TIME National Security

The U.S. Military’s Mayors

Secretary of State John Kerry and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met Monday in Baghdad. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

When the U.S. military helps foreign leaders, their nations seem to shrink

For years, despite the massive investment of U.S. lives and treasure in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzi has been derided as the “major of Kabul,” given his central government’s impotence elsewhere in the country.

For days, despite an even greater of U.S. blood and treasure in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now being referred to in some quarters as the “mayor of Baghdad.” (And, according to military author Tom Ricks, even that overstates the real estate he rules.)

This is a not a good outcome for Washington, which provided the security and built the infrastructure that enabled elections to put both men in charge.

Obama And Afghan President Karzai Hold Joint News Conf. At White House
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama at the White House in 2013. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

It’s the realpolitik that is keeping U.S. firepower largely sidelined in Iraq: if great swaths of such countries don’t care if their purported leader is relegated to a bürgermeister in his own land, why should the U.S. do even more to let him retain his hold on the government’s reins?

It’s a pertinent question as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria joins with some of Saddam Hussein’s army officers in an alliance of convenience to attack Baghdad. The time has come to reap the seeds the U.S. sowed.

Soon after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Washington disbanded the Iraqi army and barred high-level Baathists from participating the new government. Saddam and his Sunni allies had brutally oppressed Iraq’s Shi’a majority for 24 years. When the Shi’a gained power, they—led by Maliki—took it out on their long time tormenters. Unwilling to share power and resources, Maliki sparked the current crisis.

“What we’re not going to be able to do is to play Whac-A-Mole and chase wherever extremists appear, occupy those countries for long periods of time, and think somehow that we’re going to solve those problems,” President Obama said Monday on MSNBC. “That’s something that, even as the world’s lone superpower, exceeds our capabilities.”

That’s debatable.

What’s not debatable are the echoes of Saigon in both Baghdad and Kabul. The final U.S. troops in Vietnam headed for home in 1973. Two years later, the North Vietnamese pressed south toward the capital of Saigon, from where Nguyen Van Thieu ruled.

As the North gobbled up more territory, Thieu issued muddled orders that left his military adrift amid North Vietnam’s relentless push toward the capital. The South abandoned cities and military outposts, much as the Iraq army has done over the past two weeks.

As the enemy drew closer, Thieu confided in fewer advisers, and blamed his country’s fate on the U.S. “You Americans with your 500,000 soldiers in Vietnam! You were not defeated,” he declared. “You ran away!” Five days later, Thieu did the same, fleeing to Taiwan. Four days later, on April 30, 1975, South Vietnam vanished as the North won the war.

L. Johnson, General Westmorland, General Thieu
President Johnson, U.S. Army General William Westmoreland, and Vietnamese General Nguyen Van Thieu in 1967. Universal History Archive / Getty Images

Thieu eventually settled in Boston, where he died on Sept. 29, 2001 at the age of 76, two weeks after the attacks of 9/11 that triggered the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

All three leaders ran, or are running, governments riddled with corruption that lost the support of the governed, especially once billions in U.S. military spending stopped.

But it would be wrong to look at the Vietnam and Iraq conflicts through the same lens.

The U.S. government sold the Vietnam war to the American public as necessary to stop the spread of communism. In reality, it was more about nationalism. A total of 58,286 U.S. troops died fighting for that cause, which was limited, in any event, to southeast Asia.

But ISIS has made clear it wants to establish a caliphate straddling the Syrian-Iraq border, where it or other terrorist groups could plot attacks against the U.S. A total of 4,486 U.S. troops—8% of Vietnam’s toll—died in Iraq. The threat there is morphing into something more dangerous to the U.S. homeland than Vietnam ever was. Yet the American public has made clear it wants its government launching no major military action designed to destroy ISIS.

The U.S. public is blind, or wise.

TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola Outbreak Beyond Our Control, Doctors Without Borders Says

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières staff carrying the body of a person killed by viral hemorrhagic fever at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Gueckedou on April 1, 2014.
Doctors Without Borders staff carrying the body of a person killed by viral hemorrhagic fever at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Gueckedou on April 1, 2014. Seyllou—AFP/Getty Images

The medical group treating Ebola patients in Africa says it can't keep up with emerging cases

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the medical organization treating Ebola patients in West Africa, says it has reached the limit of what the group can do to fight the worsening outbreak there.

