I graduated from Harvard College magna cum laude in 1962 and later obtained my PhD in Public Law and Government ( Political Science) from Columbia University in 1972. In between, I worked for UPI in Algiers just as Algeria was gaining its independence from France in the summer of 1962. I went back there as a freelancer for the New York Times and Time from 1964-66. For many years, I was uncertain whether I would make a career in academia or journalism, but this experience as a correspondent in Algeria onvinced me of the latter.
So, I joined The Washington Post in 1971 starting as an editor on its foreign desk. Two years later, I was sent to be its one and only correspondent in Africa at the time, traveling the length and breadth of the continent from my base in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Altogether, I worked for The Post in various capacities for the next 35 years. Between 1973 and 1994, I was bureau chief in Africa, the Middle East, South Africa and Eastern and Southern Europe as well as The Post’s national security reporter in Washington for five years Then, until I retired in 2006, I worked in The Post’s investigative section
During my time at The Post, I was fortunate enough to win a number of reporting awards. They included The Overseas Press Club Award in 1973 for a 17-part series on the coming oil crisis in America that also got me as far as being a Pilitzer Prizefinalist. I won another award from the Overseas Press Club in 1981 for my coverage of the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat; and again in 2002 for a series on the past, present and future of relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia in light of 9/11. I also won the George Polk Award in 2005 for a series on misused U.S. foreign aid in Afghanistan; the Investigative Reporters and Editors award in 2003 for a series on bad governance and phony land deals within The Nature Conservancy; The Gerald Loeb Award for the series on The Nature Conservancy; and Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Nature Conservancy series.
In September 2006, I retired from The Washington Post to become a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., where I had also been a fellow with my wife, Marina, back in 1979-80. Starting in 2007, I became a Senior Scholar at the Wilson Center and remain as such as of 2010.
I have written three books with Marina, the first on post-independence Algeria called Algeria: the Politics of a Socialist Revolution. The second we wrote together dealt with the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, which occurred while we were living there and is called Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution. We co-authored a third entitled Afro-Communism, which chronicled the rise and fall of a number of Marxist regimes in Africa during the 1970s and 1980s.
Later, I wrote a book on my experience of covering the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, and the start of negotiations fro a transition to black rule in South Africa, entitled Chained Together: Mandela, de Klerk and Struggle to Remake South Africa.
In December 2008, I published my latest book, The King’s Messenger: Prince Bandar bin Sultan and America’s Tangled Relationship with Saudi Arabia. The book is based on 30 years of reporting on, and visits to, Saudi Arabia and multiple interviews with the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
My other recent publications include “The King and US” in the May/June 2009 edition of Foreign Affairs dealing with the current state of U.S.-Saudi relations and “The Arab Tomorrow,” which depicts the state of the contemporary Arab world and the end of Egypt’s central role therein, published in the Winter 2010 issue of The Wilson Quarterly.