Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • 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...
  • Payback Time?

    The basic rule of diplomacy is the rule of the bazaar: you get what you can with what you've got. Nobody understands that principle better than the French. After all, generations of French leaders have sought (and found) inspiration in that wily Napoleonic foreign minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, the famed grandmaster of diplomatic subterfuge and calculated opportunism. Never mind that he was a sybaritic, bribe-taking ex-bishop who betrayed the Roman Catholic Church, his lovers, his wife, the Revolution and Napoleon. He was a sage survivor who almost always came out on top while working for the long-term glory of France. "Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts," quoth he.Amid the jockeying over war in Iraq--and who, among the Europeans, will support it--Talleyrand's brand of cynicism is transparently coming to the fore, and not only from the French. The Bush administration is putting on the hard sell. A little like the insurance salesman who reminds you that ...
  • Military Justice: Saddam's Crimes

    Marine Corps Capt. Michael Craig Berryman had been held captive for less than a day and already his face was bruised and bloody from constant beatings. It was about 5 p.m. on Jan. 28, 1991, and the Harrier pilot's Iraqi captors, men from the elite Republican Guard, had taken him to yet another interrogation room, blindfolded him and cuffed his hands so tightly that his fingers went numb. "What is your religion?" one man asked. "Baptist," he replied. "No, you are a Jew!" they screamed. The Iraqis were convinced that Israelis were flying combat missions against them. "They just went crazy," he remembers.In all, 19 American servicemen and two servicewomen were taken prisoner by Iraq in the last gulf war. All of them tasted the savagery of Saddam Hussein's regime. Yet Saddam and his lieutenants were never called to account for the last war, or for the horrors inflicted on Iraq's own people. The United States filed no charges and brought no indictments, and no trials were held in any...
  • Perils Of Victory

    No One Doubts That America Will Win A War With Iraq. But Many Wonder If It Will Win The Peace.
  • Periscope

    EXCLUSIVEHigh-Seas TerrorismAccused Qaeda operative Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, captured late last year, has given CIA investigators information raising concerns that Al Qaeda's "navy" could be the biggest current threat to U.S. and global security. NEWSWEEK has learned that "there are four major elements in al-Nashiri's strategy," as a senior foreign intelligence source puts it, and they may still be moving ahead.First, the use of Zodiac-type speedboats loaded with explosives to attack U.S. warships and other targets. According to this source, Nashiri (a.k.a. Mullah Bilal) has admitted playing a key role organizing the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole and an attack on a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen this past October. Both used suicide Zodiacs. Early last year Nashiri sent a team of Afghan-trained Saudis to Morocco to prepare for Zodiac attacks on U.S. warships transiting the Strait of Gibraltar. The Moroccan intelligence service busted the operation, but a key operative...
  • Exclusive: Al Qaeda At Sea

    Accused Qaeda operative Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, captured late last year, has given CIA investigators info raising concerns that Al Qaeda's "navy" could be the biggest current threat to U.S. and global security. NEWSWEEK has learned that "there are four major elements in al-Nashiri's strategy," as a senior foreign intelligence official puts it, and they may still be moving ahead.First, the use of Zodiac-type rubberized speedboats loaded with explosives to attack U.S. warships and other targets. According to this source, Nashiri (a.k.a. Mullah Bilal) has admitted playing a key role organizing the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole and an attack off the coast of Yemen on a French oil tanker. Both used suicide Zodiacs. Early last year Nashiri sent a team of Afghan-trained Saudis to Morocco to prepare for Zodiac attacks on U.S. warships transiting the Strait of Gibraltar. The Moroccan intelligence service busted the operation but a key operative got away. Known by the pseudonyms "Riyad...
  • The Arab Alternative

