John Barry

Stories by John Barry

  • Battling bin Laden

    An ex-bin Laden hunter on why the U.S. hasn't beaten Al Qaeda.
  • The General’s New Mission

    Pakistan's latest Army chief holds the key to next week's vote, and to the future of his unstable nation.
  • As Karzai Loses His Grip, A Familiar Face Looms

    It wasn't long ago that Afghan president Hamid Karzai was seen as a dependable U.S. ally on par with Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. But as Afghanistan has fallen into violent chaos—along with Pakistan—tensions have erupted between Karzai and the United States and Britain. One of the most worried U.S. officials is Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born ambassador to the United Nations, who is seriously considering running for Karzai's seat himself when the next elections are held in 2009, according to several U.N. and U.S. government officials. Last Friday, Karzai blocked the appointment of British politician Paddy Ashdown, the former U.N. High Representative for Bosnia, as envoy to Afghanistan. During a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Karzai said that he and many Afghan parliamentarians did not want Ashdown in the post, according to a Western official briefed on the discussions who would only speak about them...
  • High Stakes In The Gulf

    Eager to avoid future confrontations between Iranian boats and U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. government has quietly sent word to Tehran asking for dialogue. The stern four-paragraph message, dated Jan. 10, was delivered to Tehran via a Swiss intermediary. The communiqué, a copy of which was obtained by NEWSWEEK, notes that Washington had sent an earlier request on Nov. 21, 2007, to limit "the possibility of miscommunication and misunderstanding" in the Gulf, but that "we have not received a response to that message. We believe it is in Iran's interest to consider [it] and avoid any further provocative actions." (Click here to view the memo)U.S. officials say they are not hopeful that Iran will respond now, given its silence before. In December, after the first message was sent, there were two encounters in the Strait of Hormuz; one led the U.S. captain to fire warning shots. During the most recent provocation on Jan. 6, five Iranian launches careered around three U.S....
  • Pakistan and America

    Rice's regional strategy may have died with Bhutto, endangering U.S. interests.
  • Watching Torture

    A reporter's reflections on 'the pornography of violence.'
  • Trouble On The Takeoff

    Shortly after 9/11, the White House decided that the president needed a new helicopter. The current Marine One fleet was more than 30 years old and needed upgrades to its in-flight protection and communications gear. So when a contract for a new fleet was announced in January 2005, the Pentagon flagged it a top-priority rush project. But three years later, two industry sources involved with the project who did not want to be named because of its sensitivity, say that major tinkering with Lockheed Martin's winning design has left the new bird, the VH-71, some 2,000 pounds overweight. Efforts to fix the problem have required such a rethinking of its structure that, in the words of one source, "we're essentially designing a new helicopter."What went wrong? Lockheed won the bid by proposing changes to an existing model that has been flying the pope and NATO troops around Europe. But the Navy's goal was to build a flying Oval Office with communications rivaling those in Air Force One,...
  • Fresh Security Breaches at Los Alamos

    What's going on at Los Alamos?  The nation's premier nuclear-weapons laboratory appears plagued with continuing security problems.  Barely 10 days after revelations of a leak of highly classified material over the Internet, NEWSWEEK has learned of two other security breaches.In late May, a Los Alamos staffer took his lab laptop with him on vacation to Ireland.  A senior nuclear official familiar with the inner workings of Los Alamos—who would not be named talking about internal matters—says the laptop's hard drive contained "government documents of a sensitive nature."  The laptop was also fitted with an encryption card advanced enough that its export is government-controlled.  In Ireland, the laptop was stolen from the vacationer's hotel room.  It has not been recovered.  This source adds that Los Alamos has started a frantic effort to inventory all its laptops, calling in most of them and substituting nonportable desktop models. (The source’s account was confirmed by a midlevel...
  • Power Shortage in the Middle East

