Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • $1 Billion A Week

    Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, came back from his recent trip to Iraq with some disturbing stories. One afternoon he was headed out on the highway to the Baghdad airport in a heavily protected convoy. He'd already been warned that, on that road, "people get shot, there are fire fights." Then the general with him suddenly ordered a machine gunner on top of a Humvee to get down. The reason: Iraqi killers are good at blindsiding American troops. "From time to time," Lugar was told, "there are enemy, whoever they are, who sort of loop wires down from the bridges that might pluck somebody off at the neck as they go down the road."By the time Lugar's trip to Iraq was over, the Indiana Republican worried the American people were being blindsided, too, by the true costs in blood and treasure of a war that has yet to end. "This idea that we will be in [Iraq] 'just as long as we need to and not a day more'," he said, paraphrasing the administration line, ...
  • Shadowland: From Communism To Al Qaeda

    Remember when "Carlos the Jackal" was Mr. Terrorist? Those were the days, in the 1970s and '80s, when America's chronic war was against godless communism, and Carlos was about as communist and godless as they got. The Venezuelan-born murderer and hostage-taker was a whiskey-swilling, Havana-smoking libertine; a self-described "professional revolutionary in the old Leninist tradition," he styled himself the playboy of the anti-Western world.Well, Carlos (real name: Ilich Ramirez Sanchez) has just come out with a book, and it may be the first of many. He's now a lifer in French prison, he's only 53, he's got plenty of time to write and European publishers are hungry for his tales of booze, babes and bombings. But Carlos, for the moment, wants us to believe he's found God. Or Allah, if you will.The title of his tome translates as "Revolutionary Islam," and parts of it read like fan mail to those Muslim heroes who replaced Marx and Lenin on the Jackal's hit parade. No. 1, of course, is...
  • Letter From Paris: Savoring A Summer's Scandal

    Scandals are as important to summer in France as, say, bare breasts on the beach and chilled rose with lunch. Strikes are important, too, as a way to get the summer going. (A few extra days off before the usual five or six weeks of vacation, why not?) But there's no estival diversion quite like a juicy brew of crime and passion: a bouillabaisse of murder, sex and politics, perhaps with a hint of the milieu mixed in.Actually, France has been starving for just this over the past few years. High-level government corruption trials don't cut it. They're so common and tiresomely complicated, after all. So what if the president of the constitutional court who used to be the foreign minister allegedly put his mistress (or one of his mistresses) on the payroll of an oil company where she supposedly got kickbacks on defense contracts? The French shrug: "That's politics." Then the whole thing gets thrown out of court? Well, that's entertainment.But this summer all the ingredients are on hand...
  • Shadowland: Bunker Mentality

    A couple of times in the last week I've searched through the "305 Guest House." The West Germans built the mansion and the luxury bunker beneath it for Saddam Hussein in 1984.Unlike the enormous Republican Palace nearby, a warren of offices and reception rooms still topped by four gigantic busts of Saddam (wearing a medieval helmet, no less), the guest house was supposed to be relatively inconspicuous, private and discreetly impregnable.In fact, the outside walls are still standing, but the interior is a shambles of broken masonry, shattered glass, collapsed ceilings and charred furnishings. Coalition bombs rained in here like the apocalypse, exploding against and sometimes through the thick concrete of the top two floors but never reaching the ground. The bunker itself finally busted open only when a bomb came in at a very precise angle from outside. Entirely flooded now, it reeks of septic decay.You can't know who was in the bunker when the bomb hit. The thick soot in the...
  • Shadowland: The Great Pretenders

    The man who would be king of Iraq stood with his entourage on a huge military cargo lift waiting to be lowered by American soldiers from the door of his chartered Airbus.On the tarmac, a select group of well-wishers in business suits shouted greetings beneath the ferocious sun and the somewhat puzzled gaze of U.S. soldiers. Civilian planes, for the moment, are not allowed to land at Baghdad International unless they've got some pretty special passengers.Sharif Ali bin Hussein, 47, is a scion of Hashemite princes who trace their lineage to the Prophet Muhammad. But with his slicked-back hair, trim mustache and bespoke blue suit, he looks more like he came from central casting circa 1932. There is about him the cosmopolitan elegance that Hollywood liked to call "debonair." American officials told me Sharif Ali wore a bulletproof vest under his clothes. I don't know; it didn't show. He did wear a Hermes tie with a chain-mail design on the silk.Could Sharif Ali be the man of this moment...
  • Scaring The Ayatollahs

