Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • In The Name Of God

    Amid the wanton slaughter of 40,000 Muslims and Jews, Christian knights "rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins," reported a witness to the Crusaders' conquest of Jerusalem in 1099. "It was a just and splendid judgment of God." In the nine centuries since, the sword and shield have given way to belt-bombs and battle tanks, but the righteous violence remains. A 20-year-old Jewish settler praying outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron last week would understand it. "This is the center of the Jewish nation," he said, wrapped in a white prayer shawl down to his ankles. "I pray to get rid of the Arabs and return the whole of Hebron to its rightful owners." (A couple of miles away is the grave of another Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, who shared that dream. He murdered 29 Muslim worshipers in 1994 before he himself was killed.) And 19-year-old Zidan Muhammad Vazani would have understood too. His passion for God--for Allah--led him to a billiard hall on the Israeli coast...
  • Mideast: Schmoozing Ahead

    The last time Yasir Arafat shook the hand of Colin Powell, the Palestinian leader played the moment for all the desperate drama he could. Arafat was under siege in his shell-shattered, sewage-stinking compound surrounded by Israeli tanks. "We are prepared to die," he said. "Who knows? This may be our last meeting." But if Arafat was hoping for sympathy, that's not what he got. Powell repeated the same point he'd been making for two hours. If Arafat kept encouraging suicide bombers, nobody was going to save him. "You are going down a dangerous path," warned Powell. Two weeks later Arafat was going down the path outside his compound--and flashing the V-for-victory sign in the bright Ramallah sun. President Bush had set him free.What happened in between was a chronology of diplomatic feints and compromises fit to fill a foreign-service textbook. But key to the process were the one-on-one relations Bush has built with other players in this savage confrontation, especially the Saudis. As...
  • A New Republic?

    France awoke this morning as if from a nightmare. Ultra-rightist presidential challenger Jean-Marie Le Pen, portrayed by much of the French press as a fascist, racist ogre threatening the future of Gallic democracy, had just been defeated at the polls by an overwhelming 82 percent of the vote. Incumbent President Jacques Chirac, a conservative Gaullist who rode the anti-Le Pen tsunami to reelection, quickly appointed a caretaker government until parliamentary elections next month. The new prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, is a businessman-turned-politician from Poitou-Charentes, one of the least tumultuous parts of the country. His soft smile, easy manner and the fact that he's almost unknown were reassuring after the specter of demagoguery that haunted France these last few weeks.But the long night of French democracy is not yet over. Le Pen and his ilk (including former aide Bruno Megret) have qualified to run candidates in at least 319 constituencies when France votes for the...
  • A New Fear Factor

    Annie Levy, 36, likes to say that her hometown of Bondy on the eastern outskirts of Paris "is a little picture of France." But the picture isn't a very pretty one these days. Last year the synagogue was burned. Last month a masked gang armed with baseball bats, iron rods and petanque balls set upon a local Jewish soccer club. Some of the attackers, whose identities still have not been discovered by police, wore the black-checked scarves of Palestine and shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is great). Then last week ultrarightist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has called the Holocaust "a detail of history" and punned on the name of a Jewish politician, which included the French word for "oven," made it into the runoff elections for president of France.Nobody expects Le Pen to win against incumbent Jacques Chirac in the May 5 vote. The left and center-right are now united against him. Yet whatever Le Pen's final count, the bluff, brawling 73-year-old paratrooper turned politician has brought...
  • A Town Divided

    Annie Levy, 36, likes to say that her hometown of Bondy on the eastern outskirts of Paris "is a little picture of France." But the picture isn't a very pretty one these days. Last year the synagogue was burned. Last month young men in a local Jewish soccer club were set upon by a masked gang using baseball bats, iron rods and even petanque balls as weapons. Some of the attackers, whose identities still have not been discovered by police, wore the black-checked scarves of Palestine and shouted, "Allahu akbar" (God is great). Then came last week's success for the ultrarightist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has called the Holocaust "a detail of history" and punned on the name of a Jewish politician whose name included the French word for "oven."The understandable reaction in places like Bondy is fear. "People are scared," says Levy, who works as a secretary for the municipal sports association. And while tremors have swept through all the "foreign" communities, many of the 400 Jewish...
  • Europe's Dirty Secret

