Joshua Hammer

Stories by Joshua Hammer

  • merkel-ov01-wide

    Wunder Woman

    In her nearly six years as chancellor, Angela Merkel has established herself as Europe’s strongest and most durable leader. By Joshua Hammer.
  • hetherington-hondros-FE08-wide

    The Last Witnesses

    War photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed in Libya last week, telling a story no one wants to hear.
  • El Chapo: The Most Wanted Man in Mexico

    The guards at the city club mall in downtown Culiacán refused to talk about the bullet holes in the parking lot. Or about the cross stuck into the pavement, inscribed with three pairs of initials and a melancholy tribute in Spanish: WE WILL LOVE YOU ALWAYS. But almost anyone in this city of 1 million could tell you what happened here a little before 9 p.m. on May 8, 2008: how three men climbed unawares into their white SUV after shopping at the mall; how three other cars zoomed up then unleashed a fusillade of AK-47 gunfire and a single blast from a bazooka. All three men were killed, two of them bodyguards for the third, a hulking 22-year-old named Edgar Beltrán Guzman—the son of Joaquín Guzman Loera, better known as El Chapo ("Shorty"), the most wanted man in Mexico.Culiacán is the bare-knuckle state capital of Sinaloa, laid out between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre mountains, about 350 miles northwest of Mexico City. I'd come here, as journalists do, in search of El...
  • Sunnis Change Course

    Ahmed Duraid is ready for a new era. Like almost all of his neighbors in Adhamiya, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency along the Tigris River in central Baghdad, the 35-year-old clothes vendor boycotted Iraq's National Assembly elections last January on the advice of Sunni fighters and influential political groups such as the Association of Muslim Scholars. But the consequences for Adhamiya were severe: shadowy religious militias with ties to the Shiite-dominated government began arresting, kidnapping and sometimes murdering young Sunni men in the neighborhood; Duraid felt unprotected, even abandoned, by the country's new leaders. "We didn't participate, and the others took power alone, and this is the result," Duraid told NEWSWEEK.Saddam Hussein once ruled Iraq with brutal predictability. In the political realm, nobody had to think, or to choose, or to compete. You did what you were told, and when elections came around, you voted for Saddam. But today, as the ex-dictator stands...
  • 'The Light Of Our Eyes'

    It was an unscripted moment rare in Egyptian politics. Last week Hosni Mubarak descended on the hardscrabble town of Assiut, 320 kilometers south of Cairo, one of the last stops in his carefully orchestrated presidential campaign. Thousands of ruling-party stalwarts, sheiks and Coptic priests jammed a tent in the desert heat to listen to Mubarak's prepared speech and cheer him. "You are the light of our eyes," they cried. "With our blood we will support you." Suddenly, as Mubarak left the stage, a stubble-faced farmer dashed against a barrier of security men and brandished a letter. "Mr. President," he shouted as the bodyguards pushed him away. "My son is in prison!" Nasser Safwat Niget, 48, explained to NEWSWEEK that his son had been jailed 14 years ago under the country's Emergency Law. "I have come to ask the president for help," he said.Ruled by repressive strongmen for more than half a century, modern Egypt has never known democracy. But that may be changing. Last February...
  • ONCE DRAWN TO ZION, NOW GLAD TO LEAVE

    During my first visit to Israel, in the spring of 1981, I almost decided not to go back home. The seduction began shortly after I arrived at Ben Gurion airport, when I was joined on the bus to Jerusalem by a dozen Israeli soldiers. As a secular Jew from New York City, I was stirred beyond expectation by these young warriors--knit yarmulkes clipped to their heads, Galil rifles slung over their shoulders--who had put their lives on the line to defend their fragile state. Days later I was so moved by the sight of Orthodox worshipers praying at the Western Wall that I accepted an offer on the spot to enroll in a yeshiva, an academy of Talmudic learning meant to lure lapsed American Jews back into the fold. The spiritual awakening faded fast--I stayed at the yeshiva for two days--but Israel had left its mark on me.Twenty years later I finally made it back, this time as NEWSWEEK's Jerusalem bureau chief. The country I encountered had become a vastly different place. The Camp David talks...
  • The Wars Through Arab Eyes