    When the Ayatollah Khomeini decided at last to end his long and bloody war with Iraq in 1988, he did so as reluctantly, he said, as if he were drinking from a chalice of poison. Today his successor, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is fighting a political war with his own people, who are massively sick of his rule. "Drink the chalice of poison," 127 of 286 legislators told him in an open letter last week: accept the popular call for more democracy and freedoms; save the country. Otherwise, the members of Parliament warned, the United States might just attack all of them, threatening "Iran's unity and independence."Now, one thing that letter tells you is that Iran, even under the ayatollahs, is a whole lot more democratic than Iraq ever was under Saddam Hussein. (There, 127 dissident parliamentarians would have been 127 dead parliamentarians.) But it also suggests that the threat of war, or even covert action, might just help Iran's democrats turn the corner in their long struggle to open...
  • Shadowland: Truth And Dare

    In the weeks before the shooting started, at press conferences and also whenever we met in private beneath the gaze of baroque cherubim at the Elysee Palace, French officials kept saying they rejected the Bush administration's "logic of war."The little hairs would go up on the back of my neck. The Gauls are never more infuriating to les anglo-saxons (meaning anyone from the United States or United Kingdom) than when they talk about logic. "Ce n'est pas logique,"--it's not logical--is an icily polite way they have of telling you they think you're nuts. As Polly Platt explained in "French or Foe?", her classic guide to living and working in France, most of them just don't reason the same way most of us do. "From a given principle, or a theory, [the French] proceed to its illustration in the 'real world' with facts," she says. Americans in Paris just love to tell the story of a French engineer who looked at a new invention that functioned quite well, then shook his head sadly. "The...
  • Shadowland: Al Qaeda's British Connection

    On a recent expedition to Londonistan I stopped by the house of an Arabian revolutionary who's hoping to overthrow the House of Saud. His weapon: the Internet and, most recently, digital satellite television.Saad Al-Fagih, a physician who has lived in Britain for more than a decade, has always had a knack for using cheap modern technologies to subvert the royal regime in his homeland. One of his favorite tools is Paltalk, a program that allows live audio- and videoconferencing for hundreds of people simultaneously. Though Al-Fagih is known as a moderate Islamist in the spectrum of anti-Saud opponents, if you tune into some of these Paltalk chat sessions you'd think you were attending a virtual Qaeda convention.Dressed in his simple Arab thobe and barefoot in his home office, Al-Fagih spends hours every day in front of his computer, and nobody knows his way around this underground world of Saudi Web-surfing better, or, indeed, seems to have more fun with it. So I asked Al-Fagih about...
  • Irrelevant France

    Marc Llong feels penitential. Waiting to board his flight to New York, the gray-haired French retiree leafs through Le Parisien, a working-class tabloid that's full of headlines about transatlantic tensions. "We were so bad," he says, shaking his head. The French government opposed the war in Iraq, seeming to side with the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. The Americans fought anyway, and won. If the United States and France are ever going to get along again, says Lelong, "it's up to us to make the effort."Rosemay Mangin is also at Charles de Gaulle airport, flying to Chile where she owns a hotel and cybercafe. She, too, thinks France's behavior was "shameful." What should President Jacques Chirac do now? "Get down on his knees."Plenty of Americans--including President George W. Bush, no doubt--would be quick to agree. Along with his Defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and other crusaders in the administration, he'd be more than willing to scourge the sinner. While Southern rednecks...
  • Shadowland: A New Breed

    The terrorists on the nudist beach were puzzled. They were French kids of North African descent who'd been recruited by some Islamic holy warriors from the old country. They were products of the hopeless, crime-blighted housing projects on the outskirts of French cities, these young men. They were taught by charismatic Islamist preachers to respect their Muslim faith and have dignity. Then to fight the infidel. And to attack Jews. And eventually to strike at symbols of Western decadence like the naked people who clustered on a beach near Tangiers in the land of their fathers.They were given assault rifles and money and codes to speak on the telephone when their mission succeeded. But when they got to the seaside, they saw women in bikinis. Nobody was naked at all. As a prosecutor suggested later, kids who grow up in France aren't likely to see bikinis as a crime against God. In that incident, not a shot was fired.Such were the revelations from the last major terrorist attack in...
  • Shadowland: Is Iraq Contaminated?

