Longform’s Picks of the Week
The best stories from around the world.
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.
A Century of Silence, Raffi Khatchadourian, the New Yorker.
A family survives the Armenian genocide and its long aftermath.
“Diyarbakir became a city of wounded cosmopolitanism, its minorities—Christians, Jews, Yazidis—greatly diminished. Still, my grandfather persisted, until 1952. My father, the twelfth of his children, grew up in Diyarbakir, and I grew up listening to his stories about it. At parties, over glasses of coffee or raki, he described the place in mythic terms, as a kind of Anatolian Macondo, populated by people with names like Haji Mama, Deli Weli, Apple Popo. But my grandfather was always elusive in those stories, his path to survival a mystery. For nearly a century, the Turkish state has denied the Armenian genocide—until recently, you could be prosecuted even for referring to it—and so any inquiry into such things would have been fraught. But not long ago a curious thing happened. Diyarbakir, breaking with the state policy, began to indicate that, once again, its people wanted it to serve as a shared homeland. The centerpiece of the city’s experiment in renewal is a cathedral that once touched all the city’s Armenian inhabitants, my grandfather among them.”
The Tragedy of the American Military, by James Fallows, the Atlantic.
The American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win.
“Now the American military is exotic territory to most of the American public. As a comparison: A handful of Americans live on farms, but there are many more of them than serve in all branches of the military. (Well over 4 million people live on the country’s 2.1 million farms. The U.S. military has about 1.4 million people on active duty and another 850,000 in the reserves.) The other 310 million–plus Americans ‘honor’ their stalwart farmers, but generally don’t know them. So too with the military. Many more young Americans will study abroad this year than will enlist in the military—nearly 300,000 students overseas, versus well under 200,000 new recruits. As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.”
Working the Dark Side, by David Bromwich, the London Review of Books.
On the use and defense of torture by the American government.
“After the real catastrophe of September 2001, Cheney succeeded in changing America’s idea of itself. He did it with a tireless diligence of manipulation behind the scenes, commonly issuing his orders from a bunker underneath the Naval Observatory in Washington. The element of fear in Cheney is strong: a fact that is often lost in descriptions of him as an undiluted malignity. His words and actions testify to a personal fear so marked that it could project and engender collective fear.
Cheney worked hard to eradicate from the minds of Americans the idea that there can be such a thing as a ‘suspect’. Due process of law rests on the acknowledged possibility that a suspect may be innocent; but, for Cheney, a person interrogated on suspicion of terrorism is a terrorist. To elaborate a view beyond that point, as he sees it, only involves government in a wasteful tangle of doubts. Cheney concedes from time to time that mistakes can happen; but the leading quality of the man is a perfect freedom from remorse. ‘I’d do it again in a minute,’ he said recently of the plan for the interrogation programme and the secret prisons which the office of the vice president vetted and approved.”
The Wreck of the Kulluk, by McKenzie Funk, the New York Times Magazine.
Three years ago, Shell spent millions to send a colossal oil rig to drill in the remote seas of the Arctic. But the Arctic had other plans.
“In 2005, along with its purchase of the Kulluk, Shell bid $44 million for 84 blocks of seabed in the Beaufort Sea. In 2006 it hired a subcontractor, Frontier Drilling, now part of the Noble Corporation, to staff and operate the Kulluk. In 2007, it bid another $39 million to double its Beaufort holdings. In 2008, it paid a record-breaking $2.1 billion on leases in the Chukchi. Over time, it spent $292 million to upgrade the Kulluk. (The original purchase price for the rig was never disclosed.) From its North American headquarters in Houston, where executives oversaw logistics in the distant Arctic, Shell fought off lawsuits from environmental and native groups. It waited out the moratorium on offshore drilling imposed as a result of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The Arctic was a long-term investment — Shell would not start production on such a big project in such a distant place until at least a decade after it found oil — but the future is always getting closer, and by 2010 the company was anxious. It took out ads in newspapers, hoping to pressure the Obama administration into opening the Arctic. One pictured a little girl reading in bed, a figurine of a polar bear next to the lamp on her nightstand. ‘What sort of world will this little girl grow up in?’ it asked. If ‘we’re going to keep the lights on for her, we will need to look at every possible energy source. . . . Let’s go.'”
The Monster in the Sea, by Laurie Garrett, Foreign Policy.
A trip to the Liberian border village of Jene-Wonde reveals the dangers in declaring victory over Ebola.
“It is that ‘what happens next’ question that haunts epidemiologists Luke Bawo and Hans Rosling, who share a small office, along with two other number-crunching comrades, inside the Ministry of Health’s headquarters in Monrovia. Rosling, who is from Sweden, coined the term ‘monster’ as a way to describe the danger he sees for Liberia right now. Although the number of new cases reported every day has dropped dramatically from the hideous highs of September, the Jene-Wonde outbreak shows that a single case is all it takes to spark an Ebola resurgence. Rosling drew me a picture to explain, first depicting a downhill slope of declining cases over time, heading to a zero point in the future.
Horizontally beneath that slope he drew another line meant to depict the surface of a sea of deaths due to all causes, from heart attacks to car accidents, and, hidden within that, an Ebola monster.”
AFP Photo/Greenpeace/Robert Myers; David McNew, Getty Images News; Richard Ellis; Win McNamee; Michal Cizek; KNS/AFP/Getty Images