Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • Seeing The Evil In Front Of Us

    The moment of confrontation had come. President Bush warned Saddam Hussein that if he continued to interfere with United Nations weapons inspectors and to shoot at American warplanes over Iraq, he would have to pay the consequences. So Islamic radicals from all over the Middle East, Africa and Asia converged on Baghdad to show their solidarity with Iraq in the face of American aggression. Chechens in Persian-lamb hats, Moroccans in caftans, delegates who hailed "from Jakarta to Dakar," as one Senegalese put it, poured into Baghdad's Rashid Hotel, where Saddam's minions urged them to embrace jihad as "the one gate to Paradise." And the greatest holy warrior of all? "The mujahed Saddam Hussein, who is leading this nation against the nonbelievers," they were told. "Everyone has a task to do, which is to go against the American state," declared Saddam's deputy Ezzat Ibrahim. The Americans had colonized Lebanon; they had colonized Saudi Arabia. But the line against them would be drawn in...
  • Is Europe Broken?

    Valery Giscard d'Estaing set three goals for his summer vacation this month. The erudite former French president, now 76, plans to go walking in the Loire Valley. He will perfect his studies of the Chinese language, and once again he will plow through the hundreds of pages of treaties and agreements that are the foundation for the European Union. "It takes a month just to read those texts," he says, and Mandarin is sometimes easier to understand. But as chairman of the European Union's constitutional convention, he figures it's his job to pare those pyramids of paperwork down to some "30 or 35 pages in all"--something that's at once comprehensive and comprehensible, not to mention digestible, just like "the other great constitutions" of the world.Can it be done? If not, Giscard tells NEWSWEEK, he doesn't see much future for the European Union. "Right now," he says, "the system has gone..." He stops himself. Is he about to say "gone bad"? Or maybe has reached the point of being ...
  • 'What Do You Want The Palestinians To Do?'

    One of the most respected voices in Palestinian politics is neither a member of the Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority nor of the Islamist party Hamas, but of the Israeli Knesset. Azmi Bishara is a Christian Arab activist and Israeli citizen from Nazareth whose unflinching criticism of Israel's government has made him a hero to Arabs on both sides of the Green Line and, thanks to satellite television, throughout much of the Muslim world.His point of view has brought down the wrath of the Israeli government: In May his parliamentary immunity was lifted, and he is due in court in September to answer to charges of sedition and "incitement to violence." Yet Bishara's greatest talent is at operating within the democratic framework-a skill few other Palestinians have been able to acquire, much less to master. On a recent visit to Paris, Bishara sat down with NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey to talk about the future of Israel, of Palestine, of Yasir Arafat and democracy in the Middle East. ...
  • The Fire That Won't Die Out

    The fire started among thrown-away books and papers. One of the teenagers at Girls' Intermediate School No. 31 in Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, was sneaking a cigarette before classes. A hall monitor spotted her on the trash-strewn landing at the top of the stairs and she tossed the butt away. Twenty minutes later, teachers smelled smoke. One shouted, "Fire!" Within seconds, panic more intense than the flames swept through the school. About 750 girls from the ages of 13 to 17 poured into the single narrow stairwell, but the door at the bottom--the door to the air and light--was locked and chained. The only person with a key was a man, an illiterate guard who'd left on a menial errand, closing everyone inside. The electricity went off. Screaming, suffocating girls began to die in the dark.It got worse fast. Firefighters and ambulances arrived in short order, probably before anyone had died. But according to eyewitness reports, a member of the muttawa, zealous vigilantes who...
  • Art: Lands Blessed And Cursed

    The 19th-century Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz once famously lamented, "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States!" The problem of the Muslim world is rather the reverse. No other lands are so sacred to so many--and have been for so long--as those now in the realms of Islam: deserts, mountains and riverbanks where the Book of the Dead and the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Talmud, the Gospel and the Qur'an were inspired. They have long had a claim on the faith of those who are religious, the imagination of those who are not.But they have also been cursed by violence. From the 1980s, when airliners and even a cruise ship were hijacked, to the savage 1997 massacre of 58 vacationers in Luxor, to the beheading of an American tourist in the southern Philippines last year, the Muslim world has made headlines to horrify the most intrepid traveler. U.S. citizens are not the only victims, certainly. But Americans are the big spenders--and the big targets--and long before September...
  • Road Wars

    The smoke has long since cleared from the narrow, two-lane tunnel beneath Mont Blanc where 39 people were burned to death or suffocated in March 1999. And the smoke has cleared, too, from the bonfires lit by protesters hoping to stop the 11-kilometer passage from reopening to heavy truck traffic last month. But as thousands of the big rigs roll in and out of the mountain every day, they are bringing with them the smell of trouble.The dangers of transporting freight by road are clear: 12 people died in Austria's Tauern Tunnel in May 1999, another 11 were killed in Switzerland's Saint-Gothard last October after trucks crashed and caught fire. Yet the fact remains that Europe's single market for goods and services is expanding faster than common-sense policies about how to move those goods around. The EU is expected to add 10 more Eastern European members by the end of 2004; by 2010, the European Commission predicts transcontinental freight traffic will have risen 50 percent, and much...
  • The Man In The Hot Seat

    France's new prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, didn't make it to the summit in Seville last week. As Europe's heads of state waited out an air-traffic controllers' strike that crippled the Continent, then braved Spain's marching workers, Raffarin penciled Fete de la Musique onto his schedule. Each year at this time, France devotes a day and night to dancing, singing and concert-watching in the streets. And while the rotund Raffarin, 53, may not look like he was born to boogie, he just loves French pop. "When a meeting goes on too long," says one old friend, "he breaks into an impersonation of [French rocker Johnny] Hallyday."So it was that Raffarin positioned himself in rural Le Puy last week, far from the geopolitical fray of Seville, where President Jacques Chirac held sway. Was this a spontaneous bit of self-indulgence? The discreet reticence of a loyal No. 2 in France's new conservative government? More like cool political calculation. Raffarin knows the serious challenges...
  • Tempest In A Coffee Cup

    It took a couple of minutes for the Saudi newspaper editor to notice that his 21-year-old daughter was standing outside the Starbucks window. Veiled, as most women are on the street in Jeddah, she was gesturing furiously for him to come talk.He excused himself from his majlis, as he calls his morning coffee klatsch with friends. "How could you?" his American-educated daughter demanded. The editor was a little puzzled. "Don't you know," she scolded, "that the CEO of Starbucks is a terrible Zionist?" Actually, the editor hadn't given it much thought. "Promise me," said his daughter, "you'll never drink coffee here again." And so, since April, the editor has been finding his cappuccinos elsewhere-though he admits he still misses Starbucks.These days, such scenes are common throughout the Arab and Islamic world, and Starbucks is only one of the targets. Since last spring, any product identified with the United States-and therefore with American support for Israel-may suddenly find...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...