John Barry

Stories by John Barry

  • 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: ...
  • All Unhappy On The Eastern Front

    A Kiev factory that once made tanks now produces small tractors. Missile plants that turned out SS-20s are building prams and washing machines. The aeronautics design company that created the Su-27 fighter has refrigerators on its drawing boards. Consumer products already account for perhaps 40 percent of the Soviet defense industry's output. But for Mikhail Gorbachev, continued conversion of the Soviet military machine is a must. It's a prerequisite of significant Western aid and investment. ...
  • A New Sdi Plan

    The headlines are all about cutbacks in Star Wars, but another game is being played behind the scenes in Washington. The White House and key legislators are discussing a ground-based defense against limited missile attacks--in hopes the Soviets may be willing to amend a treaty to make the deployments legal. ...
  • Remaking The Cia

    With a change in directors, the agency faces a new challenge: to redefine its methods and its mission ...
  • A Textbook Victory

    At West Point, Norman Schwarzkopf's favorite course was the History of Military Art. The young cadet buried himself in the legendary campaigns of Alexander the Great, of Caesar, Hannibal and Napoleon. He was not, he admits, a straight-A student. No matter: last week Schwarzkopf took his true final exam. It is very likely that from now on, West Pointers taking the course on strategy they call the Art of War will study the Persian Gulf campaign of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf. ...
  • What Really Happened

    The one word nobody in the Bush administration wanted to use last week was "decapitation." Last fall the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Michael J. Dugan, was fired in part for suggesting that Saddam Hussein himself was a legitimate target of allied air power. After last week's raid on the Amiriya shelter in Baghdad, at the cost of several hundred civilian lives, it seems that Dugan was not exactly wrong. He was merely indiscreet. NEWSWEEK has learned that allied intelligence previously identified the bunker as one of perhaps two dozen meant to shelter Saddam's inner circle, the leaders and families of the Revolutionary Command Council and the ruling Baath Party. "There is space in [the city's] air-raid bunkers for just 1 percent of the population of Baghdad," said an allied government source. "We know that because we've mapped the bunkers. Now, which 1 percent do you think is allowed in those bunkers?" ...
  • War's New Science

    A cost-free victory. A push-button, remote-control war won without casualties. Surgical strikes that wipe out military targets while sparing civilians. Anyone with a television set, watching videos of American bombs sailing through Iraqi doorways and down air shafts, must wonder: if these weapons were just a little more gee-whiz, couldn't the grunts and their ground assaults be dispensed with altogether? With a lethal land battle looming in the Persian Gulf, the fantasy of war made bloodless by science is all the more beguiling. ...
  • 'Good To Go'

    There are three crucial questions confronting George Bush this week. The first is: how effective is the allied bombing campaign against Saddam Hussein's military machine? The second is: how do we know whether the bombing has been effective or not? And the third is how to open the long-awaited ground attack against Iraqi forces. NEWSWEEK has learned that the Bush administration and its British and French allies are now contemplating not one ground offensive but two: the first would be a limited action aimed at drawing Iraqi Republican Guard units out of their fortified positions astride the Iraq-Kuwait border. If the tactic is approved, it would be a major change in allied plans for the gulf war. "It may well be that one way to make the air campaign more effective is to add other elements," Defense Secretary Dick Cheney told reporters on his plane bound for Saudi Arabia last week. ...
  • The Nuclear Option: Thinking The Unthinkable

    Ponder, for a moment, the unthinkable. The initial assault on Iraqi forces is thrown back. Iraq responds with a barrage of chemical and biological weapons, killing 10,000 U.S. soldiers and at least as many allies. The United States has only one option: a tactical nuclear strike. Sound far-fetched? Lynn Davis, a former nuclear-policy planner in the Defense Department, has warned of just such a scenario. "Circumstances could certainly arise in which President George Bush might view nuclear weapons as militarily useful in defeating Iraq or, more emotionally, as a way of saving American lives," she wrote in November. The United States certainly has the weaponry available. By Jan. 15, the flotilla confronting Iraq will carry almost 100 nuclear-armed cruise missiles, says respected nuclear-data analyst William Arkin and his team at Greenpeace. ...
  • A Second Look At An Air War

    Last September the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Michael J. Dugan, declared that air power was the "answer" to defeating Iraq. A bloody land war would be too costly. The Air Force could do the job with far fewer casualties. The day after his statement appeared in print, Dugan was fired by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. ...
  • How Much Is Enough?

    For nearly three months now, American military power has poured into the Persian Gulf, at a speed outstripping the U.S. buildup in Vietnam a generation ago. But last week the Pentagon announced, in effect, that it wasn't enough. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney said much more muscle was needed "to deal with any contingency," which included the possibility of offensive action to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. The plan was to send the equivalent of at least two more mechanized divisions to join the 210,000 Americans already stationed in the desert or at sea. In all, Cheney said, the reinforcements might amount to as many as 100,000 troops, some of them drawn from U.S. garrisons in Western Europe. It will take at least another month to get the new units into place, which suggests that a military showdown with Iraq may not come until the turn of the year--if it happens at all. ...
  • Behind The Boasting

    Mikhail Gorbachev needed a victory--and the Bush administration was determined he should have one. In a ceremonial flurry last week, Gorbachev and George Bush approved a series of agreements designed to make the Soviet leader look like a winner in arms control. They pointed to progress on the eight-year quest for a treaty reducing the two sides' strategic nuclear arsenals. They signed an agreement to destroy huge stockpiles of chemical weapons. And in business left over from the days of Brezhnev and Ford, they wrapped up details for on-site inspection of nuclear testing. Altogether, proclaimed Secretary of State James Baker, the accords helped move the superpowers from the "balance of terror" to "the steadier ground of balance of interests." But the movement was less than met the eye. ...