Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • Nobody's Invincible

    It is the last of the good weather in Amman, just before the winter rains blow in from the sea beyond Jerusalem. In a few weeks the khamsin will begin: dirty, cold blasts of wind from the Iraqi desert. Standing on a balcony of his palace looking out over his city, King Hussein of Jordan already feels the chill. He has been gravely ill. He has. survived uncounted assassination attempts and six Middle East wars. But after a reign of four full decades-since he was a boy of 17-rarely has mortality weighed on him so heavily. ...
  • An Arab Woman Lifts The Veil

    What do we know-what can we know-about the women of Arabia? One may meet them abroad in Saks or Harrods dressed in Versace or Chanel, or exulting in the freedom of Marbella's discos and the cafes around Trocadero. Yet mostly their lives are as hidden from Western eyes as the inner sanctum of an 18th-century seraglio. News reports can hint at the frustrations of relatively "liberated" women in Kuwait clamoring for the right to vote-or, in Saudi Arabia, to drive. But only fiction could capture the arid surrealism of their daily routine. ...
  • The Princes Of Tides

    Matt Biondi and Tom Jager became the first U.S. swimmers to win gold medals in three different Olympics.Nobody was watching the men. Before the Games began, the stars of the American swim team were mostly girls: fresh, optimistic teenagers heading for their first Olympics. The men were mostly hard-timers, old-timers: a kid who was coming back from dope and drinking problems; an over-the-hill guy in law school; an irreverent son of evangelical Christians in North Carolina. One of the best men on the team lost his father after the Olympic trials in March, another had his dad die in the stands during the game's opening ceremonies. These men had a lot to remember, and a lot to forget, before they could win. But win they did, closing out the swim competition with a record-tying triumph in the 400-meter medley relay--and showing their less experienced teammates how losers can come back strong.The dazzling ingenues, by contrast, didn't match the high expectations that coaches, fans and the...
  • Springboard To Gold

    The youngest winner was 13-year-old Fu Mingxia of China in the women's 10m platform dive.The German diver hit the water with the splat of a bug on a windshield. The crowd at the Montjuic pool overlooking Barcelona groaned as Albin Killat's inward somersaults ended too late and he flat-out belly-flopped. His name on the scoreboard took a plunge, too, from the top to the bottom. " I felt bad for Albin," said the United States' Mark Lenzi. But the German's disaster cleared the way for Lenzi and China's Tan Liangde to begin a dazzling, risky duel in the sun to decide who would take home the gold from the three-meter board.The image of the two, airborne against the skyline, dive after dive, with the twisted spires of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in the background, was spectacular stuff for the fans in the bleachers. But for the divers themselves much of the battle was fought in their minds.Tan saw this as his last chance. In 1984 at Los Angeles, he had made it to just this point in the...
  • Murder On The Mediterranean

    Muhammad Boudiaf died with the word "Islam" on his lips. That was one of the few things known for sure last week about the assassination of Algeria's president after he was gunned down while addressing a rally. A 26-year-old presidential guard was the leading suspect; other members of his unit were detained for questioning. Still, the mystery of who was behind the murder remained, turning every Algerian into an amateur sleuth. Even the president's son spoke of conspiracy. " We have to know the truth," said Nacir Boudiaf. " Everybody has to know who killed him and why." But the country's yearlong political crisis has provided a surplus of candidates. ...
  • Not Their Finest Hour

    War reporters approach books about their coverage with much the same mix of curiosity and fear they would a battlefield souvenir: wary of booby traps, but intrigued. Inevitably they are suspicious of analysts who, braving the thunder of video combat and visiting newspaper morgues, second-guess the judgment of those who actually reported the conflict. ...
  • The Waiting Games Are Over

    For Ahab, it was the white whale. For Edmund Hillary, it was Everest. For Barcelona, the obsession has been hosting the Summer Olympics. Five times since 1924, the graceful, gorgeous capital of Catalonia has sought the Games. In 1936, frustrated by the advent of Berlin's Nazi Olympics, Barcelona scheduled an anti-Fascist competition-the Workers of the World Games. But the day before they were to begin, the Spanish Civil War broke out. Francisco Franco won the gold medal, held the prize for 36 years and lifted nary a finger as Barcelona slipped from the world stage. ...
  • The Power And The Glory Of 'La Bomba'

