Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • The General's Lady

    On her husband's last night before leaving for a second i tour of duty in Vietnam, Alma Powell asked to be taken out to dinner. Mrs. Powell, who had grown up in Birmingham, Ala., at a time when blacks weren't allowed to drink from the same water fountains as whites, wanted to dine at Birmingham's fanciest hotel, the Parliament House. That night in July 1968, the Powells were the restaurant's only black patrons. But Major Powell, dressed in his best tailored suit from Hong Kong (bought during his first tour in Vietnam), and Mrs. Powell, "stylish as usual" in the nicest dress an army salary could afford, swept past the other diners to their table. Toward the end of dinner, Powell handed his wife an envelope. It contained instructions in case he was killed, including his desire to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. ...
  • Why The General's Wife Is A Reluctant Warrior

    Alma powell has had to put up with a lot. Her husband left her for two tours in Vietnam and one in Korea while she raised three small children, then moved her back and forth between dusty army bases and the Washington Beltway. In 1982, with Powell slated for a second star, they moved into a big white mansion at Fort Leavenworth, and he dreaded telling her after only 11 months that they were moving again--back to Washington, to base housing two minutes from the Pentagon. ...
  • Spooking The Director

    Spies are supposed to be known for their sang-froid. At the CIA, SWASP reserve has always been the preferred demeanor. So old hands in the clandestine service were a little taken aback when the newly appointed director began hugging them. John Deutch, who has been on the job now for six months, also warmly links arms with startled spies as he wanders the halls at Langley, and, on special occasions, kisses them on the cheek. Deutch, a large, floppy, sensitive man, is trying to be supportive. When a CIA station chief in Europe ran afoul of the U.S. ambassador, Deutch cabled the operative to tell him not to worry. He concluded by saying "I love you," surely the first time that endearment has been used in a code-name communication from the director of Central Intelligence, with the possible exception of Allen Dulles's letters to his mistresses in the 1950s. ...
  • Now, Clinton's Choice

    President Clinton has long treated Bosnia as the crazy aunt in the attic: he just wishes those cries and banging sounds would go away. But this week the Bosnia struggle will move closer to home, to the United Nations in New York, where the warring parties will try to work out a peace settlement. Top U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke has done an extraordinary job bringing the maddening peace process this far, but as he routinely warns his colleagues in the Clinton administration, the hardest part is still to come. The American people must be sold on the price of peace -- from 15,000 to 25,000 U.S. peacekeeping troops on the ground. And it may take an audience on the White House lawn to force the fractious parties to accept a map with fixed and firm boundaries. ...
  • Decline And Fall

    There Was Bob Packwood, meandering on about his favorite squash games as a U.S. senator. As his colleagues shifted uneasily at their desks on the Senate floor, Packwood dreamily reflected back on the "camaraderie [that] is unbelievable," the "friendships beyond count." Then he quoted General MacArthur's farewell address at West Point ("duty, honor, country") and tearfully announced his resignation--"not with malice, but with love." A few old members of the club tried to buck him up. Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island stoutly observed that, during some 400 squash games stretching over 15 years, Packwood had never cheated--not once. His voice cracking, Majority Leader Bob Dole praised the 27-year veteran's loyalty. Sen. Mark Hatfield offered his fellow Oregonian an awkward but manly hug. ...
  • Why We Did It

    In August 1945, the GI's waiting to invade Japan had no doubt about the wisdom of obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons. Upon hearing the news, "we whooped and yelled like mad, we downed all the beer we'd been stashing away," one dogface later recalled. "We shot bullets in the air and danced between the tent rows." Paul Fussell, a 21-year-old second lieutenant leading a rifle platoon, remembered that "for all the fake manliness of our facades, we cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow up to adulthood after all."A half century later, relief has given way to uncertainty and regret. According to a recent Gallup poll, senior citizens still narrowly approve of the bombing, but younger Americans, particularly those under the age of SO, believe that dropping the bomb on Japan was wrong. The Smithsonian Institution had to drastically scale down a 50th-anniversary exhibit on the flight of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atom...
  • Rethinking The Dream