    The smoke spewing from the Leuna oil refinery in eastern Germany is cleaner than it used to be. In the bad old days of communism, it stank up the air, polluted the water and nobody cared. Today a different sort of foulness lingers. In a personal deal between former chancellor Helmut Kohl and the late French president Francois Mitterrand, Leuna was sold in 1992 to France's oil giant, Elf Aquitaine. To help rebuild the plant, the Germans plunged euro 750 million into the company--and euro 40 million of Elf's money promptly disappeared into the private accounts of two German lobbyists with ties to the Kohl government. Elf's executives have since told French prosecutors that the kickbacks were passed along to German politicians for arranging the deal. As for German prosecutors, they've spent years dodging jurisdiction in the case--and so the scandal festers.Leuna's millions are only a small bit of a cancer that is rotting the heart of Europe. Open a newspaper in recent weeks, and it's...
  • Jam Jar Politics

    Some scandals are just too delicious, and those linked to French President Jacques Chirac are, well, especially juicy. As one of his rivals once said, "Chirac can have his mouth full of jam, his fingers covered with it, the pot can be standing open in front of him, and when you ask if he's a jam eater he'll say: 'Me, eat jam?' "In other countries or cultures, that might not be acceptable behavior. But in France, there's a certain charm in cheating, and Chirac is nothing if not charming. In his re-election race against the rather humorless socialist Lionel Jospin, the reason most people give for voting for Chirac is that he's just more sympathique. It's not that evidence implicating him in several different scandals hasn't been reported. It has, extensively. But Chirac's foibles, it would seem, are ones his people find easy to understand. He epitomizes the culture from which corruption comes, and exemplifies the reasons it's so hard to eliminate. Even in grade schools, cheating is...
  • Middle East: A Blueprint For Peace

    Adnan Attiyah is still shaky after his ordeal in a West Bank town under assault by the Israeli Army. "We couldn't get out the door, couldn't look out the window," he says. But after almost two weeks in the besieged Palestinian city of Ramallah, he and his family finally made it to Israel's sprawling Hadassah Hospital, where his 7-year-old son will have a bone-marrow transplant. The hospital, on a hill outside Jerusalem, is a refuge of compassion and coexistence."When you balance between peace and war, who is the human being--what kind of values would he have--to choose war?" asks Attiyah, a 42-year-old language teacher. "Only killing comes out of that. Only hate." All this could be over, he said, if Israelis and Palestinians could live in peace "in two states."Israeli specialist Dr. Reuven Or--a religious settler living on the occupied West Bank--will perform the procedure on Attiyah's son. Dr. Or also believes that coexistence is possible. "In here it's very peaceful, very...
  • Inside Suicide, Inc.

    Little boys love to play soldier. They want so badly to look like men, standing at attention in their crinkly little camouflage fatigues, trying to harden their soft eyes and their baby-toothed grins and show they're not really as powerless as they almost always feel. In other generations, in other places, they have been cowboys conquering the Wild West or Jedi knights up against the Empire. In the Israeli-occupied territories today, they're would-be suicide bombers killing Israelis. And unlike most little boys and girls, for whom the games of war are passing fantasies, the children of Palestine are taught by everything and everyone around them that they'll have their chance. When they grow up they'll trade their cardboard bombs for real ones, and kill the real Israelis who man the omnipresent checkpoints, who intimidate and humiliate their parents, or fight their brothers in the streets."They want to be martyrs even if they don't know the meaning of the word," says Muhammad Abu...
  • The Once &Amp; Future Petro Kings

