John Barry

Stories by John Barry

  • Shipping Out

    His entrance could not have been more perfectly timed. The last toasts had been given, the wine quaffed, when there came a sudden stir in the rear of the ballroom. Richard Holbrooke, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, chief U.S. negotiator on Bosnia, had arrived from Dayton, Ohio, like Lawrence returning from Arabia. Weary but triumphant, Holbrooke swept through the admiring throng gathered last Tuesday night for a black-tie charity dinner at the PLaza hotel in New York. After the standing ovation subsided, Holbrooke did not gloat about the peace agreement signed 10 hours earlier at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base or minimize its precariousness. He described how close the talks had come to collapse, and he emphasized the difficulty of keeping peace in a land of blood feuds. But for the crowd, pillars of the old East Coast establishment, the mood was solemnly, nostalgic, and the implicit message was clear: only American power and diplomacy, wielded with old-time...
  • Going Into Action

    The troops had practiced there was nothing more to rehearse. In a make-believe Bosnian village called "Schwend," located at a U.S. base in southern Germany, some of the soldiers dressed up as civilians needing help, while others posed as potentially troublesome Serbian, Croatian or Muslim fighters. Troops in helicopters simulated the rescue under fire of endangered United Nations personnel. Infantrymen absorbed lectures on "mine awareness"--a warning that Bosnia is littered with thousands of deadly land mines and booby traps. Officers talked about what to do if snipers shoot at their men. ("We'll blow them away," promised a senior NATO commander.) Logistical experts plotted the rail journey that would be required to move a heavy armored division from Bavaria to Bosnia. The troops of the "implementation force," as it was euphemistically named, packed their gear and took their shots. Now all IFOR needed was a peace agreement to implement. ...
  • The Very Model Of A Political General

    Bosnia--A terrible ethnic conflict in terrain that virtually nullifies American military power--posed a crucial test for the incoming Clinton administration, and Colin Powell was worried about it. As Powell tells it in his new book. "My American Journey," he was repeatedly forced to play naysayer as the new administration debated how to stop Serbian aggression during the spring of 1993. Yes, he told Clinton and his advisers, U.S. warplanes could bomb Serbian positions around Sarajevo, but there was no assurance bombing would stop the Serbs. Ground troops could be required, but Powell thought those forces could be trapped in a war with no clear political objectives and no way out-like Vietnam. "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright asked during one such discussion. Powell was dumbfounded. ...
  • Future Shock

    The terrorists went undetected. In the noon-hour crush of a spring day in midtown Manhattan, the two men with suitcases looked like hotel-bound businessmen. Nobody gave them a second glance as they bought sandwiches from a street vendor and sat on one of the benches by Rockefeller Center. After a moment, they seemed to rummage in the contents of the bags. Only the blinding fireball that vaporized the attackers and instantly killed tens of thousands of New Yorkers announced that nuclear warfare had finally come home to the nation that first split the atom. And by then, of course, it was too late to avert catastrophe.For years, versions of that nightmare scenario have been grist for doomsday prophets. It was pure hype. A terrorist group with the funds and know-how to develop a knapsack nuke would have had to be so big, rich and sophisticated as to rival a good-sized nation- hardly a recipe for keeping a secret. The routes to the prize--breeding plutonium in a reactor or refining...
  • Too Good To Check

    Some editors held their noses, but the story was too good to resist. GANG OF CLOWNS STOLE MY BABY, trumpeted one Sao Paulo tabloid. Slum residents reported that two men dressed as clowns and a woman dressed as a ballerina had lured children into a van, murdered them, removed vital organs and left the bodies on their parents' doorsteps with a note of thanks and $80. That story complemented the tale of parents who had their child exhumed after he died in the hospital-and found the eyes missing and the body stuffed with sawdust. Was all this fresh evidence of the international trade in human organs? "This was a lie and a farce," says local police chief Basilio Comes Machado Filho; but "lots of people believed it."The CIA invented the AIDS virus at a secret U.S. Army lab. The Union Carbide Corp. gassed 2,000 Indians as a chemical-war experiment. These were among the greatest hits of anti-U.S. propaganda during the cold war - and they died away with its end. But the greatest lie of all...
  • Now For A Real Ve Day

