The Dictator

America Created, the
Blood He Shed, and
the Reckoning to Come
by Michael Bronner

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“He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”
It’s said that President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined this gem
of a line, reportedly in reference to the U.S. relationship with
Nicaraguan strongman Anastasio Somoza. Others, having failed
to find any record of the remark in FDR’s papers, have suggested
it might have been uttered by his secretary of state, Cordell Hull,
in explaining Washington’s support for the Dominican
Republic’s tyrannical Rafael Trujillo.
The quote may well be apocryphal, but it succinctly
(and colorfully) sums up the knottiest and most persistent
tension in U.S. foreign policy: how to balance the cold de-
mands of the national interest with the moral obligations
of a superpower established as a beacon of liberty.
All U.S. presidents rhetorically dedi-
cate themselves to America’s founding
ideals and claim a responsibility to advo-
cate for human rights around the world.
But even the most eloquent promoters
of freedom have, more often than not, al-
lowed security interests to trump values.
So it was with Ronald Reagan and
his administration’s embrace of a
Chadian thug named Hissène Habré.
As Michael Bronner meticulously
details in his riveting article, “Our Man
in Africa” (p. 34), the United States
armed Habré—a militia leader whose
greatest claim to fame to date had
been kidnapping a French archaeolo-
gist—and helped him seize power in a
1982 coup. Once he was ensconced in
Chad’s presidential palace, Washing-
ton increased its military assistance,
using him as a proxy to fight their
shared enemy: Libyan dictator (and
terrorist supporter) Muammar al-Qaddafi. Even as it became
clear that Habré was torturing and murdering his own people
by the thousands, American support continued, culminating
in the White House visit documented on our cover. It was all
part of what you might call America’s original war on terror.
In 1990, Qaddafi-backed rebels ousted Habré, who fled to
Senegal, and the Chadian dictator’s victims began an arduous
quest to have him tried for crimes against humanity. Now,
after 23 years, that quest may finally be nearing its end, with
Habré set to appear before a special
Senegalese court in 2015. The Obama
administration, perhaps recognizing
Washington’s poor past judgment, is
helping fund the trial. To repurpose
one of the president’s favorite quotes,
the arc of foreign policy appears to
bend toward justice—but very slowly.
The many challenges of interna-
tional justice pervade several other
articles in this issue, most notably Katie
Engelhart’s portrait of the continuing
effort to prosecute Nazi war criminals
some 70 years after the Holocaust
(p. 66). But exposing and punishing
the sins of generations past hasn’t
stopped modern-day tyrants and
zealots from perpetrating their own
heinous crimes. Journalists are often
the first to document such abuses,
but in Syria, as James Traub reports
(p. 56), increasingly chaotic violence
and an epidemic of kidnappings have driven away reporters.
In the anarchy of the country’s civil war, simply determining
who has done what to whom has become nearly impossi-
ble. And justice will be a long time coming. —The Editors
The Long Arc of Justice

Because the World is Subject to Change
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During my studies, Ì interacted with
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managers from NGOs. This has enabled
me to gain a unique insight from
some of the most important players in
international relations.
~ DaniIo Zimbres, Class of 2012
Brazilian Vice-Consul in
Frankfurt am Main









10 Opening Gambit Roiling the Waters
By Elbridge Colby and Ely Ratner
14 The New New Normal Trial by Fire
By Mohamed A. El-Erian
16 The Things They Carried
The Chemical Weapons Inspector
Interview by Blake Evans-Pritchard
Photographs by Evert-Jan Daniels
18 Anthropology of an Idea
Lethal Autonomy
By Ty McCormick
20 The Optimist Marx Is Back
By Charles Kenny
23 Epiphanies Kevin Rudd
Interview by Isaac Stone Fish
24 Ideas Stockholm’s Singles Syndrome
The Longitude of Latitude
Leftists for Life
By Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer
26 Report
The Islamic Republic of Baby-Making
By Azadeh Moaveni
30 Pictured Into the Wild
Our Man in Africa
The dictator America created, the blood he shed,
and the reckoning to come.
By Michael Bronner
The Littlest Boy
U.S. troops trained to stop a
Soviet invasion—with A-bombs
strapped to their backs.
By Adam Rawnsley and David Brown
The Disappeared
Reporting and surviving
a war with no rules.
By James Traub
Closing the Books
Should the world’s ‘last Nazi hunter’
give up the chase?
By Katie Engelhart
By Aziza Ahmed
Course Correction
By David Rothkopf

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Kennedy Center
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of Sciences
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White House
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Office Building
U.S. Institute
of Peace
GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs is just
steps from some of the most influential U.S., international, and
nongovernmental organizations in the world. Our unique location
in the heart of Washington, D.C. enriches our teaching and
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Learn more about our innovative undergraduate and
graduate programs or view some of our superb special
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Now more than ever, there is no better place to study
global issues than GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
To the
To the

As a journalist, screenwriter, and filmmaker,
MICHAEL BRONNER uses his work to examine the
consequences of U.S. power abroad. He has
written about the 9/11 attacks and jihadi suicide
bombers in Iraq for Vanity Fair, and his latest
film project, Captain Phillips, for which he served
as co-producer, critiques U.S. interventions in
Somalia. In November 2011, Bronner co-founded
the online magazine Warscapes, which looks at
contemporary conflict through the lens of art and
literature. | P. 34
KATIE ENGELHART is interested in how societies today
bear witness to the crimes of the past. The London-
based writer has reported on Britain’s centennial
commemoration of World War I and the Dayton
Accords’ lasting failure to address ethnic tensions
in Bosnia. “I’m interested in victims and places of
conflict after the war reporters leave,” Engelhart
says. A graduate of Cornell and Oxford universities,
Engelhart wrote her master’s dissertation on post-
1945 war crimes trials. Her writing has appeared
in the New York Times, the Financial Times, Vice,
Discover, bbc History Magazine, World Policy
Journal, and other publications. | P. 66
When ADAM RAWNSLEY and DAVID BROWN were conducting
interviews for a commemorative book about U.S. Special
Forces, they stumbled across a shocking story—one
the two men eventually developed into their feature
for this issue of Foreign Policy. “When we discovered
that soldiers were strapping an atomic bomb to their
backs and jumping from perfectly functional planes,”
Brown recalls, “we thought to ourselves, ‘This can’t be
a real thing.’” Rawnsley has written on technology and
national security for Wired and fp. Brown, under the
pseudonym D.B. Grady, has co-authored two books,
one on the National Security Agency and one on U.S.
counterterrorism efforts. | P. 48
Last September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
said the United Nations is responsible for a “collec-
tive failure” to stem the intractable violence in Syria.
JAMES TRAUB has been covering similar failures for
more than a decade, most notably in his book The
Best Intentions, which examines why the U.N. could
not stop the march to war in Iraq and genocide in
Darfur. He is also the author of The Freedom Agenda,
a book on democracy promotion. Traub has reported
extensively on international affairs for the New York
Times Magazine, among other publications. He writes
a weekly column for | P. 56
In July 2000, then-South
African President Thabo Mbeki
famously claimed that hiv is
not solely the cause of aids.
That same year, motivated by
the pervasive misinformation
and stigmatization that was
hindering hiv/aids interven-
tions, AZIZA AHMED traveled to
Johannesburg to begin a career
in public health and human
rights. Since then, Ahmed, who
is now an associate professor
of law at Northeastern Univer-
sity, has written extensively on
reproductive and sexual health
in the context of international
law. Her research has focused
on the intersection of public
health and human rights in
numerous countries, including
South Africa, Namibia, India,
the United States, and parts of
the Caribbean. | P. 74 

Kyleanne Hunter is a former officer in the United States Marine Corps, serving as an AH-1W Super Cobra attack
pilot. Now she’s a Sié Fellow at the Josef Korbel School’s Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security &
Diplomacy. As such she’s working alongside world renowned faculty doing relevant research on today’s most
pressing global issues.
To learn more about our master of arts programs and our two-year full tuition scholarship, the Sié Fellowship, call
303.871.2544 or email
I came to Korbel because it’s a
place where new ideas and
different ideas are brought
about – it’s not just about a
set curriculum.”
- Kyleanne Hunter
M.A. Candidate
Sié Fellow

After 55 years, our little masters program
isn’t exactly a novelty anymore.
A couple hundred students try to squeeze
into it each year, but we admit just 35.
Our distinctive design – fusing diplomacy
and international commerce, with all students
residential, full-time masters degree
candidates – has proven itself on every road.
Patterson School graduates work in every
economic sphere and on every continent.
Plus, as part of the University of Kentucky,
lots of personal options are available.
We also provide great mileage, taking
students on the road to meet leaders and
visit major corporations, government
agencies and international NGOs.
Once you get used to our advantages, you
don’t even think about them anymore.
Except when you dine with a guest speaker.
Or visit 3 corporate headquarters in 3 days.
Or pay that really small tuition bill. Or know
everyone in the school on sight. Or graduate
in 18 months with the professional degree
that lets you pursue your dreams.
This is how education is supposed to be:
Personal, Passionate, Professional and
Think it over.
Doyle Dane Bernbach launched their iconic
VW campaign in 1959, the same year the
Patterson School of Diplomacy and
International Commerce was established.
They understood – “Small is Beautiful.”
www. Pat t er sonSchool . uky. edu
54th Entering Class of
the Patterson School, 2013




24 26
Into the
Wild of
P. 30
Roiling the Waters in China
By Elbridge Colby and
Ely Ratner P. 10
What Crises Lie In
Wait for Janet Yellen?
By Mohamed A. El-Erian P. 14



Roiling the Waters
Why the United States needs to stop
playing peacemaker and start making
China feel uncomfortable.
By Elbridge Colby and Ely Ratner
Although officials on both sides of the Pacific are publicly loath to add
fuel to the fire, it is increasingly clear that China’s recent regional provocations
are the result of more than just knee-jerk reactions or bureaucratic
malfunctions over long-forgotten borders or arcane historical ownership.
Beijing’s far-reaching claims in the East and South China seas—and coercive
efforts to intimidate neighbors—have unsettled countries from Vietnam
to the Philippines to Japan because they amount to an expansionist strategy,
with profound implications for U.S. power and regional security.

China’s latest act of revisionism, in late
November, was to declare an air defense
identification zone (adiz) across large
swaths of the East China Sea, including
over the disputed Senkaku Islands (called
the Diaoyu by the Chinese). America’s
response was twofold: The White House
indicated that it would not officially honor
the adiz designation (a message delivered
by sending unarmed B-52 bombers
through the zone on what the Pentagon
called a routine and long-planned training
mission), but it initially encouraged
commercial airliners to comply with
Beijing’s request to identify themselves to
Chinese air traffic control. Meanwhile, it
dispatched high-level officials to calm the
waters: When Vice President Joe Biden met
with Chinese leaders in early December,
his mission, according to one senior
administration official, was to push for
“crisis management mechanisms and
confidence-building measures to lower
tensions and reduce risk of escalation or
This effort to play the role of regional
peacemaker echoes the Obama administra-
tion’s approach in 2012 during the
Scarborough Shoal standoff between China
and the Philippines, as well as during the
row between Tokyo and Beijing after Japan
nationalized the Senkaku Islands. But if
China’s ends haven’t changed, its means
have—in the past years, Beijing has
stepped up efforts to achieve its long-held
territorial aims. As a former Chinese
ambassador told us in December, her
country’s position in the world is like that
of “a new student that jumped many
grades.” Maybe so, but Beijing’s behavior
since 2009 is more akin to that of a brash
adolescent both unaware and blithe to the
potential consequences of adventurous
U.S. officials have been careful to avoid
provoking a China that appears increasing-
ly willing to flex its newfound military
muscle. Perhaps that’s why Biden invoked
his father’s advice in warning on the eve of
his Beijing visit that “the only conflict that
is worse than one that is intended is one
that is unintended.” But an overemphasis
on stability can be dangerous. While
preventing inadvertent war in Asia is
obviously a worthy goal, it is just as
important to discourage China from
believing that it can employ economic,
military, and diplomatic coercion to settle
international disagreements without
triggering a serious response. Making the
risk of escalation too low will at some point
start running counter to U.S. interests.
Why? Because China is taking advantage
of Washington’s risk aversion by rocking
the boat, seeing what it can extract in the
process, and letting the United States worry
about righting it. Beijing’s playbook of
tailored coercion relies in part on China’s
confidence that it can weather ephemeral
international outrage while Washington
takes responsibility for ensuring the
situation doesn’t get out of control. This
means that reducing the likelihood of
escalation through high-level strategic
dialogues and military-to-military hotlines,
however important, is in and of itself
insufficient to curb Chinese assertiveness.
History has demonstrated the perils of
focusing too much on stability at the
expense of deterrence. The Cuban Missile
Crisis, the modern world’s closest brush
with the apocalypse, was precipitated by
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s
perception that the United States,
especially President John F. Kennedy, was
overly concerned about stability and
cooling tensions between the superpowers.



Khrushchev’s sense that America could be
pushed was formed by Kennedy’s cautious
reactions to assertive Soviet moves toward
Berlin, as well as Khrushchev’s measure of
Kennedy at the 1961 Vienna superpower
summit as “weak” and accommodating.
Over the following year and a half,
Khrushchev and the Soviet Union sought
to exploit what they perceived to be shaky
American resolve, pressing in Berlin,
where East Germany built a wall closing
off the free part of the city, and secretly
deploying nuclear-armed missiles to
Cuba. Only through a demonstrated
willingness on the part of Kennedy to go
to the nuclear brink—with U.S. nuclear
forces on high alert and U.S. naval forces
prepared to forcibly halt Soviet ships
attempting to run the blockade (accompa-
nied by a U.S. concession on missile
deployments in Turkey)—was the United
States able to get Moscow to back down.
Needless to say, restraint and a willing-
ness to negotiate were elemental to a
peaceful resolution of the crisis, but only
in the context of a major mobilization of
U.S. forces against Cuba, the elevation of
the U.S. alert level to Defcon 2 (one step
short of nuclear war), and chilling threats
designed to convince the Soviets that
conciliation was the only viable move.

And 2014 is not 1962. The point is simply
that a country with the power of the ussr
or China, unsatisfied with features of the
existing order, motivated to do something
to change it, and skeptical of the resolve of
the United States, could well pursue a
policy of coercion and brinkmanship, even
under the shadow of nuclear weapons. As
historian Francis Gavin has argued, the
whole history of the Cold War shows that
countries like China—and, at times, the
United States—can bluff, coerce, and
threaten their way to geopolitical gain.
The worst way to deal with such a
power is to leave it with the impression
that these approaches work. Just as the
United States would have been far better
off if Kennedy, at the Vienna summit, had
squelched Khrushchev’s doubts about his
resolve to defend Berlin, it will be far
better if the leadership in Beijing has the
clear sense that the United States will
meet each challenge to its and its allies’
interests resolutely.
Taking a cue from history, the United
States needs to inject a healthy degree of
risk into Beijing’s calculus, even as it
searches for ways to cooperate with China.
This does not mean abandoning engage-
ment or trying to contain China, let alone
fomenting conflict. But it does mean
communicating that Beijing has less
ability to control escalation than it seems
to think. China must understand that
attempts to roil the waters could result in
precisely the kinds of costs and conflicts it
seeks to avoid.
To make this work, the United States
should pursue policies that actually
elevate the risks—political, economic, or
otherwise—to Beijing of acting assertively.
On the high seas, the focal point for the
region’s territorial disputes, China has
bullied its neighbors by relying on
non-military vessels. China is using its
rapidly expanding coast guard to assert its
expansive sovereignty claims by harassing
non-Chinese fishermen, oil companies,
and military vessels that pass through
contested waters in the East and South
China seas. This has the benefit of
exploiting China’s dominant numerical
advantage while keeping the U.S. Navy on
the sidelines.
Washington should blur the false
distinction between non-military and
military ships by stating that it will
respond to physical coercion and the use
of force as deemed appropriate—regard-
less of whether the perpetrator is a
white- or gray-hulled ship. Exercises
that practice U.S. naval operations
against aggressive non-military vessels
would be a good place to start. So would
calling upon China to end its illegal
occupation of the disputed Scarborough
Shoal off the Philippine coast, while
contesting Chinese administration there
by sending the U.S. Navy through the
area to assert its right to freedom of
The Chinese pla Navy, for its part,
hasn’t been shy to test the waters. In early
December, the U.S. Pacific Fleet revealed
that the guided-missile cruiser uss
Cowpens, while shadowing China’s new
aircraft carrier on a routine mission in
international seas, was forced to take
evasive action when a pla Navy warship
attached to the carrier group approached
on a collision course, literally forcing the
cruiser into a game of chicken. “The
Chinese knew what they were doing,” a
military official told cnn.
Beyond the sea, the United States must
demonstrate a willingness to push back
militarily when China attempts to coerce
America’s allies and partners. To do this,
the U.S. military needs capabilities and
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden meets with his Chinese counterpart, Li Yuanchao, in Beijing in December 2013.
The United States
needs to inject
a healthy degree
of risk into
Beijing’s calculus.

As former director of Latin American Affairs on the National Security Council
and director of the Carter Center’s programs on democracy, Latin America,
and China, Robert Pastor knows international relations.
At AU, Pastor served as vice president of international affairs, established
the American University of Nigeria, and initiated new language immersion
programs for students. His latest research takes an innovative look at the
future of nation-states with a focus on North America. It presents new
ways to develop regions of shared prosperity and security.
AU’s School of International Service prepares international relations
graduates for global service in government, nonprofits, and business.
- Founding director, American University’s Center
for North American Studies and AU Center
for Democracy and Election Management
- Authored or edited 17 books, including
The North American Idea: A Vision
of a Continental Future
plans that not only prepare it for major
war, but that also offer plausible, concrete
options for responding to Chinese
attempts to exploit America’s perceived
aversion to instability. Leaders throughout
Asia will be watching. Too much caution,
especially if China is clearly the initiator,
may be read as U.S. weakness, thereby
perpetuating rather than diminishing
China’s incentives toward adventurism.
The United States can further raise the
stakes by deepening its military ties with
Japan. This year, the two countries will
rewrite the guidelines that govern the roles
and responsibilities of their partnership.
The result could be major steps forward in
joint military planning and interoperabili-
ty. Washington can also play a key role in
mending fences between Tokyo and Seoul,
renewing trilateral cooperation to address
the many interests—and common
threats—that the three countries share.
Beyond America’s traditional alliances in
Northeast Asia, the Obama administration
must demonstrate a concrete, long-lasting
commitment to Australia, the Philippines,
and Singapore in order to provide the
United States with a more diversified set of
partners and forward-operating locations in
Asia, as well as broader political legitimacy.
Beijing’s planners worry about America’s
burgeoning military alliances and
partnerships in Asia. Good. That means
they’ll be more reluctant to start a fight if
doing so means China could end up facing
a multitude of the region’s powerhouses.
The point, of course, is not to increase the
likelihood of conflict between the United
States and China. Rather, the goal is to
cultivate real, long-term stability in Asia
that doesn’t give China a license to push,
prod, and bully.
Critics might assert that taking these
steps will invite precisely the kind of Cold
War-like competition that will make
conflict, if not outright war, most likely.
This is a real possibility, and U.S. policy-
makers will have to carefully balance
deterrence with engagement. But those
who are reluctant to push back need to ask
themselves whether China’s top leaders
currently see a sufficient downside in
acting assertively. Clearly, they do not.
Elbridge Colby is a fellow at the Center for a
New American Security and co-editor of the
book Strategic Stability: Contending
Interpretations. Ely Ratner is a senior fellow
and deputy director of the Asia-Pacific
Security Program at the Center for a New
American Security.



Trial by Fire
What crises lie in wait for Janet Yellen?
By Mohamed A. El-Erian
of the U.S. Federal Reserve
faced daunting challenges
soon after assuming
leadership of the world’s
most powerful central bank. It will be no
different for Janet Yellen, the highly
talented and respected incoming chair.
How she reacts to the set of known
challenges, let alone the unanticipated
ones, will impact the well-being of every
American and huge swaths of the global
Back in 1979, Paul Volcker came to the
Fed with a mandate to snap the United
States out of a debilitating period of low
growth and high inflation (or “stagfla-
tion”). Shortly after taking office, he did
more than raise interest rates; he
embarked on a multiyear policy effort
that ended up underpinning a three-de-
cade period that took inflation from
public enemy No. 1 to essentially a
Success was far from obvious in
Volcker’s early days, however, and it
would not have materialized without his
now-legendary steadfastness and
conviction. With sky-high interest rates
throwing the economy into recession, he
faced enormous political pressures to
abandon course, including from Jimmy
Carter, the president who appointed him
but then seemed surprised by the
consequences of the monetary policies he
pursued. Volcker made multiple brave
calls along a difficult path. With the
Fed-induced recession contributing to
Carter’s bruising loss to Ronald Reagan in
the 1980 election, you can still find
Democrats today who blame Volcker for
giving the election to Republicans—and
for laying the groundwork for what came
Alan Greenspan, Volcker’s successor,
faced his own moment of truth. Just
months into his tenure, he had to deal
with a sudden and dramatic financial
market collapse. On Oct. 19, 1987 (what
came to be known as Black Monday), the
Dow Jones industrial average plummet-
ed some 22 percent for no apparent
reason—an unprecedented drop that
threw global markets into disarray.
Greenspan’s boldness in aggressively
injecting emergency liquidity contained
the damage and, in the process,
safeguarded the integrity of the global
financial system.
Fast-forward to September 2008. Just
31 months after Ben Bernanke took the
reins from Greenspan, he found himself
facing a fearful situation: the disorderly
bankruptcy of an influential bro-
ker-dealer (Lehman Brothers), the near
collapse of a massive insurance

company (aig), a potential depositor
run on a large money market fund (the
Reserve Fund), and a host of nightmar-
ish cascading financial dislocations.
Thrown into urgent crisis management,
the new chair stepped up to battle a
financial crisis that was on the verge of
tipping the global economy into another
Great Depression.
Bernanke was forced to do more than
just come up with innovative Fed
instruments to slow the metastasizing
market failures that were sucking liquidity
out of virtually every major economic
interaction worldwide. Together with
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, he
marched up to Capitol Hill to convince
skeptical lawmakers to approve a massive
bailout package—with a calm, decisive
persuasion of which only a scholar of his
stature would have been capable.
How Janet Yellen would deal with these
types of challenges no one yet knows for
sure. But she had better be ready. It would
not surprise me one bit if she finds herself
the fourth consecutive head of the Federal
Reserve to face a serious crisis soon into
her tenure.
Yellen takes over a Fed that is playing
an unusually broad role in supporting
markets and the global economy. The
institution finds itself deep in experimen-
tal mode, using largely untested tools—be
it purchasing tens of billions worth of
bonds a month, keeping interest rates
artificially floored, or seeking to influence
private-sector behavior by venturing ever
deeper into “forward policy guidance”
(basically, orchestrated communication to
markets about the Fed’s intentions).
There are few historical parallels,
analytical models, and policy playbooks to
guide her. Indeed, there isn’t even a
common and detailed understanding
among academics of how the Fed has
really influenced economic prospects and
the functioning of markets since the
global financial crisis. Meanwhile,
financial investors are delighted to have
the continuous support of the Fed’s
wide-open wallet, which has driven asset
prices to rise to historical records, despite
unusually sluggish fundamentals.
It’s not quite a poisoned chalice, but
Yellen is taking over a Federal Reserve
that has ended up, mostly inadvertently,
underwriting a series of consequential
and unusual disconnects. Under her
guidance, the Fed will need to find a way
to better reconcile booming financial asset
prices with the unfortunate realities of
what is now being labeled “secular
stagnation”—an unusually prolonged
period of low growth and high unemploy-
ment. The central bank will also have to
find a way to reconcile its steadfast
commitment to supporting the domestic
economy with the disruption that causes
for other countries. After all, with the
United States both supplying the global
reserve currency and hosting the world’s
deepest financial markets, what the Fed
does has enormous consequences for the
flow of international capital in and out of
other countries. Those countries have felt
the Fed’s largesse, and many will find
their capacity to cope challenged when
the taps begin to close.
Yet the Fed under Yellen will need to
find a way to transition the economy from
artificial growth to genuine private-sec-
tor-led growth. It must gradually reduce
its direct involvement in the markets and
do so without causing disorder that under-
mines economic growth. Bernanke has
already signaled the route ahead: namely,
a gradual retreat from monthly bond
purchases in favor of great reliance on
forward policy guidance.
There may be no imminent crises like
the ones Volcker, Greenspan, and
Bernanke faced. Yet the situation Yellen
inherits is arguably more complicated and
fluid. Indeed, it may well constitute one of
the most complex challenges ever faced
by a central bank. If that weren’t enough,
the Fed’s tool kit is ill-equipped for the
task at hand, and the institution is
hampered by political polarization and
congressional dysfunction.
No one knows for sure how much time
the Fed has before it must deal with the
unintended consequences of its experi-
mental policies. It could be months; it
could be years. Much depends on whether
Bernanke has actually bought enough
time for U.S. household balance sheets to
heal and for the economy to pick back up
But Yellen can’t wait to find out. She
needs to deliver on four interrelated fronts
early on in her tenure. First, as the
benefits of the Fed’s unconventional
stimulus decline, as they inevitably will,
she must avoid exposing the fragility of a
recovery still hampered by inadequate
infrastructure and demand, unresolved
pockets of excessive indebtedness, and
long-term unemployment.
Second, with many equities and
corporate bonds flirting with bubble-ish
levels, she must work with other agencies
to ensure that recent progress in banking
regulation and supervision has materially
reduced the threat of destabilizing market
Third, she must find a way of breaking
the unhealthy co-dependency that has
developed between markets and the Fed.
Markets cannot function well in the long
term on the assumption that they will
always have the Fed to support them, and
the Fed cannot always rely on artificially
boosting financial assets to promote
growth and jobs.
And fourth, she must clearly communi-
cate Fed policy in a world that has become
extremely sensitive to every word, signal,
and whisper emanating from the world’s
most powerful financial institution.
What is undeniable, even at this early
stage, is that the to-do list awaiting Janet
Yellen when she enters the Fed is as
daunting as those that ended up facing
her three predecessors. And we have no
idea what challenges and crises the
world could soon throw her way. She
brings enormous talent and experience
to the Fed chair, but she’ll need some
good luck too.
Contributing editor Mohamed A. El-Erian
is ceo and co-chief investment officer of
global investment management firm Pimco
and author of When Markets Collide.
It’s not quite a
poisoned chalice,
but Yellen is
taking over a
Federal Reserve
that has ended
up, mostly
a series of
and unusual

Peter White has traveled the world helping countries
dismantle their chemical weapons facilities. Until he visited
Syria, however, he had never worked in a war zone. “There
were a few sleepless nights in the first week, and we weren’t
really sure what was happening,” says the inspector with the
Nobel Peace Prize-winning Organization for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons (OPCW). “All day and all night, we heard
gunfire and artillery shelling, which wasn’t something I’ve
experienced before.”
White, who is British and carries the ofcial job title of
“senior chemical demilitarization ofcer,” went to Syria for five
weeks last September. He was part of the OPCW team allowed
into the country after an international deal was reached to
destroy Bashar al-Assad’s arsenal of chemical weapons, which
the regime used on its own people during Syria’s bloody,
intractable civil war. White, who grew up wanting to be a farmer
before deciding that the work was too hard and munitions were
more interesting, visited facilities where chemical weapons
were made and advised the Syrians on how to get rid of their
stockpile. “What struck me was how sophisticated the Syrian
program was. They had bought the best of everything,” he says.
As for Syrian ofcials, White insists that they surprised him.
“We had prepared for and trained for going into a
nonpermissive environment.… However, from what I
experienced out there, they couldn’t have been more helpful.”
FOREIGN POLICY met with White in December at the OPCW
storage facility, a warehouse-like space near The Hague where
inspection gear is housed alongside a small lab equipped for
weapons analysis. White, who has been with the OPCW since
2007, ofered a glimpse of what he takes with him on trips. He
was packing his bags that day for a mission in France, but he is
volunteering to return to Syria in 2014.
Combo pens
If you get contaminated
with nerve agent, you
take the cap of one of
the pens and bang it into
your leg. I’ve never had
to use these.
I take a range of diferent
currencies depending on
where I go. For Syria, I
took dollars, euros, and
Syrian pounds. They
really liked euros.
Nikon camera
You can shoot a picture
in great detail. Then
when you get back and
someone asks, “What’s
in the far corner of that
room?” you can zoom in
to the nth detail and pull
out all the information
you need.
First-aid kit
We all have a personal
first-aid kit with us in
case of emergencies.
Medical support
personnel are on hand,
but if you’re working in a
bunker, you may be a
few hundred meters
from help.
Point It
This is the world’s best thing.
It’s got hundreds and
hundreds of pictures of
everything, so no matter
where you go, you’re always
going to be able to get by, even
if no one speaks any English.
This crucial bit of high-tech
equipment allows us to detect
all chemicals and nerve
agents in an area so that we
know exactly the situation
that we are dealing with.

