Longform’s Picks of the Week

Longform’s Picks of the Week

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden … Is Screwed
Phil Bronstein • Esquire

A profile of the Navy Seal who killed Osama bin Laden and came home to a life in shambles.

“No one who fights for this country overseas should ever have to fight for a job,” Barack Obama said last Veterans’ Day, “or a roof over their head, or the care that they have earned when they come home.”

But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:

Nothing. No pension, no healthcare for his wife and kids, no protection for himself or his family.

Mario Tama/Getty Images


How Napoleon Chagnon Became Our Most Controversial Anthropologist
Emily Eakin • New York Times

An anthropologist who made his name studying an isolated tribe is one of the most revered and reviled figures in his field.

In turning the Yanomami into the world’s most famous “unacculturated” tribe, Chagnon also turned the romantic image of the “noble savage” on its head. Far from living in harmony with one another, the tribe engaged in frequent chest-pounding duels and deadly inter-village raids; violence or threat of violence dominated social life. The Yanomami, he declared, “live in a state of chronic warfare.”

The phrase may be the most contested in the history of anthropology. Colleagues accused him of exaggerating the violence, even of imagining it — a projection of his aggressive personality. As Chagnon’s fame grew — his book became a standard text in college courses — so did the complaints.


The Double Agent Who Infiltrated Al Qaeda
Orla Borg, Carsten Ellegaard Christensen, Morten Pihl • The Daily Beast

The agent who received no credit for helping to capture al-Awlaki tells his story.

The men sit down to eat a breakfast of tea and dates when a sound from the sky unnerves them. It’s the morning of Sept. 30, 2011. And the sound the men are hearing is the sound of two unmanned drones, sent from a secret U.S. military base somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula. As the men start running back toward the pickup trucks, they are struck by Hellfire missiles fired from the drones. None survive.

In Washington, President Obama hails the assassination as “another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al Qaeda.”

Unmentioned in the subsequent news accounts detailing the hunt for Awlaki is the unlikely double agent who infiltrated the innermost circles of al Qaeda in Yemen-a burly, redheaded, 37-year-old Dane who appears to have been a central character in a bizarre U.S.-Danish mission to track down the terror leader.



‘Imagine the Worst Possible Scenario’: Why a Guantanamo Prosecutor Withdrew From the Case
Jess Bravin • The Atlantic

On the torture of one prisoner and the lawyer who couldn’t prosecute him.

Couch was convinced that Slahi had spent years organizing the Qaeda network in Europe, culminating with recruitment of the Hamburg cell that supplied hijackers for 9/11. If any detainee deserved the death penalty, it was Slahi.

Yet Couch hesitated. He ruminated for weeks. Was the United States justified in beating Slahi, in subjecting him to isolation, sensory deprivation, temperature extremes, and sexual humiliation? Was it justified in constructing elaborate scenarios that literally put the fear of death in him, convincing him that he was about to be killed?

One threat, Couch believed, was the worst of all: To have his mother raped.



Gay Paris
Eric Pape • Foreign Policy

France and the fight over same-sex marriage.

In a de facto filibuster effort, France’s conservative opposition introduced 5,000 amendments to slow down the legislative process. In recent days, anti-gay-marriage forces even orchestrated a brief protest traffic jam to block the Champs-Élysées. Looking ahead, they plan mass protests in the spring when their allies in the French Senate may seek to create further obstacles.

But such efforts are almost certainly doomed to failure. President François Hollande, who made “marriage for all” a core issue of his candidacy, has a substantial majority in Parliament. And politically, clear action and real-world results can only help a head of state whose first eight months in office left many people here with an impression of hapless indecisiveness. His strong choice to intervene in Mali — which has so far gone well — has put wind in his sails, and satisfying his same-sex marriage and gay-adoption pledge would add to his newfound momentum.