    The images were searing, and strikingly similar. Last Wednesday afternoon, as a thousand unarmed Palestinian protesters marched toward Israeli troops bulldozing houses at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, two Israeli tank shells and a helicopter missile exploded around them, killing eight people, half of them children. No sooner had the world absorbed pictures of the tragedy--ambulances shrieking through the streets of Rafah, shrapnel-ridden bodies--than news broke of new carnage a few hundred miles away. U.S. Apache helicopters fired on what locals said was a wedding party in an Iraqi village near the Syrian border, killing as many as 45 people. The American military said the target was a nest of insurgents, yet women, a well-known wedding singer and several members of his band were among the victims.For the Arab world, the twin scenes of occupying armies wreaking havoc were a painful indication of American foreign policy in disarray. "Every day we see these terrible parallels-...
  • Fallujah: In The Hands Of Insurgents

    Fidgeting with a pistol as he sits on a Persian carpet, a young mujahed named Mohammed describes his life as a member of the armed resistance. "I fought for four straight days without sleep," he says, recalling the fierce battle with U.S. Marines in Fallujah early last month. "I was living on bread and Pepsi." Beside Mohammed sits his older brother, a burly man with a scraggly beard who lifts up his striped shirt to reveal a bulky white suicide belt strapped around his waist. He tugs playfully at the two dangling detonator cords. Mohammed smiles. "For us, jihad is tourism," he says. "It is something that we do with pleasure."Mohammed has a captive audience. Two hours earlier a photographer and I had ventured inside Fallujah's Jolan neighborhood, the epicenter of last month's fighting between mujahedin and U.S. Marines, to view the destruction and to gauge emotions in the wake of abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison. We had brought along a local man who assured us that the neighborhood was...
  • Quietly, Not Peacefully

    The outpost of Haroe is booming. During the past year and a half, 14 Jewish families have laid claim to this barren hilltop south of the West Bank city of Nablus, erecting 20 mobile homes, a rudimentary sewage system, a generator, a playground and a synagogue. A road snaking up to the unauthorized settlement was paved in November 2003. Although Haroe is one of a handful of isolated outposts that have been designated for dismantling by the Israeli Army, most of its settlers don't expect to be going anywhere. In fact, they've laid foundations for six permanent houses and are waiting for permission to finish construction. "We get the impression from Sharon that we can build--as long as we do it quietly," says David Llera, 40, a Mexican-Jewish immigrant who works at Haroe as a security guard.And building they are. In the wake of President Bush's expression of support for Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, Israel is moving rapidly ahead with plans to...
  • LIVES: AFRICA

    As a Reuters correspondent based in Nairobi in the early 1990s, Aidan Hartley was a member of a small clique of nomads who risked their lives reporting from some of the world's most hellish places. He trekked with Ethiopian rebels, watched Somalia collapse into famine and anarchy, and was an eyewitness to the Rwandan genocide. In between, he partied hard, made enduring friendships and agonized about the plight of the continent of his birth. Now he's written a lyrical, mesmerizing account called "The Zanzibar Chest: A Story of Life, Love, and Death in Foreign Lands." Wanderlust comes naturally to Hartley, 38: the son of a British adventurer who developed agriculture in Africa and Arabia, Hartley grew up in Tanzania and Kenya and fell into journalism in his early 20s. During his years in the field, Hartley lost four close friends to a mob in Mogadishu, two more in the crash of a hijacked Ethiopian jet and one to a heroin overdose. Hartley was lucky: he married, fathered two kids and...
  • Who's In Charge Here?

