John Barry

Stories by John Barry

  • Evil In The Cross Hairs

    It must be one of the most repulsive home movies ever made. Osama bin Laden chuckles contentedly over slaughtering his own men along with several thousand Americans, while his flunkies kiss up to him like junior executives at bonus time. Except in the minds of Middle Easterners who preferred to fantasize about conspiracy theories, the dimly lit hourlong video, filmed on Nov. 9 and obtained in early December from a house in Jalalabad, left no doubt that bin Laden was behind the September 11 attacks. Family members of the victims said the grainy videotape made them too sick to watch. In the hearts of many Americans, bin Laden's smirking and gloating, at once evil and banal, inspired an overwhelming desire for revenge.They may get it soon enough. Late last week bin Laden appeared to be staging his last stand. Afghan fighters, aided by Delta Force and other U.S. and British Special Forces, closed in on the Tora Bora caves, while U.S. warplanes rained down precision-guided bombs as well...
  • Facing A Long, Cold War

    Commander Rakhmad Gol is enjoying himself. For the past six years he's been fighting a frustrating war against the Taliban, usually enduring defeat, sometimes making small but costly gains of territory. Now he's watching raptly as U.S. warplanes bomb Taliban positions just a few hundred yards away. He exults as a dark gray cloud of smoke and dust bursts into the bright blue sky above the Shamali Plain. The boom from the explosion arrives a few seconds later. "There, look, that was right on target," he says, cheering the destruction of what he says was a Taliban tank and gun emplacement. The threadbare soldiers under Gol's command are getting into the spirit of things, too. Walkie-talkies crackle as fighters hurl insults at the Taliban over a shared frequency. "If the Americans give our government all the help they can," says Abdul Sabur, who has been fighting in Afghanistan's caves and trenches for six of his 21 years, "we will end this war fast."That is extremely unlikely. Gol and...
  • Priority: Pakistan's Nukes

    The 2,200 troops of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are cooped up on the assault ship USS Peleliu, presumably itching for action. If they ever go ashore, it's as likely to be in Pakistan as Afghanistan. Given serious trouble in Pakistan--if, say, President Pervez Musharraf were overthrown by forces friendly to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden--the Marines would be charged with protecting and evacuating Americans and other Westerners. But sources have told NEWSWEEK the Marines could also be sent on a more momentous and desperate mission: safeguarding Pakistan's nuclear weapons and materials, to keep them away from bin Laden.Whether the Marines would actually be needed for such a task, and whether they could pull it off, remains unclear. Sources say Musharraf has strengthened security at Pakistan's nuclear facilities since September 11. Last week his foreign minister, Abdul Sattar, insisted the nukes were "under foolproof custodial controls." Musharraf also has purged Taliban...
  • The War Of The Night

    Special Forces Open The Ground War. The Making Of Elite Fighters--And The Battle They Face
  • A Fight Over The Next Front

    In the military, which has an acronym for everything, there are a number of ways to express, by means of abbreviated profanity, that things are not going well. In World War II, the Greatest Generation talked about "snafus" and situations that were "fubar." Around the Pentagon during the opening days of the First War of the 21st century, the abbreviation of the moment is AOS, which, politely translated, means All Options Stink.Toppling the Taliban and nabbing Osama bin Laden were supposed to be just the first steps in the new war on terrorism. The more difficult challenge, it seemed, would be rolling up Al Qaeda cells in 60 nations around the globe and then taking on Iraq's Saddam Hussein and eliminating his weapons of mass destruction. The Taliban could hardly be a match for the world's greatest superpower, and Americans, conditioned by Hollywood, could readily visualize Delta Force storming bin Laden's cave.American Special Forces may indeed stage a commando raid inside Afghanistan...
  • Commandos: The Real Tip Of The Spear

    It is usually the disasters that people remember. In 1979 it was the helicopters of Desert One lying burned and gutted in the Iranian desert; inside were eight dead Delta Force commandos and pilots who never got off the ground in a botched effort to rescue the hostages in Tehran. There was the debacle in Mogadishu in 1993, when the world watched a dead Army Ranger dragged through the streets as gleeful Somalis danced around him. The successes of America's Special Forces, almost by definition, don't make it onto CNN. The men who run those bold operations, like Rear Adm. Albert Calland, must take pride in their own secret memories.Calland, a fresh-faced former Navy SEAL, ran the naval Special Forces unit that in 1987- 88 fought a covert war in the Persian Gulf. The Reagan administration wanted to stop Iranian Special Forces from disrupting oil shipping during the Iran-Iraq War. Calland's men, secretly running high-speed launches from drilling barges, worked with helicopter-borne Army...
  • Behind America's Attack On Afghanistan

