Rod Nordland

Stories by Rod Nordland

  • Iraq's Blood Drive

    Every time I arrive in Iraq, the experience is a shock. The place always seems exactly the same, only worse. More bare-faced corruption. More overblown monuments and palaces and portraits of Saddam Hussein. More gory displays of patriotic fervor. Lately, demonstrators have been painting anti-Bush banners with pints of their own blood. On Oct. 15, the day of last week's one-candidate presidential "election," thousands of voters bloodied their fingers with pins to mark the yes box for seven more years of Saddam Hussein. One old man apparently had no pin, so he used a paper clip. To draw blood he had to stab himself over and over, as the TV cameras drank up the spectacle. Such gestures were utterly voluntary, insisted Iraqi official A. K. Hashimi: "If we had told them to do that, then everyone would have voted with their blood."But not with their hearts. It has always been possible to find a few Iraqis who would criticize Saddam in private, defying the ubiquitous secret police. This...
  • Mideast: 'It Must Be Decisive'

    Rumors of preparations for a coming gulf war fall mostly into one category: "impossible to disprove." According to an Arab intelligence officer in the region, U.S. Special Forces teams are already inside Iraq, hunting Scud missiles and probing defenses. And the U.S. Army has deployed in the Mafraq governate in Jordan, ready to open a western front, according to critics in Amman. "Ludicrous," says Jordan's King Abdullah. "No comment," say the Americans. A division's worth of Abrams main battle tanks have disappeared from Europe and may have been the same ones spotted atop transport trucks in Kuwait last week. Any tanks they brought in recently, insist the Americans, were for routine exercises and would soon go back home. And so on: the next gulf war has not begun, and may still be averted, but you can already tick off the usual first casualty.The broader truth, though, is that everybody is preparing for war. American forces have stepped up exercises: three major ones are now underway...
  • Of Tribes, Trials And Tribulations

    A bizarre procession crept through the Pakistani village of Abba Khel last Wednesday evening. It was the finale of a double wedding, but it seemed more like a funeral march. The older bride, 17-year-old Wazira Khan, was weeping inconsolably. The younger, her 14-year-old cousin Tasneem Khan, had to be hauled by force from her parents' house. The two girls were on their way to consummate their marriages--Wazira to her 83-year-old great-uncle Atta Khan and Tasneem to her great-aunt's 55-year-old son, Maher Khan. Tribal custom--and a family blood feud dating back nearly half a century--gave the girls no choice. Consenting to the union was the only way the girls' families could save their fathers from being hanged.Just before dark, a detachment of district police arrived to rescue the girls. Reports of the case had reached President Pervez Musharraf, and he was determined to keep it from becoming one more international symbol of Pakistan's backwardness. Much of the countryside is...
  • Murder: No Mercy

    Two men were hanged in a remote Pakistan town last week--not rare in Pakistan, but surprising because of the protagonists. The condemned men had murdered Meena, founder of the Revolutionary Afghan Women's Association (RAWA), and two of her aides, in 1987. They would've faced life in prison, but RAWA pushed the Supreme Court to change the sentences to death. RAWA is admired in the West for its brave stand against the Taliban's abuse of women--including executions--and the group officially opposes the death penalty. It made an exception because Meena's murder was politically motivated, says a spokesperson. Afghan officials, including interim leader Hamid Karzai, pleaded for mercy. So did the Afghan consul general in Quetta: "I said, forgive them or you're just like the Taliban." But the answer was no.
  • Dutch Courage

    How's this for bravery? Seven years after the event, the Dutch government releases a report on how its soldiers failed to protect Muslims in the infamous United Nations safe haven in Bosnia known as Srebrenica. Prime Minister Wim Kok subsequently resigns, along with his government. A cabinet member at the time of Srebrenica, Kok was said to shed tears reading the report. It was an astonishing mea culpa--or was it?First, though, I have my own mea culpa. In the winter of 1996, I tracked down the survivors of one village in the Srebrenica enclave. Most were women and children deported by the Bosnian Serbs, who then killed all the men and boys they could find. At the time there was no solid evidence of this, and the Serbs hotly disputed it. So I thought if I found every family from this one village, Lehovici, and brought them together, their cumulative story would be compelling and moving proof.It was their first reunion since Srebrenica's fall, and it was about the harshest thing any...
  • The Unfinished War

