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Newsweek USA - May 18, 2018

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Israel’s New Exodus / The Economics of Mom
05.18.2018
The Navy
SE
y
left a man
behind in
Afghanistan.
g
Did theyy
also tryy to
block his
Medal of
Honor?
Winston, made in England
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MAY 18, 2018 _ VOL.170 _ NO.18
FEATURES
LET YOUR FREAK FLAG FLY
Nigel Farage, who led the Brexit
charge in 2016, remains a steadfast
isolationist and Trump fan.
COVER CREDIT
Photograph by The Voorhes for Newsweek
14
30
The Ghost
in the Radio
Mr. Brexit
A Navy SEAL allegedly
left a man behind in
Afghanistan. So why is he in
line for a Medal of Honor?
In turning Britain inward,
former U.K. Independence
Party leader Nigel Farage
transformed Europe. He says
his work has just begun.
BY SEAN NAYLOR
BY ORLANDO CROWCROFT
For more headlines, go to
NEWSWEEK.COM
Photog raph b y J O N E N O C H
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EDITORIAL
In Focus
04 Tijuana, Mexico
P. 08
Periscope
Migrant Caravan
06 Shimla, India
Dust Storms
LINCOLN
TUTORIAL
Honest Abe, our
16th president, was
a Republican. Kanye
West was surprised.
A high school
teacher explains.
Cocullo, Italy
Festival of Snake
Catchers
Manila, Philippines
Protesting Duterte
08 Israel’s New Exodus
With Young People
Leaving in Droves,
the Country’s Brain
Drain Is Worsening
12 The Return of
Team America?
Trump Is a Hawk,
Until He’s Not
Horizons
38 Parenting
Just in Time for
Mother’s Day:
The Price of
Being a Mom
Culture
42 Movies
Celebrating the
Carlyle Hotel
45 Internet
A History Lesson
for Kanye West
46 Streaming
Amanda Knox’s The
Scarlet Letter Report
48 Parting Shot
Noma Dumezweni
of Harry Potter and
the Cursed Child
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Harriet Sinclair3ROLWLFV
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AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR IN THEATERS APRIL 2018
In Focus
THE NEWS IN PICTURES
TIJUANA, MEXICO
Face-Off
A Central American woman and her child traveling
with the “Migrant Via Crucis” caravan look through a
fence between Mexico and the U.S. on April 29. The
yearly event for asylum seekers prompted President
Donald Trump to order troop reinforcements to the border.
Ơ G U I L L E R M O A R I A S
4
NEWSWEEK.COM
M A Y 1 1 , 2018
5
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In Focus
6
NEWSWEEK.COM
M A Y 1 8 , 2018
SHIMLA, INDIA
COCULLO, ITALY
MANILA, PHILIPPINES
Stormy Granules
Snakes on a Saint
You’re Fired!
On May 2, huge dust storms and
FDWDVWURSKLFZLQGVLQWHQVLɿHGE\UHFRUG
high temperatures, tore across northern
India, toppling trees and structures. In
some places, like this Himalayan city,
KHDY\UDLQIDOODQGKDLOIROORZHG2IɿFLDOV
said more than 125 people were killed—
the most from such a storm in 20 years.
During the annual Festa dei
Serpari (Festival of Snake
Catchers) on May 1, snakes are
draped around the statue of San
Domenico di Sora, protector
against tooth aches and, yes,
snake bites. The reptiles are
later set free in nearby forests.
$GHPRQLFHIɿJ\RI3UHVLGHQW5RGULJR
Duterte was set ablaze during May Day
demonstrations outside the presidential
palace. Thousands of workers and
activists marched to demand Duterte
make good on his campaign promise
to abolish short-term employment
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ƠAFP
Ơ ANTONIO MASIELLO
Ơ EZRA ACAYAN
NEWSWEEK.COM
7
Periscope
8
NEWSWEEK.COM
NEWS, OPINION + ANALYSIS
M A Y 1 8 , 2018
“You don’t want people eager for war
running the state department.” » P.12
WORLD
Israel’s
New Exodus
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The ‘Startup Nation’ is experiencing a massive brain
drain—and the problem is only getting worse
in april, as her family in central israel
Homeland Security. That’s up from 66,000 between
prepared to celebrate Independence Day,
1995 and 2005. These figures take into account
Rachel Ohal was preparing for what she calls “every
only those who took the legal route (many Israelis,
Israeli’s dream.” The next morning, she awoke in
analysts say, arrive on temporary tourist, student or
her home in Los Angeles and drove to a ceremony
work visas, then stay). And in addition to the Israelis
to become an American citizen. She is one of at
now living stateside, according to the country’s Minleast 1 million Israelis residing in the United States.
istry of Immigrant Absorption, hundreds of thouAnd if Israel—home to 8.8 million people—doesn’t
sands have moved to Europe, Canada and elsewhere.
change course, many more may soon join her.
The country’s brain drain isn’t new. For years,
Israel celebrates its 70th birthday in May with
many of its most talented scholars and researchers
the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Yet
moved to the U.S., where the salaries are far higher
the country is grappling with an existential criand there are more jobs at top-tier universities.
sis—one that doesn’t involve Iranian nukes or PalOne report by Dan Ben-David, an economist at Tel
estinian protests. Spurred by the high cost of living,
Aviv University, found that the emigration rate of
low salaries, and political and demographic trends,
Israeli researchers was the highest in the Western
Israelis are leaving the country in droves, trying to
world. Recently, however, the exodus has expanded
build their lives elsewhere, mostly in the United
to include average young people, many of whom say
States. Many of these young Israelis are moving
there’s simply no future in Israel.
to big cities, and yet, even in these often expensive
Though this embattled country has become
places, they see more opportunities to advance.
known as the “Startup Nation”—it has more earlyThe available data is telling, analstage tech companies per capita than
ysts say. Between 2006 and 2016,
any other country—the average
Israeli has little connection to that
more than 87,000 Israelis became U.S.
BY
prosperous field. According to govcitizens or legalized permanent resiernment
data, 8 percent of Israelis
dents, according to the most recent
YARDENA SCHWARTZ
data from the U.S. Department of
@yardenas
work in high-tech, which pays up to
NEWSWEEK.COM
9
seven times the national average salary of $2,765 a month (before taxes).
Israel has one of the highest poverty
rates and levels of income inequality
in the Western world. Meanwhile, it
also has one of the highest costs of living. Tel Aviv ranks ninth among the
world’s most expensive cities, higher
than New York and Los Angeles; five
years ago, it ranked 34th. The situation is so dire that a 2013 survey by
the financial newspaper Calcalist (the
most recent Israeli study conducted
on this topic) found that 87 percent of
adults—many with children of their
own—depend on substantial financial
support from their parents.
In the summer of 2011, these economic pressures spilled onto the
streets, as half a million young Israelis
spent months protesting against the
high cost of living, as well as decaying
health and education systems.
Since then, the nation’s leaders
have invested hundreds of millions
of dollars in efforts to bring home its
most educated citizens. Those efforts,
experts say, haven’t succeeded. In
2011, the Israeli government launched
I-CORE, a $360 million program to
encourage scholars to return to the
country’s universities. Results were so
underwhelming that the program was
ended after three years. Barak Medina,
the chancellor of Jerusalem’s Hebrew
University, says only 20 percent of
Israelis who go abroad for doctoral
studies return, due to low salaries
and high cost of living. Medina, whose
university was a part of I-CORE, says
that in some cases faculty members
returned to Israel but soon went back
to the U.S. “There was a gap between
what they expected to get here and
what they got in reality,” he says.
In 2013, the government launched
“The Israel Brain Gain Program” to
identify talented Israelis living
abroad and draw them back by,
10
NEWSWEEK.COM
WORLD
among other things, helping them
search for jobs. It was discontinued
nine months ago, says Naomi Krieger
Carmy, head of the Societal Challenges Division at Israel’s Innovation Authority, the government agency that
oversaw the program. They couldn’t
get enough people to return. “Government efforts to try to bring back academics is a drop in the bucket,” says
Ben-David, the Israeli economist. “We
need to fix an entire country.”
Linoy, a 21-year-old from Jerusalem, agrees. (Like others interviewed
for this story, she asked Newsweek not
to print her last name because she
arrived in the U.S. on a tourist visa.)
Last year, not long after completing
her mandatory military service, she
moved to Los Angeles, hoping for a
better future. Since arriving in the
states, she has married an American
and is awaiting her green card. If she
returns to Israel, she worries she’d
wind up like her mother, who, at 47,
still rents her apartment and lives
paycheck-to-paycheck. “I love Israel,”
Linoy says, “but the government has
brought us to a place where we can’t
build a life in our country. It’s sad
that the younger generation is just
searching for a way to escape.” She’d
like to raise her children there one
day, but doubts it will happen.
Rachel Ohal and her husband,
Amir, felt the same way. Five years
“The Israelis who
come here today are
younger and much
more talented. And
they’re in no rush
to move back.”
ago, they were living in Israel, with
their two children and working full
time (she was a bank teller; he was in
customer support for a telecommunications company). Together, their
monthly income was less than $4,000
after taxes. They were barely able to
pay their bills. In 2013, they moved to
Los Angeles, and within three years
managed to buy a four-bedroom
house. Today, Amir owns his own
contracting business, something he
struggled to do back home. There, he
says, a handful of powerful families
run the industry—one that’s allegedly
connected to the Israeli mafia. Now,
Amir earns about 10 times what he
made in Israel and Rachel doesn’t
have to work. “In Israel, my kids didn’t
have a mother,” says Rachel. “Here I
can be with them all day.”
While the Ohals’ success is not typical, their story is representative of the
greater economic opportunity Israelis
find here. Adam Milstein founded the
Israeli-American Council in 2007 as a
home for the Israeli community of Los
Angeles. When he left Israel in 1980,
he says, immigration to the U.S. was
different. “Back then, we were sitting
on our suitcases, waiting to go home.
The Israelis who come here today are
younger and much more talented, and
they’re in no rush to move back.”
Another reason many Israelis give
for leaving is what they view as the
country’s turn away from its origins
as a secular Jewish democracy. Israel
is home to a growing number of religious Jews—a change is reflected in
every aspect of Israeli society, from
politics to the national education
system, where religious studies are
taking up a larger share of the school
day. “I want my country to remain
democratic and Jewish, not Jewish
and then democratic,” says Karmit, a
30-year-old who plans to move to New
York with her husband next year.
M A Y 1 8 , 2018
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Periscope
TAKING THE PLEDGE Above: Milstein,
chairman of the Israeli-American Council.
Right: Rachel Ohal on the day she received
her American citizenship. Below: The
rapidly changing skyline of Tel Aviv.
The increased religiosity of Israelis has, in part, led the country to
become more conservative. Those
leaving are usually more liberal.
While ultra-Orthodox Jews constitute 12 percent of the population
today, that figure is expected to quadruple by 2065, according to Israel’s
Central Bureau of Statistics.
The growth of the ultra-Orthodox
population—whose publicly funded
schools teach little, if any, math, science and English—foreshadows an
even larger problem. “Half the kids
in Israel are getting a Third World
education,” says Ben-David, citing
data collected by his organization,
the Shoresh Institution.
On top of that, many among
the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim,
aren’t paying income taxes because
they don’t earn enough; they live
in poverty, devoting their lives to
state- sponsored religious study
and relying on welfare. The result:
Israel, Ben-David says, has essentially
become two countries. “There’s the
startup Israel,” he says, “and this
other one that’s not receiving the
tools to live in a modern economy.”
That gap between the two, he
adds, is rapidly widening—and
with no end to the conflict with the
Palestinians in sight, as well as the
continued rumblings of war with
Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and
Syria, Ben-David thinks the status
quo is unsustainable. “A Third World
economy,” he says, “cannot support a
first-world army. And without a First
World army in the most dangerous
place on Earth, we will have existential issues. We need to get our act together. I think we can. I hope we will.”
The Ohals—who both are now
U.S. citizens—agree. As Amir puts it:
“I don’t need to be rich. [But] if you
really want us to come back, then you
need to change the system.”
NEWSWEEK.COM
11
Periscope
BUSHY LEAGUE
Bolton, arguably the most hawkish
member of the new guard, is a concern
for moderates and Democrats. Below,
Pompeo, the outgoing CIA director.
POLITICS
The Return of
Team America?
'RQDOG7UXPSSURPLVHGWRSXWWKHFRXQWU\ɿUVW+LVQHZ
IRUHLJQSROLF\DGYLVHUVPD\VXJJHVWRWKHUZLVH
in the spring of 2016, as
Donald Trump cruised to the
Republican presidential nomination,
he convened an elite crowd in a Washington, D.C., ballroom to announce a
new proposal that would, as he put it,
“shake the rust off America’s foreign
policy.” Backed by American flags, he
eviscerated decades of GOP orthodoxy—specifically the nation building of George W. Bush in Iraq—and
pledged to enact a “coherent foreign
policy” that would shun distant con-
12
NEWSWEEK.COM
flicts and put “America first.” Trump
pledged to find “talented experts with
approaches and practical ideas, rather
than surrounding myself with those
who have perfect résumés but very little to brag about except responsibility
for a long history of failed policies
and continued losses at war. We have
to look to new people.”
