Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • While The Sun Shines

    The government of France is on vacation just now, scattered to the beaches of the Atlantic, the hills of Tuscany, the islands of the Indian Ocean. And the government sets the tone for everyone else. About 80 percent of Parisians abandon the capital in August. Four million cars more than normal hit the road the first weekend of the month. So deserted is the city that parking places have been discovered in the Latin Quarter.Of course a few people, like us, are still working. But we promise not to let that cloud our judgment. We have seen the future in France, and it is vacation--whether we want it or not.The French, who already work 41 fewer days on average than Americans, are about to take more time off. In the high-pressure global economy, this sounds like suicidal sloth. But is the French economy in the dumps? Au contraire: growth is up and unemployment is finally falling. What's going on? Well, maybe the best way to understand this--and it takes some explaining, so please, have a...
  • Seeds Of Carnage

    Imagine a crate full of soft-drink cans, about 200 of them. Imagine the crate is falling from the sky and spills its contents hundreds of feet in the air. The cans sprout little rubbery parachutes. Slowly, they drift toward the ground. As they hit, they start to explode. Some blast out razor-sharp shrapnel. Others are hot enough to bore through metal before they blow up. And some--between 5 and 30 percent--don't detonate at all. They just lie there on the ground, or hang from their parachutes in tree branches, or drift in lakes and seas. Many are bright yellow--very inviting, especially for kids. Until, at some moment impossible to predict, they explode.That's a cluster bomb. The United States dropped more than 1,100 of them on Kosovo this spring: that is, 1,100 "dispensers" containing a total of more than 200,000 "bomblets," as the soda-can-sized explosives are called. The British dropped hundreds more. Others were jettisoned into the Adriatic by Allied pilots who deemed it unsafe...
  • Is It Payback Time For Ethnic Cleansing?

    Slobodan Milosevic wanted an ethnically pure Kosovo. He's now likely to see one--but it will be ethnically Albanian, not Serb. As NATO troops moved into the province last week, local Serbs streamed out. In fact, steady numbers have been leaving throughout the last year. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 300 Serbian villages have been deserted since January; and as many as one third of the province's 200,000 Serbs have fled the fighting, most of them into Serbia. The rest may soon follow. ...
  • A Test Of Survival

    A rowdy pack of young Serbs came parading through downtown Belgrade late last week like vengeful football thugs after a losing game. "Slobo! Pizdo! Kosovo si izd'o!" they chanted. "Slobo, you [wimp]! You sold out Kosovo!" Bystanders nodded and smiled. Outside a fashionable cafe a businessman softly applauded, almost as if greeting the opening bars of a well-remembered song. The words were much the same four years ago--only then it was the loss of Krajina, the Serb enclave in eastern Croatia, that angry Serbs were blaming on Slobodan Milosevic. Back in 1995 more than 200,000 Serbs fled their homes in Krajina when the Croats responded in kind to the plague of ethnic cleansing begun by the Yugoslav president. In the next few weeks Kosovo is likely to produce its own huge wave of Serb refugees. GOTOVO, blared the headlines in Belgrade--FINISHED. ...
  • The Second Time Around

    Mention the name Robert De Niro and people think of "The Godfather," "Raging Bull" and maybe Tribeca Grill. But in 1950s New York, the Robert De Niro that people talked about was neither an actor nor a restaurateur but an artist, one often mentioned in the same breath as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. He was named one of the most promising painters of his generation. Critics wrote about "the originality and force of his temperament." His bold colors and slashing strokes could draw unex-pected emotions from objects as mundane as a chest of drawers or a chair.De Niro the artist, father of De Niro the actor, died six years ago in relative obscurity at the age of 71. He had been eclipsed by his son. But recently the son came to Paris for the opening of a show of his father's works at the Piltzer gallery on the Avenue Matignon. The appearance was a real tribute, considering that De Niro Jr. vowed less than two years ago never to return to Paris. Back then, a French magistrate...
  • Sightseeing On The Run

    Aldous Huxley once said that for a European, "the greatest charm of travel in the New World is the high ratio of its geography to its history." For an American in Europe, the charm is the reverse. From the spires on the skyline to the paving stones beneath your feet, there are constant reminders that history here runs deep, and dense. Soldiers fought, diplomats genuflected, crusaders gathered, witches burned, peasants marched, poets composed their verses and philosophers their thoughts, and painters waited for the light. And no matter how slowly you stroll, and how diligently you peruse your guide book, there is never enough time to absorb it all. If you're traveling on business, there's almost no time to absorb... anything. In Paris, say, you can go from hotel to conference room to restaurant with nothing to show but a scarf from the airport shop.If you really want to see the city, do it on the run. You might think that's the worst way to experience history. You'd be wrong. The...
  • The Man For The Moment