    At the tail end of operation Anaconda, some American victories were a bit Pyrrhic. One platoon from the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division was mopping up Al Qaeda positions along a ridgeline dubbed the Whale last week when they came across a fortified bunker. They blasted the structure with antitank rockets and M-16s. They plunked grenades down "spider holes," man-size pits guarding the entrance. Manning the point, Sgt. John Wightman, 26, of Phoenix, Arizona, charged through the entrance, assault rifle blazing, and saw a figure in a white T shirt. "I blasted it, like, five times, and it kept coming at me," he said a few minutes later, as he headed out on another cave-busting patrol. "I was thinking, this motherf---er won't die." The enemy turned out to be some terrorist's underclothes, flapping on a clothesline.The question now is whether Qaeda and Taliban fighters are as resilient as their laundry. There's little doubt that two weeks of intensive airstrikes and ground combat have...
  • Dangerous Days

    In scrawled handwriting on a page torn from a reporter's notebook, the notice that went up at the conference room in Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel late last November was a cri de coeur. "Bad News. Our beloved colleague and friend is dead. Ulf Stromberg, news cameraman for TV4 Sweden was shot dead ...." ...
  • You Call This An Army?

    The Northern Alliance doesn’t seem much like a force in the middle of a war, much less one that has just conquered its country’s capital. In a home commandeered in the middle of the diplomatic quarter, Gen. Qaseem Fahim, the Northern Alliance’s defense minister and commander in chief, last week seemed strangely distant from the fall of Konduz in the north and the battle for Kandahar to the south. In fact, according to his household staff, he was still in bed at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. ...
  • Letter From Kabul: Goodbye Hotel Spinzar

    You can't expect much from a hotel in Kabul, even the city's second best, but the bloodstains on the pillowcases at the Hotel Spinzar were tough to take. We had only arrived in the capital last weekend and already we had one correspondent down with savage gastroenteritis, attached to a saline drip hung from a nail on the wall; two others freezing under dirt-encrusted blankets (their sleeping bags were left behind to lighten the travel load); and two photographers who needed a working toilet and a safe place to put their cameras, not necessarily in that order.Contract photographer Gary Knight hit the streets and after a hard two-hour search found a place that has now become home to our mini NEWSWEEK staff, for however long this goes on: House 7, Street X, in the Wazir Akhbar Khan diplomatic quarter. It was, everyone agreed, a fabulous find. The previous tenants, Arab Afghans, possibly even Al Qaeda partisans, had left it in reasonably good shape. Still, anywhere else and this would...
  • A Fine Balance

    When the United States went to war against the Taliban in Afghanistan last week, Pakistan launched a simultaneous anti-Taliban campaign as well--within its own borders. President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, has made it clear he's ready to crack down on fundamentalists who try to undercut the government's support for the antiterror coalition. Last week he moved quickly to do that, placing the leaders of fundamentalist parties under house arrest, suppressing demonstrations and deporting Afghan refugees who took to the streets. All schools were closed on Friday, the Muslim holy day. Many madrasas, the religious schools that trained Afghanistan's Taliban, were shut down indefinitely. By the end of the week the military had managed to keep control in the streets. But it's clear that de-Talibanizing Pakistan--a country that has increasingly bowed to the will of a vocal fundamentalist minority in recent years--is going to be far from easy.Given the fact that he leads a...
  • Musharraf Bets On America