But now, as President Trump faces
a series of conflicts with Syria, Iran
and North Korea, he’s surrounding
himself with some of the “old people”
whose ideas he so fervently dismissed
as a candidate. In recent weeks, he has
tapped as national security adviser
John Bolton, a Bush-era diplomat
who has advocated bombing Iran
and North Korea; as secretary of state
Mike Pompeo, a former Tea Party congressman who had backed the Iraq
War; and as CIA director Gina Haspel,
a veteran clandestine officer who ran
a secret prison where waterboarding occurred after the September 11
attacks. (Haspel was awaiting congressional confirmation as of publication.)
The personnel overhaul represents
a dramatic second act for these conservative hawks. And lawmakers in
both parties—mostly Democrats—
worry the revival could lead to the
kinds of costly mistakes that Trump
pledged to avoid when he repudiated
the Bush era. “I think they’re getting
the old band back together,” Senator
Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, tells
Newsweek. “They’re the regime change
team, and it’s worrisome.”
The shake-up comes at a crucial
time for American foreign policy.
Soon, Trump plans to meet with Kim
Jong Un over North Korea’s nuclear
arsenal—but not before rendering
a judgment on a previous weapons
deal the U.S. and its European allies
made with Iran to curb that country’s
nuclear ambitions. The president has
threatened to tear up the Iran agreement over what he considers weaknesses in the deal, putting him at odds
with Britain, France
and Germany.
Some lawmakers
BY
s ay Tr u m p ’s n e w
advisers could wield
MATT LASLO
@MattLaslo
outsize influence with
M A Y 18, 2018
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a chief executive who, according to
The Washington Post, declines to read
daily intelligence briefings. The president instead relies on oral briefings
from aides on select issues. “My fears
about the future of our foreign and
military policy are grounded in his
apparently delegating many of the
key decisions to a small number of
people who have a very warped and
distorted view of the correct balance
between military and foreign policy,”
says Senator Richard Blumenthal, a
Connecticut Democrat who sits on
the Armed Services Committee.
Of greatest concern to Democrats—
and some Republicans—is Bolton,
arguably the most hawkish member
of the new guard. He won Trump
over as an outspoken commentator
on Fox News, and in February, before
accepting his new job as national security adviser, argued for a pre-emptive
strike against North Korea. More
recently, he proposed a different
approach, similar to the one he and
the Bush administration used in
Libya, where the U.S. eased sanctions
in return for the country dismantling
its nuclear program.
But some analysts say the comparison to Libya could undermine
the upcoming talks. Eight years after
Muammar el-Qaddafi ended Libya’s
nuclear program, the U.S. launched
military attacks there to prevent the
despot from massacring civilians who
were part of a popular uprising. Qaddafi not only lost power; he was killed
by rebels—something North Korean
officials have called a “grave lesson” for
other nations trying to go nuclear.
On Iran, critics see Pompeo, a conservative stalwart, as fueling Trump’s
desires to shred the nuclear deal.
The new secretary of state recently
embraced Israel’s argument, built on a
cache of stolen Iranian files, that Tehran hid its nuclear weapons program
while it negotiated the agreement.
Iran, Pompeo said, was “not telling
the truth,” even as many former and
current intelligence officials say the
documents don’t show the country
has violated the deal.
Meanwhile, Haspel has sought to
distance herself from Bush-era torture controversies in the run-up to her
confirmation hearings, assuring some
lawmakers she doesn’t want the CIA
“back into the interrogation business,”
according to BuzzFeed News. Critics,
however, say she’ll be answering to a
president who has endorsed waterboarding suspected terrorists.
Democrats fear that this new team,
taken together, will mean a more
aggressive foreign policy. “The most
recent nominees reinforce Donald
Trump’s worst instincts about the use
of military force as a first option, not a
last resort,” Blumenthal tells Newsweek.
“It is a dangerous trend in foreign policy.” Citing similar concerns, Senator
Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican,
“The most recent
nominees reinforce
Donald Trump’s
worst instincts about
the use of military
IRUFHDVDɿUVWRSWLRQ
not a last resort.”
briefly threatened to block Pompeo’s
nomination. “I don’t think you really
want people who are eager for war to
be running the State Department,” he
told CNN. (Paul ultimately supported
Pompeo’s bid, saying he had received
private assurances from Trump and
Pompeo that Pompeo now considers
the Iraq War a mistake.)
The White House denies the
new appointments signal a change
in policy. But either way, Trump’s
“America First” policy has not been
consistent with what he promised
voters two years ago. He has swung
back and forth between isolationism
and interventionism. In April, in
announcing the second bombing of
Syria during his administration, he
said the U.S. was “prepared to sustain
this response until the Syrian regime
stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” But minutes later, he
cautioned that intervention in the
Middle East would be limited: “The
United States will be a partner and a
friend, but the fate of the region lies
in the hands of its own people.”
That tension could fuel battles
between the hawks and more moderate figures, such as Secretary of
Defense James Mattis and Joint Chiefs
of Staff Chairman Joe Dunford. (Some
Dems, like Senator Claire McCaskill of
Missouri, see Mattis in particular as a
bulwark against these new hawks.)
Many Republicans say it’s too early
to tell how much clout the hawks will
have. “I think the president would be
more in the realist mode, but even
potentially a little softer than that,”
Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee
Republican who chairs the Foreign
Relations Committee, tells Newsweek.
“Maybe it’s diverse opinions, though,
that will erect good policy. We’ll see.”
Other lawmakers, like Schatz, take a
dimmer view. As the Democrat puts it,
“I think we ought to be very watchful.”
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13
COLD MOUNTAIN
Chapman assaults
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M A Y 18, 2018
Illustrations by
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behind in Afghanistan. Did they also try to block his Medal of Honor?
by
S E A N D. N A Y L O R
NEWSWEEK.COM
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HONOR GUARD
s the pre-dawn twilight crept over an
Afghan mountainside, an Air Force commando
named Jay huddled in the snow, listening to
a distressed voice crackle over his radio, then
fade away. Moments later, he says, the voice came again, breaking through the static in little more than an anguished whisper: “This is Mako Three Zero Charlie.... This is Mako Three
Zero Charlie….” The same six words, over and over, each time
dissipating before Jay could hear anything else.
Jay was part of a reconnaissance team operating behind enemy
lines, and he immediately recognized the call sign and voice. They
belonged to his counterpart on another team: Air Force Technical Sergeant John Chapman. From his hidden perch, Jay responded again and again on his powerful satellite-capable radio. He
received no reply. The voice continued for about 40 minutes, he
says, like a plaintive mantra—“This is Mako Three Zero Charlie….
This is Mako Three Zero Charlie….”
Then it fell silent. It wasn’t until the
next evening that Jay learned Chapman had died, that he was the last
American to hear him alive.
Today, some 16 years after Chapman’s tragic death, fierce disagreement
over what happened on that snowy
peak threatens to overshadow two
Medal of Honor recommendations
that—as of publication—await White
House approval. The bitter dispute pits
members of the Navy SEALs against
Air Force special operators and Army
Rangers. It has entangled numerous senior military leaders, several of whom
had personal links to the desperate
fight on Takur Ghar mountain.
The controversy revolves around
Operation Anaconda, a March 2002 attempt to surround and
destroy a large Al-Qaeda force. It took place in eastern Afghanistan and cost the lives of eight Americans, seven of them on Takur Ghar. Chapman was among the dead. Using Predator drone
footage and other evidence, the Air Force has argued that a SEAL
Team 6 unit mistakenly left him for dead while retreating under
heavy fire. Afterward, the Air Force claims, Chapman fought on
for an hour, badly wounded and alone, before Al-Qaeda militants
killed him as he provided cover for an approaching helicopter.
The SEALs, however, reject the claim that Chapman was alive
when they fled. “The SEALs did not want to be told—officially—
that they left a comrade on that mountain alive,” says a former
defense official, who, like most sources mentioned in this story,
requested anonymity for security reasons or to describe sensitive
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high-level discussions about members of classified units.
Never-released witness statements and video footage seen by
a Newsweek reporter appear to support the Air Force’s version of
events. Defense Secretary James Mattis eventually agreed, sending the recommendation to award Chapman a Medal of Honor
to the White House in the fall of 2017. Should President Donald
Trump sign off on it, Chapman’s Medal of Honor would be the
first based primarily on technical intelligence rather than eyewitness accounts. (The Air Force and the Navy both declined to make
any official comment for this story.)
What has shocked and angered some sources familiar with
the battle is that Mattis has also recommended the same award
for then–Senior Chief Petty Officer Britt Slabinski, the SEAL
team leader who allegedly left Chapman behind. Some special
operators blame Slabinski for not only Chapman’s death but
also the lost lives of six other special ops on the mountain. Others say it’s absurd to recommend
someone for the Medal of Honor
for his bravery in a fight in which
he left a teammate behind, albeit by
mistake. Informed by a Newsweek reporter that Slabinski was in line for
a Medal of Honor, an Army special
operator who took part in the operation was aghast. “You kicked me in
the nuts when you told me that,” he
says. Mike, a former Air Force targeting analyst who monitored the Predator feed of the Takur Ghar fight in
real time and re-watched it twice
last year at the Air Force’s request,
was similarly taken aback. “I’m completely shocked that the Navy is putting a package up.”
Some observers are angry at the
Navy for even recommending Slabinski for the award, which
they claim was part of a campaign to sabotage the Air Force’s effort on behalf of Chapman. Such a campaign would be unprecedented, according to military awards expert Doug Sterner. “I
cannot think of a single instance in which one branch of service
opposed a Medal of Honor for another one,” he says.
Chapman’s supporters say the episode shows the extraordinary length that the SEALs will go to protect their reputation. A
SEAL who took part in the Takur Ghar fight strongly disputed
that assessment: “That’s a bunch of BS.” The blame, he says, lies
with the Air Force for allowing the controversy to become public without doing “due diligence,” which would have included
interviewing him and his fellow SEALs.
Others familiar with the battle sprang to Slabinski’s defense,
M A Y 18, 2018
even as they acknowledged the unusual optics of awarding him
a Medal of Honor. “He’s an introvert, but he’s very bold in his actions,” says a former senior SEAL Team 6 officer who served frequently with Slabinski. “I thought he was a great leader.”
A former defense official familiar with the discussions over the
Medal of Honor recommendations is adamant that Slabinski, a
second-generation SEAL who retired from the Navy as a master
chief petty officer in 2014, deserves his award, just as Chapman
does. But he bemoans how, as the two award packages wended
their way through the approvals process, the heroism of two
brave men has at times taken second place to what he termed “the
tribal aspects” of the special ops community. “It is a bureaucratic
story,” he says, “that is not covered in glory.”
Fire on the Mountain
that story began less than six months after the september 11,
2001, attacks, when the United States
launched Operation Anaconda, a
high-profile battle against Al-Qaeda.
From the beginning, it went awry.
The Americans had expected the
jihadi fighters to be massed in the
villages on the floor of the Shahikot Valley, but they weren’t. Instead,
when the U.S. infantry landed in the
valley by helicopter on March 2, they
realized the enemy had dug in on the
high ground overlooking it. For two
days, the militants used automatic
weapons and mortar fire to pin down
the Americans and forced their Afghan allies to retreat before they even
reached the valley.
There was, however, one successful part of the operation. In the
days before the battle, two reconnaissance teams from the
Army’s Delta Force and one from SEAL Team 6 sneaked behind enemy lines from their base in Gardez, 8 miles north of
the Shahikot. From their vantage points high above the valley, they called in devastating airstrikes and provided critical
intelligence on the Al-Qaeda forces. Their success caught the
attention of SEAL Team 6’s forward headquarters at Bagram
Air Base, about 90 miles north of Gardez. The reconnaissance
effort and Team 6 were each part of a task force composed of
units from Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC (pronounced “jay-sock”), the secretive organization that runs many
of the military’s most sensitive missions. Team 6 had seen very
little action in Afghanistan and was eager to get into the fight.
Early on March 3, a day after the main assault, the task force
commander gave the order to send more SEALs into the valley.
One of those teams, led by Slabinski, was called Mako 30.
Slabinski’s mission was to establish an observation post on top
of Takur Ghar, a 10,469-foot mountain in the southeast corner
of the Shahikot. The plan was to insert Mako 30’s eight operators
by helicopter near the mountain and have them patrol up to the
peak under the cover of darkness. This would allow the SEALs,
wearing night vision goggles, to spot any enemy fighters, shoot
them, call in airstrikes or get away. But a series of unforeseeable
delays meant the team ran out of time to land at the starting location and maneuver up the mountain before dawn.
Meanwhile, the chain of command began to fray. Rather than
communicating through the reconnaissance operations center
where they were at Gardez, the SEALs began talking on the radio straight back to their headquarters in Bagram. Slabinski told
Bagram he wanted to postpone the mission 24 hours. But, for
reasons that have never been made
clear, his bosses pressured him to get
to the top of the mountain that night.
Feeling he had little choice, Slabinski
asked the Army special operations helicopter crew to fly his team straight
to the peak. This would break a cardinal rule of reconnaissance: never
infiltrate by helicopter directly to
your observation post, as it gives
away your position to the enemy. But
an Air Force gunship had flown over
the frozen peak earlier that night and
said it was clear of enemy fighters.
The helicopter crew agreed to
do what Slabinski had asked. When
Mako 30’s Chinook helicopter, known
as Razor 03, arrived over the mountaintop, however, militants encamped
there fired on the aircraft, badly damaging it. As the pilot struggled
to abort the landing and wrestle his helicopter away from danger,
Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts from Mako 30 fell out the
back and into the deep snow. With the aircraft too badly damaged
to return to the peak, the pilot crash-landed at the north end of the
valley. Another helicopter picked up the crew and the seven other
operators and whisked them off to Gardez.