    Who will lead the Middle East out of its current crisis? Hard to imagine any of the parties now at the table have the strength, as they grapple with the consequences of what many Israelis are already calling “the second Six Day War,” Hamas’s coup seizing power in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is now in Washington to discuss this crisis with President George Bush.  Which is to say, a lame-duck American president with the lowest approval ratings in two generations is discussing with an Israeli leader whose government is on life support how to help a Palestinian leader who’s just had his administration ejected from half its territory. Can this beleaguered trio really hope to achieve anything substantive—except, at best, buy time? Time for new governments, new leaders, to take over in all three countries, perhaps.The State Department has pronounced itself optimistic. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, after all, declared progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement to...
  • General Peter Pace, Casualty of War

    Gen. Peter Pace and Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, who climbed to the top rungs of the U.S. military in large part because of their proximity to Donald Rumsfeld, are now seeing their careers end for essentially the same reason. Rumsfeld's successor as Defense secretary, Robert Gates, realized that any attempt this fall to give General Pace two more years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would risk what Gates, with characteristic understatement, call "quite contentious" Senate confirmation hearings. His concerns, announced at the Pentagon on Friday afternoon, were almost certainly well-founded.Pace was widely disparaged on Capitol Hill as Rumsfeld's main man. The reputation is understandable; Pace did owe his promotion to chairman (the first Marine to ever hold the job) to the fact that, in his previous job as vice chairman, he found a way to get along with the demanding and irascible Rumsfeld, a knack that eluded most of Pace's colleagues. (Giambastiani, who announced his...
  • Does America Need A Bigger Military?

    There are the dead and wounded, then there are the damaged. The longer a soldier stays in Iraq, the more combat he or she sees, the greater the stress, the higher the psychological toll. Just over a quarter of the U.S. soldiers and Marines enduring a second tour in Iraq showed signs of mental illness (versus 17 percent of those on their first deployment), according to the latest survey by the Army’s Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT). The team found, in its survey last fall, a clear linkage between time in combat and alcoholism, marital troubles and suicide. A disturbingly high 10 percent admitted mistreating Iraqi civilians or wantonly damaging their property. Soldiers who screened positive for mental-health problems were twice as likely to admit to abusing Iraqis as those screening clear.What’s the answer? According to psychologists on the team, more time at home between deployments, what the Army calls “dwell” time. Ideally, recommends the MHAT report, soldiers would deploy for...
  • Defense Secretary Bob Gates to the Rescue

    The old, macho Bush administration took a certain delight in telling its enemies, at home and abroad, to go to hell. The president seemed to enjoy watching Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld swagger and put reporters down at press conferences in the post-9/11 buildup to the invasion of Iraq. (George W. Bush teasingly called Rumsfeld "Matinee Idol.") Advice from moderates, especially if they had worked in the administration of Bush's father, was generally scorned. And any suggestion from the chattering classes, from the media elites, was likely to push the president in the opposite direction.But that was then, before Iraq turned into a quagmire, the Democrats won control of Congress, Rumsfeld was eased out and Bush began worrying more about his legacy. When The Washington Post exposed wretched conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Bush team responded as if Texas had been invaded. The behind-the-scenes scramble to rectify the mess at the facility and to take better care of...
  • The Elusive Quds Force

    The Iranian Special Operations unit called the Quds Force has for years been accused, with or without evidence, of assassinations and terrorist attacks as far away as Argentina. But its specialty is different: striking fear in the hearts of generals. Over the past 25 years, the Quds Force has proved ferociously effective at organizing, training and equipping guerrillas to confront the world's most vaunted armies. Quds played a vital role in creating Hizbullah to fight the Israelis in Lebanon. It supported the legendary Ahmed Shah Massoud against the Russians and his Taliban rivals in Afghanistan. Quds helped the Bosnians hold back the Serbian war machine. And now--it's in Iraq."What matters is that they're there," President George W. Bush said last week. Precisely why, at whose direction or invitation, and with what long-term goals: all that remains in doubt. Bush, even as he said the group had "harmed our troops," suggested how much remains unknown: "I do not know whether or not...
  • Sat Wars?