    As America fired the first missiles yesterday at targets within Afghanistan, Pakistani General Pervez Musharraf moved quickly to hold up his end of the operation, leaving no doubt about whose side he was on.On Sunday, Musharraf purged top military brass of hardliners: Islamist-leaning generals were either kicked upstairs or forced out. The president also appointed Gen. Eshanul Haq the new head of the country's intelligence services, InterService Intelligence (ISI), replacing Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmed, who resigned. ISI had been the architect of Pakistan's intervention in Afghanistan, the organization that groomed the Taliban and helped the regime win-and keep-power. Just last month, the hapless Mahmoud had gone to Washington to persuade the Bush administration to engage with the Taliban. It was about the worst possible mission to be pressing on the 11th of September.The military and intelligence house-cleanings are the latest in a series of bold moves by Pakistan's president. When...
  • Prejudice In Pakistan

    When I got Maj. Gen. Hamid Gul on the telephone at his home to ask if I could interview him, his reaction was guarded at first. "What's your nationality?" he asked. "American," I said. "Are you a Jew?" When I said I wasn't, he agreed to the interview. "I'm sorry to ask you that," he added. "It's just that Jews wouldn't understand what I have to say."Indeed they wouldn't, and nor would most people. General Gul's basic message is that Osama bin Laden is innocent, and that the attacks on New York and Washington were an Israeli-engineered attempt at a coup against the government of the United States. He rattled off the proof: "You must look inside. F-16s don't scramble in time, though they had 18 minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Radar gets jammed. Transponders are turned off. A flight to Los Angeles turns to Washington and is in the air for 45 minutes, and the world's most sophisticated air defense doesn't go into action. I tell you, it was a coup [attempt], and...
  • Macedonia: Dealing With Bad Guys

    If the NATO mission in Macedonia goes down in flames, it might well be due to two men on opposing sides of the ethnic divide. The Albanian, Xhavit Hasani, 50, is a woodcutter from the hills with an elementary-school education, a rude way of speaking and a chip on his shoulder as big as a log. "The Macedonians are even afraid to dream of me," he boasts. Ljube Boskovski, 40, the Macedonian, is a lawyer by education, whose overblown manner sometimes causes even sympathetic listeners to laugh. He no longer sleeps, he likes to say, because he's up all night defending his country.Both are hard-core ethnic nationalists--and evangelists for their cause. For the past two years Hasani has been recruiting young men for the Albanian rebels, walking the highland villages along the border of Kosovo where he's considered a war hero, though he never apparently fired a shot at the Serbs. A convicted peacetime cop-shooter and reputed smuggler, Hasani is a founding father of the National Liberation...
  • Let Europe Do It, Please

    Everyone agrees. If it weren't for the Americans, NATO wouldn't be sending yet another mission to the Balkans. The peace plan crafted between Macedonians and Albanians is the result of intense U.S. diplomatic pressure, coming after months of failed European efforts. And Albanian guerrillas promised to surrender their weapons only if the United States was on the ground to help guarantee the deal. Yet as NATO deployed last week, Americans were conspicuous by their absence. The bulk of the force was British, commanded by a Danish general. Their numbers were bolstered by Greeks, French and Czechs, relative newcomers to NATO. Germans may be there, too, after a tough vote in the Bundestag, prompting one NATO expert to puckishly compare Berlin's reluctance to that of the Americans: "The Germans don't want to do anything because they don't want to kill. The Americans don't want do anything because they don't want to be killed."What's going on? The United States provided the main body of...
  • Focus On Travel: Back To The Balkans

    The Balkan beaches are back, hotter than ever. Ten years after the wars began and five years since combat raged along the coastline, Western tourists are venturing back to the sublime eastern reaches of the Adriatic Sea. From Croatia's Istrian Peninsula, down the 400-mile Dalmatian coast to Kotor and along the ruggedly beautiful shores of Montenegro, there is hardly a hotel room to be found this August. And if you find one, it probably won't be air-conditioned.Marie Lafayette, a physical therapist from Venice Beach, Calif., found herself part of the rush. She stepped off the ferry last Tuesday on the island of Hvar, famous for its all-night beach discos, to discover with sweaty horror that there was no room at the inns. What to do except flash off an e-mail to friends from the nearest Internet cafe? "All of Italy is here," she typed. "I don't know where I'm going to sleep!" Eventually a local family gave her a bed in a room shared with five others, for $12.50 per person. "There wasn...
  • Travel Briefs