    Maybe the screwworm flies were lucky. Used for research at Iraq's Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, thousands were supposed to be sterilized with doses of radioactivity as part of a pest-control program.During the war, they just starved to death, or so the International Atomic Energy Agency has been told. As for the dangerous isotopes that were used on them? Those may well have been stolen and could be irradiating humans accidentally these days. Or worse.There used to be a whole lot of radioactive material at Tuwaitha. United Nations inspectors identified it, stored it, sealed it. There were roughly 500 tons of uranium, of which about 1.8 tons was low-enriched stuff. There was also cobalt 60 and strontium 90. All in all, the inspectors found some 228 sources of radioactivity.Then the United States came along. During the war, U.S. troops on the ground didn't know quite what they were supposed to do at the facility and much of the radioactive material was looted. No one outside the...
  • A Spymaster And Political Fixer

    Yasir Arafat has always liked dealing with spies or, better yet, spymasters, even when their governments were supposed to be his enemies. In the shadowy world of Middle Eastern politics, where formal statements and official contacts frequently have little to do with the facts on the ground, envoys deeply schooled in secrecy often are considered more trustworthy than politicians or diplomats. CIA contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization continued, for instance, throughout the 1970s and 1980s when official Washington refused to talk to Arafat or his cronies.But lately spymasters have moved directly into the spotlight of the Middle East peace process. First, there was U.S. Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet brokering Palestinian-Israeli ceasefires in the 1990s. Now it's the head of Egypt's intelligence service, Omar Suleiman, who's been knocking heads in Arafat's compound, getting a new Palestinian government in place as the first step toward adoption of...
  • Shadowland: Postwar Blues

    It's the ultimate reality show, and these days, thanks to videophones at the front, couch-potato commanders can share the thrill as never before. ...
  • The Shiite Shockwave

    Khaled Abdullah waited 23 years for this moment. The 43-year-old Iraqi climbed a flight of stairs last week and gazed ecstatically on the golden dome of Shiite Islam's holiest shrine, the tomb of Imam Hussein in Karbala. He closed his eyes, turned his palms toward the sky and gave a prayer of thanks.In the streets below, throngs of Shiites were celebrating the festival of Arbaeen with ancient rituals of penance and devotion. Chanting men and a few black-shrouded women pounded their chests, while drummers filled the air with deafening rhythm. Other men circled the shrine, flogging themselves with heavy chains. Youths, dusty and bleeding, crept on hands and knees toward the shrine's golden archway. Inside, other young men with shaved heads slashed their own scalps with ceremonial daggers. Attendants bandaged the wounds of some; others were half-carried onto donkey carts outside to be paraded around the courtyard in their bloodstained white shirts.Abdullah was glad to be home. He had...
  • Shadowland: Beware Long Occupations

    The down-home massacre in Winfield, Kans., took me by surprise when I came across it the other night while reading up on the history of this small town near the Oklahoma border.I'm in the middle of researching a novel about terror in the American heartland, but the story of Gilbert Twigg got me thinking about the cost of being an occupying nation.Here's the tale. One fine summer evening just 100 years ago, Gilbert Twigg "deliberately fired into the crowd of promenading people, at Ninth Avenue and Main Street, as Camon's Band was in the midst of its regular weekly concert." Six people died that night, and four more in the following days. Many more were injured. Described in earnest detail by correspondents of The Winfield Courier, the scene of Twigg emptying his shotgun and rifle at the bustle-and boater-clad crowd unfolds like a production of "The Music Man" interrupted by a rampaging Rambo. "At the first shot fired, Clyde Wagoner's horn was shattered in his hand and at the next,...
  • Shadowland: Calling Captain Crunch

    I'd like to talk to Captain Crunch, if anybody knows where he is. Last I heard, he was on the graveyard shift, working as a cop in California. But I figure he'd have some things to tell us about Iraq as massive victory gives way to messy occupation.He was in Nam with the Marines. And Central America for the CIA. And Lebanon in 1983, after that adventure turned so bad. The people who call him Crunch, the very few people, are ones who remember him from there.It will be 20 years ago tomorrow that the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was blown up, a footnote for the public, but a watershed in the secret history of the Middle East. More than 50 people were killed, including 17 Americans. At the time (what sheltered lives we led back then!) it was the worst terrorist attack ever perpetrated against the United States, and the first suicide bombing. Eight of the dead Americans were with the CIA, and Crunch was sent by the Agency to figure out what the hell happened. By the time the investigation was...
  • The Rage Next Time