    An air of somnolence hung over Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace along the Tigris River. In the sweltering streets outside the gates, desperate Iraqis lined up for meager rations of gasoline, armed looters prowled the charred ruins of ministries and banks, and another power outage paralyzed the capital. But the marble hallways of the palace, now the headquarters of the Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), were quiet as a tomb. Staffers read paperbacks or lazed on cots set up beneath chandeliers and lavish murals. Nearby, an Army civil-affairs team barbecued meat and played touch football on a parched lawn. When asked, lounging staffers explained that it was a Friday--the day of rest in Iraq--so they were taking the day off, too.They may not be able to rest much longer. Last week the White House announced that Jay Garner, the retired general and chief administrator of Iraq, was out of a job, barely three weeks after his arrival in Baghdad....
  • Digging Up A Grisly Past

    For nearly two decades the military vehicles moved in and out of the camp at Qaryat al-Marrajah in the middle of the night. From their homes in the sandy wastes alongside Habaniya lake, the villagers could hear the gunshots, but none of them dared approach the compound.They knew that the fenced-off complex was a training ground for the National Security College, an institute that produced agents for the feared Iraqi security service known in Arabic as al-Amen. "We felt that it anybody got close to the camp, he would have been shot," says Ismail Sabbar, 50, the chief, or mukhtar of Qaryat al-Marrajah, sitting on the floor of his home with a dozen of his neighbors. "We didn't go to them and they didn't come to us. We were scared."Now the villagers are afraid to approach the camp for a different reason. Across a field of hardpacked earth, through a decrepit chain link fence, lies a grisly testament to a regime's brutality: a 20-foot long, 10-foot deep trench, excavated last week by a U...
  • 'Sharon's Government Is Leading Us Nowhere'

    Amram Mitzna had his first confrontation with Ariel Sharon exactly 20 years ago. Seething over the massacre that Lebanese Phalangist militias had just committed against Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps under Israel's watch, Mitzna, a former field commander, wrote a damning letter to the Army chief of staff about the man who served as their boss. He had "lost confidence" in Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Mitzna announced. Mitzna was pressured to withdraw the letter by the then prime minister, Menachem Begin--but the controversy helped lead to a commission of inquiry that forced Sharon to quit. Now, with Israel locked in another bloody struggle and Sharon at the helm, Mitzna is preparing to face down his old nemesis again. "The current government led by Sharon is leading us nowhere," the Haifa mayor told NEWSWEEK after announcing his candidacy for leadership of the Labor Party on Aug. 13. "Using more and more force will lead us to nothing. You must take a political...
  • Inside The Siege Of Bethlehem

    Snipers, Militants, Vandals And Priests: Everyone Had A Story From The Siege Of Bethlehem. Here Are The Tales Of Four.
  • A Deadly Passover... And A State Of Siege

    Darkness fell inside Yasir Arafat's offices. Dozens of his guards, his cronies and members of his Palestinian government-that-used-to-be lit candles and scrounged for cigarettes, listening to Israeli guns and bulldozers demolishing the buildings around them. Often their faces were lit by the dim glow of cell-phone screens. Arafat himself gave a stream of interviews, saying he was ready to die a martyr. But as the day and the night thundered on, it was clear Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had another fate in mind for the man he's fought so bitterly for so long. Months ago Sharon declared Arafat "irrelevant" and confined him to his Ramallah headquarters surrounded by tanks. Now, in the aftermath of another horrific suicide bombing that killed 22 civilians celebrating Passover, Sharon declared Arafat "an enemy" and vowed to "isolate" him, possibly even "expel" him. Certainly, he would humiliate him, as if the 74-year-old Sharon thought a martyr's death was too good for the watery...
  • A RISING TIDE OF BLOOD

