New York Times Magazine, Nov. 25
The cover story assesses Colin Powell. Before Sept. 11, Powell had all but slipped out of the limelight; Time asked, “Where Have You Gone, Colin Powell?” Now, with America at war, Powell battled his way back into the administration’s foreign policy ranks. He rolls over the neoconservative Reaganites at the Pentagon who think he deifies international coalitions and is too slow to use force. (Former President Bush, in a letter, tells the author, “That Colin did not want to use force [during the Gulf war] is a grossly unfair, insupportable lie.”) He further angers the neocons by tossing off lines like this: “Reagan, God bless him, was forever talking about this [missile] shield and, you know, We’re just going to make all offensive weapons useless.” After the war, the author suggests, Powell will need to hold another coalition together: the Bush administration.—B.C.
Vanity Fair, December 2001
The last page of a scary article on bioterrorism suggests that legitimate biological research, such as the human genome project, could serve as a primer for developing highly lethal “perfect pathogens” that are tailor-made to kill unstoppably. … An article describes how the cell phone has become a lethal new weapon. Israeli security forces used an explosives-packed phone to blow the head off a known terrorist. Palestinians have rigged cell phones to detonate small bombs from anywhere in the world. And Russians used the signal from a Chechen-separatist’s satellite phone to triangulate his location and assassinate him. … A piece trails an attractive and ambitious young staffer and her intern friends as they attempt to navigate the sexually tense halls of Congress. The story ends two nights after Sept. 11 at the Capital Grille, a favorite Capitol Hill hangout where interns go to network and flirt with the powerful. That night the women were collectively hit on by a swarm of drunken Democratic congressmen, and there are a couple of barely incriminating photographs to prove it.— J.F.
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, Nov. 26 All three newsweeklies run cover stories about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, which is job No. 1 now that the Taliban has collapsed. Time is the most optimistic. Taliban defectors are falling all over themselves to tell American troops what they know about Bin Laden’s whereabouts, and the Pentagon says it knows generally where he is. …Newsweek argues that the unexpected rout has turned Bin Laden from hero to joke in the Islamic world, but it worries that he may still have the ability to launch some kind of nuclear attack as his last act. …U.S. News focuses on what happens next. It reports that America is considering a 10-year, $1 billion per year humanitarian aid package. However, the speed of the Taliban collapse has generated dangerous political instability, as southern Pashtuns, the Northern Alliance, and semi-independent warlords fight to win control of Afghanistan as international money floods into it.
A U.S. News piecereports the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 may lead to the re-evaluation of a major trend in airplane construction: the replacement of metal parts with plastic composites. The flight encountered wake turbulence from another plane, but that alone should not have been enough to rip its tail fin off, which is what precipitated its deadly spiral. … A Newsweek article celebrates the end of Taliban rule with stories of Aghan women, who had suffered “the most stifling repression imposed on women anywhere in the world,” burning their head-to-toe burqas and donning lipstick instead. However, it remains to be seen if the Northern Alliance and other liberators will deliver on their promises of freedom. … A Time piece asks if President Bush overstepped his bounds by signing a military order allowing for terrorists to be tried in special military courts where the proceedings are secret, hearsay is admissible, and the defendants have no right to the lawyer of their choice or even to hear the evidence against them. The White House says it needs new rules because terror cases are hard to prosecute, but civil libertarians are horrified, and members of both parties in Congress expressed their dismay about the executive power play.—J.D.
The New Yorker, Nov. 26
A quote-heavy piece about the resurgent Newt Gingrich lets him sound off. Although President Bush was “a little Jimmy Carterish” at the beginning of his term, he has come into his own since the war started. His foreign policy team has been able to resist the State Department (read: Colin Powell), which “will once a day come up with a genuinely bad idea.” The real weakness of the war efforts so far rests on Bill Clinton’s shoulders because his generals are “not very creative” or “clever.” … An article calls baby diapers the perfect exemplar of innovation. Most goods—cars and televisions, for instance—get worse as they get smaller. But the heralded microchip and the ignored diaper only get better. Now lined with superabsorbants the size of a salt grain instead of wads of paper, diapers may one day be as thin as underwear and never, ever leak.—J.D.
The Nation, Dec. 3
The cover story addresses the disciplinary action taken against several professors for their inflammatory or “unpatriotic” post-Sept. 11 remarks. Some blame for the recent censorship belongs to the same academic left that created censorious campus speech codes and anti-harassment policies, which “may have done more to suppress campus freedom than to remedy injustice in any meaningful way.” … A piece tracks the recent history of the U.S.-Saudi love affair. The Saudis carry so much cachet in Washington that they can afford to spend less on lobbying than Angola. Instead, they make themselves important by backing U.S. covert activities, buying U.S. arms, keeping oil prices reasonable, and financing junkets for Hill staffers to places like the Bahamas. All they want in return is a little protection, a steady flow of weapons, and not to be bothered over human rights abuses.—J.F.
Weekly Standard, Nov. 26
An article argues that al-Qaida represents a far-flung outpost of European socialist postmodernism. Osama Bin Laden’s belief in the people’s radical will toward revolution and his struggle against American hegemony put him more in line with Sartre, Fanon, and Foucault than the Quran. … A piece praises President Bush for shifting strategies in Afghanistan. Until the end of October, Bush had embraced Colin Powell’s cautionary strategy of stalling the Northern Alliance while a workable post-Taliban coalition could be assembled. But then, seeing the failure of this approach, Bush wisely changed course and turned to Donald Rumsfeld’s more aggressive bombing plan, which seems to be winning the war. … An article offers a gloomy forecast for Communist China. With the global economy in a downturn, multinationals will try to make up for consumption decreases in the West by penetrating Chinese markets. Coming at a time when Chinese exports are slumping, this two-way trade could signal the death knell for the already faltering Communist regime.—J.F.
New Republic, Nov. 26 The cover story follows Northern Alliance soldiers into Kabul. At the Taliban’s Ministry for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue, an edict reads, “Three cooks didn’t pray in the evening and were given seven hundred whacks with the cable.” The author finds a dead Arab whose mouth has been stuffed with cigarettes and neck collared with cassette tape. … An article chides the Bushies for not embracing the Northern Alliance sooner. This week’s alliance gains show no sign of destabilizing Pakistan or touching off a war between the country’s ethnic tribes. Moreover, the Bushies don’t have a viable fighting or governing alternative. … A piece finds an unintended beneficiary of anti-Arab sentiment: Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., once the GOP’s most endangered incumbent. Since Sept. 11, Smith has ratcheted up the pro-Israel rhetoric and blasted his primary opponent, John Sununu, an ethnic Palestinian. He now leads by six points in one poll.—B.C.
Economist, Nov. 17 The cover story cites two potential risks following the Northern Alliance’s recent victories. 1) The alliance will alienate local and foreign opinion by engaging in score settling, murder, rape, and all sorts of other nefarious activities for which they’re infamous. 2) The alliance will simply give up and decide that it’s not worth fighting the Taliban in their southern stronghold when the alliance could just as easily partition the country and rule the North on their own. … The magazine offers the following odd and unexpected correction: “In the issues of December 16th 2000 to November 10th 2001, we may have given the impression that George Bush had been legally and duly elected president of the United States. We now understand that this may have been incorrect, and that the election result is still too close to call. The Economist apologises for any inconvenience.”— J.F.