    The boy always looks forward to his aunt's visits. What boy wouldn't? She showers him with Disney videos, LEGOs and Toys "R" Us electronica from her frequent trips to Washington--cultural sweets on which children the world over are weaned. But when Aunt Amal went to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley for a family visit last week, 3-year-old Khalid greeted her with horror. In spite of his mother's attempts to limit his TV viewing, Khalid had caught a glimpse of footage from Iraq, aired on an Arab TV network, of the headless body of an Iraqi child killed by a Coalition bomb gone astray. "Don't go back to America," Khalid urged his favorite aunt. "They're killing children."American hearts are focused on their troops these days--the dangers they face, the tragedies they've suffered. Yet the war Americans see on their television screens is wholly different from what's shown elsewhere. U.S. programming concentrates on victory. Arab and Muslim TV focuses on victims. Children feature prominently:...
  • Shadowland: Phantom Tyrant

    "I have that phantom feeling," said an Iraqi doctor trying to explain his hopes and fears now that Saddam Hussein seems gone. "You know, if you have gangrene in your leg and it's amputated, you can still feel the pain in your toes. That's the phantom feeling I mean."The doctor's name is Mowaffaq al-Rubaie (or just plain "Mow" to his friends), and he's been fighting against Saddam for most of his life, both in Iraq and from exile in England. Mow's a former member of the Daawa Party, an underground Shiite group with a reputation for using any and every means, including terrorism, to attack Saddam and Saddam supporters--including Americans in the 1980s, when they fit in that category.These days Mow is working with the Pentagon to pull together a new Iraqi government, and he called me this morning from London where he was stopping off for a brief visit with family en route from Washington to An Nasiriya. We talked about the elation of watching those enormous Saddam statues toppling all...
  • Saddam's Bunkers

    When one of the most secure and luxurious of his palace-and-bunker complexes was completed in 1984, at a cost of $70 million, Saddam Hussein moved in right away. But even protected by enormous layers of concrete, sand and steel, behind zigzag corridors and blast doors made to withstand a Hiroshima-size explosion, and guarded by men who knew they'd have to be ready to die for him, or be killed by him, Saddam apparently could not sleep. "All night long he heard a sound like the cocking of a pistol," remembers Wolfgang Wendler, the German engineer who supervised the project. Wendler was summoned by angry officials to find out what was wrong. He discovered a faulty thermostat.Today the bunker beneath the "305 Guest House" in Baghdad's main palace compound is part of an underground world of tunnels, shelters and storage depots where Saddam may be hiding his most fearsome weapons, as well as himself. Iraqi scientist Hussein Shahristani and other exiles even talk of a phantom subway that...
  • Shadowland: A Lesson In Fear

    The politesse of the torturers was hard to take. Even after four Western journalists were freed last week from Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison, they seemed puzzled by their inquisitors' comportment."They were disconcertingly polite," remembers Matthew McAllester, a rugged young Scotsman who reports for Newsday.He was not tortured himself. Nor was Newsday photographer Moises Saman, nor Danish photographer Johan Rydeng, nor award-winning freelance photojournalist Molly Bingham. She was even served tea after one interrogation session. They were all treated "humanely," they agreed. But they had all thought, through their eight days in captivity, that at any moment they might be killed. And they had reason. The archives of human-rights groups are full of stories about people forever "disappeared" by the Iraqi regime--or returned to their family long after their arrest, in little pieces.After the journalists were hustled out of their hotel rooms in the hours before dawn on March 24 and...
  • Iraq's Most Wanted

    Saddam Hussein's inner circle is a special kind of club. Only murderers need apply. "All the members were tested by Saddam in one way or another," explains an Arab intelligence chief who's dealt directly with several of the top thugs. "They would not last if they were not brutal enough to satisfy Saddam, and when you meet with them they brag about this. They don't hide it. The more people they've killed, the more 'credible' they are."The slaughter they carried out has been vast, like the genocidal killing of Kurds in 1988 that used both conventional means and chemical weapons. And it has been terribly intimate: murdering fellow members of the Baath Party, or even relatives. Yet the list of those formally considered "irredeemable," as one Bush administration official put it, is remarkably short: not even a dirty dozen, but a "Dirty Nine," including Saddam and his sons, Uday and Qusay. Only these few, according to administration officials, are certain to be prosecuted for war crimes...
  • Shadowland: 'We Will Turn Bush Into A Dog'