Aware that the militants were unlikely to spare Roberts if they
captured him, six members of Mako 30 quickly boarded another
special ops aircraft that flew them back to the mountain. They
didn’t know it at the time, but they were already too late. Analysis of Predator footage later revealed that the Al-Qaeda fighters
killed Roberts just before 4:30 a.m. on March 4. All they knew was
that their mission was incredibly dangerous. “When I made the
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THE GUNS OF MARCH
Slabinski looks at the
wounded Chapman. The
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HONOR GUARD
decision to rescue Neil, I just knew at the time that that was going
to be the last thing that I did on this earth,” Slabinski told a Navy
SEAL Foundation audience in New York on March 2, 2017.
The helicopter touched down on the peak shortly before 5 a.m.
Slabinski jumped off first but stumbled. Next was Chapman, the
team’s only non-SEAL. He belonged to the Air Force’s 24th Special
Tactics Squadron (STS). This unit is the Air Force equivalent of
Delta Force or SEAL Team 6, and it works exclusively for JSOC.
Chapman’s primary role, as Mako 30’s combat controller, was
to call in airstrikes. The Mako 30 operators again faced withering fire when they alighted from the helicopter. As the aircraft
departed, the men split into three pairs. Chapman and Slabinski headed uphill, slogging through the knee-deep snow to reach
a bunker from which they were taking fire. They killed the two
men in the bunker, but then machine gun fire erupted from a
second bunker nearby. Suddenly, Chapman went down. Slabinski
glanced over at him. The airman’s rifle was lying across his chest, the aiming laser rising and falling in time
with his breathing, so the SEAL knew
he was alive. Moments later, a second
member of the team was wounded
as enemy fire poured in. The SEALs
were overmatched, and they didn’t
see Roberts anywhere. Slabinski had
just seconds to get his men out of
the crossfire. He looked back toward
Chapman. The laser was no longer
moving. The airman, he concluded,
was dead. Slabinski ordered his men
to retreat, so the SEALs ran and slid
down the side of the mountain, pursued by machine gun fire. The SEALs
found temporary shelter under a
rocky overhang. From there, they
called in their location to an Air Force gunship. Then, the five
survivors, two seriously wounded, moved about 5,000 feet in six
hours to a position where a helicopter eventually rescued them.
But as the SEALs made their escape, satellite radio failures
and confusion between various headquarters meant that a JSOC
quick reaction force—an Army Ranger platoon—launched from
Bagram in two Chinooks and headed for Takur Ghar. While one
aircraft awaited further instruction, the other flew straight to the
peak, unaware that two helicopters had already been shot up trying to land there. This time, the militants downed the Chinook,
known as Razor 01, with a rocket-propelled grenade as it landed.
In the ensuing daylong battle, three Rangers, a special ops aviator
and an Air Force pararescueman were killed before the Rangers
finally gained control of the mountaintop.
‘Something Was Wrong’
after the fight on takur ghar, army and air force special
operators blamed their losses on poor decision-making by the
SEALs. Some members of Chapman’s unit were so upset that
they tried to avoid assignments with SEAL Team 6, says a former Delta Force operator. And it didn’t take long for word to
leak that perhaps Chapman hadn’t died when the SEALs said
he did. “Guys knew something was wrong the next day, because
of the way Navy guys were talking about it,” says a former combat controller familiar with the fight and its aftermath. Within
weeks, Chapman’s colleagues in the 24th STS concluded that he
had still been alive when the SEALs retreated and had fought on
alone against impossible odds, he adds.
That possibility was first officially raised by Army Lieutenant
Colonel Andy Milani, whom JSOC appointed to investigate the
battle. Milani’s probe remains classified, but he repeated his
findings in an unclassified paper he
wrote while attending the Army War
College in 2003. In that paper, he
noted that Predator footage had captured a fight on Takur Ghar’s peak
during the period between the SEALs’
retreat and the downing of Razor 01.
Milani’s investigation showed that
Roberts was dead by the time Mako
30 returned to the mountain, but
someone was still fighting on the
top of Takur Ghar at a time when
no Americans were supposedly alive
there. According to Milani, the footage showed a man in a bunker, engaging at least two other fighters in
close combat. The lieutenant colonel
laid out two possible explanations: either Al-Qaeda militants mistook one
another for Americans or the mysterious figure was Chapman,
fighting for his life after the SEALs left him behind.
Milani did not reach a conclusion, but in January 2003 the
Air Force awarded Chapman a posthumous Air Force Cross for
his actions up to the point when Slabinski had said he was killed.
(Like the Navy Cross and the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross,
the Air Force Cross is a valor award second only to the Medal of
Honor.) In making the case for this award, the Air Force relied
heavily on witness statements from three of the surviving members of Mako 30, who all described him in heroic terms. Slabinski,
in particular, credited Chapman with saving their lives. “I know if
John hadn’t engaged the first enemy position, it would have surely killed us all before we reached cover,” Slabinski said in his statement, which Newsweek obtained. “John Died [sic] saving us from
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HONOR GUARD
the enemy fire which was effective from three sides when he was
killed.... John deserves the highest medal we can get for him.”
The Navy likewise awarded Slabinski a Navy Cross for his
actions from the moment Razor 03 crash-landed to his team’s
eventual rescue after the loss of Roberts and Chapman. “During
this entire sustained engagement, Senior Chief Petty Officer
Slabinski exhibited classic grace under fire in steadfastly leading the intrepid rescue operation, saving the lives of his wounded men and setting the conditions for the ultimate vanquishing
of the enemy and the seizing of Takur Ghar,” reads the citation.
With the casualties buried and the service crosses awarded,
Takur Ghar faded from the headlines for more than a decade. But
within the tight-knit world of Air Force special operators, a desire
still burned for the White House to recognize what they viewed
as the full extent of Chapman’s heroism. Thirteen years after his
death, they would get their chance.
‘A Hell of a Battle’
since the vietnam war, no air
Force personnel have received the
Medal of Honor. And in May 2015,
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee
James read an article that wondered
what it would take for an airman to
be awarded the medal in the post9/11 era. The topic intrigued James,
who was in charge of recommending
Medals of Honor to the secretary of
defense, who in turn had to decide
whether to endorse the recommendations and submit them to the
White House for approval. Because
almost all of the seven Air Force
Crosses and about half of the Silver
Stars awarded to airmen since September 11, 2001, had gone to special operators, James ordered Air
Force Special Operations Command to investigate whether any
awards deserved to be upgraded. Complicating James’s directive:
Pentagon regulations stipulated that for a lesser award to become
a Medal of Honor, new information had to be presented.
After at least six months, according to James, her team reported
it had identified a possible upgrade for Chapman’s Air Force Cross.
The new information consisted largely of a careful analysis of the
video shot by the Predator of the action on Takur Ghar. Individuals appeared as little more than black blobs on the infrared footage
the drone was transmitting as it circled more than a mile above the
mountain. By comparing and combining the Predator footage with
video shot by a circling Air Force gunship, analysts were able to isolate the blob that was Chapman and track his movements.
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The Air Force then created a picture-within-a-picture video
presentation, in which an animated re-creation of the fight fills
most of the screen, synced to the drone footage playing in a box.
The video has never been made public, and Air Force Special
Operations Command declined to comment for this story. But
a Newsweek reporter was able to view the video and take notes.
As an Air Force officer narrates, the video shows Slabinski jumping from the back ramp of the Chinook, losing his balance and
falling into the snow. Next off the helicopter is Chapman, who
fires as he charges toward the first bunker, which is about 100 feet
away. Slabinski follows, at one point almost catching up with him.
Then Chapman surges ahead and arrives at the bunker, shooting
into it for several seconds before Slabinski reaches him, about 90
seconds after getting off the helicopter.
“When Sergeant Chapman reached the bunker complex, he
killed two fighters and took control of the terrain,” says the voiceover narrator. “By destroying the enemy’s front-line position, Sergeant
Chapman eliminated the closest
threat to the Mako 30 team.” The
video thus validates Slabinski’s statement, in which he credits Chapman
with killing two enemy fighters, then
occupying the bunker. The only difference: Chapman probably fired the
shots that killed the two Al-Qaeda
fighters in the bunker from almost
point-blank range, rather than the
“twenty five yards” Slabinski estimated
in his statement.
Chapman then opens fire on the
second Al-Qaeda bunker, about 30
feet away. “Without hesitation or
regard for his own safety, Sergeant
Chapman moved from a position
of cover to engage the nearby machine gun,” the narrator
says. “While Sergeant Chapman was firing at Bunker 2, an enemy fighter flanked him, which resulted in very close combat.
Sergeant Chapman killed the enemy fighter, but during this
engagement, Sergeant Chapman was shot and went down.” Although it’s not possible to identify the moment he was shot
on the video, it must have been within two minutes of getting
off the helicopter. At this point, Slabinski has said, he assessed
that Chapman was still alive.
Of the other four SEALs on the mission, two followed Slabinski
and Chapman. The other two headed in the opposite direction.
The footage shows one of the SEALs who had joined Slabinski on
top of a boulder shooting an M60 machine gun before getting
shot and falling down, and the three SEALs huddling at the base
M A Y 18, 2018
of the boulder for a few seconds. Less than three minutes after
arriving, the SEALs begin their retreat. Slabinski has said that it
was then that he concluded that Chapman was dead.
Slabinski declined to be interviewed for this article, directing
a reporter to the Naval Special Warfare Command public affairs
office, which did not respond to requests for comment. But in
2016, he told The New York Times that after giving the order to
withdraw, he actually crawled over Chapman’s body in the rush
to get off the mountain and saw no sign of life. “I’m already 95
percent in my mind that he’s been killed,” Slabinski said. “That’s
why I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got to move.’”
However, the Predator video, which offers an uninterrupted
view of Slabinski during this period, does not appear to show
him crawling near Chapman. But it does show him and two
other SEALs moving past the body of Neil Roberts as they retreat. Because the SEALs never mentioned finding Roberts,
some have speculated that Slabinski
confused Roberts’s body with
Chapman’s, which was a few yards
away. “It’s actually a common theory
that the body that Slab believes he
checked was Roberts,” says the former combat controller. “That happens to be my theory.”
The SEALs are on the peak of the
mountain for less than four minutes.
As they make their escape, Chapman’s body lies motionless in the first
bunker for about 12 minutes. But
then the footage captures movement
there, even though no one has approached it since the SEALs had fled.
The man in the bunker proceeds to
move around and fire his weapon for
about an hour. “I’m 110 percent certain that’s Chapman,” says Mike, the Air Force targeting analyst
for the original mission. In a 2017 analysis of the video conducted for the Air Force and obtained by Newsweek, Mike counted 39
distinct muzzle flashes emanating from the first bunker between
approximately 5:40 a.m. and 6:08 a.m. “It’s evident—you can see
Chapman is definitely pulling the trigger on that M4, and rounds
are coming,” he says. “I don’t know how many [militants] he took
out, but it was a hell of a battle.”
Mike’s analysis notes the man in the bunker is firing in almost
every direction. Chapman, he says, was desperately defending
himself from enemies that had him surrounded. Twice, Al-Qaeda
fighters managed to creep up on the bunker, and Chapman is seen
killing them in close quarters combat. The nature of the fight and
the daylight that was spreading over the mountain make it highly
unlikely, the former combat controller says, that this was a case of
two enemy fighters attacking each other by mistake. “They’re on
top of each other,” he adds. “There’s no confusion here.”
The Air Force claims that shortly after Chapman kills the second Al-Qaeda fighter, and moments before the helicopter carrying the Rangers arrives over the peak, he emerges from his covered
position and shoots at the militants in the second bunker. This
action led to his death and is central to the Air Force’s case that
he deserves the Medal of Honor. Chapman took this enormous
risk to provide covering fire for the helicopter that was headed for
the peak, the Air Force contends. “Sergeant Chapman understood
the ramifications of his actions,” says the Air Force narrator. “He
selflessly moved in front of the enemy machine gun in Bunker 2 in
order to engage the threat to the inbound helicopter.”
That decision is worthy of a Medal of Honor on its own, according to the former combat controller. “He climbs out of the
bunker having been shot a half a
dozen times [and attacked in] handto-hand combat, and then the final
two rounds that took his life are the
only thing that stopped him,” he says.
“Shot in the foot, the leg, the torso. I
mean, this guy, we don’t know what
he thought, but he made the decision
in as much pain and fear as he must
have had, to climb out of the bunker
when the helicopter was coming.”
The Rangers eventually found his
body in the first bunker. An autopsy later revealed that Chapman was
killed by two bullets that hit him in
the upper body. “One exploded his
aorta,” says the former combat controller, who is familiar with the autopsy, “and then your blood pressure
drops to zero, and you expire, and that takes 30 seconds, maybe.”
Mako Three Zero Charlie
the video presentation wasn’t the only evidence the air
Force used to buttress its case for Chapman. It also obtained a
sworn statement from someone never previously interviewed
in connection with Takur Ghar: Jay, Chapman’s counterpart on
one of the Delta Force teams, which occupied an observation
post roughly 3 miles north of Takur Ghar. Jay was from Chapman’s unit and knew his radio style. In September 2016, in an affidavit obtained by Newsweek, he told an Air Force lawyer that he
repeatedly heard Chapman’s voice and call sign—Mako Three
Zero Charlie—on the radio during the period when the video
shows him fighting for his life. “The voice on the radio was John
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HONOR GUARD
Chapman,” Jay said, in comments never previously made public.