    Step into one of Uzbekistan's teeming bazaars, and things won't look much different from the days of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Yes, there are Nike T shirts and fake Chinese Levi's. But along the ancient Silk Road, in market towns like Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara, many merchants offer traditional wares: carpets, scarves, silk and spices. The region, which can be reached by air from Moscow and other European cities, is no stranger to modern trappings. Many of the rugs from Afghanistan, a country torn by more than 20 years of war, show off traditional gorgeous patterns--which turn out, on close inspection, to be woven from pictures of warplanes, helicopters and tanks.The area is known as the Pacific Graveyard: the far west coast of Canada's Vancouver Island. Remote and thinly settled, its fishing and logging industries fading out, the region is famous mostly for fierce winter storms. Now tourism operators in the tiny town of Tofino have found a way to market their most...
  • The Making Of A Quagmire?

    Here's a quick primer to the conflict in Macedonia. One side praises NATO to the skies and hopes they'll stay forever. They're the ones who are widely referred to as "terrorists," or, as NATO Secretary-General Lord Robinson put it a couple months ago, "murderous thugs." Even now NATO spokesmen insist on referring to the Albanian guerrillas as the "so-called National Liberation Army."The other side, the Slavic majority, invited NATO to come to Macedonia in the first place-in fact, practically begged NATO to come, and now many of the political leaders on the Slav side regularly denounce NATO for having come. Some young people on the Slav side want NATO to go home so much that they dropped a slab of concrete onto a British Army jeep from an overpass, killing one of the soldiers inside.It gets more twisted still. NATO is now in the country on a 30-day mission to disarm the NLA, and it has already collected perhaps a third of the 3,300 arms that it reckons the NLA's 3,000 fighters have....
  • Real-Estate Porn

    First came the war correspondents, quietly buying little villas on the rugged coasts and islands of Dalmatia. They passed through the area often enough, on the way to Bosnia, Croatia or Kosovo, and watched as beachfront property values plummeted during the war. Then came the international agencies, the U.N. and European staffers who delivered aid to refugees and later oversaw shaky peace deals. It was clear they would be staying a long time, and living in places like Skopje and Pristina that weren't the most pleasant, so why not a holiday home that was?Many of these pioneers scattered among some of the more than thousand Dalmatian islands in splendid isolation. Others became the nuclei of what are still very small expatriate communities. Frances Best, a German freelancer who previously worked for a television network out of Cologne, was a relative latecomer to the island of Korcula, the reputed birthplace of Marco Polo. Some 20 American families and even more U.N. and European ones...
  • Escape To The Balkans

    The beaches are back, hotter than ever. Ten years after the wars began, five years since the last shots were fired in ethnic anger, that most timid of Homo sapiens, the Western tourist, has ventured in earnest back to the Balkans and the sublime eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea. From the Istrian Peninsula, bordering Italy, down the 400-mile-long Dalmatian coast to Kotor, along the ruggedly beautiful shores of Montenegro to the Albanian border, there is hardly a hotel room to be found this month. And if there is, you can be sure it won't be air-conditioned.Marie Lafayette, a physical therapist from Venice Beach, California, can attest to that. She stepped off the ferry last Tuesday onto the island of Hvar to discover, to her sweaty horror, that there was no room at the inns. What to do except flash off an e-mail to friends from the nearest Internet cafe? "All of Italy is here. I don't know where I'm going to sleep!" Eventually a local family gave her a bed in a room shared with five...
  • Storming Fortress Europe

    When fishermen in the Sicilian village of Portopalo di Capo Passero finish unloading their morning's catch, many of them repair to the Bar Caprice up on the main street. One sleepy day last year, one of them brought in a strange catch from his nets, a human head covered with seaweed, and left it behind on the bar. "It was just a joke," says Maria Mei, a neighbor. The shocked barman found it while cleaning up. He took the head outside and stuck it atop a lamppost. Across the street, a butcher was just closing up when he saw the head, and figured it was a warning to him from the mafia. Locals say the butcher has not been around there since. But the head was not a sign from the mafia. It was a sign of the times in Fortress Europe.The head belonged to one of 283 would-be immigrants who perished in a shipwreck in late 1996. Authorities knew about the wreck but never searched for the missing Sri Lankan Tamils and Liberians. That was true even after fishermen in Portopalo began catching...
  • Crimes Against Humanity

    Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic. Their names resonate in the slaughterhouse of the Balkans. For years the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has sought their arrest and extradition to The Hague. Last week brought that day closer--perhaps very close.The catalyst: the arrest of three senior Bosnian Muslim Army officers for war crimes, committed mainly against Croats in 1993. All three had been applauded by their countrymen as heroes in the defense of Bosnia during the war against the Serbs. Yet within days of their secret indictment two weeks ago, they were seized and, on Friday, shipped off to the Netherlands, where they joined Slobodan Milosevic and 42 others awaiting trial. Most of those are Serbs, with a few Croats. By arresting the first high-ranking Muslim commanders, the tribunal has sent an unmistakable--and critical--signal that all sides to the Balkan conflict will be judged equally.This was in fact a subtle first step in a delicate legal and...
  • A Balkan Beirut

    When gunfire broke out around his small house in the village of Neprosteno, Borovoj Georgievski, 58, grabbed his wife and dove for the floor. He assumed it was Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army, fighting the Macedonian police. Two mortar shells landed in his barnyard; one damaged his car but the five cows, his livelihood, were unhurt. Then, oddly, the phone rang. A neighbor, an NLA guerrilla in the predominantly Albanian village, warned him to run for it. He protested that his wife was too ill, and the shooting too heavy. But the guerrilla insisted. The couple got as far as their front gate, then turned back, hiding in a cellar until the shooting died down. "I don't know what their intention was, to save us or push us out of our homes," Georgievski says. Most of his fellow Slavic neighbors didn't wait to find out but fled for the safety of government-held territory. He stayed. A few days later the guerrillas produced Georgievski as proof of how the Albanians had ...
  • Body Of Evidence

    The cover-up began in the gloom of night, shortly after NATO launched its Kosovo bombing campaign in March 1999. A Serbian manager at the sanitation department in the southern Kosovo town of Prizren barged into the homes of four employees and roused them from sleep. The sanitation workers, all Gypsies (or Roma), were packed into a white van and driven to the Yugoslav military's rifle range on the outskirts of town. As they emerged from the van into the freezing rain, and saw police and Army officers milling about, the four men wondered if they were about to become the next victims of the Serbian rampage.The rifle range was illuminated only by a pile of burning tires that spewed foul, dark smoke. But the Gypsy workers could see the silhouette of a backhoe at work in the distance. As they moved closer, it slowly became clear what the Serbian authorities were up to, and why they had summoned a sanitation crew. The Serbs were exhuming a mass grave. A white refrigerator truck pulled up,...
  • The Balkan Flip-Flopper

    Albanian rebels in Macedonia signed a NATO-brokered ceasefire with the Macedonian Army last week. If the ceasefire holds, NATO is committed to sending in 3,000 troops to disarm the guerrillas. Whether that happens may depend on the mercurial personality of Macedonia's powerful prime minister, Ljubco Georgievski. In a recent interview with NEWSWEEK, the prime minister made clear that he is no fan of NATO's role in Macedonia. "This is the worst flirting by the international community with terrorist groups we have ever seen," he said. "NATO has been too mild with terrorists and Albanian extremists."When the 35-year-old prime minister speaks, diplomats wince. Three years ago the poet and politico became the bright young hope of Macedonia's Western supporters after he took the bold step of forging a coalition between his own Slavic-dominated party and an Albanian political party. That brought him to power--the first salaried job of his life--and brought moderate Albanian leaders into the...
  • Letter From Suva Reka