Head cam
This is great for the future
planning of destroying
everything, noting the heights
of the tunnels, whether you
can get forklift trucks in, and
things like that.
Inspection notebook
All notes must be taken in
this little book. You can’t
write on anything else, since
[OPCW] state parties have
the right to see all notes.
We wear butyl and
neoprene rubber gloves
that protect us.… The
cotton undergloves go
on first to make them
more comfortable. They
absorb the sweat.
Body armor and
A vital bit of kit that helps
protect you against
bullets and bomb
fragments, although in
some areas, we would
take it of for greater
mobility. You have to
weigh up the risk of being
shot against the risk of
exposure to chemicals.
Protective suits
I wore this kind of suit
when I worked in Syria. It
works well for vapor but
wouldn’t protect you
against a lot of liquid.
Handy if food has
been provided but
someone has
forgotten the cutlery.

APRIL 2013
Seizing on the public’s distaste for drones, a
coalition of NGOs, including Human Rights
Watch, launches the Campaign to Stop
Killer Robots. “[A] number of countries,
most notably the United States, are coming
close to producing the technology to make
complete autonomy for robots a reality,”
Human Rights Watch had warned in 2012.
MAY 30, 2013
Christof Heyns, the U.N. special rapporteur
on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary
executions, calls for a moratorium on the de-
velopment and deployment of autonomous
robots and urges states to consider whether
existing international law is sufcient to
govern their use, noting that “war without
reflection is mechanical slaughter.”
The killer robot has been a science-fiction staple for
decades, but rapid advances in artificial intelligence may soon
usher in the era of lethal autonomous machines for real.
If one counts certain ship-borne air-defense systems,
that day has already arrived. But a growing chorus of
critics think machines shouldn’t be licensed to kill.
With the United Nations likely to take up
the issue in 2014, here’s a look back at the
surprisingly long history of lethal
The U.S. government awards General Atomics a
contract to build the RQ-1 Predator drone, which will
transmit video footage in real time over satellite link,
guided by ground-based controllers who can be thou-
sands of miles away. A little more than a year later, the
unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle is operating over
Bosnia. By 2001, it has been upgraded to carry Hellfire
missiles. The era of killer drones is born.
JULY 3, 1988
The Aegis air-defense system aboard
the USS Vincennes, stationed in the Per-
sian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War, detects
an apparently hostile aircraft. The plane is
in fact an Iranian commercial airliner, but
the system, then in semiautomatic mode,
shoots down the jetliner, killing all 290
people aboard.
British mathematician Alan Turing, arguably the
godfather of artificial intelligence, writes, “I propose
to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?’” In
Turing’s mind, it’s less a matter of whether machines
can reason like humans than how well they can
imitate them.
The USS Mississippi test-fires one of the earliest
computer-guided missiles, launching a 1,180-pound
RIM-2 Terrier of the coast of Cape Cod. A few years
later, the Talos missile system comes online, using
a homing device that automatically corrects for
variations in altitude and speed.
Concerned that the Soviet Union might techno-
logically outdo the United States, the Pentagon’s
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency gives
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology $2 million
to explore “machine-aided cognition.” The cash
infusion jump-starts research in artificial intelligence
and computer science.
NOVEMBER 21, 2012
The U.S. Defense Department issues a directive
designed to “minimize the probability and conse-
quences of failures in autonomous and semi-au-
tonomous weapon systems.” Although the directive
allows for the development of fully autonomous
nonlethal systems, it requires, for the time being at
least, that “appropriate levels of human judgment”
be exercised over robots that use deadly force.
Special thanks
to P.W. Singer,
author of Wired
for War: The Ro-
botics Revolution
and Conflict in the
21st Century.

AUGUST 5, 2012
Researchers with Cambridge University’s
Center for the Study of Existential Risk
publish an article on the potential hazards
of artificial intelligence gone awry: “We
risk yielding control over the planet to intelli-
gences that are simply indiferent to us, and
to things that we consider valuable—things
such as life and a sustainable environment.”
JULY 2013
The Northrop Grumman X-47B
unmanned combat air vehicle lands
successfully on the deck of the USS
George H.W. Bush, becoming the first
unmanned autonomous vehicle to
land on an aircraft carrier. The feat,
Bloomberg raves, brings humankind
into a “new era of flight.”
OCTOBER 8, 2013
Documents submitted to the British
Parliament reveal that BAE Systems’
supersonic, stealthy Taranis drone—with
the ability to autonomously identify
targets—has begun secret tests in the
Australian Outback. But BAE reassures
legislators that there is a “human
operator in the loop.”
NOVEMBER 15, 2013
The 117 governments party to the U.N.
Convention on Certain Conventional
Weapons agree to take up the issue
of lethal autonomy in 2014—with
activists hopeful that a ban could be
in place as early as 2016. But which
would you put your money on: the U.N.
or Skynet?
Leonardo da Vinci designs a “mechanical knight”
capable of mimicking a range of human motions, including
raising its arms, sitting up, and opening and closing its jaw.
Sketches in his notebook show an elaborate system of
cranks and pulleys beneath an armored exterior, though
it’s unclear how the original Renaissance man planned to
power his fighting automaton.
World War I brings a series of advances in robotic
warfare, including the U.S.-made Kettering “Bug”
(a gyroscope-guided winged bomb) and the German
FL-7 wire-guided motorboat, loaded with hundreds
of pounds of explosives. In 1916, the range of the
coastal-patrolling German boats is doubled when they
are outfitted with radio-control systems.
Two German-made FX-1400, or “Fritz
X,” bombs slam into the Italian battleship
Roma as it sails toward the Strait of Bonifa-
cio, splitting the vessel in two and sending
more than 1,200 sailors to their deaths.
Fritz Xs are arguably the first radio-con-
trolled drones.
Nikola Tesla unveils the first wireless remote-controlled
vehicle, a small iron-hulled boat, before a skeptical
crowd in New York’s Madison Square Garden. He later
tries to sell the device, dubbed a “telautomaton”—as well
as plans for radio-guided torpedoes—to the U.S. military,
but ofcials in Washington won’t take him seriously.
MAY 18, 2009
The U.S. Air Force releases a plan-
ning document that charts a long-
term path to “fully autonomous
capability” for aircraft—including
the use of force. “The end result
would be a revolution in the roles of
humans in air warfare,” the report
A Predator hovering about 100 miles
east of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, carries
out the first U.S. drone strike outside
a war zone, killing Abu Ali al-Harithi, the
alleged mastermind of the 2000 USS
Cole bombing, and five other militants,
including one American. Drones become a
regular tool in the U.S. war on terrorism.
South Korea announces plans to install
Samsung Techwin SGR-A1 sentry
robots along the Demilitarized Zone with
North Korea. Armed with machine guns,
they are capable of fully autonomous
tracking and targeting, though human
approval is reportedly required before
they fire.
MAY 1973
The U.S. Air Force uses laser-guided weapons to destroy
the strategic Thanh Hoa Bridge in North Vietnam, mark-
ing the first time a so-called “smart bomb” successfully
destroys a major enemy target. During the Vietnam
War, the Air Force also deploys autonomous unmanned
surveillance aircraft that fly in circular patterns and shoot
film until their fuel runs out.
The U.S. Defense Department launches the
first Navstar satellite, a major development
in modern global positioning technology. The
system reaches full operational capacity in
1995—the same year that GPS is used to guide
an unmanned aerial vehicle for the first time,
marking a leap forward for drones.

Marx’s tombstone in
London’s Highgate
Cemetery reads, “Workers of
all lands, unite.” Of course, it
hasn’t quite ended up that way. As much
buzz as the global Occupy movement
managed to produce in a few short months,
the silence is deafening now. And it’s not
often that you hear of shop workers in
Detroit making common cause with their
Chinese brethren in Dalian to stick it to the
boss man. Indeed, as global multinational
companies have eaten away at labor’s
bargaining power, the factory workers of
the rich world have become some of the
least keen on helping out their fellow wage
laborers in poor countries. But there’s a
school of thought—and no, it’s not just
from the few remaining Trotskyite
professors at the New School—that
envisions a type of global class politics
making a comeback. If so, it might be time
for global elites to start trembling. Sure, it
doesn’t sound quite as threatening as the
original call to arms, but a new specter may
soon be haunting the world’s 1 percent:
middle-class activism.
Karl Marx saw an apocalyptic logic to the
class struggle. The battle of the vast mass
against a small plutocracy had an inevita-
ble conclusion: Workers 1, Rich Guys 0.
Marx argued that the revolutionary
proletarian impulse was also a fundamen-
tally global one—that working classes
would be united across countries and
oceans by their shared experience of
crushing poverty and the soullessness of
factory life. At the time Marx was writing,
the idea that poor people were pretty
similar across countries—or at least would
be soon—was eminently reasonable.
According to World Bank economist
Branko Milanovic, when The Communist
Manifesto was written in 1848, most
income inequality at the global level was
driven by class differences within
countries. Although some countries were
clearly richer than others, what counted as
an income to make a man rich or condemn
him to poverty in England would have
translated pretty neatly to France, the
United States, even Argentina.
But as the Industrial Revolution gained
Marx Is Back
The global working class is starting
to unite—and that’s a good thing.
By Charles Kenny
Illustration by David Plunkert

steam, that parity changed dramatically
over the next century—one reason Marx’s
prediction of a global proletarian revolu-
tion turned out to be so wrong. Just a few
years after The Communist Manifesto was
published, wages for workers in Britain
began to climb. The trend followed across
the rest of Europe and North America. The
world entered a period of what Harvard
University economist Lant Pritchett
elegantly calls “divergence, big time.” The
Maddison Project database of historical
statistics suggests that per capita gdp in
1870 (in 1990 dollars, adjusting for
purchasing power) was around $3,190 in
Britain—compared with an African
average of $648. Compare that with Britain
in 2010, which had a per capita gdp of
$23,777; the African average was $2,034.
One hundred and forty years ago, the
average African person was about one-fifth
as rich as his British comrade. Today, he’s
worth less than one-tenth.
Although many Americans get worked
up about absurdly inflated ceo salaries
and hedge fund bonuses, a hard economic
fact has been overlooked: As the West took
off into sustained growth, the gap in
incomes among countries began to dwarf
the income gaps within countries. That
means a temp in East London may still
struggle to make ends meet, but plop her
down in Lagos and she’ll live like a queen.
If you’re feeling bad about your nonexis-
tent year-end bonus, consider this:
Milanovic estimates that the average
income of the richest 5 percent in India is
about the same as that of the poorest 5
percent in the United States. Like banks
and multinationals, wealth and poverty
are now globalized. The lowest municipal
workers in Europe and the United States
are far richer than their counterparts in
poor developing countries (even when
purchasing power parity is taken into
account), and they’re almost infinitesi-
mally better off than the majority of
people in those countries who still survive
off the earnings of small farms or microen-
Sorry, Karl: The simple fact that poor
people in Europe and America are in the
income elite according to the standards of
South Asia and Africa is why the workers of
all lands have not yet united. The second
congress of the Communist International,
in 1920, condemned the despicable
betrayal by many European and American
socialists during World War I, who “used
‘defense of the fatherland’ to conceal the
‘right’ of ‘their’ bourgeoisie to enslave the
colonies.” The gathered representatives
argued that the mistrust generated could
“be eradicated only after imperialism is
destroyed in the advanced countries and
after the entire basis of economic life of the
backward countries is radically trans-
Yet all that might soon be changing.
Globalization may have been the watch-
word of the 1990s, but it’s still a work in
progress. As interconnected global markets
get ever more interconnected, average
incomes are converging. The last 10 years
have seen developing countries grow far
more rapidly than high-income countries,
closing the gap in average incomes.
Economist Arvind Subramanian estimates
that China in 2030 will be about as rich as
the whole European Union today and that
Brazil won’t be far behind, clocking in at a
gdp per capita of around $31,000.
Indonesia, he reckons, will see a gdp per
capita of $23,000—about the same as tech
powerhouse South Korea today.
Put simply, this means that within the
space of hardly a generation, a good chunk
of the world will soon be rich, or at least
solidly middle class. According to forecasts
I’ve developed with my Center for Global
Development colleague Sarah Dykstra,
about 16 percent of the Earth’s population
lives in countries rich enough to be labeled
“high income” by the World Bank. If
growth rates continue as they have in the
past decade, 41 percent of the world’s
people will find themselves in the “high
income” bracket by 2030. In short, if
developing countries continue growing at
the rate we’ve seen recently, inequality
among countries will shrink—and
inequality within nations will return as the
dominant source of global inequality.
Does that mean Marx was right—if just a
couple of centuries off on his timing? Not
The reality is that this new middle class
will have lives that Victorian-era work-
ing-class Brits could only dream about.
They’ll work in led-lit shops and offices
rather than in dark, hellish mills. And
they’ll live nearly 40 years longer than the
average person in 1848 based on life
expectancy at birth. But will they share
common cause with their fellow factory
workers an ocean away?
Maybe, but not because the barricade is
the only option. Marx predicted that the
global working class would unite and revolt
because wages everywhere would be driven
to subsistence. But as wages increase and
level out around the world, the plight of the
proletariat—hard work, low pay—today
more than ever means easier work and
better pay. And it’s bringing hundreds of
millions of people, in China alone, out of
poverty. Clearly, the communist revolu-
tions of the first half of the 20th century
proved far, far worse for living standards
than the well-regulated markets of the
latter half.
But that doesn’t mean Warren Buffett
should breathe easily. In fact, it is exactly
because the rich and poor will look
increasingly similar in Lagos and London
that it’s more likely that the workers of the
world in 2030 will unite. As technology and
trade level the playing field and bring
humanity closer together, the world’s
projected 3.5 billion laborers may finally
realize how much more they have in
common with each other than with the
über-wealthy elites in their own countries.
They’ll pressure governments to
collaborate to ensure that their sweat and
blood don’t excessively enrich a tiny, global
capitalist elite, but are spread more widely.
They’ll work to shut down tax havens where
the world’s plutocrats hide their earnings,
and they’ll advocate for treaties to prevent a
“race to the bottom” in labor regulations
and tax rates designed to attract companies.
And they’ll push to ensure it isn’t just the
world’s richest who benefit from a global
lifestyle—by striving to open up free
movement of labor for all, not just within
countries but among them. Sure, it’s not
quite a proletarian revolution. But then
again, the middle class has never been the
most ardent of revolutionaries—only the
most effective. The next decade won’t so
much see the politics of desperate poverty
taking on plutocracy, as the middle class
taking back its own. But it all might put a
ghostly smile on Karl’s face nonetheless.
Charles Kenny is a senior fellow at the
Center for Global Development and author,
most recently, of The Upside of Down: Why
the Rise of the Rest is Great for the West.
Like banks and
wealth and poverty
are now globalized.

Celebrating 2013’s
Leading Global Thinkers
On December 11, Foreign Policy debuted its fifth annual special issue featuring FP’s 100
Leading Global Thinkers at a dinner honoring members of the list. The event drew more than
40 Global Thinkers from around the world to celebrate the people and ideas that had the most
impact in 2013 and beyond.
FP’s Global Thinkers Gala was generously underwritten by Chevron, American Petroleum Institute, Visa and MHZ Networks.

There’s a long historical
toxicity to the Sino-Japanese
relationship. The challenge is to
stabilize the dispute and create
new political ballasts in other
domains, like economic and com-
mercial afairs, as well as political
and security engagement. The
key issue is to get both sides to
concur that a status quo is being
preserved, so that the relation-
ship can develop in other
directions and dimensions.
Likening Chinese President Xi
Jinping to former Russian
President Mikhail Gorbachev
and Mao Zedong is the product
of lazy Western journalism. It’s
much more complex than that.
He’s certainly not Gorbachev,
because Xi does not have any
stated interest in
democratization. It’s
not on the table. In
terms of a Mao
analogy, people are
grasping at straws
in the wind. They
see some of Xi’s
behavior, like
criticism campaigns,
and they say that
equals Mao, equals
hard left. I think that
is shortsighted.
The closest analogy is with
Deng Xiaoping, China’s
paramount leader for the
1980s and 1990s. Xi under-
stands the historical significance
of the continued reform of the
economy to the legitimacy of the
Chinese Communist Party and to
what he describes as China’s
long-term renaissance, or fuxing.
If I’m looking for a political
template, it’s very much in the
tradition of Deng. Never forget,
Deng was not a liberal political
Xi’s government does not have
any plans to evolve a democrat-
ic plural system. However, it
does have plans to evolve, for
economic and commercial
purposes, a more independent
commercial arbitration system.
Once you start talking about
individual property rights and the
need for courts to independently
and fairly make judgments on
property and commercial
disputes, that itself sets up new
forces for change.
East Asia is home to a series of
19th-century-type classical
security policy challenges,
underpinned by continuing
territorial disputes. It is an
unfolding 21st-century economic
reality, with military establish-
ments dealing with contingen-
cies, which remind me of Europe
sometime between 1870 and
1914. This analogy is useful, not
least because it can show our
European friends how sharp the
edges are in East Asia and the
West Pacific.
As a Mandarin-
speaking prime
minister, I got
double the time
with Xi because we
didn’t need an
interpreter. It might
be an old-fashioned
view, but language is
important. It
conveys respect,
familiarity, and some
knowledge of where
the hell you’re coming from.
Henry Kissinger has played a
very valuable role between the
United States and China. Even
Henry, however, would admit to
his own mortality. There still
continues to be an important
bridging role between China and
the United States. Even after
being in this business for 30
years, I’m constantly struck by
how often things are literally lost
in translation. Sometimes it’s
useful to be able to quietly,
efectively talk with both sides.
If I were to give you an example
of talking quietly with both
sides, it would no longer be a
quiet conversation. Nice try.
I might be from Australia, but
I’m not slow.
Kevin Rudd
Former Prime Minister of Australia
Even after being
in this business
for 30 years,
I’m constantly
struck by how
often things are
literally lost in
The Chinese love to say that their country is a difcult
place for outsiders to understand. Kevin Rudd, who
has spent a lifetime studying China, agrees. Rudd,
who twice served as Australia’s prime minister, start-
ed learning Chinese in the 1970s. When he embarked
on his political rise, after stints in the Australian
Embassy in Beijing and as a China consultant for the
accounting firm KPMG, Rudd kept up his Mandarin
and his China contacts. According to a U.S. State
Department cable released by Wikileaks, he once
described himself as a “brutal realist” when it comes
to China. Today, Rudd remains an astute, opinionat-
ed observer of Beijing’s opaque political system and
its knotty international afairs. In December, FOREIGN
POLICY spoke with Rudd in New York about Xi Jinping,
Henry Kissinger, the importance of language, and
the territorial dispute between China and Japan over
islands in the East China Sea. Rudd insists there’s no
“easy fix” to the dispute, which threatens to incite a
war: “Anyone who thinks there is a neat negotiating
point to bring these guys together on this question is
probably smoking something.”

The Longitude
of Latitude
“I’ve lived in good climate,” John Steinbeck
wrote in Travels with Charley, his 1962
chronicle of his trip around America, “and it
bores the hell out of me.”
At the time, Steinbeck was
traipsing through New England,
reminiscing about his dull days in
Cuernavaca, Mexico, and other warm
spots, and pondering the need for a
little cold in a man’s life to “give [the
warmth] sweetness.” This is, of
course, the same Steinbeck who won
fame chronicling the lives of
Oklahoman sharecroppers who gave
up everything to reach California,
where “it never gets cold” and “you
can reach out anywhere and pick an
The difference between how the
Pulitzer Prize-winning Steinbeck
experienced the gentle climes of Mex-
ico and how the desperate Joad
family dreamed of California was
largely due to disparate resources. So
says research by Dutch psychologist
Evert Van de Vliert, who also argues
that how people experience climate
goes on to shape culture.
» From afar, the Nordic countries look like the
promised land—except for the long winters, of
course. Bestowed with wealth, good schools,
universal health care, and long life spans, it’s no
wonder that Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway,
and Sweden regularly top lists of the “world’s
happiest countries.”
But life in the herring collective may not be all
that it seems—not if you’re young and single,
anyway. New research from sociologists Hiroshi
Ono and Kristen Schultz Lee argues that the
picture of glowing Scandinavian satisfaction
obscures a more nuanced reality: a set of subtle
trade-ofs in these welfare states that favor
families over the single and childless. The Nordic
model, the authors argue, not only redistributes
wealth—it also redistributes happiness.
The study’s authors looked at 2002 data from
29 countries, collected by the International
Social Survey Program, in which respondents
reported their demographic characteristics as
well as their levels of happiness. Unsurprisingly,
the happiness gap between rich and poor is
smaller in countries that spend heavily on
welfare programs. But Ono and Lee also found
that the happiness gap between married and
unmarried people is larger in countries with high
public-welfare spending. Being single in, say,
Sweden is more of a downer; while women with
children, in particular, see a significant happiness
boost. The authors argue that this is because
states spend lavishly on pro-family policies like
generous parental leave and subsidized,
high-quality day care, while single people (who
also pay high taxes) receive the least in return.
It could be that states with pro-family policies
might have extra-strong societal attachments to
the idea of family. So those people who haven’t
yet formed families of their own could be
unhappy for reasons other than paying taxes
through the nose. Yet the research is a reminder
that it’s worth digging a little deeper into a
country’s aggregate happiness. With every
policy, there are winners and losers—even in a
welfare state nirvana.

» Congratulations!
You’re young,
healthy, and in the
prime of your life. So what if you’re struggling
to find a job in a lousy economy? You can still
do anything, right?
Wrong. Millions of young men and women
across the United States and Europe are
unemployed or underemployed, living at home,
and delaying marriage, children, and other
fundamental life choices as they seek to make
their way through a world still recovering from
the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.
They’ve been called the Great Recession’s “lost
generation”—and economists are worried about
the long-term efects on their psyches.
As far back as 1979, Harvard Economist
David T. Ellwood argued that even temporary
unemployment among teenagers could leave
them “scarred” due to lingering “efects of lost
work experience on wages.” But now,
economists say it could also make them lifelong
Democrats (if they’re Americans, anyway).
New research from Paola Giuliano at the
University of California, Los Angeles, and Antonio
Spilimbergo at the International Monetary Fund
looks at how the experience of recessions during
the critical, value-forming years of early
adulthood can afect people’s political views.
Think those crazy kids occupying Wall Street
were just going through a phase? Think again.
Being exposed to an economic shock between
the ages of 17 and 25 can permanently afect
people’s ideas about how society should be
organized, the researchers argue.
Looking at survey data from 1972 to 2010
from the United States, for example, Giuliano and
Spilimbergo found that experiencing a recession
as a young adult makes people more likely to
believe that governments should be responsible
for assisting the poor and that luck plays an
important role in success. It also makes them
more likely to self-identify as liberal and to vote
Democratic. (In fact, an early-life economic shock
is four times more likely to influence political
behavior than current unemployment.) The efect
isn’t limited to the United States either: Using
data from worldwide surveys on values, Giuliano
and Spilimbergo found that going through a
recession makes people more pessimistic and
less inclined to believe in a just world.
That’s not simply depressing; it’s bad news
for the GOP. Today’s lost generation may feel
powerless now, but they’ll be voters for decades
to come.
In a recent paper published by
Cambridge University Press, titled
“Climate-Economic Habitats Support
Patterns of Human Needs, Stresses,
and Freedoms,” Van de Vliert argues
that varying levels of freedoms
around the world—from freedom of
the press to freedom of speech to
freedom from discrimination—can
be explained by looking at the
interaction between
the challenges a
climate poses and
how much wealth a
country has to
address those
Freedoms are
treated differently in
countries that are
inhospitable and
poor, inhospitable
and rich, and in
countries—both rich
and poor—where the
weather is balmy,
Van de Vliert argues.
Poverty, he says,
encourages those
living in an inhospitable climate to see
it as threatening—to respond with fear
and a need for control, which results
in lower levels of freedom (think
Afghanistan, Belarus, or Sudan).
Given adequate resources, however, a
climate that is too hot or too cold
becomes not a threat but a challenge
to be conquered with the kind of
creativity and open-mindedness that
encourages high levels of freedom
(think Canada, Finland, or Iceland).
These latter countries—poorly
situated, but blessed with the
resources to temper the effects of
Mother Nature—tend to be freer
than their temperate counterparts,
where daily living involves a
minimum of challenges, Van de
Vliert concludes, using data from
prior studies and new survey data
across 85 countries. The model, he
argues, has interesting consequenc-
es when global warming is factored
in: Milder Februarys in Helsinki or a
balmy Winnipeg winter could have
adverse effects on freedom, Van de
Vliert says. Meanwhile, poorer
countries in frigid regions might
actually gain freedoms as a result of
climate change, as their environ-
ments become less threatening.
That climate has an impact on
culture isn’t a new idea; Hippocrates,
Ibn Khaldun, and Montesquieu all
dabbled in geographical determinism.
The idea found a ready audience in
the colonial period, as Western
explorers found explanations of
national values and
character in
longitude and
latitude. In the
following decades,
these theories
quickly fell into
disrepute in
geography depart-
ments around the
world. But as the
potential effects of
climate change loom
larger, research on
how the environ-
ment can affect
pretty much
everything is
experiencing a
resurgence. Heavy hitters from
scientist Jared Diamond to economist
Jeffrey Sachs have waded back into
these turbulent waters.
The goal of his theory, Van de Vliert
says, is to move beyond a straightfor-
ward story of how climate influences
culture: to introduce more variables,
like wealth. For the moment, the
theory may raise more questions than
it can answer: What do we make of rich
but authoritarian countries in what
could easily be considered a challeng-
ing climate, like Qatar? Should cold
and hot climates be treated different-
ly? (Yes, Van de Vliert says—but he left
it out of this paper, for the sake of
simplicity.) And what about countries
where freedom levels have experi-
enced wild swings, like Germany?
For now, perhaps the theory is best
a blanket for those of us hunkering
through long winters: When the
thermometer drops into single digits,
just think of how warm freedom is on
the inside. And when it comes to
visiting paradise, remember: Nice
place to visit—wouldn’t want to live
Poverty, Van
de Vliert says,
those living in
an inhospitable
climate to see it as
respond with fear
and a need for
control, which
results in less

fall, a private fertility
clinic in the southern
Iranian city of Shiraz was
so busy that the harried
receptionist struggled to accommodate
all the women seeking its services. On a
mantelpiece rested a framed fatwa from
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei providing
religious sanction for sperm and egg
donations—placed there, perhaps, to
reassure these women that they had the
Supreme Leader’s approval for what
they were about to do. Many had
traveled long distances from smaller
towns to reach the clinic, and the packed
waiting area was abuzz with conversa-
tion, as women swapped stories about
treatment, drugs, and their shared
struggles to conceive a child.
“I couldn’t afford this five years ago,
but I’ve saved up now and am ready to
try,” said one 30-year-old woman seated
in the waiting room.
While the world’s attention has been
focused on Iran’s nuclear program, the
country has been quietly working on a
different sort of breakout capacity. The
Islamic Republic—governed by its strict
mullahs, who’ve managed to botch
progress in fields ranging from domestic
manufacturing to airport construction—
has unexpectedly transformed itself into
the fertility treatment capital of the
Muslim Middle East. Iran now boasts
more than 70 clinics nationwide, which
attract childless couples, Sunni and
Shiite alike, from throughout the region.
This initiative has raised challenges to
traditional views on parenthood and
marriage and has helped chip away at
taboos about sexual health—even as it
has left some of Iran’s conservative
Sunni neighbors aghast.
“Doctors in the Gulf are horrified by
the way the Iranians have allowed this,”
says Soraya Tremayne, an Oxford
University professor and an expert on
fertility in Iran. “They say, ‘We would
never allow this among us.’”
The Islamic
Republic of
How the Supreme Leader’s
revolutionary acceptance of
cutting-edge fertility treatments
is changing lives in Iran—and
unsettling the deeply conservative
Sunni Middle East.
By Azadeh Moaveni
Illustrations by Jon Han
For generations of Iranians, infertility
was once a marriage-unraveling,
soul-decaying trauma. It was memorial-
ized in films like Dariush Mehrjui’s
Leila, in which a conniving mother
bullies her son into taking a second wife
when his first fails to conceive. The first
wife, ashamed of her infertility and still
in love with her husband, goes along
with the plan, but the emotional strain
destroys their marriage and the husband
is ultimately left with a child, but
bitterly alone. The film screened just a
few years before Khamenei’s 1999 fatwa
and was a major hit, resonating with the

