Silliest Sentence of the Year
December 05, 2011
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] This comes courtesy of Jordan Michael Smith in Salon, from a piece about America and Pakistan titled 'America: The Ally From Hell.' According to Smith, American arrogance explains why Pakistan has been such a poor ally; what do you expect after demanding that another country follow your interests rather than its own?
The Psychological Foundation of Obama’s Political Problems
November 28, 2011
In June 1985, Flora Lewis wrote in the New York Times that then-President Ronald Reagan said he had pounded the walls in frustration over the hostage crisis in Beirut. Given what we know about Reagan, it's not hard to believe that he would resort to such measures to express his rage. Now try to imagine Barack Obama similarly venting his frustration at the Republicans taking his agenda hostage for political gain. Hard to visualize, isn't it? That's no accident.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Shade and Dazzle
November 09, 2011
You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo John Huston: Courage and ArtBy Jeffrey Meyers (Crown Archetype, 475 pp., $30) Guantánamo has become a dreadful word, signifying a morass of military, legal, political, diplomatic, and humanitarian complications.
How Pakistan's Crises Are Undermining Public Health
October 17, 2011
A recent dispatch in the Los Angeles Times contains more bad news from Pakistan—but not the kind Americans have come to expect. This latest news is about polio eradication efforts in that country, which, according to the article, are “faltering” in a climate of widespread anti-American sentiment and religious fundamentalism that is suspicious, even hostile, toward vaccinations (a sentiment only strengthened when news emerged that the U.S. had organized a fake vaccination drive in an effort to get a DNA sample from the family of Osama bin Laden).
Is the Internet Turning Books into Perpetual Works-in-Progress?
September 22, 2011
Richard North Patterson remembers the moment he learned that Osama bin Laden was dead. He was watching television on a Sunday evening two days before the publication of his latest novel, The Devil’s Light, in which Al Qaeda plans a nuclear attack on America for the decade anniversary of 9/11. Wolf Blitzer, grave-faced, said something about a major national security announcement. And immediately, Patterson knew. “I sat there like a man in a catatonic state,” he recalled.
The Indecency of Harvard’s 9/11 Commemoration
September 13, 2011
Harvard’s “Remembering 9/11” did no such thing. The events on the tenth anniversary of September 11 in Cambridge did little remembering of 9/11 and a whole lot of rehashing of the events in the post-9/11 world. Those people who did talk about 9/11 universalized it ad absurdum.
The Best Responses to 9/11—and the Worst
August 24, 2011
I was in bed at a New York hotel when my stock trader called to say that one of the Twin Towers had been hit by an airplane. “A horrible accident,” he surmised, adding “unprecedented” to the presumption. He told me to turn on the “tube,” such nomenclature dating him as middle-aged. The phone rang again: “The second tower is on its way down. And, of course, this means it is no accident at all.” Which was my intuition as soon as I’d heard the first terrible tidings. Moreover, I knew instinctively who’d done the dreadful deed; and it wasn’t a new version of the Unabomber.
My 18 Year Odyssey on the Trail of Osama bin Laden
August 24, 2011
I have covered the story of violent jihadism for the past 18 years, and, more than anything else, it has been a slow process of discovery. Looking back, it seems clear to me that, at any given moment in the story, there was always so much we didn’t know. Al Qaeda was founded in 1988 in Pakistan, although it wasn’t until 2002—when the minutes of the group’s first meetings were discovered by chance in the offices of an Islamist organization in Sarajevo—that the facts surrounding its origins were well-understood.
Of the 19 young Arabs who struck the United States on September 11, the Lebanese-born Ziad Jarrah, who is thought to have been at the controls of the plane forced down by its heroic passengers in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, has always been of greater interest to me than the others, and for strictly parochial reasons: We were both born in the same country, but two generations apart. For me, the contours of his life are easy to make out. He hailed from a privileged Sunni family from the Bekaa Valley and was raised in Beirut.
Do Ideas Matter?
August 24, 2011
I. MY ROLE ON September 11 was to be a reporter for The New Republic. I was in downtown Brooklyn, and from my rooftop I watched the first tower crumble, and then I ran downstairs to the street with pen and notebook and plunged into the crowds fleeing over the bridges. I spoke with one person after another, asking what they had seen. They told me. I compiled my report.