Guest Post by Eric Burkhart – 5 Star Author of Mukhabarat Baby! My Life Spy for the CIA

Mukhabarat Baby!

 

Guest Post by Eric Burkhart

When I first landed in Baghdad in 2003, I was immediately impressed by the international flavor of the city.  I expected to hear nothing but Arabic being spoken in the markets and restaurants, but I was way off-base.  Baghdad is one of the world’s oldest cities, and is still home to a small Catholic community, a neighborhood of Assyrians, and a few Orthodox Churches. I was never able to find a Jewish Temple, but locals assured that a Jewish community continued to exist. All these cultures, and in particular the different languages, can make the job of a CIA Case a Officer very difficult. The Agency is very good about teaching it’s officers to be bi and sometimes trilingual, but I was hired with a fluency in Spanish, French and Afrikaans.  After my initial training was complete, the last thing I wanted was to go back into a classroom for a year and learn a language.  In hindsight, I which I had taken advantage of the Agency’s phenomenal Arabic instruction.  In fact, back in 2003, right off the plane, as I was settling down into my new living quarters and thinking about the work environment, I was truly regretting not having learned Arabic.

 

My responsibility as a CIA Case a Officer in Iraq in 2003, was to develop sources in the local community who could provide confidential information that would ideally allow us to keep our soldiers safe.This effort was called “Force Protection”, and I was never more proud as an Agency Officer than when I was part of this effort to disrupt the efforts of the Extremists to attack U.S. military targets and friendly Iraqi non-combatants. Speaking Arabic would be an invaluable tool to any Case Officer working in this part of the world. Upon arrival in the Green Zone, even before locating my quarters, I was lucky enough to meet three brothers who were working on contract with the CIA to act as translators. Having a good number of translators, or linguists, is very important. We did have a few Arabic speakers, but at the time the Case a Officer Cadre was stretched to the limit, and Arabic speakers were a wanted commodity. With welcome foresight, the Agency made arrangements to hire Arabic speakers to assist us in our interviews and debriefings. I became close friends with the Yonen brothers, who I mentioned earlier. Or seemed that no matter how busy we were, one Yonen brother was always on hand to assist me.

 

The Yonen brothers were Assyrian, and all three had been born in Baghdad. The family emigrated to the United States just after a World War Two. The oldest brother was 82, the second oldest was 79, and the youngest was 75.  As seems to be common with immigrants from that generation, the Yonens were tremendous patriots. Everyone at the CIA facility in Baghdad soon became familiar with the brothers, who were very charming. I recall one conversation I had over breakfast with the oldest brother. I asked him why he and his brothers would want this kind of work, especially at this age. It turns out that the brothers were ordered to apply for the linguist positions by their father Papa Yonen, who was still alive somewhere in Northern Virginia. You see, sometime within the last few decades, the U.S.-based branch of the Yonens lost contact with their family still living in Baghdad. Papa Yonen had instructed his sons to do whatever they could to find the old family. Not surprisingly, the brothers came to me and my sidekick Mark, and asked us if we could help. Only Case Officers were allowed out of the Green Zone, so they had correctly assessed that we were their only hope. I put the word out to all my local contacts, hoping that someone was aware of the existence of a Christian Assyrian community deep in the bowels of ancient Baghdad. It wasn’t until just before Christmas, 2003, that one of my most trusted assets called me to say that he had accidentally stumbled upon a crumbling Church that appeared to be Assyrian. Mark and I wasted no time in taking directions and heading out into uncharted Baghdad to discover if there might be some small hope of reconnecting the Yonens to their kin.

 

Did I mention that at the time, Baghdad had no street signs (not that I would have been able to read them in Arabic)? Mark and I had become experts at getting from point A to point B by using visual landmarks. We found the Church, but the area surrounding the building appeared very dicey.  It was an extremely poor community, and it was impossible to see where some dwellings started and others ended.  The roads had long-ago disappeared, and avoiding crater-sized pot-holes became essential for keeping our axel intact. When Mark and I returned to the Green Zone and reported to the Yonens, they were in no was dissuaded from their mission.  We explained that it was dangerous, and even though it appeared that the community was at some Assyrian, that we had been unable to identify the ethnicities of anyone. At that point, the oldest Yonen stood up, and announced that if we weren’t going to help, that he and his brothers would just walk to the Church for Christmas Eve services (the next day). So Mark and I went to my boss, and asked for permission to take the three Yonens out of the Green Zone and into the depths of ancient Baghdad, on a likely goose-chase looking for long-lost relatives. I was shocked when he told me to do what I thought was right, but I was on my own if things went south.