    The kings of oil are the Saudis, now and until the wells run dry. Of late the sheiks have been cast as the wobbling heads of a withering oil cartel, weakening next to a rising Russian petro power, as Iraq waits in the wings to usurp their place in Arabia. Dream on. There's some truth to the image of a declining desert monarchy: Saudi oil clout is not quite as absolute as it used to be, and the proliferating Saudi people are less prosperous. But there are some basic facts on the ground, and under it, that just can't be ignored. The Saudis not only sit on the greatest share of global reserves, they are also the only nation with so much spare production capacity they can flood the oil markets any time. As one Saudi official boasts, "We can always turn on the faucet and really screw the other producers."Nobody knows better how to use the oil weapon. But the Saudis are much more likely to screw their fellow oil suppliers these days (including and especially the Russians) than they are to...
  • 'If War Spreads, It Will Be Israel's Responsibility'

    The Arab "peace" summit in Beirut is over. The war between Israel and the Palestinians is getting worse. And fears are growing that the conflict will widen to engulf Israel's neighbors, threaten oil prices, perhaps even reach out to threaten Americans. So Saud Al Faisal was in a pensive mood when he sat down to talk with NEWSWEEK during a brief stopover in Paris on Monday. The American-educated prince, son of the late King Faisal, has been the country's foreign minister since 1975. Few people in the region know the nuances of its diplomacy--or the dangers of its confrontations--better than he does.Newsweek: First of all let me ask you about Iraq. The summit in Beirut seemed to be sending a pretty clear message that if the United States wants to attack Iraq, this isn't the time--and there may never be a time.Saud Al Faisal: What is the issue, the attack or the objectives of the attack? The objective of the attack is to bring Iraq around to implementing the United Nations resolutions,...
  • How Will Israel Survive?

    Israel Still Has The Strongest Military In The Mideast, But The Threat Now Comes From Within.
  • And Now, A Glimmer Of Hope

    Bill Clinton and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia were talking a few weeks ago about war, of which there's a lot in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and peace, which seemed to be nowhere on the horizon, especially since September 11. Clinton started laying out details of the last Israeli-Palestinian talks on his watch, which had been held at the little Egyptian resort of Taba. Acre by acre, yard by yard, compromises were made until the hottest debate was about a few feet of sacred soil beneath the holiest sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Finally the talks collapsed. Otherwise the Palestinians were set to get sovereignty over their holy places and their neighborhoods in the Old City. They'd have an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital on about 96 percent of the lands now occupied. Some refugees would be repatriated and others would be compensated. There'd be peace. As the former president explained all of this to the Saudi, according to one account of the meeting...
  • Where Are You Now Charles De Gaulle?

    Valery Giscard d'Estaing descended into an inferno of his own making last week, a little hell called Vulcania. The vast new museum-cum-amusement-park devoted to seismic excitements is in France's nowhere land, the Auvergne, where cattle roam rolling hillsides and the last volcanic eruption was, oh, about 7,000 years ago. But in France, old politicians never quit politicking, and Giscard, president of the republic from 1974 to 1981, is now head of Auvergne's regional council. Vulcania has been his pet project for a decade: a 109 million euro extravaganza, most of which comes out of the taxpayers' pockets. He calls this tourist trap a dream come true. "Happiness is seeing something you've wished for achieved at last," he says.Much of the French press calls it a nightmare of cost overruns imposed by Giscard's will, an underground labyrinth leading nowhere that anyone really wants to go. And what's the 76-year-old politician's next project? Europe.This week he opens the constitutional...
  • Smoke And Mirrors

    Ever tried to find the Maldives on a map of the world? They look like flyspecks on the Indian Ocean: coral and sand atolls where 270,000 people live at a maximum altitude of, oh, about five feet above sea level. Or maybe a lot less. In fact, the islands are disappearing before the residents' very eyes. So grim is the situation that the Ministry of Tourism once considered making the national slogan "Come see us while we're still here." There may be many reasons the coral is dying, the sea is rising and the beaches are washing away. Climate science is imprecise. But ever since President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's car almost got swept into the water by a freak wave in 1987 and he almost drowned, he has been very, very interested in the possibility that man-made pollution is behind the world's warming, the polar ice caps' melting and the sea's encroaching. In 1992 he told U.S. President George H. W. Bush, "A few feet of rise is the end of our country." Bush the father replied, "Mr....
  • The Continent's Misplaced Hysteria