multitude of Iranian women and men
facing the prospect of a childless
marriage and the intolerable alternative
of polygamy.
has an extremely high infertility rate.
More than 20 percent of Iranian couples
cannot conceive, according to a study
conducted by one of the country’s
leading fertility clinics, compared with
the global rate of between 8 and 12
percent. Experts believe this is due to
the prevalence of consanguineous
marriages, or those between cousins.
Male infertility is “the hidden story of
the Middle East,” says Marcia Inhorn, a
Yale University medical anthropologist
and a specialist on assisted reproduction
in the region. Couple that with a
shocking, multidecade decline in the
average number of children born per
woman, and it means that fertility
treatment is needed in Iran more than
Still, the pressure on a married
couple—and particularly the woman—to
produce children remains intense.
“We live in an Eastern society, and
having children remains a very signifi-
cant thing in our culture,” says Sara
Fallahi, a physician who practices in one
of Shiraz’s three fertility clinics. “Even
for this generation that’s getting married
later and wanting smaller families, most
still definitely want one child.”
Iran’s first in vitro fertilization (ivf)
clinic opened up in Yazd, a desert city in
central Iran, more than 20 years ago. It
immediately found itself inundated with
clients. By the mid-2000s, it was so
popular that lines stretched out the
door. Couples who had traveled from
rural areas would camp outside in hopes
of getting an appointment. More clinics
soon opened in Tehran and across the
ivf quickly gained acceptance in other
parts of the Middle East, but physicians
ran into religious restrictions prohibiting
more advanced forms of fertility
treatment. Standard ivf involves
fertilizing an egg with sperm in a
laboratory and then returning the
embryo into the womb, a process
requiring that both the egg and sperm of
the respective partners be viable, which
is not always the case. The next step in
treating infertility requires a third
party—that is, an egg or sperm donor
from outside the couple. In Islam, the
ethics of such treatment are murky:
Patients initially worried they might be
committing adultery or that children
born of such unions would be illegiti-
But childless couples continued to
demand a way to conceive. In Iran,
medical specialists set about finding a
religious solution, seeking the support of
sympathetic mujahids (clerics qualified
to read and interpret the Quran). The
Shiite tradition of reinterpreting Islamic
law was central to the clerics’ willing-
ness to go along—in stark contrast to
Sunni jurisprudence’s focus on scholarly
consensus and literal readings of the
Quran, which has meant few fresh legal
rulings on modern matters. Although, to
Westerners, Iran’s Shiite clerics might
appear reactionary, they are downright
revolutionary when it comes to bioeth-
ics. In recent years, they have handed
down fatwas allowing everything from
stem-cell research to cloning.
Their edicts did necessitate some
Quranic contortions, however. The
religiously acceptable solutions offered
at first, like temporary marriage between
an egg donor and the fertile male
partner, proved too complicated,

requiring a married donor to endure a
flurry of divorces and remarriages. And
some clerics who disagree with Khame-
nei’s fatwa still advocate temporary
marriage as a way of avoiding the
adulterous implications of third-party
donations. But this approach is easier for
husbands, who can contract a temporary
marriage with a female egg donor
without needing to divorce the infertile
wife; for a fertile wife to be able to
receive sperm from a donor, she must
divorce her husband, wait a religiously
mandated three months before marrying
the sperm donor, then divorce him, and
finally remarry her original husband.
Iranian clerics’ willingness to issue
innovative religious rulings coincided
with a changing political and demo-
graphic climate that also spurred
fertility treatments. In the wake of the
1979 revolution, the country embarked
on a quest to boost population, but by
the late 1980s and early 1990s, as Iran
struggled to rebuild in the aftermath of
its devastating war with Iraq and with
the baby boom in full effect, many
questioned whether the country’s
economy, schools, and cities could
handle the population growth. So the
authorities reversed course, imple-
menting a set of policies that gently
persuaded traditional Iranians to have
fewer children.
According to Oxford’s Tremayne,
authorities carefully avoided words like
“reduction” and “control” and instead
proposed “regulation of the family,”
emphasizing that the policy was
intended not only to reduce family size
but also to enable infertile couples to
have families. The bargain worked, as
traditionalists embraced the govern-
ment’s anti-natal policies and Iran’s
fertility treatment centers multiplied. By
promoting contraception and vasecto-
mies, among other strategies, and
withdrawing state subsidies after the
second child, Iran managed to reduce its
population growth rate from 3.8 percent
in 1986 to 1.5 percent in 1996. But it may
have worked too well: Today, Iran finds
itself below the replacement rate of 2.1
children per woman.
In 1999, Khamenei issued his land-
mark fatwa making third-party sperm
and egg donation permissible. “Both the
egg donor and the infertile mother must
abide by the religious codes regarding
parenting,” the ayatollah decreed,
setting out the various conditions that
made the act permissible before God.
Through Khamenei’s edict, the Islamic
Republic had made clear at the highest
level that the state was ready to sanction
Iranians’ efforts to make babies—what-
ever it took.
discussed in hushed tones is giving way
to a lively culture of intervention and
openness. Women chat openly about ivf
on state television, couples recommend
specialists and trade stories on Internet
message boards, and practitioners have
begun pushing insurance companies to
cover treatment. And the state runs
subsidized clinics, so the cost for
treatment is lower than almost anywhere
else in the world: A full course of ivf,
including drugs, runs the equivalent of
just $1,500, according to Fallahi.
Khamenei’s fatwa was revolutionary
for Shiite Muslims everywhere, and it
cleared the way for many clinics in
Lebanon, which has a significant Shiite
population, to follow suit. But according
to Yale’s Inhorn, Sunnis are also
responding to the ruling, with some
infertile couples from the Arab world
heading to Tehran clinics that employ
Arabic translators. Sunni countries like
Egypt, Turkey, and the United Arab
Emirates practice classic ivf widely, but
offer no treatment options for men and
women who require third-party
reproductive assistance to conceive.
“Some Sunni couples have been able to
wrap their minds around egg donation,”
says Inhorn. “They can tell themselves,
‘Well, at least there’s one fatwa that says
it’s ok. Some branch of Islam says so.’
This makes them more at ease.”
Still, Fallahi, the physician, says that
anxious clients at her clinic in Shiraz
often raise the question of religious
approval. “They want to be sure what
they’re doing is not haram,” or forbid-
den by Islamic law, she says. Parliament
legalized embryo donation in 2003,
providing some legal backing to the
Supreme Leader’s religious ruling.
Fallahi stresses, however, that Khame-
nei’s edict is the opinion of one marja,
or source of emulation, and that not all
ayatollahs agree. “We tell people that
parliament has approved this, but that
they need to check with the marja they
follow to see if he gives permission.”
In some ways, fertility treatment may
be the rare area where the Iranian
regime has moved forward before
society is ready. Although legislators
approved embryo donation, they
In some ways,
fertility treatment
may be the rare area
where the Iranian
regime has moved
forward before
society is ready.

overruled Khamenei on sperm donation,
banning the procedure in 2003. As a
result, the practice was pushed under-
ground, and those clinics that quietly
offer the treatment are vulnerable to
prosecution. Sara Bamdad, a researcher
in Shiraz who conducted a survey on
public attitudes about assisted repro-
duction, found that only 34 percent of
respondents approved of egg donation.
“Lawmakers should be thinking about
the future and what is going to happen
to these children when they’re older,”
says Bamdad. “If a society can’t accept a
child that’s born of assisted reproduc-
tion, then there’ll be so many problems
in the future.”
with the implications of third-party fertil-
ity treatments. Under Iran’s Islamic
family law, babies born of sperm or egg
donation fall into the legal category of
adopted children and stepchildren, who
are not permitted to inherit property
from non-biological parents. Couples
thus must find alternative ways to put
aside assets to provide for these kids, and
the rights and responsibilities of
biological parents (the egg or sperm
donors, who are meant to remain
confidential but whose identities are
sometimes disclosed in practice) remain
But if religious rulings are still
murky, the baby-making revolution may
be gently removing cultural taboos
around other areas of sexual health. The
Avicenna Infertility Clinic in Tehran,
the country’s most prominent fertility
treatment center, has recently opened a
health clinic that treats sexual dysfunc-
tion and sexually transmitted diseases.
Tremayne recounts visiting a fertility
clinic where a large room full of men
and women sat watching a video
transmission of a surgery to fertilize a
woman’s egg on a giant television
screen. “Our intention is to create a new
culture so that people understand how
babies are conceived and how infertility
can be treated,” a doctor told Tremayne.
Scenes like this are part of a broader
effort to educate the public, and while it
may take years for infertility to lose its
stigma in Iranian culture, the discussion
of bodies and their biological functions
and failings may be gradually helping
Iranian men and women share responsi-
bility for what has for centuries been
the profound nang, or dishonor, laid at
the feet of women.
The pursuit of cutting-edge baby-
making has launched a process that
could ultimately change what it means
to be married and infertile, what it
means to be a parent, even what it
means to be kin in the Islamic Republic.
As Iran struggles with the collision
between its people’s evolving values and
the tenets of Islamic law, its success
with fertility treatment suggests that it
just may be possible to reconcile these
competing pressures. But whether it will
catch on in the Sunni Middle East is an
open question.
“Iran is surging ahead using [these
technologies] in all their forms,”
Tremayne says, “going places where the
Sunni countries in the region cannot
Azadeh Moaveni is a former Middle East
correspondent for Time and author of
Lipstick Jihad and co-author of Iran
Awakening. Additional reporting was
contributed from Shiraz, Iran.

Deep under sheets of ice and cold
earth, Greenland’s wealth of natural
resources—from oil to gas, uranium
to iron ore—remained almost
entirely untapped for decades,
sealed of by a mining moratorium.
But a global thaw and the opening
of shipping routes in the Northwest
Passage are pushing this remote
and untrammeled wilderness into
the modern era.
This past October, in a move to
further the island’s financial indepen-
dence from Denmark and in an efort
to revitalize its struggling economy,
Greenland’s parliament ended its
“zero tolerance” policy on uranium
mining. The world quickly took note:
Canada, China, and Australia have
expressed interest in what one
mining company called resources of
“genuine global significance.”
Though serious mining would
not likely begin for quite some time,
opinions are divided on whether de-
velopment is actually good news for
Greenland. Concerned environmen-
talists worry about the impact mining
will have on this largely untouched
part of the Arctic region. And though
new industry could potentially bring
much-needed jobs to Greenland,
some citizens (a large majority of
whom are Inuit) are fearful of what
big business—and an influx of foreign
workers—will do to their way of life.
But fear of the future doesn’t
mean that progress is on pause. In
late October, the government award-
ed a contract to a London mining
company to develop an iron ore
seam north of the capital, Nuuk. The
mine is expected to provide upward
of 3,000 jobs—and cost some $2.3
billion—making this deal, according to
Bloomberg News, “the biggest busi-
ness venture in the island’s history.”
This is Greenland, on the cusp of
momentous, perhaps irrevocable,
Blood in the water
after a seal is shot by
a hunter, 2013.
Samples collected
from Kvanefjeld, a
mountain in south
Greenland, 2013.
Clouds over Nasraq,
Greenland, 2013.


Enhance Your Global View
The St. Regis, San Francisco
March 14–15

A leading expert in international trade
and investment, Dean Janow has led
a distinguished career in academia,
public service, and the private sector.
Among other accomplishments, she
served as a member of the World
Trade Organization’s Appellate Body
and as deputy assistant U.S. trade
representative for Japan and China,
and has written extensively on
international trade relations.
“SIPA is the world’s most global public
policy school, where international
students and faculty address global
—Dean Merit E. Janow
Learn More about SIPA’s Approach to Global Issues:
Economic and Political Development
Energy and Environment
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SIPA Welcomes New Dean
Merit E. Janow

America Championed
a Bloodthirsty Torturer
to Fight the Original
War on Terror.
Now, He Is Finally Being
Brought to Justice.
Our Man
in Africa

the city of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, was on edge.
President Hissène Habré, who had seized control of the
country in a coup eight years earlier, was in power—but the
vice was closing.
Rebels were converging on the city in Toyota pickup trucks
mounted with machine guns and packed with fighters—tur-
baned against the dust and sand, armed to the teeth, and
screaming pedal-to-the-floor across the desert. Supplied and
funded by Libya, they had crossed into Chad from their camp on
the Sudanese border some 700 miles to the east, led by Habré’s
former chief military advisor, Idriss Déby.
It was an odd time, then, for a diplomatic dinner party.
The gathering was a last-minute affair organized by the
wealthy and well-connected Lebanese consul at the urgent
personal request of a key minister in Habré’s cabinet. The
presence of some two dozen Chadian elites, French business-
men, and notable expats was really just a ruse to invite the one
guest who really mattered: Col. David G. Foulds, the U.S.
defense attaché.
The minister pulled Foulds to a quiet corner. “He was chain
smoking—extremely nervous, shaking all over,” Foulds recalled.
Habré’s forces had beaten back Déby’s rebels once before, and
conventional wisdom, including in Washington, which had long
been starstruck by Habré’s military prowess, was that they’d
prevail again. But the Americans knew little more than the
optimistic picture Habré’s camp was giving them, and the
minister knew better. The rebels could reach the capital that
night, he said, much sooner than anticipated.
Foulds excused himself and rushed to inform the ambassa-
dor, Richard Bogosian, and the cia’s chief-of-station. They lit up
the phones to Washington to seek instructions and, if possible,
assistance. “The bottom line is that he was worth saving,”
Bogosian said of Habré. “He helped us in ways not everybody
was willing to.”
Throughout the 1980s, the man the cia had dubbed the
“quintessential desert warrior” had been the centerpiece of the
Reagan administration’s covert effort to undermine Libyan
strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi, who had become an
increasing threat and embarrassment to the United States with
his support for international terrorism. Despite persistent and
increasingly alarming reports of extrajudicial executions,
disappearances, and prison abuse carried out by Habré’s
regime, the cia and the State Department’s Africa bureau had
secretly armed Habré and trained his security service in
exchange for the dictator’s commitment to ruthlessly pound
the Libyan troops then occupying northern Chad. If Habré
were overthrown, that near-decade-long effort would be
The inevitable flood of Libyan intelligence agents into
N’Djamena posed a more immediate threat as well: Against the
impassioned protests of some U.S. officials, the cia had given Hab-
ré a dozen Stinger missiles, the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft
weapon sought by rebels and terrorists everywhere. Qaddafi had
already demonstrated an interest in downing civilian aircraft. The
Stingers absolutely could not be allowed to fall into his hands.
And there was another issue: The cia had established a secret
camp a few miles outside the capital where it was training a
vanguard of anti-Qaddafi Libyan fighters—at least 200 men
with cia-supplied arms, including Soviet-made tanks, that they
would not easily give up. A battle in the capital between Déby’s
Qaddafi-sponsored fighters and the agency’s anti-Qaddafi forces
would precipitate a bloodbath.
In the hours after the dinner party, pandemonium broke out
in the streets as rumors of the collapse of Habré’s defenses
spread through N’Djamena. Tribal rivalries—always a danger-
ous variable in Chad’s post-colonial ethnic mosaic of Christians
in the South and Muslim groups in the North (each with
mutable allegiances and hatreds)—had been whipped into a
frenzy. Habré’s fellow Goran tribesmen had lived large during
his tenure and were racing en masse to get out of town, their
vehicles laden with loot, ahead of Déby’s Zaghawa fighters, who
had been moved to rebellion by the Habré regime’s brutal
At the U.S. Embassy, Foulds donned a flak jacket and placed a
loaded shotgun within reach. Then, afraid the embassy might
be overrun, he and his operations coordinator set to shredding
classified documents and destroying sensitive communications
equipment as the first wave of rebels entered the city. The cia
station chief was doing the same on a separate floor.
Meanwhile, Bogosian took an urgent call from Washington: A
pair of C-141 military transport planes was spun-up and loaded
with weapons, ammunition, and other matériel, ready to fly
from the United States to assist in Habré’s defense. “[T]hey were
on the tarmac ready to go,” Bogosian said. “We called back and
said, ‘Don’t bother. It’s too late.’”
Habré, who had never been known to shy from a fight, saw the
writing on the wall. Late that night, the “quintessential desert
warrior” reportedly drove his Mercedes straight onto one of the
Lockheed L-100 Hercules transport planes he’d gotten from the
United States, loaded his close aides, and took off. After a stop in
Cameroon, he landed in Dakar, Senegal, an exile thought to have
been arranged by French intelligence. Chad is one of the poorest
nations in Africa, yet its former leader reportedly used what he’d
pilfered from his country’s coffers to create a luxurious web of
security in Dakar: bribes for politicians, religious leaders,
journalists, and police—and two mansions. There, he would be
safe for many years.
But not forever. As the main body of Déby’s fighters consoli-
dated control of N’Djamena the following morning, scores of
inmates from Habré’s secret prisons simply walked out of their
cells, no longer guarded by Habré henchmen. Political prison-
ers poured onto the streets, emaciated, scarred by torture, and
filled with tales of executions, mass graves, and unspeakable
abuse. One of the men who staggered outside that morning was
Souleymane Guengueng. He was a former accountant, nearly
blind and barely alive after almost two and a half years of
imprisonment and torture. In 2013, he would prove to be
Habré’s undoing.

the attention of human rights
advocates worldwide almost as
soon as he took power in 1982, with Amnesty International
publishing its first report on political killings in Chad within a
year of his ascent to the presidency. But for decades he was, in
essence, untouchable. As Chad’s president, he had the support
of the most powerful country in the world, and, while in exile,
he was protected by the longstanding international tradition of
lifetime immunity for former heads of state. Immunity inher-
ently contradicted—but had all too often won out over—the
United Nations Convention against Torture, which obligates
signatory states to prosecute accused torturers or extradite them
to countries that would.
But, in October 1998, the ground suddenly shifted. Gen.
Augusto Pinochet, the then-82-year-old former Chilean dictator,
was recovering from back surgery in a London hospital when
British agents, acting on a Spanish warrant issued at the behest
of Spanish citizens harmed by Pinochet, arrested the general
and indicted him on 94 counts of torture and one count of
conspiracy to commit torture.
The indictment represented a fraction of the abuses attribut-
ed to Pinochet, but it was enough to send cheers through the
human rights community and shockwaves through conserva-
tive diplomatic circles. “Henceforth, all former heads of
government are potentially at risk,” railed former British Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher, decrying the assault on diplomat-
ic immunity—in this case, of a leader she considered a friend.
“This is the Pandora’s box which has been opened—and unless
Senator Pinochet returns safely to Chile, there will be no hope
of closing it.”
That’s just what Reed Brody was thinking.
A Brooklyn native and former New York assistant attorney
general, Brody was then the advocacy director at Human Rights
Watch in Manhattan. He’s a lawyer who relishes the adversarial
nature of the profession, and, as he watched the Pinochet news
break on cnn, his brain started churning, seized with the
possibilities. “We had been in Rome just a couple of months
earlier drafting the statute of the International Criminal
Court”—the first permanent criminal court with the authority to
prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—
“and here was a real case,” Brody said.
The Pinochet arrest marked the first time European judges
had applied the principle of universal jurisdiction, which
enables courts to try a person accused of the most serious
violations of international law, regardless of the defendant’s
nationality or where the crime was committed. In the case of
Pinochet, the overriding judicial question, to be decided in the
House of Lords—at the time, the highest legal body in the
land—was whether Britain’s obligations under the U.N.
Convention against Torture compelled his extradition to Spain,
overriding the customary legal immunity.
Brody, who had investigated Pinochet-era human rights
abuses in Central America, flew to London to advise the
prosecution on behalf of Human Rights Watch. And, in
November 1998, in a dramatic verdict read to a packed court-
room, the judges ruled against the Chilean strongman. As one
British jurist explained, in what would become the defining
sentiment of the judgment: “[T]orture and hostage-taking are
not acceptable conduct on the part of anyone. This applies as
much to heads of state, or even more so, as it does to everyone
else; the contrary conclusion would make a mockery of
international law.”
Pandora’s box had been opened, and a tantalizing question
buzzed through the human rights community: “Who’s next?”
As a law student at Columbia, Brody had been highly influ-
enced by one professor’s dissection of the naacp Legal Defense
Fund’s strategy for upending racial segregation. “They went for
the easiest cases first, one by one, leading up to Brown v. Board of
Education,” Brody told me over Korean food near the Human
Rights Watch offices in the Empire State Building. Home in New
York after the Pinochet verdict, he decided to take the same
measured approach. Brody wanted a case he could win.
The suggestion that grabbed him came from his friend and
former colleague, Peter Rosenblum, then the associate director
of Harvard Law School’s human rights program. He left a
message from a hotel room in N’Djamena: “I’ve got your next
case,” he said. “Habré. Chad.” Brody saw the possibilities right
away. Though he knew little about Hissène Habré or Chad, he
knew that Senegal, Habré’s supposed safe haven, made the
ex-dictator vulnerable.
Senegal had been the first country to ratify the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court and had signed the U.N.
Convention against Torture. If Brody could bring a torture case
against Habré, Senegal would be compelled to try or extradite
him. “It’s a country that’s always considered itself to be in the
avant-garde of international law and human rights,” Brody said.
“We figured if any country was going to be a candidate to take
on an international justice case, Senegal would be that country.”
IN 1999, Rosenblum introduced Brody to an intense young
Chadian lawyer studying at Columbia. Delphine Djiraibe was
one of Chad’s first female attorneys. She warned Brody that,
even nine years after Habré’s downfall, the capital was still
crawling with the dictator’s henchmen—they staffed the
airport, the customs office, the police force. If Brody were to
proceed—and she was over the moon at the prospect—he
would have to be extremely careful. Witnesses would be afraid
to talk. A misstep would put Chadian intelligence on alert. After
all, the president, Idriss Déby, had been Habré’s confidant
before turning against him.
An avid chess player, Brody decided to push his pawns out
first. Two fellows at Harvard’s human rights program, both
young lawyers who had studied under Rosenblum, agreed to
travel to Chad, ostensibly to research a controversial Chad-Cam-
eroon oil pipeline project. Nicolas Seutin, from Belgium, and his
Spanish colleague, Genoveva Hernandez Uriz, arrived in
N’Djamena in monsoon season with a $4,000 stipend from


Harvard, a few contacts from Djiraibe, and an agreement
between themselves that they would pursue their work on the
case in secret.
Djiraibe had arranged for them to stay inconspicuously in
N’Djamena’s Catholic mission—Seutin with the priests and
Hernandez across the road with the nuns. They had no car, so
they walked through the capital’s unpaved, muddy streets
looking for witnesses’ homes. “We had a sense that we were
being followed,” Hernandez told me, and she and Seutin found
that people were palpably afraid to talk about the Habré days.
Souleymane Guengueng, in contrast, answered their knock at
his door not with the trepidation they’d seen in the few other
victims they’d managed to meet, but with an enveloping smile.
“He was very emotional, saying he’d been waiting for this
moment for so long,” Hernandez recalled. “He said it was the
hand of God that sent us.” So the two students sat with him in
his garden and listened to the story he’d been burning for so
long to tell.
AUG. 3, 1988, had been a slow day at the Lake Chad Basin
Commission, the intergovernmental organization where
Guengueng worked as an accountant. He looked up from his
desk with alarm: His wife, Ruda, rarely came to his workplace,
but there she was, crying and scared, pregnant with their
seventh child. Plainclothes agents from Habré’s dreaded
intelligence service, the Documentation and Security Director-
ate (dds), had come to the house looking for him. She begged
him to hide.
He barely had time to reassure her when the agents arrived at
his office, rolling up in a trademark dds Toyota. They ordered
Guengueng to get his motorbike; he would be made to drive
himself to his own arrest, one of the agents sitting behind him.
As they set off, Guengueng saw his cousin in the dds car, also
under arrest.
Guengueng was taken to the office of the dds’s deputy chief of
intelligence. “The first question was what religion I believed in,”
he recalled. “I said I am Christian. He said he, too—he’s a
Christian. He told me to tell him the truth—only the truth. If
not, he had many ways of obliging me.”
The dds officer asked him if he knew why he was there. When
Guengueng said no, he got a slap. He was then accused of
collaborating with his cousin to provide money and shelter to
anti-Habré figures during a period when Guengueng had lived
across the border in Cameroon. (The entire Lake Chad Basin
Commission staff had been temporarily relocated there during a
particularly violent period in Chad.) Guengueng had regularly
welcomed other Chadian refugees into his Cameroon home, but
the charge that he had been an opposition agent sheltering
subversives struck him as so ridiculous he laughed.
A soldier standing guard suddenly slammed him in the head
with the butt of his rifle.
Guengueng was dragged to a cell, disappearing into a horrific
purgatory. Over two and half years, the gentle bookkeeper would
be held in three different jails—first in solitary confinement,
then packed so tightly with other prisoners he couldn’t lie down
to sleep, unless someone died. Which they did, every night, at
which point the living would sleep on top of the dead. When the
guards deemed the body count high enough to justify the
effort—five or six—they would remove the corpses. In a long,
moving interview in N’Djamena recently, Clément Abaifouta,
Guengueng’s friend and fellow former inmate, described being
forced daily over four years to bury hundreds of prisoners
claimed by execution or illness.
Guengueng was nearly among them. “Three times I lost my
will to live,” he told me. “I was very seriously sick.” Guengueng’s
ailments were common among political prisoners: malaria,
dengue fever, and hepatitis. He was held alternately in total
darkness and in unrelenting electric light, 24 hours a day for
months on end. For several months, he lost the ability to walk.
The worst, however, came after he was caught leading prayers
for the prisoners: Guards hung him by his testicles.
“I was thinking, ‘What can I do if God spares me?’” Guen-
gueng told me. That night, he made a silent pact: If he survived,
he would dedicate his life to telling the truth about what
Hissène Habré had done to Chad. Recounting his story years
later, Guengueng had Brody’s emissaries, the young Harvard
law students, nearly in tears.
“And then he just says it,” Seutin recalled. “He’d been taking
Hidden in the back of Guengueng’s house were 792 witness
accounts that he’d gently coaxed out of fellow prison survivors
in the years immediately after Habré was overthrown. They
cover three campaigns of ethnically targeted repression during
which, suspicious of disloyalty, Habré had allegedly ordered
collective punishment of entire tribes—a cornerstone of his
always brutal, ever-evolving consolidation of power. The
witness testimonies describe an array of tortures, including
waterboarding, forced asphyxiation on the tailpipe of a car, and
the infamous “Arbatachar” method—in which all four limbs are
bound behind the victim’s back, the cord yanked tight until the
chest is thrust forward, hyperextended as far as possible, leaving
some deformed, paralyzed, or without the use of limbs.
Former Habré regime members who had remained in
N’Djamena after the dictator fled, many still in positions of
power, had eventually gotten wind of Guengueng’s efforts,
however, and threatened his life. So Guengueng had hidden the
documents, hoping for a better day, he told the lawyers. With
their arrival, he said, that day had now come.
“In that moment, we knew there was a case here. We were
very excited,” Hernandez recalled. “We thought we had hard
evidence now and that this could be the seed for judicial action.”
She and Seutin were also scared. They bought paper for
Guengueng, and he surreptitiously copied the files at his office.
Seutin hid them in the laundry room of the monastery, but he
and Hernandez had no idea how to get them out of Chad.
Carrying them out through the airport in their luggage was
discussed and discounted as too dangerous. They met with a
political officer at the U.S. Embassy who offered to move the
files via diplomatic pouch, but something about the offer felt
shady, and they walked away.
Hernandez had to leave Chad before they’d found a solution.
A few nights later, Seutin made an impulsive decision: Despite
the risks, he took one of the senior priests into his confidence,
packed the documents in his bags, and asked for a ride to the
airport. He began to regret his rashness from the moment he
stepped up to the Air Afrique desk to change his ticket, issued
for several days later, to that night’s flight. The desk agent
inspecting his ticket, suddenly suspicious, suggested (errone-
ously) that the original was a forgery. Fighting panic as he
argued with the agent, Seutin glanced over at security; customs
officials were randomly opening suitcases and rummaging
through them.