 

The next day was indeed Christmas Eve. I was beginning to worry because so far everything has gone smoothly. I’m always expecting a hiccup somewhere, and driving into a ramshackle, broken down neighborhood in Baghdad with our three passengers presented all sorts of opportunities for trouble. But everything was fine. Mark had no problems remembering the way to the street with the Church, and we were able to park about two houses down, directly in front of a large, very old home. Mark agreed to wait with the vehicle while I went to the Church with the Yonens. They were hoping to at least speak to the priest and hopefully get some information on their family. But as the Yonens stepped out of our vehicle, the oldest one stopped and just stared at the house in front of which we were parked. At about the same time, an army of people started filing out of the front door of the house, and approached us. I do not speak Assyrian but the emotions that were filling the air that afternoon, the love, the joy of the moment made it obvious to both myself and Mark, that we had managed to park right in front of a relative’s home. What was most astonishing to us was how quickly they all recognized each other. And oh how quickly that little community which previously had seemed so destitute and foreboding, was transformed into a place of rejoicing. When Mark and I were ushered into the home, I was pleased to see that as run down as the home looked in the outside, inside it was warm and welcoming and full of love. I remember eating some of the most delicious homemade bread before Mark and I made arrangements with the Yonens to pick them up the next morning, and said our goodbyes to so many new friends.

 

The Yonens ended their contract not long after, which I had expected. They had fulfilled Papa Yonen’s instructions, and re-established contact with the family in Baghdad. That Christmas Eve, after leaving the Yonens with their family, Mark and I stopped at the U.S. Army chapel at the Coalition Provisional Authority Headquarters, hoping to catch a service. We were lucky enough to make an early Midnight Mass service (there were four scheduled that evening, beginning at 6:00 pm). I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas, but that particular 2003 Christmas Eve in Baghdad is special, because I feel like I was part of the miracle.

 

AUTHOR WITH PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH Sr.

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NOTE FROM ME:

I posted my review of this book as my blogpost before this one.

The book is an absolute MUST READ!!! Think y0u have an idea of what being a spy for the CIA is all about? Think again!

Eric has endured (and continues to endure) many hardships because of his career as a spy. He deserves to be recognized for his incredible bravery and his selfless dedication to his country. He also deserves to be respected and thanked. So, even though I am Canadian, I want to thank Eric for his service to keep the rest of us safe from some VERY EVIL people.

 

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5 Stars for Mukhabarat, Baby! My Life as a Wartime Spy for the CIA by Eric Burkhart – BLOG TOUR,

Mukhabarat Baby!

Book Description for Mukhabarat, Baby!:

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.

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Author’s Bio:

Eric Burkhart

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.

Connect with the author:  Website  Twitter   Facebook

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

~ I received a free copy of this book through the iRead Book Tours program in exchange for an honest review.

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of books written by or about soldiers fighting in the war on terror, and those books are important. BUT the public seems to forget that those soldiers cannot fight the war without intelligence. That intelligence comes from people who risk their lives on a daily basis to infiltrate the enemy infrastructure. Without people like Eric Burkhart, Osama Bin Laden and many other evil men would still be alive and in hiding.

It seems to me that soldiers get the thanks and respect of the general public, and we forget about those who work diligently behind enemy lines. Eric Burkhart is one of those people. He deserves the thanks, the love and the respect of the general public. He has definitely earned it. In fact, he deserves so much more. Once you read this book, I have no doubt that you will agree with me.

This book shocked me. I was greatly impressed by the quality of the writing and the inclusion of numerous anecdotes.

Eric Burkhart has led an extremely interesting life. This book follows his career as a CIA Spy in one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Eric has a gift for describing people which allows the reader to feel as if they actually know the person he is writing about.

Eric is lucky to be alive. He was basically one suicide bomber or sniper bullet away from death every single day, for years. I cannot imagine the stress that knowledge must have caused Eric. But, to his credit, he never allowed that stress to impact how he did his job.

The ending of this book both surprised me and really made me angry. I do not want to ruin the story for anyone, so I won’t mention what it is that angered me, but I suggest that you read this book to find out.

Although I am a Canadian, not an American, due to the close ties of our two countries, I would like to personally thank Eric for his work toward eliminating the terrorists that are a plague against humanity. Your efforts and dedication are greatly appreciated and I wish you all the best in the future and I wish you good health and happiness and a pain-free future.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 stars.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The only negative comment that I have relates to the cover. The Arabic script is a turn-off for potential readers. In fact, when I received this book in the mail I initially put it aside because the Arabic on the cover turned me off.

However, I am VERY glad that I decided to read this book because I enjoyed it immensely and I highly recommend adding this book to your MUST READ list.

5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

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