    Few white men have civil-rights credentials. The old newspapermen who had gathered for an informal reunion at the Atlanta airport Holiday Inn on a recent Saturday night had been thrown in jail and chased out of dusty delta towns during the Movement Days of the 1950s and '60s. During a night of strong drink and reminiscence, the old hands from publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post quietly recalled the clarity of the clash between peaceable black demonstrators and the Bull Connors of the then segregated South. "Hell, everything was clearer then," said Claude Sitton, who covered the region for the Times from 1958 to 1964, "Going to the back of the bus, drinking out of separate water fountains, going to segregated schools--those are the kinds of things that just hit you right between the eyes." But in the morning, the aging veterans puzzled over the current state of the civil-rights struggle--the tedious court battles over formulas and standards. "When it gets...
  • An American Hero

    It was the stuff of which legends are made. Shot down Bosnia, Capt. Scott O'Grady spent six days living off bugs and rainwater, and was then rescued by a daring band of young marines. The inside story.True members of the Brotherhood of the Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe tells us, aren't supposed to use words like death, danger, bravery and feat: The code is understated; cool. They get themselves into "a hell of a corner" and then "luck out of it." So did Scott O'Grady last week, though afterward, he "couldn't quite understand what all the fuss was about," he told his sister, Stacy. He wasn't hurt too badly, he said; just a couple of little burns and some hunger pangs.He sustained little burns when he blasted out of a tumbling cockpit after his F-16 had been cut in half by a missile four miles above enemy territory.He was hungry because he had been living on ants and rainwater for six days while he hid from Serbian patrols who walked within feet of his hiding place, firing rifles at anything...
  • Cleaning Up 'The Company'

    Veteran CIA spooks have long tried to protect their secrets, not only from the Russians but sometimes from Congress and the executive branch -- and even, on occasion, from the Director of Central Intelligence. After his departure as director in 1993, Robert Gates came to suspect that the agency's Directorate of Operations had kept him in the dark about the lack of progress in the search for a "mole" who was selling the CIA out to the KGB. Gates was right; the old boys could not bring themselves to vigorously investigate their own ranks. Meanwhile, 10 agents betrayed by the mole were killed. Such insularity is one reason it took the CIA so long to catch a drunken mediocrity like Aldrich Ames.Always secretive and wary, the mood at CIA headquarters lately has been sullen. "The intelligence community feels undervalued, a little bit picked on," says John Deutch, the CIA's new director. The agency lacks a clear sense of mission after the cold war, and recent headlines have all been about...
  • Inside The Plot

    The bombing had apparently been in the works for months. Last December Tim McVeigh and his army buddy Mike Fortier cased the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Witnesses, NEWSWEEK has learned, have told federal investigators that the two men visited each floor of the nine-story building, posing as job-seekers in the offices of the federal agencies--the IRS, the Small Business Administration, the ATF--located there. They would have had a hard time not noticing the America's Kids day-care center on the second floor, festooned as it was with Christmas decorations pasted together by toddlers.Witnesses also saw McVeigh and another man prowling around federal buildings in Omaha, Neb., and Phoenix, Ariz. Using aliases, McVeigh and Terry Nichols, another army buddy implicated in the plot, had begun buying and storing tons of fertilizer, according to a government affidavit. Since neither man was farming at the time, the fertilizer was more likely to be used for building...
  • On The Bombers' Trail

    Zeroing in on a handful of alleged conspirators, the Feds are piecing together the bombing's financing and logistics.Michael Fortier quits his job at True Value Hardware in King-man, Ariz. Soon afterward he travels with Tim McVeigh to Oklahoma City. The pair cases all nine floors of the Murrah building the following week.McVeigh and Fortier head to Kansas. They load a stash of guns into a rental car, which Fortier drives back to Kingman alone.McVeigh returns to Kingman. McVeigh and For-tier allegedly sell the stock-piled guns to pay for expenses and bomb materials.McVeigh arrives in Junction City, Kans., sells his car and calls Ryder to reserve a truck, which he'll pick up three days later.Bomb explodes in Oklahoma.
  • Cracking Down On Hate