    A few weeks ago, Hassan Yassin had a bright idea. The well-connected former Saudi official often sends up trial balloons in the Western press. They fly, or get blasted out of the sky, and the princes in Riyadh duly note the results. In an artfully crafted memo sent to several publications just after the New Year, Yassin suggested President George W. Bush has already won the war in Iraq: Saddam Hussein is contained, inspected, constrained, unable to use and about to lose any weapons of mass destruction he ever had. "In the face of resistance from most Arab, Muslim and Western governments," Yassin conceded, "the U.S. president has been single-minded and successful in his determination to prevent Saddam from becoming a danger to his own people, his neighbors or his enemies worldwide."In other words, "Congratulations, Dubya, it's all over but the shooting." Yassin went further: Saddam and his ruthless little clique should step down now, accept a U.N. amnesty and end the crisis...
  • Scolding The Dog, Beating A Chicken

    The relics of eccentricity remain. In the heart of Tripoli, Libya, in the middle of a military barracks behind walls within walls, a camel grazes and the droppings of other livestock litter a cracked sidewalk leading to the green brocade tent where Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi chooses to receive visitors. Nearby, the rubble-strewn house where he and his family once lived has been left much as it was after an American bombing raid shattered its facade and crumbled its ceiling in April 1986. But the man himself has mellowed. Gone are the rants of a dictator who seemed to be high on drugs or destiny or both. Gone are the distracted stares, the bizarre costumes. European diplomats and intelligence officials, a British minister of State and the Italian prime minister have found Libya's leader well briefed, reasonable and even cooperative in the war on terror. "The doctors must have got the dosage right," half-jokes a Western analyst who met Kaddafi in the old days.What changed? Kaddafi...
  • For The Curb Or The Club

    We at Tip Sheet strongly resist the notion that just because something is cool in Paris, it'd be cool in America. (It is, after all, a place where cheese is considered dessert.) Sometimes, though, those Parisians get it right, like this season's must-have shoe, Puma's sporty but stylish Mostro in black suede. A modified cycling shoe, it's the first footwear since Tod's classic moccasins to satisfy Europeans' passion for nubbly cleats on their soles. And the sleek sneaks are form-fitting and supportive enough for city walks. Available stateside at mypuma.com ($100; women should order down one size; men go one size up), the Mostro's perfect for people who want to look urbane, not just urban.--Christopher Dickey
  • ... No, Saddam Is Worse

    Saddam Hussein knows what he wants: Domination of the Arab world with all its oil. Elimination of Israel. Vengeance on the United States. His record is so clear on all these points that only those who refuse to see could be blind to the danger he presents to Americans and their vital interests. Does he have the means to act? Possibly. Should he be allowed even the slimmest chance to use them? Never. The road to hell is paved with Saddam Hussein's intentions.What's important now is for the United States to be clear about its intentions. And on some points it is. President Bush means to eliminate the threat that is Saddam, and he will not be distracted. American resolve must be--and be seen to be--unshakable. This administration knows there are far too many examples, dating back three decades, of American wishful thinking about Saddam Hussein's mellowing. In fact, when his regime is threatened with destruction, he'll sign anything. When he thinks the threat is gone, and feels strong,...
  • Style: Sporty Spice

    We at Tip Sheet strongly resist the notion that just because something is cool in Paris, it'd be cool here. (It is, after all, a place where cheese is considered dessert.) Sometimes, though, those Parisians get it right, like this season's must-have shoe, Puma's sporty but stylish Mostro in black suede. A modified cycling shoe, it's the first footwear since Tod's classic moccasins to satisfy Europeans' passion for nubbly cleats on their soles. And the sleek sneaks are form-fitting and supportive enough for city walks. Available stateside at mypuma.com ($100; women should order one size down; men go one size up), the Mostro's perfect for people who want to look urbane, not just urban.
  • Blood And Betrayal