A Mako 30 SEAL claims the Navy investigated Jay’s assertions
and concluded they were inaccurate. “That was all disproved by
comms logs and who was where,” tells Newsweek. “When it was
dug into, it was not factual.” He adds, “We were on all the same
freqs [radio frequencies], and we never heard that.”
The former combat controller disputes this assertion. “They
weren’t on the same freqs,” he says. “That’s a smokescreen. He’s
toeing the party line.” The SEALs would have been on an inter-team frequency on their handheld radios, whereas “Jay would
have been on battlefield common [frequency],” the former combat controller says. He adds that there were no logs in which
Chapman’s calls would have been recorded, because the frequency he was calling on would not have reached any of the command
posts where those logs were kept.
Chapman’s autopsy, which the Air Force re-analyzed as part of
its investigation, also supported the
case that he had fought for a sustained
period on the peak. “The man was
shot and fragged 16 times, to include…
contusions on his face, nose, neck
and hands,” says the former combat
controller. Chapman’s autopsy states
that all the airman’s wounds occurred
before his death, he says. “That didn’t
happen in the first two minutes.” The
bruises to Chapman’s hands, neck and
face, he adds, were likely the result of
hand-to-hand combat with the two
militants who made it as far as the
bunker before he killed them.
A final piece of evidence supporting the Air Force’s case: According to
two sources familiar with the details
of Chapman’s award package, when
he and his gear were recovered, he was found to have fired all his
usable ammunition before succumbing to his wounds, Chapman
had emptied six 30-round magazines—far more than he would
have during the two minutes or less that elapsed before Slabinski
saw him fall.
The Blame Game
in january 2016, defense secretary ash carter directed the
military to conduct a review of service crosses and Silver Stars
from the post-9/11 conflicts, to see if any warranted an upgrade.
The Air Force’s attempt to boost Chapman’s award became part
of the review. In his directive, Carter waived the requirement that
“new, substantive, and relevant material information be provided
to justify an upgrade,” says Army Major Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon
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spokesman. However, Air Force officials and others close to the
Chapman upgrade effort were seemingly unaware that he did so.
The Air Force divided its conclusions about Chapman’s exploits into his actions from the moment Mako 30 landed back on
Takur Ghar to when the SEALs retreated and then the events on
the peak after the SEALs had withdrawn. For Air Force Secretary
James, it was the latter, and particularly the video evidence, that
convinced her that Chapman deserved the Medal of Honor.
“That was all I needed,” she tells Newsweek. “That was like forensic proof in a crime scene, almost.” She forwarded her recommendation to Carter’s office, confident that the Air Force’s
case was ironclad. “I thought it was going to be a slam-dunk,
easy-to-get through-package,” James says.
On August 27, 2016, The New York Times published a story
(co-authored by this reporter) about the Air Force’s effort to get
Chapman a Medal of Honor. The article said that the Air Force’s
“findings could rekindle old tensions”
in the special operations community
over the mission. And to James’s surprise—and alarm—it did. “People
were afraid of getting blamed for the
fact that the mission didn’t go well,
and then on top of that it’s a godawful thing to believe now that you left
someone behind for dead who in fact
was alive,” she says. “There’s a lot of
guilt going on here, and there’s also
the reputation of the SEALs at stake.”
Within a few days of the story’s
publication, a gathering of senior
military leaders gave James the
chance to speak with Army General
Tony Thomas, the head of U.S. Special
Operations Command, she says. He
had been the 1st Ranger Battalion
commander in Afghanistan at the time of the battle. The three
Rangers who died were his men, something no one had told her.
James says she asked Thomas if she could count on his support
regarding her recommendation to upgrade Chapman’s award.
He assured her his headquarters was “absolutely behind” the
recommendation, she says. (A military official who has discussed
this issue with Thomas says that according to the general, no such
conversation took place.) James says she walked away from the
conversation with renewed confidence that the upgrade would
proceed smoothly. Events soon changed her mind.
‘It Was Very Hurtful’
from the beginning of its effort to get chapman’s award
upgraded, the Air Force appears to have taken extraordinary care
M A Y 18, 2018
LEFT BEHIND?
The Air Force claims
&KDSPDQHQJDJHGLQ
close quarters combat
EHIRUHKLVGHDWK
not to impugn Slabinski or the SEALs. Air Force officials knew
they had much to lose from picking a fight with such a politically influential group, so they tip-toed around the notion
that members of the SEALs’ most elite outfit had inadvertently
abandoned a teammate in the middle of a firefight. “Nobody
was accusing Slabinski or any of the other members of the
team of having done anything other than their very best under
these terrible circumstances,” James says.
In his voice-over for the Air Force’s video presentation, the
narrator describes Slabinski’s decision to retreat from the
mountaintop in positive terms: “This bold action likely averted
a catastrophic loss of the entire team. The team leader’s intent
was to suppress the enemy with airpower. The team hoped to
eliminate the threat, locate Petty Officer Roberts, recover Sergeant Chapman’s body and fulfill their commitment to leave
no man behind. Once again, the enemy and the environment
thwarted the team’s plan.”
Nonetheless, by late 2016, it was
becoming clear that the SEALs
were going to resist the Air Force’s
attempt to upgrade Chapman’s
award based on his actions after
the SEALs retreated from the
mountaintop. “They didn’t want to
be seen as having left Tech Sergeant
Chapman behind,” says a former
Air Force official, adding that this
applied to both the members of
Mako 30 as well as the SEAL leaders.
“It was very hurtful and very problematic for them on many levels.”
The SEALs began throwing up
“bureaucratic roadblocks” in an attempt to delay or defeat the effort to
upgrade Chapman’s Air Force Cross,
the former Air Force official says. “There was a tremendous push
[by the Air Force] to get this done by the end of the [Obama] administration,” says Gabe Camarillo, the assistant secretary of the
Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs from January 2016
to January 2017. If President Barack Obama left office without
awarding Chapman the medal, “there wasn’t any confidence that
this wouldn’t die on the vine,” he says. Air Force officials held
meeting after meeting with each other and with their counterparts in the office of the secretary of defense throughout 2016,
breaking through one logjam after another. But just as it seemed
Chapman’s package had a chance of getting to the White House
in time, Pentagon bureaucrats intervened.
Staff in the office of Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine noticed that the SEALs had
24
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never signed their original witness statements for Chapman’s Air
Force Cross. Those statements were part of the upgrade package.
Levine and his staff were keen to get them signed, particularly because the Chapman case was otherwise “unprecedented” in its reliance on technical intelligence rather than eyewitnesses, James
says. “So the appropriate people contacted these individuals and
asked them to sign their words of 15 years ago,” James recalls. But
after “a couple of months” of waiting for the SEALs, “they refused,”
she claims. (Camarillo, the former Air Force assistant secretary
for manpower and reserve affairs, confirms this account.) “That’s
when things broke down, and the SEALs...realized that ‘Oh, we
can take a stand and maybe thwart this thing,’” says the former
combat controller. (One Mako 30 SEAL says that he was not aware
of this development and that he had never been asked for such a
statement after the battle, let alone refused to sign one. Newsweek
verified the existence of statements from three of his teammates
and attempted to reach out to them
but was unable to speak to them.)
For Air Force officials, the SEALs’
alleged refusal to sign their witness
statements represented a turning
point. “I guess that’s when it really clicked in my mind: Yep, there is
something more going on here, and
what a shame,” James says. In frustration, Air Force officials explained
what was happening to Levine’s staff,
who finally allowed the package to
proceed without the signatures. But
valuable time had been lost.
SEAL Team 6 and Naval Special
Warfare Command each opposed the
Air Force’s effort to upgrade Chapman’s award based on the events after the SEALs retreated, according to
multiple sources. Rear Admiral Tim Szymanski, who as head of
Naval Special Warfare Command oversees all SEAL units, was in
the thick of the debate. “The biggest advocate for Slabinski was
Szymanski,” says a Navy officer familiar with the awards controversy. But Szymanski had a personal stake in how the Takur
Ghar story was told. He had been Team 6’s director of operations
during Anaconda, helping run Mako 30’s mission from Bagram.
Slabinski has told others that when he arrived back at Bagram,
bruised and exhausted from the ordeal, Szymanski was the only
person to hug him and tell him he’d done a good job. Since that
moment, a bond developed between the two, says a former senior
Team 6 officer who knows both men. “Ski was always very confident in Slab, and he was always very proud of him,” he says. “You
could tell it was a good relationship.”
M A Y 18, 2018
HONOR GUARD
The way Szymanski saw it, “the Air Force was trying to come
against the Navy and kind of shame Slab,” the former senior
Team 6 officer says, and he was determined to stick up for him.
“His point was ‘That dude [Slabinski] did everything humanly
possible…. Not on your life are you going to fucking try to get
Chappy [an award] which hurts Slab.’ And so I think he [ended
up] doubling down to help Slab, because if Chappy gets it, the
unspoken word is ‘Well, who left him behind?’”
But Szymanski’s fierce defense of Slabinski required the SEAL
admiral to oppose any public acknowledgment of what the Air
Force, in its study of the incident, called “Material Finding 2,”
which said that Chapman fought on after the SEALs left him behind. “I just don’t know how you advocate for Slabinski and be
accepting of…Finding 2,” says the Navy officer familiar with the
controversy. Indeed, throughout 2016, the SEALs tried to persuade the Air Force and then Carter’s office to justify Chapman’s
upgrade solely on the basis of his actions before the SEALs left the mountain, Camarillo says. According to
former Air Force officials, by December 2016, with the package finally on
Carter’s desk, the SEALs’ argument
was apparently gaining traction at
U.S. Special Operations Command,
which doesn’t make the final decision but is allowed input.
That month, says a former senior
Air Force official, Thomas, the head
of U.S. Special Operations Command, told General David Goldfein,
the Air Force chief of staff, that he
had changed his mind about giving
Chapman’s upgrade package his full
support. According to two former Air
Force officials, Thomas said he was
more than willing to support an upgrade based on Chapman’s
actions up to the moment the SEALs retreated, but he wanted the
Air Force to drop the second part of Chapman’s citation, which
summarized his actions after the SEALs withdrew. (Navy Captain
Jason Salata, a spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command,
referred all questions about his command’s role in the Medal of
Honor process to the office of the secretary of defense.)
To James’s disappointment, the former senior Air Force official
says, Goldfein told her he had granted Thomas’s request, worried
that doing otherwise would mire the upgrade effort in months of
debate. The Air Force was running out of time with the Obama
administration, and Goldfein thought acceding to Thomas gave
the service a better chance of securing Chapman’s upgrade.
(Through a spokesperson, Goldfein declined to comment.)
James was upset at the way Thomas had circumvented her, but
there was little she could do, the former senior Air Force official
says. A few weeks before Trump’s inauguration, the defense secretary signed Chapman’s upgrade package. James pleaded with the
White House to fast-track the process, but it was too late. Getting
it through the National Security Council and onto the president’s
desk, as well as the logistical challenge of arranging the multiple ceremonies that are standard when the commander in chief
presents the nation’s highest award for valor, required more time.
As the Trump administration took office, the Chapman package
returned to the Pentagon for another review.
“It got bounced back,” says James, who blamed the SEALs’ alleged stalling tactics for the failure to get the award approved in
time. “A hundred percent, it caused that delay.”
As a political appointee, James left the Pentagon at the end
of the Obama administration. As she departed, she called Chapman’s mother to tell her that her
son’s package had been returned to
the Pentagon. James chokes up at the
memory of the conversation. “But I
thought to myself, Well, surely, surely,
surely under General Mattis, it’ll go
back quickly,” she recalls. Yet again,
her optimism was misplaced.
‘Beyond the Call of Duty’
shortly before trump’s inauguration, the Navy surprised close observers of the Chapman upgrade
saga. As part of the awards review
directed by Carter, the service recommended that Slabinski’s Navy
Cross also be upgraded to a Medal
of Honor. A Mako 30 SEAL says that
he first heard confirmation of the
Navy’s intent in mid-January 2017 but that he had surmised it
from rumors some months earlier. From what he heard from
other SEALs later, it seemed the Navy viewed this as a quid pro
quo for Chapman’s upgrade. “It started to become ‘We’re either giving two or giving none,’” the Mako 30 SEAL says. (He
also thought the Navy would have recommended an upgrade
for Slabinski even if the Air Force had not tried to do the same
for Chapman. Slabinski deserved it, and the review gave the
Navy the opportunity to make it happen, he says.)
When word of the Navy’s plan spread through the special ops
community, some were shocked. “It’s just incredulous that they
award him with the Medal of Honor,” says a retired special operations official intimately familiar with the battle. “Slab was
completely at fault for everything that happened that night.” He
NEWSWEEK.COM
25
and oth
hers suggested that the Navy’s move was a direct reaction
to the Air Force’s effort on behalf of Chapman. “They can’t stop
Chapman’s package,” says Mike, the former targeting analyst. “So
now they’re trying to save face.”
Even members of Slabinski’s own service were taken aback.