    At first glance, it was heartening to see how much things seem to have returned to normal in Suva Reka, the town that experienced Kosovo's most brutal and concentrated series of massacres more than two years ago. Of the 8,000 persons believed massacred by Serbs during the war in Kosovo, 506 were killed here and in surrounding villages in an orgy of bloodletting coinciding with the beginning of NATO's bombing campaign.On Reshtan Road, where the Berisha family suffered particularly severely, losing 49 members across three generations, the remaining Berishas have returned and rebuilt most of their burned-out homes. The last time I had been on Reshtan Road, in June of 1999, there were still Serbs prowling the neighborhood and NATO troops had not yet secured it. The evidence of the atrocity was still fresh, coinciding with witness accounts I'd already heard: the charred remains of the men, executed and then burned; the splattered blood and spent shell casings.It started behind one of the...
  • Pride Of Place

    In the Balkans, everyone is a minority somewhere or other. Croats are a majority in Croatia, but a large minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a tiny minority in Serbia, where they still live in fear of their lives. Serbs may dominate Serbia, but in Croatia they would have a rough time these days--if nearly all of them hadn't already been chased out. Bosnian Muslims dominate in Bosnia, but only in 51 percent of it; the rest is practically deeded to Serb control under the Dayton peace accords. And Macedonia, the last to fall victim to ethnic strife, is a bewildering mixture of Muslim Slavs, Greeks, Turks, Egyptians, Romas, Macedonian Slavs, Serbs and Bulgarians. So many, in fact, that the word for a mixed-fruit salad in many European languages is "Macedonian."All these myriad groups want their own ethnically defined nations, for self-protection as well as pride. All have vivid memories of oppression and glorious martyrdom. All have even greater reason to believe now, after a decade...
  • Judgment Day

    Slobodan Milosevic's humilation was by turns historic and pathetic. On Thursday afternoon the warden of Belgrade's Central Prison came to his cell and said, "Get ready, you're going." Where? "To The Hague, Mr. Milosevic." He was incredulous. "Come on, am I really going to The Hague?" He asked to smoke a cigarette: granted. He asked to call his wife: denied. Prison guards drove him to the helipad behind Belgrade's old secret-police headquarters. There they turned him over to three representatives of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, who read him his rights and part of the indictment against him. Milosevic interrupted angrily: "This is a farce. The Hague tribunal has come to the wrong address. The right address is NATO. There is a Hague for you, too."Then Milosevic and his single small suitcase were searched, and resignation replaced anger. They confiscated hidden pill bottles, which Milosevic said were only nitroglycerine for his hypertension. He...
  • Going From Bad To Worse

    Forty-two-year-old Hamdi Klenja knew it was bad when hundreds of men poured into Tsar Samuel Street in the southern Macedonian town of Bitola last Wednesday. The day before, Albanian guerrillas had ambushed and killed five Macedonian soldiers. Three of the dead came from Bitola, and now a mob was taking revenge on the town's ethnic-Albanian civilians. As they broke down his front door Klenja ran upstairs and passed his small children from the balcony to a neighbor next door. Then he jumped after them. Police stood by as looters ransacked his house, then threw in Molotov cocktails. Klenja tried to douse the blaze with a garden hose, but police ordered him to stop. "Let it burn," they said. And it did, along with dozens of other Albanian homes and shops in the city.When it comes to winning hearts and minds, Macedonians are doing a much better job on the diplomatic front than in their own streets and front lines. As evidence of widespread human-rights abuses mounted, NATO secretary...
  • Can Macedonia Be Saved?

    Europe is trying to heed the lessons of Balkans Wars past. But will it be enough to save Macedonia?
  • In Milosevic's Wake

    His legacy is vast, and appalling. A quarter of a million dead in Bosnia alone. More than 3 million refugees. Later in the '90s, Slobodan Milosevic "planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in a campaign of terror and violence directed at Kosovo Albanian civilians," according to the 1999 war-crimes indictment against the Yugoslav ex-dictator. It was only part of the toll exacted by the 10-year reign of the man known as "the Butcher of the Balkans." Throughout Milosevic's Yugoslavia, there were countless lives and families destroyed, villages burned, homes violated. ...