May 20, 2002
It's five miles from Northern Virginia, where the Pentagon sets military targets, and a mile and a half from Foggy Bottom, where the State Department cobbles together coalitions. To look at it, you'd never guess that the ten-story glass-and-steel building at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and T Street, nestled amid the town houses and cafes of Dupont Circle, serves as one of the headquarters for the U.S. propaganda war against terrorism. If it doesn't look like a government office building, that's because it's not. Rather, it houses a public relations firm called The Rendon Group.
Rights of Passage
February 25, 2002
A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Mary Ann Glendon (Random House, 333 pp., $25.95) Are rights universal? Can diverse people, across religious and ethnic differences, agree about what rights people have? Might it be possible to produce agreements about the content of rights among people from different nations--not simply England, America, Germany, and France, but China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India, Iran, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Cuba, and Japan, too? What would such an agreement look like?
February 11, 2002
As we walked along Timbuktu's sandy streets, past mud mosques and houses, warm winds from the Sahara whipped dust over the city, obscuring the sun and stinging my eyes. The wind did not bother my guide Muhammad, however.
The Big One
November 05, 2001
RUNS ON GAS masks in major cities. Arguments about the relative efficacy of Cipro versus doxycycline. The House of Representatives temporarily relocating. As the war on terrorism enters its second month, fear of flying is giving way to fear of opening the mail. Psychologically, it may be that society can only concentrate on one threat at a time. But if that's the case—anthrax letters notwithstanding—the focus is in the wrong place. Biological weapons are bad, but so far none has ever caused an epidemic or worked in war. And it is possible that none ever will: Biological agents are notoriously
Out of Egypt
November 05, 2001
Last month the Nobel Committee did something completely useless: It awarded its Peace Prize to Kofi Annan and the United Nations. Was it the UN's anti-racism conference—with its agenda formulated largely in Tehran—that won over the committee?
October 22, 2001
The cold war is back in vogue. For a month now, politicians and commentators have been analogizing the newly declared war on terror to America's 40-year war against communism. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for one, says, "This campaign will be waged much like the cold war, in the sense that it will involve many fronts over a period of time." But the parallel extends beyond similarities of scope and duration.
October 08, 2001
Though we still lack many details of the September 11 attacks, it's a good guess that oil money was involved. Osama bin Laden's inherited wealth comes from a Saudi construction family that made its fortune in the Arabian oil boom. He is also believed to receive donations from Saudis who grew rich from petroleum leases. If Saddam Hussein assisted in the attack, then oil money may have flowed to the butchers through Iraq, too. And if the terrorists got money from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, then Saudi Arabia and Iraq got money from us--because Americans bought their oil.
Back To Front
October 08, 2001
When America goes to war, Americans ask a historical question: How did we get ourselves into this? Doves usually answer: imperialism. If we didn't do such nasty things around the world, we wouldn't be attacked. But as I tried to show last week, the connection between our misdeeds and their attacks can be rather tenuous. And so more sophisticated doves offer a more sophisticated answer: "blowback." Our foreign policy doesn't just create enemies in a general sense, it creates them in a very specific sense: We fund and train the people who later attack us.
TRB From Washington: Fault Lines
October 01, 2001
Coming home last Friday night, I stumbled upon a candlelight vigil. Hundreds of my Dupont Circle neighbors were walking gravely down Q Street, holding signs and dispensing leaflets. As I stopped to watch, a man pulled up on his bicycle, surveyed the scene, and began to scream. "Why don't you just commit suicide?" he yelled at the marchers. A policeman rushed over and tried to quiet him down: "None of that," he said, "this is a vigil. No politics." "My brother died in New York," the man answered, "and these fuckers..." And then he sped off. But the policeman was wrong.
Friends Like These
October 01, 2001
The most searing images, of course, are of the aftermath--of the immediate survivors of the dead: parents, siblings, spouses, lovers, friends, hoping against hope that somehow those who live in their hearts might have survived in the flesh. They haunted the grim environs of ground zero with photos and handbills, pressing them onto journalists and cameramen, as if maybe the missing would see themselves on television and remember to call home. And then there were the uncomprehending faces of the children who will never see their moms or their dads again.