Then, the weird altercation with the Air Afrique agent
subsided as inexplicably as it had begun. Seutin got in line with
his document-crammed bag. The officials continued to select
luggage for inspection. He got to the front of the line and … just
got lucky. “By the next morning, I was in Paris, and the docu-
ments were out of the country.”
Territories House at La Cité
Internationale Universitaire in
Paris was better known, in the post-colonial moment of the late
1960s and early ’70s, as “Maison de l’Afrique”—the Africa
House. It was a hotbed of revolutionary politics, with young
African students gathering daily from universities across the
city to discuss Marx, Fanon, and Che, and to debate the civil
wars then sweeping their home continent.
There were few Chadian students, but they were highly
engaged. During 60 years of colonial neglect, the French had
divided their country along north-south lines: The cotton-
producing, Christian South was known as “Le Tchad Utile”—
“Useful Chad”—while the arid, predominately Muslim North
was written off as “Le Tchad Inutile.” The French utterly
disregarded deep historical animosities between Chad’s ethnic
and regional groups, leaving the country ripe for civil war
when they withdrew in 1960. By 1965, Chad roiled violently
amid widespread resentment of the first post-independence
president, François Tombalbaye, a Southerner. Muslims from
the North were particularly bitter, and some gathered to hone
their revolutionary thinking in Paris.
Hissène Habré was their coolest customer, known for an
economy of speech, but orating with electric intensity when he
deigned. Born into a family of Northern shepherds, the
intelligent young man was singled out by a French military
commander and went to Paris on a scholarship to study
political science at the Institute of Overseas Higher Studies. He
stayed to earn a doctorate, but he always had his eye on
returning to Chad. “He was very calm. Very tough in his
position … qualities that set him in the front line of the
movement” to end the South’s hegemony, said Acheikh
Ibn-Oumar, who overlapped with Habré as a student in Paris
before going back to Chad, where he emerged as a guerrilla
leader and politician in his own right.
In 1971, Habré returned to his native country, briefly joining the
civil service before relocating to the vast, arid expanse of northern
Chad to build a militia and lay the groundwork for his political
future. Encamped with his fighters in the volcanic cave forma-
tions of the barely populated Tibesti Mountains, some 500 miles
from the capital, Habré cultivated a reputation for hardness.
In 1974, he announced himself to the West by taking a blue-eyed
French archeologist, Françoise Claustre, hostage—holding her
for nearly three years and captivating the international press by
murdering a French army captain sent to negotiate her release.
“The impression he gave me,” said Ibn-Oumar of meeting
Habré again back in Chad, “was that he was really burning
inside with the desire to conquer and retain power.” He would
nearly burn down N’Djamena in the process.
In 1979, Habré was named defense minister in a transitional
government cobbled together by Chad’s neighbors—an attempt
to bring no fewer than 11 Chadian fighting factions together.
Elections were scheduled, but Habré couldn’t wait. He launched
his first bid to take the presidential palace by force in March
1980, raining rockets down on the capital from multi-piped
“Stalin organ” launchers, a mobile weapon known for the
bloodcurdling sound it made as it spat out Katyusha rockets in
quick succession.
Habré did not prevail, but ferocious fighting between his
forces and those aligned with the transitional government
leader, interim President Goukouni Oueddei, lasted more than
nine months, leaving some 5,000 Chadians dead and
N’Djamena divided in a blood-soaked stalemate.
Then, the situation suddenly changed. Oueddei used a
lifeline: He called Muammar al-Qaddafi, who was gaining
notoriety as a key sponsor of terrorism. The Libyan dictator was
happy to intervene. Qaddafi’s vast oil revenues—much of which,
ironically, came from business with U.S. companies—gave him
latitude to pursue his expansionist ambitions. Chad was the
perfect launching pad for his vision of Pan-Africanism, in which
he would erase colonial-era borders. The country abuts not only
Libya, but also Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African
Republic, and Sudan—the latter a key U.S. ally at the time and
the largest African recipient of American aid after Egypt. (Sudan
was the only Arab country to stand by Egypt’s Anwar Sadat after
he signed the Camp David Accords with Israel.)
By November 1980, some 4,000 Libyan troops had poured
into Chad. By December, they’d occupied two-thirds of the
country, including N’Djamena. Habré and his forces were run
out of the country into Sudan and Cameroon. In January 1981,
Oueddei and Qaddafi alarmed the West and its African allies by
announcing a potential Libya-Chad merger.
HALFWAY ACROSS THE WORLD, Ronald Reagan had just become
president of the United States. Determined to regain the
American prestige lost during the Iran hostage crisis that had
bedeviled Jimmy Carter until literally his last minutes in office,
Reagan immediately designated international terrorism as a
primary threat to world order. Speaking from the South Lawn a
week into his presidency, he said, “Let terrorists beware that
when the rules of international behavior are violated, our policy
will be one of swift and effective retribution.”
Reagan didn’t mention Qaddafi by name, but he may as well
have. Soon after his inauguration, Reagan signed a secret presi-
dential finding: Qaddafi would not be allowed to control Chad. And
so it was that one of the poorest countries in the world was desig-
nated the primary battleground in the original “war on terror.”






supply him with matériel.”
On June 7, 1982, Habré and 2,000 of his fighters fought their
way into N’Djamena and declared the founding of Chad’s “Third
Republic.” He consolidated power with brute force from the
beginning: POWs from rival militant groups were executed,
political opponents were captured and shot, and civilians
thought to be sympathetic toward his opponents were targeted
in reprisal operations. Oueddei fled to Libya, where Qaddafi
would retrain and rearm his forces. And soon the United States
was ferrying C-141 StarLifters loaded with weapons to Chad to
arm Habré for the next step in its proxy war with Libya.
AT THE FOREFRONT of this effort was a resourceful young civil
service officer named Charles Duelfer, perhaps best known
today for his role on the Iraq Survey Group, which investigated
U.S. intelligence failures concerning Saddam Hussein’s weapons
of mass destruction. By the early 1980s, he’d already cultivated
good contacts at Langley, and he welcomed projects that got
him out of the office—way out of the office. Liaising with
Habré’s forces was the perfect assignment.
“I became known as ‘Charlie Chad,’” Duelfer told me. In 1982,
he was at the State Department’s Political-Military Bureau—“a
little Pentagon and cia at State,” as he described it—and worked
with Reagan’s influential assistant secretary of state for African
affairs, Chester Crocker. His primary task vis-à-vis Chad was to
buddy up with a cia contact and beg, borrow, and steal as much
Reagan’s cia director, William Casey, and Secretary of State
Alexander Haig quickly coalesced around the idea of launching
a covert war in partnership with Habré to “bloody Qaddafi’s
nose” and “increase the flow of pine boxes back to Libya” on
America’s behalf, as Haig put it. In short order, Reagan released
several million dollars of covert support for Habré—a fraction of
what was to come.
The first step was to put Habré in the presidential palace.
The cia’s station chief in Khartoum, a French speaker, made
the initial approach, meeting Habré and his advisors in Sudan.
Soon, weapons and cash were wending their way to Habré’s
rebel camp on the Chad-Sudan border. The cia would send
supplies through regional allies to Khartoum, then Sudanese
intelligence, which was closely allied with the cia, would move
them by train to Nyala, the former British Administration
Headquarters in Darfur, where Habré would pick them up and
drive them across the border.
The possibility that the assistance would help Habré terrorize
his own people was hardly considered. “Little to no attention
was paid to the human rights issues at the time for three
reasons,” a former U.S. intelligence official who worked with
Habré explained in an email. “(1) We wanted the Libyans out
and Habré was the only reliable instrument at our disposal, (2)
Habré’s record suffered only from the kidnapping (the Claustre
Affair), which we were content to overlook, and (3) Habré was a
good fighter, needed no training, and all we had to do was
Habré meets President
Reagan in the White
House on June 19, 1987.

matériel as possible to airlift to Habré. “There was a mix of
things that made a lot of sense, some of which were
U.S.-manufactured, and most of which were not,” Duelfer said.
“The RPG-7 was a great thing: Point-and-shoot, it’s simple. But
we can’t get those from the Pentagon. You have to do that in
other ways. Use your imagination.” His cia counterpart—a bit
older, a Vietnam vet—would arrange the purchase of Warsaw
Pact armaments through Egyptian and Sudanese intelligence.
With the help of Crocker’s agile deputy, experienced Africa
hand James Bishop, Duelfer raided Pentagon stocks under the
cover of paragraph 506-A in the Foreign Assistance Act, which
authorized “emergency drawdowns.” “The Pentagon hated that.
We would steal 106 mm recoilless rifles—whatever we could find
that was useful—and fly it over there, and it would be billed to
the Pentagon,” Duelfer said. Their first big run, flying from
Dover Air Force Base, consisted of 10 jeeps with rifles welded to
the chassis, along with stocks of high-explosive ammunition
and fléchette rounds. Bishop’s office invoked the emergency
drawdown authority so effectively in support of Habré that his
team later gifted him a model C-141 with “506-A” stenciled on
the tail.
A few years into the Reagan administration, “there were times
that the N’Djamena Airport looked like Rhein-Main,” said John
Propst Blane, who served as U.S. ambassador in Chad from 1985
to 1988, referring to the massive Cold War air base in West
Germany. “I mean, I had C-5s and C-141s lined up on that
runway. We were running an airlift in that place you wouldn’t
believe,” he recalled in an oral history of American diplomacy.
For Habré, the first real military crisis of his presidency hit in
the summer of 1983 as Oueddei’s forces, with Libyan support,
launched an offensive in northern Chad, capturing the crucial
city of Faya-Largeau, Habré’s hometown. Qaddafi sent Libyan
paramilitaries and Libyan air force jets to attack Habré’s
positions. “I only saw [Habré’s] self-control crack once or
twice,” said Peter Moffat, who spent three and a half years in
Chad, first as chargé d’affaires, then as ambassador. This, he
told me, was the only time he ever saw Habré show fear.
In response, the Duelfer-Bishop-Crocker shop spun up a
covert shipment that included 30 Redeye man-portable
surface-to-air missiles, and American trainers were sent to work
with Habré’s troops. Two awacs surveillance planes, a contin-
gent of F-15s, and tanker aircraft, along with some 600 U.S.
support personnel, were deployed to Sudan to assist Habré’s
counteroffensive. Reagan approved $25 million in overt
emergency aid, and an American diplomat was sent quietly to
Paris to get then-President François Mitterrand to back Habré.
Meanwhile, a senior cia operative in Nigeria met with a local
intelligence contact and placed a cash order for a couple dozen
Toyota Hilux pickups, which were quietly delivered to Habré’s
people. The cia trucks, mounted with 12.7 mm heavy machine
guns, would ultimately prove decisive in Habré’s encounters
with the Libyans.
Zakaria, who asked that I use only his first name, fought with
Oueddei’s troops as a 21-year-old conscript at Faya-Largeau. He
told me he remembers the Toyotas indelibly: They swooped in
from the north at such manic speeds, Habré’s fighters loosing
such a storm of fire, that they caused mass panic in the rebel
ranks. Just as suddenly, a second surge of Habré fighters
attacked from the south, anticipating—and decimating—a
column of reinforcements. The U.S. Defense Intelligence
Agency had shown Habré “line drawings” (illustrations based on
overhead imagery) of the enemy’s positions ahead of the attack.
Oueddei’s fighters didn’t stand a chance.
Habré’s forces celebrated their victory by roping enemy
fighters behind the Toyotas, several to a bumper, and dragging
them through the desert, said Zakaria. Wearing a military
uniform, Habré appeared and ordered captured fighters from
specific towns—singled out for tribal affiliation—to stand.
Zakaria was too badly injured to get up, which saved his life:
Some 150 fighters were loaded into trucks, taken into the desert,
and executed.
A week after Habré’s win at Faya-Largeau, however, Qaddafi
ordered regular Libyan troops into combat, dramatically
escalating the conflict. Libyan jets bombed Habré’s forces, and
Oueddei’s forces, with direct help from the Libyans, retook
Faya-Largeau and then proceeded to occupy all of northern
Chad. Paris finally took action, deploying some 3,000 French
paratroopers to draw a line in the sand at the 16th parallel, some
200 miles north of N’Djamena. But the Libyans would remain in
the country for years.
For his part, Zakaria would spend the next four and a half
years in Habré’s horrendous Maison d’Arrêt prison. Now in his
50s, he appeared in October 2012, dressed in a white turban and
long desert robe, in the N’Djamena courtyard of a human rights
group co-founded by Chadian attorney Delphine Djiraibe to
offer his testimony. Reed Brody and a key colleague in the case
he was assembling against Habré, French attorney Olivier
Bercault, interviewed him for several hours, during which he
described his treatment at Faya-Largeau, Habré’s personal role
in ordering the executions of POWs, and, of course, the horrors
of prison. “I’m very eager to testify against Hissène Habré,”
Zakaria told me that day. “Everything I’ve just told you, I want to
say to him.”
instant gratification at the
very beginning,” Brody
recalled 14 long years after it began, laughing. In the span of just
over a month—late January to early February 2000—Brody and
his colleagues would file their first case against Habré in
Senegal, Habré would be indicted and questioned for the first
time, and the case would explode across the world press.
The biggest concern as they maneuvered to prepare and file
the case was that they not tip off their target. “When we began,
we didn’t really know who was who—who would give informa-
tion back to Habré,” Brody explained. “We were really afraid …
he would try to escape from Senegal.”
In a flurry of coded international calls and emails among
New York, N’Djamena, and Dakar in January, Brody and his
far-flung team made meticulous arrangements for “taking
priests from Greece to a Jubilee party for the Cardinal in
Rome.” “Greece” was Chad, the “priests” a carefully selected
batch of Chadian victims of Habré’s regime. “Rome” was
Dakar, and the “Cardinal” was Habré himself. The “Jubilee
party” was the filing of the legal complaint in which his
victims would formally accuse Habré of “torture, barbarous
acts, and crimes against humanity.”
The victim testimonies, gathered by Souleymane Guengueng
and spirited out of Chad in Nicolas Seutin’s luggage, comprised
the documentary core of the filing. Guengueng and six other
survivors—representing Chad’s complex Muslim-Christian,
north-south, and tribal divisions, and specifically the ethnic


groups targeted by Habré—traveled with the team to Senegal to
be on hand if the judge requested their testimony. Fake
invitations to a seminar in Dakar were wrangled so the Chadians
could secure travel documents without tipping their hand.
The team converged in a dingy Dakar hotel. Guengueng
knocked on Brody’s door on the eve of the filing. “Tall and thin,
his face then dominated by thick, bottle-cap eyeglasses, he
exuded a serious determination,” Brody wrote in an unpub-
lished firsthand account he shared with me. “I realized that his
life’s goal—bringing Hissène Habré to justice—was now set in
motion…. He told me that he was ‘in this to the end,’ and asked
if I was too. I told him that I felt privileged to work with someone
like him, and that I would do all that I could.”
They filed the case on Jan. 26. Two days later, the senior
investigating judge summoned the Chadians to tell their stories
in a closed-door session. The press, tipped off by Brody,
swarmed the witnesses as they left the hearing, and the case
made headlines across Africa.
Four days after that, the judge indicted Habré, placing him
briefly under house arrest. A New York Times editorial, “An
African Pinochet,” hailed “a welcome new chapter in the
evolution of international criminal law.”
Immediately after the team filed the charges, the French
ambassador to Senegal offered the Chadian witnesses tempo-
rary asylum in Paris, convinced they’d be in grave danger upon
returning home. Everyone turned to Guengueng, who took a
beat before speaking.
“Before coming to Dakar to file this case, I decided I was ready
to die,” he told the rapt French envoy. “I will return to Chad
tomorrow, and if I am killed when I get off the plane, I will die a
Guengueng was not killed upon returning to Chad. Human
Rights Watch gave him an award, which came with a $10,000
prize, and flew him to the United States for a Human Rights
Watch fundraising tour. The humble Chadian bookkeeper was
feted by the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Baez, and Nancy
Pelosi at highbrow events in New York and California. Guen-
gueng even addressed 1,000 supporters at the Cathedral of St.
John the Divine, all with Brody at his side. His story built
widespread support for the case.
During the trip, Brody contacted the Bellevue/NYU Program
for Survivors of Torture, which arranged for surgeries to remove
cataracts in both of Guengueng’s eyes. Through the months of
his treatment, he lived with Brody’s family in Brooklyn and, as
Brody recounted, was soon beating everyone at Monopoly. He
even went sledding with Brody’s son Zac, the first time he saw
snow. He’d return to Chad all the more focused on pressing the
case he believed was his purpose in life.
evening of April 14, 1986, an
armada of 58 American
military aircraft lifted off from four British bases and flew south.
Hours later, as the formation of bombers, electronic warfare
planes, and tankers crossed over the Mediterranean, silent but
for occasional radio checks, two U.S. aircraft carriers below
began catapulting fighter jets into the night.
The electronic warfare planes struck first, at 1:50 a.m. Tripoli
time, scrambling Qaddafi’s sophisticated air-defense network
with noise. Then, attack jets unleashed a barrage of harm and
Shrike missiles. Over 12 minutes, U.S. bombers attacked a
Tripoli airfield, a Libyan naval academy, and the Bab al-Azizia
compound, where Qaddafi was staying with his wife and
children. Simultaneously, 12 fighter jets swarmed over Benghazi
and Benina, destroying military barracks and an airfield. Some
37 Libyans, including civilians, were killed, as well as two U.S.
Air Force captains whose F-111 fighter-bomber was shot down.
The proximate rationale for the attack was the terrorist
bombing of a West Berlin discotheque just over a week before,
which killed two U.S. servicemen and was credited to Qaddafi
based on telex intercepts in which Tripoli congratulated Libyan
agents in East Berlin for a job well done. More broadly, the
attack represented the Reagan administration’s welling impulse
to lash out after a spate of terrorist attacks in the early ’80s left it
looking as helpless as the Carter administration it had criticized.
Operation Eldorado Canyon, as the strike was known, was
dramatic, but Reagan’s proxy war via Habré would kill 200 times
as many Libyan troops and claim $1.5 billion of Libyan military
equipment at a fraction of the cost, with means so basic that the
final phase of the Chadian-Libyan conflict would be known
simply as the “Toyota War.”
Libya’s protracted occupation of northern Chad was no
less humiliating for Habré than Qaddafi’s terrorism was to the
Reagan administration. As many as 10,000 Libyan troops
controlled huge swaths of the country, and by 1986, Libyan-
supported rebels were making provocative thrusts toward the
capital, violating the 16th parallel. The Libyan air force was flying
sorties from the Aouzou Strip, their long-held slice of Chadian
territory in the country’s far north, and had also built a huge,
threatening air base in a Chadian outpost called Wadi Doum.
In response, France, which had withdrawn its troops in a pact
with Qaddafi in late 1984, sent a new, mostly defensive contin-
gent of attack aircraft, special forces, and 1,000 troops (a
presence that today remains key in France’s Mali operations).
They made a brief bombing run on Wadi Doum, then holed up,
advising Habré to do the same lest he provoke Qaddafi into over-
running N’Djamena.
Habré’s American friends were giving different advice.
“I met with the president almost daily, at least three or four
times a week … and we worked together, I think, obviously
successfully,” said Ambassador Blane. “His one objective, his
only objective, during my period of service there, was to get rid
of the Libyans. That’s all he thought about.” The United States
increased its arms shipments to Habré, and in response to
Libyan overflights of N’Djamena, the cia called on then-friend
Saddam Hussein to provide a flash shipment of Soviet-made
high-altitude SA-2 surface-to-air missiles—“enough to defend
an airport,” said a senior American official involved in the deal.
Meanwhile, Habré was chomping at the bit for two of the
hottest-ticket and closest-held items in the U.S. arsenal: the
portable FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missile and the BGM-71
tow wire-guided anti-tank missile. “He kept hammering away:
Need Stingers, need tows. Need Stingers, need tows,” said the
senior official. “Maybe we shouldn’t have done it, but we did:
We gave him Stingers. We gave him tows.”
HABRÉ LAUNCHED his counteroffensive on Jan. 2, 1987. His
fighters surged north and destroyed a heavily defended Libyan
communications base in Fada, swarming the 1,000-man
garrison from all sides in a series of lightning pincer moves. The
Libyan defenses—Soviet-made T-55 tanks and heavy artillery—


were useless in the unconventional assault. The Chadians fired
milan anti-tank missiles from their pickup trucks at close
range, killing the armored vehicles as they got stuck in the sand.
Libyan crews started abandoning their tanks with the engines
still running.
Meanwhile, Defense Intelligence Agency officers in Washing-
ton were transmitting the latest overhead views of Qaddafi’s
order of battle—troop locations, movements, minefields—on
then-state-of-the-art “washfax” (Washington Area Secure
High-Speed Facsimile System) machines. The intelligence was
shared directly with Habré.
Some 700 “panic-stricken” Libyan troops died, with 80 taken
prisoner and 100 Libyan armored vehicles destroyed, and only
20 Chadian fighters killed, according to an account by a French
army captain published in the Marine Corps Gazette.
In response, Qaddafi moved three battalions of troops and
huge amounts of equipment to his air base at Wadi Doum. He’d
quickly lose 800 of these troops—two armored battalions—in a
Chadian ambush as the Libyans traveled from Wadi Doum to try
to retake their garrison at Fada. The Chadians chased the
stragglers back to Wadi Doum, driving—guns blazing—straight
into the base.
The ensuing battle inside the wire at Wadi Doum was at
madly close quarters: Chadian troops fired RPG-7s from 20
meters, killing tanks, but also themselves, according to the
French captain, while their comrades blasted away “rapidly and
instinctively” with rocket launchers, machine guns, and
anti-tank missiles. The battle lasted two hours, leaving 1,300
Libyans and 200 Chadians dead.
In September, Habré’s forces pushed over the border into
Libya proper, sucker punching the Libyan air force on the
ground. “They just totally wasted the air base. Just gone. All
the airplanes on the ground,” Blane said. “They took a lot of
people with them who could drive, obviously, because they
brought back 600 trucks.”
They also brought back vast amounts of captured Soviet-made
equipment—a U.S. intelligence bonanza. “It was a big deal in
those days to try to get access to Soviet equipment, figure out how
it worked, how good was it, what radio frequencies did it use,”
Duelfer said. There were intact Mi-25 helicopter gunships; an SA-6
mobile surface-to-air missile system; “spoon rest” radar arrays.
Duelfer helped inventory the equipment, the most valuable of
which was packed and shipped out on huge C-5 transport planes
for dissection by U.S. and French intelligence analysts.
AFTER THE INITIAL Chadian rout of Qaddafi’s forces at Wadi
Doum, Blane received a cable from Washington: President
Reagan wanted to shake President Habré’s hand in the Oval
Office. They met in the White House on June 19, 1987.
“It went beautifully,” Blane recalled in the oral history. (He
died in 2012.) “My wife came back with me and was with Mrs.
Habré the whole time. Oh, it just went swimmingly. Mr. Habré
and Mr. Reagan got along just dandily.”
Reagan was no less effusive in his remarks after the meeting.
“We believe the victories on the Chadian desert bode well for
peace and stability in Africa,” he said. “Today President Habré
emphasized that his government is committed to building a
better life for the Chadian people.”
Habré returned to Chad and prosecuted two of the most
deadly spasms of repression of his tenure. In 1987, when a
military officer from the Hadjeraï tribe formed an opposition
movement, government forces began a violent campaign of
ethnic retribution. The attacks spread from Hadjeraï dignitaries
and their families to the Hadjeraï population in general. The
dictator was no less brutal in his violence against ethnic
Zaghawas two years later, when one of their tribesmen, Habré’s
close advisor Idriss Déby, broke with him. Again, he targeted
civilians in collective retribution.
Throughout this period, Habré continued to enjoy support
from the U.S. government, and the cia in particular, even as
Washington’s fixation with Libya diminished—and despite the
growing denunciation from groups like Amnesty International of
the horrific abuses in Chadian prisons. “There were allegations
of thousands of people in unspeakable conditions in jail, literally
across the street from the aid mission”—that is, the local office
of the U.S. Agency for International Development—“which was
later proven to be true,” said Bogosian, the U.S. ambassador at
the time of Habré’s ousting. Nevertheless, he acknowledged,
Hissène Habré unambiguously remained Washington’s man in
N’Djamena. “There was, if you will, a certain momentum to our
graced Reed Brody’s pursuit of
Hissène Habré did not last long,
as the attorney quickly realized that getting the dictator into the
dock was no less a matter of politics than of law.
On July 4, 2000—just a few months after Habré had been
indicted in Dakar—Brody was playing softball at an Indepen-
dence Day party in upstate New York when he got an urgent call:
The Senegalese judge who had charged Habré had been
removed from the case. This set the stage for the case itself to be
dropped, which it was—first by Senegal’s Appeals Court and
then, the following year, by its top court, which claimed to lack
jurisdiction over crimes Habré had committed in Chad. The
ruling was a blatant violation of Senegal’s commitments under
the U.N. Convention against Torture.
It was, alas, the first of many setbacks in the quest to bring
Habré to justice. The team’s elegant lead Chadian attorney,
Jacqueline Moudeina—one of the country’s most prominent
lawyers—was assaulted and gravely injured after she filed a
parallel case in N’Djamena on behalf of 17 torture victims
against all dds agents who had worked for Habré’s regime.
Former dds officials, some still in high government positions,







were called in for questioning—something unheard of before in
Chad. One of the accused had become a commissaire in the
national police under Déby, and in June 2001, police attacked
Moudeina, throwing a grenade that exploded between her legs.
Brody, in the United States at the time, pulled together emer-
gency funds to evacuate her to Paris for a series of surgeries.
Brody counterattacked on multiple fronts, stirring all the
journalist contacts he had to pressure Senegal’s president at the
time, Abdoulaye Wade, to live up to his commitments under the
U.N. Convention against Torture. “I resolved … to make it the
issue that would drive President Wade crazy,” Brody said.
“Everywhere he went, he would hear about the case.”
More importantly, he began exploring alternative venues that
could bring Habré to justice. On Nov. 30, 2000, Chadian victims
who had relocated to Belgium filed a criminal complaint in
Brussels under the country’s 1993 law of universal jurisdiction,
which was based upon the same legal principle that had led to
Pinochet’s arrest in England. In early 2002, a ponytailed judge
from Brussels created a frenzy in Chad, traveling to N’Djamena
with four strapping Belgian cops and a prosecutor to investigate
the case, insisting on touring the former political prisons. It
would take 12 years for this seed to bear fruit, but the Belgian
intervention would prove pivotal.
The irony of the delay was profound because it persisted even
as Brody uncovered damning new evidence.
On a hot day in April 2001, Brody showed up outside the
infamous Piscine, a colonial-era swimming pool that Habré’s
dds had turned into a sweltering underground prison in central
N’Djamena—perhaps the cruelest facility in Habré’s constella-
tion of secret jails. Brody had come to Chad with a documentary
film crew in tow and strong-armed the government into
allowing the team to tour the abandoned cells. After filming in
the Piscine—the walls of which still scream with pleas for mercy
that were etched by the souls condemned there—and with
cameras still rolling, the group asked to see the abandoned dds
headquarters next door.
With the trip, Brody had simply hoped to score some media
points on behalf of the case. But in the old dds building, he found
himself unexpectedly—and literally—knee-deep in a massive
trove of documents outlining the mechanics of the Habré
regime’s inhumanity. Crumpled on the floor were thousands of
pages from intelligence files. There were prisoner lists, arrest
and interrogation reports, death certificates, spying reports—a
“forgotten and disheveled archive of Chad’s darkest period,” as
Brody called it. Brody took advantage of the Déby government’s
interest in distancing itself from the Habré regime and won
permission to copy the documents. (The documentary, by Swiss
journalist Pierre Hazan, would be called Chasseur de Dictateurs.)
Back in New York, Human Rights Watch sent the dds files to
an outside statistician, who determined that they contain
references to 1,208 prisoners who were executed or died in
prison and 12,321 victims of gross human rights violations. The
statistician also found that the dds had directly sent Habré
1,265 communications about 898 prisoners.
One document, however, stood out for a different reason: It
named 12 members of the dds and Habré’s personal security
detail who had been sent to the United States in 1985 for “special
training” at a secret facility a couple hundred miles outside
Washington, D.C.
BANDJIM BANDOUM—a thick-bodied, round-faced former dds
agent—was one of the dozen selected for U.S. training; his name
is on the document Brody found. But his name is also on
another list: In 1992, Chad’s Commission of Inquiry—a limited
indigenous attempt to outline the Habré regime’s crimes—
singled out 14 dds agents as Habré’s most “pitiless” torturers,
Souleymane Guengueng
(right) survived three
of Habré’s prisons
and has worked with
lawyer Reed Brody (left),
seen here examining
documents found in DDS