    Sitting in a cafe on Manger Square in the heart of the deserted city of Bethlehem, the slim, unshaven guerrilla sipped a Turkish coffee and nervously fingered his revolver. The commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the region just south of Jerusalem, Ibrahim Ebayat, 29, boasted that he had carried out a dozen "operations" against Israeli settlers and soldiers in the occupied territories in recent months. He told NEWSWEEK that gunmen under his command staked out a Jewish settlement for a week, then killed a female settler and wounded her husband last Tuesday as they drove down a road near Bethlehem. "We could kill 10 times as many Israelis if it were just for the sake of killing," he said, as his heavily armed bodyguards kept watch outside the restaurant. "But we're trying to send a message: 'You are not safe. Get out'." Ebayat, who said he has survived three Israeli assassination attempts--including a booby-trapped M-16 rifle that exploded and blew off the hand of a comrade-...
  • Letter From Bethlehem: Nothing To Lose

    Ibrahim Ebayat moves like a man who knows that he's running out of time. As he hustles into the St. Georges Restaurant on Manger Square in Bethlehem, the 29-year-old guerrilla leader nervously scans the near-empty room, checking for unfamiliar faces. Five bodyguards take up positions at the entrance, brandishing an arsenal of weaponry--M16s, Kalashnikovs, pistols, grenades--and an equally impressive collection of cellular phones and two-way radios. A slim, unshaven man wearing a black leather bomber jacket, dungarees and brown leather boots, Ebayat can barely sit still; he chain smokes cigarettes, barks orders over four different mobile phones, and at one points dashes outside for a look after Fatah scouts on the streets send word that Israeli helicopters are circling the city. "I'm on alert 24 hours a day," he says, scooping up a piece of lamb with a wedge of hot pita bread. "It's a cat-and-mouse game that never ends."Ebayat is the commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the...
  • 'Another Lebanon'

    The newest phase of the Palestinian uprising began last week on a lonely mountain road near the West Bank city of Ramallah. At an Israeli military checkpoint known as Ein Ariq--a concrete hut surrounded by terraced orchards of olive trees--a three-man squad of Fatah guerrillas launched one of the deadliest attacks against the Israeli Army since the height of the guerrilla war in southern Lebanon. Shooting dead four sentries, the trio of gunmen killed two more soldiers relaxing inside their hut, then slipped away in the dark. Israelis across the political spectrum questioned whether the Army had a sound strategy for waging this new guerrilla-style conflict. "Israel is not collapsing," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon felt compelled to tell his worried countrymen. "The way things develop is up to us, in our behavior, in our resolve."Sharon's own behavior, however, continues to confuse. After the Ein Ariq ambush, he dispatched helicopters and tanks to pound Palestinian Authority buildings...
  • Yasir Arafat Is a Traitor

    The Palestinian Leader Finally Persuades Hamas And Islamic Jihad To Call Off Their Suicide Bombers And Stop Shelling Jewish Settlements. But Lasting Peace Seems No Closer. Israel Remains Suspicious, And Palestinian Hard-Liners Battle Their Own Police In The Streets Of Gaza, Angrier Than Ever
  • 'Please Don't Forget Us'

    The road to Kabul is pocked by bomb craters and littered with the accumulated debris of two decades of war: burnt-out husks of Soviet tanks; rusting antiaircraft guns; a crushed truck that had swerved out of control when its Taliban passengers, trying to flee Kabul in a panic last week, plunged over a steep mountainside. It's all part of the scenery now. "Do you like this melody?" asks a young Pashtun truckdriver as he enjoys a scratchy cassette--music that had been outlawed under the Taliban. "Does it sound good?" Clearly he thinks it does: he asks the question over and over, reveling in the syrupy falsetto of a Pashtun love song as his dilapidated Land Cruiser bounces and shimmies toward the capital.Inside Kabul some Afghan women have removed their burqas, and can freely feel the sun on their faces for the first time in years. In other "liberated" towns, children flew tattered kites, and men joyfully shaved their beards. On a field in Herat where the Taliban used to amputate hands...
  • Diary From Afghanistan, Part 3

