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King's Counsel: A Memoir of War, Espionage, and Diplomacy in the Middle East Hardcover – May 19, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (May 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393063348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393063349
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

O'Connell, a former CIA agent and attorney for Jordan's King Hussein, recounts four decades of Middle East history in this provocative memoir. The author, CIA station chief in Amman from 1963 to 1971, was delegated to "keep King Hussein in power" and served as the young king's main point of contact and channel to the U.S. Following his retirement from the CIA, O'Connell became Hussein's U.S. attorney and Jordan's American lobbyist until the king's death in 1999. Drawing on his unique access, the author argues that while the Arabs wanted an end to hostilities and Hussein relentlessly pursued secret negotiations with the Israelis, neither Israel nor the U.S. wanted or actively pursued peace. O'Connell characterizes U.S. diplomacy in the region as hypocritical and charges that Kissinger fomented the 1973 Yom Kippur war. He also contends that the U.S. was doing Israel's "dirty work" in opposing Saddam Hussein in 1990 and could have negotiated an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait without resorting to war. O'Connell's eyewitness account of a tragic era in a tumultuous region is long on drama, revealing vignettes, and controversy, but short on balance. More than memoir, this is a passionate brief for King Hussein and the Arab pursuit of peace. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Jack O'Connell (1921-2010) served as CIA station chief in Amman, Jordan, from 1963 to 1971 and was King Hussein's most trusted American adviser. He then became the king's attorney and diplomatic counselor in Washington for three decades.

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Customer Reviews

One of the most exciting books I've read recently.
Anas Abu hazeem
It is a great read and you will find yourself with a well-rounded history lesson of Jordan and the Middle East crisis.
John A. Predmore
All of this can be forgiven as merely a difference of opinion, though.
Alain C. Dewitt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By W. Andrew Terrill on May 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This memoir represents a pro-Jordanian outlook and a strong critique of Israeli policy. It is also critical of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 (now widely regarded as a strategic mistake) and more surprisingly of Operation Desert Storm in 1991 (when Saddam was a lot more dangerous). The author's approach will therefore almost certainly anger a number of readers, while others will agree with him. Under these circumstances, readers are advised to consider the book an opinionated but sincere last testament of a CIA officer who believed the United States needed to fundamentally alter its Middle Eastern policies. The remaining question is did he lose perspective on key issues and especially the nature and goals of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. However one answers this concern, O'Connell was definitely a part of the history that he describes, and while his views can be criticized, the importance of his vantage point makes him a valuable historical asset. Additionally, Jordan has over many years proven to be an important U.S. ally in the struggle against terrorism and other forms of violent extremism, and to this extent O'Connell was clearly correct in his analysis. For a more in depth assessment, please see my review in Middle East Journal (Winter 2012). W. Andrew Terrill, Ph.D.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Alank on November 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Author Jack O'Connell used his connections as a former CIA agent and his years in the Middle East to write with a degree of behind-the-scenes knowledge that is remarkable. There is a lot of insight here of a kind that cannot readily be acquired from a distance or through standard journalism. The writing also is extremely good purely as prose, flowing along easily and vividly.

This is not a scholarly or broad history book. It is very much a memoir, one man's exceptionally knowledgeable view of many significant developments in the Mideast over the course of about half a century. To compare it to a few other books by former CIA agents, this book is wider ranging and less cautious than Bruce Riedel's excellent "The Search for Al Qaeda," and more focused and less emotional than Michael Scheuer's "Marching Toward Hell."

The relations between Jordan, Israel and the United States take center stage. The details are fascinating, to such an extent that I wondered whether this book had any trouble with the CIA possibly wanting to suppress some details. The author died before publication, but I do not know whether the author planned on posthumous publication to give himself more freedom in his writing.

O'Connell describes many of the cynicisms, misjudgments and outright stupidities of U.S. diplomacy, but his overall characterization of U.S. Mideast policy is: Whatever Israel wants, Israel gets. Whether that is a fair judgment, each reader can decide. But even a reader who feels O'Connell's judgment is skewed by fondness for King Hussein can learn a lot here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By W. John Harrison on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Intriguing view of the life of King Hussein of Jordan. Modified my thinking about the middle east (and even the CIA). Book could have used some maps of the region and some photos as well. Useful to have a historical timeline, too. Well worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anas Abu hazeem on September 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most exciting books I've read recently. Mr. O'Connell's experience in the middle east has no match among american diplomats. He brings some truth to a world that is mislead by the media. I wish every American politician will read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TBird on February 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A true intelligence warrior till the end, the man leaves much out. But what is in here is gospel. Ask around Langley, "Jock" is a legend, and this book is an authoritative look behind the scenes.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An good read from someone who had unique access to one of the middle east's most interesting and misunderstood leaders. King Hussein could have been the region's Mandela, but he was taken too soon. O'Connell has a perspective that sometimes lacks nuance when it comes to Israeli decision makers. While many of his observations are correct he doesn't take into account the domestic give and take inside Israel. Jordan largely made its decisions based on the King's will, but in Israel that wasn't the case. It might have seem that way to an outsider, but there was never the kind of consensus about the West Bank that he implies.

Overall a good read with some interesting insights. I'd recommend it for anyone already familiar with the middle east who wants some behind the scenes drama.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Scott Billigmeier on January 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is quite an interesting book and a good read although it drags a bit at the end when the author indulges himself by expounding on his own vision of how things were and should be. For an American, his perspective on the Middle East is remarkably European; that is to say fairly anti-Israel. If he is to be believed, and there are plenty of anecdotes plus some assumptive conclusions that can't be verified, his views seem well founded. With the exception of King Hussein who is largely put on a pedestal, no politician or country escapes unscathed. There is plenty here to annoy everyone but if the reader can get past that, and I recommend they do, Mr. O'Connell aptly describes a political environment that is far more complicated and duplicitous than most will have ever imagined. This unique man had very unusual access over many decades to people, places and events of great import. Reading his story is definitely worth the investment - a more nuanced understanding of the region and its recent history will likely result.
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