notorious among political prisoners “for their cruelty, sadism
and inhumanity.” Bandoum was one of them. “He came often to
the place I was detained and would joke and play with the
women,” Ginette Ngarbaye, a former political prisoner, told me.
“He took people away at night and killed them.”
Bandoum was careful about directly addressing the accusa-
tions when I met him at a café across from Gare du Nord in Paris
in 2012 for two long interviews, but he was also palpably
resolved to share his firsthand knowledge with the world.
“There were 40,000—45,000—people killed. They are no less
important than I am,” he said. “I want to bring Habré to justice. I
can name names and clear up many things. I am ready to face
justice as well for what I have done.”
To the dismay of eavesdropping diners at the next table,
Bandoum outlined the architecture of the dds and its culpabili-
ty in mass atrocities: “During the night, prisoners were executed
discreetly,” was one jaw-dropper; “I knew everyone that I
arrested would be tortured” was another. He described how,
after a prisoner underwent initial torture, he would then appear
before a panel of 10 to 12 dds agents, who would decide his fate.
Bandoum’s initiation to the dark side was in the South, where
Habré faced a bitter, ongoing rebellion from the time he took
power in 1982. Troops deployed there under the command of
Idriss Déby, then Habré’s army chief-of-staff, were slaughtering
thousands, summarily executing both rebels and civilians.
Bandoum, a Southerner with a cousin among the rebels, was
sent to gather intelligence and use his familial connections to
forge a diplomatic back channel to rebel commanders.
In September 1984, a peace accord was reached, but Bandoum
says that when the rebels he had convinced to lay down their
arms emerged from hiding to sign the deal, Habré’s forces
gunned them down. The slaughter marked the opening volley of
what would become Chad’s darkest period of mass killings,
known as “Septembre Noir,” in which government troops
decimated whole villages thought to be sympathetic to rebel
factions. It was on the heels of these atrocities that Bandoum
was selected to go to the United States, praise for his services
having passed from Déby’s lips directly to Habré, he told me.
The “special training” took place in 1985. The trainees flew to
Paris, where they were met by American officials, who accompa-
nied them on the second leg of their journey, to Dulles Interna-
tional Airport, outside Washington. From there, they took a
private flight, curtains drawn across the plane’s windows. The
bus that ferried them from the airfield to the training facility
had blackened windows. Over 10 weeks, French-speaking
Americans schooled Bandoum and his comrades in “anti-terror-
ism”—identifying and handling explosives, learning the smell
of chemicals associated with bomb-making, scanning for and
defusing bombs, de-mining, and providing close protection.
“They taught us to think like the terrorist,” he said.
The notion that Bandoum and his comrades might them-
selves be terrorizing their fellow countrymen, and as such might
not have any business receiving American training and support,
didn’t get much traction at the time.
“Real things were blowing up,” Duelfer recalled. In 1983, the
U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut had been bombed and a truck
bomb had destroyed part of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. cia
Chief-of-Station William Buckley was kidnapped in Beirut in
March 1984. The following month, Libyan agents firing from the
country’s de facto consulate in London shot and killed a British
policewoman and wounded 10 civilians. And, in September 1984,
Qaddafi was linked to mines laid in the Suez Canal and a suitcase
bomb sent to Chad in an attempt to kill Habré. The following
year, Americans were killed when terrorists hijacked twa,
EgyptAir, and Kuwait Airlines planes; attacked Rome’s interna-
tional airport; and commandeered the cruise ship Achille Lauro.
President Reagan, incensed at the wave of terrorism but
relatively helpless, lashed out during a speech at the National
Bar Association in July 1985, establishing priorities that trickled
down: “The American people are not—I repeat—not going to
tolerate intimidation, terror, and outright acts of war against
this nation and its people. We are especially not going to tolerate
these attacks from outlaw states run by the strangest collection
of misfits, Looney Tunes, and squalid criminals since the advent
of the Third Reich.”
Bandoum’s American training apparently served him (and the
United States) well: He told me he was promoted to chief of the
dds’s counterterrorism unit and personally intercepted a Libyan
suitcase bomb, after which a cia officer named John came to his
office to thank him and relieve him of the device. (A bomb had
destroyed a French passenger jet just before it took off from
N’Djamena in March 1984, and in September 1989, another bomb
brought down a French jet within an hour of departing from
Chad, killing all 171 people aboard, including Bonnie Pugh, the
wife of then-U.S. Ambassador to Chad Robert Pugh. Libyan
agents were implicated in the latter attack.)
But the strain of his less noble duties ultimately caught up to
him. Exhausted by arresting and interrogating prisoners,
Bandoum suffered a mental and physical breakdown in 1987 and
had to be hospitalized. After being unable to work for more than a
year, Bandoum applied for a passport. This raised the dds’s
suspicions; he was driven to the capital and hauled before a panel
of 15 colleagues for a “very rough, very harsh” interrogation,
accused of plotting against Habré. Afterward, he was thrown into
a cell not far from his old dds office.
The execution of prisoners from Bandoum’s cell always
happened between 11 and 12 at night, he said. There were always
three armed guards who came; Bandoum ran scenarios over and
over in his mind about how to grab a weapon and kill at least one
before they killed him. But when they finally did come for him,
he found himself unable to resist. He marched toward his
execution. Then, the scene turned weird: The head of the prison
appeared, embraced Bandoum, and told him he was being let go.
Three days after his release, Bandoum was called in to meet
the new dds director, who offered him a job. Threatened with
further detention if he did not accept, Bandoum returned to
work. But he began passing information to contacts he had in
the French military. Tired of the dictator’s brutality, Habré’s
erstwhile backers in Paris wanted to know about the mass
graves, extrajudicial killings, and prison camps. In 1990, they
spirited Bandoum out of the country.
BUT BANDOUM COULDN’T escape his past. In Paris, he was
notorious in the Chadian expat community as a former torturer,
and he found himself struggling to cope with persistent
accusations and threats.
Finally, in late 2001 or early 2002, Bandoum met a well-known
Chadian human rights figure, Dobian Assingar, who had become
a close colleague of Reed Brody and who regularly passed
through Paris as part of his involvement with the Habré case.
“I’ve been watching you, I’ve been following you, I know what
you’ve been doing with respect with the case,” Bandoum told

him. “I have participated in the crimes you’re talking about.”
Bandoum invited Assingar to his house. Assingar was scared,
warned by colleagues not to go, but ultimately, he couldn’t resist.
“This was our one chance,” he told me. When he arrived,
Bandoum cooked for him. Over many hours and many more
drinks, Bandoum opened up and agreed to give testimony in the
case. And in an interview in Paris, he told me he is willing to
provide full and detailed testimony about his own complicity in
Habré’s crimes if Brody’s team can get the case to trial.
In July 2008, Bandoum met with Brody and other members
of the legal team in the Human Rights Watch office in Paris for
a marathon 15-hour session, providing context for the thou-
sands of documents Brody had found at the dds headquarters.
He then gave an exhaustive deposition, meticulously laying
out direct links between the dictator and the dds. “This case
doesn’t have one ‘smoking gun’ document from Habré that
says, ‘Go kill these people, etc.,’” Brody explained. “Bandoum
is the one who explains how dds hand-delivered docs to
Habré; how Habré kept a close watch…. Hundreds of docu-
ments say, ‘To President Habré,’ and Bandjim Bandoum can
say, ‘The documents were hand-delivered by the head of the
dds, and we know he read them.’”
2013, Senegalese police arrested
Hissène Habré at his home in
Dakar, where he had lived in gilded exile for 22 years. He was
charged with crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes.
He is confined in a refurbished Dakar jail awaiting trial before
the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special body within the
courts of Senegal created for the express purpose of trying
Hissène Habré—a trial expected to begin in 2015. “The wheels of
justice are turning,” said Brody on the day of the arrest. “After 22
years, Habré’s victims can finally see the light at the end of the
Through his lawyers, Habré refused multiple requests to be
interviewed for this article, but one of his Paris-based attor-
neys, François Serres, told me that his client denies all charges.
The Obama administration has come out publicly in support of
the trial, a development Serres flagged as the height of hypocri-
sy. In a July 4, 2012, letter to then-Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, he condemned the U.S. position, as reflected in a State
Department report submitted to Congress the previous month.
“[The document] does not offer a fair and impartial view of this
case,” Serres wrote. “This is probably the result of the misinfor-
mation conveyed by a large number of organisations, among
which Human Rights Watch, in particular through its spokes-
man, who, for a decade, has been leading a heinous campaign,
against Hissein Habré, in spite of court decisions, in violation
of basic human rights principles and with the complicity of the
current Chadian authorities.”
It was the Belgians who had ultimately helped Brody turn the
slow wheels of international justice—but even their progress
had been fitful, despite the 2000 indictment. In 2003, Belgium’s
law of universal jurisdiction came under fierce attack, from the
United States in particular, after former President George H.W.
Bush, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell,
and former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney were charged in
connection with the 1991 bombing of a civilian shelter in
Baghdad during the Gulf War. Under American threats, Belgium
repealed the law in August 2003, but the case against Habré was
grandfathered in and allowed to continue.
In 2009, after Senegal had repeatedly failed to act on an
extradition request for Habré, Belgium went to the Interna-
tional Court of Justice (icj)—the principal judicial body of the
United Nations, often simply called the World Court—to
compel Dakar’s compliance. “Going to the icj is the juridical
equivalent of war,” Brody said. Finally, in March 2012, the court
convened for hearings on the merits of the case. Its decision
would be binding upon Senegal.
Human Rights Watch flew Souleymane Guengueng in from
New York. The legal dossier Brody and his team provided
Belgian attorneys in support of their case included Guen-
gueng’s original victims’ files, the dds archives, and a string of
legal opinions they had accumulated since they first filed
charges against Habré in Dakar. “To have Habré’s alleged
crimes read out in detail and basically taken as a given by both
sides and the highest court in the U.N. was already a measure
of victory,” said Brody, who worked furiously with a team of
interns during the hearings, preparing legal briefs to help the
Belgian lawyers rebut each of Senegal’s arguments.
Days after the hearings, there was an exciting development.
Senegal elected a new president: Macky Sall, a young, energet-
ic politician. Shortly after taking office, Sall announced that he
was committed to the rule of law and that Habré would be tried
in Senegal. “We didn’t want to go back and forth beating


around the bush for years like the last administration,”
Senegal’s then-justice minister (now prime minister), Aminata
“Mimi the Storm” Touré, told me. “We have to walk the talk.”
Then, on July 20, 2012, the icj announced a unanimous
decision ordering Senegal to “without further delay, submit
the case of Mr. Hissène Habré to its competent authorities for
the purpose of prosecution, if it does not extradite him.”
Guengueng felt vindicated: “Today, my friends who were
tortured, the people I saw die in jail, those who never gave up
hope, are one step closer to achieving justice.”
Brody traveled to Chad in December to be on hand while four
investigating judges from Senegal visited N’Djamena to take
testimony, a crucial early step in the proceedings. Chadian
victims, believing for the first time that Habré will actually be
tried, are coming out of the woodwork. The judges have
conducted more than 1,000 interviews, visited mass graves
accompanied by forensic archaeologists, and inspected a farm
in southern Chad where Habré’s forces are accused of massa-
cring hundreds of rebel soldiers as they attempted to surrender.
“This has the potential to be the transformative moment for
African justice,” Brody told me. “A televised trial in an African
court in which African victims are bringing an African dictator
to justice has the potential to capture people’s imagination….
People who were inspired by the use of the law to arrest
Pinochet can be even more inspired when they see Souleymane
Guengueng testifying—when they see Jacqueline Moudeina,
still with shrapnel in her leg, cross-examining Hissène Habré.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has praised Senegal’s efforts to
prosecute Habré, and the United States has indicated it will
contribute $1 million to help pay for the trial. Of course, the
Obama administration itself has supported repressive
governments when they have been perceived to serve U.S.
interests. And, in 2011, it finished the job President Reagan had
started three decades ago, helping Libyan rebels oust Qaddafi.
A cynic could interpret Washington’s newfound support for
justice in Chad as little more than an attempt to whitewash its
years of support for a torturer—an effort that began on Nov. 30,
1990, when Habré fled into exile.
THAT EVENING, with N’Djamena on the verge of falling to Idriss
Déby’s rebels, Col. David Foulds rushed from the American
Embassy to the cia training facility outside the capital. The
U.S. defense attaché had to quickly evacuate the “fifth column”
of some 200 Libyan expats the cia had secretly armed before
they clashed with Déby’s Qaddafi-backed forces. At the camp,
he took their weapons, loaded the men into trucks, and drove
them to the airport, packing them so tightly in the waiting
American C-141s that they flew out of the country standing
body to body. As for the Stingers the United States had given
Habré, no one would speak about them for attribution. They
were ultimately found hidden beneath the staircase of the
Chadian Ministry of Defense, all accounted for.
Hissène Habré had left his country in tatters—physically and
psychologically. Tens of thousands of Chadians were killed by
his regime, directly or in conflict with the Libyans. Among the
victims I interviewed, an opposition politician named Gali Gatta
N’Gothe explained most vividly how the legacy of Habré’s terror
endures. A former advisor to the dictator, Gali resigned in
protest in 1988 and was arrested in 1990 for organizing a leaflet
campaign calling for an end to repression and the dissolution of
the dds. He was tortured severely, imprisoned in the Piscine
and the Gendarmerie (a jail where Guengueng also spent a year).
At one point, Gali was interrogated by the head of the dds, who
was receiving instructions on his walkie-talkie throughout—
from Habré. Gali is a big, easygoing man with curly hair and a
warm laugh, but tears came to his eyes as we talked. “Even right
now, as we’re talking, I’m afraid. I’m controlled…. It’s very
dangerous. Habré’s system completely divided Chadian society,
collapsed Chadian society. Even our lives now are the conse-
quence of Hissène Habré’s reign.”
Charlie Duelfer sees Chad as a cautionary tale. “Did this help
rein in [Qaddafi] a bit? I don’t know,” he mused recently over
Irish food at a pub near the United Nations. “If we had done
nothing, would it have made any difference?” Hissène Habré
killed some 10,000 Libyan soldiers, but Qaddafi remained in
power for another two decades. “Any of these defense initia-
tives looked at ten years later, you end up asking, ‘Was it worth
it?’ Look at Vietnam. Look at Iraq ten years later. Bin Laden?
The ‘War on Terror’? We spent a trillion dollars over ten years
to put a 50-cent round in one guy’s head? Everybody thinks
that’s a huge success. I don’t know.”
Michael Bronner is a journalist, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He
recently co-produced Captain Phillips. This article was reported
in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute
with support from the Puffin Foundation.
Sketches of
torture tech-
niques used
by Habré’s
security forces
published in
Chad’s 1992
of Inquiry


As Capt. Tom Davis stands at the tailgate of the military cargo plane, the night air
sweeps through the hold. His eyes search the black terrain 1,200 feet below. He
grips the canvas of his reserve parachute and takes a deep breath.
Davis and the men who make up his Special Forces
A-team are among the most highly trained soldiers in
the U.S. Army. It’s 1972, and Davis isn’t far removed
from a tour in Vietnam, where he operated along the
Cambodian border. His communications sergeant served
in Command and Control North, which was responsible
for some of the most daring operations in the heart of
North Vietnamese territory. But none of the men has
ever been on a mission like this before.
Their plan: drop into Eastern Europe, make their way
undetected through forested mountains, and destroy
a heavy-water plant used in the manufacture of
nuclear weapons.
Leading up to the operation, during four days of
preparation, Army regional experts briefed them on
routes of infiltration and anticipated enemy patrols.
The team pored over aerial photographs and an
elaborate mock-up of the target—a large, slightly
U-shaped building. It’s situated in a wide, open area
with a roving guard, but at least the team won’t
have to sneak inside. Hanging awkwardly from the
parachute harness of Davis’s intelligence sergeant
is a 58-pound nuclear bomb. With a weapon this
powerful, they can just lay it against a wall, crank
the timers, and let fission do its work.
Davis had planned to follow in the footsteps of his
family’s prominent jurists—his father was a lawyer; his
grandfather a federal court judge—until a notice from
the draft board arrived during his first year of law school.
Rather than be drafted, Davis signed up for ofcer
candidate school and volunteered for Special Forces,
graduating from the demanding “Q course” as a second
lieutenant. From there, it was on to Vietnamese language
school and of to the war in Southeast Asia, where he
served as a civil afairs/psychological operations ofcer.
As a first lieutenant, Davis got his own A-team. His team
sergeant suggested they volunteer for training with what
the Army called Special Atomic Demolition Munitions—
tactical nukes designed to be used on the battlefield in
a war with the Soviets. “What the hell. Why not?” he
responded. Their company commander forwarded their
names and the team was accepted for training.
As the plane approaches the drop zone, the jump
commands come quickly, shouted over the frigid,
deafening wind. “Check static lines!” The men sound
of for equipment check from the back of the chalk
forward. “Stand by!” The light turns green, and each
man is tapped out: “Go!” The soldiers, each carrying
something on the order of 70 pounds of gear in addition
to 30 pounds of parachute rigging, don’t so much jump
from the plane as waddle of the back of it and fall to the
ground at about 20 feet per second.
At half-second intervals, their silhouettes emerge
from the rear of the plane, their deflated parachutes
streaming behind like comets’ tails. Canopies catch
air and expand, and the team speeds downward, fast
enough to avoid being spotted (or shot at) but just slow
enough not to be killed when the men collide with the
ground. Once the team has landed and released and
cached their parachutes, they skulk to a predetermined
rally point hidden in trees and shadows, where they
unseal the special jump container and assess its
contents for damage, making sure their payload is intact
and not leaking radiation. Then they slip the bomb into
a rucksack, bury the container, and set out through the
mountains, moving only at night so as not to be seen.
It takes them about two days to make their way to the
target. On D-day, they set the device at the plant—and run.

and his men parachuted not into Eastern Europe, but near the
White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. The
heavy-water plant was actually a shuttered paper mill in the
nearby town of Lincoln, and the bomb was a training dummy.
The mission wasn’t real, but the job was.
For 25 years, during the latter half of the Cold War, the
United States actually did deploy man-portable nuclear
destruction in the form of the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition
Munition (sadm). Soldiers from elite Army engineer and
Special Forces units, as well as Navy SEALs and select
Marines, trained to use the bombs, known as “backpack
nukes,” on battlefronts from Eastern Europe to Korea to




Iran—part of the U.S.
military’s effort to ensure the
containment and, if neces-
sary, defeat of communist
Throughout the standoff
with the Soviet Union, the
West had to wrestle with the
fact that, in terms of sheer
manpower and conventional
armaments, Warsaw Pact
forces had their nato
counterparts woefully
outnumbered. For the United
States, nuclear weapons were
the great equalizer. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower
went a step further, unveiling the “New Look,” which sought
to deter Soviet aggression on the cheap by threatening to
respond to any attack with a nuclear onslaught of apocalyptic
proportions—a doctrine known as “massive retaliation.” In
this way, Ike thought he could hold back communism abroad
and the military-industrial complex at home.
The strategy had a major flaw, however. Though massive
retaliation was economical, it allowed the United States
almost no flexibility in how it responded to enemy aggression.
In the event that communist forces launched a limited,
non-nuclear attack, the president would have to choose
between defeat at the hands of a superior conventional force
or a staggeringly disproportionate (and potentially suicidal)
strategic nuclear exchange that would kill hundreds of
millions of people.
To provide options between “red” and “dead,” the United
States soon embraced the concept of limited nuclear war,
championing tactical atomic weapons designed for use in
combat. If Warsaw Pact forces ever bolted from East Germany
and Czechoslovakia toward Western Europe, the United States
could resort to nukes to at least delay the communist advance
long enough for reinforcements to arrive. These “small”
weapons, many of them more powerful than the nuclear bomb
dropped on Hiroshima, would have obliterated any battlefield
and irradiated much of the surrounding area. But they
provided options.
Cold War strategy was filled with oxymorons like “limited
nuclear war,” but the backpack nuke was perhaps the most
darkly comic manifestation of an age struggling to deal with
the all-too-real prospect of Armageddon. The sadm was a case
of life imitating satire. After all, much like Slim Pickens in the
iconic finale of Dr. Strangelove, American soldiers would strap
on atomic bombs and jump out of airplanes as part of the
opening act of World War III.
Scientists and technicians at the Los Alamos and Sandia
nuclear weapons laboratories succeeded in miniaturizing the
so-called “physics packages” at the core of atomic bombs from
the nearly 10,000-plus-pound behemoth used in the first-ever
nuclear test to smaller warheads that could fit atop a missile.
And their colleagues in rocketry surged ahead in developing
land- and submarine-launched ballistic missiles that, together
with bombers, soon made up the nuclear “triad” supporting
strategic deterrence against the Soviets.
From the Army’s perspective, the problem was that bombers
and missiles were managed by the Air Force and the Navy,
leaving the ground force out of arguably the most significant
development in the history of war, even as its soldiers would
be chiefly responsible for stopping a Soviet invasion of Western
Europe. Fortunately for the Army, many U.S. strategists still
saw nukes simply as bigger conventional bombs, and Ameri-
ca’s post-Hiroshima mastery of the cutting-edge science of
atomic destruction had filled weapons designers more with a
sense of the possible than the prudent. The result was a series
of odd creations that made their way into the Army’s arsenal,
from atomic artillery to nuclear-tipped air-defense missiles.
The Army began rolling out atomic demolition munitions
(adms) in 1954. The early iterations were cumbersome
weapons, weighing hundreds of pounds and requiring several
men to carry them with the help of trucks and helicopters.
They were intended mostly for what you might call nuclear
landscaping—to create irradiated, impassible craters or to
collapse mountainsides into narrow passes in order to obstruct
likely invasion routes and bottleneck enemy forces. One
engineer recalls setting up an adm in the middle of a forest:
“The idea was to blow these trees across a valley to create a
from the left: A
SADM in its para-
chute container;
a SADM being
removed from the
container; and the
uncovered panel of a




radioactive physical obstacle for vehicles and troops to get by,”
he said. The Army’s countermobility field manual taught
soldiers to use adms for “stream cratering,” in which atomic
explosions near small waterways would “form a temporary
dam, create a lake, cause overbank flooding, and produce an
effective water obstacle” for enemy forces.
If worse came to worst, the Army’s atomic engineers
planned to deny advancing forces the use of friendly infra-
structure by destroying allied bridges, tunnels, and dams.
Railroad yards, power plants, airports—all were ripe targets for
preemptive nuclear destruction.
But the Army wanted a more proactive nuclear role as well.
Army partisans argued that the doctrine of massive retaliation
left America unprepared for the full spectrum of conflict.
Documents from the Atomic Energy Commission (aec) show
that America’s nuclear weapons developers were happy to
support the Army’s quest for tactical nukes. In 1957, according
to an aec history, Sandia Corporation President James McRae
lamented that “indiscriminate use of high-yield nuclear
weapons inevitably created adverse public opinion.” Since the
future of war lay in an “unending succession of brushfire wars,
rather than large-scale conflicts,” McRae recommended that
“greater emphasis should be placed on small atomic weapons,”
which could be used in “local ground combat.”
McRae’s urgings paved the way for the development of the
Davy Crockett, a sub-kiloton-yield nuclear rocket that could fit
on the back of a jeep. In 1958, when the Army came knocking
for an atomic demolition munition that could be carried by a
single soldier, the aec looked to the Crockett’s lightweight
Mark 54 warhead for its solution. The resulting weapon would
be a smaller, more mobile version of the adms. The Army,
though, would have to share the device with the Navy and
Marine Corps.
The aec’s final product—the B-54 Special Atomic Demoli-
tion Munition—entered the U.S. arsenal in 1964. It stood 18
inches tall, encased in an aluminum and fiberglass frame. It
rounded to a bullet shape on one end and had a 12-inch-diame-
ter control panel on the other. According to an Army manual,
the weapon’s maximum explosive yield was less than 1
kiloton—that is, the equivalent of a thousand tons of tnt. To
protect the bomb from unauthorized use, the sadm’s control
panel was sealed by a cover plate secured by a combination
lock. Glow-in-the-dark paint applied to the lock allowed troops
to unlock the bomb at night.
As Soviet forces advanced into such countries as West
Germany, the sadm would allow Special Forces units (dubbed
“Green Light” teams) to deploy behind enemy lines to destroy
infrastructure and matériel. But their mission wouldn’t have
been limited to nato countries alone. What many nuclear
historians don’t realize is that Special Forces Green Light
teams were also prepared to use sadms on territory of the
Warsaw Pact itself in order to thwart an invasion. The teams
prepared to destroy enemy airfields, tank depots, nodes in the
anti-aircraft grid, and any potentially useful transportation
infrastructure in order to mitigate the flood of enemy armor
and to allow allied air power to punch through. According to
an internal report, the Army also considered burying sadms
next to enemy bunkers “to destroy critical field command and
communications installations.”
Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces were trained to reach
their targets by air, land, and sea. They could parachute
behind enemy lines from cargo planes or helicopters. Teams
specializing in scuba missions could swim the bomb to its
destination if necessary. (The aec built an airtight, pressurized
case that allowed divers to submerge the bomb to depths of up
to 200 feet.) One Special Forces team even trained to ski with
A member of U.S.
Special Forces tests
jumping into water
with a SADM, which
is attached to the
line hanging below








the weapon in the Bavarian Alps, though not without some
difficulty. “It skied down the mountain; you did not,” said Bill
Flavin, who commanded a Special Forces sadm team. “If it
shifted just a little bit, that was it. You were out of control on
the slopes with that thing.”
Special Forces thus turned to teams trained in special
high-altitude parachute jumps and scuba diving to deliver the
weapon. Team leaders were allowed to choose which of their
men would receive training on the weapon in order to make
sure their units could pass the Army’s periodic, demanding
nuclear surety inspections. “The people with the best records,
the people with the most experience, usually ended up on the
sadm team because they had to pass the surety inspection,”
said Flavin. To receive sadm qualification, soldiers also had to
be screened through the Defense Department’s personnel
reliability program to make sure they were trustworthy and
mentally stable.
Some men approached for the mission were gung-ho; others
were less so. “Of course everybody would volunteer. That
wasn’t a problem,” said Capt. Davis. “We did it because, hey, it
was gee-whiz. It was a neat thing to do, and I wanted to learn
about it.” But when Green Light team member Ken Richter
began interviewing potential candidates, he said, not everyone
was as enthusiastic: “I had a lot of people that I interviewed for
our team. Once they found out what the mission was, they
said, ‘No, thanks. I’d rather go back to Vietnam.’”
When he was introduced to the weapon, Richter could
hardly believe what the aec had come up with. “I think that
my first reaction was that I didn’t believe it,” he said. “Because
everything that I’d seen prior to that, World War II, showed this
huge weapon. And we were going to put it on our backs and
carry it? I thought they were joking.”
They were not. Special Forces sadm teams like Davis’s were
given a weeklong course comprising eight to 12 hours of
instruction each day in a cinder-block classroom at Fort
Benning, Georgia. The teams would also receive periodic
refresher training from the Special Forces sadm committee,
composed of sadm-qualified senior noncommissioned officers,
and they were subject to regular inspections to evaluate their
fitness in handling nuclear weapons. But given the stakes, the
training did not always inspire tremendous confidence.
For a nuclear weapon, the bomb was compact and light, but
as infantry equipment went, it was still heavy and ungainly, its
weight often suddenly shifting against a carrier’s back. “When
[the jumpmaster] said, ‘Go,’ they kinda tossed me out of the
airplane with it on me,” recalled Danny Powers, a communica-
tions sergeant with a sadm team.
When hauling the weapons on foot, things were even more
difficult. Dan Dawson, an adm engineer, remembers how
difficult it was to run with a backpack nuke. During a training
exercise, his unit simulated a mission to blow up a railroad
tunnel but found it difficult to move a sadm across a patch of
open ground. “To get [the sadm backpacker] across this open
area in a hurry, two of us, one on each side, had to support him
under his arms and trot with him across this open area. You
could carry it, but you couldn’t run with it.”
In addition, the two-man rule, which to this day dictates that
no individual service member have the ability to arm a nuclear
weapon, demanded that Green Light teams divide the code that
unlocked the cover plate. But that could present a challenge if the
wrong man got killed en route to the target. “Here you were with
this hunk of shit in your bag and no good place to go,” Flavin said.
“So we said, ‘Eh, I don’t think we can allow that to happen,’” and
his men agreed to share the code in the event of a real mission.
Clockwise from
the far left: Capt.
Tom Davis, who
led a SADM team;
Julius Reinitzer,
who taught Special
Forces how to
survive behind the
Iron Curtain; and
a SADM’s control
panel and cover.

outside the vaporization
range,” said Antenori, “but
well within the ‘I will feel the
wonderful warm wind that
will blow by when it goes off
in a second’ range.”
Heightening the absurdity
of intentionally huddling
near a nuclear weapon that
was about to explode was the
fact that the men could not
know exactly when it would
explode. Probably to make the weapon resistant to electro-
magnetic pulses from any nearby nuclear explosions, as one
might expect at the outset of war with the Soviets, the aec
had fashioned the sadm largely devoid of electronics.
Instead, the device relied on two mechanical timers that,
unfortunately, became less accurate the longer they were set
for, potentially going off as early as eight minutes ahead of
schedule or as many as 13 behind. Army field manuals
warned that it was “not possible to state that [the timers] will
fire at a specific time,” so sadm teams were trained to predict
the general window in which the weapon would go off.
Nevertheless, Powers said, “we always figured we’d go
through all these meticulous procedures on this device, set
the timer for several hours to get away, but really when we
turned that button, we were going to disappear.”
If the Green Light teams were lucky enough to be alive after
the weapon detonated, the odds were still heavily stacked
against their survival. Behind enemy lines and cut off from
support at the start of the Third World War, they would have
to rely on their wits and their escape and evasion training to
avoid being captured or killed. Some provisions were made
for them: Special Forces fleeing a sadm detonation could seek
out weapons and supply caches hidden across Eastern Europe
and marked on special maps. “When the [Berlin] Wall came
down, we serviced and pulled some of those [caches] out,”
recalled Flavin. “I was surprised; the weapons and everything
It was not as if the men could leave the sadm behind if a
mission went bad. The weapon’s unique power meant that it
could not be allowed to fall into enemy hands, and the cover
plates, secured by a single combination lock, didn’t provide
much protection if enemy forces captured a sadm team. “A
crowbar can pop that thing off,” said Flavin. So the teams
trained to scuttle the weapon. “We always had to carry the
appropriate amount of explosives so we could destroy it
without it going off,” Powers explained. “It might scatter
nuclear waste, but it would not go up like a real mushroom
If the team reached the target, the men would remove the
lock-secured cover plate and set the timers. They would then
reach into the safe well—a small compartment in the top left
of the control panel—and pull out a hand-sized explosive
charge used to trigger the bomb’s nuclear chain reaction.
After placing the charge in the armed position and flipping
the switch, they would beat a hasty retreat.
Of course, in the hours or minutes before detonation, the
bomb would be exposed to discovery and tampering from
enemy troops, so some Special Forces teams were told they
had to keep eyes on the weapon until just minutes before it
detonated. The “proper” distance to ensure both the security
of the weapon and the safety of the team varied by nuclear
surety inspector, recalled Frank Antenori, who served as an
Army nuclear weapons maintenance technician for a Special
Forces team before earning decorations for valor as a Green
Beret in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some inspectors told teams to
get out of the area as soon as the weapon was in place; others
insisted that the team had to stay within visual range of the
weapon until it blew.
Even at a “safe” distance, sadm teams would still find
themselves uncomfortably close to a detonation. “We’re
Clockwise from left: An Army
manual on atomic demolition
munitions; a diagram showing
how ADMs could “assist in enemy
entrapment”; and a graph indicating
yield versus damage radii.