    During the Bosnian war, Gen. Wesley Clark was among a group of U.S. officials forced to drive a dangerous mountain road outside Sarajevo because the Bosnian Serbs refused to guarantee their safety on a more direct route. Then came tragedy: one of the group's armored personnel carriers slipped off the road and crashed down the mountainside. Clark immediately risked his life to rappel down to the burning APC in a futile attempt to rescue those inside. Three Americans died, and some say Clark still blames the Serbs for the loss.The man called SACEUR--Supreme Allied Commander in Europe--brings a lot of personal history to the war he launched last week. Clark not only knows the rugged terrain of Yugoslavia, he knows the men he's attacking: he even talks to them on the phone. On the first day of fighting, hours before the bombs began to fall, Clark called a man he knows, the chief of the Yugoslav defense staff. Clark warned the general to keep the Yugoslav Navy in port, or else. The Serb...
  • Five-Ring Scandal

    Andre Guelfi loves the olympic business. Or, rather, the business he gets from the Olympics. Known to the press and police of France as Dede the Sardine, the 78-year-old Guelfi is a flamboyant, Moroccan-born French entrepreneur who's played on his friendship with International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch to hustle up deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Or so he claims. Guelfi, who earned his fortune as a fishing magnate, says that he helped Moscow fight the Olympic boycott in 1980 and backed Tashkent's brief bid for the Games in the 1990s. Along the way, Guelfi got a cut of more than 40 business deals. He'd have won the 2004 Olympics for St. Petersburg, he boasts, if only he hadn't been thrown in jail by a French judge on allegations related to another scandal.Though wealthy and well-connected, Guelfi is not the kind of friend that Samaranch can use right now. Since December the IOC has been weathering the worst crisis in its history. Last week it...
  • Welcome Back, Great Satan

    Bruce Laingen wants to go back to the scene of his 444-day ordeal as a hostage in Iran. He was the ranking U.S. diplomat in Tehran when radical Islamic students seized the embassy, and mobs chanting "Death to America" gathered outside. The standoff ended in January 1981, leaving a curtain of anger between Iran and America that Laingen and fellow captives now hope to lift. Their return on a journey of reconciliation "would be a great, symbolic way to open up relations," says former hostage and embassy spokesman Barry Rosen.The surprising inspiration for this mission comes from the hostage-takers themselves. Older and mellower now, many of these former firebrands are now key advisers to President Mohammed Khatami, who was elected in 1997 and is now trying to bring Iran out of its isolation. His vice president for the Environment, Massoumeh Ebtakar, was known and generally despised by the American hostages as "Mary," the student translator. Other former radicals now use Tehran's...
  • Giving Voice To Freedom

    HIS FATHER SAID HE WAS JUST going out to buy some groceries for dinner. Mom was away for the evening visiting friends. Sohrab, 13, went back to reading his book as the light faded on the north Tehran high-rise apartment blocks. But now it was dark, and Papa wasn't back. Sohrab called his older brother. He called his mother at her friends' place. And still his papa hadn't come back, and couldn't be found. ...
  • Farewell To The King

    IT WASN'T MUCH OF A KINGDOM, and at first he didn't seem like much of a king. Jordan, it was often said, had been created in the back seat of a cab by Winston Churchill, the British colonial secretary, one Sunday afternoon in 1921. The desolate country had no oil and not enough water, and it would soon have too many people. Hussein bin Talal was not yet 18 when he was given the Jordanian crown. His enemies tried to kill him by strafing his home, shooting at his plane, poisoning his food and putting acid in his nose drops. His friends condescended to him by dubbing him ""the PLK''--the Plucky Little King. But for 46 years his reign survived, until lymphatic cancer finally caught up with him. Late last week the king lay near death in a military hospital in Amman. ...
  • The Night Diana Died

