James Barr

Going Freestyle

America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East

By

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On 18 September 1947, just as the CIA formally came into being, two cousins drove over the mountains from Beirut to meet a friend in Damascus. Archie Roosevelt was the spy agency’s new head of station in Lebanon; his cousin Kermit (known as Kim) was supposedly researching a book. Archie was toothy, short-sighted and identified with the ‘losers in history’. Kim, on the other hand, was debonair and stocky. ‘Pleasant and unassuming’, said his namesake Kim Philby: ‘the last person you would expect to be up to the neck in dirty tricks’. The man they went to see was Miles Copeland, a talented jazz trumpeter and Archie’s Falstaffian counterpart in Damascus. Under the guise of touring the crusader castles, the three men then headed northwards on a talent-spotting trip. 

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