were still good to go.”
In addition to their caches, some
sadm teams had access to another
secret weapon to help them get
home: a Czechoslovak-born Special
Forces sergeant by the name of
Julius Reinitzer. As a teenager,
Reinitzer twice busted out of a Nazi
labor camp in Poland. He would
later link up with U.S. military
intelligence, hopping across the
Czechoslovak border to set up
resistance networks. After his arrest
and imprisonment in communist
Czechoslovakia for espionage, again
he escaped. Back in the free world,
Reinitzer joined the U.S. Army,
earning American citizenship and
becoming a Green Beret. “The Bear,”
as he was known, grew to be an in-demand tutor to Special
Forces teams, including Flavin and his men, who were looking
for a master class in the delicate art of living life on the run
behind the Iron Curtain.
Still, the notion that Green Light missions were in all
likelihood one-way trips didn’t escape members of the Special
Forces world. Flying through enemy airspace, operating
covertly behind the lines, sneaking up on hostile forces with a
nuclear weapon, and waiting uncomfortably close to the bomb
before it exploded—the missions were nothing short of
preposterous. As Flavin put it: “There were real issues with the
operational wisdom of the program, and those who were to
conduct the mission were sure that whomever thought this up
was using bad hemp.”
Humor cushioned the grim realities of working with atomic
demolition munitions. The adm engineer units created
patches and logos adorned with mushroom clouds. An
unofficial motto sprung up among them: “Nuke ’em ’til they
glow, and shoot ’em in the dark.” The joking was made easier
by the fact that some thought that the chances of the chain of
command authorizing a mission were slim. “In our hearts, we
knew nobody was going to give control of these to a bunch of
big old boys running around the countryside,” said Davis. “We
just didn’t believe it was ever going to happen.”
Aside from the “operational wisdom” of the program, as
Flavin dryly put it, some Special Forces teams questioned
whether their delivery aircraft, much less the weapon itself,
would even reach them in the chaos and destruction of the
Third World War’s opening act. The sadm units rarely, if ever,
had access to the live weapons themselves, which were held in
tightly controlled storage depots, like the Army’s facility in
Miesau, West Germany. In the event of war, the weapons
would be flown from their storage depots to nearby airfields
and the Special Forces sadm teams waiting for them there.
Flavin summed up the challenges well: “So you had to get us
somewhere. You had to get the weapon somewhere. You had
to get the airplane somewhere. And all of this had to be done
when? Supposedly before the other side knew that they were
going to attack, I guess.”
Political sensitivities posed an obstacle as well. nato allies,
particularly West Germany, were understandably apprehensive
about the idea of U.S. forces lighting off scores of small nuclear
weapons on their territory. Engineers were supposed to use the
weapons only after local populations had been evacuated, but
that requirement didn’t settle nerves. Burying the weapons
underground would help limit radioactive fallout, but the
Federal Republic publicly balked when the United States asked
for permission to pre-dig emplacement holes for nuclear
weapons near its transportation infrastructure.

answered. In 1984, 20 years after the weapon’s creation, the
public got a sense of the bomb and its capabilities when
William Arkin and colleagues sketched out a description of
the sadm from military documents and manuals for the
Natural Resources Defense Council. His revelations provoked
some outrage in Congress and shock in the media, but the
weapon’s days were already numbered.
As Cold War tensions abated, the United States began
recalling sadms to the continental United States. The
weapon was officially retired in 1989, with the departments
of Defense and Energy declaring that it was “obsolete” and
that “there was no longer an operational requirement” for it.
With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, George H.W.
Bush made deep cuts to nonstrategic nuclear weapons across
all the services.
Six years later, some details about the weapon were
officially declassified. But the operational details of how the
U.S. military intended to use backpack nukes—including
missions on Warsaw Pact territory, the demands the weapons
put on the men tasked with deploying them, and the risks
that their missions entailed—have only now come to light
through interviews, documents declassified through
Freedom of Information Act requests, and newly obtained
military manuals.
What was once a top-secret weapon is now a draw for
tourists. Today, visitors to the U.S. government’s National
Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New
Mexico, can get their picture taken in front of a sadm
parachute container. The Special Atomic Demolition
Munition has gone from being a deadly serious, if eccentric,
weapon to an item of Cold War kitsch.
In the light of historical distance, it’s tempting to dismiss
the sadm as an aberration born of Cold War hysteria. But the
United States still keeps tactical nuclear weapons in Europe,
albeit in the form of the less adventurous B61 air-dropped
bomb. More frighteningly, other countries are increasingly
embracing them as instruments of national defense. Paki-
stan, for example, reportedly keeps nuclear weapons forward
deployed, and authority for their use pre-delegated to troops
in the field—an effort to compensate for India’s much larger
army. And in a reversal of fortune, now that Russia finds itself
in a position of conventional inferiority vis-à-vis nato,
Moscow has elevated the role of tactical nuclear weapons in
its strategic doctrine.
For the Army’s sadm veterans, however, their nuclear past
is long behind them. Some had doubts about the mission;
others embraced it. Regardless, they each bore the burden of
the Cold War’s worst nightmares—on their backs.
Adam Rawnsley is a D.C.-based writer covering technology and
national security. David Brown is the author of Deep State: Inside
the Government’s Secrecy Industry.



IN THE ANCIENT southeastern Turkish city of Antakya, 20 miles
from the border with Syria, a plump Syrian merchant who calls
himself Abu Nabil can be found most evenings drinking tea in
the Bellur, a pleasant open-air café. Abu Nabil is the kind of
mysterious middleman who germinates spontaneously in war
zones. His specialty, or so he says, is arranging the release of
journalists and activists kidnapped by the regime of President
Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
When I met Abu Nabil, in the first days of October 2013, he
told me that he was at that very moment negotiating for the
freedom of James Foley, an American freelance journalist who
had disappeared the year before. I said that I had heard that
Foley was held by rebels, not by the regime. Abu Nabil shot me
a masterful look. “The company”—Kroll Risk and Compliance
Solutions, the private security firm working the case—“doesn’t
know anything, the government doesn’t know anything,
nobody knows anything,” he said, through an interpreter.
“James Foley will come to his family in 15 days.”
Foley did not come to his family in 15 days; whatever hole he
has been deposited in, he is there still. Abu Nabil’s tale, like so
many of the narratives emerging from a vicious civil war now
well into its third year, was a compound of outright lies,
exaggerations, and, quite possibly, truth. The kidnapping and
ransom specialists at Kroll had been sufficiently persuaded of
Abu Nabil’s veracity that they dispatched two agents to Antakya,
where they had spent weeks trying fruitlessly to press this
Arabian Sydney Greenstreet for hard proof.
The fate of journalists kidnapped in Syria is a terrifying
mystery. As of press time, at least 30 journalists, as well as a
number of humanitarian actors, are languishing in captivity. In
only a few cases do their colleagues or employers know where
they are or who is determining their fate. In almost no cases
have their captors made any effort to communicate. It is as if
these unlucky men and women have simply disappeared.
The early days of the war saw a number of tragic deaths of
journalists, including the Sunday Times of London’s Marie
Colvin and freelance photographer Remi Ochlik, killed by regime
shelling during the bombardment of Homs. And then things
took an even nastier turn. On August 13, 2012, Austin Tice, an
American former Marine, law student, and sometime journalist,
was nabbed, apparently by the regime. Nothing has been heard
from him since October 2012. Two months later, the nbc reporter
Richard Engel and his team were kidnapped by what Engel
described as the pro-regime militia known as shabiha. They
escaped after five days when their captors drove into a rebel
checkpoint. Those were just early mile markers on the road to
anarchy. Today, rampant kidnapping has become the norm.
Covering wars is, of course, a dangerous job; that’s one of the
things many war correspondents like about it. But Syria is
dangerous in a way that is less thrilling than sickening.
Stephanie Freid, who covers the war for the Chinese cctv
network, says, “I’ve never been in a bleaker, darker setting; it’s a
godless place. Whenever I go in I feel like, ‘Just let me get out
alive.’” While some major news organizations continue to work
inside Syria, many of the world’s most experienced war
correspondents—including C.J. Chivers of the New York Times,
Paul Wood of the bbc, and Janine di Giovanni of Newsweek—
stopped crossing into Syria in September 2013. They’re not
afraid of being killed, at least no more than any sentient being
would be in such a dangerous place. “I can take anything but
kidnapping,” says di Giovanni.
Thus at a moment when Syria’s destiny hangs in the balance,
and states opposed to Assad’s regime debate how, if at all, to
support the rebels, it has become almost impossible to know
what is actually happening inside the country. Though
YouTube videos and citizen journalism of various bias and
veracity litter the Internet, the average engaged person knows
less and less about the real balance of forces, both between the
regime and its opponents, and among the rebels themselves. Of
course, given the actual state of chaos and internecine warfare
on the ground, more coverage might not result in more support
for the rebel cause.
The Assad regime has arrested journalists and probably
targeted others like Colvin for death. That is what pitiless
regimes do in the midst of wars. What makes Syria unique is the
growing role of foreign jihadi forces among the rebels. Since the
summer, the al Qaeda affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq
and al-Sham (isis) has spread like a contagion across the
“liberated” region of northern Syria, from Idlib in the west to
Raqqa in the east. Journalists who travel there are thus all too
likely to come in direct contact with al Qaeda, which rarely
happened even in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And al
Qaeda has made clear that it views Western journalists as infidels
and worse—cia agents. They seize them not in order to get
something in exchange, as criminal gangs and even “moderate”
rebels brigades do. They seize them as agents of the enemy. The
only mystery is why isis doesn’t kill them.
NEWSPAPERS HAVE EMPLOYED war correspondents since the
Napoleonic era. And though, for the first century or so, a
combination of wartime censorship and the boosterism of the
press turned much of the coverage into propaganda, journalists
have been exposing the senselessness and cruelty of battle at
least since the Crimean War. In the line of duty, they have, of
course, been killed and injured along with the troops they
covered. But it wasn’t until well into the 20th century that
journalists found themselves swallowed up in that senseless-
ness and cruelty.



It is the apocalyptic mind-set of Islamic extremists that has,
more than anything else, produced an existential threat to
journalists—though not only to them. Grim signposts along this
journey include the videotaped beheading of Wall Street
Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by the Pakistani Taliban in 2002,
the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad the following
year, and the murder of dozens of humanitarian workers who
had devoted themselves to helping Afghans. During the Iraq
War, criminal gangs seized a number of Westerners and sold
them to jihadists. The Afghan Taliban kidnapped, among
others, New York Times reporters David Rohde and Stephen
Farrell. Rohde says that his kidnappers were absolutely
convinced that he was a cia agent, despite the evidence of his
work they found on the Internet, and exulted in the seizure of
an American. “They told me,” he says, “that every day they had
me, the American government was forced to waste enormous
amounts of time on my case.”
But the Taliban was not nihilistic; Rohde’s captors made
demands from the outset. They wanted $25 million and 15
prisoners freed from the Guantánamo prison. Over time, they
knocked the price down to $7 million and seven prisoners.
(Rohde ultimately escaped after seven months and no ransom
appears to have been paid.) This was pretty much par for the
course. David McCraw, the assistant general counsel at the New
York Times and its go-to guy on kidnappings, says, “In Iraq and
Afghanistan, or in northern Africa, you could just go higher up
the food chain and find the guy you had to deal with.” McCraw
thinks of Somali pirates as the supreme example of this
“old-line model”—they bargain their way to an acceptable
number and then unload their captives as fast as possible. Al
Qaeda, by contrast, doesn’t want anything. Their kidnappings
are, in effect, non-transactional.
A Syrian photojournalist whom I will refer to as Abdul
moved back to Damascus from the Gulf just as the popular
revolt was getting underway. In March 2011, he was seized by
regime elements, tortured, and then released. He moved to a
pro-opposition suburb and began to organize peaceful
protests. In June of that year, he started one of the first Syrian
opposition Facebook pages. He began to take pictures; when
the regime launched a major assault on the eastern suburb of
Ghouta, Abdul was there with his camera. In February 2013,
Abdul was finally forced to flee to the Turkish border town of
Reyhanli, where we met, but he continued to travel back and
forth to Syria.
In August, Abdul went to cover the fighting that had leveled
much of Aleppo, including its fabled market. It was a trip he had
taken many times, always on his own. This time, he was stopped
at a checkpoint by isis and taken away. “For the first four days,”
says Abdul, “I was forced to remain standing. After that they
hung me from the ceiling. They gave me electric shocks. They
said I must be a spy. Otherwise, why I would have all that
camera equipment?” Reasoning with them was pointless. After
33 days, Abdul says, “they were finished with me.” He was
thrown into a car and dumped out in the countryside. Several
months after I talked to Abdul, I learned that he had gone
missing and was believed to have been abducted once again.
Few Syrian journalists who have been kidnapped since
August 2013 have been released. Firas Tamim, a Syrian who
Spanish photographer Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, who was kidnapped in Syria in September 2013, with a Free Syrian Army fighter in Aleppo.










returned to the country from Holland in 2011 and now delivers
emergency supplies from Reyhanli to his native Latakia
province, told me that he had tried to negotiate the release of a
20-year-old Syrian journalist who had crossed from Reyhanli
and been seized by isis. Tamim felt personally implicated
because he had given the young man his Metallica T-shirt, which
the jihadists had interpreted as an emblem of devil-worship.
“I called the isis ‘emir’ for Latakia,” Tamim said—hoping
that he could plead his case. The jihadist leader told him with
icy nonchalance: “Oh, they killed him. But he’ll be seeing Allah
soon in paradise, because before we killed him, we taught him
how to pray and be a good Muslim.” Tamim has not yet been
able to bring himself to tell the boy’s mother, who believes that
her son is still imprisoned.
One afternoon, Tamim brought me to meet a Salafist
commander who went by the name Abu Abdulrahman. He was
resting in an apartment in Antakya and preparing to return the
next day to his battalion in the forested hills outside Latakia.
When Tamim, who was translating for me, explained that I was
a journalist, Abu Abdulrahman said, “I hope he’s not planning
to cross the border; I would advise him not to.” In the past,
Tamim had often arranged for journalists to embed with Abu
Abdulrahman’s brigade, but he had not done so since May. I
assured him that I would not cross the border.
Just before arriving, I had read a mind-boggling article in
the English Der Spiegel describing Atmeh, Syria—just across
the border from Reyhanli—as a “Disneyland for jihadists,”
where 1,000 foreign fighters lived as in the days of the Prophet
Mohammed, albeit with “Facebook and [the video game]
Counter-Strike.” Jihadis from Pakistan, Chechnya, Saudi
Arabia, Britain, and elsewhere—most of whom had transited to
Syria by way of Antakya—could buy their native food and
clothes, exchange any currency, or hang out at an Internet café
that flew the black flag of al Qaeda. After receiving weapons
training, they would disperse across the country. I asked Abu
Abdulrahman if the article was accurate. “Atmeh has become
an emirate,” he said.
Like many pious Syrian rebels who describe themselves as
Salafists, Abu Abdulrahman recoiled in horror from the foreign
extremists. What upset him most was that isis and other
foreign fighters had blackened the reputation of jihadi groups
like Jabhat al-Nusra, whose rank-and-file is Syrian, though its
leaders have pledged loyalty to al Qaeda. The foreign fighters
do not believe in the nation-state, and thus do not even accept
that they are “foreigners”; the place to which they have
traveled is al-Sham, the former home of the Levantine
caliphate, which they hope to re-establish. “Nusra always
worked quietly among the people,” said Abu Abdulrahman.
“Now the media describe the groups as if they’re the same.”
Al-Nusra’s leaders have, in fact, tried to distinguish themselves
from isis by publicly declaring their intention to leave Syria as
soon as Assad has been dislodged; they’ve become the al
Qaeda good guys.
ANTHONY LOYD, a correspondent for the Sunday Times and the
author of two volumes of eloquent, tumultuous memoirs, may
be the greatest war correspondent of his generation. If anyone
knows what he’s doing out there, it is Loyd.
In the middle of September, at a time when many of his
colleagues had concluded that Syria was a no-go zone, Loyd
and his photographer, Jack Hill, crossed into the country
near Reyhanli. Loyd had crossed into Syria at least 12 times
during the past few years; he knew the drill. He went in
“heavy”: His car had tinted windows and was accompanied
by an escort car with four gunmen from a Free Syrian Army
(fsa) brigade, later joined by another car with four more
fighters. But Syria had changed since his last trip. Every-
where, the fsa was losing out to isis. In Atmeh, Loyd’s
caravan was stopped at an isis checkpoint. A fighter came
over to the car and demanded that the passengers roll down
the window. They did so; then all hell broke loose.
“They were incensed,” recalls Loyd. “One of them wanted to
shoot us.” Loyd and Hill, heeding a basic security protocol,
stayed in the car. One attempt on Loyd’s part to intercede
drove his captors into a paroxysm of fury. “It was like an
existential play,” says Loyd. “Our fate is being discussed
without any input from us at all. There’s a hot sun beating
down. We sat in the car staring at the dashboard. Every once
in a while, our interpreter came over to say, ‘They want to take
you away.’”
In Loyd’s experience in war zones, danger was announced
by the thundering boom of shells and rockets. Now he and Hill
The BBC’s Paul Wood (left) and Newsweek’s Janine di Giovanni (right).









sat in heat-stunned silence. Loyd thought of pulling out the
map of Chechnya he had thoughtfully brought along in case
he ran into Chechen jihadis; but he realized that nothing
could bridge the gulf between himself and his would-be
jailers. An hour, a hideously distended hour, passed. Loyd felt
sure he was going to be either taken or murdered. And then a
local Syrian interceded; Loyd cannot be more specific without
jeopardizing his savior.
A few days later, a post appeared on a jihadi website in
Arabic warning of “a type of spy who collects the news and
gives it to their masters in detailed reports, which would
hurt the jihadis.” The author went on: “We must take an
important step, that is by capturing every journalist,
identifying the equipment they use to report the news, and
body-search them for chips which they usually hide in
hidden areas.” He listed some of the more notorious news
organizations: bbc, cnn, Al Arabiya. If found guilty, “they
should be dealt with accordingly.”
Two days after that message went up, Peter Bouckaert, the
emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, put a post of
his own on a private Facebook site he operates for war
correspondents: “Given the deteriorating security situation in
northern Syria and the vastly increased kidnapping threat,
please refrain from all travel into the area for the moment....
Even the most stringent security protocol and the use of
trusted, armed escorts will not protect you from running into
trouble at the moment.”
I spoke to quite a few reporters in the days after Bouckaert’s
post. All acknowledged the growing danger, but many still
said that they knew a fixer, or an entry point, or a rebel
brigade that could ensure their safety. War correspondents
don’t necessarily stop swimming just because the lifeguard
posts a shark warning.
THE GROWING DANGER of covering wars has spawned new
equipment, new practices, and new professionals. War
correspondents for major media organizations, as well as
many freelancers, now carry satellite-tracking devices that
allow their movements to be monitored by someone on the
outside. And news organizations operating in danger zones
now work closely with security officials. News bureaus
routinely include a security professional who gathers intelli-
gence, trains and prepares journalists, and then tracks their
movements. In general, broadcast teams in the field include a
security expert, often a retired soldier from a special opera-
tions unit. Sometimes they will be intentionally misidentified
as, for example, a “medic.”
I spoke to several people in the security industry; the most
remarkable was Darren White, a former British soldier who runs
a private security firm called Dragonfly. Though he had
planned on doing police work after his retirement from service,
White found himself in demand as a security official embedded
with news organizations in Iraq. He was at pains to distinguish
what he and his colleagues do from the popular image of a
squad of trigger-happy Blackwater guards pointing huge guns
at terrified civilians. “We are,” he told me, “one individual with
a group—cameraman, correspondent, producer, fixer. We’re
responsible for their safety. You become part of the media
group.” He said that the going rate for people like him was
about $1,600 a day, which is why only the largest news organi-
zations can afford such services.
I had heard about White from Janine di Giovanni, who had
met him a few wars back. Di Giovanni—a veteran war corre-
spondent and stringer, who became Newsweek’s Middle East
editor in November 2013—travels by herself, but White had
agreed that when she went to Syria, he would provide “over-
watch” from his office in England. White monitors virtually
every movement she makes inside Syria; di Giovanni says that
he can literally tell her to turn left rather than right, to go
through a border fence at this point rather than that. White
knows Syria from personal experience. Over the years, he says,
he has built up a network of contacts, affiliated with neither
the regime nor the rebels, who provide him with a fine-grained
mental map of the location of soldiers and irregulars. (He has,
he says, similar networks in Iraq and Afghanistan.) White is
sometimes consulted in kidnapping cases and says that once
he knows the date and location of an abduction, he can
determine who was operating there at the time. He often does
this work gratis.
White does not have a high opinion of the security practices
of news organizations. He thinks too many journalists are
careless about their own safety, which is almost certainly true.
Freelancers Alice Martins (left) and Balint Szlanko (right).

He believes that many of them are being kidnapped either
because their employers are too cheap to pay for security or too
focused on past wars, like the Balkans, whose lessons do not
apply to the anarchic setting of Syria. I pointed out that both
Paul Wood of the bbc and Richard Engel of nbc had been
kidnapped in the company of their security men. “Duty of care
was lacking,” White rejoined. An alternative hypothesis, which
I heard from some journalists, is that traveling with a mus-
cled-up guy in wraparound sunglasses—even if he’s not
brandishing a gun—sends the wrong message to people who
are rather sensitive about Western power.
Big Security is an adjunct of Big Journalism. But for many
journalists operating in Syria, services like White’s are an
inconceivable luxury. (White provides di Giovanni a basic
package free of charge.) Many freelancers can barely afford a
satellite tracker, much less their own hired muscle; and Syria is,
increasingly, a freelancer’s war. Indeed, the Syrian maelstrom
into which so many journalists have been sucked has been
whipped up by two converging phenomena: the rise of a new
class of warriors who do not recognize the category of “neutral,”
and the rise of a new class of journalists who are far more
vulnerable, if at times also more nimble, than their predecessors.
ALICE MARTINS is a 33-year-old Brazilian woman who carries a
camera, and very little else, when she slips into Syria from the
Turkish border town of Urfa. Martins is a freelancer
who sells pictures to Agence France-Presse; she has
no ambition to join a newspaper or news agency. She
used to work as a photographer for an ngo in
Namibia that provided education on hiv/aids. Then
she moved to Gaza, where she worked with an
American nonprofit that founded the Gaza Surf Club.
Soon thereafter, she began photographing inside the
refugee camps. And when Aleppo rose up against the
Assad regime in the spring of 2011, she picked up
stakes in order to cover the war.
Martins does not speak Arabic and has no Darren
White to guide her footsteps. And yet she files from
places sensible journalists avoid. In mid-September
2013, she wrote an article for Vice from Raqqa, a city
under the divided control of isis and the Salafist
brigade Ahrar al-Sham. She described running into an
isis fighter who politely warned her away from a street
ringed with snipers; she was on her way to meet the more
moderate rebels of a third group, the Ahfad al-Rasul brigade. A
battle between isis and al-Rasul ended decisively when jihadis
detonated a car bomb near the latter’s headquarters, killing two
of its top commanders.
When I asked Martins whether she felt she was taking her life
in her hands, she demurred. “I’m short,” she said, “I have dark
hair, I look like I could be Syrian, I dress very modestly”—in
headscarf and a niqab covering her face—“and I work alone.”
Martins never embeds herself in a battalion, much less travels
with security, but she has strong contacts with Ahrar al-Sham and
feels that she is under their protection. She has equal faith in her
regular fixer/translator. And as a woman, she says, she can cross
checkpoints without being stopped. “These guys are scary,” she
says, “but they try to avoid women.” I couldn’t help thinking that
these were the kind of rules and procedures that sounded
reassuring right up until the moment that they weren’t.
But Martins has a point: Of the at least 18 foreign journalists
now being held in Syria, not one is a woman. To jihadists, men
incarnate the hated power of the West; woman incarnate ...
nothing, perhaps. It’s hard to say; isis doesn’t talk.
Almost all of those kidnapped correspondents, however, are
freelancers. Syria is the war of and on the lone journalist. Several
trends have merged to make this so: Diminishing revenue has
forced major news organizations to cut back on their foreign
coverage; the American exhaustion with a decade of war in Iraq
and Afghanistan has reduced the appetite for adventures abroad;
and the rise of both Web-based and citizen journalism has created
an entirely new breed of correspondents, many of them only
tenuously linked to an employer, and most of them newcomers to
the trade.
Some of the newbies are, in fact, plainly way out of their depth.
Stephanie Freid of cctv recalls traveling to Syria in the dead of
winter, staying in homes with neither heat nor electricity, with a
freelancer who not only hadn’t bothered to bring a flak jacket, a
helmet, or a medical kit, but didn’t even have a coat. Peter
Bouckaert says that when the war first broke out, he got calls from
young freelancers who thought they could just cross from
Lebanon and Jordan and get going. “They think it’s like Iraq 2003
and they’re going to jump on a Marine brigade.” Others cut their
teeth in Libya, where, for all the danger that led to the death of
several prominent correspondents, you could hop in your car and
race back to the safety of Benghazi at the end of a day of fighting.
Syria offers no such zone of safety.
Established news organizations
are now wary of taking work from
freelancers lest they encourage
reckless behavior. Austin Tice had
no journalistic experience when he
left Georgetown law school for
Syria in 2012. A New York Times
profile of Matthew Schrier, who
was tortured by Islamic rebels
before escaping after seven
months, described him as a former
film student who had spent a
decade processing health care
claims and went to Syria looking
for “a fresh start.” The Washington
Post, which published some of
Tice’s articles, no longer takes
freelance work; neither do the New York Times or the Associated
Press (ap), among others, though this appears to be a matter of
practice rather than formal policy. (Foreign Policy publishes
the work of freelancers who cover the war, but it does not supply
credentials or letters of recommendation.)
And yet many of the independent journalists I spoke to
bristle at the image of the feckless newcomer; some have long
experience in the field, and others have adopted the same
security precautions their regularly paid colleagues do.
Someone like Alice Martins, who intimately knows the terrain
she moves in, and travels so lightly as to be effectively
invisible, may be safer than a journalist embedded in a caravan
of fsa fighters and protected by a security officer.
Nevertheless, freelancers are now most endangered chiefly
because they’re the ones left in the field. Most major news
organizations have pulled their reporters from northern
Big Security
is an adjunct of
Big Journalism. But
for many correspondents
operating in Syria,
its services are an
inconceivable luxury.


Syria. (The regime still occasionally supplies visas for travel
to and around Damascus, and both freelance and staff
journalists continue to travel in the Kurdish areas of the
North, which are less volatile.) Freelancers who have devel-
oped contacts and expertise in Syria can’t simply cool their
heels in Beirut or Istanbul and collect a paycheck. So even
when the shark warnings are posted, they’re the ones likeliest
to go back in the water.

SO WHAT HAPPENS when the shark strikes? Freelancers don’t
have news organizations to leap into the breach; some don’t even
have health insurance. All they have are colleagues. And so with
every kidnapping, a new informal network takes shape. Some-
times the publication to which a freelancer has been supplying
work takes responsibility; sometimes it brusquely dismisses any
obligation; rarely does anyone talk about what happened. (I was
repeatedly urged to eliminate identifying details about kid-
napped journalists, and I have done so in any case where the
person’s safety might be compromised.)
Journalists are deeply divided among themselves, and within
themselves, as to the wisdom of maintaining a news blackout in
the case of disappearances. The chief argument for doing so is
that secrecy allows private negotiations to proceed unhindered.
The chief argument against, however, is that it deprives the
victim of the leverage of public pressure. After six weeks of a
blackout with little progress, James Foley’s family, along with
GlobalPost, for whom he was filing stories, decided to go public
in January 2013. Others have made a similar decision. So far,
neither tactic has worked. In December, a group of news
organizations—including the New York Times, the Washington
Post, Reuters, and ap—released an open letter to “the leadership
of the armed opposition in Syria” imploring them to stop seizing
journalists and to help find those who have been taken. It
seemed a desperate plea. isis doesn’t negotiate, and it doesn’t
respond to public pressure.
By the time I arrived in Antakya in the last days of September,
the journalistic body count had become almost absurd. Frank
Smyth of the Committee to Protect Journalists had suggested I
look up two Spanish freelance photographers headquartered
there; days before I arrived, both were kidnapped on the way to
Raqqa. A third Spaniard, Marc Marginedas, whose family agreed
to make his kidnapping public, had been seized just outside of
Aleppo. An Italian and a Belgian had just been released after five
months. The former, Domenico Quirico, a veteran reporter for
La Stampa, described a litany of humiliations at the hands of a
band of thugs with an Islamic veneer. The revolution, he wrote,
had been betrayed by “fanatics and bandits” who had made
Syria “the Country of Evil ... where even children and old men
rejoice in their malevolence.”
In fact, the only Westerner in town was Barak Barfi, an Islamic
scholar and fellow at the D.C.-based New America Foundation.
Barfi was spending as much of his time looking for his kidnapped
friends as he was reporting. He was fielding calls every week from
desperate friends and colleagues of seized journalists.
The aftermath of an air strike in Aleppo on March 19, 2013.

One night, I was having dinner with Barfi when Andrea
Bernardi, an Italian freelance videographer, came over to join
us. “Did you hear about the guy that got kidnapped today?”
he asked. Barfi, who had been fiddling with his phone,
snapped to attention: “Who?” Andrea described the victim.
Barfi clutched his head in his hands: A few weeks earlier, the
man had slept on his floor in Antakya. Was it really true? Barfi
sprang into an all-too-well-rehearsed routine, calling contacts
at the State Department, the FBI, and officials of other
governments, while fielding calls and emails from journalists
who had just heard the news.
Barfi introduced me to Hamza Ghadban, a Syrian journalist
who had worked for an Arabic-language broadcaster in London
and then returned to Syria to cover the rebellion. Ghadban now
operates from Antakya and travels widely across northern Syria.
He was convinced, as many rebel sympathizers are, that the
regime has subterranean connections with the foreign jihadists.
He told me that the isis camp in Aleppo had been unscathed
until the jihadists decamped, while the next-door headquarters
of the Tawhid Brigade, affiliated with the fsa, had been leveled
by government artillery. In Raqqa, too, the isis base had not
been shelled. It’s also widely believed that in the summer of
2012, Assad released from prison some of the Sunni extremists
who had fought American troops in Iraq, and who may then
have joined with foreign fighters to form isis. Those fighters
now seem at least as preoccupied with dislodging moderate
rebels from key checkpoints and northern towns as they are
with fighting the regime.
It’s bizarre to think that Assad may have struck a deal with
his bitterest enemies, yet the jihadists have vindicated in a
spectacularly brutal fashion his long-time claim that he is not
fighting Syrian patriots, but foreign terrorists. The rise of these
al Qaeda affiliates has cut the ground out from Western critics
who advocate international military support for the rebel
cause. Leading figures like Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chair-
man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have publicly stated that, for
Washington, the Syrian war is not a simple choice between two
sides. Whatever the case, isis has done far more harm to the
rebels’ cause than it has to the regime. In early December, the
U.S. government temporarily suspended delivery of nonlethal
aid to the moderate rebels, over concerns that it was being
regularly seized by al Qaeda.
It was Ghadban who told me about Abu Nabil, the man
who claimed to be negotiating for James Foley, the freelanc-
er who had gone missing in 2012. Foley had been seized in
Binnish, in Idlib province, along with a British freelance
photographer whose family, unlike the Foleys, has chosen to
keep a cloak of silence over his abduction. The Brit had been
kidnapped before in the same region, and after his release
had done something, which I cannot disclose here, to deeply
anger Islamist rebels. For that reason, journalists believe
that both were taken by Islamists, though perhaps later sold
to the regime. (Philip Balboni, the ceo and co-founder of
GlobalPost, says that he has no evidence that Foley was ever
held by rebels.)
That’s where Abu Nabil comes in. A bespectacled man in a
green polo shirt with “Aviation Industry” stitched on the chest,
he explained to me that he was a prominent Aleppo merchant,
An ISIS fighter peers from a building in Aleppo. Molhem Barakat, a teenage freelancer for Reuters, who took this photograph, was killed in Syria on December 20, 2013.

a contractor. “For more than 20 years, I’ve been working with
high-ranking members of the regime,” he said, as we sat in the
café in Antakya. “I have very personal relations with some of
them. I especially do a lot of business with intelligence
officials.” He said that he served as the owner of record of an
expensive property in Aleppo that a senior intelligence official
had purchased, but wished to keep secret.
The go-between was happy to explain his method. “When
people first come to me,” he said, “I ask for the names of the
people kidnapped and the time and place of the kidnapping.
Then I start making calls, usually to more low-level officials. I
know a man at the central records office, and he can tell me
whether the person is alive or dead.” If the subject is alive, Abu
Nabil starts ringing his contacts in the regime’s 25 intelligence
agencies. Twenty-five? He started ticking them off—Palestine
Branch, 215 Military Intelligence, etc. At that point, he says, the
bargaining begins. Some are for sale, some not. The price
always varies. Abu Nabil says that he is motivated by the “great
injustices committed against the Syrian people”—by both
sides, he quickly adds—though he plainly rakes off some
fraction of the ransom.
Ghadban had seen what he considered convincing evidence
that Abu Nabil could deliver. Earlier in
2013, he had been approached by
acquaintances from Aleppo who were
hoping to recover three rebels who had
been taken on the battlefield, exhibited
on tv, and convicted of terrorism. He
brought them to Abu Nabil. “He
checked,” says Ghadban, “and came back
and said, ‘It will cost you $50,000.’ I saw
them hand over the money.” Two of the
three were released, and the remaining
prisoner was expected out soon.
But Abu Nabil was also a brazen liar.
Firas Tamim, the fixer who had been
ferrying supplies across the border, joined
us at the café and asked him about an
abductee, whom the businessman claimed
to know. When Abu Nabil left the table for
a moment, Tamim told me that he had made up the name.
There was enough truth, or at least plausibility, to his
account of Foley’s abduction that Ghadban had, he said, taken
Abu Nabil to meet with State Department officials in Istanbul.
And Kroll, the security firm GlobalPost had retained, had sent
its agents to exhaustively test his bona fides. But when they
pressed him for a “proof of life”—an answer to a question only
Foley would know—Abu Nabil came back only with answers to
inconclusive questions they hadn’t asked. Finally, he claimed
that Foley was about to be released, but that never happened.
“He never gave us any reason to believe any of his story,” says
Richard Hildreth, managing director of Kroll. Perhaps Abu
Nabil can deliver with Syrians, but not Americans.
Perhaps the problem is the private security firms. None of
the journalists or other activists who had run across the Kroll
agents in Antakya thought they were making any meaningful
inroads on the case. (“We don’t tell people what we do,” rejoins
Hildreth. “We’re not looking to print a story at the end.”) I
asked David Rohde if the private security firms that the New
York Times had retained after he had been kidnapped had
been able to resolve his case. “No,” he said. But neither, in the
final analysis, could American government officials or the
gifted and deeply knowledgeable reporters who devoted
themselves to the case. Figures like Abu Nabil thrive on the
agonizing mix of desperation and futility that suffuses the
atmosphere on Syria’s borders.
I KEPT MY PROMISE to Abu Abdulrahman not to cross into Syria;
but just barely. In the border town of Kilis, a few hours east of
Antakya, Barak Barfi and I walked through Turkish passport
control to the no-man’s-land between the two countries. The
border guards could not fathom what we were doing, but
ultimately waved us through. We walked down a well-main-
tained four-lane road. About 200 yards away stood the Syrian
checkpoint, which was controlled by the Northern Storm
brigade of the fsa. Beyond that were the low stone houses of the
village of Bab al-Salama.
Bab al-Salama had long been a popular crossing, with a good
road leading straight to Aleppo. Now that route was like Russian
roulette, with more than one bullet in the chamber. Even the
moderate rebels at the checkpoint kept a list of journalists
accused of some transgression, usually
imaginary; if you happened to be on the list,
you could be let through and then seized a
few hundred yards down the road. Greater
danger lay in Azaz, several miles to the south,
access to which was controlled by isis
checkpoints. Even Syrians told me that they
had learned to give Azaz a wide berth.
This was the day after we had learned of
the new abduction—the man who had slept
on Barfi’s floor. At the time, Andrea Bernardi,
the freelancer who broke the news at dinner,
had plaintively asked: “Why do we still go
into Syria? What are we learning? What’s the
story?” Those seemed like the sane questions
to ask; whatever there was to be learned
seemed small compared with the very real
danger of abduction. This was the conclu-
sion almost all major news organizations had reached. And yet I
knew that some intrepid journalists, perhaps including
Bernardi, who himself had been held captive by foreign jihadists
for several days, would continue to find reasons, both noble and
self-serving, to go inside.
Barfi and I stood in the middle of the road, facing south toward
Syria. A sharp wind whirled plastic bags and bits of rubbish
across the pavement. We turned around.
I called Alice Martins in Turkey a few days after I returned
home. I asked if she knew about the new abduction; she did. “I
was really upset,” she said. “I know him quite a bit. He’s someone
we didn’t think was in danger.” She told me she had put off her
plans to go back inside. The protective mantle of Ahrar al-Sham
no longer seemed so reassuring. isis was extending its dominion
across the North, draping the black flag of al Qaeda across the
country. Martins wanted, more than anything, to tell the story of
Syria, but she was no longer sure that she could. “I think,” she
said, “it’s too crazy.” Soon afterward, she returned to Brazil.
James Traub is a New York-based journalist. He writes a weekly
column for
Figures like
Abu Nabil thrive on
the agonizing mix of
desperation and
futility that suffuses
the atmosphere
on Syria’s borders.

Closing the

Should the world’s
‘last Nazi hunter’
give up the chase?
By Katie Engelhart
Photograph by Jonathan Bloom

On a Saturday in August 2013,
a 98-year-old man named László
Csatáry died in a hospital in
Budapest, Hungary. The cause was
pneumonia, his lawyer later
confirmed. At the time of his death,
Csatáry was facing charges that
nearly 70 years ago he “intentionally
assisted the unlawful executions
and tortures committed against
Jewish people” in the Holocaust.
In 1944, Csatáry—a police officer from a village near
Budapest—was serving in the northeastern city of Kassa as
commandant of an internment camp where, with the help of
Hungarian police, the German Gestapo was rounding up
thousands of Jews for deportation. According to prosecutors,
Csatáry was particularly zealous in this task. His indictment
alleged that he “regularly beat the interned Jews with his bare
hands and whipped them with a dog whip.” When a freight
train bound for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
stopped in Kassa to collect Jews, Csatáry is said to have
“prohibited cutting windows” into the train’s stifling wagons.
After the war, Csatáry disappeared. Tried in absentia and
sentenced to death by a Czechoslovak court in 1948, he
managed to avoid authorities and live quietly as an art dealer
in Canada for nearly 50 years. When Canadian authorities
identified him in 1997, he fled again and faded from public
sight—until he was found, finally, in Hungary more than a
decade later.
Media outlets the world over carried news of Csatáry’s
death. He was “one of the last remaining Holocaust war
crimes suspects,” the bbc reported. His name “figured
prominently on an authoritative list of suspected Nazi war
criminals,” underscored the New York Times.
Two days later, Efraim Zuroff—author of that “authoritative
list” and the man largely responsible for tracking down
Csatáry—sat in his modest office in Jerusalem, feeling spent.
“This Csatáry death just totally exhausted me,” Zuroff sighed
over the phone. He had spent the morning fielding calls from
reporters and people claiming to have information about
other Nazis on the lam.
Zuroff is the Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
(swc), a Los Angeles-based, multimillion-dollar Jewish
human rights organization. More often, though, Zuroff goes
by something flashier: “chief Nazi hunter” or “last Nazi
hunter.” For some three decades, Zuroff, 65, has solicited and
cataloged information on alleged Nazis living freely around
the world. He has then helped find them and campaigned for
their prosecution.
Zuroff’s hunt for Csatáry began in September 2011, when he
received an email from an anonymous source in Hungary
offering information in exchange for money. The two agreed
on a price, and the source handed over Csatáry’s Budapest
address. (Zuroff will not identify his source or how much the
swc paid him.)
Weeks later, Zuroff met with a Hungarian prosecutor and
turned over the information: “We said, ‘Listen, we are almost
sure this is him.… So confirm it and let us know and bring him
to justice.’” After authorities told him that Csatáry had indeed
been found, Zuroff hurried to prepare a list of potential
witnesses: Holocaust survivors who had spent time in Kassa
(now called Kosice and located in present-day Slovakia).
Then, in April 2012, Zuroff put Csatáry at the top of his
annual, much-cited “Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals”
list—giving the suspected war criminal more notoriety than
ever and putting the heat on Hungarian prosecutors to act.
When authorities still did not move as quickly as Zuroff
wanted, he turned to the Sun, a British tabloid (famed for its
buxom “Page 3” girls) with an average daily circulation of just
over 2 million. Zuroff had worked with Sun investigators
before, sending them information about flailing cases and
hoping the paper would kick up some dust.
The Sun sent a team to track Csatáry. One day, Zuroff
explained with a chuckle, “they knocked on his door, and he
came to the door in his underwear, and they photographed
him.” The pictures, showing a thin, wrinkled Csatáry, were
published in the Sun in July 2012. They spurred widespread
calls for Csatáry’s prosecution, but they also roused indigna-
tion from critics who argued that it would be too difficult, so
many decades after the war, to present reliable evidence of
Csatáry’s alleged crimes—or that the moribund man should
just be allowed to die. “He is 97 after all.… What Zuroff is
doing is simply a circus act,” Tibor Zinner, a legal historian
who had helped the Hungarians research Csatáry’s case, told
the media.
When authorities finally placed Csatáry under house arrest,
Zuroff was careful to address any pity that the Sun’s images
might have engendered. He diligently repeated what he had
said many times before: “The passage of time should not
afford protection for Holocaust perpetrators.”
Few would disagree that Zuroff has pulled the
storied enterprise of Nazi hunting into the 21st century.
Unlike the hunters of postwar fiction, Zuroff’s days are not
spent combing the bucolic hills of Argentina, chasing
mustachioed Nazis. Rather, Zuroff publishes his “Most
Wanted” lists and speaks passionately at news conferences.
Sturdily built and typically clad in a suit, rimless glasses,
and a kippah, Zuroff is a salaried employee and a grandfa-
ther of nine.
As other hunters have retired or died, Zuroff has emerged as
the last man standing. More often than not, when an alleged
Nazi is unearthed in some far-flung Polish backwater or
humdrum American suburb, journalists interview “Effie,” as
his friends call him, and quote him authoritatively in the next
day’s news. The typical depiction of Zuroff is one of a
swashbuckling bounty hunter: a guarantor of justice and a
historical avenger.
But increasingly, Zuroff and his work are up against more
than bad guys or the realities of nature, which dictate that
efforts to find Nazi criminals will soon end. He is also
contending with critics—including retired hunters, several
prominent Holocaust historians, and even some Jewish
community leaders—who view him as an irritant or a zealot.
They believe that he should bow out of the fight, admit that
enough is enough, and stop dragging wizened old men into
courtrooms, no matter how ghastly their past deeds. “Almost
everyone in the Nazi-hunting business, including the vast




majority of historians, politicians, and I dare say most
Holocaust survivors, [has] realized there [are] better ways to
commemorate the Holocaust,” László Karsai, who has served
as director of the Hungarian Jewish Museum’s Holocaust
Center, told the bbc after Csatáry died.
Zuroff, however, dismisses calls to move on. Similarly,
senior historians at both the United States Holocaust Memori-
al Museum and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust History
Museum told Foreign Policy there is “no statute of limita-
tions” on genocide. Speaking of Nazi trials, David Silberklang
of Yad Vashem adds, “It’s finally after all these years letting
what should have been done decades ago to be done.”
In 2013, Zuroff began a new public relations offensive to
solicit money from German companies to use as rewards for
information about Nazis at large. Also, in July, he launched
an “unprecedented poster campaign”
in Germany, littering Berlin, Ham-
burg, and Cologne with posters
reading “spät, aber nicht zu spät”
(“Late, but not too late”) and pointing
people to a toll-free tip hotline. The
campaign comes on the heels of
German judicial authorities announc-
ing a belated push to bring former
death camp guards to trial.
Zuroff has given his latest effort
the oxymoronic title “Operation Last
Chance II.” It’s a nod to an earlier
project—and also in keeping with
media reports, which for years have
carried headlines proclaiming this or
that legal proceeding “the last Nazi
“This is really the last chance,”
Zuroff protests, “for real this time.”
In August 1944, the old story
goes, a group of high-level Nazis held a
secret conference at the Maison Rouge
hotel in Strasbourg, France, to prepare
for the Third Reich’s imminent demise (Hitler never knew).
On the agenda: a plan to transfer vast sums of money abroad
to support their soon-to-be fallen fraternity. Eventually, the
Nazis formalized their efforts as the Organisation der
ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen (Organization of Former ss
Members, or odessa).
Many historians have since contested odessa’s existence.
Yet as scholar Gerald Steinacher has written, the story of
odessa “garnered serious attention” from the likes of the U.S.
Counter Intelligence Corps, which undertook “dogged
research” on the fabled group. It also fueled the rise of Nazi
hunters: a small clique committed to the steadfast pursuit of
Third Reich war criminals.
Among the most famous Nazi hunters are Serge and
Beate Klarsfeld, a married couple. The Klarsfelds are best
known for helping to locate former ss Capt. Klaus Barbie in
Bolivia. Yet their no-holds-barred approach to hunting,
which often involved skirting the law, was controversial. In
1974, Serge threatened former Gestapo chief Kurt Lischka
with a gun in Cologne, and both Klarsfelds were charged
with attempted kidnapping. (Lischka was eventually tried
and sentenced for war crimes.)
Another early Nazi hunter, Tuviah Friedman, was a
Holocaust survivor who roamed Poland as part of a vigilante
militia; when he found Nazis, he was known to whip them
mercilessly. A later, improbable addition to the club was Ian
Sayer, a Brit who started his career in the parcel-delivery
business. In 1974, after reading an entry in The Guinness Book
of World Records about a 1945 robbery in which a cache of
gold was stolen from the Reichsbank, Sayer began chasing
Nazi assets. Along the way, he found a real live Nazi: former ss
Gen. Wilhelm Mohnke.
But no Nazi hunter’s profile approaches that of Simon
Wiesenthal. Born on the eastern edge of the Austro-Hungari-
an Empire in 1908, Wiesenthal, a Jew, spent the Holocaust in
a string of camps. After the war, he
started a Nazi-hunting operation,
famously working out of a small
apartment in Vienna. Among other
criminals, he found Karl Silberbauer,
the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne
Frank and her family.
In his lifetime, Wiesenthal became a
media darling, a celebrity worthy of
an hbo biopic and a letter from actress
Elizabeth Taylor professing, “I love
you.” He also helped shape the
popular figure of the Nazi hunter: a
punisher presiding over a global
dragnet of shadowy informants. This
archetype pervaded popular culture,
including novels like The Boys from
Brazil, whose Viennese protagonist
was a Wiesenthal rip-off.
For his part, Zuroff says he “never
had any dreams of being a Nazi
hunter.” Instead, he fantasized about
being “the first Orthodox Jew to play
in the nba.”
Zuroff, whose grandparents left
Ukraine and Lithuania in the early
20th century, grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a middle-class
neighborhood of immigrants. His father, Abraham, was a
rabbi and school principal. His maternal grandfather was a
founder of Yeshiva University.
Zuroff recalls that his “first encounter” with the Holocaust
took place in 1961, shortly before his bar mitzvah, when his
mother sat him down to watch Adolf Eichmann’s trial on
television. Later, as an undergraduate at Yeshiva (where he
played basketball), Zuroff decided to study history. He
moved to Jerusalem for graduate school in 1970 and began
work on a dissertation titled The Response of Orthodox Jewry
in the United States to the Holocaust. Three years later, he
took a job as an assistant editor of an academic journal
published by Yad Vashem.
Then, shortly before his 30th birthday, Zuroff received a
call from Rabbi Marvin Hier, who had opened a Holocaust
education center in Los Angeles and named it after Simon
Wiesenthal. (Wiesenthal, who died in 2005, did not work
directly with the organization, but it did provide him with a
stipend.) Hier was looking for a historian to serve as the
Posters for Efraim Zurof’s latest campaign in Germany
to solicit tips on former Nazis’ whereabouts say “Late,
but not too late.”






is not really an act of enlightenment,” Brumlik says today. “To
give money for this … that means to appeal to the lowest
instincts of people.”
Zuroff worried too—but only that he would get tips from
former perpetrators and thus be in the position “of having to pay
someone who had himself murdered Jews.” So far, he says, that
hasn’t happened.
By Zuroff’s estimates, he has helped locate more than 3,000
Nazis. But his career “can at times be extremely tedious and
boring,” Zuroff claims in Occupation: Nazi-Hunter, one of two
memoirs filled with descriptions of archival searches and
microfilm scans.
Far from boring, Zuroff speaks with the fervor of a politician,
in bullet points and numbered lists. He is
difficult to interrupt, but interrupts
himself often: “Listen!” “You have to
understand!” His accent is a brash hybrid
of Brooklyn and Jerusalem.
Colleagues describe him as tireless, if
not always easy to get along with. “He’s a
no-nonsense guy,” grants Rabbi Hier. “At
times he can fly off the handle.… But,
you know, he’s dealing with Nazi war
Although Nazi hunters
emerged from a shared postwar
imperative, they have not always seen
eye to eye. “One thing about Nazi
hunting,” says Guy Walters, a British
historian, journalist, and author of the
book Hunting Evil, “is that it’s a small
and bitchy world.” This was never more evident than in 1960,
when Adolf Eichmann was found in Argentina and everyone
took credit. Wiesenthal is widely believed to have provided
the key tip-off. Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad,
claimed glory. Friedman said he did most of the sleuthing and
that, upon Eichmann’s capture, the former ss official said,
“Where’s Friedman?”
Today, Zuroff is a new focal point of internecine tension. In
a faxed response to questions, Serge Klarsfeld accepted that
Zuroff’s methods “are efficient,” but he also made a pointed
jibe: “We campaigned in Germany, South American states
ruled by dictators.… We did not act by press conferences.”
center’s director and help build its museum and archives. His
doctorate still incomplete, Zuroff accepted Hier’s offer and
moved his family to California.
Despite its name, the swc initially made no claims to
Nazi-hunting expertise. In the 1970s, however, a high-profile
case revealed that Nazis had immigrated to the United States
after the war. The ensuing outrage spurred Congress to pass the
1978 Holtzman Amendment, which authorized the denatural-
ization and deportation of former Nazis. Soon after, the
Department of Justice (doj) established an Office of Special
Investigations (osi) with the explicit task of searching for Nazis
in America. osi approached Zuroff because of his ties to
Holocaust survivors, who, investigators had found, were
suspicious of government questioning and sometimes too
traumatized to talk about the past. The doj hoped someone
like Zuroff could help find and prepare witnesses. “I was dying
to,” Zuroff would later write in a memoir. In 1980, Zuroff took a
full-time job as an osi researcher.
He returned to the swc in 1986. This time, however, with
the osi experience under his belt, his mandate was to gather
data on Nazi criminals from historical records, news reports,
and informants, and then induce governments to prosecute
the culprits he tracked down. In other words, he became a
Nazi hunter.
In 1987, Zuroff began what would become his most recog-
nized project: public lists of alleged Nazis yet to be arrested or
charged. Zuroff reasoned that lists would attract media eyes,
and journalists took his bait. An early list included Austrian
Josef Schwammberger, a former camp commandant. The day
after the list’s release, Schwammberger’s
photograph appeared in newspapers
across Argentina, where he was rumored
to be living. He was soon found, arrested,
and convicted in Germany. A few years
later, Zuroff tracked down Dinko Šakić,
former commandant of a concentration
camp in Croatia. Šakić was found guilty
of crimes against humanity in 1999.
As time went on, Zuroff grew more
aggressive, publishing bullish press
releases and staging indignant news
conferences to convince authorities to
bring former Nazis to justice. In 2002, he
began publishing his best-known list, the
world’s “Most Wanted Nazi War Crimi-
nals.” Its ranking scheme takes into
account “the scope of the crimes, the
degree of responsibility, and the details of
one’s specific role,” Zuroff says. But he also
factors in probability of legal action: The more likely a Nazi is to
be snagged by authorities—because his whereabouts are known,
for instance—the more likely he is to be listed. “[Csatáry] wasn’t
hiding under a false name,” Zuroff has stressed. With Csatáry’s
name at the top of a list, Zuroff hoped authorities might be
cajoled into arresting him. When that happened, his ranking
would be on the record and ready for headlines.
Also in 2002, Zuroff launched Operation Last Chance, a
campaign to solicit and pay for information on Nazi war
criminals. At the time, Micha Brumlik, then the director of
Germany’s Fritz Bauer Institute, which researches the Holo-
caust, expressed dismay at the offer of financial rewards. “This
His mandate was to
gather data on Nazi
criminals from
historical records,
news reports, and
informants, and then
induce governments
to prosecute the
culprits he tracked
down. In other
words, he became a
Nazi hunter.
Efraim Zurof has collected photos of Holocaust victims and lists of people who
collaborated with the Third Reich.








There is also a recurring dispute among hunters about
scope: whether the Nazis still living, who were likely young
and in junior positions during the war, are even worth
prosecuting. Shortly before his death, Wiesenthal said, “I have
found the mass murderers I was looking for, and I have
outlived all of them.” In a more recent interview with Agence
France-Presse, Klarsfeld scoffed that “30 years ago, [Csatáry]
would have been 3,500th on [Zuroff’s] list.”
Zuroff shrugs this off as an ego game: “You will almost
never hear a Nazi hunter … who will say a good word about
another Nazi hunter.” It’s clear, however, that ideological
chasms have opened in recent years among hunters and
others with an interest or stake in the search for Nazis,
revealing discordant notions about long-delayed justice.
While Zuroff pushes ahead with his agenda, critics charge
that the trials he wants have lost cathartic value, didactic
utility, and symbolic resonance. They also worry about public
fatigue, legal anachronism, and the need to use investigative
resources elsewhere.
Some critics have emerged in Jewish communities where
Zuroff campaigns for prosecutions. In part, the Nazi hunter
says, this is because they worry his work will spur anti-Semi-
tism. Zuroff recalls a news conference in Latvia that he held
with Jewish community leader Arkady Suharenko when
launching Operation Last Chance: “In the middle, under
pressure from Latvian journalists, Suharenko changed his
position and criticized [Operation Last Chance].” In 2005, the
Central Council of Jews in Germany also refused to partner
with Zuroff. (The Central Council declined to answer questions
for this article, citing a busy schedule, but its leaders have
reportedly been supportive of Zuroff’s new poster campaign.
Suharenko said in an email that he doesn’t currently have a
relationship with Zuroff but would “unequivocally support
prosecution and punishment” of Nazi criminals.)
Some historians, meanwhile, fret that Nazi trials are
increasingly problematic. Walters is concerned they are being
used to write a particular story of the past in which virtually
any person who worked for Hitler’s regime, regardless of
individual context or agency, is guilty of war crimes. “Part of
the problem of hunting war criminals is that it becomes a very
bipolar moral universe,” he says. Meanwhile, Michael Marrus,
professor emeritus of the University of Toronto and the
author of several books on the Holocaust, worries that today’s
trials are billed as ways to “close the chapter” on history—a
lofty objective that courtrooms are not meant to achieve. “I’m
not a great champion of these proceedings,” he says.
Then there are other legal details. Zuroff often pits himself
against politicians and prosecutors with insufficient will to
get their jobs done, but he skims over issues like statutes of
limitations and the integrity of 70-year-old witness state-
A mass meeting of the Nazi party at the Deutschlandhalle. Germany, 1937.
Corpses in the square of Nordhausen concentration camp. Germany, May 1945.