    Dogs do not live happy lives in Iraq. Considered "unclean" by Muslims and rarely kept as pets, most of those that you see are feral curs slinking through the streets late at night. It's normal practice for Iraqi soldiers to cull the packs with machine guns. But the commandos of Saddam's fedayeen, terrorist-shock troops organized in the mid-1990s, sometimes tear a dog limb from limb and sink their teeth in its flesh. Repulsive brutality, after all, is a badge of honor for these troops; this particular rite of passage was even captured on a government video."The fedayeen are animals!" says a young Iraqi woman who fled her country for Jordan a few months ago. "They are trained to be like animals! Everybody is frightened of them." And even though there are only an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 of these militia, inside Iraq it feels as if the fedayeen--meaning "those who sacrifice"--are everywhere. These days, Iraqis say, they are forcing others to put their lives on the line in the face of...
  • Shadowland: Gone With The Wind

    "War, war, war," said an Iranian lady at a cocktail party in Paris earlier this week. She was among friends from Algeria and Lebanon, France, Canada and the United States--everybody sipping champagne, nibbling crab canapes, talking about the imminent storm in Iraq. And suddenly it struck her, she said, "this is like the barbecue scene in 'Gone With the Wind'."We were all enjoying ourselves, but all of us were haunted by a sense the world was about to change forever. "Fiddle-dee-dee," said the Persian Scarlett with evident irony. "This war talk is spoiling all the fun." She shook her head and smiled with solemn regret.This woman and several of the other guests that night had seen their worlds change before, in revolutions and in civil wars, and they'd emerged sadder and wiser for the experience. We Americans feel something of the sort when we think back on September 11. But with this new war, we may learn that that grim day was only the beginning.Consider this chilling little passage...
  • Can Iraq Hit America?

    In the Baghdad prison known as The Palace of the End, in the first years of Saddam Hussein's reign, his torturers sometimes used a crude but effective biological weapon. They'd take an inmate with tuberculosis, who was coughing blood, and force him to spit into the mouths of others. Not all prisoners caught the disease, but all were infected with the terror.Now, as Washington threatens to bring Saddam's own reign to an end, U.S. officials are afraid he might use such gruesome tactics against Americans. Outgunned on the traditional battlefield, Saddam is looking to fight back on his own terms. That, according to American officials, could mean any number of terror plots, from isolated assassinations of U.S. citizens overseas to biological or chemical attacks in the American heartland.Does Saddam Hussein have a covert plan to "flush" his weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq and use them against Americans? And can he pull it off in a meaningful way? It's one thing to experiment on...
  • Shadowland: The Chaos Theory

    "Shock and awe" is the phrase of the moment, along with "sweets and flowers." They're the buzzwords, from the Pentagon and from an exiled Iraqi intellectual respectively, that sum up the Bush administration's vision of the coming war.It's supposed to be an ultra-high-tech blitzkrieg that takes out the core of Saddam Hussein's regime in a matter of days, followed by the ecstatic joy of liberated Iraqis who shower the arriving Americans with bouquets and baklava. And, personally, I think that's just what's going to happen--at first. Skeptics will be silenced. Even French President Jacques Chirac will be shamed. But that's not all that's going to happen. Because anarchy and atrocity are also a realistic part of the scenario, and Saddam may well be counting on chaos as part of his last-ditch strategy for salvation.Why is Saddam passing out guns to every mustached thug from Mosul to the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab? Does he think they're going to crawl out of their cellars after they've...
  • The Banality Of Fear

    The 19-year-old German beauty queen hoped TO see President Saddam Hussein last week, but had to settle for what she called "a very long meeting" with his elder son, Uday. The next morning over breakfast she spoke in such beauty-pageant banalities about her "mission of peace" that NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu might have closed that page in her notebook forever. But then a member of Saddam's security services showed up. The interview "wasn't authorized," he warned. "Give me your notes. Where is your notebook?"The aggressiveness of the threat and the irrelevance of the material were such that reading a few passages seemed a harmless compromise: "My primary aim," Miss Germany had said, "was to give people some hope for peace." The security man beamed and shook the correspondent's hand. "You are a great journalist," he said. "Sorry for the trouble. You must understand I'm doing my job."Just doing his job. The security man is a minor functionary performing a minor duty. But what anyone in Iraq...
  • Shadowland: Rumors Of War

    "What doesn't happen in a year happens in a day," my proverb-prone mother-in-law likes to say. The phrase came to mind a couple of weekends ago when my wife and I went to pick up a frozen souffle at a Paris patisserie. As we waited in line, one of the most senior European officials in the war on terror walked in to buy a baguette.It takes weeks to get an appointment with this guy. I hadn't seen him since late last year. And now here he was. Amid the bustle of bourgeois matrons buying eclairs and macaroons, we chatted in low tones about the threat of war and terror.I was especially interested, as most of us are, in the question of when the war with Iraq is likely to begin. He'd need to know to prepare for counter-terror responses, I thought. And he said, with absolute assurance, "March 3 or 4." As I write, it's March 6. So much for that bit of information from this informed source. Was my baguette-buying friend just plain wrong? Or had he been misinformed? Was the date for war, if...
  • The Spoilers: The Games Leaders Play