    Blue police lights twirled silently in the post-midnight Place de l'Alma. The sirens had left with the injured Princess of Wales. Paris was quiet. A small crowd of journalists lingered at the end of the tunnel waiting for the crushed Mercedes to be dragged out. I saw a TV producer I first met in Libya, a cameraman I remembered from Baghdad. We all lived in Paris, but we met only in wars--and now here, at the scene of a traffic accident we'd been called out of bed to report. The basic story came into focus quickly. The princess and her friend had been chased by paparazzi. The friend was dead. So was the driver of the car. A bodyguard was badly hurt. But it looked like the princess might be more or less OK. My cell phone rang. Somebody from CNN was calling, then somebody from NBC. And all I could tell them was what I saw as I watched the car brought out of the tunnel. The grill, the hood, the engine was smashed back almost as far as the front seats. It was hard to believe anybody...
  • A New Breed Of Killers

    THEY SANG, THEY DANCED, THEY praised their god--and they slaughtered everyone in sight. When the killing spree was over in Luxor, Egypt, last week, 58 foreign tourists lay dead. Most of the victims were Japanese, Swiss, German and British. Sources told NEWSWEEK that four Americans survived by hiding among Luxor's antiquities. The attackers were Islamic zealots. In an orgy of blood, they hacked off noses and ears and slit one corpse open from neck to navel to shove a propaganda leaflet inside. ""Their eyes looked as if they had taken drugs,'' recalled Rosemarie Dousse, a 66-year-old Swiss tourist who was wounded in the stomach and leg. ""They told us to kneel, and then they started shooting.'' ...
  • The Last Chapter

    AT AROUND 6 O'CLOCK ON THE LAST EVENING OF HIS life, Emad (Dodi) Fayed sent forth a request from the Imperial Suite at his father's hotel, the Paris Ritz. He had checked in with his companion, Diana, Princess of Wales, who was having her hair done. While she was thus distracted, Dodi asked that two rings be sent over from Repossi Jewelers, an exclusive shop just across the Place Vendome. He bought one for $205,400: an emerald-cut diamond, surrounded by four smaller diamonds, set in a gold band. The ring, say Paris jewelers, is popular with wealthy men courting women who have been married before. ""Dis-moi Oui!'' says the advertisement for the ring--""Tell me yes!'' ...
  • A Deadly Puzzle

    THERE ARE FOUR KNOWN eye-witnesses to all of the events leading up to the fatal crash, and three of them are dead. The fourth, bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, lies in Pitie Salpetriere Hospital with injuries so grave (his lips and tongue were torn off) that he has been unable to communicate with police. For now, that leaves French investigators with people whose accounts of the tragedy range from self-serving to unreliable. Even the ""hard'' evidence, from skid marks to the blood-alcohol level of the driver, tells an ambiguous story. But with the public crying out for an explanation--indeed, for a scapegoat--the blame game is being played for high stakes. The tabloids, stung by the public's fury over their role in the princess's death, would like to fix blame on the driver (who, blood tests indicate, was drunk) and spread the erroneous report that the car was careering along at 121 miles per hour. And the Fayed camp has unleashed its PR machine, insinuating that no driver, even cold...
  • Horror In The Night

    IN THE WEE HOURS OF SUNDAY mornings in Paris, when tourists throng the Champs-Elysees and locals fill the cafEs of the Marais and the Latin Quarter, the wide streets that run past chic apartment buildings along the Seine are nearly deserted. At this hour the Cours la Reine, a tree-lined promenade, would be a straight, fast shot away from the center of the city even in its original, early-1600s design. But in modern times city planners made it even straighter and faster: they split the road so its inner two lanes dip through tunnels to avoid the traffic lights at cross streets. If your car is fast, and your driving sure, this is the perfect route for a getaway. And a getaway is what Diana, Princess of Wales, and her friend Emad (Dodi) Fayed had clearly intended. ...
  • Unfinished Business

    YOU JUST CAN'T FIND A car more purely American than a pickup truck. I don't care where it's made. It's functional, sporty--why, hell, for a lot of Americans it's a downright spiritual thing. But Europeans, they just don't get it. In France, in a good year, maybe 2,200 pickups will be sold all over the country. In Paris they're about as rare as pecan pie. And even the American companies pushing them in Europe as ""sport utility vehicles'' don't really seem to know what they've got. A German at the General Motors plant in RUsselsheim told me, as if it was a surprise to him, ""A pickup is a car that's always not complete.'' ...
  • One Fantastic Voyage