    By whatever lingua franca, "unilateralist" has become Europe's latest dirty word. But there's also a word to describe European reactions to America's go-it-alone policy toward Iraq and possibly Iran or North Korea. That's hysteria, and it seems to be contagious. ...
  • The Iran Connection

    This is where the Marines were," says Amin Sabah, 45, as he looks out across an empty parking lot near Beirut airport. The U.S. troops were in a building they thought was well protected that morning of Oct. 23, 1983. Sabah was parked in his taxi, waiting for a fare a few hundred yards away. "There was a huge explosion. Huge!" he remembers. "Everything was red." He gestures with his hand as though he's sorting packages on a shelf, but in his mind he sees the corpses. "They put them all next to each other." The final body count was 241 U.S. soldiers killed. Until September 11, it was the worst suicide attack Americans had ever experienced. Sabah thinks in silence for a moment. "I don't remember why they were here," he says of the ill-fated Marines. ...
  • Fears In The 'Un-America'

    The Statue Of Liberty once looked out over the rooftops of Paris. "Liberty Enlightening the World," as the sculptor called it, was assembled in 1883 a short walk from the Champs-Elysees, then shipped to New York. It was a gift from France to the United States, from the Old World to the New, in appreciation of all the ideals that Americans seemed to represent in those days, and that Europe was inclined to forget. The United States was building democracy, free speech, equal justice, the rule of law--the "nonnegotiable" universal values President George W. Bush says he's fighting for today--while one horrific conflict after another swept the Continent in the 19th century, and the two most horrible wars, and the Holocaust, were yet to come in the 20th. ...
  • Bin Laden's Twisted Mission

    When Osama bin Laden proclaimed his "Jihad against Crusaders and Jews" in 1998, he knew he was on shaky religious ground. This was his declaration of "Holy War" to justify bombing U.S. embassies in Africa a few months later and, eventually, the attacks of September 11. It was his theological license "to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they are found." And it was based on a lie: that Islam itself was under attack by the United States, that "crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his messenger and Muslims." The fact that Americans defended Muslims against the likes of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic was ignored because, for bin Laden's bloody-minded purposes, it had to be. ...
  • Next Year In Baghdad

    Set yourself up as Saddam Hussein's worst enemy and you've got to be very courageous, very crazy or some kind of scam artist. Ahmed Chalabi, 57, has been called all of the above. He's also been dubbed a genius--even by his detractors--and a Machiavellian plotter who wants to drag the United States, one way or another, into a new war against the Butcher of Baghdad. ...
  • Revered--And Yet Repressed

    In the cosmos as defined by Osama bin Laden, men and women have very clear roles. Men are the warriors, and the foremost among them become martyrs. For their sacrifice, they are promised 72 virgins in the afterlife. It's up to their mothers, wives and sisters to help guide them toward jihad, and then to mourn for them when they're gone. The men in turn should fight for the "honor" of the women. On page five of the Qaeda training manual, recruits are encouraged to take a pledge to "the sister believer whose clothes the criminals have stripped off" and "whose body has been abused." The men must "retaliate for you against every dog who touches you even with a bad word." ...
  • Unity After The Euro?

    If you call Jacques Delors the father of the euro, he tries to be modest. "Well, one of them," he says. But he's the man. In the 1980s, as head of the European Commission, Delors wrestled the Continent's politicians and central bankers into line for the creation of a single market with a common currency. He is a mastermind of European "convergence," the sorcerer of "spillover" from economic to political integration. So last week, when hundreds of millions of euros ceased to be accounting notions and started to jingle in European pockets, Delors should by rights have been celebrating. But no. Instead he fretted, as Americans like to say, about "the vision thing."For Europe to build on the euro's success, said Delors, "there's got to be vision, and heart, and pragmatism," none of which he sees in great abundance on the Continental scene today. And when he does cite a leader he thinks "has those qualities," he names not a Frenchman or a German but, of all people, British Prime Minister...
  • Mohamed Khatami

