Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

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32633_130412_Longreads1.jpg

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.


‘There's No Turning Back': My Interview with a Hunted American Jihadist

Spencer Ackerman • Wired

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.


‘There’s No Turning Back’: My Interview with a Hunted American Jihadist

Spencer Ackerman • Wired

A conversation with Alabama native Omar Hammami, via Twitter.

Hammami isn’t looking for an escape hatch. He’s broken with al-Shebab, not jihad. “I believe in attacking u.s. Interests everywhere,” he tells me, through Twitter’s direct message function, the only means through which he consented to a week-long running interview. “No 2nd thoughts and no turning back.” Sentiments like that make it likely that Hammami will be the next American killed in a U.S. drone strike.

Hammami is a complex figure. He’s never attacked his fellow Americans. He reflects on his time in America with fondness. He jokes about porn and barbecue on Twitter with his unlikely buddies. And he’s chipping away at the legitimacy of America’s top adversary in east Africa one Tweet at the time, all while sunnily proclaiming his undying antagonism for his homeland. “A walking contradiction from massively different backgrounds” is how Hammami once described himself, “who is seriously passionate about what he believes in, but feels he has to go about doing it while laughing at almost everything along the way.”

Youtube


A Wild Country Grows in South Sudan

Patrick Symmes • Outside

Hiking through a new nation.

The newest country in the world is physically large-240,000 square miles, the size of France-and catastrophically ungoverned. It is a featureless grassland for most of its open, landlocked run. South Sudan is a landscape without clear divisions or functioning borders, touching Sudan and the Arab world to the north and the troubled Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic to the west, with East Africa pressing up from below. The waters of the Nile and thick seasonal rains drive a wedge of green grass across plains teeming with animals. National Geographic explorer Mike Fay made global headlines in 2007 when he completed the first aerial survey in 25 years and estimated that there were 1.3 million animals flowing across it, a great migratory river of white-eared kob and other antelope and gazelle dotted with a stash of elephants and a handful of species-including beisa oryx and Nile lechwe antelope-existing nowhere else on earth. Finding this many unknown animals anywhere was like finding El Dorado, Fay said at the time; finding them in war-torn Africa was even better.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images


How a Single Spy Helped Turn Pakistan Against the United States

Mark Mazetti • New York Times

On Raymond Davis — the private U.S. contractor arrested in Pakistan for double homicide — and his troubling ties to the C.I.A.

For many senior Pakistani spies, the man sitting in the jail cell represented solid proof of their suspicions that the C.I.A. had sent a vast secret army to Pakistan, men who sowed chaos and violence as part of the covert American war in the country. For the C.I.A., the eventual disclosure of Davis’s role with the agency shed an unflattering light on a post-Sept. 11 reality: that the C.I.A. had farmed out some of its most sensitive jobs to outside contractors – many of them with neither the experience nor the temperament to work in the war zones of the Islamic world.

A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images


Think Again: Margaret Thatcher

Christian Caryl • Foreign Policy

The former British prime minister was a transformative politician. But her public image as an unblinking Iron Lady fails to do justice to her complexity.

As a trip to any London newsstand this week will tell you, Margaret Thatcher’s political mission was an inherently polarizing one. To her fans she remains the very embodiment of self-assured conservatism, the woman who unapologetically celebrated the values of patriotism and free enterprise. To her foes she remains Thatcher the Milk Snatcher, the sneering prima donna who slashed away at the British welfare state, spared little time for the poor, and opened the way to an era of excess and greed.

Both of these images are caricatures.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images


Toxic Legacies in the Land of Black and Yellow Gold

Lea Aschkenas • Los Angeles Review of Books

The lasting impact of Dole and Chevron-Texaco on the land and people of Ecuador.

“Today the Amazon is the Ecuadorian province with the most cases of cancer and birth defects,” Marco says as we drive by a stretch of roadside oil-worker houses, many of them inhabited by native people who, like the Ecuadorian government, were lured by the wealth of the oil companies. These company houses are smaller, more ramshackle versions of Marco’s house. Many of them have no windows, and those that do have only rectangular holes in the outer walls with no glass or even louvered blinds.

Soon we pass through Dureno, a village Marco describes as “an Indian pueblo without the Indians.”

“Before the oil companies, there were nearly 10,000 Cofán people here, but today there are just over 100,” he says. “They used to work in natural medicine, but, imagine, now their jungles are gone. So they’ve left to work for the oil companies.”

RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images

Laura Clark is a contributor at Longform.

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