World Stories

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ejjus
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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Sun Oct 29, 2017 12:50 am

El Salvador: The Youth Are the Ones Who Are Dying

October 25, 2017 | Field Notes
BY LAURYN CLAASSEN

http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/el- ... -are-dying

Image
In a local cemetery, workers in think rubber boots dig graves
with shovels and move dirt with wheelbarrows at the Cementerio
Municipal Santa Tecla. Image by Lauryn Claassen. El Salvador, 2017.


“In this country, the youth are the ones who are dying,” said Aida, shaking her head and keeping her eyes fixed on the road.

According to the World Bank, the homicide rate in El Salvador hovers around 109 deaths per 100,000 people, making it the most violent country outside of a war zone. San Salvador is neck and neck with its regional neighbors Caracas and San Pedro Sula as the murder capital of the world.

The current spike in violence is rooted in the drug trade. As a lowland country that forms a physical bridge between South and North America, El Salvador bears the brunt of an industry in which they are neither the suppliers nor the buyers.

And even the foot soldiers on the ground are imported. The warring gangs locked in a Capulet and Montague-Esq battle were born in U.S. prisons in the 1980s and 1990s. Rivalries were created and crystallized—and then deported back to a country still reeling from civil war and in the middle of a power vacuum.
The world is deep,:
And deeper than even day may dream.

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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:57 pm

Steve Buscemi: ‘In some ways I feel I haven’t fulfilled my true potential'

Aaron Hicklin
Sunday 17 September 2017 08.00 BST

From firefighter and bar fly to Hollywood superstar, Steve Buscemi has populated his films with lovable oddballs and cold-blooded killers. But, as Aaron Hicklin finds, it’s all been driven by his need to fit in

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/s ... ric-dreams

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You feel their animating spirit in his own projects, populated as they are by oddballs and outsiders. He summons a quote by Frank Capra to the effect that every character in his Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, is worthy of his or her own film. “I tried to keep that in mind as I wrote Trees Lounge,” he said. “I thought I was being careful not to romanticise the life of someone who hangs out in a bar all the time, and yet I do find these characters romantic, and I still find bars really alluring.” He was touched when the owner of the bar they were set to film in changed his mind at the last minute. “He said: ‘I don’t think I can close my bar for a week and let you guys film here,’ and we said, ‘Why?’ and he said: ‘Where are my regulars going to go? What are they going to do?’”

...

No one could have been more surprised by his catapulting fame than Buscemi himself. Although his passion for acting was cemented early – he recalls clambering adorably on to tables at family weddings to crack jokes – he spent much of his teens and early adulthood feeling thwarted by circumstances. He got an early taste of rejection when he failed to get cast as the dwarf he had set his heart on in his Catholic school’s production of Snow White. He was seven at the time. “I was a little crushed,” he recalls. “I asked our nun if I could have that part, and she said: ‘Oh no, I’m giving the part to another kid.’ She was sweet about it, but I just remember being really disappointed: ‘Oh, this is what life is.’”

...

Buscemi got the role, and a standing ovation for his efforts, but it did little to quell his fear of being rejected by an indifferent world. “I don’t know if it was my dad’s worldview, or something, but it was about not expecting much,” he says. “I’ve never really analysed it that deeply, but it’s something that I know is still in me. It hasn’t stopped me altogether.” He pauses. “It did stop the character I play in Trees Lounge, but what I find saddest about that character was that he didn’t seem to have an awareness that there could be a way out.”
The world is deep,:
And deeper than even day may dream.

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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:24 pm

Octavio Paz, The Art of Poetry No. 42

Interviewed by Alfred MacAdam
ISSUE 119, SUMMER 1991

https://www.theparisreview.org/intervie ... ctavio-paz
https://www.scribd.com/document/1949726 ... etry-No-42

Image

Though small in stature and well into his seventies, Octavio Paz, with his piercing eyes, gives the impression of being a much younger man. In his poetry and his prose works, which are both erudite and intensely political, he recurrently takes up such themes as the experience of Mexican history, especially as seen through its Indian past, and the overcoming of profound human loneliness through erotic love. Paz has long been considered, along with César Vallejo and Pablo Neruda, to be one of the great South American poets of the twentieth century; three days after this interview, which was conducted on Columbus Day 1990, he joined Neruda among the ranks of Nobel laureates in literature.

...

INTERVIEWER
Octavio, you were born in 1914, as you probably remember . . .

OCTAVIO PAZ
Not very well!

INTERVIEWER
. . . virtually in the middle of the Mexican Revolution and right on the eve of World War I. The century you've lived through has been one of almost perpetual war. Do you have anything good to say about the twentieth century?

PAZ
Well, I have survived, and I think that's enough. History, you know, is one thing and our lives are something else. Our century has been terrible—one of the saddest in universal history—but our lives have always been more or less the same. Private lives are not historical. During the French or American revolutions, or during the wars between the Persians and the Greeks—during any great, universal event—history changes continually. But people live, work, fall in love, die, get sick, have friends, moments of illumination or sadness, and that has nothing to do with history. Or very little to do with it.

INTERVIEWER
So we are both in and out of history?

PAZ
Yes, history is our landscape or setting and we live through it. But the real drama, the real comedy also, is within us, and I think we can say the same for someone of the fifth century or for someone of a future century. Life is not historical, but something more like nature.
The world is deep,:
And deeper than even day may dream.

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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:42 am

The Shadow Commander

Qassem Suleimani is the Iranian operative who has been reshaping the Middle East. Now he’s directing Assad’s war in Syria.

By Dexter Filkins September 30, 2013 Issue


https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013 ... -commander

Image

A former C.I.A. officer calls Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today.”Illustration by Krzysztof Domaradzki

Last February, some of Iran’s most influential leaders gathered at the Amir al-Momenin Mosque, in northeast Tehran, inside a gated community reserved for officers of the Revolutionary Guard. They had come to pay their last respects to a fallen comrade. Hassan Shateri, a veteran of Iran’s covert wars throughout the Middle East and South Asia, was a senior commander in a powerful, élite branch of the Revolutionary Guard called the Quds Force. The force is the sharp instrument of Iranian foreign policy, roughly analogous to a combined C.I.A. and Special Forces; its name comes from the Persian word for Jerusalem, which its fighters have promised to liberate. Since 1979, its goal has been to subvert Iran’s enemies and extend the country’s influence across the Middle East. Shateri had spent much of his career abroad, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, where the Quds Force helped Shiite militias kill American soldiers.

Shateri had been killed two days before, on the road that runs between Damascus and Beirut. He had gone to Syria, along with thousands of other members of the Quds Force, to rescue the country’s besieged President, Bashar al-Assad, a crucial ally of Iran. In the past few years, Shateri had worked under an alias as the Quds Force’s chief in Lebanon; there he had helped sustain the armed group Hezbollah, which at the time of the funeral had begun to pour men into Syria to fight for the regime. The circumstances of his death were unclear: one Iranian official said that Shateri had been “directly targeted” by “the Zionist regime,” as Iranians habitually refer to Israel.

Kneeling in the second row on the mosque’s carpeted floor was Major General Qassem Suleimani, the Quds Force’s leader: a small man of fifty-six, with silver hair, a close-cropped beard, and a look of intense self-containment. It was Suleimani who had sent Shateri, an old and trusted friend, to his death. As Revolutionary Guard commanders, he and Shateri belonged to a small fraternity formed during the Sacred Defense, the name given to the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988 and left as many as a million people dead. It was a catastrophic fight, but for Iran it was the beginning of a three-decade project to build a Shiite sphere of influence, stretching across Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean. Along with its allies in Syria and Lebanon, Iran forms an Axis of Resistance, arrayed against the region’s dominant Sunni powers and the West. In Syria, the project hung in the balance, and Suleimani was mounting a desperate fight, even if the price of victory was a sectarian conflict that engulfed the region for years.

Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned Suleimani for his role in supporting the Assad regime, and for abetting terrorism. And yet he has remained mostly invisible to the outside world, even as he runs agents and directs operations. “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, “and no one’s ever heard of him.”
The world is deep,:
And deeper than even day may dream.

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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Sat Dec 09, 2017 2:51 am

James Mattis, a Warrior in Washington

The former Marine Corps general spent four decades on the front lines. How will he lead the Department of Defense?

By Dexter Filkins May 29, 2017 Issue


https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017 ... washington

Image
Mattis is by turns deeply thoughtful and ferociously aggressive about war; he’s seen by peers as both soldier and scholar.Illustration by Bob Staake

On January 22nd, two days after President Trump was inaugurated, he received a memo from his new Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, recommending that the United States launch a military strike in Yemen. In a forty-year career, Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general and a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had cultivated a reputation for being both deeply thoughtful and extremely aggressive. By law and by custom, the position of Defense Secretary is reserved for civilians, but Mattis was still a marine at heart. He had been out of the military for only three years (the rule is seven), and his appointment required Congress to pass a waiver. For the first time in his professional life, he was going to the Pentagon in a suit and tie.

Mattis urged Trump to launch the raid swiftly: the operation, which was aimed at one of the leaders of Al Qaeda in Yemen, required a moonless night, and the window for action was approaching. Under previous Administrations, such attacks entailed deliberation by the National Security Council. Instead, the request was discussed over dinner three days later at the White House, where Trump was joined by Mattis and several advisers, including Mike Flynn, who at the time was the national-security adviser, and Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The target of the raid, they explained, was a mountain camp where the Al Qaeda leader was holed up. The military hoped to apprehend him and capture his comrades’ computers and phones, which could be scoured for intelligence.

A plan for the operation had been developed under the previous Administration, but President Obama didn’t want to commit to a risky mission at the end of his term. Obama’s restraint was in keeping with an over-all preference for caution, which often rankled leading generals at the Pentagon. For eight years, the White House had tightly managed the Pentagon’s operations in the Middle East and in South Asia; even something as mundane as moving helicopters from one part of a war zone to another might require top-level discussion. “The Pentagon said they had to crawl through glass to get anything out of the White House,” a former defense official told me. Now the generals wanted to move. “There was an eagerness in the military to do something quickly,” a senior official with knowledge of the strike told me. “There was a frustration because a lot of operations had been held up.” When Trump heard the plan for the Yemen strike, he gave the order to go.

...

Mattis avoids talking to the press, preferring to remain behind the scenes, but, by following his team on two weeklong trips to Europe this spring, I was able to talk with him several times. On the airplane, dressed in a business suit, he looked like a banker, except for the closely cropped gray hair on the sides of his head. There are heavy bags below his eyes, giving him a weary aspect. His accent is Western flat. He usually had a book with him. During our first talk, it was “Earning the Rockies,” by Robert Kaplan, about how geography has shaped Americans’ role in the world.

When I asked what worried him most in his new position, I expected him to say isis or Russia or the defense budget. Instead, he said, “The lack of political unity in America. The lack of a fundamental friendliness. It seems like an awful lot of people in America and around the world feel spiritually and personally alienated, whether it be from organized religion or from local community school districts or from their governments.

“I come out of the tight-knit Marine Corps, but I’ve lived on college campuses for three and a half years,” he went on. “Go back to Ben Franklin—his descriptions about how the Iroquois Nations lived and worked together. Compare that to America today. I think that, when you look at veterans coming out of the wars, they’re more and more just slapped in the face by that isolation, and they’re used to something better. They think it’s P.T.S.D.—which it can be—but it’s really about alienation. If you lose any sense of being part of something bigger, then why should you care about your fellow-man?”
The world is deep,:
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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:57 pm

OUT IN THE GREAT ALONE

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race pushes participants to the brink on an unforgiving trek to the end of the world. And, as one writer who tracked the race by air discovers, that is exactly the point.

by Brian Phillips
05/05/13

http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/ ... reat-alone

Image

Prologue
A Lot of Ways to Die


In the summer of 1977, a fire swept across the wilderness of interior Alaska, west of Mount McKinley. Tundra burned to rock; 345,000 acres of forest — more than 530 square miles — disappeared in flames. When the smoke cleared, it left behind a weird scar on the map, a vast, charred crater littered with deadfall. In the winter, when temperatures in the interior dive to 40 below, the skeletons of burned trees snapped in the cold or were ripped out by powerful winds. The tussocks of tundra grass froze as hard as bowling balls.

Every year in early March, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race sets out from Anchorage, in the south-central part of the state, and runs northwest toward the finish line in Nome, on the coast of the Bering Sea. In its early stages, the trail runs upward, into the mountains of the Alaska Range, then plunges down, into the interior, where it enters the fire's scorched country.

For the mushers of the Iditarod, the Farewell Burn, as the region became known, was a nightmare. The race had been founded only four years earlier, as a way to commemorate the importance of sled dogs to Alaska. Large expanses of the state had, for much of its history, been unreachable by other forms of transportation. Now dog teams were forced to navigate through blackened stumps and fallen limbs, along a trail that was often impossible to follow. Many years, the Burn accumulated little precipitation. Sleds intended for snow and ice had to be dragged across hardened mud and gravel. Runners broke; tree shards snagged tug lines; speeds dropped to 3 or 4 miles per hour.

In 1984, the Alaska Bureau of Land Management cut a swath for a better trail. But even then, a seasoned musher could need 12 hours or more to cross from Rohn to Nikolai, the checkpoints on either side of the Burn — a passage that would frequently be made in darkness, through heavy wind and extreme, subzero cold. The novelist Gary Paulsen, who ran the Iditarod twice in the 1980s, describes the Burn as a place where mushers literally go mad. "It was beyond all reason," Paulsen writes in his Iditarod memoir Winterdance. "I entered a world of mixed reality and dreams, peopled with the most bizarre souls and creatures …" At one point he thinks he's on a beach in California; at another he pulls out a real ax to fend off an attack from an imaginary moose. When he comes to, his dogs have vanished; he's alone in the landscape. He stumbles across them 100 yards away. He has built a fire and bedded them down without knowing it.

The Iditarod Trail runs across the Burn for around 35 miles of its total length. The total length of the Iditarod Trail is more than 1,000 miles. The Burn is not the most difficult section.

...

Colin had a fascinatingly odd way of maintaining intense eye contact while simultaneously all but squirming with agony over the fact that he was being noticed — the way, say, your 15-year-old goth cousin might do. This was something I noticed time and again in the inhabitants of remote Alaska, this total, helpless acuteness in the presence of a stranger. It was as if isolation had kept them from numbing themselves to the fact of other people. You walk down the sidewalk in Manhattan and maybe you know on some level that every single person you pass is a constellation of memory and perception as huge and unique as whatever's inside you, but there's no way to really appreciate that on a case-by-case basis; you'd go loony. You get anesthetized, living among crowds, to the implications of faces. The terra incognita of every gaze, Saul Bellow calls it. Whereas if you walk up to a remote Alaskan, I mean buying a bag of chips in the village store or whatever, a lot of the time the response you get is this sort of HELLO, VAST AND TERRIFYING COSMOS OF PERSONHOOD. The apertures are just wide open.

I took a walk through the village. Couple of roads twisting down a couple of hills, some pretty rough-looking houses. Moose antlers over the doorways. Things happen to the color blue during an Alaska twilight that I've never seen anywhere else. Imagine that the regular, daytime blue sky spends all its time floating on the night sky, the way you'd float on the surface of a pool. Now it's submerging itself. You could see it vanishing upward. The cars looked derelict, half-buried in snow. Snowdrifts rammed up doorknob-high against the houses. Every now and again a snow machine would go screaming by; the drivers always waved. Snow 3 and 4 feet high on the roofs.

...

We were standing in the open. All of a sudden I felt … but I don't want to overstate it; it wasn't despair or anything, just melancholy, just an extreme forlornness. It hit me that what I really felt — I realize how weird this is to write — was loneliness for history. Alaska has its own past: the murdering flaming wreck of the Russian colonies, the gold insanity, the deep-time traditions of the tribes. But it doesn't saturate the landscape. In the Lower 48, you carry around a sense that the human environment has been molded by people who went before — this battle on this hill and so on. There's a texture that you, too, are part of, even when it's bloody or frightening, a texture within which your life can assume some kind of meaning. And that, as Bernard's theory of tax policy and generations of writers have discovered, can be its own nightmare, but in remote Alaska, the nightmare is: It's not there. It's hard to explain, though this felt absence is an obvious part of both the allure and the terror of the frontier. There are no pre-written meanings. A fella can do just about anything he's big enough to do. And one strong gust of wind could blow the whole edifice of human habitation away.

...

Who knew what would ever be there tomorrow? And it hit me that that was exactly the point of the Iditarod, why it was so important to Alaska. When everything can vanish, you make a sport out of not vanishing. You submit yourself to the forces that could erase you from the earth, and then you turn up at the end, not erased. I'd had it wrong before, when I'd seen the dog teams as saints on the cusp of a religious vision. It was the opposite. Visionaries are trying to escape into something larger. Mushers are heading into something larger that they have to escape. They're going into the vision to show that they can come out of it again. The vision will be beautiful, and it will try to kill you. And (oh by the way) that doesn't have to be the last word. That's why you go to the end of the world — to see whether you're still there.
The world is deep,:
And deeper than even day may dream.

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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:09 pm

THE SHOWMAN

How U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara struck fear into Wall Street and Albany.

By Jeffrey Toobin Profiles
May 9, 2016 Issue

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016 ... all-street

Image
In style, Bharara is unlike his predecessors. He sometimes acts like a budding pol with a gift for wisecracks and shtick.Photograph by Platon for The New Yorker

The next day, Bharara gave a speech at New York Law School in which he mocked the state’s political leadership, and had some fun with the old adage that Albany is governed by “three men in a room.” He said, “There are by my count two hundred and thirteen men and women in the state legislature, and yet it is common knowledge that only three men essentially wield all the power—the governor, the Assembly Speaker, and the Senate president.”
He went on, “Why three men? Can there be a woman? Do they always have to be white? How small is the room—that they can only fit three men? Is it three men in a closet? Are there cigars? Can they have Cuban cigars now? After a while, doesn’t it get a little gamey in that room?”

...

On May 28, 2015, Bharara indicted Silver’s counterpart in the State Senate, Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and his son Adam. In this instance, the complaint told an even more dramatic story, requiring forty-three pages. Adam, who was in his early thirties and sporadically employed, had bought a house that he could not afford, for six hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. His father used his power in the state, and, especially, in his political base, on Long Island, to pressure government contractors to hire his son—who rarely showed up for work. Using quotations from wiretapped conversations, the complaint detailed how the father and son worried about Bharara’s investigation of them even as Senator Skelos continued to try to steer jobs and cash to Adam. On March 28, 2015, Adam Skelos complained that his father was not giving him any “real advice” about dealing with a business contact: “You can’t talk normally because it’s like fucking Preet Bharara is listening to every fucking phone call. It’s just fucking frustrating.” Dean replied, “It is.”

Bharara did not invent speaking complaints, but his prolific use of them has become the subject of debate. “These complaints are unnerving and disturbing and fundamentally unfair,” Henry Mazurek, a prominent defense attorney, told me. “Preet has recruited strong people, and the office is incredibly effective, but, on the flip side, I’m concerned that he has created an office that has been more politically motivated than it has been under previous regimes. When defendants are accused in such detail, there are huge reputational and professional repercussions for them. People think that they can’t fight the government at that point.” Mazurek notes that speaking complaints continue to help the prosecution even in those rare cases (like those against Silver and Skelos) when the defendants choose to go to trial. “The complaints tell a story and set a tone, especially in the press, that’s very hard to counteract,” he said. Judge Rakoff told me, “It’s inevitable that the media is more interested in the complaint and the indictment than in the sentence. It’s old news at that point. The media tends to be much more focussed when the original charge is brought. The only time you really hear both sides is when the case goes to trial, and there are very few trials these days.”

Bharara was pleased that Silver and Skelos, unlike most defendants, chose to go to trial. “Trials are good, because only at a trial does everyone see all the muck that maybe the investigators and prosecutors saw,” he told me. “You might not have believed as fully in the guilt of that person even if he had pleaded guilty to something small.”
The two trials unfolded in Shakespearean fashion, one a history, the other a comedy. The Silver trial revealed a despotic figure, more feared than loved by his subjects. The Skelos case revealed a beleaguered father’s desperate and bumbling attempts to prop up his ne’er-do-well son.
The world is deep,:
And deeper than even day may dream.

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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:32 pm

ENEMY INSIDE THE WIRE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE BATTLE OF BASTION

One year ago this month, under cover of night, fifteen Taliban, dressed as American soldiers, snuck onto one of the largest air bases in Afghanistan. What followed was a bloody confrontation highlighting a startling security lapse, with hundreds of millions in matériel lost in a matter of hours—the worst day for American airpower since the Tet Offensive. Yet the attack faded from view before anyone could figure out what went wrong. For the first time, Matthieu Aikins relives those heart-pounding moments and offers an extraordinary account of the Battle of Bastion


BY MATTHIEU AIKINS
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MATTHEW WOODSON
September 3, 2013


Image
And there, about thirty feet away, were four bearded Taliban in U.S. Army uniforms. The closest one was facing McDonald, holding a huge belt-fed machine gun.

It was a suicide mission. None of them had a doubt about that.

They gathered in the Afghan village just outside Camp Bastion’s perimeter wire, the fifteen young men who’d been chosen, some of them barely out of their teens. The village wasn’t much to look at, a scraggly collection of mud-walled compounds erected on what, until recently, had been empty desert. Then, like an apparition from the sky, the foreigners had come and built a base so vast that its sewage runoff gave life to the barren ground outside the wire. Fields of opium poppy had sprouted within sight of the perimeter fence, their colorful flowers waving in the wind. For months, disguised as farmers, this team had been sending men to crawl inside the outermost lines of barbed wire, testing the foreigners’ alertness and responses. Now they had found a weak point, and the mission could begin. There was no moon tonight, and darkness would cover their approach.

Earlier, in preparation, they had donned their stolen U.S. Army uniforms and faced a video camera. Their leader stood in the center with a Koran in one hand and a British assault rifle in the other. It was early morning, still cool enough for breath to form.

"In the name of almighty Allah, who is king of the kings," he said in broken, memorized English. He was a little older than the rest of them, his beard fuller but still short-trimmed, his face calm and confident. "I want to give this message to Obama, crusaders, and other non-Muslims. You have come to Afghanistan to guilt all Muslims under the name of terrorism. It is not terrorism. We are not terrorists."

The Afghan on his right—a boy, really, in an army cap and square-rimmed glasses—pinched his lips and tried not to giggle at his leader’s English. A rooster crowed in the distance. "You rain the bombs on Muslims," he said. "Next, insult of our Muslim sisters. Next, to destroy our mosques and madrassas. These are those actions which makes us ready to sacrifice ourselves in the way of almighty Allah. We are not suicide bombers. We have morals just like other young boys."

They walked over to a whiteboard that had been affid to a mud wall and sat down as the leader lectured with a pointer, the camera rolling. The board was marked with red and blue lines and symbols—showing the base’s concentric defenses, its fuel farms, and their chief target, the jets on the airfield. It was a crude but accurate map of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Bastion.

As they made their final preparations in the quiet of the village, two Harrier jets roared out from the base and headed north, their wingtips glinting against the crystalline sky. To the enemy on the ground, they were as untouchable as the sun.
The world is deep,:
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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Mon Dec 11, 2017 10:27 pm

FRACTURED LANDS: HOW THE ARAB WORLD CAME APART


BY SCOTT ANDERSON
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAOLO PELLEGRIN

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/201 ... lands.html

Image

This is a story unlike any we have previously published. It is much longer than the typical New York Times Magazine feature story; in print, it occupies an entire issue. The product of some 18 months of reporting, it tells the story of the catastrophe that has fractured the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago, leading to the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis. The geography of this catastrophe is broad and its causes are many, but its consequences — war and uncertainty throughout the world — are familiar to us all. Scott Anderson’s story gives the reader a visceral sense of how it all unfolded, through the eyes of six characters in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Accompanying Anderson’s text are 10 portfolios by the photographer Paolo Pellegrin, drawn from his extensive travels across the region over the last 14 years, as well as a landmark virtual-reality experience that embeds the viewer with the Iraqi fighting forces during the battle to retake Falluja.

It is unprecedented for us to focus so much energy and attention on a single story, and to ask our readers to do the same. We would not do so were we not convinced that what follows is one of the most clear-eyed, powerful and human explanations of what has gone wrong in this region that you will ever read.

– JAKE SILVERSTEIN, EDITOR IN CHIEF


Azar is a practicing urologist, but even without the firepower and warrior get-up, the 41-year-old would exude the aura of a hunter. He walks with a curious loping gait that produces little sound, and in conversation has a tendency to tuck his chin and stare from beneath heavy-lidded eyes, rather as if he were sighting down a gun. With his prominent nose and jet black pompadour, he bears a passing resemblance to a young Johnny Cash.

The weaponry also complemented the doctor’s personal philosophy, as expressed in a scene from one of his favorite movies, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” when a bathing Eli Wallach is caught off guard by a man seeking to kill him. Rather than immediately shoot Wallach, the would-be assassin goes into a triumphant soliloquy, allowing Wallach to kill him first.

“When you have to shoot, shoot; don’t talk,” Azar quoted from the movie. “That is us Kurds now. This is not the time to talk, but to shoot.”

Azar is one of six people whose lives are chronicled in these pages. The six are from different regions, different cities, different tribes, different families, but they share, along with millions of other people in and from the Middle East, an experience of profound unraveling. Their lives have been forever altered by upheavals that began in 2003 with the American invasion of Iraq, and then accelerated with the series of revolutions and insurrections that have collectively become known in the West as the Arab Spring. They continue today with the depredations of ISIS, with terrorist attacks and with failing states.

For each of these six people, the upheavals were crystallized by a specific, singular event. For Azar Mirkhan, it came on the road to Sinjar, when he saw that his worst fears had come true. For Laila Soueif in Egypt, it came when a young man separated from a sprinting mass of protesters to embrace her, and she thought she knew the revolution would succeed. For Majdi el-Mangoush in Libya, it came as he walked across a deadly no-man’s-land and, overwhelmed by a sudden euphoria, felt free for the first time in his life. For Khulood al-Zaidi in Iraq, it came when, with just a few menacing words from a former friend, she finally understood that everything she had worked for was gone. For Majd Ibrahim in Syria, it came when, watching an interrogator search his cellphone for the identity of his “controller,” he knew his own execution was drawing nearer by the moment. For Wakaz Hassan in Iraq, a young man with no apparent interest in politics or religion, it came on the day ISIS gunmen showed up in his village and offered him a choice.

As disparate as those moments were, for each of these six people they represented a crossing over, passage to a place from which there will never be a return. Such changes, of course — multiplied by millions of lives — are also transforming their homelands, the greater Middle East and, by inevitable extension, the entire world.

...

In my professional travels over the decades, I had found no other region to rival the Arab world in its utter stagnation. While Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya set a record for longevity in the Middle East with his 42-year dictatorship, it was not that different elsewhere; by 2011, any Egyptian younger than 41 — and that was roughly 75 percent of the population — had only ever known two heads of state, while a Syrian of the same age had lived his or her entire life under the control of the father-and-son Assad dynasty. Along with political stasis, in many Arab nations most levers of economic power lay in the hands of small oligarchies or aristocratic families; for everyone else, about the only path to financial security was to wrangle a job within fantastically bloated public-sector bureaucracies, government agencies that were often themselves monuments to nepotism and corruption. While the sheer amount of money pouring into oil-rich, sparsely populated nations like Libya or Kuwait might allow for a degree of economic trickle-down prosperity, this was not the case in more populous but resource-poor nations like Egypt or Syria, where poverty and underemployment were severe and — given the ongoing regional population explosion — ever-worsening problems.

I was heartened, in the Arab Spring’s early days, by the focus of the people’s wrath. One of the Arab world’s most prominent and debilitating features, I had long felt, was a culture of grievance that was defined less by what people aspired to than by what they opposed. They were anti-Zionist, anti-West, anti-imperialist. For generations, the region’s dictators had been adroit at channeling public frustration toward these external “enemies” and away from their own misrule. But with the Arab Spring, that old playbook suddenly didn’t work anymore. Instead, and for the first time on such a mass scale, the people of the Middle East were directing their rage squarely at the regimes themselves.

...

On March 8, 2004, the new provisional Constitution of Iraq was signed. The clause that set a goal of having 25 percent of future parliamentary seats held by women was largely credited to the behind-the-scenes lobbying of Fern Holland.

The following afternoon, a Daewoo containing three C.P.A. civilian employees was traveling along a provincial highway when an Iraqi police pickup truck pulled alongside. With a blast of automatic gunfire, the car was sent careering across the highway before stalling on the shoulder; the men in the police truck then clambered out to finish off their victims with assault rifles. All three of the Daewoo's occupants were killed in the fusillade, marking them as the first C.P.A. civilians to be murdered in Iraq. That included the driver and presumed target of the attack, Fern Holland.

Following Holland’s murder, a sense of trepidation spread among the thousands of C.P.A. personnel scattered across Iraq. “We were all in a state of shock, of course,” Khulood al-Zaidi said, “but I think we were also waiting to see what it meant, if it had been an attack on Fern in particular or if this was going to be something larger.”
The world is deep,:
And deeper than even day may dream.

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ejjus
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Re: World Stories

Post by ejjus » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:48 am

M.I.A

Half a century ago, an American commando vanished in the jungles of Laos. In 2008, he reappeared in Vietnam, reportedly alive and well. But nothing was what it seemed.

Matthew Shaer
Published January 31, 2017

Image

The distress call was picked up by the radio crew at Forward Operating Base One, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, on the morning of May 20, 1968. Some 250 miles to the northwest, on the other side of the border with Laos, a team of American and South Vietnamese soldiers had come under heavy enemy fire—the group’s commander was reporting several South Vietnamese and at least one American killed in action. Immediate resupply and medevac were requested. Shouldering his rifle, John Hartley Robertson, the operations sergeant at FOB One, exited the main compound and dashed across the dirt courtyard in the direction of a waiting CH-34D Sikorsky Seahorse helicopter.

At 36, rangy and lean, Robertson was a military lifer in a recruit’s war: He’d enlisted in the Army in his native Alabama out of high school, tested into the Green Berets, and spent several years training paratroopers at Fort Benning, Georgia. In the mid-sixties, as the U.S. was ramping up its bombing of North Vietnam, he’d been dispatched to Asia to join the Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, or MACV-SOG, a top-secret unit that worked closely with the CIA. Robertson was a natural fit for the group, which routinely carried out sensitive search-and-destroy and reconnaissance work inside Cambodia and Laos. As a precaution in case of capture, the men of MACV-SOG wore no patches or insignia on their fatigues. In April of 1968, two years into his stint in Southeast Asia, Robertson had been awarded the Bronze Star for bravery, for leading his men safely out of a firefight with the Vietcong.

“His actions during this time were an inspiration to those members who were evacuated,” the Department of the Army later wrote in its commendation letter, noting Robertson’s “exemplary courage.”

Now, strapping himself into the Seahorse’s jump seat, Robertson gave the thumbs-up sign to the South Vietnamese Air Force pilot and sat back as the chopper shimmied off the landing pad. Robertson would have fully understood the stakes of the mission he’d been asked to undertake: He was the lone American soldier on board an SVAF helicopter headed for the heart of a country, Laos, where the United States military was not officially active, and a region, the A Shau Valley, that was protected by two battalions of crack Vietcong troops and several rings of anti-air emplacements. Robertson was the cavalry. If the very worst happened, his own prospects of rescue would be slim.

Close to midday, Robertson’s chopper established radio contact with the American and South Vietnamese commandos, who had created a defensive perimeter around a clearing atop a hill referred to as 1045. According to American troops on the ground that day, the helicopter was on final approach when the first enemy soldier opened fire. The Seahorse was sturdy—some 8,000 pounds unloaded—but not bulletproof, and the South Vietnamese pilot attempted to yank the machine around for another pass. He did not get far: As the commandos watched, an enemy rocket spiraled out of the undergrowth, smacking the Seahorse on the flank. Losing power and coughing orange flame, the helicopter drifted into a nearby valley and exploded.

The body of Sergeant John Hartley Robertson was never found.

...

In the spring of 2008, a Christian missionary named Tom Faunce was digging wells in rural Cambodia when he heard a rumor, from a local pastor, about an American soldier who had managed to survive a helicopter crash over Laos in the spring of 1968. According to the pastor, the soldier, a decorated Green Beret, had later married a nurse from a North Vietnamese Army prison, taken the identity of the woman’s dead husband, and migrated with his new wife to the southern Vietnamese province of Dong Nai. Locally, the man was known as Dang Tan Ngoc. But his real name, the pastor said, was John Hartley Robertson.
The world is deep,:
And deeper than even day may dream.

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