    For a few hours, it looked like the FBI had its man. Gary Land, 35, bore a passing resemblance to the FBI sketch of "John Doe No. 2," and he and his sidekick, Robert Jacks, had lived near Tim MeVeigh ("John Doe No. 1") for a time in Kingman, Ariz. The day of the Oklahoma City bombing, Land and Jacks had suspiciously shown up in Perry, Okla., where McVeigh was held in a county jail before the Feds caught up with him. But last week, after a dawn raid and 18 hours of grilling by federal agents, it appeared that Land and Jacks were nothing more than a pair of beery nomads classically in the wrong place at the wrong time. As for the FBI at the motel, they were "morons," Jacks declared to ABC's "Nightline." ...
  • The Plot

    It is a world where loners are never alone, where delusion and fantasy echo back as conspiracy and fact. It has its own language and code and demonology. It is a peculiarly American world, met in the woods where grown men play with real guns, in greasy spoons where an angry farmer can buy a lonely serviceman a cup of coffee and earnestly discuss how best to resist the global Zionist plot. It reaches across the airwaves and through cyberspace, into a thousand darkened rooms where twisted souls reside. ...
  • Cleverness--And Luck

    THEY WERE SMART ENOUGH -to build a bomb that gutted a nine-story building and left hundreds dead or missing. But getting away with it was harder. Tim McVeigh was tooling along 1-35, about 60 miles north of Oklahoma City last Wednesday morning, when a state trooper pulled him over because McVeigh's yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis didn't have any license tags. As Trooper Charlie Hanger looked in McVeigh's car window, he noticed a bulge under the young man's jacket. Reaching into McVeigh's coat, be pulled out a handgun -a Glock 9-mm semiautomatic, loaded with Black Talon "cop killers bullets. "What's going on here?" asked McVeigh. The young man, dressed in black pants and combat boots, seemed perfectly calm. "You don't have to worry about it," he told the trooper. ...
  • How's He Doing?

    TREASURY SECRETARY ROBERT RUbin likes to pace, but not anxiously, mind you. As a securities trader on Wall Street for nearly 20 years, he had walked in a tight little square behind his desk on the Goldman, Sachs trading floor, coolly choosing the precise moment to bet his clients' fortunes. Last week Rubin was pacing around his cavernous office at the Treasury Department, watching a global currency crisis flicker across his video screen, chatting calmly as the dollar plunged against the mark and the yen, and basically doing as little as possible to make matters worse.Rubin, 56, is a money-world mensch: Miami Beach by way of Harvard and Yale Law, restless energy concealed in a laid-back consensus-maker. With self-effacing charm, he tried to reassure anxious finance ministers around the world that the rescue plan he had designed for Mexico would pay off, even as currency markets were punishing both the peso and the dollar with a sell-off that threatened economies all through Latin...
  • A Guide To The The First 100 Days

    On Wednesday for the first time in half a century, the Republicans take control of Congress. They will celebrate, not with fireworks or parties, but by reducing the size of Hill staffs and declaring that the laws of the United States apply to members of Congress as well as to ordinary people. The new speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, knows how much voters distrust government. He understands that voters won't take politicians at their word anymore. Too many of the people believed that Lyndon Johnson say the light at the end of the tunnel in Vietnam, that Jimmy Carter was sincere when he promised, "I will never lie to you," and that Bill Clinton really meant to reform the Democratic Party. Gingrich and his colleagues put their vows down in writing: guaranteed votes on 10 major promises--including the balanced-budget amendment, a middle-class tax cut and term limits--all in the first 100 days. It is the most ballyhooed legislative program since FDR launched the New Deal. ...
  • Goodbye Welfare State