In a statement released Monday, the organization said it is the only group treating people infected with the disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. “We have reached our limits. Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by MSF in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites,” said Dr. Bart Janssens, MSF director of operations, in a statement.

Since the outbreak started in March in Guinea, MSF says it has treated 470 patients (215 of them confirmed cases) related to Ebola. The group has 300 international and national staff working in West Africa and has sent more than 40 tons of equipment and supplies. But with new cases emerging in new places like Sierra Leone and Liberia, the organization says it cannot keep up. Earlier, the group said the outbreak is “out of control.”

Since the disease emerged earlier this year, there have been over 520 cases and 330 deaths. Ebola is a very infectious hemorrhagic fever that has up to a 90% fatality rate. In April, Guinea’s Health Ministry said deaths from Ebola slowed and that the outbreak was close to being brought under control. But the World Health Organization reported earlier this month that in Guinea alone, there were 37 new cases and 21 new deaths between May 29 and June 1, 2014.

MSF said more groups need to help quell public anxiety over the disease, and that people are distrusting health facilities and not heeding warnings about funeral rituals that put them at risk. “Civil society and political and religious authorities are failing to acknowledge the scale of the epidemic, with few prominent figures spreading messages promoting the fight against the disease,” the organization said. In the statement, Janssens says the WHO and neighboring countries need to provide resources necessary for an epidemic.

The WHO has not released a response to the MSF statement but says it is working with local governments and is planning a regional meeting in Ghana on July 2, the Associated Press reports. The WHO does not currently recommend any restrictions to travel or trade in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

TIME Foreign Policy

White House Doesn’t Rule Out Iraq Partition

Spokesman doesn't close the door on possible partition

The White House declined to rule out an eventual breakup of Iraq on Monday, as Sunni extremists in the war-torn country continue to make gains on the road to Baghdad.

With fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) seizing more territory, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it’s up to the Iraqi people to decide how their maps should be drawn, adding that the Obama Administration believes the best course would be for Iraq’s political leaders to come together to find a political solution.

“I’m not going to be in a position to offer a proposal for how they should draw up their map,” Earnest said Monday when asked about a 2006 proposal by then-Senator Joe Biden to partition Iraq into Sunni, Shi‘ite and Kurdish states. “The most direct way for — in the view of this Administration — for Iraq to confront the threat that they face from [ISIS] is to unite that country around a political agenda that gives every single citizen a stake in that country’s future and that country’s success.”

When asked about this week’s TIME cover story, “The End of Iraq,” Earnest acknowledged that partition is hardly a new concept. “But I think that we have also seen the danger of trying to impose solutions from the outside about what anyone thinks is in the best interests of the Iraqi people,” he said.

“It is the view of this Administration that the best way for us to confront this challenge is to empower the Iraqi people to make the kinds of decisions that demonstrate their vested interest in the success of that country, and that starts by having political leadership, elected political leadership, that ensures that the rights and interests and aspirations of every Iraqi citizen is incorporated into their governing agenda,” Earnest added. “That’s not an easy thing to do. I don’t want to paper over that. But it is critical to the success of that country.”

TIME tanzania

Rats Sniff Out Danger: 15 Years of Land Mine Progress

In Tanzania Giant African Pouched Rat rats are being used to identify and sniff out land mines.

Correction appended, June 23

Fifteen years after the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention gathered for the first time with a signed treaty in Mozambique, its leaders met again Monday to asses the progress that has been made. In the past 15 years, 161 countries have signed on. The meeting, which will last through Friday, will evaluate the advancements that have been made banning the use of land mine weapons, helping land mine victims, and clearing minefields.

In the bordering country of Tanzania, Giant African Pouched Rat rats are being used to identify and sniff out land mines. These enormous rodents are bred and trained by a Belgian NGO called APOPO, which has it’s headquarters based in Tanzania. Once the rats have undergone the six-step training process to become experts at sniffing out TNT and detecting mines they are known as HeroRATs. These photo show what the training process is like for these life-saving rodents.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated when the meeting of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention will end and when members first met as signatories to the treaty.