    Freeze Alberto Tomba in a camera frame and his secret becomes clear. It's power. Every muscle in the skier's body is straining, bulging out of his spandex bodysuit. Even his tongue is flexing. Other alpine greats brush past gates, attacking a slalom course with grace and rhythm. Italy's Tomba "La Bomba" comes on like an avalanche, leaving the poles rattling in his wake. List week he muscled his way into the record books, winning the giant slalom to become the first Olympic alpine champion to defend his gold successfully. Then, four days later, he won a silver in the regular slalom. After a disastrous first run, he came back with a vengeance, smashing the last flag like he'd crush a bug. "He's for sure the best racer here," marveled Finn Christian Jagge, the Norwegian who actually won the race. ...
  • New Age Games

    If Fellini had moonlighted for Ringling Brothers, this would have been his circus: 3,000 costumed dancers, 8 Alpha Jets exploding out of the snowcapped-mountain backdrop, performers (dressed as what seem to be rugs) tapdancing in every aisle for 33,000 spectators. It was the opening ceremonies of the 16th Winter Games, and it was showtime: 130 minutes of trapeze artists crossing trajectories in the night, human "Wind chimes" suspended from cables, "hockey players" on stilts and tumblers on trampolines. ...
  • Remodeling The Slopes

    The French Alps offered a holiday weekend from hell just days before Christmas. For 24 miserable hours, cars backed up--and piled up--in sclerotic masses clogging the narrow mountain valleys. Trains, too, failed to move. Avalanches thundered, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others and seriously damaging a small hotel at Val d'Isere. Thousands of hapless merrymakers were forced to sleep on cots far from their pricey, unreachable rooms at some of the Alps' most famous ski resorts. ...
  • The Year Of Spain

    Five centuries ago, two events on the Iberian Peninsula remade the known world: Spain expelled the Muslims from their last European stronghold and the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella sent an itinerant navigator named Columbus across the Atlantic. As the French intellectual Jacques Attali writes in his book "1492," in that year the Continent "launched itself on the conquest of the universe." The next 100 years would be remembered by Spaniards as their Golden Century. ...
  • Have We Got A Deal For You

    The first draft of the Palestinian speech to the Madrid conference was written by a poet, Mahmoud Darwish, who has composed many of Yasir Arafat's most important addresses. "It was a very beautiful speech," says Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab. "But it was impossible to translate." The Palestinians chose instead a text written in English by some of their most articulate Western-oriented strategists. Hanan Ashrawi, Mamdouh Aker and Nabil Shaath. It abandoned the words of the mosque, the rhetoric of the bazaar, the enormously evocative and enormously vague Arabic language itself--and used instead the kind of direct English spoken by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: "The occupier can hide no secrets from the occupied, and we are witness to the toll that occupation has ex; acted on you and yours,' chief Palestinian delegate Haidar Abdul Shafi told the Israelis. "Not for this have you nurtured your hopes, dreams and your offspring." ...
  • Behind The Insults

    In the Middle East, statecraft often comes down to stagecraft. Never was that more obvious than at last week's peace conference at the sumptuous Royal Palace in Madrid. Laboring for months beforehand, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker had prepared one of the great diplomatic spectacles of the decade. The actors were well known. The text called for a catharsis as the characters met in public for the first time. The result, Baker hoped, would be an atmospheric change that would allow Arabs and Israelis to set aside ancient grievances and clear the way for substantive talks. It didn't quite work out as planned. Both Israel and Syria staked out hard-line positions and the next day fell into trading personal insults and charges of terrorism. Tempers rose in the hot, close confines of the Hall of Columns. "You can write any script you want," said one weary Baker aide, "but you can never be sure these guys are going to follow it." ...
  • What If The Talks Aren't All Talk?

    If all the parties do is show up, the meeting between Israel and its Arab enemies that begins this week in Madrid will still be a spectacular symbol of progress in the Mideast peace process. But what if the talks actually began to shape a settlement? ...
  • Parlez-Vous Espionage?

    Settled into their comfy seats on an Air France flight to Paris, two American business executives begin talking about their company's marketing and technical plans. A private chat? Maybe not. According to NBC's "Expose" program last week, there may be microphones hidden in the seats. Alongside you may be a French government spy posing as a passenger or even--quelle horreur!--a flight attendant. All are allegedly working to ferret information that could benefit French companies. ...
  • A Little Quiet Diplomacy

    How do you negotiate without negotiating.? That question has plagued Washington ever since the hostage nightmare began in Lebanon nine years ago. Opposed on principle to dealing with terrorists, the United States is nonetheless obligated by politics and humanity to try to liberate its citizens. What's the best way to resolve the contradiction? It's not enough to lie. The Reagan administration's arms-for-hostages debacle proved that. ...
  • Mr. Peacemaker?

