Description of Mukhabarat Baby! My Life as a Wartime Spy for the CIA
This is the story of a young American who would eventually fulfill his dream of becoming a CIA Case Officer, only to have a promising career cut short after having been purposely poisoned by a contact.
Eric Burkhart was raised in Europe in a bilingual household, and accepted a job in Africa right out of college. Upon his return to the United States, he was hired as an Immigration Agent in Laredo, Texas, working Inspections on one of the busiest port-of-entries connecting the United States and Mexico. This experience is detailed in this humorous, occasionally heartbreaking memoir about choosing to be a survivor.
In 2000, Burkhart accepted a position as a Case Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. The book includes details of both the notoriously arduous hiring process and the rigorous training program, including Burkhart’s eventual successful completion of the Espionage Course taught at the famous “Farm”. Burkhart’s first overseas working experience was in war-torn Kosovo, where he was unwittingly poisoned by an unstable intelligence contact. Burkhart would struggle with the repercussions of this episode for the remainder of his career, and eventually be obliged to accept full medical retirement from the CIA.
However, before retiring, Burkhart completed tours in Iraq and Africa. His time spent in the Green Zone almost immediately following the occupation of Baghdad, constitutes the majority of this enlightening book. Burkhart exposes the reader to the human element within the CIA, and we are introduced to a variety of characters, some who will seem familiar, and some who reveal the eccentricities we expect with this kind of occupation.
Follow Burkhart through the battlefields of Iraq, past the Iraqi Insurgency, and to his next assignment in Africa. Burkhart leaves no emotion unexpressed as he details his medical struggles with the horrific damage caused to his body from Toxic Exposure. Wracked by pain, Burkhart reaches the point where he must consider quality of life issues, and has to accept retirement as a necessary decision. Burkhart has a story to tell, and leaves no stone unturned during this turbulent time both in his life, and in our history.
Eric Burkhart was born in North Carolina in 1965, and raised in France by his mother while his father was serving in Vietnam. Eric’s parents retired to San Antonio, Texas in 1978, and Eric has considered himself a Texan since that time.
After completing college, Burkhart relocated to South Africa for a job in community planning and design. After returning to the United States in 1994, Eric started a career in federal service by becoming a Federal Agent. In 1999 he moved over to the CIA, which became his passion and focus in life. After being poisoned by while working in Kosovo in 2001, Burkhart was eventually obliged to medically retire, but not before extending his career to include tours in Iraq and Africa. Mukhabarat, Baby! is Burkhart’s first book.
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My review: [rating=4.5]
I really didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this book, but I’ve always been fascinated by the CIA and thought I’d get an insider’s view to it. I was pleasantly surprised to find it such an interesting book and so well-written too.
It’s not a boring narrative of all the author accomplished. Rather it’s a whole collection of stories of the most interesting experiences the author had around the world and the fascinating characters he met.
What came across strongly to me is that the CIA rather than being a cold unfeeling agency (okay, so I am an Indian and may be biased and/or ignorant) is just like any other large corporate with its share of oddballs (farting secretaries and a mean disabled guy, for example) and heroes, politics and jealousies. Also it takes a lot of training, courage and presence of mind to carry out their tasks overseas and the agents must be admired for that. It costs them a lot personally too – physically, mentally and emotionally.
The humane actions of many agents when dealing with children and women in difficult circumstances touched me too.
As an keen observer of people, I enjoyed this book thoroughly for its descriptions of people. The author’s writing style is humourous and while describing the virtues and foibles of the people he meets, he’s not afraid to share stories of his own errors of judgement.
I’m so glad I read Mukhabarat, Baby! It certainly opened my eyes.
I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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My Life as a Wartime Spy for the CIA (USA & Canada)
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