Up to this point, the Navy’s Takur Ghar “narrative” had been
“Slab got a Navy Cross for his valor that night; he didn’t leave
anybody behind,” says the Navy officer familiar with the
awards controversy. “It was never ‘What Slab did was worthy
of the Medal of Honor.’”
Outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the last stop in the Navy’s approval chain for the upgrade, did not return phone calls
seeking comment for this story. Thomas Oppel, who served as his
chief of staff, says that while he and Mabus were aware of “opinions about this that differed on whether Slabinski was deserving
of this award,” it was not a major topic of discussion with Mabus,
who approved the upgrade and forwarded it to Carter’s office.
The Air Force decided not to oppose Slabinski’s Medal of
Honor recommendation. “The Air Force has never said a negative word about Slabinski,” James says. “Everybody believes he
did his best.” Nonetheless, the Navy’s move created a conundrum for the Pentagon. As the former combat controller puts
26
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it, “How can one man earn a Medal of Honor saving everyone
else’s life, and the second guy—whose life was saved by the
first, as he acknowledges in his witness statement, and who
then makes the decision to leave the first guy for dead—also
earn the nation’s highest medal?”
The answer, according to a former defense official, was that
just like Slabinski’s Navy Cross, the upgrade would cover not
just the firefight on the peak but also his bravery in leading his
team back to Takur Ghar to try to rescue Roberts, and then in
shepherding the survivors down the mountain to safety. It was
the totality of Slabinski’s actions that persuaded Chief of Naval
Operations Admiral John Richardson that he was worthy of the
Medal of Honor, the former defense official says. “Given the harrowing situation he found himself in, his being able to lead the
rest of the team to safety after losing two to enemy fire and having two more grievously wounded went above and beyond the
call of duty,” the official says.
But perhaps sensitive to the argument articulated by the former combat controller, the SEALs continued to object to the
Air Force’s insistence that Chapman had survived beyond their
departure. As a former senior Air Force official puts it: “They
were still really putting up roadblocks.”
M A Y 18, 2018
IF I DIE IN A
COMBAT ZONE
Chapman lies
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EXQNHU$QDXWRSV\
later revealed he
ZDVNLOOHGE\WZR
bullets that hit him
LQWKHXSSHUERG\
‘You’ll Throw Him Under the Bus’
up to mid-2016, the seals seem to have portrayed chapman’s
actions before they allegedly left him for dead as heroic. But
by that fall, they had started to change their stance in their
efforts to resist the Air Force’s attempt to upgrade the airman’s
award. In this new version of events, Chapman’s actions in the
moments after the helicopter landed were the result of him
disobeying Slabinski’s order to immediately find cover and
contact the gunship overhead, so it could fire in support of
the team. “Basically, they were on the cusp of getting in…, and
he just took off running, guns blazing, totally off-book, off
script, glory-seeking, whatever,” says the Navy officer familiar
with the controversy. “That was the way it was conveyed to me.”
A JSOC memo obtained by Newsweek regarding Chapman’s
potential upgrade includes a note appended by a Team 6 representative on September 21, 2016, that articulates this line
of argument. “The actions were inconsistent with the orders
given TSgt Chapman,” reads the note. “[H]e neglected his
primary responsibility of establishing comms with air support, which had he consolidated initially with the team and
established comms, would have enabled positive identification of the team, their location and allowed for CAS [close air
support] fires which could have saved Chapman and prevented
the wounding of the other two team members.”
This new tack incensed Chapman’s supporters, who saw it
as a desperate attempt to derail his award. “That became their
position when nothing else was working,” says the former combat
controller. “From the Air Force side of the equation, our disappointment at that point is absolute. Because it’s like, you guys,
in order to protect your image, will sully the legacy of a man
who you all agreed saved everyone’s life 15 years ago, but now to
protect the [SEAL] brand you’ll throw him under the bus.”
The SEALs’ alleged attempt to change the narrative about
Chapman’s initial actions also failed to persuade senior Pentagon officials who would ultimately make the decision whether
or not to forward the recommendation to the White House. As
one puts it, “There were some people who said, ‘Hey, he wasn’t
supposed to go to the left; he was supposed to go to the right,’
to which we all said, ‘The damn enemy was to the left. He went
towards the sound of the guns, so shut up!’”
A Mako 30 SEAL says he does not recall anyone accusing Chapman of failing to obey orders, and that as far as he knew, the
SEALs didn’t have any issues with recognizing him for his heroism “up until the point Chapman was shot.” But, he adds, the
NEWSWEEK.COM
27
HONOR GUARD
airman’s alleged actions after that point were “what the Air Force
was using to get him the upgrade.” That rankled Chapman’s Mako
30 teammates, who remain unconvinced by the Air Force’s argument that their colleague survived after they retreated. “The way
they pieced it together,” the Mako 30 SEAL says, “it didn’t add up.”
Defense Secretary Mattis directed his deputy, retired Marine
Colonel Bob Work, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Marine General Joseph Dunford to evaluate the merits of both
nominations. They convened a series of contentious high-level
meetings in the Pentagon. The unique nature of the Chapman
case was the principal factor that once again delayed the process,
according to a former defense official familiar with the discussions. Senior Pentagon officials were concerned that there were
no eyewitness accounts of Chapman’s heroism.
One constant in the discussions: the allegiances of the different
special operations “tribes” and the direct connections of several
leaders to the Takur Ghar fight. In
addition to Thomas and Szymanski, Army General Joe Votel, the head
of U.S. Central Command, had a
personal stake in the mountaintop
struggle. At the time of the battle, he
commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment, which meant he was Thomas’s
boss. The Rangers who died were his
men as well. The Team 6 commander
from 2015 to 2017 had also worked for
Szymanski at Bagram during Anaconda. As a result, says a former defense
official, “there were no completely objective observers in this entire thing.”
‘A Head on a Platter’
as the two packages worked their
way through the system, some military officials expressed concern about several questionable episodes in Slabinski’s past. Federal law states that a service member
cannot receive the Medal of Honor “if his service after he distinguished himself has not been honorable.”
Slabinski had been associated with at least three controversial
incidents since Takur Ghar, according to a January 2017 article
in The Intercept about alleged Team 6 transgressions. The article
included an audio file of a segment of an interview Slabinski conducted with author Malcolm MacPherson for his book Roberts
Ridge, which tells the Takur Ghar story from Slabinski’s perspective. In the interview, Slabinski recounts a mission in 2002, not
long after the Takur Ghar fight, and describes shooting at the
corpse of an enemy fighter he knew was dead, just to watch the
body jerk as the bullets hit it. A former special operations officer
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who has heard Slabinski discuss the same incident said it sounded to him as if it could be construed as “a war crime.”
The other two episodes occurred during a 2007-08 deployment to Afghanistan. In one, Slabinski told his men before a mission he wanted “a head on a platter,” according to The Intercept.
Slabinski and others later said he was speaking metaphorically,
but one of his men appeared to try to saw off a dead militant’s
head. (Slabinski later told The New York Times he ordered the operator to stop what he was doing.) The Naval Criminal Investigative Service looked into it but closed the case after finding no
evidence the SEALs had broken the laws of armed conflict.
Shortly thereafter, Slabinski’s squadron was involved in another contentious incident when local elders accused the SEALs of
killing every man seen during a mission. A former senior Team
6 member told the Times that Slabinski, the squadron’s senior
enlisted man, had directed the operators to kill every adult male
encountered on the raid. Slabinski
denied giving such guidance, and a
JSOC investigation found no wrongdoing. “The allegations in the Intercept article were looked into by Naval
Special Warfare Command when
that article was published,” a Navy official says. “No allegations of misconduct were ever found to be credible.”
Although the Intercept article covered all three episodes, only the 2002
incident was raised to the attention
of the Pentagon officials considering whether to forward Slabinski’s
Medal of Honor recommendation to
the White House. As one puts it, “We
were aware of the audio file where
Slab admitted to shooting a corpse.
However, we were told he had not
been subject to any disciplinary action. After careful consideration, it was decided that it was not something that should
prevent Slabinski receiving the nation’s highest award for valor.”
Nonetheless, the officials flagged the matter when they sent the
recommendation forward. “We wanted to make sure that those
who would make the final decision were aware of the incident,”
a former defense official says.
However, a former senior Team 6 officer says, a Medal of
Honor for his actions during the Takur Ghar fight would force
Slabinski to repeatedly relive an extraordinarily traumatic episode he has tried to put behind him. In 2016, Slabinski told The
New York Times that he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and still saw “visions” of figures moving in
slow motion on Takur Ghar. “I don’t think he really wanted this
M A Y 18, 2018
thing,” says the former senior Team 6 officer. Yet Slabinski has
reluctantly accepted that it’s his “duty” to accept the award if
the president signs off on it, he adds. “He’s going to be the quiet
professional and represent it the best he can.”
‘The Heroism of Both Men’
by july, dunford and work recommended that the
awards for both Slabinski and Chapman be upgraded to Medals
of Honor. Mattis forwarded both packages to the White House
in the fall. If Trump approves them, it will mark only the second
time in the post-9/11 era that two Medals of Honor have been given for actions during the same battle, says awards expert Sterner.
Despite the efforts of the SEALs and U.S. Special Operations
Command, when Chapman’s award citation went to the White
House, it included a reference to his fight after the Mako 30 survivors had retreated. Work ultimately reinserted that language,
James says. But another source tells
Newsweek that much of the detail
pertaining to Chapman’s actions
during that period will be classified
“because of the technical intelligence
that was involved.”
This news, already known to some
insiders, fed perceptions that the
Pentagon was trying to protect the
SEALs’ reputation. “It’s part of accommodating SEAL Team 6,” says the
former combat controller. “It allows
them to sort of obfuscate things.”
Chapman’s sister, Lori Longfritz, says her priority is seeing her
brother recognized for his heroism,
not the politics that has surrounded the effort to upgrade his award.
“I just want John to get what he deserved to be awarded back in January of ’03,” she tells Newsweek. “What happens outside of that, I don’t care.”
Spokesmen for U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S.
Central Command were mum about whether their bosses
had concurred with the upgrades for Chapman and Slabinski.
However, a defense official says U.S. Special Operations Command did not concur with the Slabinski upgrade but did for
Chapman’s, only on the basis of his actions before the SEALs
withdrew. There was a late effort to persuade Mattis not to approve Slabinski’s upgrade, according to a senior Pentagon official. “There is some unease about the Navy’s push to upgrade,
and some people have expressed doubt…as to whether it’s truly
worthy of a Medal of Honor,” the official says. “A couple of people have tried to slow it down, but the train seems to have left
the station, unless the White House decides otherwise.”
Once a Medal of Honor package reaches the White House, it is
virtually assured of approval, says Sterner. However, the Trump
administration has yet to make an announcement regarding either package. “[Defense Department] policy is not to comment
on the status of pending Medal of Honor nominations until the
award is announced by the White House or the medal is awarded
by the president,” says Eastburn, the Pentagon spokesman.
“The reputational aspect of all this” may be why the White
House is taking so long to approve the awards, says a former
defense official. In other words, the Trump administration may
be preparing for blowback. “When you’re asking the president
to award the Medal of Honor, you want to make sure that he
understands ‘Look, this will be viewed as controversial by some
people and may play out in the press in ways that detract from
the heroism of both men,’” the former official says.
Any debate over the awards would
be unfair to the men being recognized, says Sterner. “There should be
no controversy here,” he says. “Awarding both of these men the Medal of
Honor does nothing to take away
from the prestige of the award and
everything to highlight the true heroism of two very, very dedicated servicemen.” Senior Pentagon officials
ultimately reached the same conclusion. “I’m sorry it took so long and
there was such a contentious debate,
but I’m satisfied in the end the right
decision was made,” says the former defense official. “Both Slab and
Chappywerecourageouswarriorswho
rated a Medal of Honor.”
This doesn’t guarantee unanimous opinion among officials who have watched the process
play out. “The soil is pretty freaking soggy for us to really stand
firm on any of these,” says the Navy officer familiar with the
controversy. Meanwhile, he adds, the Pentagon is trying to
silence the naysayers. Mattis’s office has “made it pretty clear
that ‘if and when this thing moves, we don’t want to hear any
dissenting voices or side-chatter.’” That may be a vain hope. “I
know how bad this story can be,” the officer says of the potential
fallout. Which makes him wonder: “Why are we even walking
into this buzz saw?”
Ơ Sean D. Naylor, the author of Not a Good Day to Die: The Secret
History of Operation Anaconda, is a national security correspondent for Yahoo News.
NEWSWEEK.COM
29
I n tervie w by
ORLANDO
CROWCROFT
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P or t ra it b y
JON
ENOCH
M A Y 18, 2018
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Are you looking forward to Trump visiting the U.K.?
It is a hell of a long time coming. I mean, if you think
about it, we have an American president who likes
this country...who supported Brexit and who said
there was so much more we can do together in trade,
etc. There was an amazing opportunity for the Atlantic to get a bit narrower, and it hasn’t. It just hasn’t.
There has certainly been a lot of opposition to his
visit here.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said some regrettable things about him. As for the British ambassador [to the U.S.], there is no point [in] them
even meeting. I mean, Sir Kim Darroch is a great
globalist. We really squandered the opportunity.
But I am pleased that at last he is coming—better
late than never.