TIME World Cup

How the U.S. and Germany Could Hack the World Cup

Group G - USA vs Portugal
Jermaine Jones of the USA scores the 1-1 goal. Mast Irham—EPA

Scenarios abound after a U.S.-Portugal tie

It is a measure of just how much the U.S. has grown as a soccer nation that a last-gasp goal by Portugal, one of Europe’s perennial powers, to earn a 2-2 draw is being viewed as a devastating loss. Going into that game, most U.S. soccer strategists would have been thrilled to come away with a point against a team fronted by Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the world’s best player.

The now disappointing draw with Portugal means that a draw would be a delightful outcome for both sides in the U.S. game against Germany this Thursday—and a feast for conspiracy fans, oddsmakers, and app makers. The World Cup can be hacked, because a point each would make Germany the Group G winner and the U.S. the runner-up, and each team would advance to the second round.

So it’s simple, right? The U.S. and Germany should have a kickabout on Thursday and waltz into the finals, an outcome made easier because U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann and German coach Joachim Loew are friends and former colleagues. A draw between Ghana and Portugal, who play at the same time, would produce a similar result, but there’s no controlling that outcome. (That said, some officials from Ghana’s football federation have been implicated in trying to arrange fixed friendly matches. On the field, Ghana’s players have been nothing short of terrific.)

An agreement? A fix? Couldn’t be, won’t be done, says Klinsmann. His boys are playing for keeps—they’re American, aren’t they—“we will give everything to beat Germany. That is our goal,” he said. On the field, though, life just doesn’t work that way, whatever the players’ good intentions. If this game is level in the second half, it’s only natural that the players on both sides will want to take fewer risks. Better to not win then to lose and go home. No one wants to be the guy who ruins the World Cup for his team.

In the somewhat sordid history of the World Cup, agreements to fix matches or manipulate them are not unheard of. In fact, West Germany was involved in one of the most famous incidents: In 1982, West Germany needed to beat Austria by a 1-0 score to qualify for the second round, a score that worked perfectly for Austria’s advancement, too. The infamous “Great Gijon Swindle” as it is sometimes known (the Cup was staged in Spain that year) saw Germany go up a goal early and then the lads had a nice rest for the duration of the game. The victim was an Algerian team that had played well and deserved better.

The third group games of the World Cup are always a swirl of possibilities. Brazil had a 1% chance to get knocked out; Iran a 15% chance to advance. The U.S. can advance even if it loses and Portugal or Ghana wins. The outcome depends on a series of tiebreakers, the first being goal differential: goals scored minus goals allowed. In this scenario, Ghana can advance with the same record as the U.S., despite having been beaten by the Americans.

That last bit—the fact that a team you beat earlier could advance in a tiebreaker—says all you need to know about FIFA’s tournament management skills. The idea of the U.S. and Germany cooking up common cause is indeed unsporting if not downright un-American. But on FIFA’s distorted planet football, it makes all the sense in the world.

TIME faith

What It Really Means for Pope Francis to Excommunicate the Mob

Italy Pope
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in Sibari, southern Italy on June 21, 2014. Alessandra Tarantino—AP

Why the Pope took sides against the Family

Pope Francis used the e-word against the mob for the first time this weekend.

The Holy Father was celebrating mass on Saturday in Calabria, a mob-heavy region in southern Italy, when he deviated from his prepared remarks and announced that the mafia are excommunicated. “Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated,” he said. The thousands who had gathered underneath the hot sun cheered.

Calabria is home to the ‘Ndrangheta, a global drug trafficking syndicate. Reports suggest that the group turns over $72 billion per year in the cocaine trade and uses that wealth to entice young people in the region—where the unemployment rate is 50% or higher—to work for it. Last week Pope Francis also reaffirmed his position against recreational drug use and the drug trade.

Francis has condemned corporate financial sins throughout his papacy, particularly for their socio-economic consequences. His pronouncement on Saturday yet again shows how seriously he takes those consequences.

“When adoration of the Lord is substituted by adoration of money, the road to sin opens to personal interest…Your land, which so beautiful, knows the signs of the consequences of this sin,” Francis explained. “The ‘ndrangheta is this: adoration of evil and contempt of the common good. This evil must be fought, must be expelled. It must be told no.”