    China’s been playing follow the leader in space for a long time. Back in 1957, when the Soviet Union launched its first object into orbit, the late Great Helmsman Mao Zedong complained that Beijing “couldn’t even put a potato into space.” But Beijing’s been scrambling to catch up ever since. In 1970 China launched its first successful satellite, and sent a Chinese astronaut into orbit for the first time in 2003. The fact that much of China’s space technology is derived from decades-old Russian and American models hasn’t deterred Beijing from pursuing antisatellite weapons, which Washington and Moscow both stopped testing way back in the ‘80s. To some, China’s version of “Star Wars: the Sequel” was shaping up to look more like an attack of the clones.Even so, the international community was startled by China’s successful test of a satellite-killing ballistic missile on Jan. 11, which triggered protests from the United States, Japan, Australia and other countries. A defunct Chinese...
  • A General’S Baptism Of Fire

    Room 325 of the Senate’s Russell Office Building—the cavernous and overgilded Caucus Room—makes an unlikely theater of war. But Lt. Gen. David Petraeus underwent a baptism of fire there at his confirmation hearing to be the new commander in Iraq. In the space of four hours Tuesday, Petraeus faced probing attacks from both flanks, a couple of ambushes and—from presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton—a full-blown artillery barrage. Petraeus had come with only light reinforcements: three aides instead of the 10 for whom chairs had been reserved. Still, he defended his position with all the tenacity of a former commander of the 101st Airborne until he was lured into an incautious expeditionary sally beyond his lines, strayed into a minefield and had to be rescued by a coalition of forces.All in all, it was excellent preparation for Iraq.At some point in this brief but intense campaign of words, Petraeus might have been forgiven for reflecting that Prussian military strategist...
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    Blame For The Top Brass

    Given all the recriminations over the mess in Iraq, it is remarkable how little criticism has fallen on the U.S. military. Americans want to honor the sacrifice of the troops in the field and they may feel guilty about the cold reception given many veterans returning from the Vietnam War. But in the public blame game that's erupted on Capitol Hill and on the cable news talk shows, the armed services are largely given a free pass.Some top soldiers, however, aren't so sure they should be let off the hook. Is there, NEWSWEEK asked retired Gen. William Nash, who commanded U.S. forces in Bosnia in the 1990s and remains plugged in, a sense within the Army of mistakes made in Iraq? "It's pervasive," he answered. Gen. Jack Keane, the Army vice chief of staff at the time of the Iraq invasion in March 2003, told NEWSWEEK: "Everyone recognizes that we made mistakes. The harder part is what to learn from them."No one understands the Army's march of folly in Iraq better than the commander who...
  • Defense: The Pentagon Handoff

    It's "the long goodbye"--Pentagon style. Donald Rumsfeld's successor as Defense secretary, Robert Gates, is due to have his confirmation hearing in early December--a process Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada predicted would be swift. "We want the change to take place very quickly," Reid said.Not so quickly, after all. A White House spokesperson confirms that Gates will be sworn in as the new Defense secretary "in the new year," a good two weeks after his confirmation. According to the White House, Gates needs extra time to wind up affairs as president of Texas A&M University. But that's news in College Station, Texas, where Gates has been handing everything over to the man he calls "my strong right arm," the executive vice president and provost, David Pratt. Gates has publicly announced that he will quit A&M on "completion of the confirmation process and a Senate vote."The mixed messages have fueled speculation over the delayed departure. One source close to the...
  • Talking With the Enemy

    Over a dinner of savory kebab, they talked of the trips they've taken, and their favorite places. James Baker, the longtime confidant of the Bush family, spoke nostalgically of his visits to Iran before 1979, the year the Islamic revolution and hostage crisis put an end to diplomatic ties. Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, politely aired past grievances, complaining that U.S. administrations dating back to George H.W. Bush--when Baker was secretary of State--had failed to take Iran seriously. Zarif said the Americans never showed appreciation for Tehran's help in freeing U.S.hostages in Lebanon in the early '90s --and, more recently, for countering the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to two participants at the meeting who agreed to describe it on the condition of anonymity. Zarif's not-so-subtle message: Iran isn't giving anything for free anymore. Tehran is interested only in a broader deal that links the U.S. desire for help in Iraq with Iran's desire to be...
  • A Warrior Lays Down His Arms