    George W. Bush had promised the war on terrorism would be a war like no other, and on Sunday he delivered. Striking a blow for the hearts and minds of Muslims at the same time he struck Afghanistan, the president fired the opening salvos of Operation Enduring Freedom at midday. In a television address to the nation soon after, he pledged that the campaign would not be short. Invoking what promises to become his mantra, he told the American people, "We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail."After weeks of careful deployments--and intransigence from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, Bush decided on the timing for the strikes last Wednesday, NEWSWEEK has learned. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had returned from a trip to shore up support in the Mideast on Saturday, mapped out the final details early Sunday morning. So closely held was the plan that even the president's close friend and advisor, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, had to travel back...
  • How To Strike Back

    Afghanistan is a country of jagged ridges and deep gorges that is about the size of Texas. It is nature's gift to guerrilla warfare. And for centuries it has been known as the place where great powers go to die. The terrain was a nightmare for both Soviet and British troops, who were ambushed from the hills, massacred in the passes, cornered on the steep, treeless mountainsides. Afghanistan's modern history of slaughter, of skewered hubris, goes back to 1842, when 16,500 British soldiers and civilians were killed in a winter retreat from Kabul; only one escaped. In the 1980s, supplied with U.S. Stinger missiles, mujahedin guerrillas fought off every major Soviet offensive in the Panjshir Valley, taking out Moscow's helicopters and planes. "You can easily go inside Afghanistan, but you will not come out easily," Maj. Gen. Hamid Gul, the former head of Pakistani intelligence, said to a NEWSWEEK reporter last week. He was only echoing Rudyard Kipling, who more than 100 years earlier...
  • Alleged Hijackers May Have Trained At U.S. Bases

    U.S. military sources have given the FBI information that suggests five of the alleged hijackers of the planes that were used in Tuesday's terror attacks received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990s.Three of the alleged hijackers listed their address on drivers licenses and car registrations as the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.-known as the "Cradle of U.S. Navy Aviation," according to a high-ranking U.S. Navy source.Another of the alleged hijackers may have been trained in strategy and tactics at the Air War College in Montgomery, Ala., said another high-ranking Pentagon official. The fifth man may have received language instruction at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tex. Both were former Saudi Air Force pilots who had come to the United States, according to the Pentagon source.But there are slight discrepancies between the military training records and the official FBI list of suspected hijackers-either in the spellings of their names or with...
  • Spin (Out Of) Control

    Last week British paratrooper Ian Collins, 22, was killed on the first day that NATO began collecting weapons from Albanian guerrillas in Macedonia. Officials blamed a gang of youths who threw a concrete slab off a bridge onto a British jeep. But there are indications that the attack was organized and premeditated, and may even have had tacit police support, according to NATO sources. It wasn't an encouraging start to a mission that has already violated many of the conditions NATO set for itself.Under the peace plan, Macedonia's Parliament has to respond to the weapons surrender by beginning a reform of the Constitution that would grant improved rights, official citizen status and more jobs to ethnic Albanian minorities, as well as give amnesty to demobilized rebels; a vote is expected this week. If it's voted down, the peace process will go down with it and NATO will presumably have to go home--providing yet another condition for the alliance to violate in order to stay in...
  • Periscope

    President George W. Bush's talk of "a new relationship" with Russia in which the cold-war standoff gives way to "a new strategic paradigm." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in Moscow this week, in fact, for talks tying U.S. missile defenses to deep cuts in nuclear weapons. But NEWSWEEK has learned that, behind the scenes, the administration is embarking on a 10-year, multibillion-dollar program to modernize capabilities to make nuclear weapons.The force behind the program--formally titled "The Recapitalization Initiative"--is retired Air Force Gen. John Gordon, former No. 2 at the CIA who now runs the National Nuclear Security Administration. Last spring he warned Congress that so much of the nuclear complex was decrepit that "we're faced with... a crisis in the facilities." At a briefing for the president and top officials, Bush expressed dismay at the state of the plants--but aides held that a formal proposal to upgrade the facilities would generate fresh controversy about...
  • Dropping The Bomb

    The 20-minute briefing at the White House last month was dry and crammed with statistics and acronyms, but it got the president's attention. The U.S. nuclear arsenal today includes 5,400 warheads loaded on intercontinental ballistic missiles at land and sea; an additional 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and B-52 bombers; a further 1,670 nuclear weapons classified as "tactical." And just in case, an additional 10,000 or so nuclear warheads held in bunkers around the United States as a "hedge" against future surprises. According to a knowledgeable source, Bush was stunned at the amount of destructive power in a president's hands. "I had no idea we had so many weapons," he said. "What do we need them for?"Good question--but one without a simple or easy answer. Ever since U.S. nuclear-attack plans were codified into a Single Integrated Operating Plan (SIOP) in 1960, presidents have been appalled by the very notion of having one day to open the...
  • The Pentagon's Guru

    In a city where few stars shine for longer than a presidential term or two, Andrew Marshall has inhabited the same set of dingy offices in the Pentagon (suite 3A930), just down the hall from the secretary of Defense (3E880), for the past 28 years. In a government where leaking is an instrument of policy, he shuns publicity. At briefings, he drones and mumbles; the military brass have nicknamed him Yoda. And as a schmoozer, he is described--by a friend--as "almost impossible to conduct a conversation with." Yet to his many admirers, Marshall is a cult figure, the most original thinker in the defense establishment. ...
  • Hard Sell

    President Bush's team of top-level officials fans out across Europe this week to begin selling the Administration's ideas for a new nuclear strategy and the case for missile defenses. Their mission, NEWSWEEK has learned, is to pave the way for the President's scheduled summit with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels in mid-June. The White House goal is to have Bush come home from that sesssion carrying a joint NATO statement echoing language similar to what Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed on at Camp David in February: "We recognize the existence of a common threat stemming from the growing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.....We need to obstruct and deter these new threats with a strategy that encompasses both offensive and defensive systems." ...
  • A New Pacific Strategy

    When Disney Productions descended on Hawaii last year to film its forthcoming movie about Pearl Harbor, director Michael Bay was ecstatic at the condition of the U.S. naval base there. "Admiral, this is great," he said to the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Dennis Blair. "To film a historical movie here we don't have to change a thing." ...
  • Fire In The Mountains

    Sulejman Ramadani, 41, was opening his garage door one day last week when a sniper's bullet pierced his forehead. Now the engineer's two sons, 4 and 2, have no father. The Ramadanis are ethnic Albanians, like most of their neighbors in Macedonia's second largest city, Tetovo. The same is true of the guerrillas who control the heights above the city. That awkward fact hasn't stopped the sharpshooters and mortar crews from raining death onto their ethnic kinsmen below. The gunmen may eventually go after the Slavs, who make up two thirds of Macedonia's population and largely control the former Yugoslav Republic's economy and government. Right now, though, the fighters have implicitly declared war on a more helpless foe: moderate Albanians. ...
  • Walking Back Into A War

    It was the biggest accomplishment of his first solo trip abroad, but Secretary of State Colin Powell didn't seem triumphant. Traveling to Damascus at a time when the United States has few friends in the Arab world, Powell extracted a pledge from Syrian leader Bashar Assad to plug the gap Assad's nation had opened in U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq. Syria would no longer pay Saddam directly for Iraqi oil (the money would go to a U.N. escrow account instead). In return, Washington would drop most of the trade embargo against Iraq, banning only military and some "dual use" items--consumer goods with a military application. "Very interesting," said Assad, the young, lanky son of former Syrian dictator Hafez Assad. "We've been telling you [to do] that for two years." Powell smiled, but his mood seemed as restrained as the Syrian pledge. "These are not decisions I make on my own," he told Assad. Then Powell joked, somewhat wistfully, "It was different when I was a general." ...
  • Familiar Waters

    Donald Rumsfeld is not exactly the sort of man a Georgetown hostess would describe as "cozy." While he's charming when he wants to be, the former Princeton football and wrestling captain and Navy pilot has been known through his long career as a tough infighter. He is blunt and sometimes cutting in private, stern and forceful in public. But to George W. Bush, Rumsfeld, his nominee for secretary of Defense, is as comforting as the goose-feather pillow that Bush took along on the campaign trail to help him sleep at night. As the president-elect all but completed filling his cabinet last week, it became strikingly apparent whom he wants by his side in the Oval Office. For the jobs presidents usually deem most important, the offices that must cope with economic and national-security crises, Bush tapped a certain type: seasoned, non-ideological, pragmatic, discreet--and, perhaps above all, loyal. Even W's most conservative domestic appointees--John Ashcroft for attorney general and Gale...
  • Leader Of The Pack

    Stories that people tell about Colin Powell always seem to have the same ending. Like the time in 1972 when Powell, then a newly minted major in the Army, was trying out for a prestigious White House fellowship. The final shortlist had 33 candidates, and after Powell left the interviewing room, the chairman of the selection board looked around and said, "Right, so it's Colin Powell and who else?" Later, when Powell became a general, his Pentagon staffers looked upon him "almost like a sage," recalls one. "He was magnificent," says the officer. "He was just right all the time." Much later, after Powell became chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his incisive mind and calm manner brought order to meandering national-security meetings in the early Clinton administration. "It was so clear to all of us that he could do any job in the room, up to and including president," the late Les Aspin, the former Defense secretary, once recalled. "You pay attention to Colin."The entire world is going to do...
  • A Cry From The Deep

    The letter came from a steel tomb on the floor of the Barents Sea. "All personnel from compartments six, seven and eight moved to the ninth," wrote a round-faced, 27-year-old naval officer, Lt. Capt. Dmitry Kolesnikov. Nearly two hours had passed since the shattering explosion that sank the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk last Aug. 12, killing most of the 118 crew members almost immediately. The watertight ninth compartment was designed for escape, and it happened to be the farthest part of the submarine from the site of the explosion. "There are 23 of us here," wrote Kolesnikov. Apparently some of the survivors were hideously burned; others had been injured by flying debris. Two or three sailors tried to flee through a hatch on the top of the compartment but found the escape tube flooded. The lights were dimming, the temperature was dropping, water was leaking in and the air was turning foul. "None of us," Kolesnikov wrote, "can get to the surface."The note began with neat, cursive...
  • A Mystery In The Deep

    The floor of the Barents Sea at 69'40" north, 37'35" east, is a place of pure, disorienting darkness. Shine a light and mostly what you'd see is decomposing matter--dead plankton, particles from old skins shed by crustaceans, bits of waste from marine life above--what divers call "marine snow." The term is doubly apt because arctic water is very cold here, 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The place is mostly quiet. But at odd intervals last week, faint metallic pings could be picked up by electronic listening devices. They came from the great black husk of the Kursk, a crippled Russian submarine stranded on the bottom. Russian authorities say a sailor was banging out messages on the hull, probably with a hammer. His 19,000-ton nuclear-powered vessel had no power, no light. Oxygen was dwindling, replaced by deadly carbon dioxide. Many of the sailor's comrades were certainly dead as a result of a catastrophic accident; others were likely bloodied, bruised, shivering in the frigid dark of...
  • A Shot In The Dark

    It was classic Bill Clinton, the statesman as salesman. As he toured the capitals of Europe last week on his way to a Moscow summit, he smoothly tried to sell America's allies on the concept of a national missile defense. With the cold war over, Clinton argued, the biggest nuclear threat comes from "rogue states" like North Korea or Iraq that might be tempted to lob a nuclear warhead, or--more likely--use their missiles as chips in a game of blackmail. The United States not only has the technology to stop such a threat; the world's most magnanimous superpower is willing to share its know-how with "other civilized nations," said Clinton. To fail to do so would be "unethical," the president declared.His hosts listened warily. "We have to be very careful that any such project does not retrigger... a renewed arms race," warned German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. The reception in Moscow over the weekend was expected to be even chillier. The Russians are fearful that Washington will junk...
  • Probing A Slaughter

    Veterans of operation desert Storm sometimes call the Battle of Rumaylah the Battle of the Junkyard, because when it was over, the battlefield was scattered with the burned-out remains of 600 Iraqi tanks, armored personnel carriers, guns and trucks. Actually, it wasn't much of a battle. Only one American tank was lost --burned when an Iraqi tank exploded beside it --and only a single American soldier was injured.Last week, in The New Yorker magazine, a 25,000-word article by famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh raised serious questions about the commander who ordered this one-sided attack, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a much decorated Vietnam veteran who is now President Clinton's chief adviser on drug policy. The article quoted eye-witnesses and senior officers who questioned McCaffrey's judgment for ordering an all-out assault on a retreating Iraqi tank division two days after the war had been halted by an American ceasefire. Even if the Iraqis had fired on McCaffrey's 24th...
  • The Kosovo Cover-Up

    It was acclaimed as the most successful air campaign ever. "A turning point in the history of warfare," wrote the noted military historian John Keegan, proof positive that "a war can be won by airpower alone." At a press conference last June, after Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic agreed to pull his Army from Kosovo at the end of a 78-day aerial bombardment that had not cost the life of a single NATO soldier or airman, Defense Secretary William Cohen declared, "We severely crippled the [Serb] military forces in Kosovo by destroying more than 50 percent of the artillery and one third of the armored vehicles." Displaying colorful charts, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Henry Shelton claimed that NATO's air forces had killed "around 120 tanks," "about 220 armored personnel carriers" and "up to 450 artillery and mortar pieces."An antiseptic war, fought by pilots flying safely three miles high. It seems almost too good to be true--and it was. In fact--as some critics suspected at...
  • The New Urban Battlefield

    The battle of Grozny was long and bloody--for Russian attackers as well as the Chechen defenders. But you won't see any condescending head-wagging in the U.S. military. As one senior Pentagon official said last week, "I'm not so sure that we'd do a whole lot better than the Russians." That's a problem; in the view of many military analysts, the killing grounds of Grozny offer a hellish view of tomorrow's warfare.The U.S. Army used to have a simple way of dealing with cities: avoid them. The cost in street-fighting casualties was just too steep. That was one reason that, in 1945, the Army didn't try to take Berlin, a battle that Gen. Omar Bradley told Dwight Eisenhower "might cost us 100,000 men." Bradley was right. The Red Army, which did fight its way into Berlin, lost 102,000 men doing so; 125,000 German civilians died in the battle, and 150,000 to 200,000 German troops. If cities couldn't be avoided, U.S. military doctrine had a fallback plan: flatten them, which is what, in 1968...
  • Not Your Father's Army

    Gen. Eric Shinseki, chief of staff of the Army, looks and sounds like the future. A Japanese-American, the first nonwhite to hold the Army's top command post, he talks about the need to "transform" the Army into a leaner, quicker fighting force that can go anywhere in the world on short notice. He wants to be able to put five divisions on the front lines inside of a month--versus the six months it took to field Operation Desert Storm. He has even openly discussed replacing the Army's most sainted weapon, the tank, with lighter wheeled armored vehicles.Ambitious and farsighted ideas, but meanwhile the Army continues work on the Crusader, its latest "big gun"--a self-propelled, computer-aimed 155mm howitzer cannon built to rapid-fire while careering about the battlefield at 60 mph. The Army wants to buy 1,100 Crusaders at a cost of about $11 billion. The problem: the Crusader's firing-control system is about as complex as that of a fighter plane and difficult to maintain under combat...
  • Bittersweet Revenge

    Nawaz Sharif was democratically elected, but he isn't a democrat. The former Pakistani prime minister, ousted last week in a coup, acted more like a despot after his landslide election victory in 1997. He amended the Constitution to strip the president of the power to remove him. He sacked the chief justice and carried out vicious vendettas against journalists who dared to criticize him or his cronies. He treated the country like a family estate, seeding national institutions with relatives and friends. And he did all this even as he led the economy to further ruin. So when Nawaz last week tried to oust his popular Army chief, Gen. Musharraf Parvez, the generals ousted him instead. People cheered in the streets, burning pictures of Nawaz and handing out sweets to passersby. A venerable Pakistani newspaper, The Frontier Post, summed up the mood in an editorial: "The Nawaz government has met the fate it deserved."So Pakistan's latest coup isn't anything to worry about, right? Wrong....
  • All Bets Are Off

    The Democrats thought they had a deal. At 2:30 last Tuesday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle told his colleagues that he had just shaken hands with Republican leader Trent Lott. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, said Daschle, would not be brought to the Senate floor, where it faced certain defeat. In return, the Democrat had promised that his colleagues would not try to get the treaty considered next year--in effect, a commitment to take the issue of nuclear testing out of electoral politics.Daschle was mistaken. Lott, who would later say, "There was never a handshake, there was never an agreement," met later Tuesday with Republican hard-liners, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl. Both men have long been convinced that the treaty's ban on nuclear testing was effectively unverifiable, unenforceable and against the national interests of the United States. His colleagues left Lott in no doubt; if he did a deal with...
  • The Myths Of The Test Ban Treaty

    The U.S. Senate debate on the comprehensive Test Ban Treaty lived down to expectations. As usual when nuclear weapons are the topic, both sides hyped their cases and avoided real issues. For its supporters, the treaty was "a watershed." For its opponents, rejection was a duty to generations unborn: his "nay" vote, Republican Senate leader Trent Lott explained, "was about my country. My children."Spare us. The test ban treaty is, by some margin, more symbol than substance. Its passage would have less impact on the spread of nuclear weapons than, say, the Senate's (less publicized) decisions to provide funding to help Russia guard its vast and vulnerable nuclear stockpiles. The real flaw in the test ban treaty is a fatal confusion between arms control and disarmament. Masked by that are fundamental questions about the role the United States will play in global security during the next 50 years, and about what part nuclear weapons should play in that. Therein lies the real topic for...