    Hands on hearts, leathery cheeks streaked with tears, elderly Europeans turned out with their children and grandchildren to commemorate, for the 50th time, the almost unimaginable feat they accomplished two generations ago: the destruction of Hitler's juggernaut. The VE Day celebrations began in London early last week and ended in Moscow, spanning countries that had suffered in the common cause longer and harder than their mighty ally across the Atlantic. World War II is one of those events that so alter our view of the universe that it now stands as a barrier between us and the past. Even so, this anniversary offers a historical perspective very different from that of the last round-number anniversary in 1985. What's new, of course, is that the cold war, the legacy of World War II, is now history, as well. For the first time, the "V" in VE Day is complete. Yet the triumph stir leaves a bitter aftertaste. ...
  • The Trouble With The Cia

    Running the central intelligence Agency was once a dream job --lots of high-level secrets, critical briefings at Langley, late nights in the White House Situation Room. But these days, it's not. Being the nation's spymaster is largely thankless: the CIA is demoralized after the Aldrich Ames debacle and bereft without its cold war. ...
  • The Battle Over Warfare

    Pity the American military, overstretched, strapped for cash and grudgingly acknowledging the need to delay or cancel some of its most cherished big-ticket programs, the Pentagon is now caught between the Clinton administration and the Republican majority in Congress. Bill Clinton's defense secretary, William Perry, has spent much of the past two years coaxing and cajoling the armed forces to prepare for what he sees as a technological revolution in warfare. ...
  • On Alert For Desert Storm Ii

    FOR BOTH AMERICANS AND the Hammurabi Division represents unfinished business. When George Bush called off the ground war after only 100 hours in 1991, the Hammurahi, a key element of Iraq's elite Republican Guard, escaped almost unscathed. Last week, when Saddam Hussein suddenly built up his forces near the Kuwaiti border, it was the Hammurabi that led the way. Now the division stiffens a potential invasion force larger than the spearhead Saddam sent into Kuwait four years ago. ...
  • How U.S. Troops Would Go In

    At first, it will be a quiet affair. There will be none of the airborne razzle-dazzle of the Panama invasion or the kind of showy amphibious landings that, unopposed, looked silly on CNN in Somalia. By the time the invasion force starts roaring ashore, Special Operations teams will have seized control. At least that's how the Pentagon envisions the start of a U.S. invasion of Haiti. But to ensure that the restoration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide proceeds just as smoothly, operations planners have evolved an elaborate script that now calls for the most massive deployment of U.S. military force since Desert Storm. ...
  • Nothing Short Of Doomsday

    Perhaps he's getting the hang of it. When Bill Clinton announced last week that North Korea had agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for talks with the United States, he stuck grimly to a short statement, and, in a break with tradition, answered questions without contradicting himself. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole promptly accused the administration of "throwing in the towel." But Asia specialists started to think that Clinton might have crafted the only Korea policy that avoids an awful war. ...
  • Why The Allies Won

    H-HOUR ON D-DAY, THE HOUR ON The Day. Every one of the 370,000 soldiers and sailors aboard the 5,300 Allied vessels steaming toward the Normandy beaches on the morning of June 6, 1944, was carrying a mimeographed piece of paper, the "order of the day" from Allied commander Dwight Eisenhower: they were, he told them, embarked on "the Great Crusade." Churchill called D-Day "the most difficult and complicated operation ever to take place." With British phlegm, the chief of naval operations for the invasion, Adm. Sir Bertram Ramsay, felt obliged to apologize to his staff a few days before the landings: he was sorry about all the superlatives, he said, but this time they were true. ...
  • The Collapse Of Les Aspin

    THE RISE AND FALL OF LES ASPIN is a Washington tragedy. He had spent most of his professional life thinking about better ways of defending the United States. But when he was asked by Bill Clinton to be secretary of defense, the 54-year-old chairman of the House Armed Services Committee hesitated. The challenge was irresistible: with the cold war over, the nation's defense establishment would have to be rebuilt "from the bottom up." The basic architecture had been designed 45 years before by the first secretary of defense, James Forrestal. "Now I have the chance to structure American defense for the next 45 years," Aspin said to a friend last January when he accepted the position. ...
  • The Sky Above, The Mud Below

    There's a world of difference between peacekeeping and military intervention. When the Bosnian Serbs rejected the Vance-Owen accord, the Clinton administration and its European allies had to shift their military planning, at least temporarily, into a peacemaking mode. Clinton's battle plan, which one U.S. official called the "fair-fight option," was to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims and fend off Serb attackers with airstrikes. The president promised a clear, workable strategy that "would have a beginning, a middle and an end." But the Europeans thought he had his priorities backward. The allies didn't want to lift the arms embargo, fearing a threat to the 9,300 lightly armed peacekeeping troops they already have in Bosnia. They complained that the Americans wanted to keep safely to the sky above, while European soldiers faced death in the mud below. ...
  • By Air--Or Land?

    "The military hasn't retooled their thinking," says Phillip Karber, vice president of the giant defense consultant BDM. ...
  • The Military's Big Shutdown

    By the unhallowed and patently irrational traditions of American pork-barrel politics, the merest mention of shutting down stateside military bases is supposed to touch off a firestorm of indignation on Capitol Hill-and sure enough, last week it did. "The mother of all base-closure lists clobbers Charleston," bellowed Sen. Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, protesting the proposed elimination of the Charleston navy base and shipyard from the Pentagon's active-duty list. And so it went, this hoary ritual, on the day that Defense Secretary Les Aspin announced the latest losers in the long and painful game of downsizing the U.S. defense budget. There were plenty of victims: 31 major bases in 15 states selected for outright closure, plus 134 other installations scheduled for reorganization or cutbacks. Thousands of civilian jobs lost, scores of communities affected-all of which, by the standards of the porky past, should now provoke the House and Senate to wage open warfare against Bill...
  • Planning A Plague?

    It was pitch black when the two British intelligence experts stepped inside the chamber. As one of them turned on his pocket flashlight and scanned the steel walls and equipment, his escort grabbed his wrist. "Switch that off or give it to me," shouted the Soviet Foreign Ministry official. "You agreed-no electronic devices!" The visitor, an official guest of the Soviet government, turned off the light. But those few seconds of illumination were sufficient. They were inside what biological-warfare experts call an "aerosol-dissemination test chamber." It consisted of a steel cube, roughly 50 feet on each side, in which animal "test subjects" were tethered to the floor and subjected to a spray released from ceiling vents. One day, it might be droplets of plague, the next anthrax, the day after a new cocktail of genetic engineering. Sensors measured the dispersion rate of the lethal mist; monitors tracked the vital signs of the doomed "subjects" as medical teams recorded their slow...
  • Arms Control: The End Of The Beginning?

    The morning after the bombing of Hiroshima, Hanson Baldwin of The New York Times summed up the general sense of a new era dawning. "Yesterday," he wrote, "we clinched victory in the Pacific, but we sowed the whirlwind." It would take more than two decades of tense and often tedious negotiation, beginning with the first strategic arms limitations talks in late 1969, to contain that whirlwind. On Sunday, the fifth nuclear-arms-limits treaty was signed in Moscow, holding out the prospect of a halt to nuclear gamesmanship at the superpower level. As a recent U.S. State Department study put it, the START II arms-control negotiations represent "the final flowering of cold-war arms control." ...
  • FACING THE POWERS THAT BE

    Memo to incoming White House junior staff: volunteers required for taking on an interest group. Immediate, sweeping reform is the goal. The group? Oh, it's more than twice the size of the military-industrial complex. And a lot better dug in. ...
  • Crossing The Gay Minefield

    Presidential candidate Bill Clinton made a lot of promises. President-elect Bill Clinton must decide which ones to keep. Following a Veterans Day speech before an audience of retired and active officers, he reiterated a commitment to one of his most controversial pledges: overturning the military's 48-year-old ban on homosexuals in the uniformed services. (Gays and lesbians can serve openly, if discreetly, on the civilian side of the Defense Department.) "I don't think [sexual] status alone, in the absence of some destructive behavior, should disqualify people," said Clinton last week. ...
  • The Global Vision Thing

    Time was when presidential campaigns we about foreign policy. Remember the missile gap in 1960? Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam War in 1968? The Iranian hostage crisis in 1980? ...
  • What Schwarzkopf's Book Leaves Out

    On the face of it, General Schwarzkopf's book tour should be a campaign advertisement for George Bush. Watching the great general relive the gulf war on TV and radio talk shows could remind voters of the finest moments of Bush's presidency. That is, unless they actually read the book. ...
  • The Secret War