    Hafez Assad the Peacemaker? The role hardly squares with the Syrian leader's history of intrigue and terror, repression and war. Often he has been portrayed as a tyrant in the mold of Saddam Hussein, only more cunning. Yet last week Yitzhak Shamir was comparing Israel's most implacable enemy to Anwar Sadat. In fact, Assad is neither Saddam nor Sadat: the first was impulsive in war, the other in peace. Assad's every move is calculated. His game has a persistent logic, but its twists amaze even his own people. The latest gambit-accepting the U.S. plan for a Mideast conference-is the most striking yet. Assad even finds kind words for George Bush. In an interview last week with NEWSWEEK and The Washington Post, Assad praised the administration's "experience and enlightenment," adding: "It's good for the region and for the world." ...
  • Keeping Up Appearances Of Movement

    We cannot and should not let form dominate substance," Secretary of State James Baker cautioned last week as he wound up his second postwar tour of the Middle East. The words held a hint of frustration. Baker is looking for the elusive breakthrough in Arab-Israeli relations. All he has found so far is quibbling about procedures. Would there be a "regional" conference acceptable to Israel, or an "international" conference as the Arabs demand? "The adjective you put before the word conference is not anywhere near as important as whether the parties really want to sit down and hold negotiations for peace," Baker felt compelled to explain. ...
  • Could The Rebels Really Rule?

    The rebels who have risen up against Saddam Hussein have two powerful enemies. Saddam is one. The other is history. Theirs is a fractious past, full of vendettas and divisions threatening the very existence of the Iraqi nation - carved out of the old Ottoman Empire by Britain after World War I. King Faisal, installed by London in 1921, found his subjects "unimaginable masses of human beings, devoid of any patriotic idea, imbued with religious traditions and absurdities, connected by no common tie, giving ear to evil, prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatever." ...
  • Can Arafat Survive His Latest Blunder?

    One evening in 1985 the late PLO military commander Khalil al-Wazir was asked what the Palestine Liberation Organization had ever really done for its people. Normally mild-mannered, he responded with a tirade. "You don't know what it was like to live with the Egyptian boot on the back of your neck," he said. He talked about prisons in Syria, slaughter in Jordan, arid exile in the gulf. Not once did he mention Israel. What the PLO had done, said al-Wazir, was take the Palestinian movement away from Arab leaders who had exploited it for their own ends. The PLO had established its independence, nothing less. ...
  • No More 'Moral Victories'

    Two days into the rout of Saddam Hussein's Army, a man with a Texas accent called a restaurant in Jordan to order 200 pizzas for American soldiers in Iraq. The manager hung up. The caller phoned back, claiming to represent a radio station looking for reaction to the American victory. Didn't the proprietor support U.S. troops? No, in Jordan most people supported Saddam. Well, the Americans were in Iraq, said the voice from Texas, and they might just go to Jordan and put the people there back on their camels. Fadi Ghandour, one of the restaurant's owners, slammed down the phone. It was humiliating to confront such gloating. A sense of despair nagged at Ghandour. "What scares me," he said afterward, "is it's just starting." ...
  • The Blunderer From Baghdad

    Saddam Hussein had it all: the most powerful Army in the Arab world and 100 billion barrels of oil. His own population was under tight control. His ability to intimidate his neighbors was growing. Enemies abounded, but they found him impossible to eliminate. Israel chafed at the spectacle of his growing strength, especially his arsenal of chemical weapons and his nuclear program. But for the first time since 1948 it faced an Arab enemy it had to think twice about attacking. He was billions in debt, to be sure. But Saddam and his country had a bright future. It was Aug. 1. ...
  • Unquiet On The Western Front

    Only a handful of refugees cross the border from western Iraq to the Ruweished checkpoint each morning. Emergency camps set up to receive thousands who were expected to flee the war stand all but empty. A Palestinian economist who drove from Kuwait across Iraq last week offers a simple explanation. The last 200 miles of highway is "very dangerous," he says. "You can't believe how dangerous." Allied bombs have cratered the road's six lanes; tankers, vans and trucks full of furniture smolder along the shoulders. In Iraq, he says, "people would rather die in their homes than die on the road." ...
  • The Legend Of Saddam

