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Jeremy Harding: Keith Kyle, 6 August 2009

... Bound for an airport in the US in the 1950s, Keith Kyle, then the Washington correspondent for the Economist, stopped off at a pharmacy, dashed in, dashed out, hailed a cab and only remembered, an hour or so later at altitude, that he’d left his own car at the store with the engine running. His posthumous memoir, Keith Kyle, Reporting the World, is about the world as he saw it, the many things it threw at him – mostly golden opportunities – and others which, despite his prodigious memory for historical detail, he simply couldn’t recall ...

‘I was a more man’

Keith Kyle, 12 October 1989

Keith Joseph: A Single Mind 
by Morrison Halcrow.
Macmillan, 205 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 333 49016 9
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... and one of them had been elected in a by-election in February of that year. He was Sir Keith Joseph, son of a Lord Mayor of London and director of the family construction firm of Bovis. It was the year of Suez and in a very gentle way he was a rebel. He did not think that Nasser should be destroyed because he might be replaced by someone worse, and ...

Believing in the Alliance

Keith Kyle, 19 November 1981

... We have defied the laws of arithmetic,’ declared a buoyant David Steel after he had heard the result of the Croydon, North-West by-election, ‘One plus one really does equal three.’ It is now apparent that the public opinion polls were consistently correct in showing that, while support for the Liberal Party as such remained of a traditionally modest order and support for the Social Democrats alone was a similar or even smaller percentage, backing for the two-party alliance as a third force in British politics was a wholly different matter, and promised the chance of a complete breakthrough under the existing electoral system ...

Picking the winner

Keith Kyle, 7 July 1983

Tom Mboya: The Man Kenya Wanted to Forget 
by David Goldsworthy.
Heinemann/Africana, 308 pp., £13, June 1982, 0 435 96275 2
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... In December 1963 when Kenya at last achieved her uhuru – her freedom – two topics were most prominent in the gossip centres of Nairobi. How long would Mzee – Jomo Kenyatta, ‘The Old Man’ – last? And what was to be done about Tom Mboya? Kenya had emerged from the anti-colonial struggle with two leaders of world renown, one young, dynamic and immensely talented, the other old (no one was quite sure how old) and respected as much for what he had suffered as for what he had done: a mythical figure who until recently had been cut off from all political and virtually all social life by a decade of imprisonment and detention compounded by an extraordinary propaganda campaign – comparable only to the Stalinist attempt to eliminate any reference to Trotsky’s role in the Russian Revolution – aimed at reducing him to the status of a non-person ...

Middle Eastern Passions

Keith Kyle, 21 February 1980

The Palestinians 
by Jonathan Dimbleby.
Quartet, 256 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 7043 2205 6
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The Rabin Memoirs 
by Yitzhak Rabin.
Weidenfeld, 272 pp., £10, November 1980, 0 297 77546 4
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... The Palestinians are the people who were living in Palestine when it was decided to build a Jewish homeland there and who fled from their homes in great numbers when the Jewish state was proclaimed. There has been fierce controversy about the exact circumstances in which the diaspora started, although spontaneously generated columns of civilian refugees have been a characteristic of all modern war, generally requiring no further explanation than the outbreak or rumour of fighting ...

Memories of Eden

Keith Kyle, 13 September 1990

... Anthony Eden should be living at this hour. He would hear the President of the United States say: ‘Half a century ago the world had the chance to stop a ruthless aggressor and missed it. I pledge to you we will not make that mistake again.’ He would see the United States, uninhibited as she apparently was in 1956 by the separation of powers and the prerogatives of Congress, move with sureness and speed to confront a dictator in the Middle East ...

Protocols of Sèvres

Keith Kyle, 21 January 1988

The Failure of the Eden Government 
by Richard Lamb.
Sidgwick, 340 pp., £16.95, October 1987, 0 283 99534 3
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... At first sight, The Failure of the Eden Government suggests the beginning of a new series to be continued with The Failure of the Macmillan Government, The Failure of the Wilson Government, The Failure of the Heath Government and so forth. As the 30-year rule uncovers the frailties of each in turn of a not particularly glorious row of administrations, opportunities will accumulate ...

Baghdad’s Ruling Cliques

Keith Kyle, 15 August 1991

The Iraqi Revolution of 1958: The Old Social Classes Revisited 
edited by Robert Fernea and William Roger Louis.
Tauris, 232 pp., £35, May 1991, 1 85043 318 6
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Instant Empire: Saddam Hussein’s Ambition for Iraq 
by Simon Henderson.
Mercury House, 271 pp., £8.99, June 1991, 1 56279 007 2
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Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography 
by Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi.
Brassey, 307 pp., £17.95, April 1991, 0 08 041326 9
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The Gulf Between Us: The Gulf War and Beyond 
edited by Victoria Brittain.
Virago, 186 pp., £5.99, June 1991, 1 85381 386 9
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Under Siege in Kuwait: A Survivor’s Story 
by Jadranka Porter.
Gollancz, 250 pp., £4.99, July 1991, 9780575051850
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... Colonel van Ormer has a forceful personality,’ lamented Brigadier Lushington, head of the British Services Mission in Iraq, of his new American colleague in October 1954. ‘I suspect that he has been “hand-picked”. If he is to be believed, he is being given a very free hand indeed. He talks very big.’ The aggrieved brigadier, charged with managing the operational end of what had been, since the creation of the state of Iraq at the conclusion of the First World War, an exclusive relationship between Britain and the Iraqi Armed Forces, was not disposed to ‘belittle the seriousness of this American invasion ...

