On Tour with Eric Burkhart and his new release, Mukhabarat, Baby!
After reading Mr. Burkhart’s fascinating book, Mukhabarat, Baby! we were delighted to interview him between tour stops. If you haven’t had the chance to read our review, you can find it here. We hope you will check it out. You can find a full schedule of his tour at the tour host, iRead Book Tours.
It is an intriguing story, one from which the author is still recovering.
Our thanks to Mr. Burkhart for his time.
Q: There are many books out there about the war in Iraq; what makes yours different?
A: Up front, I can state the obvious and most important difference. My book focuses on the conflict from the perspective of the CIA, as our officers worked day and night digging up sources for the confidential information our military required to keep our soldiers safe. All of the books I have noticed up to now approach the issue of the Second Gulf War from either a political assessment, or from a military angle.
It’s also important to note that only roughly 50 percent of my memoir deals with the Iraq War. I also discussed the CIA training program for clandestine officers, my poisoning while operational in Kosovo in 2001, and my prior career in Federal Law Enforcement.
Q: What was the hardest part of your book to write?
A: Recalling all the particular details that led up to the 2001 poisoning event proved to be more difficult than I expected. I was very sick at the time, and keeping my memories in correct chronological order was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately I was able to rely on the superb memories of a few comments.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write according to a schedule? Do you write every day?
A: I do not see myself as a writer by profession, and certainly I don’t write everyday. I started my book as part of therapy, and it truly was an asset. I outlined my stories and chapters at the very beginning of the process, and wrote for an hour or two every day until the book was complete.
Q: What is the last great book you’ve read?
A: Currently I’m recommending “The House Gun” by Nadine Gordimer. The book tells a story of persons of different races attempting to deal with the suicide of a friend in post-apartheid South Africa.
Q: What is your next project?
A: I have been focusing on improving my health with the hope of returning to work soon. Obviously the problems that resulted from the toxic exposure has left permanent damage, but I no longer expect to be storming the beaches of Normandy. I feel that I can play a very positive role with the CIA as an Instructor.
Q: If you could go back in time, when would you like to go?
A: That would depend on what my position I life would be, but I must say I am most fascinated by the years immediately following the Revolutionary War.
Q: What is your favorite travel spot?
A: I love France, but I’m quite biased as I have French family and I grew up just northeast of Bordeaux. I love so many countries in Africa, it’s difficult to choose. I have always enjoyed the beaches in Gabon, and if I were interested in “roughing it”, Mozambique and Botswana offer excellent locations to commune with nature. For someone interested in Africa with a touch of modern conveniences, South Africa is your best bet. I lived in South Africa, and always felt very much at home.
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.
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.