) 5 2 0 72 3 0 $ 5< 7 8 5 1 ( 5 ʔ* ( 7 7 < ) 5 ( ' ( 5 , & . ) /2 5 , 1 ʔ$ ) 3ʔ* ( 7 7 < & + 5 , 672 3 + ( 5 ) 8 5 /2 1 * ʔ* ( 7 7 <
rexit head quarters
in London is a p oky
Westminster townhouse
a stone’s throw from the
Houses of Parliament. Its
location is fitting because
the only person who has
an actual office in the
building is Nigel Farage, a
man who has made throwing stones—at British Parliament, at so-called globalists and at the European Union—his life’s work.
Yet Farage, the Brexit activist turned TV and radio personality, is hardly ever there. As a European member of Parliament, he spends at least two
days a week in Brussels or Strasbourg—which, he
concedes, can be a little awkward nowadays—as
well as in the U.S., where he attends conferences,
gives speeches and has abuse hurled at him as he
walks down New York’s Fifth Avenue. To be fair,
that abuse happened only once, Farage says, and
generally—whether he’s in a bar or a taxi—he gets
a far warmer welcome in the U.S. than in the U.K.,
at least since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016.
A vocal supporter of President Donald Trump
and a Fox News pundit, Farage is regularly tasked
with explaining Europe to conservative America.
But he keeps an eye on Europe, and he likes what
he sees. Since Brexit, Farage’s anti-EU allies have
been emboldened. In Hungary, Viktor Orbán won
a resounding victory in April’s election. In Italy, the
right-wing populist Five Star Movement has become
the country’s largest party, and Germany’s far-right
Alliance for Deutschland (AfD) has become the country’s second biggest. In 2018, the European project
is floundering, and Farage couldn’t be more pleased.
The former commodities trader isn’t finished in
Britain either, despite the U.K. Independence Party
(UKIP) that he founded all but imploding since he
stood down as leader (for the second time) soon after Brexit passed. Farage expects the U.K., as planned,
to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but has not ruled
out the possibility that forces within the Conservative Party or its Labour rivals will try to sabotage
Brexit. If that happens, he says, he’s ready to put
aside the punditry and get back out on the streets.
Recently, Farage spoke to Newsweek about his
political future, Trump’s presidency and the war
in Syria, among other things.
M A Y 18, 2018
MR.BREXIT
But on the big European stuff, he is barking up the
wrong tree. I think they all are. If you look at everything going on—from Italy to Hungary—I believe
that the Brexit-Trump phenomenon of 2016—that
revolution is still rolling.
But wasn’t German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s
re-election in March a blow to that revolution?
Merkel is a hugely weakened figure. We now have
the AfD—a voice of opposition to the European
project—the second biggest party in Europe. Who
would have believed that five years ago?
You’re not concerned about the fascist elements of
some of Europe’s new populist right-wing parties?
I am very concerned that the euro has brought
neo-Nazism back, absolutely. Golden Dawn only
happened because Greece is in the euro. And here
is the irony: A project that was set up to stop the
extremes of nationalism actually is causing it, because it is taking away from people their ability to
influence their own futures.
“I am very concerned that the euro
has brought neo-Nazism back.”
LEAVE IT ALONE
Farage, the Brexit
activist, above, and
now a member of the
European Parliament,
says M
Macron, left, is
wrong aboutt globalism.
You mentioned the word globalist. What do you
mean by that?
I mean those who support nation-states handing
up to higher levels of authority the ability to do
the normal things that nation-states have always
done: make their own laws, have their own courts,
control their own borders.
In America, there has been concern that Trump’s
election has emboldened neo-Nazi groups.
I just think they have always been there. I suspect that they are smaller now than they were 50
years ago. Should we be worried about them? A bit.
Should we be really worried about them? [Shakes
head.] There just aren’t enough of them.
Is French President Emmanuel Macron a globalist?
Oh, absolutely. Macron is hugely pro–the European project. He is calling for many more powers to
be centralized in Brussels, powers taken from the
member states.
Do you think Trump could have been elected if
Brexit hadn’t happened?
I think it was a tremendous help. I also think Brexit had an astonishing effect on America. I was in
Cleveland—I went over for the Republican Convention—and I was just stunned that taxi drivers,
people in the bars and restaurants, would say: “Hey,
you’re the Brexit guy. How’s that all working out?”
People were genuinely interested. We get this impression that people in America don’t care what’s
happening in the rest of the world. Well, certainly
You recently had lunch with him? How did that go?
Very personable.... Speaks with a lot of passion.
He’s an operator. He’s doing some things in France
that are quite interesting. He’s taking on the trade
unions, and he is looking to try and reform taxes.
NEWSWEEK.COM
33
MR.BREXIT
with Brexit that was not the case.
You have said that since the Brexit vote you have
encountered hostility in Britain. Is that still the case?
That started back in 2013. If you challenge the
establishment—and, by God, I did challenge the
establishment—they don’t exactly come out with
a tray of drinks for you. And so what we have had
here is, in soccer terms, going for the man and
not the ball. So rather than dealing with an argument I might make, they say, “Oh, Farage says
this because he is an extremist.” I’ve been called
everything actually, everything. The list is as long
as your arm.
On anti-Semitism, you also made a comment
on your radio show…
Yes, dealing with a virulently anti-Semitic caller
who said he didn’t think it was the Russians that
influenced the U.S. election, it was the Jews—that
the Jews got Trump elected. To which I said: Well,
there is a Jewish lobby, and it is well organized,
and they are very professional, but not for one moment do I think they influenced the election result.
So it was taken out of context?
Wildly. As I say, given that I had [British newspaper proprietor] Richard Desmond and some very
prominent Jewish people who have supported me
in UKIP with money and resources over the years,
that was the only term of abuse that had never
been thrown at me. Now, I think I have a royal
flush of terms of abuse.
We have finished up with a percentage of the
population hating me because they have been told
this is what this guy stands for. And I haven’t had
that in America. I mean, I have had abuse hurled
at me walking down Fifth Avenue, but I haven’t
felt physically intimidated in America in a way
that I have, sadly, in this country.
Is it fair to say that the push into the U.S. is
because of your lack of popularity at home?
No, I am wildly popular here. There are millions of
34
NEWSWEEK.COM
&/2 & .:,6( )520 %27 72 0/( )7- 2( 5$ ('/(ʔ*(7 7< -2 +1 3+,/ /,36ʔ*(7 7 < - 2 1 $7 + $ 1 % $& + 0 $ 1 ʔ* ( 7 7 < -$& . 7$</2 5 ʔ* ( 7 7 <
You have been called an Islamophobe...
Oh yes, thank God. I would be very upset if that
wasn’t on the list. And now anti-Semite...because
I attacked George Soros.
POINT BREAK
Clockwise from top left: Farage, Trump, protesters in
London and Moore. Farage supported the controversial
Alabama Republican but now says that was a mistake.
M A Y 18, 2018
people out there who love me, that buy me a drink
and want photographs, and won’t let me be without
talking to me and having selfies.
Have you met any sort of protests when speaking
at U.S. universities?
I’ll tell you what was funny: It wasn’t the students protesting; it was the professors holding up
their boards: “No to Farage! No to bigotry!” And I
thought, Wow, that’s where the problem is.
“I haven’t
felt physically
intimidated
in America in a
way that I have,
sadly, in this
country.”
Are you a bigot?
No.
Are you Islamophobic?
No, I’m not. My agenda is...very normal. I was in business, I supported Margaret Thatcher’s modernization and reforms of the economy. It was painful for
some people, but it had to happen, and it brought
us into the modern world. I worked in a very global
business, possibly the most global of the lot.
I do believe in the nation-state model. I do believe in a system where the people who make the
laws are directly accountable to us. I’ve always
thought that immigration was an issue that needed handling with care, and with sensitivity. I am
painted as this crazed radical, and if you think
about it, they are quite traditional points of view.
Perhaps it is because of some of the company you
have kept, such as Roy Moore and Steve Bannon.
I am a radical in the sense that I want change. Steve
is a radical, absolutely, and is unafraid to say what
he thinks. I met Roy Moore once. You know, when
you do things in life, you do get some things wrong.
Campaigning for Moore in the Alabama Republican
race was a mistake?
Looks like it, doesn't it?
When was it that you realized it was a mistake?
Was it the sexual assault claims?
A load of people contacted me and said would I go
and support, and at the last minute I decided to.
I should have thought about the whole thing far
more deeply than I did, and it was a mistake.
What about your relationship with Bannon? Was
that a mistake?
NEWSWEEK.COM
35
I’ve known Steve a long time. And Steve makes mistakes. He says things he shouldn’t say. But is Steve
a clear thinker about politics, about direction,
about where things are going? Is he good at analyzing how things are happening within economies
and so on? Yeah. And I think with Steve you get
somebody whose working-class background is very
much a part of who he is.
Is he a white nationalist?
I have never heard him say anything disobliging
against black people. I’ve never heard anything. Is he
a nationalist? Yeah, of course. He would define himself as a nationalist. He happens to be white. But the
idea that Steve is some sort of white supremacist—I
have never seen any evidence of any of that.
How would you rate the Trump presidency so far?
He really is doing OK. I think on foreign policy, in
terms of America’s position in the world, it is a big
8 out of 10. Look what is happening with North
Korea…. And I think, generally, the way that he has
“I would not take [Putin] home
on a Sunday afternoon to
meet my mum for a cup of tea.”
carried himself has stunned people. He has raised
America’s profile in the world.
And at home?
Domestic policy has been very difficult. There have
been some big wins, some big judicial appointments,
tax reform…. The negatives have been getting tied down
with a media that hate him. He’s been bogged down a
bit with [special counsel Robert] Mueller and this endless Russia stuff, and that has been very, very difficult.
Did you see Trump when you were last in
Washington?
Yes.... No, the time before. At CPAC [the Conservative Political Action Conference]. I met him, and we
sat down, and we had a chat about things. He was
in top form. I think that he has got used to being
president. He likes it. He wants to run again.
36
NEWSWEEK.COM
Let’s talk about Syria. Trump and Macron may now
WDNH D PRUH UREXVW SROLF\ WR WKDW FRQʀLFW :KDW GR
you think of that?
I am worried about it. Look, ISIS [the Islamic State
militant group] have used chemical weapons a reported 52 times. The door is now open for ISIS to
fire a couple of shells with chlorine gas in them,
and goodness knows where we are going to be.
So do you think they were responsible for the
attacks in Ghouta?
I didn’t say that. The American administration
have said locked and loaded. France and the U.K.
are ready to go again. And I am slightly concerned.
But when you have a leader using chemical weapRQVDJDLQVWKLVRZQSHRSOHLWLVGLIɿFXOWWRMXVWLI\
not doing anything, right?
NEW WORLD
DISORDER
The UKIP leader says
Putin is a “questionable
human being.” But he
thinks the U.K. and
Russia have shared
foreign policy interests.
M A Y 18, 2018
MR.BREXIT
It was a red line, wasn’t it, put down by [President
Barack] Obama, and a red line that didn’t get followed
up. Yeah, chemical weapons are horrible, but heavy,
high-explosive artillery shells are pretty horrible too.
Has Russian intervention been a positive force
in Syria?
I do take the view that extreme Islamic fundamentalism in the shape of ISIS is the great threat we
face in the decades to come, and to see them being
militarily beaten, in the way that they are, wouldn’t
have happened without the Russians.
What do you think of President Vladimir Putin?
I think he is a very questionable human being. I
would not take him home on a Sunday afternoon
to meet my mum for a cup of tea. But I think Russia is a strange country. Our understanding of it is
very limited. We underestimate how much more
frightened of us they are.
We would have done better to recognize that
there are some big issues on which we have a shared
interest with Russia. Instead, our foreign policy
approach to Russia has been very confrontational.
How do you assess Mueller’s investigation into
Russia collusion?
I think it is going nowhere. I mean, how long has it
been going on for now? There are quite a lot of people in D.C. who just cannot accept the result that
happened on November 8, 2016, and are hanging
on and praying that something will come out of the
sky and bring the president down. I don't think it
is going to happen.
) 5 2 0 72 3 5 $< 7$ 1 * ʔ$ 1 $ ' 2 /8 $* ( 1 &<ʔ* ( 7 7 < 67 5 , 1 * ( 5 ʔ$ ) 3ʔ* ( 7 7 < $ /( ; ( < ' 58= + , 1 , 1 ʔ$ ) 3ʔ* ( 7 7 <
Have you been contacted by anyone on
Mueller’s team?
No, why?
Well, about your links with the Trump campaign?
No.
There have also been allegations that Russia
interfered in the Brexit campaign.
Just, just laughable.
Since you stood down as leader of UKIP in 2016,
\RXŠYHQRWKDGDQRIɿFLDOUROHLQ%ULWLVKSROLWLFV$Q\
plans for a comeback?
I mean, look, if they drop the ball on Brexit, then I
would have no hesitation in throwing myself back
into full-time campaigning right across the length
and breadth of the United Kingdom. I would love
doing it again, being out on the road. But I’d rather
not have to. I’d rather think we fought that, and
we’d won, and it is now time to move on.
If you meet Trump when he visits in July, what will
you say to him?
I would say welcome. We are very pleased to see you
here. It is nice, for a change, to have an American
president who actually likes our country.
