U.S. Military

86 articles
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The Killer Elite

Published across three consecutive issues and later adapted into the book (and mini-series) Generation Kill, the story of bullets, bombs and a Marine platoon at war in Iraq.

Previously: Evan Wright on the Longform Podcast.

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The Great Escape

How the CIA used a fake science fiction film to sneak six Americans out of revolutionary Iran. The declassified story that became Ben Affleck’s Argo.

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Fort Bragg's Deadly Summer

Looking for answers following a mysterious string of slayings and suicides at the base.

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Hacking the President’s DNA

On the potential existence of personalized bioweapons, which could attack a single individual without leaving a trace, and how they might be stopped.

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General Failure

The U.S. military’s leadership problem.

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The Hunt for "Geronimo"

How Barack Obama decided to green-light the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

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'Moral' Robots

The debate over autonomous lethal drones.

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The Devil and Jeffrey MacDonald

Did a handsome young Green Beret doctor kill his pregnant wife and two daughters? Or, as he claims, did a group of candle-carrying hippies carry out a vicious home invasion while chanting “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs”? A mystery that spanned three decades.

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Waiting for a Kill Shot 7,000 Miles Away

The emotional toll on drone pilots.

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The Wedding

Erwynn Umali, Will Behrens, and the first gay wedding on a military base.

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The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama

Drone strikes and their consequences.

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Lieutenant Accused of Murdering 109 Civilians

Revealing the murder of 109 Vietnamese civilians during a 1968 search-and-destroy mission on a rumored Viet Gong stronghold, often referred to in military circles as Pinkville, actually the village of My Lai.

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The Yankee Comandante

The story of William Morgan: American, wanderer, Cuban revolutionary.

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The Growing Menace

On the ground with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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Final Salute

A year with Major Steve Beck as he takes on the most difficult duty of his career: casualty notification.

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The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret

How killing by remote control has changed the way we fight.

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The Mystery of Why Marine Noah Pippin Went AWOL

The search for a missing soldier.

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The Crackdown

The United States, which took a forceful stance on other Arab revolts, remained relatively passive in the face of the kingdom’s unrest and crackdown. To many who are familiar with the region, this came as no surprise: of all the Arab states that saw revolts last year, Bahrain is arguably the most closely tied to American strategic interests.

A report on Bahrain, the Arab Spring’s most ill-fated uprising.

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At Home, Asking How ‘Our Bobby’ Became War Crime Suspect

From a small Ohio town to Afghanistan, a portrait of the perpetrator of a massacre.

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One Awful Night in Thanh Phong

"I thought dying for your country was the worst thing that could happen to you, and I don't think it is. I think killing for your country can be a lot worse. Because that's the memory that haunts."

On February 25, 1969, Bob Kerrey led a raid into a Vietnamese peasant hamlet during which at least 13 unarmed women and children were killed.

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In the City of Cement

As U.S. troops departed, Baghdad in ruins.

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. While on assignment for the New York Times, Anthony Shadid died today in Syria.
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Three Trials for Murder

An unexplainable murder, double jeopardy, and military courts: the strange case of Tim Hennis.

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Searching for the Wounded Platoon

A reporter makes it his mission to track down all 42 members of a platoon after their service in Iraq.

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Guantanamo: An Oral History

On Thanksgiving weekend, I received a phone call informing me that we had just captured approximately 300 al-Qaeda and Taliban. I asked all our assistant secretaries and regional bureaus to canvass literally the world to begin to look at what options we had as to where a detention facility could be established. We began to eliminate places for different reasons. One day, in one of our meetings, we sat there puzzled as places continued to be eliminated. An individual from the Department of Justice effectively blurted out, What about Guantánamo?
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Pvt. Danny Chen, 1992–2011

A glimpse into the life and death of a soldier who committed suicide while on duty in Afghanistan:

The Army recently announced that it was charging eight soldiers — an officer and seven enlisted men — in connection with Danny Chen’s death. Five of the eight have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide, and the coming court-martial promises a fuller picture of the harrowing abuse Chen endured. But even the basic details are enough to terrify: What could be worse than being stuck at a remote outpost, in the middle of a combat zone, tormented by your superiors, the very same people who are supposed to be looking out for you? And why did a nice, smart kid from Chinatown, who’d always shied from conflict and confrontation, seek out an environment ruled by the laws of aggression?

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Drone-Ethics Briefing

The transcript from an lecture presented by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture-capital arm, on the ethics of drones, military robots, and cyborg soldiers.

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The Recruiters' War

Military recruiters reveal just how corrupted—and sometimes deadly—their job has become.

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From Pakistan to Afghanistan, U.S. Finds Convoy of Chaos

What happened when Pakistan shut down the vitally important Karachi to Kabul trucking line.

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Barack and Hamid's Excellent Adventure

On the occasion of Hamid Karzai’s visit to the White House, a fever dream tour of the Afghanistan war through the eyes of the leaders who gave birth to its narrative.

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Echoes from a Distant Battlefield

The battle of Wanat—the most scrutinized engagement in the Afghanistan War—seen from three perspectives: a dead soldier, his father, and his commander.

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Q&A: Edward Luttwak

Edward Luttwak is a rare bird whose peripatetic life and work are the envy of academics and spies alike. ...he published his first book, Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook, at the age of 26. Over the past 40 years, he has made provocative and often deeply original contributions to multiple academic fields, including military strategy, Roman history, Byzantine history, and economics.
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In the New Gangland of El Salvador

How LA-style gang life migrated to the slums of San Salvador.

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Brutal Haqqani Clan Bedevils U.S. in Afghanistan

The Haqqani family, an organized crime militia dubbed the “Sopranos of the Afghanistan war,” will almost surely outlast the U.S. occupation and thus seize tremendous power after the U.S. exits.

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Hiding in Uniform

On being gay in the military, three years before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

A vast majority of those interviewed had been interrogated at least once, and what they described was nearly the same. They said those under suspicion of homosexuality suffer bright lights in their eyes and sometimes handcuffs on their wrists, warnings that their parents will be informed or their hometown newspapers called, threats that their stripes will be torn off and they will pushed through the gates of the base before a jeering crowd.
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Soldiers of Misfortune

Profiles of Vietnam veterans several years after returning home.

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Tell: An Intimate History of Gay Men in the Military

As “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” comes to an end, a conversation with gay servicemen past and present.

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Army vet with PTSD sought the treatment he needed by taking hostages – but got jail instead

The story of Robert Quinones:

Fifteen months of carnage in Iraq had left the 29-year-old debilitated by post-traumatic stress disorder. But despite his doctor’s urgent recommendation, the Army failed to send him to a Warrior Transition Unit for help. The best the Department of Veterans Affairs could offer was 10-minute therapy sessions — via videoconference. So, early on Labor Day morning last year, after topping off a night of drinking with a handful of sleeping pills, Quinones barged into Fort Stewart’s hospital, forced his way to the third-floor psychiatric ward and held three soldiers hostage, demanding better mental health treatment.

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The Agony and the Ecstasy

A clinical test is underway to evaluate MDMA—ecstasy—as a treatment for PTSD.

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Two CIA Prisoners in China, 1952–73

The CIA’s declassified account of the two decades two young officers spent as captives after being shot down over China during the Korean War.

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Getting bin Laden

The story of the Abbottabad raid, in detail.

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Vetville

Alan Beaty’s Tennessee farm serves an unofficial halfway house for Marines struggling with their return to civilian life.

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The Unquiet Life of Franz Gayl

The story of a Marine who saved innumerable lives, then got fired.

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The Secret History of Iraq’s Invisible War

In the early years of the Iraq war, the U.S. military developed a technology so secret that soldiers would refuse to acknowledge its existence, and reporters mentioning the gear were promptly escorted out of the country. That equipment—a radio-frequency jammer—was upgraded several times, and eventually robbed the Iraq insurgency of its most potent weapon, the remote-controlled bomb.
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The Secret History of Boeing’s Killer Drone

The bitter rivalry within the aerospace industry to produce unmanned combat aircrafts.

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How Corporate Branding Has Taken Over America

What happened when the U.S. Military decided to take its lead from America’s biggest brands.

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Just Desert

On the life of an American soldier AWOL in Canada:

I asked him what it's like to have the entire U.S. Army after you, and he thought for a moment and said slowly, "It's like I'm carrying a heavy rock in my backpack." This is as close to introspection as McDowell gets.

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The Secret Sharer

How Thomas Drake, senior executive at the NSA, came to face some of the gravest charges that can be brought against an American citizen.

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Blackwater Founder Forms Secret Army for Arab State

Since being revealed as a CIA operative and selling Blackwater, Erik Prince has set to work building U.A.E. a mercenary army, made up heavily of Colombian and South African troops, to be used “if the Emirates faced unrest or were challenged by pro-democracy demonstrations in its crowded labor camps or democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.”

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The Last Two Veterans Of WWI

Nearly 10,000,000 men were killed in the conflict, 65 million participated, and now we are left with two.
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A Beast in the Heart of Every Fighting Man

What if soldiers from ‘Kill Team’ (and others who have murdered innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq) aren’t simply the “few bad apples” that military writes them off as?

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Into the Valley of Death

The 20 soldiers in Second Platoon try in vain to hold down a strategic outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, “among the deadliest pieces of terrain in the world for U.S. forces.”

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The City of Broken Men

Nearly every American soldier injured in Iraq or Afghanistan is treated—for a few days at least—at a single hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

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Anatomy of an Afghan War Tragedy

A behind-the-scenes look at a U.S. attack against civilians near Khod: “the high-tech wizardry would fail in its most elemental purpose: to tell the difference between friend and foe.”

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Exposure

A profile of Sabrina Harman, the soldier who took many of the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs.

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Aftershock: The Blast That Shook Psycho Platoon

In January 2009, a U.S. platoon came under rocket attack in Iraq. Two years later, how the event changed the soldiers’ lives.

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Spy Games

On January 27th in Lahore, an American named Raymond A. Davis stopped his Honda Civic and shot two Pakistani men, then made a failed attempt to flee. Beyond those basic facts, little is agreed upon, and the murders have ignited a diplomatic crisis, which only intensified with the revelation that Davis was a CIA subcontractor.

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The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Omar Mohammed (most certainly not his real name), a former Iraqi cop, is widely believed to be the most skilled and prolific terrorist hunter alive. Recently, he personally killed two of Al-Qaeda’s senior commanders in Iraq. He has already been shot and blown up, and with U.S. forces on their way out, his chances of survival in Baghdad are slim.

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Dealing With Julian Assange and the Secrets He Spilled

On the cloak and dagger dealings between The New York Times and WikiLeaks. Adapted from Executive Editor Bill Keller’s forthcoming ebook, Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy: Complete and Updated Coverage from The New York Times.

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How a Giant Weapons Maker Became the New Big Brother

Lockheed Martin is the largest government contractor in history. They train TSA workers and Guantanamo interrogators. Every American household pays them around $260 per year in taxes. The new military industrial complex is a single company.

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Tuesdays with Saddam

The diary of a Scranton, PA National Guardsmen tasked with guarding the highest profile prisoner in U.S history: a surprisingly amiable Saddam Hussein.

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Shoot!

Most military experts agree that robots, not people, will inevitably do the fighting in ground wars. In Tennessee, a high-end gunsmith is already there. The story of Jerry Baber and his robot army.

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Giving Hitler Hell

Arnold Weiss escaped Germany as a kid in 1938, leaving his family behind. He returned seven years later, now a U.S. intelligence officer tasked with tracking down fugitive Nazis. The ultimate revenge story.

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The Toppling

The story behind the fall of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad.

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Jihadists in Paradise

A ragtag band of pirate-Jihadists grab Americans from a diving resort in the Phillipines and lead them on an odyssey through the jungles of an archipelago with the competing interests of the Phillipines’ Navy and Army, the U.S. Military, and the C.I.A. thwarting their rescue.

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The Pentagon Papers Trial

The case that brought leaks to the popular consciousness.

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The Distant Executioner

The interior life of a sniper, the most misunderstood icon of the modern military.

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Oh! What a Lucrative War

How to spend $1.2 million per month on your laundry in Kuwait; the system of kickbacks and non-competitive contracts that made Halliburton/KBR the near-exclusive contractor in the Iraq war zone.

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The Gun

Adapting from his book The Gun, Chivers traces how the design and proliferation of small arms, originating from both the Pentagon and the Russian army, rerouted the 20th century.

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A Protocol of Barbarity

400,000 Wiki-leaked reports that confirm the minute-by-minute misadventures of a “military at war with its own inner demons” in the unforgiving terrain of Iraq.

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The Last Patrol

After nearly a year in Afghanistan—during which almost half of their unit was killed or injured—paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne have one more mission before they go home.

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Obama’s Afghanistan Choice

According to this excerpt from Woodward’s Obama's Wars, the president’s military advisors gave him only one option: send an additional 40,000 troops. Obama pushed back.

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The CIA and the Media

Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, media outlets including the New York Times and CBS News provided the CIA with information and cover for agents. Then everyone decided to pretend it had never happened.

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America’s New Cavalry

Some call them “flying lawnmowers.” The entire fleet is decades old. The Pentagon almost junked them in 2008. And yet the tiny Kiowa helicopter has become America’s air weapon of choice in Afghanistan.

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The Interrogation of Detainee 063

A classified Guantánamo Bay interrogation log reveals the techniques used on Mohammed al-Qahtani, the so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker.

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Jesus killed Mohammed

How the U.S. Army went evangelical and turned a war into a crusade.

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Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy

The boyish CEO of America’s largest and most controversial mercenary force, Blackwater, also happened to be a C.I.A. agent.

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The Things That Carried Him

The pain and beauty of U.S. military funerals. The author follows fallen soldier Joe Montgomery from field to grave.

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Kill Company

The shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later culture of the 101st Airborne Division, an execution of captured Iraqi prisoners, and how far up the chain of command responsibility lies.

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This Is War

How USAID workers are trained for work and danger in Afghanistan.

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The Runaway General

“Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

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Pat Dollard’s War on Hollywood

He was just another coked-up agent (repping the likes of Steven Soderbergh) when he disappeared into Iraq, shooting heaps of footage he would attempt to package into a pro-war documentary. And that was just the beginning.

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The Heavy Footfalls of Doc Hullender

An acquaintance dies in Iraq and a writer investigates. “How did Michael come to inspire such loyalty? And how did he come to die on the floodplain of the Euphrates? I looked closer and saw they were the same.”

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The Professor of War

David Petraeus, father of the surge and the uncontested “most competitive” man in the military.

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Hunting the Taliban in Vegas

In trailers just minutes from the Vegas Strip, Air Force pilots control predators over Iraq and Afghanistan. A case study in the marvels—and limits—of modern military technology.