    It was Mohamed Khatami's smile that won the votes of Iranians, and his tears that won their hearts. He's a complicated man, this son of an ayatollah, this mullah and revolutionary intellectual who is president of Iran. When he first sought the office in 1997, his affable grin looked like a ray of light after years of the late Ayatollah Khomeini's scowling face. Young people--the vast majority of Iranians--embraced his calls for a "civil society" that accepted Islam as the foundation of government, but rejected brutality in the name of God. Khatami won by a landslide. And there was never any doubt he would be re-elected when he ran for a second term last June. Yet when Khatami announced his candidacy, he wept. Just as his smile reflected Iranians' hopes, his tears reflected their frustrations."He still regrets accepting the nomination," a close associate of Khatami's tells NEWSWEEK. "He couldn't turn people down. He was their only choice." Ironically, Iran's president may also be the...
  • Let The Games Begin

    Row upon row of terminals fill the cavernous hall. This could be NASA's mission control in Houston, or a war room buried in a mountain somewhere near Washington, D.C., so intense are the cathode-illuminated faces, so passionate the life-and-death struggles played out on the screens. The terminals, and huge video displays overhead, show a vast empire spreading around the globe. Strategic positions are staked out in outer space. Terrorists square off against counterterrorists, and video gunmen scramble through labyrinthine alleys blasting evildoers to blood-soaked cyber-smithereens. And, oh yeah, there are a lot of soccer players, too.Such was the scene at the first World Cyber Games, held at a convention center in Seoul this month. Beneath three overlapping Olympic-style rings, 400 competitors from 37 countries promised "fair play for friendship and harmony," then grabbed their keyboards and mice and started (virtually) blowing one another away.Some call this sort of thing escapism,...
  • Practical Policing

    Who's on the front line in the global war on terror? The cops. They don't have multimillion-dollar drones to zap evil-doers from miles away. They look at the terrorists eye to eye in the mean streets of Cairo, Egypt, or Jersey City, New Jersey, and most often their only weapons are pistols and night-sticks.Cops are also in the fight for the long haul. Unlike troops in distant places, they never get a chance to declare victory and walk away. And while the American public and Congress gird for bio-terror and suitcase nukes, U.S. police and security forces haven't forgotten that the hijackings of Sept. 11 were carried out with box cutters. They know that the difference between life and death in the real world of counter-terrorism may depend more on a lowly flashlight or a folding stepladder than the latest high technology. So the International State Security Show (Milipol), a major exposition of the latest hardware for the forces of order held in Paris this week, showed a cop-on-the...
  • The Saudi Game

    The call came at about 10 on the night of Sept. 12, some 36 hours after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. On the telephone was a high-ranking CIA official (probably the director, George Tenet), and his news was all bad: American intelligence believed that possibly as many as 16 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. "I felt as if the Twin Towers had just fallen on my head," recalled Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The ebullient prince knew that Americans would immediately blame Saudi Arabia for contributing so heavily to Al Qaeda's suicide squad. Bandar has spent the past 28 years carefully--and successfully--cultivating U.S.-Saudi relations, but he could see that his hardest work lay ahead.Bandar might have had another, deeper worry, though not one he would ever confess, certainly not to a Western journalist. If so many members of the suicide squad were Saudi citizens, how many more of them might be out there, ready to...
  • New Faces In Al Qaeda Hierarchy

    The language picked up on the Spanish phone taps was cryptic and frightening. A mysterious figure, code-named Shakur, was talking to the alleged leader of Osama bin Laden's clandestine organization in Madrid. The date was August 27, 15 days before suicide hijackers attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "I've cut all my communications and I'm calmer psychologically," said Shakur. "At the moment I'm doing something, I'm giving classes," he said, and he wouldn't be back in Spain for a month or so. "In the classes, we've entered into the field of aviation and we've even slit the bird's throat."Based on this and other evidence, Spanish Prosecutor Baltasar Garzon states in a court document made public today that a terrorist cell based in Madrid was "directly related to the preparation and carrying out of the attacks" on Sept. 11. The document, which remands eight suspects to prison to await trial, also reveals intelligence about key links among Mohammed Atta's group of...
  • A Lost Cause?