NEWSWEEK.COM
37
Horizons
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY + HEALTH
PARENTING
Motherhoodwinked
For most working women, having children equals economic disparity. (Happy Mother’s Day!)
senator tammy duckworth
made history in April when
she became the first sitting senator to give birth. And her daughter,
Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, has already
made history as the first infant
allowed on the Senate floor, after
a rule change pushed for by Duckworth. But although Duckworth has
been hailed as a hero for working
mothers, the similarities go only
so far. As a senator, Duckworth’s
salary is set by statute, leaving her
immune to what’s known as the
“motherhood penalty.” For most
working mothers, children bring
more than a change in routine; they
also bring a change in income.
When a woman becomes a mother
for the first time, her pay decreases
by 4 percent on average. By comparison, new fathers typically see
a 6 percent increase in their salary.
And the chasm expands with each
additional child. “If a woman has
two children,” says Michelle Budig,
a sociologist at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “her earnings
38
NEWSWEEK.COM
would be, on average, 8 percent less
than women who don’t have them.”
The decrease is partly explained
by women cutting back on their
work hours or leaving the labor
market entirely. “There’s truth to
that,” Budig says. But that change
explains only about a quarter of the
total penalty. Fathers contributing
more to housework doesn’t mitigate the hit women take on their
pay. “Whether you have a husband
who does relatively more housework
or less housework isn’t too important for the size of the motherhood
penalty,” says Harvard University
sociologist Alexandra Killewald.
There are other disparities:
Women who have taken time to
raise their children, or who have
children when they apply for jobs,
can suffer for that decision. Several
years ago, Stanford University sociologist Shelley Correll and
her colleagues found
BY
that women who hint
at having children on
KATE SHERIDAN
their résumés—noting a
@sheridankate
parent-teacher association position,
for example—receive fewer callbacks than other applicants. Furthermore, prospective employers can
have negative reactions to stay-athome mothers seeking to return to
work. “In some contexts, they pretty
aggressively screen them out of the
hiring process,” notes Christy Glass,
a sociologist at Utah State University. These obstacles are less understood than the wage gap, she adds;
they could also have have significant
impact on the work experience.
Such economic imbalance affects
more than the mothers themselves,
says Budig. “Well-raised children
grow up to be taxpayers that support
people when they retire, and many
of them become doctors and caregivers for the rest of society.”
Yet women, Tammy Duckworth
notwithstanding, who choose to
have children continue to receive
inadequate support. “That women
are penalized for doing work that
has a social contribution,” says
Budig, “is doubly bad.”
M A Y 1 8 , 2018
9 ( 5 2 1 , & $ * 5 ( & + ʔ* ( 7 7 <
“If a woman has
two children, her
earnings would
be, on average,
8 percent less
than women who
don’t have them.”
FRESH EVIDENCE
Paying to Have Children
7+( 68535,6,1* 3(1$/7,(6 )25 67$<ʝ$7ʝ+20( 3$5(176
HOPING TO RESTART THEIR CAREERS
Concrete evidence about the consequences for mothers who opt out of the
workforce to raise children has been hard
to come by. Kate Weisshaar, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill, aims to change that. In
a recent study, published in American
Sociological Review, she scrutinized how
employers respond to résumés from stayat-home parents, uncovering surprising
penalties. “When opt-out applicants are
prevented from re-entering the labor
market,” Weisshaar writes in her paper,
“employers reinforce standards that
exclude parents from full participation in
ZRUNŤ +HUH DUH VRPH RI KHU NH\ ɿQGLQJV
Thestudy:In2015and2016,Weisshaar
submittedabout3,000fakerésumésto
UHDOMREVDFURVV86FLWLHVLQɿYHFDWHJR
ULHVŜDFFRXQWDQWVɿQDQFLDODQDO\VWVVRIW
wareengineers,humanresourcemanagersandmarketingdirectors.Therésumés
variedonlyintermsofgenderandwhether
thepersonwasemployed,unemployedor
astay-at-homeparent.“Irecordedwhich
applicantsreceivedrequestsforinterviews
ormoreinformation,”saysWeisshaar.
Whatshefound:About15.3percentof
employedmothersand14.6ofemployed
fathersreceivedcallbacks.Amongthe
groupwhowereunemployedbecause
they’dbeenlaidoff,9.7percentofmothers
and8.8percentoffathersreceived
callbacks.Stay-at-homeparentsfared
worsethanbothofthesegroups,withjust
4.9percentofmothersand5.4percent
offathersreceivingafavorableresponse
fromtheprospectiveemployer.
40
NEWSWEEK.COM
Whatsurprisedher:“Theextentofthe
penaltyforstay-at-homeparents,”says
Weisshaar.Forparentswhodon’thave
jobs,prospectiveemployerstendtosuspectaproblemwithpastperformance.But
thestay-at-homeparentsreceivedabout
halfthenumberofcallbacksasthelaid-off
group.AndWeisshaarwasn’texpectingthe
penaltytobethesameformomsanddads.
Anycaveats?Weisshaaremphasizesthe
applicantsinherstudywerefakeandthat
inreality,stay-at-homeparentsmaynotbe
competingforthesamejobsascontinuouslyemployedpeople.Still,shesays,it’s
problematicthatunemployedapplicants,
includingstay-at-homeparents,received
fewercallbacksevenifthey’dbeenoutofa
jobforarelativelyshorttime.“Myresearch
showsitmightbeharderthanparents
expecttojumprightbackintoasimilarcaliberpositiontotheonetheyleft.”
Whattodo:Inasurveyaccompanying
thestudy,prospectiveemployersoften
questionedtheapplicants’dedication.“If
there’ssomewaytoshowthatyouarereally
committedtowork,”saysWeisshaar,“that
mightbehelpful.”Shealsoencourages
parentstostrategizeaboutcareergoals
beforeleavingtheworkforcebyasking
themselvesafewquestions:“Isthisa
temporarybreak?Whattypeofjobwillyou
wantuponyourreturntotheworkforce?”
Upnext:Weisshaarplanstostudybias.
“Weknowtherearegenderandrace
discriminationbiasesinthelabormarket.
Whatcanjobapplicantsdotomakeupfor
someofthem?”—KateSheridan
“Among
high-earning
couples, women
have a smaller
motherhood penalty,
and fathers
are getting a
bigger bonus.
[Among] lower-earning
couples, moms are
getting a larger
penalty, and dads
aren’t getting any
bonus. Women
who can least afford
it pay the highest
penalty for
motherhood.”
—MICHELLE BUDIG,
sociologist at the University of
Massachusetts, Amherst
)520723&+5,67,$1*67˜7 7 0$<5ʔ* ( 7 7 <&2857(6<2)81,9(56,7<2)0$66$&+86(7 76$0+(567
Horizons
BY THE NUMBERS
MomGenes
From the ‘pink tax’ to tax-free tampons, a few of the
unrecognized economic costs of being a woman
Not-So-Pretty
in Pink
Women and men have very
different experiences
at the local drug
store. Thanks to the
so-called “pink tax,”
female customers
pay an average of
13% more than
males, with shampoo
and conditioner
marketed to women
costing 48% more
than those for men.
A PERIOD OF CHANGE
BY
KATE SHERIDAN
@sheridan_kate
Should women be taxed for
menstrual products? Many
say no—and their voices are
slowly being heard. 3 states
(Arizona, Nevada, Virginia)
have legislation pending
to exempt tampons from
sales tax; 9 (Connecticut,
Florida, Illinois, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Minnesota,
New Jersey, New York,
Pennsylvania) have done so.
Conceiving
the Impossible
More than 10% of American
women have trouble becoming
pregnant. Those who turn to
fertility treatments may now
ɿQGDGGHGDVVLVWDQFHLQWKH
form of health care coverage.
15 states have laws requiring
insurers to cover such interventions
or at least disclose the option.
In 6 (Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii,
Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts),
in vitro fertilization coverage is
now mandatory.
Testing, Testing Ơ Pregnant women often can’t find out if
a drug they need is safe for a developing baby. Since 1980,
fewer than 10% of medications approved by the FDA have
been fully vetted as safe during pregnancy. In an effort
to course-correct, more than 100 registries are now on
the lookout for birth defect risks tied to certain drugs.
DIMINISHED RETURNS
10% of new mothers leave
their jobs to care for their
children, compared with
2 percent of new fathers,
according to a report by
employment research
company PayScale. That
absence has a cost: Taking
off a year before returning
to the workforce means
a 7.3% lower salary.
NEWSWEEK.COM
41
Culture
HIGH, LOW + EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
MOVIES
SoulofaCity
(and Discretion)
New York’s Carlyle Hotel—an elegant magnet for
the famous and powerful—has been called
a palace of secrets. A new documentary
shares a few of them
42
NEWSWEEK.COM
M A Y 1 8 , 2018
THE RAP ON REPUBLICANS
A brief history of the two-party system for Kanye West » P.45
princess diana, michael jackson and
eccentricities you embrace as much as anything else,”
Steve Jobs walk into a bar. Actually, it was a
he says in the film. “It’s completely awesome—and
hotel elevator, and this isn’t a joke. The operator
frankly nuts.”
closes the door. The four stare ahead; no one utters
Several people quoted in the documentary refer
a word for several floors—until Diana cuts the tento it as quintessential New York. That is true, but
sion by breaking into “Beat It.”
to a very particular demographic. The asking price
As power elevators go, it’s hard to top that
for the hotel’s opulent, two-story Empire Suite, for
trio—though, given this happened at New York’s
example, with its jaw-dropping views of Central
infamously discreet Carlyle Hotel, there are likely
Park, is $20,000 a night. During an interview with
juicier ensembles and tales, never to be told. (The
Rice, she is told her suite goes for $4,000. With a
New York Times once referred to it as the “Palace
wry smile she says, “That’s better than $10,000.”
of Secrets.”) Regulars at the Carlyle have included
Everyone who stays has their initials mononumerous presidents, John F. Kennedy Jr., Mick Jaggrammed on their pillowcases by a woman in the
ger, David Bowie, Condoleezza Rice, Jack Nicholbasement. That is her job. (She seems happy in her
son, George and Amal Clooney, Lenny Kravitz, Sofia
work, though not easily impressed. The imminent
Coppola, Roger Federer and on and on.
arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was
It’s hard to find another hotel that is preferred
met with a shrug; Michael Jackson, however, proby the British royal family (see Will and Kate’s visit
duced a huge smile.) Those pillowcases are then
stored for your return, assuming you are a reguin 2014) and Tommy Lee Jones; a hotel that can prolar,
and there are many. The hotel has been Jack
vide the unofficial runway for the Met Gala (Naomi
Nicholson’s
New York pied-à-terre since the ’70s;
Campbell recalls that her floor was “bangin’” in 2016,
after
each visit, he sends an orchid to
when she shared it with Stella McCartney,
the
head
telephone operator. NicholRihanna and Cara Delevingne) as well as
a war room. Another rare anecdote goes:
BY
son is beloved by the staff, though not
When the Iraqi delegation to the United
as much as George Clooney, the handsNations stayed here during the second
MARY KAYE
down favorite. (Sorry, Jack.)
SCHILLING
Gulf War, the FBI wanted to plant agents
Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompin room service and tap the phones. Peter
son stayed at least once, enjoying cereal,
Sharp, then the owner, responded, “Under no circuma bottle of scotch and a bowl of cocaine for breakstances. I wouldn’t let you do it to Warren Beatty, why
fast. (It’s unclear whether the latter was on the
would I let you do it to the Iraqi delegation?”
room service menu.) Paul Newman began concoctAll of this is recounted in Matthew Miele’s new
ing salad dressing recipes in the Carlyle’s kitchen.
documentary, Always at the Carlyle. The film, filled
Twice a week, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who lived
with bold-face names, does a good job of capturing
around the corner, came to the restaurant for the
the hotel’s suis generis elegance—a formal whimsy
same lunch: Cobb salad, gin and tonic, a cigarette.
reminiscent of the fast-disappearing old school luxJohn F. Kennedy Jr. was a regular, too, rollerblading
ury establishments celebrated
directly to Table 29. He had his last meal in the Carin director Wes Anderson’s
lyle, before his fatal 1999 trip to Martha’s Vineyard.
The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The hotel was built in the late 1920s by real estate
THE BIG SLEEPERS
Anderson, a champion of
Clockwise from center,
developer Moses Ginsberg (uncle, appropriately,
bottom: Rice, Amal
timeless, erudite caprice, says
to Rona Jaffe, author of The Best of Everything). He
and George Clooney,
that the Carlyle was a “big
named it for the Scottish philosopher, Thomas
Sylvester Stallone,
Carlyle, a favorite of his daughter. The stately art
Campbell, Nicholson,
influence.” Anthony Bourdain,
Jagger, Bourdain,
another devotee, equates the
deco building was intended as a luxury hotel and
Princess Diana, David
Carlyle’s appeal to falling in
residence, but its opening, in 1930, came just after
Bowie, Kennedy, Tony
love with a person. “It’s the
Bennett, Onassis.
the stock market crash. It struggled until 1948, when
Photo illust rat ion b y G L U E K I T
NEWSWEEK.COM
43
MOVIES
another developer took it from staid
to fashionable. Harry Truman was the
first president to check in; during the
Kennedy years, the Carlyle was called
the New York White House. (Marilyn
Monroe is rumored to have secretly
visited JFK here after her 1962 “Happy
Birthday” serenade at Madison Square
Garden; the lips of the longest-serving
bellman remain sealed.)