    I trust America," a legendary Kurdish leader in Iraq declared some 30 years ago. "America is too great a power to betray a small people like the Kurds." He must have known better. The United States has been breaking promises to the Kurds in their mountain redoubts since the aftermath of World War I. But he could hardly have foreseen the treachery that lay in store as the Kurds rose up against Saddam Hussein in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, often with U.S. encouragement, only to be left in the end to face Saddam's genocidal revenge alone.Today, that trusting leader's son is the calculating realist Massoud Barzani, 56, one of the two great tribal warlords of Iraqi Kurdistan. He has sometimes fought Saddam, sometimes made peace with Saddam, and even invited Saddam to help him thrash his longtime Kurdish rival, the bluff and impetuous 69-year-old Jalal Talabani. But today the two Kurds are united once again against the Baghdad regime. And this time they know Washington may need them as much...
  • Grim Christmas

    St. Nicholas broke curfew the other day. Children confined to their houses in the Palestinian village of Beit Jala ran squealing to their balconies to watch as, apparently oblivious to Israeli military decrees, the jolly sprite walked down a side-street. He was just some father or uncle from a local family in white cotton beard and red tunic trying to bring a little solace to his cooped-up kids. But a Macy's Parade could hardly have caused more excitement.Do Palestinians, the Christian ones at least, believe in Santa Claus? "One hundred percent," says local wholesaler Majed Zedan. "St. Nicholas, he used to live in Beit Jala!" But that was 1,600 years ago, in a time before Islam and the Israeli state. All that remains today of the original Father Christmas are ancient fragments of bone in a bullet-pocked church, while the Arab Christians who revere him -- "the living stones around the Holy Places," as they like to say--are fast disappearing.According to historian Manuel Hassassian of...
  • Friends Or Foes

    In the long and bloody reign of Saddam Hussein, only one Iraqi opposition group has ever really scared him. For three decades the secretive underground organization Al Daawa al Islamiyah--the Islamic Call--has waged a remorseless war of terror against his regime and anyone who supported it. Before Hizbullah existed, Al Daawa carried out suicide bombings. Before Al Qaeda was dreamed of, Daawa members staged synchronized bombings against as many as seven targets simultaneously. Even though the group itself is relatively small and its collective leadership shadowy, its exploits are legendary. "Ask any man in the street in Iraq who fights against Saddam Hussein and they'll say 'Al Daawa'," says one former member of its executive council.All in all, just the sort of people the United States might want as allies in any overt or covert attack on the Iraqi regime. There's just one enormous problem. In the 1980s, when Washington was Saddam's friend and "Iranian-backed Shiite radicals" were...
  • Muhammad Atta's Neighborhood

    The worn barber chair in the little shop on Madbuh Street has been there for 40 years. The photo of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in the cluttered cabinet is almost as old. But the signs taped in the windows--laboriously hand-lettered in classical Arabic--are nearly new. IRAQ IS THE CEMETERY FOR BUSH THE CRIMINAL, reads one. BUSH IS A SERIAL KILLER, reads another. YOU ARABS SHOULD UNITE, a third sign counsels. UNITY IS POWER."I drew them myself," says the 75-year-old barber, Salah Abdelaziz Moussa. Confronted by an American journalist, his smile is weary but welcoming. He shows none of the fury poured onto the many taped-up pages, or that he often hears from customers. He offers tea.If there is war between Washington and Baghdad, the reporter wants to know, what then? Will the streets of Egypt and the rest of the Muslim world explode? Will it help spawn suicidal terrorists and plots to bring on the apocalypse? Or does the anger begin with slogans--and end there, too?...
  • The Blue Banana

    In the beginning, there was the blue banana. First glimpsed by cosmonauts, then photographed by satellites, it's a curve of light across the night-shadowed Old World that stretches from Manchester, England, down through the Rhineland to Milan and the industrial heartland of northern Italy....
  • The Secrets Of Dr. Germ

