Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • The Tiniest Diplomat

    Babies do have winning ways. They melt hearts and help break the ice socially. But can a baby contribute to peace in the Middle East? If the little girl in question is Zahwa Arafat, daughter of the PLO chairman, then the answer may be yes--in a very Middle Eastern sort of way. And she's not even teething yet. Actually, her work started before she was born. ...
  • His Secret Weapon

    For several days at the end of 1990 and the beginning of 1991, the world stood on the brink of the first holocaust ever caused by biological weapons. Iraq finally admitted last week that its germ-warfare program had been much bigger--and much further along--than it had previously claimed. In fact, as American-led forces prepared to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, Iraqi scientists were arming what United Nations investigator Rolf Ekeus calls the "great equalizer" in their arsenal: at least 25 missile warheads carrying about 11,000 pounds of biological agents, including powerful botulism poisons and the germs that cause anthrax. ...
  • 'A War In The Shadows'

    The explosion came at exactly 5:30 p.m., the height of the rush hour, ripping bodies apart in an underground commuter train beneath Place St-Michel, right in the heart of Paris. Shocked commuters groped their way to the surface amid clouds of smoke. Latin Quarter cafes became triage centers, and helicopters evacuated the wounded from a makeshift landing pad in front of Notre-Dame cathedral. In all, seven people died and more than 90 were wounded in the worst terrorist attack France has seen in nine years.A few hours later, many tourists were back strolling on the banks of the Seine with barely a second thought. But the French themselves were seized by what government officials described as a public "psychosis"-a return of the fear instilled by past waves of terror in 1982 and 1986. Crank calls emptied stores, Metro stations and museums: in a single incident, 8,000 people were evacuated from beneath the crystal pyramid of the Louvre. There were plenty of potential suspects in the...
  • The Ninjas Crack Down

    Montasser al-Zayyat, an Egyptian lawyer, represents members of the radical Gamaa al-Islamiya (Islamic Group), who are linked to terror attacks from Cairo to the World Trade Center in New York. In the United States, such Islamic fundamentalists get their day in a civilian court. In Egypt, says al-Zayyat, "They are being sent to death, or they are being murdered in the streets, or they are being tortured inside prisons, or harassed and followed."That marks a change. Not long ago, radical Islam in North Africa was the West's nightmare. In 1998 alone Egyptian fundamentalists bombed the interior minister's car, attacked the prime minister, attempted to gun down the information minister and all but mined the tourism industry with random attacks on cafes, tour buses and Nile cruise boats. Algeria seemed even more precarious after a discredited military clique seized power to stop the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) from taking power through elections in 1992. Soon a fierce guerrilla war was...
  • A Fence Across The Sand

    Yitzhak Rabin stumbled over a bloody piece of wood as he approached the scene of the explosion. His bodyguards steadied him. In silence the Israeli prime minister looked at the clothing and glass shards strewn around a bus stop in front of Ashmoret prison. The remains of an M-16 automatic rifle lay on the ground, torn apart by the force of the blast. beware suspect objects, said part of a sign warning against terrorist bombs. But no one had seen what two suicidal fanatics were about to do until it was too late. Palestinian workers are so prevalent in Israel. Then 20 soldiers and a civilian died, blown away by explosives the pair carried on their bodies. ...
  • The Oldest Pyramid Scheme

    Even the air feels heavy under 2.3 million blocks of granite, especially when someone turns out the lights. Then comes the chorus of humming meditative incantations in the resonant chamber, ""led'' by Aton-Re, a 3,000-year-old contempo- rary of King Tutankhamen. ""Ommmmmmmmmmmm . . . Ammmmmonnn-Ra.'' Here in the deepest room of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, 345 feet under the entrance, American mystic and ""channeler'' Kevin Ryerson, speaking in Aton-Re's oddly affable accent, guides his little flock of ""initiates'' from Washington and Hawaii and Georgia through ""experiential mythology'' and ""the ancient art of emotional healing'' that has brought them all the way to Egypt. ...
  • Kuwait: Flirting With America

    AHMAD AL-WASMY GETS MISTY-EYED on the subject of country music. "It's talking about principles, about values," he says with the hint of a Southern drawl. He went to school in Bowling Green, Ky., fell in love with the likes of Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire, and now hosts a weekly show on Kuwait's FM "Superstation." "Country music has a whole different attitude, and I hope to deliver this message." ...
  • Body Politics