    CAN YOU REMEMBER A TIME WHEN there were no scuba divers? When our vision of the ocean went no deeper than the keel of a glass-bottom boat? That's the way it was before Jacques-Yves Cousteau. He co-invented the Aqua-Lung. He used it to explore oceans, rivers, caves in every corner of the planet. And he took us along. For 50 years his films conveyed a wondrous excitement about nature and -what is rare - a sense of good-natured intimacy with it. The spectacle beneath the seas was wildly alien, but through Cousteau it became suddenly and marvelously accessible. By the time he died last week, at the age of 87, this former French naval officer was the environmentalist emeritus of the global village. He had changed the way we see the world and the way we live in it. ...
  • Free Lunch Has A Price

    LAST WEEK THE WORLD LEARNED something that most French have suspected for a long time: President Jacques Chirac is out of touch with his people, his nation and political reality. In April, almost on a whim, he called snap elections for Parliament, hoping to get a five-year mandate for economic austerity and European integration. Instead, he got repudiation. Six weeks ago his center-right coalition had an 80 percent majority in Parliament. When second-round ballots are counted this week, he'll be lucky if he's got any majority at all. Chirac will be president for five more years, but he could be forced into an uneasy ""cohabitation'' with a leftist government led by the Socialists. Even if it doesn't come to that, Chirac's stupendous miscalculation has severely weakened both his own authority and the prospects for a single European currency. ...
  • The Generals' Quiet Coup

    TURKEY'S GENERALS THINK THEY'VE been patient. In the past year they've stood aside as bickering civilian politicians allowed Islamic fundamentalists to take over the government. They've seen the Islamic prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, inject religion into Turkish politics. They've watched him strengthen ties with pariah states Iran, Iraq and Libya. And they've fought against Kurdish guerrillas in the southeast, even though they believe Erbakan's Iranian friends are backing the rebels. Now they've had enough. ...
  • Mission Impossible

    REMINDERS OF SADDAM HUSSEIN'S RUTHLESS efficiency in crushing those who would challenge him line the road north to Iran from the city of Sulimaniyeh. The scattered stones of demolished villages attest to the 1988 ""Anfal'' campaign, designed to move Kurds away from the border. A young woman washing dishes in a stream raises her face to a passerby and displays hideous scars left by Saddam's poison-gas attack on the village of Halabja eight years ago. Last week fresh victims straggled up the highway, none more bitter than Iraqi dissidents who once dreamed that CIA support would help them topple the tyrant in Baghdad. ""We were 350 in Erbil two weeks ago; now there are only a few of us left,'' said Samir, 35, an engineer from Basra. He had spent three days trudging barefoot to safety. ""The U.S. has done nothing. We are finished.'' ...
  • The Death Of Innocents

    SHE WAS WALKING HOME FROM THE pool at 10 p.m. when he pulled up in a white van. Belgian police aren't saying how Marc Dutroux, 40, got 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez into his car. But they say a witness jotted down the license number and that it was his undoing: a search of Dutroux's dilapidated home in Marcinelle, near the French border, turned up nothing. But after hours of interrogation, the unemployed electrician said, ""I'm going to give you two girls.'' Behind a metal armoire was the door to a basement cell where he was holding Laetitia and Sabine Dardenne, 12, who had vanished while riding her bicycle to school nearly three months earlier. Police found a trove of pornographic videos and photos, many showing Dutroux abusing young girls. The grimmest find was in the garden of another house he owned: the graves of Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, both 8. They had been snatched in June 1995, abused for eight months, then starved to death. ...
  • Target: America

    OUTSIDE THE Khobar Towers complex, Saudi Arabians in white robes and headdresses stood staring at the shattered apartment building, some of them using binoculars to take in the scene. One of the men, wearing the scraggly beard and short robe of the more radical Muslim believers, suddenly turned to Faiza Saleh Ambah, a local correspondent for NEWSWEEK, smiled at her and recited a verse from the Koran: ""Wherever ye are, death will find you out, even if ye are in towers built up strong and high.'' Without another word, he turned and walked away.The 19 Americans who died in the explosion in Dhahran, and the hundreds more who suffered injuries, were pulling tough duty to protect Saudi Arabia. The royal House of Saud needs an American shield. Its vast oil wealth has not bought security from the vengeance of Iraq's Saddam Hussein or the machinations of Iran's ayatollahs and their friends. And although they preside over one of the world's most rigidly fundamentalist states, the high-living...
  • The Arms Dealer

