Weekly Roundup 3/28/2011

The Kill Team
Mark Boal, Rolling Stone, March 27, 2011

Synopsis: A group of U.S. infantrymen assigned to root out the Taliban in a tough Afghan territory discussed the ethics and risks of killing Afghan civilians for months before setting out one January morning in search of an unarmed civilian to kill.

Takeaway: “He was a smooth-faced kid, about 15 years old. Not much younger than they were: [Cpl. Jeremy] Morlock was 21, [Pfc. Andrew] Holmes was 19. His name, they would later learn, was Gul Mudin, a common name in Afghanistan. He was wearing a little cap and a Western-style green jacket. He held nothing in his hand that could be interpreted as a weapon, not even a shovel. The expression on his face was welcoming. ‘He was not a threat,’ Morlock later confessed.”

Body Bagger in Iraq
Chris Hedges, Truthdig blog, March 21, 2011

Synopsis: An ex-Marine, now studying to be a counselor, recounts her eight-month tour of duty collecting and cataloguing the remains of dead soldiers in Iraq.

Takeaway: “‘War is disgusting and horrific,’ she said. ‘It never leaves the people who were involved in it. The damage is far greater than the lists of casualties or cost in dollars. It permeates lifestyles. It infects cultures and people and worldviews. The war is never over for us. The fighting stops. The troops get called back. But the war goes on for those damaged by war.’ Not long ago she received a text message from a Marine she had worked with in Mortuary Affairs after he tried to commit suicide. ‘I’ve got $2,000 in the bank,’ the message read. ‘Let’s meet in NYC and go out with a bang.’”

For background see the following CQ Researcher reports: Peter Katel, “America at War,” [subscription required] July 23, 2010.

-Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Washington’s New Brat Pack Masters Media
Sridhar Pappu, The New York Times, March 26, 2011

Synopsis: Reporter/bloggers in their 20s – among them, Brian Beutler (Talking Points Memo), Dave Weigel (Slate) and Ezra Klein (Washington Post) -- “have become part of the journalistic establishment in Washington,” according to Times reporter Pappu (age 35, per his Facebook profile). Despite disdain in some quarters, these and other masters of new media are acknowledged by the White House, invited to bold-face-name events and read with care by many in the old media.

Takeaway: A critic says the 20-somethings represent “a devaluation of serious journalism in favor of reporters who are able to create a brand identity.” But a fan says he admires “the way these bloggers have opened up the D.C. conversation.”

For background, see these CQ Researcher reports: Tom Price, “Journalism Standards in the Internet Age,” Oct. 8, 2010; and Kenneth Jost and Melissa Hipolit, “Blog Explosion,” June 9, 2006.

-Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Daniel Alarcón, Lost City Radio (Harper Perennial, 2008).

On his recent tour of South and Central America, President Obama portrayed the region as a model for Middle Eastern nations trying to move from dictatorship to democracy. But that transition is still under way, and the toll exacted by tyranny and civil conflict is still being calculated. Peruvian journalist and novelist Daniel Alarcón – who writes in English – offers a view of the years when most of South America was consumed by insurgency and counter-insurgency. Set in an unnamed country that seems to be a composite of Peru, Argentina and Colombia in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s, the novel skirts politics to focus on people trying to live their lives under a state of siege. As they learn, the rules of survival aren’t spelled out, but breaking them carries mortal consequences.

-Peter Katel, Staff Writer

For background, see Peter Katel, “Change in Latin America,” [subscription required] CQ Researcher, July 21, 2006.


"Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India"
Joseph Lelyveld, The New York Times Book Review, March 27, 2011

Reviewed by Geoffrey C. Ward

Synopsis: Given all the interest in India these days, it was fascinating to read about the man credited with starting the nation on the road to independence from Britain. I was surprised to learn (and a little embarrassed not to have known), that the great crusader for equality among India’s castes, as well as for his nation’s freedom, got his start in South Africa. Sent there as a young lawyer to represent Indian businessmen, he soon became caught up in the fight for the rights, not of black South Africans, but of Indians.

Takeaway: Gandhi is still widely called “the father of the nation” in India, but Lelyveld argues, “he was ultimately forced, like Lear, to see the limits of his ambition to remake his world.”

-Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor