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War

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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 Lone Charge of William B. Perkins

A correspondent is thrown into an unexpected battle.

"But war is a spirit. War provides for those that it loves. It provides sometimes death and sometimes a singular and incredible safety. There were few ways in which it was possible to preserve Perkins. One way was by means of a steam-boiler. Perkins espied near him an old, rusty steam-boiler lying in the bushes. War only knows how it was there, but there it was, a temple shining resplendent with safety. With a moan of haste, Perkins flung himself through that hole which expressed the absence of the steam-pipe."

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The Return

A deserting Civil War soldier sets out for home.

"As he approached Jacob Story’s farm, Benjamin saw that the corn stood dark and high. No hard frost or gullywasher had come. The signs held true, not only for the corn but the beans and tobacco. Smoke rose from Jacob’s chimney. Noon-dinner time already, he thought. Benjamin followed the trailway through a stand of silver birch, straddled a split-rail fence, placed one foot on his land and then the other. He had hoped Emma would be in the cabin. That way he could step onto the porch, open the door, and stroll in no differently than he would coming from a field or the barn. Benjamin wanted their separation to seem that way, he wanted to never speak of the war or their months apart. He wanted it to become nothing more than a few dark moments, like a lantern carried through a cabin’s low door."

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498

Two men take different paths during the Spanish Civil War.

"We each took a shovel, cursing the officer and the soldier whose question put us in our position, but before we dug a hole big enough for three corpses, another truck came from the bullring to the cemetery. This time, four of the Moroccan regulares sat on the tailgate. They shared a cigarette and joked with one another while bodies jostled heavily behind them. So we began unloading the dead. I hesitated touching their hairy forearms or muddy ankles, their bare feet or damp armpits, moist from fear. Their clothes and skin were soaked through, and their blood was warm and slick, making them difficult to handle. For many, their bowels had released their grip in death, and we worked while trying to cover our noses with a shoulder. Most of the bullets had entered their chests, though some destroyed their jaws so that their mouths swung open across a shoulder. What should we do about this one? a soldier asked, pointing at a still-blinking rojo. Blood clouded his eyes, and he breathed with his mouth open. Flies grazed at the corners of his lips. A bullet had sheared a hole through his trachea, which wheezed with each breath. The commanding officer glanced down, then turned away. He’ll be dead by the time you finish digging his grave, he said."

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Paladin Of the Lost Hour

Loss, redemption, and magic highlight a friendship between two different men.

"He was standing beside the Cutlass, looking at Billy with an old man's expectant smile, waiting for him to unlock the door and hold it for him till he'd placed his still-calcium-rich but nonetheless old bones in the passenger seat. Billy stared at him, trying to figure out what was at risk if he unlocked that door. Then he snorted a tiny laugh, unlocked the door, held it for Gaspar as he seated himself, slammed it and went around to unlock the other side and get in. Gaspar reached across and thumbed up the door lock knob. And they drove off together in the rain."

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Accidental Rewilding

How humanitarian disasters are good for nature.

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The Eye

After sending dirty photos overseas, a high school girl is pursued by a returning soldier.

"She wondered how Ben could be everywhere she was. She had known that he would come for her, or in any case that one of them would. She hadn’t thought that it would be so soon. She hadn’t thought that it would be so strange. She had wanted to date civilian boys for a while, boys who didn’t know what it was like to bleed a man out. Not forever, but while she was young."

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Scavengers In the Boneyard

While being stripped and sold, old ships reflect on their long histories and the generations of men associated with them.

"But we were the ones they came back to, dawn after dawn, year after year. We were the ones who brought them home, hoary and frail, to Snug Harbor. The nurses tucked them into wooden wheelchairs. They spent the landlocked hours making models of us in bottles, the Nellie P. and the Golden Eagle, the Sallie Ann and the Spirit of Victory. Hunched between the wall with the clock and the wall with the crucifix, they assembled us from memory. Their fingers traced each narrow bottleneck. They slipped inside as far as they could reach."

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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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Fobbit (Excerpt)

A wounded soldier is groomed for his media appearances in this setpiece from Abrams' satirical novel.

"Kyle Pilley was one of the best moneymakers the division had seen in the past six months and Harkleroad was practically piddling his pants with glee at the thought of all the goodwill his story would buy them in the mainstream media. He was already laying plans for Pilley to be interviewed, via remote satellite, by the Big Three morning-breakfast news shows (Good Morning America was on board, Today and CBS This Morning were teetering on the brink of a yes), not to mention features in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and, if Harkleroad was really, really lucky, Time and/or Newsweek. Yes, Kyle Pilley was the best thing to happen to Lieutenant Colonel Eustace Harkleroad and the rest of the Shamrock Division since they’d entered Iraq."

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Learning to Accept, and Master, a $110,000 Mechanical Arm

“Suddenly, he had to ask for help with buttons, zippers and shoelaces. And he loathes asking for help.”

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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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How To Tell A True War Story

Tim O'Brien's meditation on war and peace, reality and fiction, truth and lies. From The Things They Carried.

"You admire the fluid symmetries of troops on the move, the great sheets of metal-fire streaming down from a gunship, the illumination rounds, the white phosphorus, the purply orange glow of napalm, the rocket's red glare. It's not pretty, exactly. It's astonishing. It fills the eye. It commands you. You hate it, yes, but your eyes do not. Like a killer forest fire, like cancer under a microscope, any battle or bombing raid or artillery barrage has the aesthetic purity of absolute moral indifference—a powerful, implacable beauty—and a true war story will tell the truth about this, though the truth is ugly."

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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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How an Accused Guatemalan War Criminal Won U.S., Canadian Citizenship

A California martial arts instructor’s secret past.

Previously: Finding Oscar
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The Scariest Little Corner of the World

Zaranj: the bloody border of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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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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Exodus

A Kosovar refugee must decide between love and family.

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Arab Spring Break

A 21-year-old UCLA math major leaves his $9,000-a-month internship to fight with the rebels in Libya.

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'Moral' Robots

The debate over autonomous lethal drones.

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What We Liked About Bosnia

An American visitor reflects on a visit to Bosnia, with observations both sweet and ominous.

"We liked the weather on the ground and in the mountains and we liked the drive up Jahorena with its dismantled houses, houses whose faces were opened by bombs and tanks. We stayed in a cabin surrounded by snow and the ruined landscape of an ethnic cleansing. And on that mountain we threw paper planes and shot homemade videos and played steal the bacon until it was time for us to go to sleep, then wake up again feeling safe in the cold house with an unfed, wood-burning stove."

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Waiting for a Kill Shot 7,000 Miles Away

The emotional toll on drone pilots.

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The Wonks Who Sold Washington on South Sudan

How a group of men with nicknames like “Emperor” and “Spear Carrier” tipped the balance in South Sudan’s fight for independence.

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The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama

Drone strikes and their consequences.

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The Existence Of The Opposite

Three women bribe a Red Cross driver for a ride to a battlefield to identify the lost men in their lives.

"They climbed into the back of the Red Cross truck, carrying small bags of lunch and the knickknacks they hoped to bury. The interior smelled of disinfectant, of cigarettes. The metal seats offered only the ache of ice. Underneath their unwashed winter coats, they wore clothing for the dead -- Carmen in Savic's favorite dress, the one he always begged her to wear without a bra, and now much too thin for this cold; Marina in jeans and a sweater, wearing her brother's skiing cap and a large cross around her neck, folding and unfolding her spotted hands; Gisele bundled up, zipped up, buttoned up with all the clothing she could wear, not a bit of wife showing."

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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 Lesson

During World War II, a young soldier gives a dance lesson to General Eisenhower.

"The two MPs walked him to the door, which opened as they reached it, and a dapper-looking lieutenant asked Kelly to come in and have a drink. He said that his name was Lieutenant Mason, and that he was General Eisenhower’s aide-de-camp. The MPs noted carefully the look on Kelly’s face. They went away with their chins clenched in an effort to suppress belly laughter."

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The Great Taliban Jailbreak

On the escape of hundreds of insurgents from Kandahar’s Sarposa Prison through a tunnel dug from the outside, and an unlikely suspect: the jail’s former warden.

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The Real War 1939-1945

The cold, forgotten realities of “conventional warfare.”

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Finding Oscar

A man living in the Boston suburbs learns he could be one of the only survivors of a 1982 massacre in Guatemala.

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Jamming Tripoli

Inside Moammar Gadhafi’s secret surveillance network.

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The Yankee Comandante

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

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The Most Dangerous Game

The parallel lives of a KGB defector and his CIA handler.

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The Madness of General Mladic

A profile of former Bosnia Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, whose war crimes trial began, and was abruptly suspended, this week.

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In Libya, the Captors Have Become the Captive

The tables have been turned – brutally – on Qaddafi loyalists.

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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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Concentration Camp

An anonymous essay on time spent in “protective custody” at a Nazi camp.

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Unmasking Horror

He is a cheerful old farmer who jokes as he serves rice cakes made by his wife, and then he switches easily to explaining what it is like to cut open a 30-year-old man who is tied naked to a bed and dissect him alive, without anesthetic.
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Paintballing with Hezbollah

A clandestine meeting between Western journalists and Hezbollah fighters in a Beirut strip mall.

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I Saw The Best Minds Of My Generation Destroyed By Vietnam Movies

A man muses on philosophical and personal issues while watching a war film.

"Fizzing rockets, stetsons, verdant tree canopies and earnest young patriots: none of these things help me locate my lighter, which is perhaps dug in a cleft in the sofa somewhere, or proudly beyond reach on the table top. The springs of my inherited sofa are too yielding, and my position too weak for me to prop myself up right now and undertake the reconnaissance required to find it."

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Beyond The Battlefield: Afghanistan's Wounded Struggle With Genital Injuries

"I remember lying on my side, dust everywhere, and I looked down and saw my arms were split open and squirting blood and I had just two bloody stumps above my knees," said Marine 1st Lt. James Byler, 26, who was blown up a few weeks before Mark Litynski. "My first coherent words to my Marines were, 'Hey! check my nuts!'
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Ivan the Recumbent, or Demjanjuk in Munich

A report from the trial of Ivan Demjanjuk—a.k.a. “The Last Nazi”—who died on March 17.

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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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Disarming Viktor Bout

A profile of the world’s most notorious weapons trafficker.

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The Siege of September 13

Inside the attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

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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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The war in Chechnya: Diary of a Spetsnaz

The excerpts from a diary of an anonymous Russian special-forces officer who served twenty tours of duty in Chechnya during the Second Chechen War (1999-2009). He tells of torture, civilian killings, female suicide bombers and becoming desensitized to it all.

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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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The Moral Equivalent to Football

A former first-string tackle considers the green zone as a war zone:

Just as football has evolved in accordance with the evolving business ethic of American society, so has it evolved in accordance with the changing strategic assumptions about war. The development (or rebirth) of the T-formation in football coincided almost exactly with the development of a new era of mobility and speed in warfare best exemplified in the Blitzkrieg tactics of the German armies in Europe in 1939-40. The T-formation soon overwhelmed the “Maginot Line” mentality of traditional football, based as it was on rigid lines and massive concentrations of defensive and offensive power.

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The War Ends Here

Fighting to the finish in the most dangerous region of Afghanistan.

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Burning Man

On a U.S. soldier burned to the verge of death and the virtual-reality video game doctors used as treatment when he came home.

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The Defeated

Inside the lives of Sri Lanka’s Tamils as they emerge from a multi-decade war that defined and nearly destroyed them.

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Two Soldiers

Specialists Solomon Bangayan and Marc Seiden fought together in Bravo Company’s 3rd Platoon in Iraq. Both were killed.

Here’s how they made it home.

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Three Soldiers [Excerpt]

A wounded WWI soldier reflects on the absurdities of battle.

"Men were more humane when they were killing each other than when they were talking about it. So was civilization nothing but a vast edifice of sham, and the war, instead of its crumbling, was its fullest and most ultimate expression. Oh, but there must be something more in the world than greed and hatred and cruelty. Were they all shams, too, these gigantic phrases that floated like gaudy kites high above mankind?"

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The Girl Who Tried to Save the World

The life and death of Marla Ruzicka, a 28-year-old aid worker in Baghdad.

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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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How to Get a Nuclear Bomb

Looking for holes in the world’s nuclear security.

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The Shot That Nearly Killed Me

War photographers tell the stories behind their most harrowing images.

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The Road

The perceptions of an Italian mule, pressed into military service on the long WWII onslaught on Stalingrad.

"Everything had become habitual and therefore right. Everything had joined together to form a life that was right and natural: hard labour, the asphalt, drinking troughs, the smell of axle grease, the thunder of the stinking, long-barrelled guns, the smell of tobacco and leather from the driver’s fingers, the evening bucket of maize, the bundle of prickly hay."

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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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The Good Bad Son

A profile of Seif Qaddafi.

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Mercenary

The story of a professional assassin.

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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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Highway to Homs

A motorcycle trip through Syria as it descends into chaos.

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The Ally From Hell

Inside the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan:

The U.S. government has lied to itself, and to its citizens, about the nature and actions of successive Pakistani governments. Pakistani behavior over the past 20 years has rendered the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism effectively meaningless.

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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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King of Kings

On the life, legacy, and last days of Muammar Qaddafi.

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How Ready Are We for Bioterrorism?

The specter of a biological attack is difficult for almost anyone to imagine. It makes of the most mundane object, death: a doorknob, a handshake, a breath can become poison. Like a nuclear bomb, the biological weapon threatens such a spectacle of horror — skin boiling with smallpox pustules, eyes blackened with anthrax lesions, the rotting bodies of bubonic plagues — that it can seem the province of fantasy or nightmare or, worse, political manipulation.
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The Fifty-First State?

A prescient take on what the US invasion of Iraq would mean for both countries.

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Bad Guys vs. Worse Guys in Afghanistan

Inside the Afghan Local Police, who are accused of killing and raping villagers, and are believed to be the United States’s last shot in Afghanistan.

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Who Killed Che?

He arrived in Bolivia in November 1966, disguised as a Uruguayan businessman. After desertions, drownings, and difficulty contacting their support group in La Paz, his small troop was surrounded the following October. The inside story of how they were found and destroyed.

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Inside Obama's War Room

Why the US intervened in Libya.

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Hemingway Reports Spain

THEY SAY YOU never hear the one that hits you. That's true of bullets, because, if you hear them, they are already past. But your correspondent heard the last shell that hit this hotel. He heard it start from the battery, then come with a whistling incommg roar like a subway train to crash against the cornice and shower the room with broken glass and plaster. And while the glass still tinkled down and you listened for the next one to start, you realized that now finally you were back in Madrid.
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Our Man in Kandahar

Abdul Raziq, a 33-year-old warlord, is an increasingly powerful player in Afghanistan and the recipient of substantial U.S. support. He may also be the perpetrator of a civilian massacre.

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The Surreal Ruins of Qaddafi’s Never-Never Land

The aftermath of a revolution:

Amid all the chaos of Libya’s transition from war to peace, one remarkable theme stood out: the relative absence of revenge. Despite the atrocities carried out by Qaddafi’s forces in the final months and even days, I heard very few reports of retaliatory killings. Once, as I watched a wounded Qaddafi soldier being brought into a hospital on a gurney, a rebel walked past and smacked him on the head. Instantly, the rebel standing next to me apologized. My Libyan fixer told me in late August that he had found the man who tortured him in prison a few weeks earlier. The torturer was now himself in a rebel prison. “I gave him a coffee and a cigarette,” he said. “We have all seen what happened in Iraq.” That restraint was easy to admire.
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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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The Journalist and the Spies

The death of the journalist who exposed dark secrets about Islamic extremism in Pakistan’s military.

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Martyrdom and 9/11

An essay on the evolving narrative of martyrdom in the Islamist and secular worlds.

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Blowback in Somalia

The notorious Somali paramilitary warlord who goes by the nom de guerre Indha Adde, or White Eyes, walks alongside trenches on the outskirts of Mogadishu’s Bakara Market once occupied by fighters from the Shabab, the Islamic militant group that has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda. In one of the trenches, the foot of a corpse pokes out from a makeshift grave consisting of some sand dumped loosely over the body. One of Indha Adde’s militiamen says the body is that of a foreigner who fought alongside the Shabab. “We bury their dead, and we also capture them alive,” says Indha Adde in a low, raspy voice. “We take care of them if they are Somali, but if we capture a foreigner we execute them so that others will see we have no mercy.”
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Pashean Play

At a dinner party, the author meets one of Afghanistan’s last remaining maskhara  an entertainer, thief and murderer.

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New York 9|11: The Winners

September 11, 2001 was an atrocity – but also, for some, a goldmine.

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High Explosive for Everyone

Madrid, 1937:

Then for a moment it stops. An old woman, with a shawl over her shoulders, holding a terrified thin little boy by the hand, runs out into the square. You know what she is thinking: she is thinking she must get the child home, you are always safer in your own place, with the things you know. Somehow you do not believe you can get killed when you are sitting in your own parlor, you never think that. She is in the middle of the square when the next one comes.
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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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The Agony and the Ecstasy

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

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Enter the Cyber-Dragon

On a decade-long war:

Hackers from many countries have been exfiltrating—that is, stealing—intellectual property from American corporations and the U.S. government on a massive scale, and Chinese hackers are among the main culprits.

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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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Death in a Box

The truth and consequences of reporting from a war zone.

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Getting bin Laden

The story of the Abbottabad raid, in detail.

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Cyber Weapons: The New Arms Race

Around the world, governments and corporations are in a race for code that can protect, spy, and destroy—hacks some secretive startups are more than happy to sell.

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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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America's 'Detainee 001'

John Walker Lindh’s father on why his son is an innocent victim of the War on Terror.

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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 Wallenberg Curse

The search for the missing Holocaust hero began in 1945. The unending quest tore his family apart.

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Black Ops and Blood Money

When a CIA operation in Pakistan went bad, leaving three men dead, the episode offered a rare glimpse inside a shadowy world of espionage. It also jeopardized America’s most critical outpost in the war against terrorism.

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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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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 Hot-Money Cowboys of Baghdad

On the investors betting big on the Iraqi economy, which they believe has nowhere to go but up.

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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 Double Game

The unintended consequences of American funding in Pakistan.

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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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The Fort Carson Murder Spree

All told, the military acknowledged this summer, 14 soldiers from the base have been charged or convicted in at least 11 slayings since 2005 — the largest killing spree involving soldiers at a single U.S. military installation in modern history.
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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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A Battle in Baghlan

Embedded with an Afghan warlord:

This is a local insurgency, often with local causes: a corrupt district governor, predatory police, or abuses by the local militias, the arbakis.

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How Slavery Really Ended in America

Like hundreds of other local slaves — [they] had been pressed into service by the Confederates, compelled to build an artillery emplacement amid the dunes across the harbor. They labored beneath the banner of the 115th Virginia Militia, a blue flag bearing a motto in golden letters: “Give me liberty or give me death.”
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Shooting an Elephant

“It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism–the real motives for which despotic governments act.” Memories of a British soldier in Burma.

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On Libya's Revolutionary Road

The sudden, bloody transformation of normal citizens into rebels.

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The Kill Team

How U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered innocent civilians and mutilated their corpses – and how their officers failed to stop them.

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The Point of No Return (Part 2)

Did A.Q. Khan sell nuclear secrets on the black market? The fame had unbalanced him. He was subjected to a degree of public acclaim rarely seen in the West—an extreme close to idol worship, which made him hungry for more. Money seems never to have been his obsession, but it did play a role.

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The Wrath of Khan (Part 1)

The unlikely ascent of A.Q. Khan, the scientist who gave Pakistan the Bomb, and his suspicious fall from grace.

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4 Times Journalists Held in Libya Faced Brutality

No one really knows the script for days like these, and neither did we.
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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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The Stoner Arms Dealers

Working with nothing but an Internet connection, a couple of cellphones and a steady supply of weed, the two friends — one with a few college credits, the other a high school dropout — had beaten out Fortune 500 giants like General Dynamics to score the huge arms contract.

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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 Master of Spin Boldak

An undercover report on Afghanistan’s drug-smuggling border police that is now heavily used for intelligence training.

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The Boy from Gitmo

Depending on who you ask, Mohammed Jawad was either 12 or 17 when he was detained. Nobody disputes that he spent seven years at Guantánamo before he was exonerated. The story of a boy who grew up as a detainee.

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A Declaration of Cyber-War

“While its source remains something of a mystery, Stuxnet is the new face of 21st-century warfare: invisible, anonymous, and devastating.”

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The School

First-person accounts from the 2004 siege of a Russian school in Beslan by Chechen terrorists.

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The Mexican Suitcase

A suitcase was smuggled from Spain to Mexico during the Spanish Civil War containing negatives from three photographers would later become legends and all die in war zones. The suitcase disappeared.

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Revolution U

What Egypt learned from the students who overthrew Milosevic. “The Serbs are not the usual highly paid consultants in suits from wealthy countries; they look more like, well, cocky students. They bring a cowboy swagger. They radiate success. Everyone they teach wants to do what the Serbs did.”

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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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Joseph Kony's Long Walk To, and From, Hell

The Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, drawn mostly from kidnapped children, has proved as elusive as it is barbaric.

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The Confessions of 'Curveball'

How an Iraqi expat conned the United States, without ever once being interviewed by an American official, into making the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. “Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq.”

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Afghanistan's Hidden Taliban Government

How the Taliban reestablished itself as both a “quasi government” and a military force, and what that success means for the Pentagon’s plan to pass responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014.

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Giving "The Devil" His Due

Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, the founder of a barbaric Haitian paramilitary group, vanished from Port-au-Prince and resurfaced as a real estate agent in Queens.

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Humanity's Endless Quest to Invent a Death Ray: A History

From the Greeks to George Lucas, 2,200 years of failure.

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Holden Caulfield’s Goddam War

J.D. Salinger on the beaches on D-Day, marching through concentration camps, and in liberated Paris.

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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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Combinations of Jacksons

The author of True Grit on growing up in Arkansas during World War II.

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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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Last Stand in Kandahar

The apparatus of counterinsurgency and occupation has funneled billions of dollars into Afghanistan, and much of it has ended up in the hands of insurgents. For those who have profited—be it through aid, extortion, corruption or legitimate business—there is very little incentive to bring the conflict to an end.

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Adrift but Unbroken

During WWII, a bomber crashes into the Pacific and the crewmen begin an epic battle against dehydration, exposure, and endless attacks by sharks. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.

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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 Online Threat

Are we at war? The U.S. government’s evolving response to cyber security and its impact on privacy.

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From Russia With Blood

Mikhail Kalashnikov’s brainchild, Avtomat Kalashnikovais aka the AK-47, is the most stockpiled firearm in the world and has altered the last century like no other product. C.J. Chivers, author of The Gun, discusses.

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Congo: The Horror

Inside the conflict that has caused more deaths than any since WWII—with no end in sight.

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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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Trapping the Lord of War

Full six-part series on the rise and fall of Viktor Bout, the most notorious arms dealer of the modern era.

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The Mega-Bunker of Baghdad

Foreign policy as architecture; how embassies went from lavish social hubs to reinforced strongholds.

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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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War Games

Movies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed to connect with viewers, but video games on the topic have broken sales records.

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The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan

“There is perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan.”

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Arms and the Man

A profile of Viktor Bout, believed to be the largest arms trafficker in the world. A Russian who bought his first cargo planes at age 25, Bout has been in the news recently after being arrested in Thailand.

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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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House of War

The bloody, often surreal, fight for Kosovo’s independence was led by a man moonlighting as a roofer in Switzerland.

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Pandora’s Briefcase

In “Operation Mincemeat” a vagrant’s corpse, raided from a London morgue, washed up on a beach in Spain, setting in motion an elaborate piece of espionage that fooled Nazi intelligence. Or did it?

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The War Logs: View is Bleaker…

Selections from the leaked documents about the war in Afghanistan portray a military effort that is ineffective and frequently absurd. (Part of the NYT War Logs series.)

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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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The World’s ‘Best’ Car Bombers?

An interview with an ex-CIA agent who is a world expert on the history of car bombing.

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Out of Iraq

A war correspondent decides to rent a house in Baghdad to save money. Complications ensue.

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He Knew He Was Right

How Christopher Hitchens, a former socialist, became one of the most vigorous defenders of the war in Iraq.

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The Decisive Ones

In post-Shock and Awe Baghdad, the relationship between a war reporter and his Iraqi guide falls apart.

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This Is War

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

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My Long War

A mission in Baghdad to let a photojournalist get a shot of an insurgent corpse ends up getting a Marine killed.

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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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The Economics of a P.O.W. Camp

A first person account of the cigarette based market for services and goods within a WWII P.O.W. camp.

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Rules for Drone Wars

A conversation with NYU Law Professor Philip Alston on the legality of ‘targeted killings’ by drones, which have made headlines in Pakistan, but also have been deployed by the C.I.A. in countries like Yemen.

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The Liberation of Tam Minh Pham

In 1970, he was plucked from Saigon to attend West Point. He got his degree and went home to fight, but instead spent six years in a reeducation camp. Then, somehow, he ended up teaching high school in D.C.

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Afghanistan: ‘So This is Paktya’

Night raids by the “Hash Monster” and other perils facing American soldiers at a remote base in the wilderness of the Paktya Province as they attempt to turn over power to the Afghan Army.

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Iraq’s Walking Dead

Kurdistan is the safest and most stable region in Iraq and at the center of its modern history is Amna Surak Prison, ground zero for both a genocide and an uprising.

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Jihad 2.0

In the wake of 9/11, terrorist networks moved their recruitment and training efforts online, giving birth to Jihad-geeks like Irhabi_007.

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The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The improbable and true story of how Al Sharpton, Cornel West, Marion Barry’s wife, and Tucker Carlson (yes, that Tucker Carlson) flew to Liberia to negotiate a ceasefire in the midst of a civil war.

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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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“Oh My God—We Hit a Little Girl”

The true story of M Company: from Fort Dix to Vietnam in 50 days.

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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.