    You knew them by their pallor. The pilots of the army's top-secret Task Force 118 slept through the Persian Gulf's searing 120-degree days, and hunted by night. Painted black, their OH-58D helicopters were so tiny and quiet that they could sneak up on a target in the dark; the Hellfire missiles slung on their sides could sink a ship four miles away. The pilots flew 100 mph at 30 feet over the water through curtains of sand blowing off the Saudi desert. With mordant understatement, the men of 118 referred to the lead chopper as the Splashguard. "We figure if he gets wet, we're too low," explained one task-force member. ...
  • Sea Of Lies

    The modern navy has many ladders. Its officers can earn their stripes at sea or in the air. They can prosper by navigating the shoals of technocracy. But the one sure path to glory is the same as in Roman times: victory at sea. Sailing in harm's way is a matter of vocation. ...
  • The Day We Stopped The War

    A year after Desert Storm, Saddam is still in power. Did the fighting end too soon? A behind-the-scenes look at the decision to halt the war.Few war leaders have ever faced as pleasant a dilemma as the one that awaited George Bush on Feb. 26,1991 for on that day, Bush learned that his high-stakes gamble in the Persian Gulf was finally paying off. Over the previous six months, Bush had essentially bet his presidency on the showdown with Saddam Hussein. He had struggled to build a multinational coalition against Iraq and deployed 443,000 U.S. and allied troops, together with their high-tech weaponry, in the Persian Gulf. And everything worked-the smart bombs, the Stealth fighters, even the daring armored assault that was even now grinding 41 divisions of Iraqi troops into the bloody sand. Operation Desert Storm, launched in controversy and culminating in what its commander rightfully called a "Hail Mary pass," was turning into a spectacularly easy victory.The dilemma that faced the...
  • A Case Of Confused Identity?

    It is axiomatic of conspiracy theories that their true believers see nefarious design where others see mere human error. Last week the ultimate conspiracy theory was spelled out in elaborate detail with the publication of The October Surprise, by Gary Sick (278 pages. Random House. $23). Sick, a point man on Iran in the Carter administration, in effect accuses the 1980 Reagan campaign of committing treason by conspiring to delay the release of 52 American hostages in Iran until after the presidential election. His book alleges a number of secret meetings took place between Reagan campaign manager William Casey, who later became director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and various arms dealers and Iranian clerics. Taken on its face, Sick's story seems remarkable, yet not implausible. But reporting by NEWSWEEK (Nov. 4 and Nov. 11) and other publications casts doubt on the reliability of Sick's main sources. Now NEWSWEEK has new information that suggests the whole theory may have...
  • Making Of A Myth

    It is a story that will not die--a dark tale of conspiracy and political intrigue that, if true, would constitute something like an accusation of treason against George Bush, the late William Casey and other members of Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign. Briefly put, the "October Surprise" theory holds that Bush or Casey-or possibly Bush and Casey-cut a secret deal with Iran in the summer or fall of 1980 to delay the release of 52 U.S. hostages until after the November elections. Their objective, or so the theory holds, was to deny Jimmy Carter whatever political advantage the hostages' last-minute release might create-or, in short, to swing the 1980 election toward Reagan and Bush. ...
  • One Man, Many Tales

    Even by the gamy standards of British tabloid journalism, the controversy that erupted in London last week over author Seymour Hersh's new book was an all-time screamer. Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the most respected investigative reporters in America, is the author of "The Samson Option," an expose of Israel's 40-year secret effort to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons. What triggered last week's uproar, however, were Hersh's allegations that the foreign editor of London's Daily Mirror, Nicholas Davies, was a paid Israeli agent and that media magnate Robert Maxwell, the Mirror's owner, was a willing collaborator of the Mossad. Maxwell sued, Davies sued, and Hersh's publisher in Great Britain, Faber & Faber, sued back. Experts said the case was almost guaranteed to write a memorable chapter in British libel law--and Hersh, facing the legal battle of his journalistic career, could only insist that he stood by every word. ...
  • 'We Will Be Ready':Bush's Strike Options

    Last month President Bush signed off on a set of military options aimed at forcing Iraq to comply with the U.N. Security Council's cease-fire terms. Last week he took the first step: protecting Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon sent in two Patriot missile battalions, a total of 1,400 troops, to defend the kingdom against any new attacks by Iraqi Scud missiles. Should Saddam continue to put up obstacles to U.N. inspections, the next moves were clear. "There will not be a week of discussions," said one administration source "We will be ready to go.' Bush's military plan: ...