    Khalid Khawaldi calls himself "the strategist." Sincere and dignified, he waves a hand to indicate the deployments of air force, infantry, cavalry. Here are the Iraqi divisions, there the Americans. "Inshallah, victory to Saddam," he proclaims. Then the air force giggles--and the battle of the Zahrat al-Madayen school playground begins. Arms raised as wings, the American planes zoom into action. The fighting is tough, its course chaotic, the casualties high, but the outcome is clear from the start. Khalid, 11, determines the winner, and in this Jordanian schoolyard the Iraqis never lose. "If it was for real," says Loai Muhammad, a 12-year-old picked for the American side, "we'd all have been with Iraq." ...
  • Rope-A-Dope In Baghdad

    Saddam Hussein has been preparing a long time for a long war. If there were no other clues to his strategy, his hideout might well tell the story. Built a decade ago by the Germans, this "fuhrerbunker' lies more than 50 feet beneath his Baghdad palace. It boasts such luxuries as a sauna and fourposter bed with a red silk canopy; such precautions as walls built to withstand atomic blasts--there are even toilets tested for radiation. According to one German report, 25 people "could live for a year without care" in its fortified recesses. ...
  • Caught In A Cross-Fire

    Fate put Yasir Arafat at a funeral when the war started. As Desert Storm thundered over Baghdad, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization was far away in Tunis, laying to rest a murdered comrade. Before a PLO bodyguard killed him, Salah Khalaf had warned that all Palestinians "are really in the cross-fire." He appreciated Saddam Hussein's efforts to dedicate the war to the Palestinian cause, Khalaf told a French newspaper. "But at the same time, I don't want my own cause to be associated with the destruction of the Arab region." The PLO could only watch Khalaf's worst fears take shape. As in the past, chaos and conflict threatened to leave the Palestinians helpless and alone. ...
  • Not Just A Case Of Trying To Save Face

    War. The word may not sound so bad to Saddam Hussein these days. He may in fact see it as his last chance to come out ahead in the current crisis. By taking on a superpower and holding out for weeks or even months, he would have gone into the ring with the champ. No one expects him to win. Fighting well is enough. Survival would be a triumph. ...
  • Still Searching For A Way To Avoid War

    Is Saddam Hussein looking for a peaceful way out of his standoff with tine: west? One man who thinks so is King Hussein of Jordan, who may: understand the Iraqi leader better than most. Alone among leaders leaders, the king took Saddam's: talk of a stike on Kuwait seriously before the: invasion. He knew Saddam wasn't the king to bluff. Now, the king says, Saddam is searching for a way to avoid war. "There's a very, very clear wish for a peaceful solution to the problem," the king told NEWSWEEK. ...
  • The 'Near War' And 'The Bedouin Way'

    No war, but near war," is the way one senior Jordanian official summarizes the strategy of the West and its allies in the gulf: brinkmanship meant to intimidate Saddam Hussein into unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Last week's talk of deploying perhaps 100,000 additional U.S. troops was one more way of turning up the heat on the Iraqi strongman. So, too, were CIA director William Webster's off-the-record but widely repeated remarks that the West is unlikely to get out of the impasse without a fight. Friends of Francois Mitterrand weighed in, telling reporters the French president thinks war is "imminent." ...
  • 'Taking Out The Cancer'

    Lookouts whistle in warning when the unmarked police car enters an apartment block in the fetid Panama City slum of Curundu. Two Panamanian cops emerge, sweating and anxious. The apartments above them bristle with grenades and machine guns. On an earlier patrol, someone threw a body from an upper-story window--perhaps as a warning. "This is the most dangerous area we have," says Sgt. Javier Batista, scanning the rooftops while holding a pump-action 12-gauge. "If someone starts firing from up here, a shotgun won't reach them." As the Panama Defense Forces under Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, they always entered the area well armed. Now demoted to civilian police by their American occupiers, they carry only shotguns and sidearms. The U.S. servicemen who accompany them appear unsympathetic. American military adviser Joseph Guilmette says he draws his gun "on a daily basis" in the barrios. "We get shot at. It's no big deal. It's part of the job." ...