murder of a former Lebanese prime minister, or was he going to rat out the real killer? Damascus is an Orwellian wonderland of rewritten histories and untrue facts, so when the regime there announced last week that Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan had taken his own life, there were very few points on which intelligence analysts, diplomats and politicians could agree. Except one: Kanaan knew too much. He was in a position, in fact, to know everything that the Mafia-style regime of President Bashar al-Assad would never want known by anyone outside the inner circle of siblings, in-laws and cousins.For more than 20 years under President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's sphinx-like father who died in 2000, Kanaan was the man who ran Lebanon. It was a tough assignment, but Kanaan was a tough guy. When the Hizbullah militia thought it...
  • Friends in the Mountains

    For a brief spell last year, small groups of American soldiers fresh off the battlefields of Fallujah and Samarra got a chance to rest and relax at the Jiyan Hotel in the highlands of Iraq. They could swim laps, play tennis, shoot pool and generally just chill as they looked out on the dramatic snow-covered peaks that have always been the refuge of the Kurds. ("We have no friends but the mountains" is a well-known Kurdish proverb.) Kids mobbed the soldiers, asking for candy; adults began every conversation with "My friend." Indeed, there are few places anywhere in the world these days where American troops get a warmer welcome.When you hear that Iraqis are sick of the U.S. occupation, remember the Kurds. They love the U.S.A. They want these American occupiers, and really do think of them as liberators. Top Kurdish officials have practically begged the U.S. military to make itself at home in their land. "I do not ask that Americans build bases in Kurdistan--I demand it," says Abdel...
  • A Female Sensibility

    The equations that drive the characters in your typical videogame are pretty simple: if punched, then fight. But the new generation of games driven by artificial intelligence use a higher math: if attacked, then fight or run, depending on an equation that balances temper, strength and other factors. The only game at this level so far is a free download called Facade, created by Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas. Its minimalist graphics are the antithesis of those in most modern electronic games. "We're trying to appeal to the non-computer geek," says Stern, "people who are turned off by games because they're not about people's lives."Those alienated billions are often women. Stern says at least half the downloads of Facade (150,000 since July) are by women, perhaps more. This is the latest step toward feminizing the teen- and testosterone-fired world of gaming. Women and girls may account for as little as 10 percent of all games players, by some estimates. Dan Morris, editor in chief...
  • SAUDI STORMS

    The shoot-out earlier this month around a seafront villa in the Saudi Arabian city of Ad Dammam lasted almost 48 hours, and ended only when security forces brought in light artillery. They blasted the opulent home until the roof came down on the people inside. In the immediate aftermath police said they couldn't tell from the charred remains just how many members of "a deviant group" had died in the battle. Finally, with DNA tests, they counted five. Police also found enough weapons for a couple of platoons of guerrilla fighters. The inventory given out by the Saudi Interior Ministry included more than 60 hand grenades and pipe bombs, pistols, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, two barrels full of explosives, video equipment, a large amount of cash and forged documents.It was the documents that really set off alarms. According to a Saudi Interior Ministry statement, they included forged passes to enter "important locations." The Saudi daily Okaz quoted the minister, Prince...
  • A Female Sensibility

    What do women want? Men have been asking themselves that question since time immemorial. But for the huge male-dominated electronic-games industry, fueled as it is by the high-octane testosterone of adolescent boys, the supposed mystery of female tastes is more than a rhetorical conundrum; it's the key to the future. Is there a place for women (other than as fantasy objects) among the thieves, addicts and whores in the mean streets of the best-selling Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Are girls going to have fun blasting terrorists, blowing up monsters and clashing with other evildoers in the corridors of first-person shooters like Quake, where you see the universe mainly over the barrel of a gun?Well, some do. (Since 1997, female gamers have competed for the title Queen of Quake.) But the industry's bias against women players is so ingrained that the size of the current female market is largely unknown. Dan Morris, editor in chief of PC Gamer magazine, says 50 percent of game...
  • The Vatican: Going After Gay Priests

    The Roman Catholic Church has embarked on a vast investigation that could push men with homosexual inclinations out of the already dwindling ranks of seminarians. Starting this month, at more than 220 U.S. seminaries, every faculty member and student must answer and sign a lengthy questionnaire. One of the questions: "Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary?" (The Rev. Donald B. Cozzens in his book "The Changing Face of the Priesthood" estimated that 23 to 58 percent of Catholic clerics have homosexual orientations.)The Vatican is presenting this inquiry as "a service" to American bishops after the recent sex-abuse scandals. But the investigation guidelines say nothing about pedophilia--sex with children--which was the problem at the center of the crisis. The church's view is that some of its priests might not have been well prepared for a celibate life, and "with gay rights, people have put this forward as a lifestyle that is acceptable," says the Rt. Rev. Francis...
  • The Suicide Solution