    There weren't many people in the Pentagon brave enough to give bad news to Donald Rumsfeld. Jim Roche, though, was one. The Air Force secretary and his boss shared Chicago roots and Washington ties going back 30 years--and, like Rummy, the white-haired Roche had made a lot of money in business. In the fall of 2002 it was becoming clear inside the Pentagon that George W. Bush intended to invade Iraq. A worried Roche dragooned the then Army secretary, Thomas White, to join him for a frank talk with Rumsfeld, according to a knowledgeable source who asked for anonymity because he was describing a private conversation. With some trepidation, the pair marched up to Rummy's elaborate dark-paneled office in the E-Ring, the power corridor of the Pentagon. "Don, you do realize that Iraq could be another Vietnam?" Roche asked. Rumsfeld, a political survivor of the Watergate era whose main goal was to exorcise the ghost of Vietnam forever--restoring American power and prestige in the world--was...
  • North Korea: Help From Beijing

    Beijing may have saved President Bush from a tough decision: whether to order a pre-emptive strike against North Korea's main missile-launch facility. In the wake of Kim Jong Il's nuclear test, the White House was alarmed at the prospect that Kim was planning to explode a second nuclear device while also firing off a second test flight of North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile. The first T-2 test fizzled in July. U.S. analysts, calculating from satellite pix of the T-2 on its launchpad then, reckon its stages are big enough to carry the fuel for intercontinental range: it could theoretically hit the West Coast. So successful tests of both North Korea's nuke and its ICBM would raise real fears that Pyongyang could directly threaten the United States--which would generate unstoppable political pressure for decisive U.S. action. To forestall this, one option under urgent debate inside the administration (according to senior officials, anonymous because of the sensitive situation) was a pre...
  • A Script for Doomsday

    Kim Jong Il doesn’t need the bomb to defend his country. If military force were an acceptable option against Pyongyang, you probably would have forgotten the North Korean dictator’s name long ago—if you ever knew it in the first place.The Pentagon has been bracing for trouble on the peninsula ever since the 1953 armistice. The basic plan, in place for almost 50 years, is predicated on a North Korean invasion of the South. But in the early 1990s, that plan was expanded. Titled OPPLAN 5027, it now lays out a campaign in which, the invading North Korean Army having been destroyed, U.S. and South Korean forces invade the North and topple the regime. The Pentagon even has a contingency plan for taking out all known nuclear facilities in the North.Kim shouldn’t lose sleep over it.Not that he should dream of invading the South. Defeating such a move would be bloody but relatively simple, the Pentagon’s planners expect. “We will halt the North Korean Army in the passes,” Colin Powell, then...
  • Periscope

    The Bush administration insists Iraq is a long way from civil war, but the contingency planning has already begun inside the White House and the Pentagon. President George W. Bush will move U.S. troops out of Iraq if the country descends into civil war, according to one senior Bush aide who declined to be named while talking about internal strategy. "If there's a full-blown civil war, the president isn't going to allow our forces to be caught in the crossfire," the aide said. "But institutionally, the government of Iraq isn't breaking down. It's still a unity government." Bush's position on a pull-out of U.S. troops emerged in response to NEWSWEEK's questions about Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Warner warned last week that the president might require a new vote from Congress to allow troops to stay in Iraq in what he called "all-out civil war." But the senior Bush aide said the White House would need no prompting from Congress to get troops out "if the...
  • Exclusive: Iraq--Plans in Case of a Civil War

