John Barry

Stories by John Barry

  • Another Country On The Brink

    Nawaz Sharif was democratically elected, but he isn't a democrat. The former Pakistani prime minister, ousted last week in a military coup, acted more like a despot after his landslide election victory in 1997. He amended the Constitution to strip the power of the president and remove the prime minister. Nawaz 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 of 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 Pakistani newspaper, the Frontier Post, summed up the national mood in an editorial: "The Nawaz government has met the fate it deserved."So Pakistan's latest coup isn't anything...
  • Warrior's Rewards

    Gen. Wesley Clark, supreme Allied Commander in Europe, waged and won NATO's campaign for Kosovo without losing a single soldier in action. For the U.S. military, the victory was uniquely--historically--bloodless. Last week Clark learned it was also thankless.In a midnight call from Washington, Clark was told he'd be relieved of his command at NATO next April, a few months earlier than he'd anticipated. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton, presented the decision as a simple matter of giving the post to another deserving officer. Clark, who got the call in the middle of a quick trip to the Baltic republics, was caught off balance. He'd seen Shelton in the United States just the week before. Not a word had been breathed of his replacement. According to one source privy to the conversation, Clark told Shelton the move would be read as a vote of no-confidence in his leadership.Shelton, brisk and businesslike, said there was no way around it. His replacement--Air...
  • Nato's Game Of Chicken

    It was billed as the biggest, bloodiest strike of the war. On June 7, U.S. B-52s dropped several cluster bombs on Yugoslav forces at Mount Pastrik, a strategic battlefield on the Kosovo-Albanian border. The assault, one of the final salvos in a 78-day campaign in which 37,200 air sorties had hammered Yugoslavia, came as Slobodan Milosevic seemed to be stalling on a peace pact he had signed a few days before. At the time, NATO claimed that several hundred Serb soldiers were slaughtered on Mount Pastrik as Milosevic's forces massed to fend off the attacking Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The raid on the mountain was said to be the final blow to the tottering Serb tyrant; two days later he directed his generals to comply with the alliance's schedule for a Serb withdrawal from Kosovo. The world was left with the image of NATO's overwhelming might, of a dictator and his army quaking--and suffering thousands of casualties during the war, compared with none for NATO forces. Washington began...
  • A Military Myth

    The last time someone tried to invade their country, the Yugoslavs fought them to a standstill, tying up dozens of Nazi divisions for the duration of World War II. After the war and the break with Stalin, Josip Broz Tito trained his army in partisan tactics to wage a guerrilla-style war against a superior invading force. It is this heritage that makes Yugoslavia such a tough opponent in a ground war. Or so the Yugoslavs want to believe. Like many self-glorifying military traditions, this one is mostly myth. If NATO invades Yugoslavia on the ground, it will face an army led by demoralized officers, manned largely by reluctant short-term conscripts and trained in static Soviet-style tactics. As Tito's federation broke up in the early '90s, Yugoslavia's Army was beaten by the much smaller Croatian Army. Against NATO, the Yugoslavs wouldn't stand a chance on a conventional battlefield, and whatever partisan fighting skills they still possess aren't enough to guarantee Slobodan Milosevic...
  • Why Troops Take Time

    As the air war in Kosovo grinds on, the inevitable question keeps coming up: why not send in ground troops to stop Slobodan Milosevic's brutality against ethnic Albanians? Last week several members of Congress came out in favor of troops, arguing that calling up America's superior armed forces to crush the Yugoslav Army could quickly end the conflict. It might not be that easy . Since last summer, NATO and Pentagon war planners have been grappling with a logistical nightmare: how to rapidly transport the thousands of soldiers and millions of pounds of equipment that would be required to get the job done.In reality, there would be nothing quick about a military buildup in Kosovo. It could take months of preparation before the first soldier ever hit the ground there. Why such a long lead time? A U.S. armored division is arguably the most lethal fighting force in history. But it is not small, or easy to move around. Technological advancements have not changed an ancient fact of war:...
  • How We Stumbled Into War

    Nearly two weeks before bombs and cruise missiles began to blast Yugoslavia, Bill Clinton's top advisers thought they had Slobodan Milosevic in a corner. On Saturday, March 13, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, national-security adviser Sandy Berger, Defense Secretary William Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton were in the Situation Room, the wood-paneled, basement bunker in the White House. In two days, at talks in Paris, the Kosovar Albanians would sign on to an 80-page plan to stop the fighting in Kosovo and restore a measure of autonomy to the breakaway province. Now it was up to Milosevic: sign or be bombed. If he resisted, he would be alone in his defiance, facing the full might of NATO. Many believed that, at worst, he would negotiate after smelling the cordite from a few cruise missiles and bombs.Then, over a secure speakerphone, came the scratchy voice of Christopher Hill, the ambassador to Macedonia. He had been the point man in dealing with...
  • Spy-For-Spy Justice

    The mystery of the Chinese prisoner begins with his name. His Shanghai family is celebrated for its resistance to Japan, and he was raised on the run by a legendary communist general who gave him his nom de guerre, Hua Di. To this day Hua sees himself as a patriot. He became a father of the Chinese missile program but fell afoul of the leadership for signing a protest petition in the volatile spring of 1989. Hua found a safe haven at Stanford University for nearly a decade before securing what he thought was safe passage home early last year, only to be arrested. Now, friends and diplomats say, Hua is about to be put on trial for revealing "state secrets" while in exile.Hua could face life in prison as a traitor. But what worries his friends most is that his trial may come only weeks after the United States fired a Taiwan-born Los Alamos scientist for balking at an FBI probe into whether he passed nuclear-warhead secrets to Beijing. Fearing that Hua might be sacrificed in a game of...
  • 'The Penetration Is Total'

    The news was worse than the CIA had imagined. Last week, in response to recent reports that China may have stolen nuclear secrets from Los Alamos and other U.S. weapons labs, President Clinton ordered a preliminary "damage assessment" to determine just how much Beijing knows about the American nuclear program. CIA analysts had already pulled together intelligence data gleaned from U.S. espionage against China and now began poring through it for clues. It wasn't easy. The material was rich in detail: it included years' worth of communications intercepts and revelations from a 1995 Chinese defector who worked on the Chinese nuclear program and spilled to his U.S. handlers. But most of the data had been languishing unread in intelligence-agency computers--for years. Some hadn't even been translated from Chinese.NEWSWEEK has learned that when the CIA showed the material to a team of top nuclear-weapons experts, they "practically fainted." Chinese scientists routinely used phrases,...
  • Making A Symbol Of Terror

    Our guest has gone missing,'' read the Feb. 13 message from the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalists who rule Afghanistan. ""We did not order him to leave; we do not know where he has gone.'' And so was added one more mystery to the life of Osama bin Laden, a devout Muslim from one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia, a talented civil engineer, an agronomist, a brave war hero. And the world's most-wanted man. In a federal indictment in New York last November, bin Laden, with ""others known and unknown,'' was charged with bombing the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam last August--incidents that killed more than 220 people. Two weeks after the bombings, 80 cruise missiles launched from seven American warships hit bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan, and an alleged chemical-weapons factory of his in Sudan; the strike was the largest military action ever taken by a state against a private individual. Bin Laden survived. And in the teeming cities of the Islamic world,...
  • The New Star Wars

    THERE WAS A TIME WHEN RONALD Reagan's opponents lampooned his vision of a space shield against incoming nukes as the raving of a Hollywood madman. But today, 16 years after Reagan's famous "Star Wars" speech, and a decade since the fall of Moscow's "evil empire," the Clinton administration is pushing ahead with the next generation of antimissile missiles. Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative has been renamed the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and his dreams brought down to earth. In place of space lasers and launchers that would protect all of America "the way a roof protects a family from rain," as Reagan put it, Clinton plans land- and sea-based rockets to defend pockets of American troops and allies overseas. Like other Hollywood sequels, this one has a much bigger budget than the original--and a new Asian villain. Last month Clinton more than doubled ballistic-missile defense spending to a record $10 billion this year--citing in particular the growing missile threat...
  • Sand In Our Eyes

    THERE WAS DEFENSE SECRETARY William Cohen last week, giving another hair-raising briefing about chemical and biological weapons. Saddam Hussein has stored up enough VX nerve agent, Cohen warned, ""to kill every man, woman and child on the face of the earth.'' The soft-spoken former senator from Maine, who has emerged from the current showdown with Iraq as the Clinton administration's Dr. Doom, urgently demanded that U.N. arms inspectors be given ""unfettered opportunity'' to search any place Saddam might be hiding weapons of mass destruction--WMD, in U.N. jargon. ...
  • Rockets

    THE BEST-KNOWN EQUATION of the 20th century is E = mc(sup 2), Einstein's statement linking energy, matter and the speed of light. But another formula V = c log(sub e (sup M(sub i)/M(sub f)--has had at least as much impact on modern life. That's the equation relating the speed of a rocket to its other key characteristics: its weight and the efficiency of its motor. If you can get V up to 15,000 miles per hour, you can hold a missile in suborbital flight long enough to hit a city halfway round the world. Get V up to 17,000 mph, and you can put a satellite into orbit. And if V goes to 25,000 mph, you can break free of Earth's gravitational pull and fly to the moon.The age of the space rocket began on Oct. 3, 1942, on a small Baltic island off the north coast of Germany, when the Nazis' Peenemunde project conducted the first successful test of its A-4, later known to the world as the V-2. Riding a fiery column of burning gas, the operational V-2 scraped the underside of space, achieving...
  • Tomorrow's New Face Of Battle

    There is not one compelling reason to buy a single additional bomber, submarine or tank today, save the preservation of the industrial base. Yet even this is a dubious cause.IN THE CORRIDORS OF THE PENTAGON, LT. COL. Ralph Peters is known as one of the most intellectually gifted American soldiers of his generation. His argument, spelled out in a dozen essays that circulate like samizdat among army colleagues and defense buffs, is that the military is buying the wrong weapons to counter the wrong challenges. Now that the cold war is over, three simultaneous revolutions are underway in the armed forces: new missions, new expectations and new weapons. Under the circumstances, it's no surprise that the navy and air force are developing radically new weapons to use at sea and in the air. But if Peters is right, over the next 15 to 20 years even the earthbound army will have to reinvent itself.During the cold war, U.S. ground forces were configured, above all else, to stop the Soviet...
  • The Hunt For His Secret Weapons

    THE IMAGES, RAW AND GRUESOME, were a crucial piece of the puzzle. In the summer of 1995, the United Nations Special Committee (UNSCOM) inspectors scouring Iraq for Saddam Hussein's elusive weapons arsenal received a rare tip: visit a chicken farm west of Baghdad. There the team found videotapes of experiments Iraqi weapons scientists had performed on live animals. Dogs and monkeys, donkeys and sheep, their bodies pocked with open sores, were shown dying agonizing deaths after exposure to lethal bioagents. The tapes provided undeniable evidence of what investigators had long suspected: that Saddam had succeeded in producing an array of deadly biological weapons. ...
  • The Secret Computer Trade

    AT THE IBM OFFICE IN Moscow, the heat was on. The big, new Russia market beckoned, free from most of the Western export controls that kept high technology out of the Soviet Union for decades. By the mid-1990s, dozens of international computer manufacturers were competing for contracts, and ""there was terrible pressure from all sides to sell,'' recalls a former IBM employee in Moscow.Did that include selling supercomputers to a nuclear-weapons designer--a scandal that bubbled higher last week with fresh revelations in The New York Times? A grand jury in Washington is looking into those allegations, since such a sale would violate what's left of the cold-war-era export controls. And it could also embarrass the Clinton administration, which--according to the Russians--led them to believe they would get U.S. supercomputers.IBM spokesman Fred McNeese emphatically denied that the company had directly sold its SP/2 and RS/6000 models--two of the fastest and most powerful computers it...
  • Reality Check

    IF EVERYONE HAS 15 MINUTES OF fame, Jessica Stern says, ""I rather hope I'm on minute 13 of mine.'' Stern is an intensely serious, 39-year-old academic. She has a master's degree in chemical engineering from MIT and a doctorate in public policy from Harvard, and she speaks Russian fluently. In the normal course of events, she would now be finishing up a scholarly treatise on the threat of terrorists' using weapons of mass destruction. Instead, as a result of a year she spent working for the Clinton White House, she is watching a glamorous Hollywood version of herself, played by Nicole Kidman, racing around Europe and Asia Minor with George Clooney in the movie ""The Peacemaker.'' It's a disconcerting experience. ""I assume people will realize that character has nothing whatever to do with me,'' says Stern. ""I certainly hope so.''The movie is preposterous, though hugely entertaining. At a recent screening in Washington, it was possible to tell which rows of the Cineplex Odeon on...
  • The Lesser Of Evils

    BILJANA PLAVSIC, THE ELECTED president of the Serbian enclave in Bosnia, is no Joan of Arc. She supported the ethnic-cleansing campaign, arguing that Serbs were genetically predisposed to expel Muslims. She opposed the 1995 Dayton agreement that stopped the war. But Plavsic has two qualities that appeal to policymakers in Washington and London, where NATO strategy on Bosnia is principally decided these days. She is a realist who understands that her Republika Srpska has to abide by enough of Dayton's injunctions to avoid a crippling Western economic boycott. And she is not Radovan Karadzic. ...
  • A Rebel In The Ranks

    JACK SHEEHAN DIDN'T hold his tongue. Last summer the four-star marine general was invited to a closed-door conference at the Aspen Institute, a plush think tank nestled in the Rocky Mountains. For three days academics, diplomats and government officials politely debated how to prevent conflicts in the messy post-cold-war world. The general opinion: America must lead, but only when it won't cost much, in either dollars or American lives. Then it was Sheehan's turn to speak. As head of the Atlantic Command, it's his job to train troops for overseas crises. Cheap, casualty-free missions, he bluntly announced, are a fantasy. ""I am sorry; that can't be done. If you want the U.S. military to go abroad, it will spend your money and it will put your sons and daughters in harm's way.'' It was classic Sheehan: ""His motto is "Sacred cows make the best hamburger','' says an aide. ...
  • A What-If Problem

    SIXTY FEET BELOW THE FLATlands of North Dakota, Lt. Chris Quaid sits behind a four-foot-thick blast door in a steel-reinforced capsule that floats gently on shock absorbers, the better to withstand what Quaid calls a "nudet"-nuclear detonation. His mission, he diligently recites, is to "defend the United States with safe, secure ICBMs that can immediately deliver bombs on target." If "Higher Authority" -- the president-orders him to do so, Lieutenant Quaid will turn a key and flip a switch to initiate doomsday. He cannot do it alone; his partner and at least one other pair of"missileers" in nearby underground bunkers must also flip their switches to send 10 ICBMs, each carrying three nuclear warheads, winging toward targets in the former Soviet Union. ...
  • Shifting Lines

    IN THE ARMED SERVICES, REPORTing a sexual indiscretion to the authorities can be a just act against male oppression and a necessary step toward restoring good order and discipline in the ranks. It's also a wonderful way to get even. At the Pentagon, where bureaucratic intrigue is practiced at a level matched only by university faculties and 15th-century popes, a charge of sexual impropriety can be an extremely effective weapon to kill off a rival. In the army, for example, a disgruntled soldier or a jealous officer need only to dial 1-800-903-4241, the army's sexual-harassment hot line, and start dishing rumor and innuendo. In the current atmosphere of sexual paranoia, almost any peccadillo-a long-ago affair, a crude mouth or a straying hand--can be enough to doom a career. ...
  • At War Over Women

    BY MOST ACCOUNTS, THE 7,000 men and 800 women in the U.S. armed forces stationed in Bosnia are getting along well--perhaps a little too well. Banned from drinking alcohol or venturing too far from their heavily fortified compounds, bored GIs have few diversions. Sex is banned between superiors and subordinates, but it is tacitly permitted between soldiers of the same rank. "It's sort of like being in high school," one female warrior told NEWSWEEK. "Your parents won't let you have sex in the house, but you always find a place to do it." (Favorite trysting spots include guard towers and the back seat of a Humvee.) About once every three days a woman has to be evacuated to Germany because she's pregnant. That rate is less than half that of the "Love Boat," the repair ship Acadia, which lost 36 of its 360 women sailors to pregnancy during the gulf war, but it's still high enough to provoke grumbling. Some women, their male comrades suspect, are getting pregnant on purpose in order to...
  • At War In The Barracks

    EMBARRASSING AS IT MAY BE, BRENDA HOSTER'S COMPLAINT AGAINST ARMY Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney adds little that is new to the army's sexual-harassment scandal-which is serious and which suggests the Pentagon still has not won the hearts and minds of some of its own troops in the war for a gender-neutral military. Since the first allegations of rape and sexual assault surfaced at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in December, an army hot line has received some 1,000 calls from women soldiers and women veterans claiming to have been victimized in the military. Of these, army investigators have launched active criminal investigations into about 200 recent cases. One issue is whether army commanders turned a blind eye to sexually abusive behavior--a "failure of leadership," as Army Secretary Togo West testified last week--that is unacceptable in any organization. But the deeper question is whether the military, by including women in the ranks, is fighting a losing battle against deeply...
  • A Gulf Cover-Up?

    FOR YEARS, THEY SUFFERED FROM dizziness, memory loss, stomach trouble, aches and pains and a chronic, crushing fatigue. They thought no one at the Pentagon cared about their mysterious illness. Then Bill and Hillary Clinton took a personal interest in the so-called Gulf War syndrome. Some veterans of the conflict described their woes to the First Lady. Aides say her husband made it clear that he wanted to ""energize'' the federal bureaucracy and ""leave no stone unturned'' in a search for the cause of the disease. But the cause has still not been found, and last week a pair of young CIA whistle-blowers ratcheted up the pressure, charging that the agency had concealed evidence that Iraq used chemical weapons on U.S. troops, possibly sickening thousands of them. ...
  • What They Dodged

    AT LAST, THE ISSUES. THE showdown in Hartford was actually pretty substantive, with lots of discussion of taxes and the role of government. The weird sideshows--how did Al D'Amato get mentioned more often than Newt Gingrich?--were kept to a minimum. Still, lots of issues at the first presidential debate were given short shrift. These are the big questions that really affect how people live. And when it came to the bottom line, Clinton and Dole either ducked or distorted. It's fitting, then, that the two men chose to square off in the capital of America's insurance industry. Both men have played it safe, risked little. Had they been bold, these are the issues they would have illuminated instead of fudged. ...
  • Scent Of A War

    THEY SHOULD BE HEALTHY MEN IN the prime years of their lives. Instead, they suffer from disabling ailments that won't go away: fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, rashes, aching joints, memory loss, tumors. Some of them remember Iraqi arms depots exploding in plumes of smoke, the residue falling onto unprotected American troops. Others describe a loud explosion in the night sky, followed by a yellow-green mist that burned their skin and made their lips go numb. They say they brought their illnesses home with them, along with contaminated uniforms and war souvenirs, in some cases afflicting wives and children. For nearly five years, the Pentagon has denied that there is a single ""Gulf War syndrome'' of unknown origin. As far as the scientific evidence goes, the Pentagon may be right. But now the Defense Department acknowledges that thousands of U.S. servicemen could have been exposed to the chemical weapons of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. ...
  • Raising The Stakes

    THE UNITED STATES GAVE A PRETTY GOOD DEMON- stration last week of what it takes to be a superpower. At Ahmad al-Jabir air base south of Kuwait City, eight F-117 stealth bombers bedded down after a 17-hour flight from an air force base in New Mexico. Four huge B-52 bombers were in place on Diego Garcia, a British-owned flyspeck in the Indian Ocean, having flown all the way from Guam. From another air force base in South Carolina, 18 F-16 fighter-bombers flew out to reinforce a squadron in Bahrain. In the Mediterranean, the USS Enterprise and its task force headed for the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, where the carrier's warplanes would be within range of Iraq. Another carrier battle group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, was already on station in the Persian Gulf. At Fort Hood, Texas, about 3,000 members of the First Cavalry Division saddled up for Kuwait, where a brigade's worth of armor--M1-A1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles--had been prepositioned. The army also sent 150 air-defense...
  • Putting Iraq On Notice

    IN THE FIVE AND A HALF YEARS since the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein has repeatedly tested the limits of U.S. resolve -- and time and again, the United States has faced him down. The Iraqi military is still playing cat-and-mouse with United Nations inspectors looking for chemical- and biological-weapons facilities, and in 1994, a major deployment of the Republican Guard along the Kuwaiti border forced Bill Clinton to rush additional U.S. troops to the region. Last week Saddam seemed to be stepping up the pressure in northern Iraq -- and once again, the Clinton administration found itself compelled to react. ...
  • Watching -- And Waiting

    THE NAME IS OPAQUE: THE COORDInator Sub Group. Its meetings are equally impenetrable, convened in the White House's basement Situation Room or an adjoining teleconferencing center. Members run the Clinton administration's war on terrorism, and these days it can't be a jolly group. The truck bombing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia in June and the yet unsolved crash of a Paris-bound TWA jetliner off New York's Long Island a month ago have pushed terrorism back onto the national agenda at the most delicate moment in Clinton's term. His experts have tightened security for U.S. troops abroad and are preparing to throw money into the breach at home. But they fear what still may be out there -- in the gulf, in Bosnia, in the skies. ""You would be appalled if you knew how little we really know about Saudi Arabia,'' said one Pentagon source. ...
  • Spreading The Blame

    EVEN FOR THE MILITARY, IT WAS A NO-nonsense announcement. After two months of investigation into the fatal crash of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's plane in stormy Dubrovnik, the air force said last week that three top commanders of the unit responsible for Brown's flight were being ""relieved.'' Maj. Gen. Charles Hefleblower said he had ""lost his confidence in the ability'' of Brig. Gen. William Stevens and two colonels in the 86th Airlift Wing. Air force officials said the three allowed Brown's plane to fly into Dubrovnik even though they knew the military had not cleared the strip for foul-weather landings. Months before Brown's flight, air force officials in Europe sought a waiver of Pentagon requirements to inspect airports and devise safe approaches. Officials in Washington denied the request, but Stevens and his men ignored that, even though ""they knew how primitive the Dubrovnik [landing] aids were,'' says one senior air force officer. ""What they should have done, at the...
  • Russia's Nuclear Secrets

    The bunker is a two-story concrete control room embeded in a mound of earth and scrubby grass. We walk out through its steel door, and there , 200 feet away, sheltered under a makeshift polyethylene tent, sits the explosive device. Detonation is scheduled for later that day; the klaxon warning sounded as we drove to the bunker through a snow-filled forest. Around the perimeter of the firing point, an earthen bank slopes upward for about 20 feet-a berm to de-fleet shock waves safely skyward. Above the herin, the tops of the tallest pines and birches in the surrounding forest have been shredded by explosions. "Yes, we had some big bangs here," says scientist Vladimir Chernyshev. "In other times, some of our most effective nuclear weapons were developed here." ...