    Our eviction was a shock. Despite the squalid conditions in our compound at the town of Spin Boldak, despite the awfulness of war-ravaged Afghanistan, being in the company of the Taliban in the last days of their teetering regime was an experience that no journalist was eager to give up. But we had little choice in the matter when our black-turbaned minders ordered us at 3 p.m. yesterday to leave the country immediately.The closest I've come to anyplace like Afghanistan in these charged days is Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, during the heyday of warlordism there in the early 1990s. The ubiquitous sense of danger, the throngs of destitute people staring and grabbing when you venture out onto the streets, the grim and gaunt-faced warriors in their pickup trucks stuffed with AK-47s and rocket launchers, the bleak and blasted landscape--southern Afghanistan could be Somalia revisited. The only difference is that in Somalia, I had a clean and safe hotel to return to at night. In Spin...
  • Diary From Afghanistan, Part 2: Welcome To 'Camp Taliban'

    Last night I thought I'd gotten lucky. Stuck with 100 other journalists inside an abandoned United Nations compound in Spin Boldak in southern Afghanistan, I spent two hours searching in plunging temperatures for a place to bed down for the night.The better prepared had pitched tents across an open field; others had grabbed floor space inside the compound's dilapidated brick buildings. I was facing the prospect of laying down my sleeping bag in a patch of dirt behind a latrine, when my Pakistani driver, Hadayat, appeared beside me--smiling broadly. He had managed to find us cushions inside a small, cozy room, a welcome alternative to a frigid night under the stars. The downside: at 3:30 a.m., the dozen Afghanis and Pakistanis bedded down in the room with me switched on the fluorescent lights and began noisily consuming their pre-dawn Ramadan feast. For the next two hours, the men wolfed down slabs of bread and mutton, gulped down milk tea, and argued in vociferous Pashtu about the...
  • Diary From Southern Afghanistan, Part 1

    It's getting toward evening now in the abandoned United Nations compound in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, and the hum of generators mingles with the prayers of the Taliban guards and officials who are stretched out on mats across the grassy field where I'm now typing.Occasional gunshots ring out in the streets, and dozens of displaced Afghans who fled from the bombed-out cities of Kabul and Kandahar perch atop the compound's high wall, eyeing us with amazement. As one British TV technician puts it, "If a group of Cyclopeans suddenly landed in Putney, I'd be staring, too." Journalists famished from a day of enforced fasting during Ramadan eye their boxes filled with raisins and Granola Bars and cans of sardines, waiting for nightfall--when we can eat without incurring the wrath of our fundamentalist hosts.I arrived in Afghanistan from Quetta, Pakistan, seven hours ago, after a frantic two days of bureaucratic hassles and stocking up on supplies for what could be a lengthy stint inside...
  • Letter From Beit Jala

    Nicola Al-Alam peered out the second-floor window of her old stone house in the heart of Beit Jala, a Palestinian town in the West Bank, surveying a street now littered with broken glass and bullet casings. It was just before 5 p.m., and the gunbattles that had raged all day had begun to wind down. But the Israeli tank and armored personnel carrier were still positioned beside her front door, and her house was still being occupied by uninvited guests."We're prisoners," she says. Eight Israeli soldiers had burst into the house shortly after midnight, roused her children out of their beds and forced the family into the rear of their home. Then they had taken up positions in the front rooms, sealed off their section of the house and forbidden the family to leave. "It's crazy," she says, with an incongruous giggle. "Nobody can get in or out. They're hanging out, sleeping on the floor, opening their cans of sardines-the whole house smells of their damned fish." She laughs again. "We're...
  • Middle East: The Making Of A Martyr

    In the dusty alleys of Qabatiya Village just outside Jenin, Mohammed Nasser was known as the neighborhood kid who made good. A rising star in the Palestinian Authority's military police, the 28-year-old cop had one of the force's most sensitive jobs: guarding a nest of Islamic radicals who were held in protective custody in a three-story prison on Jenin's outskirts. But Nasser's proximity to the extremists apparently had unintended consequences. Last week Nasser slung a black bag loaded with explosives over his shoulder and walked into the Wall Street cafe in Haifa, where he blew himself up and injured 21 Israelis. "He was so affected by the killings of Palestinians, by the oppression," says a close friend and fellow cop. "He came to identify with the men he jailed."Last week's suicide bombing marked a new stage in the Middle East's cycle of violence: evidence of the power of radical Islamic groups to convert even Palestinian police--often their jailers--to their cause. Nowhere do...
  • Road Rage And The Intifada