    The Bush administration insists Iraq is a long way from civil war, but the contingency planning has already begun inside the White House and the Pentagon. President Bush will move U.S. troops out of Iraq if the country descends into civil war, according to one senior Bush aide who declined to be named while talking about internal strategy. "If there's a full-blown civil war, the president isn't going to allow our forces to be caught in the crossfire," the aide said. "But institutionally, the government of Iraq isn't breaking down. It's still a unity government." Bush's position on a pullout of U.S. troops emerged in response to news-week's questions about Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Warner warned last week that the president might require a new vote from Congress to allow troops to stay in Iraq in what he called "all-out civil war." But the senior Bush aide said the White House would need no prompting from Congress to get troops out "if the Iraqi...
  • Justice: Immune?

    The arrest of former U.S. Army Pfc. Steven D. Green--for the alleged rape of an Iraqi woman and the murder of her and three relatives near the town of Mahmudiyah--brought apologies from U.S. officials. But that didn't stem a growing debate over Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, which exempts members of the U.S. military from Iraqi laws. "We cannot go on having these unfortunate incidents repeated, and we have to work on stopping them from happening again," Iraqi national-security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told NEWSWEEK. "There is no way we can accept CPA Order 17 anymore." U.S. officials, unnamed because of diplomatic sensitivities, said Iraqi P.M. Maliki's need to oppose the order might lessen if any wrongdoers in the Haditha and Mahmudiyah cases are held accountable. Green pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court last week.
  • The Hidden General

    No one would have mentioned his name at all if President George W. Bush hadn't singled him out in public. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, West Point '76, is not someone the Army likes to talk about. He isn't even listed in the directory at Fort Bragg, N.C., his home base. That's not because McChrystal has done anything wrong--quite the contrary, he's one of the Army's rising stars--but because he runs the most secretive force in the U.S. military. That is the Joint Special Operations Command, the snake-eating, slit-their-throats "black ops" guys who captured Saddam Hussein and targeted Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.JSOC is part of what Vice President Dick Cheney was referring to when he said America would have to "work the dark side" after 9/11. To many critics, the veep's remark back in 2001 fostered his rep as the Darth Vader of the war on terror and presaged bad things to come, like the interrogation abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. But America also has its share of Jedi Knights who...
  • Investigation: Lessons of Abu Ghraib

    It's unclear if possible charges against Marines allegedly involved in the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians last November will cause dismissals at the top of the corps. The investigation is continuing, but Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee is taking pre-emptive measures. He briefed select members of Congress on the probe, then traveled to Iraq to lecture troops on the laws of war. One confidant (a senior Marine officer not directly involved in the case, granted anonymity discussing an ongoing probe) said Hagee wants to avoid the mistakes made by the military in the Abu Ghraib scandal, when details dripped out over months and top officers weren't held accountable. "Mike thinks the fallout from Abu Ghraib would have been far less damaging if senior heads had rolled, and rolled pretty swiftly," said the officer. Congressmen who heard the briefing say the shootings of Iraqi civilians in the Sunni town of Hadithah after a bomb killed a Marine could shape up as the worst atrocity of the...
  • Anatomy of a Revolt

    Gen. Eric Shinseki, former chief of staff of the Army, says he is "at peace." But reached last week, he didn't sound all that peaceful. In the winter of 2003, alone among the top brass, Shinseki had warned Congress that occupying Iraq would require "several hundred thousand troops." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, had rewarded Shinseki for his honesty by publicly castigating and shunning him.Last fall, Shinseki went to the 40th reunion of the class of '65 at West Point. It has been reported that his classmates were wearing caps emblazoned RIC WAS RIGHT. Last week NEWSWEEK e-mailed Shinseki to ask about the reports. Shinseki called back to say he had heard "rumors" about the caps. But, NEWSWEEK asked, wasn't he there? "Well," he replied, "I saw a cap."Shinseki, who has retired to Hawaii, was clearly uncomfortable with the role of martyr. He had no desire to join the chorus of retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's resignation. He was circumspect...