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Published: 10/23/2002
Breaking Al-Qaida
The journey of Ramzi Muhammad Abdullah bin al-Shibh began in chaos and fear when a squad of Pakistani rangers stormed his hideout in a fashionable Karachi suburb. Bullets flew, grenades exploded, one al-Qaida gunman even scrawled a paean to Allah in blood on the wall of a fifth-floor apartment. By the time the fighting ended, bin al-Shibh had been taken into custody. From that moment on, the man believed to be a pivotal figure in the Sept. 11 attacks descended into one of the most secretive and controversial realms of the war on terrorism: the domain of detention and interrogation. A photo of bin al-Shibh's arrest last month shows him surrounded by an entourage of stern soldiers, his hands cuffed behind his back, his eyes blindfolded with a swath of white cloth. Dressed in a dark T-shirt, the frail-framed, 30-year-old Yemeni national was quickly ushered to an undisclosed location, where, two weeks later, the State Department said, he began to provide the United States with "valuable information." ///continue///
Published: 05/02/2002
Militants on the Steppes
It was an early November morning when I met Gairam Muminov on the steps of a courthouse on the outskirts of Tashkent, the sprawling capital of Uzbekistan. He was leaning against a white stone banister, nervously smoking a cigarette. His thin, sunburned face was carved with deep furrows and strained by even deeper worries, which seemed to manifest themselves most intensely around his dark gray eyes. Inside the courthouse, local authorities were keeping his son, Abdulvali, locked up for participating in a forbidden religious group. Although Muminov's job as a builder prevented him from attending the trial, the 57-year-old father had come that morning to find out firsthand how long his son would be imprisoned. Abdulvali's sentencing was scheduled to begin at 10 am. When the time came, we entered the Akmal Ikramov District Court, a rundown edifice of cheap marble and concrete located on a dusty road beside the city's Police Station No. 2. ///continue///
Published: 03/22/2002
Time to Tell Truth About Gulf War
With U.S. military action in Iraq emerging as a possible next phase in the war on terrorism, the Pentagon should work quickly toward solving some of the nagging questions that cloud over the Persian Gulf war and its legacy. In particular, it should clear up uncertainty surrounding so-called Gulf War Syndrome. If the public is to have an informed debate about returning troops to Iraq, it must have better information about why so many soldiers who fought there became ill. Unfortunately, recently released data about U.S. military maneuvers conducted near an Iraqi storage facility during Operation Desert Storm suggest that opacity rather than openness continues to define the official account of that conflict.///continue///
Published: 03/14/2002
Relearning to Love the Bomb
On July 16, 1945, not long after the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated in the desert near Alamogordo in southern New Mexico, Winston Churchill is said to have exclaimed: "What was gunpowder? Trivial. What was electricity? Meaningless. This atomic bomb is the Second Coming in wrath!" At that time, debate was under way in the United States over whether to unleash the destructive power of nuclear weapons upon the Japanese, and Churchill was directing his cautionary remarks to then-US Secretary of War Henry Stimson. But the decision to use the bomb came quickly in Washington; the country had just suffered a devasting attack on Pearl Harbor. As Stimson later put it, "I felt that to extract a genuine surrender from the Emperor and his military advisers they must be administered a tremendous shock which would carry convincing proof of our power to destroy the Empire." ///continue///
Published: 02/19/2002
Beyond Survival
Nearly every day, Mohamedou Ould Isselmou, a 37-year-old Mauritanian living in New York, leaves his fourth-floor Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment at noon and heads for a nearby halal cafe, where he works, often until past midnight. On some days, like today, the sky is gray, cold, and rainy, and Isselmou will tighten his hood as he rushes past a derelict lot opposite his building, past a large industrial pipe pouring clouds of steam onto the street, past a rundown corner liquor store. But no matter how dreary the trip, and no matter how long or tedious his working hours, he says he rarely loses grasp of the one reality that keeps him tethered to this city: He is living the life of a free man. Back in his West African homeland, he still would be a slave. ///continue///
Published: 01/03/2002
Letter From Uzbekistan
NAMANGAN -- The main overland route into Central Asia's Fergana Valley is the two-lane A373 highway in Uzbekistan. At first, the road is level. But to enter the expansive dale it must climb over 7,000 feet, wending through snowcapped mountains cut from the Alay and Tian Shan ranges. On the other side of the pass, the horizon rapidly opens up, giving way to the valley's flat and rocky landscape. Leaving the mountains, the highway shoots toward a strip of haze that perpetually clouds distant village skylines. If nature has given the people who live here an awe-inspiring gateway, it has given the governments who rule over them a powerful instrument of control. These mountains effectively wall in Central Asia's most turbulent and crowded area, funneling all traffic into easily regulated chokepoints. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan share the valley, home to nearly 11 million people. But Uzbekistan's harsh authoritarian leadership has been particularly aggressive in its use of this topographical convenience, turning the Uzbek portion of the region, the largest section, into what amounts to a massive minimum-security prison. ///continue///
Published: 12/16/2001
Neighbors Fear Afghan Drug Industry May Spread
DUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN -- High up in northern Taikistan's snow-capped Fan mountain range, across a winding overland pass, armed soldiers stopped and stripped apart Ebodulon Rakhimov's small Soviet-era van. A tip had come earlier in the week that the gaunt and unshaven 52-year-old was one of the latest in a tidal wave of smugglers shuttling narcotics from Afghanistan through Tajikistan to Russia, Western Europe and the United States. ///continue///
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