    IT TOOK ABOUT 60 YEARS TO ERECT THE MODERN WELFARE STATE. NEWT GINGRICH wants to dismantle it in a hundred days. The Republicans' "Contract With America" would be the most significant reversal of direction by the United States government since the New Deal. But the voters may be in for a few unpleasant surprises. The GOP's real choice is between blowing smoke and cutting back on programs that Americans have long taken for granted. The Republicans' most difficult challenge may be to reform the political system that created "big government" in the first place. There may be fewer Democrats on the floor of Congress, but there will be just as many well-financed lobbyists lining "Gucci Gulch" in the hallway outside. NEWSWEEK looks at the key promises in the contract and rates the odds that they will be kept. ...
  • B'ball On Brooklyn's Mean Courts

    CONEY ISLAND IS THE END OF THE line for four New York City subways, but as author Darcy Frey writes in The Last Shot (230 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $19.95), it might as well be the end of the world. On this urban-lunar landscape there are almost no stores, no trees and no police, only bleak housing projects. The locals have nothing left to pursue but drugs and basketball. At a court called Run-and-Gun Land, the rims are low, so everyone can dunk, and no one ever passes; at Chop-Chop Land, fouls are never called. Local hoodlums spend summer nights "getting hectic," Frey explains, "shooting at each other and tossing batteries and beer bottles onto the court from apartment windows 15 stories above." ...
  • The Old Boys' Club Fights For Its Existence

    Protecting and promoting incompetents is not unique to the CIA. In the military, the practice is known as "pass the trash." But judging from the details that emerged last week in the case of Aldrich Ames, the now infamous Soviet mole, the CIA's clubby Operations Directorate acted more like a mutual protection association than a spy agency. ...
  • No Ordinary Couple

    Imagine what the modern media could do with this scenario: the president has not slept with his wife for 20 years. He prefers the company of his secretary, who lives in the White House residence, wears exotic nightgowns as evening dresses and hosts her boss's poker games late into the night. The president also consorts with a Scandinavian princess, a simpering beauty who drives the secretary wild with jealousy (sick and despondent, the secretary tries to set herself on fire). The First Lady, meanwhile, is obsessed with a moody, dark-haired young radical. U.S. Army intelligence bugs their conversations in a hotel room, after which the president ships the young man off to the South Pacific. The First Lady's friends are described as women who dress in "mannish suits" and have "close-cropped hair." One of them, a 200-pound lesbian who smokes a cigar, also lives in the White House, as does the president's chief adviser -- who is rumored to be sleeping with the First Lady. ...
  • Under The Gun

    If his troops had gone into Haiti "hot," said Special Forces Gen. Richard Potter, this was supposed to have been the hottest place of all. Camp d'Application is the headquarters of Haiti's coup makers, the Heavy Weapons Company. In Haiti's frequent coups (three in the last eight years) this unit usually led the way, largely because its soldiers are the only ones in the country with heavy weapons. The Americans anticipated a garrison bristling with machine guns and artillery. Instead, when General Potter's helicopter gunships settled down behind the walls of Camp d'Application last week, they found a junkyard. ...
  • 'This Thing Is A Turkey'

    IN BOB WOODWARD'S NEW BOOK, ""The Agenda,'' White House aide George Stephanopoulos comes across more like a battered wife than a key strategic adviser to the president. He has been subjected to so many senseless tirades by Bill Clinton that he has grown numb. Stephanopoulos ""sometimes thought his primary function was to get yelled at first thing in the morning,'' Woodward writes. Stephanopoulos has stopped listening to Clinton during his ""purple fits'' because his words ""really don't matter.'' The president is not only volatile but fickle. Clinton constantly contradicts himself, agreeing with whomever he spoke to last. ""The worst thing about him is that he never makes a de-cision,'' Stephanopoulos tells budget director Leon Panetta. ...
  • Grace &Amp; Iron