But it was Sharp who turned the
hotel into a scene, albeit a low-key
one. After he bought the property
in 1967, Atlantic Records co-founder
Ahmet Ertegun suggested he hire
the late Bobby Short at the Café
Carlyle. A two-week stint turned
into a 35-year residence, with the
Café becoming a mainstay for
sophisticated music lovers (other
regular performers included Elaine
Stritch, Barbara Cook and, to this
day, Woody Allen, who sits in with
a jazz band every Monday night).
Lenny Kravitz, then age 6, wore his
first suit to attend a Bobby Short set
with his parents. “I didn’t get Bobby
for a long time, but then I did,” says
Kravitz. “When I’d bring a girl here,
and she got it, that was special to me.”
The attraction to the Carlyle is
often generational, says Miele. “People
fall in love with it as children, when
GRAND HOTEL Beloved head concierge
Dwight Owsley, outside the Carlyle, on
the corner of 76th Street and Madison
Avenue. Right: A pillowcase gets
monogrammed with a guest’s initials.
44
NEWSWEEK.COM
“It’s the eccentricities
you embrace as much
as anything else. It’s
completely awesome—
and frankly nuts.”
their parents brought them for tea or
to stay, and they keep coming back.”
The slightly frayed, entirely
delightful décor is a big draw. “Perfection is not a priority,” says Miele.
“Look closely: Frames are slightly
askew, the fabric a little threadbare.
It’s meant to put you at ease, to provide a sense of sanctuary.” Academy
Award–winning set designer Marcel
Vertès painted the delicately soigné
creatures on the Café’s wall. The
enchantingly twee figures roaming the murals of Bemelmans Bar
were painted by Ludwig Bemelmans,
author of the Madeline picture books.
The Gallery—a theatrically intimate
tearoom—was decorated by legendary Italian designer Renzo Mongiardino, whose belief that atmosphere
trumps authenticity, that illusion is
paramount, perfectly suits the Carlyle.
Anjelica Huston, who has been
coming to the hotel since the ’70s,
says in the film, “The Carlyle is groovy
simply because it doesn’t scream hipness.” You could say the same about
the staff, which, according to regulars, is the real reason people keep
coming back. They’re a decidedly
quirky bunch, a stark contrast to the
sleek and youthful corporate types
who populate trendier hotels. “What
other hotel would appoint a man
with a substantial stutter as head concierge?” asks Miele of Dwight Owsley.
What management valued instead
was “this big, endearing, one-of-akind character who would welcome
people unforgettably.”
The film captures Owsley’s last
day at the hotel, after 36 years. It’s
a poignant moment, hinting at the
beginning of an end to timeless
charms. “The world is less gentle,”
Owsley says. “People used to have a
sense of purpose, of dignity. We all
look like messengers now. Something ineffable has been lost.”
M A Y 18, 2018
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Culture
HOMEBOYS IN OUTER SPACE Lincoln’s
Republican values are a Democrat’s today.
Below: President Trump with West.
for at least a half-century after the
Civil War. To illustrate the point, the
Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. was
a Republican. That began to change
with FDR in the 1930s, and it finished
changing in the 1960s.
I N TERNET
The Miseducation
of Kanye West
) 5 2 0 / ( ) 7 ( ' 8 & $7 , 2 1 , 0 $* ( 6 ʔ 8 , * ʔ* ( 7 7 < ' 5 ( : $ 1 * ( 5 ( 5 ʔ* ( 7 7 <
The rapper was stunned to learn that Abraham Lincoln was a
Republican. A quick tutorial in political party realignment
kanye west, who seems to be
experiencing a political and
philosophical awakening in real time
since calling President Donald Trump
“my brother” in late April, tweeted
out a text exchange a week later with
someone named “Steve.” In the texts,
Steve notes that Lincoln “freed and
protected the slaves and he was Republican. Republicans were the ones who’s
[sic] helped black people.”
Republicans commonly proclaim
themselves the party of Lincoln and
the abolitionist movement, but the
modern GOP often omits the ways
its racial politics have changed
throughout the 20th century. In
other words, it’s a long and winding
road from Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump, and Steve failed to share
some context with West.
Newsweek asked Jim Cullen, a high
school history teacher at the Ethical
Culture Fieldston School in New York,
to enlighten the rapper (and others of
us) about the evolution of our twoparty system. West’s shock, he says,
mirrors that of his students. “They
are surprised to hear this every time I
discuss the subject,” says Cullen, who
figures West learned of Abe’s political
party in school, then forgot it. “As a
history teacher, I have a healthy modesty about what students retain.”
Is it misleading to say Lincoln was
a Republican, given
the current GOP?
It’s factually correct.
BY
It was Lincoln’s party,
and it was the party
ZACH SCHONFELD
of African-Americans
@zzzzaaaacccchhh
In what ways was the GOP of the
1860s different from today’s?
The main difference is its stance toward African-Americans; the GOP
fought for black voting rights in the
1800s. [But] there’s enormous continuity as well. It has long been the
party of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the party of business. Once
upon a time, that meant actively seeking government intervention in the
economy with things like high tariffs.
John Legend texted West, saying
Republicans “have become the
party of the Confederacy.”
You have to be careful with language
like that. As far as I know, there’s no
discernible coalition in the GOP
advocating secession, and tarring
the whole party with a Confederate
brush does the left no favors. But
there’s no question there is a white
supremacist element. Richard Nixon
first exploited it with his “Southern
strategy” in 1968. GOP strategists
have been appealing to it, directly
and indirectly, ever since.
Does the GOP exploit Lincoln
for political gain?
Politicians always read history selectively. Part of educating involves
the recognition that there’s always
more than one side of a story at play.
People say, “History will judge,” as
though history is static. History is
not static. The past keeps changing.
NEWSWEEK.COM
45
Culture
STREAMING
TheNeverEnding Story
In her new Facebook Watch series, The Scarlet Letter
Reports, Amanda Knox interviews women, like herself,
who have been tried and convicted by the media
nathaniel hawthorne’s
classic novel The Scarlet Letter
tells the story of Hester Prynne, a
17th-century woman who wears the
letter A stitched to her dress—a sign
that she has committed the sin of
adultery. In 1642, Prynne was forced to
stand on a scaffold, to be shamed and
condemned by her neighbors. Now,
of course, the scaffold is social media,
and neighbors number in the millions.
Take Amanda Knox. The American
was convicted, along with her Italian
boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, of killing British fellow student Meredith
Kercher in 2007. The three had been
studying in the small city of Perugia,
Italy, and Knox and Sollecito’s arrest
for the crime riveted the world. She
got the worst of it: Total strangers
deemed her a slut and a murderer;
headlines (her tabloid moniker was
“Foxy Knoxy”) and an internet mob
found her guilty long before she
was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
When Knox and Sollecito were acquitted in a second trial in 2011, Knox
moved home to Seattle, which didn’t
mean the vilification stopped.
So Knox knows about shaming,
and thus the name for her new fivepart, Vice Media–produced interview
show: The Scarlet Letter Reports (currently streaming on Facebook Watch).
In it, she interviews women who have
been publicly attacked by the media,
social and otherwise. Subjects include
46
NEWSWEEK.COM
model Amber Rose and Daisy Coleman, who became an advocate for
sexual assault education after she was
victimized. All of the subjects, like the
host, have been publicly demonized
and are now rebuilding their lives.
When I requested an interview
with Knox, it was suggested that questions shouldn’t focus on her past. This
seemed odd, given the only reason
she has a show is because of her past,
which led to her best-selling memoir,
Waiting to Be Heard, a 2016 Netflix
documentary, Amanda Knox, and
many other books, including one by
Newsweek’s Nina Burleigh, The Fatal
Gift of Beauty. But when we do speak,
Knox doesn’t deflect any questions;
she’s open, if wary. “I hope you’re nice
to me,” Knox says candidly. Talking
to journalists “is nerve-wracking
because I never know if the intention
is to look at me as a human being, or
as a punching bag, an easy target.”
And that’s the point of her show.
Knox reckons with the trauma of
Kercher’s murder every single day.
That never goes away. “Meredith was
21. Raffaele 23. I was 20. We were kids,”
she says. And yet, “it is the defining
moment in my life. I gained so much
knowledge and perspective in myself.”
She is now 30, and
BY
she still lives in Seattle, where she devotes
MARIA VULTAGGIO
time to activism for
@mariamzzarella
the wrongfully accused—not just by
the law, but by the press. Nick Pisa
reported on the Knox trial for The
Daily Mail, and if there is a villain
in the Netflix documentary, it is him.
“Pisa was just one of many journalists
who profited off my story, for years,”
says Knox. “But he said something
interesting in the film: All the people who say to him, ‘How could you
have written those headlines about
Amanda?’ Well, they were the ones
clicking on the headline. He is right
in saying that the system we have in
place is there for a reason, and we
should question how we participate
in media abuse.”
There’s another aspect to such scrutiny: identity theft. “I had my story
M A Y 1 8 , 2018
CO URTE SY OF VICE MEDIA
TALKING BACK “Being wrongfully
convicted and totally slaughtered and
dissected in the media is something
I’m still grappling with,” says Knox,
with Amber Rose, one of the women
she interviews on her new series.
taken away from me because of the
way I was portrayed,” says Knox. “I
was exaggerated beyond recognition. The fact that I was accused of
orchestrating a rape game—it was so
absurd! When storytelling overtakes
factual evidence, it’s problematic. I
could have been a professional dominatrix. I could have been the kinkiest person in the world. None of that
mattered because it had nothing to
do with the evidence of the case.”
All the women interviewed by
Knox have been through a version of
the same problem, and each is at a different stage of processing it. The first
segment, filmed on the 10th anniversary of Knox’s arrest, was particularly emotional. “I was in this super
“All the people who
say, ‘How could you
have written those
headlines about
Amanda?’ Well, they
were the ones clicking
on the headline.”
pensive, even grief-stricken place,”
she says. The subject was Rose, who
became a feminist after enduring
months of misogynistic name-calling
during her divorce from rapper Wiz
Khalifa. Knox was surprised by Rose,
who advised her to educate men
by speaking “lovingly to those who
have inappropriate expectations of
women,” says Knox. “Amber has this
warm, peaceful, motherly presence. I
wasn’t anticipating that.”
Knox is still wrestling with how to
handle misogyny. “When I see other
women [being verbally abused], I
flare up,” she says. “It presses on me
because I know how that feels to be
sexualized and attacked. It happens
to men too. But with women, so
much of it has to do with our subjective system of judgment.”
She came up with the idea for
her show well before the #MeToo
movement, and it was a struggle to
get people to listen to her pitch. “I
felt the way exonerees must, who
have to explain, with excruciating
effort, what it’s like to be coerced
into falsely confessing,” she says.
Most of the people she was talking
with were men, and “they couldn’t,
or didn’t want to, relate to why this
might be relevant.”
But when the accusations against
Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men began to stick last October, everything changed. Suddenly,
“women’s experiences were treated
like they mattered,” she says. “I’m
amazed and so grateful, and I never
thought I would be there.”
And by “there,” she’s referring as
much to her physical place in the
world as the surprisingly quick pivot
in attitude toward women. “Not
too long ago, I thought I would be
spending the best decades of my life
behind bars for something I didn’t
do,” says Knox. “Going from there to
here in less than a decade is crazy.”
NEWSWEEK.COM
47
Culture
Illustration by B R I T T S P E N C E R
P A R T ING SHOT
Noma Dumezweni
emma watson starred as hermione granger in eight adaptations of
J.K. Rowling’s hugely popular Harry Potter series, so for 15 years the
Muggle-born witch and best friend to everybody’s favorite boy wizard looked
like her. When Watson left the role, Rowling brought Hermione back, this time
to the stage in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which opened to rapturous
reviews, first in London, then on Broadway. The central pals—Harry, Hermione
and Ron—are now grown up, married and parents to Hogwarts students. Hermione is now played by Noma Dumezweni, an award-winning British actress who
perfectly captures her character’s spirit: super smart, a little irritating, always
commanding. Dumezweni also happens to be black, which provoked some racist
outrage. Rowling came to the actor’s defense, tweeting, “Brown eyes, frizzy hair
and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione.”
Many more fans were thrilled to see a person of color in the part. “Representation
is important today, and hopefully that will start a conversation,” Dumezweni says.
“I get to do that in this production, so how lucky am I?”
“White skin was
QRWVSHFLɿHG
Rowling
loves black
Hermione.”
When the play’s script was
published, there was backlash
from fans who had yet to see the
show. Were you surprised by that?
I saw a tweet the other day, “Oh,
[Cursed Child] is absolutely not
canon, but I will come and see it.”
[People] have a reaction without
knowing anything about what this is.
That’s the way the world is at the
moment, and I get frustrated by that.
What’s lacking, to me, is imagination.
They’re not used to reading a script,
but that’s what we [as actors] do—we
go, “What are the possibilities?”
Would you indulge in a little game
of Harry Potter trivia?
Go on. I’m not very good at it, but go on.
Let’s start with an easy one. What
is Hermione’s middle name?
Jean.
5LJKW1DPHKHUɿUVWER\IULHQG
Viktor! No, it wasn’t Viktor.
It was! What is the acronym of the
civil rights organization Hermione
establishes in her fourth year?
S.P.E.W.—but I’m gonna say
speeeeeew!
What does S.P.E.W. stand for?
Societal Protection of…Elves…
Worldwide? No?
Almost. It’s Society for the
3URPRWLRQRI(OɿVK:HOIDUH
How is that different from my answer?
[Laughs.] —Anna Menta
48
M A Y 18, 2018
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