    The machines were rusting, the laboratory equipment broken or missing, the offices empty. The Al Dawrah Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Production Laboratory, which used to brew quantities of deadly Botulinum toxin, was among the United Nations inspectors' first stops when they fanned out last week in search of Saddam Hussein's secret weapons. And the plant's former director, Mantasser Omar Abdel-Aziz, exulted in its emptiness. "Nobody can do anything here," he said, inviting reporters to tour the defunct facility.No sign of weapons, so no need for the Bush administration to make good on its threat of war to disarm Iraq. "It is very good cooperation," said Abdel-Aziz.But as the United States continues deploying its combat-ready forces to the region, there's very little hope--or expectation--that sort of cooperation will last. And there is a widespread belief among Western intelligence and diplomatic sources that the showdown will come soon, when inspectors shift their focus away from...
  • Travel: In Europe? Get 'Smart.'

    At a time when the Eiffel Tower looms above Las Vegas and the Disney Store dominates the Champs-Elysees, well, it's good to know that something still sets the European experience apart: the Smart Car. Introduced four years ago, DaimlerChrysler's three-cylinder two-seaters have conquered most Continental cities. Now it's increasingly easy for tourists in France, Italy and Germany to rent the buggies, which get about 50 miles to the gallon (with gasoline prices four times higher in Europe than in the States, that's no small consideration). Avis, Sixt, easyCar, and Rent A Car all have them available, with weekend packages especially attractive. The cheapest, easyCar in Paris, is about $80 from Friday to Monday, but its Smarts have big, embarrassing easyCar.com stickers on the sides. More discreet models from Sixt, Avis and National (with Smart convertibles on the Riviera) are in the $110 to $125 range for a weekend. You can find specific deals at e-sixt.com, avisworld.com and national...
  • 'The Threat Demands A Global Response'

    When will the war on terror end? More than one year after the September 11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, officials in Europe and the United States continue to warn that more horrific "spectaculars"--some as potentially grim as 9-11--are all but inevitable. As the investigating magistrate leading France's fight against terrorism, Jean-Louis Bruguiere has been waging this twilight war since the 1980s. Over a quiet breakfast in a Right Bank hotel, Bruguiere outlined the risks of future attacks and some strategies to prevent them. The following are translated excerpts:NEWSWEEK: What are the basic elements of the current threat?Jean-Louis Bruguiere: Al Qaeda's determination to continue the fight is intact, even reinforced. But it's not simply Al Qaeda that poses a threat, it's a veritable radical Islamist movement which shares the Al Qaeda strategy. They are everywhere, these networks.What's the significance of the brief audio message released by Osama bin Laden last week...
  • The Syrian Surprise

    If there was a real diplomatic surprise last week, it wasn't that 14 members of the United Nations Security Council voted for a tough resolution calling on Iraq to disarm, it was that the 15th member, Syria, got on the bandwagon. What's Damascus's thinking? Having narrowly escaped inclusion in the "the axis of evil" when President George W. Bush coined the term earlier this year, could Syria now be scrambling to accommodate Washington? Few men are better positioned to judge than British journalist Patrick Seale, author of a respected biography of former Syrian dictator Hafez Assad and a widely syndicated columnist for the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat. Now living in Paris, Seale spoke last week with NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey. Excerpts:DICKEY: Two or three months ago it seemed that the United States would be going it alone against Iraq. Now even Syria is onboard at the U.N. How do you account for that?SEALE: I think something quite important has happened in the last...
  • Saddam's Sons

    Saddam Hussein is reliably reported to be a fan of the "Godfather" movies. He can easily identify: he runs Iraq the way a mafia don uses his family to control a criminal enterprise. "Think of Iraq as Chicago and Saddam as a mob boss," says one U.S. intelligence source, "only with chemical and biological wea-pons." As the Bush administration prepares to try to take Saddam out, U.S. war planners and spymasters are intensely interested in the Iraqi strongman's family ties. If Saddam is killed or somehow cut off, power would most likely pass to his sons, Uday and Qusay. It is hard to imagine how, but Saddam's male offspring, say a wide variety of sources, could be worse than the father. Their life stories, as pieced together largely from the accounts of defectors, are Gothic in their monstrosity.If Saddam is Don Corleone, then Uday is Sonny, the reckless, violent, oversexed heir apparent. And Qusay is Michael, the younger brother who is calmer, colder and ultimately more dangerous. A...
  • Palace Intrigue