Pope Francis’ pronouncement was the strongest censure of the mafia so far in his papacy, or in any of his predecessors’ papacies. Excommunication does not mean that a person is banned from the church, but it is a public recognition by church authorities that a person is no longer part of the Catholic community. Technically excommunication means the excommunicated party has chosen to separate him or herself from the church through their own un-Catholic choices. The Pope doesn’t excommunicate, but people excommunicate themselves by their behavior. Excommunication also does not mean a person is denied from heaven and the afterlife (that’s “anathema”)—one’s baptism is still effectual, meaning it still carries its sacramental worth.

Excommunication is usually reserved for grave offenses, and some sins incur automatic excommunication. These traditionally include abortion (the woman who has it and all accomplices), apostasy (total repudiation of Christian faith), heresy (obstinate denial of doctrine), schism (refusing to submit to the Pope and church community), violating the sacred species (throwing away/desecrating elements of Eucharist), physically attacking the pope, consecrating a bishop without Vatican’s authorization, sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin, and violating the seal of confession.

Francis is building on a theme of his papacy that financial behavior deserves equal scrutiny and attention as often-hyped sexual sins. Often people think of excommunication as a consequence for an individual, but the Pope’s words were a reminder that communities can sin too—and that a group’s financial behavior affect society as a whole, sometimes violently. Love of money and violent or dishonest behavior are right up there with abortion in his mind. It is another reason Francis has also been working to reform the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, the Institute for Religious Works, and that he has condemned the “idolatry of money” and unfettered capitalism as a “new tyranny.”

Life together, Pope Francis is reminding the world, is at the core of the Catholic message. That’s why excommunication means something. When someone is excommunicated, they are ex-communion, out of communion, and they cannot participate in the sacrament of Eucharist, a public action by a group of people setting themselves apart for the Christian life.

Will priests start denying members of the mafia the bread and wine? That remains to be seen, and it would likely be a risky decision. Francis appears unabashed. He’s preaching a bigger message: reconciliation and societal change. Even excommunication is not the end of relationship with the church. The same day, Pope Francis reminded a group of prisoners that God always forgives, meaning that reunion is always possible. “The Lord is a master at rehabilitation,” he said. “He takes us by the hand and brings us back into the social community. The Lord always forgives, always accompanies, always understands; it is up to us to let ourselves be understood, forgiven and accompanied.”

Whether the mafia listens to that message is another matter.

TIME Religion

Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Death for Apostasy Freed

Meriam Ibrahim sits in her cell a day after she gave birth to a baby girl at a women's prison in Omdurman on May 28, 2014.
Meriam Ibrahim sits in her cell a day after she gave birth to a baby girl at a women's prison in Omdurman on May 28, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

After giving birth in jail, Meriam Ibrahim finally reunites with her husband.

A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy after she refused to reject her Christian faith has been freed and reunited with her husband and family, reports CNN.

Meriam Ibrahim was convicted of renouncing her faith by a Sudanese court in May. Eight months pregnant, the 27-year-old was sentenced to be hanged, as well as receive 100 lashings for alleged adultery. She eventually gave birth in jail, the Telegraph revealed—with her legs reportedly still shackled.

The controversy stemmed from Ibrahim’s upbringing, CNN said. Her father was Sudanese Muslim and her mother a Christian. However, her father left her at the age of 6, and Ibrahim’s mother raised her as a Christian. Ibrahim married her husband Daniel Wani, also a Christian, but because of her father’s faith, the marriage was considered invalid. Her own brother filed a report against her, CNN reported.

The case gathered international attention from human rights groups and politicians, including release requests from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry and British Prime Minister David Cameron, reported the Telegraph.

Ibrahim’s initial conviction was found faulty in an appeals case, said her lawyer.


TIME National Security

Here’s the Secret Memo That Justified Anwar al-Awlaki Killing

Anwar al-Awlaki
This October 2008 file photo shows Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike three years later, in 2011 Muhammad ud-Deen—AP

Well, except the bits that have been redacted

Correction appended, June 23

A federal court released a legal memo that justified the drone killing of alleged American terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki on Monday, after years of legal wrangling.