    Mohammad Sidique Khan's voice-from-the-grave video got me thinking the other day. Most Americans were focused on the disaster in New Orleans, that city betrayed by the cupidity of shortsighted politicians, flooded with pestilence, plagued by chaos. Al-Jazeera's broadcast on Thursday of the Yorkshire-accented musings of this Muslim fanatic who blew himself up in the London Underground two months ago in the attack that killed 52 innocents, seemed weirdly irrelevant given the scope of the national tragedy that now faces the United States.Yet the next such cataclysm could easily be the work of men like Khan, who are willing to kill themselves to slaughter the maximum number of their enemies--meaning all of us in the American and British democracies. "I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe," said Khan."Thousands." Suicide attacks of one sort or another have been with us for a long time. But never, apart from Japan's kamikazes during World War II, in such...
  • CHRISTENDOM'S RETURN

    On the day before Pope John Paul II died last April, as the faithful and the curious gathered in St. Peter's Square awaiting word of his fate, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger visited the village of Subiaco in the Sabine hills outside Rome. Priests, monks and nuns gathered in the chilly Gothic convent. "Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience," he told them. Attempts to manage human affairs while "disdaining God completely" have led us "to the edge of the abyss."At the time, little attention was paid to Ratzinger's remarks. But in the months since he succeeded John Paul to become Pope Benedict XVI, those words have been studied closely. American theo-logian Michael Novak sees the new pontiff's teachings outlined in Subiaco as a harbinger of how Benedict will shape his papacy. "There are pearl-like sentences," says Novak, destined to have immense impact on "family life, morality and confidence in the future"...
  • NEAR 'THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS'

    On the day before Pope John Paul II died last April, as the faithful and the curious gathered in St. Peter's Square awaiting word of his fate, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was speaking in the village of Subiaco inthe mountains outside Rome. Priests, monks and nuns listened in the chill air ofan austere Gothic convent as he told them, "Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience." Attempts to manage human affairs while "disdaining God completely," he said, have led us "to the edge of the abyss."At the time, little attention was paid to Ratzinger's remarks. But in the months since he succeeded John Paul to become Pope Benedict XVI, the full text of his address at Subiaco has come to be seen by some as a sort of manifesto for the re-Christianization of modern Europe. American theologian Michael Novak regards the new pontiff's teachings outlined there as having an impact "on family life, on morality, on confidence...
  • HISTORY: THE QUALITY OF COURAGE

    In the end, there were 74 children--Jewish kids, from the ages of 6 to 18, who in 1942 and 1943 fled from Germany, Austria and Yugoslavia as their parents disappeared into the Nazis' concentration camps. With borders closing all over Europe, a Zionist organization smuggled them into northern Italy, to the village of Nonantola, built around a Benedictine monastery. Though Fascist Italy was not a haven, it was as safe as could be found. Their refuge was a large empty house, the Villa Emma, rented for them on the edge of town.Their story stands out as a singular moment of reason and humanity in the savage history of the Holocaust, an example of the values that Pope Benedict XVI today identifies as the Christian heart of Europe, and one that the priests in the village expect he will acknowledge in the next few months. It is a tale of courage, of rare integrity in the face of fear and oppression--but most important, it is a shared tale. From the start, empathetic townspeople brought food...
  • Shadowland: Pre-Emptive Peace

    When it dawned on me the other day that I would soon be writing my 100th Shadowland column--this one, in fact--the first thought I had was: "That's enough." It seemed to me, thinking back over the last two and half years, that I had told what were essentially the same stories many times in many different ways. Before the invasion of Iraq, I had warned against the dangers of occupation, the likelihood of civil war and the spawning of new terrorist movements. "After the shock and awe, the sweets and flowers, the anarchy and atrocity, Iraq could well be called disarmed and dangerous," I wrote the week Saddam Hussein's statue was hauled down in Baghdad.I was wrong about the sweets and flowers. We never saw them. But all the rest came to pass even more quickly and brutally than I'd anticipated. So there is an undertone of sadness and anger, but also of genuine incredulity, that runs through many of the columns. And that just won't go away. Every day there are new events that hammer home...
  • TURNING TO 'GOD'S TIME'

    In Rome's magnificent Saint Mary of the Angels and Martyrs Basilica, what used to be called "God's time" is plain to see. Shafts of light penetrate holes in the vaulted ceilings, casting their rays on the days and the hours and the signs of the zodiac embedded in the floor. The building, designed by Michelangelo within the walls of ancient Roman baths, is an enormous solar clock, a vivid reminder that through most of human history, we synchronized our lives with the heavens.No longer. Since the advent of railroads and the telegraph in the 19th century, the rate of change in our lives just keeps accelerating. With "always on" Internet technology, the global workday is 24 hours long, and the memory of a natural rhythm to life seems the last true luxury. What is more satisfying than a sense of control over time? The feeling may be as simple as the act of setting your watch slow or fast, to your own personal pace. Or it may involve a great escape, like sailing beneath the stars or on an...
  • L'ETAT? C'EST MOI... NOT.

    Revolutions aside, France on Bastille Day looks a lot like a monarchy. The head of state reviews his troops under the Arc de Triomphe and waves beneficently to crowds along the Champs-Elysees. Fighter jets scream overhead and brass bands play. Then he adjourns to his palace for a garden party and a sit-down television interview: a sort of State of the Union address with questions.This year 72-year-old Jacques Chirac, though visibly worn, remained regally aloof in the face of his interrogators. Yes, France rejected the European constitution in his ill-conceived referendum. And the International Olympic Committee rejected France for the 2012 Games. "I did not feel humiliated," said Chirac. He might as well have said, a la Richard Nixon, "I am not a crook."When a president starts talking like that, the public starts thinking "lame duck" and "how much longer?" The answer, in Chirac's case, is almost 22 months, but a new poll already shows that 43 percent of the French hope he will ...
  • CASTLES IN THE SAND

    The race to over-the-top opulence among Arabian hotels began about 20 years ago when the Gulf Cooperation Council, that august assemblage of kings and emirs who rule the oil states of the Arabian Peninsula, was due to hold a summit in the rather sleepy sultanate of Oman. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said wanted to show just how modern his country had become. So he chose a dazzling site between iridescent mountains and the glistening ocean, bulldozed the fishing village there and built Al Bustan Palace Hotel.Each floor was decorated in a different spirit--European continental modernity, traditional Arabian decor, Chinese antiques--and at the top, separate sprawling abodes for each of the visiting royals. The restaurant served grilled lobsters fresh from the nearby sea; the bar boasted dozens of single-malt Scotch whiskies. And the Bustan remains, today, a lovely hotel. But by the latest gulf standards--one has to say--it is a little staid. A deluxe suite in the high season runs a mere ...
  • DESIGNED BY HAND

    The fabric needs to rest." that's what the tailors will tell you in the little town of Penne, set in the rolling hills overlooking Italy's Adriatic Sea. When they touch the wools and linens, the silks and the cashmeres that they use to make suits for the Italian house of Brioni, they handle them with a kind of familiarity, almost intimacy, as if the bolts of cloth were sentient entities. They cut them according to carefully measured patterns, sew them meticulously thread by thread, right down to the buttonholes. And then they hang up the blazer or suit jacket or overcoat they're making and give the fabric a respite of at least three days, to let the seams and creases settle down before the finishing touches are applied.Men and women like these tailors are at the center of that delicate universe where taste and fortune, craftsmanship and salesmanship come together in a multibillion-dollar industry. Theirs is the craft behind the art--and the business--of stylish luxury. It's a world...
  • Shadowland: Untrue Believers

    The sentencing of Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics, a gay bar and the Atlanta Olympics, ought to be a milestone in the Global War on Terror. In Birmingham, Ala., on Monday he got life without parole. Next month he'll stack up a couple more life terms in Georgia, which is the least he deserves. (He escaped the death penalty only because he made a deal to help law-enforcement agents find the explosives he had hidden while on the run in North Carolina.) Rudolph killed two people, but not for want of trying to kill many more. In his 1997 attack on an Atlanta abortion clinic, he set off a second bomb meant to take out bystanders and rescue workers. Unrepentant, of course, Rudolph defended his actions as a moral imperative: "Abortion is murder, and because it is murder I believe deadly force is needed to stop it." The Birmingham prosecutor declared that Rudolph had "appointed himself judge, jury and executioner."Indeed. That's what all terrorists have in common: the four lunatics...
  • THE NEXT BATTLE: BRIDGING THE GREAT DIVIDE

    Outside Brick Lane Mosque, in the heart of London's oldest Muslim community and a short walk from Aldgate, one of the Underground stations that became a bomb scene last week, a steady stream of worshipers converged for Friday prayers. Among them was Bahar Islam, 10 years old. He said his schoolmates had been terrified when their teacher told them about the attack the day before. "I am very worried about the future now," said the boy. He paused, still a little shaken. "I'll be praying it doesn't happen again."...
  • Shadowland: The Fifth Man

    Al Qaeda's terrorist recruits are, by and large, pretty stupid. You don't need a degree to turn yourself into "pink smoke," as a cynical acquaintance of mine in the bomb-disposal business used to say. You don't need to be a scholar of the Qur'an to find justification in its pages for all sorts of atrocities. (Indeed, if you are a scholar, you'll discover your rationales for mayhem don't hold up.) You just need to be angry, alienated and manipulated enough to stop seeing the people around you as human.The British government should have known this. Back in April 2004 a "discussion paper" presented at the cabinet level in British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government offered a prescient analysis of the terrorist campaign to recruit young British Muslims. And it's painful to read in the wake of the suicide bombings carried out a week ago, precisely because it shows the British government was forewarned but not forearmed.In the leaked document, first published on the Web site of London...