    Khayed Srouji has logged enough hours on West Bank roads this year to last him a lifetime. On a blistering hot day in summer, the 44-year-old diabetic from Tulkarm is traveling to a hospital in Nablus for one of his thrice-weekly dialysis treatments. His bloated body squeezed into the front seat of a battered Mazda taxi, wheelchair lashed to the car roof, Srouji stares dully through the windscreen as the taxi bounces over a rutted track through the mountains. In normal times the trip is a 30-minute commute, 18 miles straight up the main West Bank highway. But the Israeli Army has sealed the highway and adjoining roads with barricades, turning the once routine journey into a nightmare. Half-buried rocks scrape the car's undercarriage. Clouds of dust cover Srouji and his fellow passengers in a thick brown film. Trucks barrel along in the opposite direction, repeatedly forcing Srouji's car off the narrow track. "It goes from bad to worse," says his brother-in-law Ali Srouji, who always...
  • Wanted: A Week Of 'Quiet'

    Nasfad al-Khuffash is just about out of patience. But he has nowhere to go. An employee of the relief agency World Vision in Ramallah, Khuffash had high hopes for an easing of the Israeli siege after Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat signed a ceasefire with Israel nearly a month ago. But in his village of Marda, located just beneath the hilltop Jewish settlement of Ariel, life has only gotten worse. Piles of earth and stones bulldozed by the Israeli Army still block the entrances to his and other Arab villages, making travel through the West Bank an ordeal; Khuffash hasn't been able to get to work in weeks. Armed Jewish settlers prowl the roads, hurling rocks through the windshields of Palestinian buses. After nine months of violent struggle, followed by a shaky truce, Khuffash is starting to wonder--quietly--whether Yasir Arafat and other Palestinian leaders have led their people up a blind alley. "We're frustrated. We don't know where we're heading," he says.Khuffash isn't the only...
  • Inside The Wild East

    Even inside her guarded enclave in the heart of the West Bank, the intifada is never far from Jackie Behar's view. On a torpid summer afternoon, Behar is leading a visitor through the Jewish settlement of Bracha, perched high in the arid hills near Nablus. Neat rows of red-roofed stucco houses stand like sentries along the ridge line; far below, a tarmac road built just for the settlers twists past olive groves and the Palestinian village of Huwarah before it disappears behind a hill. "See that curve in the highway?" Behar asks, gesturing across the dusty landscape. "That's where the Arabs murdered Gilad Zar."Zar, 41, head of security for the nearby settlement of Itamar, was struck by a barrage of bullets then finished off at point-blank range five weeks ago, a killing that sent a spasm of rage through his community. Hundreds of angry settlers converged on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Jerusalem office to protest the killing, carrying Zar's bullet-riddled corpse. "A lot of us get...
  • Letter From Dubai

    As a full moon rises over the Persian Gulf, the distant tinkle of a piano wafts through the darkness. It's late on a sultry evening in Dubai, and I'm on my way to the Burj Al Arab Hotel, described in a promotional brochure as a pleasure palace for "the richest of the rich." Constructed in 1999 at a rumored cost of $2 billion, the Burj is a sail shaped white tower that rises from an artificial island, separated from the mainland by a quarter-mile causeway. Just getting inside the place requires more security checks than a trip across the Allenby Bridge from Jordan to Israel.As my Indian driver steers our golf cart down a path from the Burj's partner hotel, the much cheaper Jumeirah Beach (where I'm staying), we're accosted at three checkpoints by stern-looking guards in white uniforms, who demand to see identification proving I'm a guest at the seaside resort complex.Just ahead, the 1,000-foot-tall tower looms like a fantasy from the Arabian Nights: silver laser beams cascade down...

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