Monthly Archives: January 2009

How We Got Here


I’m pleased to announce the launch of How We Got Here, a new history podcast from PRI’s The World. Each week I plan to choose one item or topic in the news and delve into the history behind it. This week, with all the talk of diplomacy with Iran, I go back to one of the biggest sore points in US-Iranian relations–the 1953 coup in which the CIA helped oust Iran’s democratically-elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh.  To subscribe please go to  If you do give a listen I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. You can send them to  Or you can always leave word here.

Huge thanks to The World’s Clark Boyd who has coached me through the process of starting a podcast–from cajoling me to shed the stiffness of the radio-reporter persona (to the supposedly more-the-real-Jeb podcast persona), to navigating the metadata, file sizes and ftp minutiae.  Clark paved the way here at The World with his much-loved Tech Podcast and now spends a good deal of time teaching the rest of us how to get started.


I did a piece about Richard Holbrooke’s appointment as “‘Special Representative” to Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday’s show.  Marco Werman followed with an interview with Rory Stewart of the Carr Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who was skeptical about the wisdom of increasing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. There’s good coverage elsewhere: Helene Cooper takes in the Afghanistan quagmire in yesterday’s NYT and Laura Rozen at The Cable reports on why India was left out of Holbrooke’s brief.  There’s an interesting debate about how active the U.S. should be in trying to help solve the Kashmir problem. Some say solving Kashmir is an essential piece of the puzzle. Others fear U.S. attention to Kashmir will only exacerbate the problem and provoke hardliners.

Also–here’s Spencer Ackerman on the wisdom of those extra 30,000 troops…

Mideast coverage

Ethan Bronner of the NYT writes about how tough it is to cover and convey the clashing narratives in the Arab-Israeli conflict and suggests mediators will face similar challenges to reporters.

new podcast page at

Check it out: 

George W. Bush as Alden Pyle

Don’t miss Patrick Cox’s story on PRI’s The World today.   He looks back at an odd moment in the presidency when Mr. Bush compared himself to a character in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.  You can hear lots more of Patrick on his one-of-a-kind podcast The World in Words.

Torture details

Must-read Bob Woodward piece on the front page of today’s Washington Post:

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.

Read the rest here.


Stephen Aftergood of Secrecy News has this offering on the evolution of the Israel-Hamas conflict.


You can never have enough of it in trying to understand the Mideast conflict. A colleague was lamenting the way journalists reporting on the Israeli offensive in Gaza are asked about the day’s events but very seldom about the context that led to them. So in a story today I went back to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and what’s happened since that’s brought us to the point we’re at now.  Listen here:


Civilian casualties

For those interested in what the laws of war say about civilian casualties there were two I thought very good interviews on public radio in the past 24 hours. Lisa Mullins interviewed Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch on PRI’s The World yesterday, and Ari Shapiro interviewed Jim Hellis of the U.S. Army War College on NPR’s Morning Edition today.

Back at work

Here are a couple of new stories–

Yesterday I tried to get at the motivations behind Hamas’s rocket attacks.

Today I looked at reaction to Obama’s apparent pick of Leon Panetta for CIA Chief.