    IT'S NOT CLEAR FROM THE PICTURE WHO IS more doting, the throng of reporters and photographers, or her proud husband, the president. Jackie Kennedy was a national treasure, and almost everyone, even jaded members of the press, felt a little proprietary. Maybe she did spend too much money on clothes and for new wallpaper at the White House, but so what? She deserved the best. In a way, many Americans of that era believed that they deserved her. After the dull '50s, the nation had entered an age of "poetry and power," according to Robert Frost, the poet laureate who spoke at JFK's Inauguration. If Americans were willing to pay any price, share any burden, why shouldn't they be entitled--if only briefly--to a queen? Jackie Kennedy was regal, yet also vibrant and so young (31 years old in 1961, the year she became First Lady). In this New Frontier, the pioneers would dine with silver spoons. ...
  • Trial By Unfriendly Fire

    POLICYMAKERS LIKE TO THINK of air power as a precise instrument. Ground troops still have to slog it out the old-fashioned way-slow and messy, too many body bags-but the air force-can swoop in with a surgical strike" of "smart" bombs. Air power is seductive-seemingly swift and sure, neat and clean. For a president who wants to demonstrate American resolve without having to expend lives-or political capital-using air power is an almost irresistible temptation. It is also a snare and delusion, as President Clinton discovered last week in two familiar trouble spots: ...
  • Deadly Mole

    IN THE SPY TRADE, COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OPERATIVES are sometimes called "spiders" for the webs they weave. The greatest of all spiders, the black widow of the cold war, was James Jesus Angleton. For nearly 20 years, through the 1950s and '60s, Angleton sat surrounded by stacks of top-secret files in his office at the CIA, the blinds always drawn, the room dark even at midday, except for the tiny glow of Angleton's ever-present cigarette. Trusting no one, scheming always, Angleton was searching for a mole-in the jargon of spies, "a deep-penetration agent," a senior American official secretly controlled by the Kremlin, burrowed deep into the inner sanctum of the CIA. Angleton never found the mole. Instead, he went slowly mad, lost in a maze of his own making, self-exiled in a he]] he called a "wilderness of mirrors." ...
  • Sins Of A Paranoid Age

    In 1949, when most Americans wanted nothing more than to "go to the movies and drink Coke," as W. Averell Harriman once put it, the Soviets exploded a nuclear bomb. The onset of the cold war came as a cruel surprise. The United States had just won World War II. Was World War III around the corner? By 1951, when the CIA received an intelligence tip that seemed to indicate that the Russians were about to corner the world market in LSD, anxiety about communism had become paranoia. The CIA was particularly obsessed with mind control. At show trials in the East bloc, innocents with glazed eyes were confessing to impossible crimes, while American POWs in the Korean War were reportedly being "brainwashed" by the Chinese. Had the communists developed some new mind-bending drug that could be used as a mass weapon against the West? ...
  • The Real Cover-Up

    In Washington, in the early afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963, the phones went dead. Cars swerved, ignored red lights, honked angrily. In a taxicab, Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan anxiously watched people "leaving the city as fast as they could. There was the sense," he later recalled, "that something awful had happened, and something more awful might happen." Moynihan reached for his billfold, which contained a map of roads leading to the cave in West Virginia where subcabinet officials were supposed to meet in the event of a nuclear attack. He put away the billfold. The traffic was so snarled he couldn't get there. ...
  • Who Shot Jfk?

    CIA: A trove of government documents brings out the conspiracy buffs again. They're right about a cover-up, but it wasn't a plot to kill the president. ...
  • Playing Globocop

    Twas not what the poets would call a famous victory. The Somali warlord and his men had plenty of warning. At 1:30 a.m., searchlights bathed Mohamed Farah Aidid's compound; only four hours later did the United Nations force arrive. Using women and children as human shields, Aidid's henchmen greeted the Moroccan, Italian, French and Pakistani troops with a blast of gunfire. A grenade was tossed into a jeep, and four U.N. soldiers lay dead. U.S. troops were supposed to be kept safely out of the fray, but 130 American soldiers, light infantry from Fort Drum, N.Y., had to be rushed in. As day broke, the U.N. toll included 46 wounded, including an American GI cut by flying glass. As for Aidid, he had long since escaped. ...