    PETER GALBRAITH HAS long enjoyed the limelight. As a 10-year-old boy in 1961, uprooted from home and school when his famous father, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, was appointed ambassador to India, young Peter received a letter of commiseration from President Kennedy. The letter was made public, and newspaper photographers asked Peter to pose with his little brother, Jamie. Peter promptly pushed his little brother aside. "I am the famous one, you know," he declared. ...
  • Mr. Assad's Neighborhood

    IF HAFEZ ASSAD LIVED IN A DIFFERENT neighborhood, the United States could write him off like a bad check. Who is this guy? Just another Third World potentate who picked the wrong side in the cold war, ravaged his economy with crackpot theories of socialism and pervasive corruption, built an enormous, expensive army that is 0-for-3 in every conventional war he fought, dallies with terrorists, allies with Iran, took his job by force, rules his 14 million people by fear, and after 26 years in power can think of no better successor than his son, an ophthalmologist. ...
  • The Trouble With In-Laws

    WHAT WAS HUSSEIN KAMEL THINKING? You don't betray Saddam Hussein, abscond with his daughter, feed Iraq's secrets to his enemies, then say, "Oops! Let's kiss and make up." Saddam never hesitates to kill a friend or relative who's even faintly suspect, and when Hussein Kamel, the chief of Iraq's secret weapons program, defected to Jordan last August, Saddam flatly dubbed him a "traitor." So when Kamel redefected to Iraq last week, diplomats thought it was only a matter of time before his homesickness proved fatal. Not much time, as it turned out. Three days after Saddam pardoned his wandering son-in-law, other family members stormed the residence and shot Kamel, a brother who had defected with him, another brother and their father. ...
  • Attack On The House Of Saud

    The explosion came only minutes before the midday call to prayer. The designer shops along Thirty Street, Riyadh's answer to Rodeo Drive, were preparing to close their doors, and American staffers at the Military Cooperation Program headquarters, a nondescript building just off the thoroughfare, headed as usual for the snack bar. Sharon Childer, a mail clerk from Tampa, Fla., heard the terrible sound. "It was almost as if I'd been electrocuted," she said. "I fainted, and seconds later I started hearing people screaming." The cafeteria and nearby offices were reduced to rubble and Childer found herself surrounded by dazed survivors "completely covered in dust and blood." A powerful car bomb, detonated just outside the building, had killed six, injured more than 60 and shattered the smug illusion that Saudi Arabia's capital was immune to terrorist attack. ...
  • The Woman In Black

    SHE BROKE DOWN ONLY ONCE. Catching sight of her husband's flag-draped coffin, she buried her face and was consoled by her children. But as heads of state came by to offer condolences, Leah Rabin maintained a grim dignity, an elegant stoicism. Calmly, if coldly, she accepted the hand of her husband's political enemy, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu. For-those excruciating hours, she was content to let others speak for her--presidents and kings, who bore witness to Yitzhak Rabin's heroic strength, and granddaughter Noa, who evoked his little-known tenderness. ...
  • Plagues In The Making

    A virus that blinds its victims by making the eyeballs bleed. A germ that causes shrapnel wounds to develop gas gangrene, a potentially fatal condition that produces balloonlike sores on the skin. An indigenous pustular disease called camel pox, which is thought to be harmless to most Iraqis--but deadly to foreigners. Since the stunning revelation last August that Iraq had manufactured tons of biological weapons before the Persian Gulf War, new evidence has emerged of a program more extensive, and potentially more lethal, than outsiders imagined. The Iraqis turned abroad array of bacteria and viruses into tools of offensive warfare (chart). Now, hobbled by United Nations economic sanctions, Saddam Hussein's regime asserts that its germ-warfare arsenal has been destroyed. But U.N. investigators say there is no conclusive evidence to back up that claim. And some of Iraq's deadliest biological agents, such as anthrax spores, have very long shelf lives. ...
  • Enemies Like These

    Maybe Saddam Hussein is just lucky. His enemies often work harder against each other than against him. When his influential son-in-law absconded to Jordan and called for Saddam's overthrow in August, it raised hopes that a family feud might achieve what Desert Storm and a five-year boycott had failed to do, and bring the Iraqi dictator down. But faith in the errant in-law's promise has been waning ever since. And now the defection is sowing more dissent outside Iraq than in. ...