    Bassam Qakish doesn't see what all the fuss is about. "The pharaohs built the pyramids, and nobody blamed them because thousands of people died, so what's the big deal about Saddam's palaces?" Qakish, who served as Jordan's ambassador to Baghdad in the early 1990s, is clearly a man in tune with the Iraqi dictator's grandiose way of thinking. But Qakish, who's been inside several of the royal abodes around the capital, didn't think they were any more opulent than, oh, Versailles or the great palazzos of Italy. "Why is everyone talking so much about his palaces?" Qakish wants to know.Simply put, Mr. Ambassador, it's a matter of war and peace. U.S. and U.N. officials claim Saddam Hussein might use his presidential compounds to hide weapons of mass destruction. These aren't, after all, just stately mansions. There are scores of official residences, and some are sprawling complexes that cover several square miles, with as many as 90 buildings. Amid waterfalls and man-made lakes in Saddam...
  • Flames Of Redemption

    One of your endearing qualities is your impatience," a suave and influential Saudi told some U.S. academics last week. But the Arabs are different from Americans, he warned. Arab leaders know what fragile old mosaics their societies really are. If one--say, Iraq--is shattered, others could crumble. So, is the United States ready to occupy Iraq to avert such chaos? "Does America have the staying power?" the Saudi asked. "Your history is that you don't." The essential message: only fools rush in where Arab leaders fear to tread; the invasion of Iraq could be the end of the Arab world as we know it."Good," say many young Arabs, and not just the firebrands. For them the question is not if their stagnant, stifling regimes can survive a war in Iraq, but whether they should. "America invades and everything falls apart? So what?" says a successful entrepreneur in Jordan, which is Iraq's most vulnerable neighbor. "Maybe things would be worse, but at least they'd be different."This is not to...
  • How Saddam Happened

    The last time Donald Rumsfeld saw Saddam Hussein, he gave him a cordial handshake. The date was almost 20 years ago, Dec. 20, 1983; an official Iraqi television crew recorded the historic moment. The once and future Defense secretary, at the time a private citizen, had been sent by President Ronald Reagan to Baghdad as a special envoy. Saddam Hussein, armed with a pistol on his hip, seemed "vigorous and confident," according to a now declassified State Department cable obtained by NEWSWEEK. Rumsfeld "conveyed the President's greetings and expressed his pleasure at being in Baghdad," wrote the notetaker. Then the two men got down to business, talking about the need to improve relations between their two countries.Like most foreign-policy insiders, Rumsfeld was aware that Saddam was a murderous thug who supported terrorists and was trying to build a nuclear weapon. (The Israelis had already bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak.) But at the time, America's big worry was Iran, not...
  • Storm Clouds

    When western diplomats in the Middle East talk among themselves, many compare the present moment to August 1914. Then, Europe was stumbling toward a cataclysm. So reckless was the rhetoric that a single terrorist act, an assassination in Sarajevo, would unleash the first world war. "There is a moment," says a U.S. State Department veteran, "when people are going about their daily lives, thinking things are bad but they'll get by. And then, from the morning to the afternoon, everything has changed and nothing will ever be the same." Ten years from now, the summer of 2002 may well be remembered as just such a moment for the Muslim world. Here's how the story will read:The U.S. war on Iraq was short. The dictator Saddam Hussein fell more quickly than expected. The aftermath was far worse. After the United States pulled out, Iraq quickly splintered along ethnic and religious lines: Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south, a Sunni majority in between. Saudi Arabia followed, as the oil...