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.

60 Words and a War without End, by Gregory D. Johnsen, Buzzfeed

How the Authorization for the Use of Military Force came to be 12 years ago, and what it’s since come to mean.

In the span of a few hours, the U.S. had launched a pair of raids — one successful and one not — 3,000 miles apart, in countries with which the nation was not at war. Hardly anyone noticed.

More than a dozen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, this is what America’s war looks like, silent strikes and shadowy raids. The Congressional Research Service, an analytical branch of the Library of Congress, recently said that it had located at least 30 similar occurrences, although the number of covert actions is likely many times higher with drones strikes and other secret operations. The remarkable has become regular.

The White House said that the operations in both Libya and Somalia drew their authority from the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a 12-year-old piece of legislation that was drafted in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks. At the heart of the AUMF is a single 60-word sentence, which has formed the legal foundation for nearly every counterterrorism operation the U.S. has conducted since Sept. 11, from Guantanamo Bay and drone strikes to secret renditions and SEAL raids. Everything rests on those 60 words.

The Hunt for Mukhtar Ablyazov: Banker, Criminal, Fugitive, Victim?, by Elliot Wilson, EuroMoney

Is the former head of Kazakh bank BTA a fraudster on a par with Madoff, as prosecutors claim, or the persecuted victim of his home country’s political elite?

The lavish life of Mukhtar Ablyazov — financial fugitive, convicted fraudster, political patsy, British jailbird-in-absentia — was all but over on July 13 2013. Not that he knew it. Kazakhstan’s most wanted man, on trial in London on charges of eye-watering financial fraud — charges he continues to deny — was rather enjoying life on the run. Safely ensconced in a plush villa on the outskirts of Nice, he was awaiting the arrival of a very special guest

Just over a thousand kilometres away, in the Rolls Building on Fetter Lane in the heart of London’s legal district, Ablyazov’s name, once unimpeachable, now scuffed and sullied, was suffering its latest bruising. Justice Nicholas Hamblen, just one of the many High Court judges to oversee one of the most sinuously winding cases ever heard in a British court, presided.

Palace Intrigue, by Evgenia Peretz, Vanity Fair

The intrigue between Francois Hollande, Ségolène Royale, and Valérie Trierweiler — France’s most famous love triangle.

Not since French president Nicolas Sarkozy and supermodel and former Mick Jagger girlfriend Carla Bruni announced their relationship at Euro Disney had the French witnessed something so alarming involving the occupants of the Palais de l’Élysée, home and office of the president of France. On June 12, just one month after François Hollande had been installed as the new president of France (succeeding Sarkozy), his stunning magazine-writer girlfriend, Valérie Trier­weiler, took to her Twitter account in a towering rage against Ségolène Royal, Hollande’s former partner and the mother of his four children. The words of the tweet sounded innocuous — a message of support for Royal’s opponent in a legislative race — but the meaning was clear. Something was seriously dysfunctional in what Hollande had promised would be Boring Land.

Hollande, after all, was supposed to be the “normal” one, the one who wasn’t a crazed pervert like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or a louche, yacht-hopping modelizer like Sarkozy. Sure, he had once upon a time been with Royal, had a family with her, and had fallen in love with Trierweiler, but this was France, after all. Nothing to bat an eyelash at. Suddenly Hollande’s carefully tended, oh-so-evolved image was blown apart by his girlfriend. Soon, the newspaper headlines about him could have graced any given cover of the Enquirer. the poison of jealousy and secrets of a trio from hell, hissed L’Express and Marianne.

Kayapo Courage, by Chip Brown, National Geographic

The Amazon tribe has beaten back ranchers and gold miners and famously stopped a dam. Now its leaders must fight again or risk losing a way of life.

At first glance, Kendjam seems a kind of Eden. And perhaps it is. But that’s hardly to say the history of the Kayapo people is a pastoral idyll exempt from the persecution and disease that have ravaged nearly every indigenous tribe in North and South America. In 1900, 11 years after the founding of the Brazilian Republic, the Kayapo population was about 4,000. As miners, loggers, rubber tappers, and ranchers poured into the Brazilian frontier, missionary organizations and government agencies launched efforts to “pacify” aboriginal tribes, wooing them with trade goods such as cloth, metal pots, machetes, and axes. Contact often had the unintended effect of introducing measles and other diseases to people who had no natural immunity. By the late 1970s, following the construction of the Trans-Amazon Highway, the population had dwindled to about 1,300.

But if they were battered, they were never broken. In the 1980s and ’90s the Kayapo rallied, led by a legendary generation of chiefs who harnessed their warrior culture to achieve their political goals. Leaders like Ropni and Mekaron-Ti organized protests with military precision, began to apply pressure, and, as I learned from Zimmerman, who has been working with the Kayapo for more than 20 years, would even kill people caught trespassing on their land. Kayapo war parties evicted illegal ranchers and gold miners, sometimes offering them the choice of leaving Indian land in two hours or being killed on the spot. Warriors took control of strategic river crossings and patrolled borders; they seized hostages; they sent captured trespassers back to town without their clothes.

Divorce, Istanbul-Style, by Piotr Zalewski, Foreign Policy

Why Turkey’s nasty Gulen-Erdogan fight is making for some strange bedfellows.

Last August, after five years of hearings and indictments that ran into the thousands of pages, a Turkish court convicted more than 250 people of conspiring to topple the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Ergenekon trial, as it was called — named after a shadowy group believed to be part of Turkey’s so-called deep state — was seen as an attempt by Erdogan to undermine his main opponent, the secular military. And it appeared to have served its purpose: The day after the convictions, Yalcin Akdogan, one of the prime minister’s leading advisors, praised the verdict as “the greatest legal settling of accounts in the history of the republic.”

Nearly five months later, Akdogan reversed course. Many of the officers sentenced in the Ergenekon case had actually been framed, he wrote in a December column in the Star newspaper. The real culprit, he suggested, was the Gulen movement, a powerful Islamic order suspected of setting up a large fiefdom inside the Turkish police and judiciary. “Everybody knows that those who have plotted against their own country’s national army … could not have acted for the good of this country,” Akdogan wrote.