    Forget people. As the International Conference on Population and Development prepared to open in Cairo on Sept. 5, the world seemed ready to drown in paper. Faxes, press kits, blasts, counterblasts, revisions and revised revisions swirled about in a dizzying storm. Only those who survived the mayhem of the Earth Summit at Rio in 1992 were prepared for this, and sometimes even they were overwhelmed: Vice President Al Gore, a star at Rio, hobbled into Cairo with a torn Achilles' tendon in a cast. ...
  • The Return of the Exile

    Yasir Arafat came back to Gaza last week -- waving through the sunroof of an armored Mercedes. "Some people don't like him," observed Fathi Shawa, a cook at the hotel where dozens of undercover police had set up a command post for the PLO chief. Arafat paused at the border crossing only long enough to shake an Israeli general's hand, kiss the ground and be hoisted on the shoulders of newly minted Palestinian police. And although many of Gaza's almost 1 million Palestinians were excited, this was not the celebration that many had imagined. The square in front of the old Palestinian parliament building, where Arafat finally spoke and pelted admirers with candy and white flowers, was only half full. The crowd was curious, skeptical. One veteran Palestinian fighter, Muhammad Dahman, recalled an old Arab proverb about "the man who fasts and fasts, and then breaks his fast with an onion." ...
  • America's Most Wanted

    America's most wanted terrorist is a lean, bearded man with a broken nose, intense eyes and two very dangerous skills: he builds enormous bombs from scratch and he makes people trust him. Nearly a year and a half ago he arranged the explosion in New York's World Trade Center that killed six people and injured more than 1,000. It was the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in the United States. Then he got away. ...
  • Step Forward. Now Inch Back.

    HOSNI MUBARAK IS RUNNING HARD. His broad features, sometimes grinning, sometimes grimacing, are plastered all over Cairo's streets. His National Democratic Party is drumming up votes from Aswan to Alexandria, and with any luck at all this week, Egypt's president will win an unprecedented third term by a landslide. Especially since there's no one else on the ballot. Voters mark "yes" or "no" to six more years of Mubarak -and no one doubts the outcome. ...
  • 'You Didn't Hit Saddam'

    Hisham Mahir and his buddies walk, talk and joke American. Like a lot of well-to-do suburban kids in Baghdad, they've got shopping malls in their souls and Pepsi in their veins. "We watch the films," explains Ahmed Faiz, a lanky 19-year-old in orange jams and a baseball cap turned backward. The guys rattle off the names of their favorite stars: Hisham likes Michael Bolton. Hydar Dewachi votes for Tom Cruise. Ahmed talks of Julia Roberts-only to be told she just got married. He groans dramatically, his romantic fantasy down the tubes. Then the boys, laughing at Ahmed's little tragedy in the middle of their country's big one, get back to work on the pile of rubble that was once their neighbor's home. ...
  • Car Bombs: A Potent Weapon Of Fear

    A car bomb may be the most terrible weapon in a terrorist's arsenal. Its utter banality only makes it more fearsome: an everyday item, turned shockingly, randomly lethal. A car with a trunk full of explosives looks just like any other car in the parking lot. But load the average family sedan with the right charges, and the explosion can be as powerful as the ordnance dropped during Desert Storm. Load a truck with sophisticated explosives, like the yellow Mercedes truck that drove into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut 10 years ago, and the blast can be apocalyptic. Witnesses to that bombing did not report the barracks destroyed when they sent out distress calls--they said it ceased to exist, taking with it the lives of 241 American servicemen. ...
  • Should We Fear Islam?

    Just before the Mother of Battles, Saddam Hussein discovered the word of God. For more than two decades he had espoused a secular, left-wing, Arab nationalist philosophy that left a distinct impression the Supreme Being wa s named Saddam. But as war with the United States and its allies loomed in early. 1991, he had Allahu akbar (God is great) stitched between the stars of the Iraqi flag. Official rhetoric that used to lambaste enemies as "imperialists" now denounces them as "infidels." ...
  • War, Rebuilding, More War

    Baghdad glistens in the winter sun, and a thin layer of smog on the horizon even hints at industrial prosperity. Heavy traffic crosses the eight bridges over the Tigris. The trains run on time. There is electricity everywhere, and water. Bureaucrats man their desks. Republican Guards man their posts. Saddam Hussein's portraits are as ubiquitous as ever: praying, soldiering, balancing the scales of justice, even carrying mortar for reconstruction. ...
  • 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? ...