The U.S. government earlier this year lost a freedom-of-information lawsuit filed by the New York Times and American Civil Liberties Union calling for the release of the memo, drafted by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel. It provided the legal basis for killing the New Mexico–born leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Awlaki, in Yemen in September 2011.

The Department of Justice decided against appealing the ruling amid pressure from congressional lawmakers, who were holding up the nomination of David Barron, the attorney who drafted the memo.

A “white paper” summary of the document was leaked to the media in early 2013. The memo argues that because capturing al-Awlaki was infeasible and he posed an “imminent threat” to the U.S. that a drone strike could be carried out.

Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, said the release of the memo would shed new light on the government’s drone program. “There are few questions more important than the question of when the government has the authority to kill its own citizens,” he said. “This memo’s release will allow the public to better understand the scope and implications of the authority the government is claiming. We will continue to press for the release of other documents relating to the targeted killing program, including other legal memos and documents relating to civilian casualties.”

Parts of the memo remain redacted because they are classified, with just 31 of 41 pages released and substantial portions blanked out, but here is the memo as released publicly:

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the circumstances of the memo’s release. It was released by a federal court.

TIME Foreign Policy

Syria’s Last Chemical Weapons Shipped Out of Country

Danish navy vessel HDMS Esbern Snare leads the Danish-Norwegian-British task force in the OPCW program outside southern Cypriot coastal town of Larnaca on May 13, 2014
Danish navy vessel HDMS Esbern Snare leads the Danish-Norwegian-British task force in the OPCW program outside southern Cypriot coastal town of Larnaca on May 13, 2014 Yiannis Kourtoglou—AFP/Getty Images

Now, the stockpile of weapons must be safely destroyed

Updated 5:09 pm

The last batch of Syria’s identified chemical weapons was removed from the country on Monday, the latest step in an unprecedented program that began just 9 months ago.

Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ahmet Üzümcü made the announcement from The Hague in the Netherlands.

“Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict,” said Üzümcü. “And this has been accomplished within very demanding and tight timeframes.”

The OPCW program has been a collective effort between 30 different countries, each helping to provide needed equipment and transportation to facilitate the destruction of Syria’s stockpile of arms.

John Kerry paid tribute to the work done by OPCW to rid Syria of chemical weapons after the death of over 1,000 in an August 2013 attack.

“It’s very important, however, even as we mark this moment of removing 100 percent of the declared weapons, that we understand that our work is not finished to ensure the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program. There are still some serious issues that remain to be addressed, and we are not going to stop until those have been addressed.”

Now, the chemical weapons must be safely delivered for destruction on board the U.S. vessel Cape Ray and at commercial facilities in Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

TIME sexism

Japan Politician Sorry for Heckling Female Colleague

Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, bows to Ayaka Shiomura, a fellow assembly member, to apologize for his sexist jeer during a recent event, at Tokyo city hall on June 23, 2014.
Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, bows to Ayaka Shiomura, a fellow assembly member, to apologize for his sexist jeer during a recent event, at Tokyo city hall on June 23, 2014. Jiji Press—AFP/Getty Images

Shouted at female assembly member to "get married"

A Japanese politician apologized Monday after he shouted sexist remarks at a fellow assembly member during her speech last week about increased public support for pregnant women.

Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the ruling LDP party, admitted he taunted fellow assembly member Ayaka Shiomura, from the minority Your party, during her speech, CNN reports. He apologized for shouting out “You should get married” while Shiomura was speaking, but denies making a second comment, “Can’t you even bear a child?” A video of the incident shows Shiomura reduced to tears by the comments, but she finishes her speech anyway. She was advocating for more public support for pregnant women in the Tokyo assembly on June 18.

Shiomura accepted Suzuki’s apology, but said she knew there were others who heckled her who have not yet apologized. The apology comes after LPD party leader Shigeru Ishiba denounced the incident on a June 21 TV program and called for the perpetrators to come forward.

The incident is especially embarrassing considering that the heckles were coming from members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP party, since Abe has himself been vocal about making Japan a better place for working women. The Prime Minister wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year that he wants to boost women’s participation in the workforce to 73% by 2020, and close the wage gap (Japanese women make 30% less than men).

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser