The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

Kai Bird

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0307889769

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Good Spy is Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird’s compelling portrait of the remarkable life and death of one of the most important operatives in CIA history – a man who, had he lived, might have helped heal the rift between Arabs and the West.
 
On April 18, 1983, a bomb exploded outside the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people.  The attack was a geopolitical turning point. It marked the beginning of Hezbollah as a political force, but even more important, it eliminated America’s most influential and effective intelligence officer in the Middle East – CIA operative Robert Ames.  What set Ames apart from his peers was his extraordinary ability to form deep, meaningful connections with key Arab intelligence figures. Some operatives relied on threats and subterfuge, but Ames worked by building friendships and emphasizing shared values – never more notably than with Yasir Arafat’s charismatic intelligence chief and heir apparent Ali Hassan Salameh (aka “The Red Prince”). Ames’ deepening relationship with Salameh held the potential for a lasting peace.  Within a few years, though, both men were killed by assassins, and America’s relations with the Arab world began heading down a path that culminated in 9/11, the War on Terror, and the current fog of mistrust.
 
Bird, who as a child lived in the Beirut Embassy and knew Ames as a neighbor when he was twelve years old, spent years researching The Good Spy.  Not only does the book draw on hours of interviews with Ames’ widow, and quotes from hundreds of Ames’ private letters, it’s woven from interviews with scores of current and former American, Israeli, and Palestinian intelligence officers as well as other players in the Middle East “Great Game.”
 
What emerges is a masterpiece-level narrative of the making of a CIA officer, a uniquely insightful history of twentieth-century conflict in the Middle East, and an absorbing hour-by-hour account of the Beirut Embassy bombing.  Even more impressive, Bird draws on his reporter’s skills to deliver a full dossier on the bombers and expose the shocking truth of where the attack’s mastermind resides today.

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spent the past four days working in and out of the Shatila camp to get the dead buried. After all of the visible bodies were taken care of [the] work stopped. The dead rotting under large slabs of cement had to stay put until the rubble was removed.… I think I’ll become a Quaker and reject all violence. Love, Anne.” Dammarell lobbied the embassy and Lebanese authorities to dig up the common grave where bulldozers had dumped many bodies. “It was clear that this was a mass grave,” Dammarell said.

that with five children at home there should be a man in the house. Andrew asked her to wait until he graduated from high school. “He wanted to be the man in the house,” Yvonne said. But she thought he needed to be “the young man, and not the man of the house.” She later regretted her decision to remarry so quickly. The new husband was the “polar opposite of Bob,” Yvonne said. “There were too many changes too soon.” The marriage was rough going, and after twelve years it ended in divorce. In

Americans felt comfortable with their “plucky little king”—but in reality the Palestinians were becoming a political force that could not be ignored. King Hussein himself had decided that as a matter of self-preservation he had to make his own deal with Arafat. By mid-1974 the PLO was rapidly moving away from a strategy of armed struggle and morphing into a political movement seeking international legitimacy. Salameh had said as much to Ames a year earlier. And now it was happening. On June 8,

of Arab heads of state in Rabat formally designated the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” The United Nations quickly followed up with an invitation to Yasir Arafat to address the UN General Assembly on November 13, 1974. Arafat arrived in New York—accompanied by Ali Hassan Salameh and a team of other aides and bodyguards. Salameh traveled under the alias Rafik Behlouli, using an Algerian diplomatic passport numbered 2092 A 73. But the Americans knew exactly

on home leave for nearly a month. Ames was ambivalent about these occasional TDYs. They earned him extra cash—and he liked the opportunity to look up his old sources. But he disliked being away from his family. The last thing he told Yvonne was that she had to promise him to write regular letters. (All his letters to her ended with the line “God love you.”) Bob arrived in Beirut on June 16 and checked into the Riviera Hotel. But then two days later he moved into Anderson’s three-bedroom

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