    Rage turns quickly to disappointment in the Arab world. Already, the hot air that buoyed Osama bin Laden's jihad against the West has begun to chill. This week, as headlines flash news of the Taliban's retreat, the sophisticates in the cafes of Beirut and on the beaches of Dubai are assigning bin Laden's name to the dubious pantheon of leaders who've raised Arab hopes, then sent them crashing down. There's the suave nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and '60s; fierce-eyed Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s; Saddam Hussein in 1990; and now Osama.Today's still unconfirmed reports that Mohammed Atef has been killed and that the Taliban are abandoning even their stronghold in Kandahar are seen as confirmation that the fight may soon be over. "People are too jaded, they are too tired," says a market researcher in the United Arab Emirates. "They were willing to celebrate him for a little while, and then 'Enough!' There goes another one." Even in Pakistan, the stridently anti...
  • Sleeping With The Enemy?

    Once upon a time the ogres of international terror were known to all: Libya's leader, Muammar Kaddafi, was branded the most dangerous man in the world, a lunatic who thought nothing of blowing up a Pan Am 747 out of the sky over Scotland. Syria's secret services nurtured hijackers and suicide bombers. Iran's mullahs inspired suicidal zealots to attack American embassies and blow up a barracks full of Marines. Sudan's radical Islamist leaders gave asylum to the infamous Carlos, and shelter to no less than Osama bin Laden himself.The State Department still lists all four countries as state sponsors of terror. Yet when President George W. Bush told the world after September 11, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," leaders in Libya, Syria, Iran and Sudan may have heard a summons to repent. They're certainly not full-fledged members of what Secretary of State Colin Powell calls "this rather incredible coalition." But in ways that might have seemed unimaginable two...
  • Eying The Next Fronts

    The police joined the war before the soldiers. So did the narcs. And the spies. Afghanistan may be a new battlefield to American troops, but it is only one front in the struggle against globalized terror. The war was going on long before the suicide attacks of Sept. 11, and will endure long after the last bomb is dropped on Kandahar. What's new is the realization that so many guerrillas, terrorists and common criminals in so many different places have been drawn into the complex web of terror surrounding Osama bin Laden. And many of the cops, commandos, narcotics agents, covert operatives and common soldiers who once fought lonely battles in their own far-off lands are now being enlisted by Washington for its war on terror.Problems that once seemed parochial now matter to the rest of the world--from homegrown jihads to organized crime. When it comes to thugs and thuggery, it really is a small world after all. For example, in a recent report to NATO, Gwen McClure, an FBI agent...
  • Confronting The Mob

    In the Nasser neighborhood of the Gaza Strip, a few dozen men sit on white plastic chairs and sip bitter coffee at a wake for 13-year-old Abdullah al-Ifranji. The boy had been struck in the head by a policeman's bullet. Two days earlier, shortly after leaving his school across from the Islamic University, he walked into the middle of a violent demonstration. Handwritten condolences from Hamas, the radical Islamic group, hang on every wall of the house.Just another grim scene to come out of the Palestinian territories--or so you might think. But there is one difference. No Israelis were involved in the killing of Abdullah and two others that day. For the first time since the yearlong intifada began, Palestinian policemen shot down their own people with live ammunition. The confrontation started when Palestinians rallied in the thousands to support Osama bin Laden and denounce the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan. Yasir Arafat, fearing he would lose the sympathy of President George W. Bush...
  • 'America Has To Face Reality'

    Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose nervous ego matches his enormous fortune, should have known better. Before the billionaire investor (Citicorp, Disneyland Paris, Four Seasons Hotels) went to visit Ground Zero in New York City on Oct. 11, some of his friends cautioned him to keep his message simple--and sympathetic. Decked out in full Saudi regalia, he observed the devastation and handed New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani a check for $10 million to benefit the victims' families. But in a press release and subsequent interviews, bin Talal couldn't stay on message. He kept talking about an American bias toward Israel and Palestinian anger. By the end of the day, Giuliani had sent back the check. NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey met with bin Talal after he returned to Saudi Arabia. Excerpts:Prince Alwaleed bin Talal: No, never. Giuliani should never have politicized the matter.Look, America has to face reality if they don't want to fight terrorism for the next 100 years. You're going to...