    A curious little manifesto called "The Cry of the Gargoyle" appeared last year in French bookshops. Its author, Dominique de Villepin, had for seven years kept a low profile in public life but loomed large in the Elysee Palace: the adviser, confidant, kindred spirit and chief of staff to President Jacques Chirac. Now he was to become the foreign minister, and his pamphlet would set the tone for the newly re-elected government. Exhortative and mystical, much of it sounds like the Biblical Book of Lamentations. "Today orphaned, uncertain, easily disenchanted, France still burns with a desire for history," he wrote. The time had come "to block this funeral march" and "leap forward."Today, there's no doubt as to what Villepin, 49, is trying to block--the Bush administration's march on Iraq. As for his leap: with Chirac, he seeks to vault France back onto the global geopolitical stage. Standing up against America, Chirac has looked like the leader, if not of all Europe, then of all...
  • Shadowland: T Is For Terror

    I got a letter from the Alphabet Bomber the other day. It looked like the usual correspondence from paranoid schizophrenics, who tend to write in block letters and fatten the envelopes with copies of documents "proving" whatever delusional fantasy drives them.And, yes, there's always the risk there will be a little talcum powder or something more sinister inside. The still-at-large anthrax terrorist wrote in block letters, too. But I figured this envelope was OK. The return address was Pelican Bay State Prison, California's super-maximum-security facility near the Oregon border. Whatever else this guy was up to, he wasn't making chemical or biological weapons. At least, not anymore.So I opened it. There were indeed copies of several papers, and scrawled on the back: "DEAR MR. DICKEY: YOU COULD ASCEND TO WORLD PROMINENCE BY BEING THE FIRST WHO UNDERSTOOD THIS LETTER. M. KURBEGOVICH."Typical.In lieu of a CV, there was a concise, straightforward 1985 "record of deportable alien." It...
  • A Great Divide

    Lines of crosses, thousands upon thousands overlooking the beaches of Normandy, bear witness to the vast wars that raged across Europe in the last century and to the blood of Americans who lost their lives in them. People in the United States are remembering those crosses these days, and that blood, and wondering why so many Europeans seem not to remember. Because right now Americans are under threat. And Americans are about to go to war with the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And when they look at their old allies like the French--especially the French--what they see are perfidious diplomats trying to wriggle out of any risky commitment: "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," in a memorable phrase right-wing commentators picked up from "The Simpsons" cartoon show.Those tensions were fully on display last week at the United Nations Security Council when it convened to hear the latest report from chief inspector Hans Blix. He had come to explain just how much Saddam Hussein...
  • The Great Divide

    They bear witness to the wars that raged across Europe in the last century--and to the blood of Americans who lost their lives in them. They stand in the thousands upon thousands, overlooking the beaches of Normandy, and amid the rolling hills of Belgium. People in the United States remember those crosses these days, and that blood, and wonder why so many Europeans seem not to remember. Because right now Americans are under threat. Americans are about to go to war with the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And when they look at their old allies like the French--especially the French--what they see are perfidious diplomats trying to wriggle out of any risky commitment. "Axis of Weasels," they call them, or more memorably, in a phrase right-wing commentators picked up from "The Simpsons" cartoon show, "cheese-eating surrender monkeys."Those tensions were fully on display last week at the United Nations Security Council when it convened to hear the latest report from chief...
  • Shadowland: Evil Genius

    "Box cutters." When talk of terrorist nukes and germs and chemicals gets absolutely out of control, I repeat those two words to myself: "box cutters."They're a reminder that the greatest weapon of mass destruction used by Al Qaeda so far had nothing to do with fissile material from renegade Russians or toxic spores from Iraq. Qaeda's September 11 operation relied entirely on much more dangerous binary components: imagination and tradecraft. If you mix those together effectively, you can use box cutters to turn four airliners into enormous flying bombs and hit the world's only superpower on its home turf.Fortunately for all of us, you have to be a genius (yes, an evil genius) to get that mix of conception and execution just right. And while Al Qaeda has a few brilliant minds, its ranks are full of dim-witted losers with thousand-mile stares. "Happily, these geniuses, themselves, they don't take the lead," an Arab intelligence chief told me a few weeks ago. "They send out the...