Impressions of Nietzsche

Keith Kyle, 27 July 1989

The Lives of Enoch Powell 
by Patrick Cosgrave.
Bodley Head, 518 pp., £16, April 1989, 0 370 30871 9
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... What makes the House of Commons more than an antechamber to government and an endless dry run of the next general election is the presence on its benches of some individuals of great character, great intellect or great oddity. Few moments have more become the House of Commons since the war than the speech of Enoch Powell in the early hours of 28 July 1959 on the scandalous deaths of Kikuyu prisoners at Hola camp in Kenya ...

Leap to Unity

Keith Kyle, 22 March 1990

... The Second World War is rapidly approaching its formal end, amid scenes of a re-uniting and putatively dominant Germany and of a disintegrating Soviet Union. The British and French, while acknowledging with a gulp that this is, to everyone’s astonishment, a total victory for the West, can be heard nervously reflecting about how they are going to live with it ...

If not in 1997, soon after

Keith Kyle, 21 July 1994

The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud 
by Said Aburish.
Bloomsbury, 326 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7475 1468 2
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... It was one of the more gratuitous blunders of John Foster Dulles when he was Secretary of State to respond to a question about the unwillingness of Saudi Arabia to allow any American Jew to set foot on Saudi soil by alluding to the Saudi conviction that a Jew had been responsible for the murder of the Prophet Muhammad. Although based on an aberration, the story illustrates the extraordinary tangles that democratic countries generally, and the United States in particular, get into as a consequence of their commitment to this strange desert country named after its dynasty and ruled almost entirely by a quite numerous upper class wholly generated from the loins of its founding father, King Abdul Aziz, better known in the West as Ibn Saud ...

Hook and Crook

Peter Clarke, 15 August 1991

Suez 
by Keith Kyle.
Weidenfeld, 656 pp., £25, May 1991, 0 297 81162 2
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... bloody awful hook-up, are you?’ This anecdote is part of the formidable mosaic of evidence which Keith Kyle has assembled in his study of the making and ending of the 1956 crisis. If there are still secrets of Suez awaiting explosive detonation, they must be well-hidden indeed to have escaped detection in the course of his relentless research, which ...

Scram from Africa

John Reader, 16 March 2000

The Politics of the Independence of Kenya 
by Keith Kyle.
Macmillan, 258 pp., £18.99, April 1999, 0 333 76098 0
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... President Jomo Kenyatta, was shot dead on a Nairobi street on Saturday, 5 July 1969. Mboya, whom Keith Kyle describes in this excellent book as ‘one of the most gifted leaders modern black Africa has yet produced’, belonged to Kenya’s second most powerful ethnic group, the Luo. The man arrested for killing him (a soldier who had undergone special ...

War for peace

Keith Kyle, 3 March 1983

A History of the United Nations. Vol. 1: The Years of Western Domination 
by Evan Luard.
Macmillan, 404 pp., £25, June 1982, 0 333 24389 7
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... When the American, Soviet and British representatives recently presented themselves together before the Secretary-General of the United Nations to object to that organisation’s extravagance, it must have seemed like very old times indeed. The guise of colluding overlords was the one in which the Great Powers who were about to become the victors of World War Two confronted the ‘hoi polloi’ at San Francisco ...

Nuclear Argument

Keith Kyle, 18 April 1985

Objections to Nuclear Defence: Philosophers on Deterrence 
edited by Nigel Blake and Kay Pole.
Routledge, 187 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 7102 0249 0
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Reagan and the World: Imperial Policy in the New Cold War 
by Jeff McMahan.
Pluto, 214 pp., £3.95, August 1984, 0 86104 602 1
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A future that will work 
by David Owen.
Viking, 192 pp., £12.95, August 1984, 0 670 80564 5
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The Most Dangerous Decade: World Militarism and the New Non-Aligned Peace Movement 
by Ken Coates.
Spokesman, 211 pp., £15, July 1984, 9780851244051
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... It’s not that Ronald Reagan hasn’t got any ideas of his own,’ an American who held high office in the Pentagon under Jimmy Carter remarked recently. ‘The trouble is that he has such peculiar ones.’ He was referring to what has been officially termed the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) but what is much more appropriately called Star Wars ...

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