Demjanjuk continued to live under suspicion, and in 2011, he
was tried again in Germany. This time, however, he was not
accused of a specific act. Instead, Demjanjuk—who was
disease-riddled and appeared lying on a stretcher during his
trial—was found guilty of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder
by sheer virtue of the fact that he had served as a camp guard.
The key piece of evidence was a single identity card.
The conviction was the first of its kind in Germany. Since
Demjanjuk died during the appeals process, his case is not
strictly a legal precedent, but prosecutors say it nonetheless
re-interprets the country’s criminal law. “Simply being where
the killing took place would be enough for a conviction,” Kurt
Schrimm of Germany’s Central Office told the bbc in April
2013, as authorities announced they were investigating
another, similar case.
This new legal approach is widely debated. D.W. De Mildt, a
professor at the University of Amsterdam and editor of Nazi
Crimes on Trial, an encyclopedia of trials in Germany,
questions the assumption that “being part of a complex makes
one automatically guilty.” He also wonders about the German
government’s interest in targeting death camp guards: “[W]hy
didn’t they do anything before? Why now, all of a sudden?”
But Zuroff, who was not involved in the Demjanjuk trial,
sees no dilemma: “It’s definitely the right thing to do.”
After launching Operation Last Chance II, Zuroff started
receiving 30 to 40 calls a day on his hotline. He says these calls
have yielded 111 suspects in 19 countries, and that he has
turned over four tips to prosecutors for investigation. But he
has spoken to many callers who don’t have tips. About 70, he
says, have asked for copies of the campaign poster, which
displays an image of snow-covered train tracks leading into
Auschwitz-Birkenau. A few dozen more have just wanted to
yell at him. Some, Zuroff says, are anti-Semites. But the rest
just deplore his campaign.
The backlash doesn’t seem to faze him. Instead, Zuroff is
focused on sorting out the wheat from the chaff among the
tips he has received. He is also looking ahead to the day,
imminent now, when his hunt will be forced to end. “It will be
a sad moment,” he reflects. “I have devoted most of my life to
a mission, and that mission is over. And the success was very
partial. In other words, so many people got away with it.”
But Zuroff tries not to reflect too much on his inevitable
curtain call. “Every day,” he laughs, “I pray for the good health
of the Nazis.”
Katie Engelhart is the London-based correspondent for the
Canadian news magazine Maclean’s.
ments. He doesn’t entertain concerns about the age of trial
defendants, such as those of historian László Karsai, who, in
response to questions for this article, said “watching old,
crippled persons who are unable to stand up, do not remem-
ber, or do not want to remember is useless, counterproduc-
tive.” Instead, Zuroff points out that Nazis often targeted the
elderly. In 2011, when the 97-year-old Sándor Képíró, a police
officer during the war, arrived at his trial looking frail, Zuroff
called out from the crowd: “This is a show, Sándor!” (Képíró
had previously sued Zuroff for libel and lost.)
The wrangling over Zuroff’s work also hits close to home.
Publicly, the swc’s chieftains are wholly behind the organiza-
tion’s Nazi hunter. But the swc is at a crossroads, torn between
addressing past wrongs and dealing with present-day
demands. It’s also contending with new criticisms of Simon
Wiesenthal that assert he grossly exaggerated his influence
and deliberately misrepresented odessa in order “to keep
alive public anxiety,” says historian Gerald Steinacher.
Around the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in
2001, according to Zuroff, Nazi hunting became less of a
priority for the swc. “There was a fear,” says Zuroff, cautiously,
“that focusing primarily on the Nazi war crimes issue will have
… [the swc] pegged in the minds of the public as an organiza-
tion with no future.” One swc director who asked to remain
anonymous agrees that the center “does not pay enough
interest to what [Zuroff] is doing.”
These days, Zuroff has taken to securing outside funds
when the swc doesn’t foot the bill; Operation Last Chance,
carried out under swc auspices, was backed by $100,000 from
Jewish investor Aryeh Rubin. “If not for that money,” Zuroff
says, “it never would have happened.”
“The Simon Wiesenthal Center has an obligation to the 6
million Jews that were murdered,” Rabbi Hier says. “Having
made that clear … almost all the work the swc does today is
devoted to the subject of the world-wide resurgence of
anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel…. If you
think the swc today devotes all its energies to the hunt for
Nazis, that would be a big mistake.”
Critics of Nazi trials often cite the case of John
Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian, as proof of why proceedings must end.
In the 1980s, survivors identified Demjanjuk as a notorious
death camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible.” In 1988, he was
convicted of crimes against humanity in Israel—but the verdict
was overturned when judges determined, based on new
evidence, that Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible after all.
Ivan Demjanjuk
(left) was con-
victed of 28,060
counts of acces-
sory to murder
in 2011. The key
piece of evidence
against him was
an identity card
(right), which
prosecutors said
showed that he
was a guard at a
Nazi death camp.



Think Again:
By Aziza Ahmed
“Prostitution Is Bad.”
profession, but there is still little
agreement on the social and moral
legitimacy of commercial sex. There are,
of course, those who consider sex sacred
and its sale a sin, and there are libertari-
ans who are willing to accept nearly any
degree of sexual freedom. But plenty of
people have views that lie somewhere in
between, and they are fighting over the
fairness, regulation, and even the
precise definition of what advocates and
practitioners increasingly refer to as
“sex work.”
Take France, for instance, where a
debate erupted last fall over a proposed
law that would fine people $2,000 for
purchasing sex. All sorts of protesters
took to the streets: women arguing that
the law was necessary because violence
and coercion are endemic to the sex
industry, and sex workers, hoisting
posters with slogans like “La repression
n’est pas la prevention,” who condemned
the law. A group of men also insisted in a
letter that the government take its hands
“off our whores.” Ultimately, on Dec. 4,
the lower house of Parliament adopted
the measure.
The French case is but one example of
a global dispute about what constitutes
exploitation in the sale and purchase of
sex—and it also shows that one side of
the argument often has the upper hand.
That side, a group of odd bedfellows
frequently called abolitionists, thinks
that because all prostitution is inherent-
ly degrading and dangerous, it must be
eliminated. The group draws from,
among others, religious and faith-based
organizations, both liberal and conser-
vative political ranks, and some
outspoken feminist camps. (The driving
force behind the controversial measure
in France is Women’s Rights Minister
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.)
So strong is the influence of this group
that it has shaped the language typically
used to describe the global sex industry.

In common parlance, sex work is a
dangerous phenomenon that routinely
violates women’s rights and perpetuates
their subordination to men. There is
hardly a distinction drawn between sex
work and human trafficking, which
involves controlling someone through
threats or violence with the express
purpose of exploitation. This conflation
leaves no room for sex workers who
make decisions for themselves; they are
all just victims. “The term ‘sex worker’ is
false advertising,” says the Coalition
Against Trafficking in Women.
This is more than a semantic issue.
Since George W. Bush’s administration,
the U.S. government has required that
international organizations receiving
funding for efforts to combat trafficking
and hiv/aids must not “promote,
support, or advocate the legalization or
practice of prostitution.” In an October
2013 call for project proposals, the State
Department reiterated, “The U.S.
Government is opposed to prostitution
and related activities, which are
inherently harmful and dehumanizing,
and contribute to the phenomenon of
trafficking in persons.”
This stance has put sex workers and
their advocates—who support the idea
that some people choose, although
perhaps from a range of poor economic
options, to sell sex—in an impossible
position: They must make a choice
between compromising their principles
or missing out on opportunities for
much-needed money. Such was the case
with sangram, a sex workers’ collective
in India that refused to adopt an
anti-prostitution pledge required by the
U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for aids
Relief, or pepfar. (The U.S. Supreme
Court struck down the pledge as a
violation of free speech in June 2013, but
this was only a partial victory: Foreign,
as opposed to U.S.-based, ngos could
still be barred from receiving funds, and
the court did not address pepfar’s ban
on advocating the legalization of
To make matters worse, the influence
of prostitution’s vocal opponents has
contributed to a dearth of good data on
the global sex industry, including its
most harmful aspects. In July 2006, the
Government Accountability Office (gao)
acknowledged that U.S.-cited statistics
of people trafficked around the world are
questionable. The gao highlighted a
figure, cited by the U.S. Agency for
International Development (usaid), that
there are 80,000 to 100,000 trafficked
women and children in Cambodia. But
that number came, originally, from a
publication by Cambodia’s Ministry of
Planning that discusses the total
number of sex workers in the country;
there is no breakdown of who is an adult
or who is a victim of trafficking.
To better understand and address
enormous wrongs like trafficking, we
need good data. But that first requires
grasping the dangers of targeting sex
work—which involves women, men, and
transgender populations—writ large for
elimination. Abolitionists say they want
to protect human rights, but their efforts
often undermine those rights: Cam-
paigns and programs to end prostitution
in fact lead to violence, stigmatization,
and other problems for the exact people
they claim to be helping.
“We Can Abolish
Prostitution by
Making It Illegal.”
among countries. It’s illegal to buy and
sell sex in the United States (with some
exceptions). Germany legalized prostitu-
tion in 2002, and in December 2013,
Canada’s Supreme Court struck down
the country’s anti-prostitution mea-
sures. Thailand, meanwhile, has long
outlawed sex work, yet the industry
operates quite openly there.
Abolitionists typically insist that
criminalization is imperative. Some
have pushed for making the sale of sex
illegal. Others, however, including
feminists who oppose prostitution,
support a different model: outlawing
only the purchase of sex. They argue
that criminalizing clients will force the
sex industry out of business, liberating
sex workers but not treating them as
Already, this model has achieved
legislative success. Sweden outlawed
buying sex in 1999; Norway and Iceland
later followed suit. France is on the
verge of joining the club, and a debate
on the issue is even gaining steam in
Germany. Feminist Kathleen Barry,
author of Female Sexual Slavery and
co-founder of the Coalition Against
Trafficking in Women, has even called
for an international treaty that would
mandate “arresting, jailing and fining
johns.” (She first introduced the idea in
the early 1990s, but has recently
revived it.)
In reality, there is no convincing
evidence that punishing “johns”
decreases the incidence of commercial
sex. Troublingly, Sweden’s sex workers
report that criminalization has simply
driven the sex industry underground,
with dangerous consequences: Clients
have more power to say when and where
they want to have sex, inhibiting
workers’ ability to protect themselves if
need be.
Evidence shows, too, that criminaliza-
tion of sale or purchase (or both) makes
sex workers—many of whom come from
marginalized social groups like women,
minorities, and the poor—more
vulnerable to violence and discrimina-
tion committed by law enforcement.
Criminalization can also dissuade sex
workers from seeking help from
authorities if they are raped, trafficked,
or otherwise abused. These problems
have been identified in many countries:
A 2012 report by the Open Society
Foundations documented sex workers
being harassed, extorted, and intimidat-
ed by police in the United States, Russia,
South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and
Kenya. And in Sweden, sex workers have
reported that they are still targeted by
Campaigns and
programs to end
prostitution in fact
lead to violence,
and other problems
for the exact
people abolitionists
claim to be helping.

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police, including for invasive searches
and questioning.
Sex workers, their advocates, institu-
tions like the Global Commission for hiv
and the Law, and a growing number of
experts in health and law argue for
removing all criminal prohibitions for
consenting adults. After all, sex will be
bought and sold no matter a country’s
laws. The question, then, isn’t how to get
rid of sex work—it’s how to make it safe
for those who do it. Decriminalization
would allow sex workers access to
government and international resources
so they could better respond to threats
like violence and trafficking, while also
helping to ameliorate the social stigma
and prejudice they so often face.

“We Should Rescue
From Brothels.”
abolitionists agitate for actively remov-
ing people from the sex industry—that
is, entering brothels in “raids,” pulling
sex workers out, and placing them in
rehabilitation programs. Proponents of
rescues, whose views dominate many
anti-trafficking organizations, have
secured substantial international
funding. The U.S. government, for
example, has given grants to organiza-
tions like the International Justice
Mission (ijm), a faith-based group
headquartered in Washington, D.C.,
and the Anti-Trafficking Coordination
Unit of Northern Thailand, both of
which actively promote rescues.
But rescues are often far from heroic.
ijm has been criticized for failing to
distinguish between sex workers and
trafficking victims. Describing the
response among people pulled from a
Thai brothel in a 2003 ijm raid, a sex
worker advocate told the Nation, “They
were so startled, and said, ‘We don’t
need rescue. How can this be a rescue
when we feel like we’ve been arrested?’”
More recently in Thailand, law enforce-
ment has scrambled to respond to U.S.
criticisms of the country’s anti-traffick-
ing record by stepping up raids. “[In
2012], the Royal Thai Police ordered all
police units to spend at least 10 days
each month doing anti-trafficking
work,” Gen. Chavalit Sawaengpuech
told Public Radio International (pri)
this past October. In effect, pri noted,
the police are “trying to meet a quota …
even where there isn’t data or evidence
indicating the sex workers they are
rescuing are victims after all.”
Violence perpetrated by local
authorities during raids has also been
documented from South Asia to Africa
to Eastern Europe. In 2005, the World
Health Organization (who) wrote in a
bulletin that “research from Indonesia
and India has indicated that sex
workers who are rounded up during
police raids are beaten” and “coerced
into having sex by corrupt police
officials in exchange for their release.”
The bulletin added, “The raids also
drive sex workers onto the streets,
where they are more vulnerable to
violence.” So rampant have these
problems with police become in
Cambodia that, last June, more than
500 sex workers rallied in Phnom Penh,
chanting, “Save us from saviors.”
Also troubling are some of the
rehabilitation centers—run by ngos,
churches, or governments—where
“rescued” sex workers are placed. These
centers profess to offer medical care,
counseling, and vocational training. Yet
many are known for perpetrating
violence, detaining individuals, and
separating them from their families.
The who bulletin stated that some Indi-
an and Indonesian sex workers are
“placed in institutions where they are
sexually exploited or physically
abused.” In Cambodia, Human Rights
Watch (hrw) has documented beatings,
extortions, and rape at government
rehabilitation sites. And in the state of
Maharashtra, India, in addition to
holding women for long periods of
time, a rehabilitation home has
suggested that marrying them off is a
mode of rehabilitation.
The rescue approach certainly makes
for good optics. It has been covered,
notably, by Nicholas Kristof of the New
York Times, who live-tweeted a brothel
raid in 2011. And the impulse to protect
is surely a noble one. But in addition to
ignoring that some people choose to sell
sex, rescues have subjected sex workers
to a whole host of abuses—a fact
certainly problematic for the abolition-
ists who champion such interventions in
the name of human rights.



“But Kristof Writes
About Child Sex Slaves—
and We Have to
Save Them.”
in 2011, which took place in Cambodia,
the columnist tweeted, “Girls are
rescued, but still very scared. Youngest
looks about 13, trafficked from Viet-
nam.” His discovery highlighted an
abhorrent reality that concerns both
advocates and opponents of sex work:
Many in the sex industry endure forced
migration, torture, captivity, and other
wrongs. Some of these people are
adults, but others are young girls and
boys. We should do all that we can to
end these horrors, and no child should
be involved in the sex industry.
To that end, international laws and
standards explicitly condemn child
prostitution, including a protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child
and another to the Convention Against
Transnational Organized Crime. unicef
has expressed a “zero tolerance” policy
on the issue. The United States,
meanwhile, has taken its own legal
stand with the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act (reauthorized in early
2013), and many countries have their
own anti-trafficking legislation.
Yet, ironically, current efforts to end
the sexual exploitation of children often
endanger them. In many countries,
authorities victimize trafficked children
the same way they do adult sex workers.
Raids to save children are engulfed in
the same sort of challenges as the ones
seeking to “liberate” adults; hrw’s
report on Cambodia found that children
pulled from the sex industry were
forced to pay bribes to the police and
faced mistreatment at a government
rehabilitation center. Moreover,
governments frequently adopt “blanket
solutions” to address trafficking, failing
to acknowledge that each child’s
circumstances are different. “While
policies are evidently needed which can
be applied to all children,” Mike
Dottridge, former director of Anti-Slav-
ery International, has written, “if they
do not take account of the huge
variations which occur in reality, they
are likely to harm children.”
These problems don’t just exist
outside the United States. Children in
the U.S. sex industry are often arrested
and put into the juvenile detention
system “instead of in environments
where they can receive needed social
and protective services,” noted a 2011
Congressional Research Service report.
A September 2013 report by the Institute
of Medicine and National Research
Council also found that, as of early 2012,
only nine states had enacted laws
ensuring that minors accused of
prostitution are exempted from
Currently, then, many efforts to save
children from the sex industry are
neither safe nor fair to them. Correcting
that poor record will mean improving
laws that target human trafficking,
dedicating more resources to quality
interventions, addressing the social and
economic conditions that make minors
vulnerable to exploitation, and making
sure their voices are heard. It also
means respecting and engaging adult
sex workers and their advocates as part
of the solution, not the problem. After
all, sex workers are often the first to
notice those being coerced into selling
sex—including children—or they are
the first individuals whom trafficking
victims reach out to for help.
“Prostitution Spreads
of being vectors of infection. In the 1940s,
U.S. government posters discouraged
soldiers from purchasing sex with slogans
the hiv epidemic, governments have
targeted sex workers for spreading the
deadly virus. Crackdowns on places and
people who sell sex have been routine,
carried out under the auspices of
protecting public health. Recently, in
countries like Greece and Malawi,
authorities have arrested sex workers and
forced them to undergo mandatory hiv
testing, a clear violation of health and
privacy rights.
To be sure, there are public health
concerns surrounding sex work, including
high rates of sexually transmitted
infections. But punishment and humilia-
tion cannot possibly be the answer.
Similarly, criminalization only impedes
access to medical care. In 2012, the who
stated, “Laws that directly or indirectly
criminalize or penalize sex workers, their
clients and third parties … can undermine
World War II-era posters discouraging soldiers from purchasing sex.

the effectiveness of hiv and sexual health
What’s more, in the United States,
police in several major cities harass or
arrest sex workers carrying multiple
condoms, citing them as evidence of
illegal activity. In response, some sex
workers have told reporters, activists, and
others that, fearing police, they some-
times do not carry condoms—and thus
end up having sex without them.
What we should be doing instead is
focusing on protecting, not persecuting,
sex workers. Grouped under the banner of
“harm reduction”—and supported by the
who and unaids—are programs that
distribute condoms, educate sex workers
about hiv and other health risks, and
provide them checkups, medicine, and
counseling. These programs are some-
times run by sex workers themselves. In
India, sangram monitors condom use,
cares for sex workers with hiv, and even
works to bar violent customers from
brothels. Anti-trafficking initiatives can
also be built into peer-to-peer programs of
harm reduction, as sangram has done.
“Sex worker rights groups should be
involved in the genuine anti-trafficking
work because, at the end of the day, they
know their industry and their spaces and
they’re better at it,” sangram’s Meena
Saraswathi Seshu told the U.N. news
agency IRIN in 2013.
The results of harm reduction can be
dramatic. In the Ivory Coast, a 1990s
prevention campaign at “Clinique de
Confiance,” where women received
counseling, clinical exams, and testing for
infections, contributed to a decline in hiv
prevalence from 89 to 32 percent among
participating female sex workers. In
southern India, between 1995 and 2008,
an increase in health interventions that
supplied condoms led to a drop in the
prevalence of both hiv and syphilis
among sex workers.
Yet despite these successes, harm
reduction receives insufficient support;
according to unaids in 2009, less than 1
percent of global funding for hiv
prevention was being spent on hiv and
sex work. At least in part, this is due to
abolitionists, who have at times disrupted
important health initiatives. For example,
Durjoy Nari Shangho, a Bangladeshi
organization, shuttered drop-in centers
for sex workers after the international ngo
from which it received funding signed the
U.S. anti-prostitution pledge. Similarly,
Doctors Without Borders distanced itself
from a project on the Cambodia-Vietnam
border after U.S. congressional testimony
criticized it for promoting sex work.
Harm-reduction programs, if more
widely accepted, spread out, and scaled
up, would go a long way toward protecting
sex workers’ health. But they shouldn’t
exist in isolation. They should be coupled
with decriminalization and broader legal
and social efforts to normalize the sex
“A Sex Workers’
proposed bill to criminalize the purchase of
sex, some protesters carried signs that read
“SEXWORK IS WORK.” This is true—and
because it’s work, it should treated as such.
Today, a camp of legal experts contends
that the many problems sex workers face
can be addressed with labor laws. If sex
work were considered a legitimate
economic sector, the argument goes, where
work conditions, fair wages, injury
compensation, and other basic employ-
ment issues were matters of law, the sex
industry and those within it would be less
exposed to violence and other harms.
Under a labor model, U.S. sex workers
could report health risks at brothels to the
Occupational Safety and Health Adminis-
tration. They could unionize and lobby for
stronger protections against police
harassment. In the long run, they would
be viewed as citizens like any other, and
their industry as a safe and acceptable
one. What’s more, law professor Hila
Shamir at Tel Aviv University has argued
that respecting labor rights in all sectors
could help address many of the social and
economic forces that lead to trafficking.
The same goes for the sex industry:
Ensuring safe work environments would
decrease exploitation and make it less
enticing for sex workers to migrate abroad
based on the promise of more money or
other benefits.
Provocative? Perhaps. But early
research already shows that the labor
model can work.
Already, trade unions of sex workers
have launched in the United Kingdom and
other European countries, and New
Zealand has applied labor protections to
the sex industry. Advocacy groups have
also begun to use courts to defend their
labor rights. In South Africa, an appeals
court ruled in 2010 that a sex worker who
said she’d been unfairly fired from a
massage parlor (“for refusing to perform
oral sex, spending time in her room with
her boyfriend, choosing her clients and
failing to book enough customers,”
according to the Mail & Guardian) had a
right to a hearing before a government
body that settles labor disputes. Assisting
with the case was the Cape Town-based
Sex Workers Education and Advocacy
In lieu of formal unions, sex workers’
collectives also assert power vis-à-vis
brothel owners and police. According to
unaids, Service Workers in Group, a
collective in Thailand, was able to improve
relationships with the police force by
introducing an “internship” program, in
which police cadets learn about hiv
prevention and get to know collective
members. This has helped improve police
attitudes toward sex work. Moreover,
researchers found in a 2009 study that sex
workers in collectives in South India have
been able to deter arrest and call on one
another for assistance when faced with
police harassment and other issues.
All these examples show the ways in
which a labor approach can improve sex
workers’ lives. Yet moving public favor
toward this model won’t be easy. Beyond
changing minds and diminishing support
for abolishing sex work, it will require
reallocating resources and amending or
throwing out harmful policies. It will also
require managing backlash, like the
international protest that opponents of
prostitution threatened the United
Nations with last September, in response
to the body’s various reports supporting
the decriminalization of sex work.
As research and experience show,
however, change is essential for the rights
of sex workers—the very thing abolition-
ists claim they wish to protect. Sex
workers deserve not only the right to
choose how they make a living, but also
the right to be free from the fear, mistreat-
ment, and—at the root of it all—miscon-
ceptions that have long plagued their
Aziza Ahmed is a law professor at
Northeastern University. She was a
member of the Technical Advisory
Group to the Global Commission on
hiv and the Law.

FOREIGN POLICY (ISSN 0015-7228) January 2014, issue
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law as the United
States does.
There is a reason that nations like the
United States have behaved in this
appalling, dangerous, often despicable
way. It is because they can—because they
have the ability to choose what they view
as the comparatively low cost of collabo-
rating with and enabling despots and
mass criminals. (“Realists” among you
readers have already shrugged off this
critique by saying that’s the way the game
is played—we have to do what works for us
and not get too caught up worrying about
“nice-to-have” attributes like values.)
The United States is seeking to atone
for past sins today, not only through policy
changes, but also by supporting the
prosecution of former dictators like Habré.
Still, the country has not embraced all that
is needed for international justice: The
United States and some of its allies have
resisted calls to accept the jurisdiction
of human rights treaties and institutions
like the International Criminal Court,
fearing that their leaders might one day
find themselves arrested by an unsympa-
thetic government on a visit overseas and
prosecuted for alleged war crimes or
crimes against humanity.
If 800,000 Iraqis died in an illegal war
waged by the United States, how much
culpability do the U.S. leaders who chose
to launch the conflict have? In an era of
kill lists and drone strikes, of civilian
deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is
understandable why an international
legal position holding America account-
able might make U.S. officials nervous.
(Imagine how much more nervous they
might be if international leaders could
also be brought before the bar in a foreign
country or at a world tribunal for violating
rights of privacy or perpetrating other
crimes that do not rise to the level of the
most heinous attacks on human rights.)
The U.S. resistance to being a full
participant in the international justice
system is why, as heartening as it would
be to keep a monster like Habré in jail
where he belongs, doing so is nowhere
near enough. Until leaders and other
decision-makers who collaborate with the
likes of Habré are also found liable and
brought to justice, we will not see the end
of the abuses that the world’s worst rulers
inflict on the innocent. Specifically,
until the top, white-collar officials of rich
countries see it as too personally risky to
tolerate the intolerable, too dangerous
to cut corners and let bad men handle the
dirty work of the world’s danger zones,
the periodic prosecution of men like
Habré will be for little more than effect.
No doubt there will be a reflexive
assertion of sovereign protections and a
reiteration of the old saw that to allow
state leaders to be prosecuted will invite
political and ideological abuse of the
international justice system by rival
countries. But a fair system should filter
out and ultimately reject prosecutions
with such motives (as must be done
within countries as well), and we have
already seen the toll that results from the
absence of such enforcement of the law.
Sovereignty, like religion and patrio-
tism, is a concept that has become
sacrosanct at least as much because of the
protections it affords the guilty, the greedy,
and the ambitious as for whatever merits
may underpin it. Just as constitutional
reform is required within countries to hold
in check the power of those who govern
on behalf of the governed, so too do we
need reform in international law. It is hard
to imagine any era other than the 20th
century that could send the message better
that sovereign immunities must be strictly
limited and constantly questioned—
except, of course, every century since the
concept of sovereignty first emerged.
We need better protections against those
we have empowered to protect us—or
who have arrogated that right to them-
selves. That means, in the end, ensuring
that all who commit crimes must answer
for them. Not just the bad men of the
underdeveloped world, but also, and
especially, the rich and super-empowered
who support them at arm’s length and who
even allow themselves later the privilege
of seeking to purge themselves of guilt
with neat, if overdue, policy reversals.
David Rothkopf is ceo and editor, The FP

Supporting Habré with arms, enabling him to gain and maintain
the power he then used to kill, torture, and imprison his people, is
not the kind of aberration one wishes it was for the United States.
Indeed, much of contemporary American foreign policy seems
to be devoted to undoing the excesses, missteps, and errors of the
20th century (and, for that matter, those of the first years of this
century). In the past 50 years, in South Africa, Rwanda, Laos,
Indonesia, the Philippines, Iraq, Iran,
Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Chile,
El Salvador, Brazil, Panama, and Argenti-
na—to name but a few cases that quickly
come to mind—the United States support-
ed repressive regimes that violated basic
human rights. Today, the change with
regard to where America stands on Habré is
not unlike other recent or looming
about-faces that are currently shaping U.S.
foreign policy.
For example, whatever you may feel
about the merits of the Obama administra-
tion’s efforts to strike a deal with Iran on
nuclear weapons—and personally, I think
it is a necessary and timely step—U.S.
foreign policy over the past several years
represents a turn away from an anti-Iran
stance that had been one of the key tenets
of U.S. Middle East policy since 1979 and
had involved supporting bad guys who similarly opposed Tehran.
Indeed, possibly more striking than the nuclear deal is America’s
recent, willing acceptance of an Iraqi leader who is sympathetic
to Tehran, a stunning contrast to anti-Iranian feelings once so
strong that, during the 1980s, the United States provided Saddam
Hussein’s government with intelligence that it used to target
Iranian positions with chemical weapons. This was as dark a
policy choice as any involving Habré, and the recent semi-thaw
between the United States and Iran (despite our continuing
opposition to many of Tehran’s policies) has some of our allies
wondering if a jarring shift is afoot.
America’s change of position with regard to Hosni Mubarak’s
regime in Egypt was, of course, another of the long-overdue course
corrections the United States has made away from a morally
compromised alliance. But the example of Egypt does something
else, too: It reminds us that the United
States entered into such alliances out of
convenience and expediency, to advance
or preserve U.S. interests at a seemingly
low cost. The United States would give a
little aid, a little political cover, sometimes
weapons—and then look the other way.
These were cases of geostrategic
Hamburger Helper, extending America’s
reach and influence for less money than it
would have taken to project force or
even bigger aid resources into the region,
efforts that could have been associated
with seeking out more palatable partners
(or putting them in place).
The biggest cost in the end was the
nation’s soul. A cynic might observe that
nations don’t have souls, and an atheist
might suggest that no one does. But
of course, nations, like people, have
characters and reputations associated with those characters.
Leadership and influence derive from both. That’s not to say that
many great immoral and amoral powers have not had dispropor-
tionate influence. Rather, it is to say that being seen as hypocritical
or serially insensitive to international law or basic human values
does not enhance any country’s standing. This is only made
more the case when a country hails itself as the world’s great
beacon of hope, democracy, and respect for






The gripping story of the quest to bring former Chadian
dictator Hissène Habré to justice that appears in this issue of
FOREIGN POLICY is deeply resonant for several reasons. In the first
instance, it underscores the urgent necessity that our system
of international law not allow heads of state to violate the funda-
mental rights of their citizens or their neighbors with impunity.
But the story should also be profoundly troubling to Americans
because it reminds us that a consistently amoral U.S. foreign policy
had made this necessity all the more difficult to address.
Hissène Habré with Reagan (top), and
Hosni Mubarak with Bill Clinton (bottom).
Course Correction
By David Rothkopf

;/0: ,3,*;065, Amer|cans have the opportun|ty to choose cand|dates
who support energy po||c|es that create jobs, enhance our energy secur|ty
and estab||sh Amer|ca as a g|oba| energy |eader. Today Amer|ca |s the
wor|d`s number-one natura| gas producer, but that`s just the beg|nn|ng.
Amer|ca |s projected to be the wor|d`s number-one o|| producer by 2015.*
© 2014 American Petroleum Institute (API) *World Energy Outlook 2013, International Energy Agency, November 2013

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