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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: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,907 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)
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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

His friendship with King Hussein last a lifetime!
Patsy Clark
Reading his story is definitely worth the investment - a more nuanced understanding of the region and its recent history will likely result.
Scott Billigmeier
Mr. O'Connell's experience in the middle east has no match among american diplomats.
Anas Abu hazeem

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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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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Format: Hardcover
A friend recently gave me a copy of "King's Counsel" by Jack O'Connell and I found it an exciting, educational read. It terms itself "a memoir of war, espionage, and diplomacy in the Middle East," but I found it to be a story of a maturing friendship.

It begins by outlining the roots of modern-day Jordan. Only a few decades ago, the kingdom came into existence and since it was a fragile enterprise, it is amazing that it survived as an independent state.

Jack O'Connell became a legal counsel to King Hussein when the king and the country were young. It provides an admiring depiction of the King who became widely known as a peace-maker and as one who sees "what is possible," rather than holding onto past grievances. Oftentimes, the King's good nature and generosity were taken as weakness and other allies took advantage of him, but the story in the long-run shows the admirable vision he had for Arab unity and a new way of life for the Middle East.

It is a story of what might have been. Mistakes were made by many countries throughout the past sixty years. Peace could have been achieved years ago if someone had just reached out for the outstretched arm of peace and conciliation. We would be living in a different world today where extremism never would have reared its head in the way it is doing now.

Jordan's history is remarkable. It has grown from a small desert community to one of the most important places of stability and progress in the Middle East. It had a fragile existence for many years and it is now showing others that it made many correct decisions in its development.

Jack O'Connell speaks warmly of Jordan and I find myself having the same amount of feelings.
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