For the first time, a former head of state is being tried for genocide in the courts of his own country. The trial of General Efraín Ríos Montt, who served as president of Guatemala from the time he seized power in a military coup in March 1982 until he was forced out in another military coup in August 1983, began on March 19 in Guatemala City. The prosecutor alleged that Ríos Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez, his chief of intelligence, were responsible for the killing of 1,771 Ixils—one of Guatemala’s twenty-two distinct indigenous peoples—and the forced displacement of another 29,000, many them tortured or sexually abused by the army.

Reckoning with Genocide
By Aryeh Neier

Photo: General Efraín Ríos Montt (center) announcing his military coup, Guatemala City, March 23, 1982 (Bettman/Corbis)

For the first time, a former head of state is being tried for genocide in the courts of his own country. The trial of General Efraín Ríos Montt, who served as president of Guatemala from the time he seized power in a military coup in March 1982 until he was forced out in another military coup in August 1983, began on March 19 in Guatemala City. The prosecutor alleged that Ríos Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez, his chief of intelligence, were responsible for the killing of 1,771 Ixils—one of Guatemala’s twenty-two distinct indigenous peoples—and the forced displacement of another 29,000, many them tortured or sexually abused by the army.

Reckoning with Genocide By Aryeh Neier

Photo: General Efraín Ríos Montt (center) announcing his military coup, Guatemala City, March 23, 1982 (Bettman/Corbis)

"The war in Iraq has had a profound and divisive effect on America’s national culture and yet remains, paradoxically, absent from our collective experience. For the nation that waged it, it was the invisible war, a conflict that came into focus only intermittently, and even then, without the immediacy with which previous generations lived through conflicts in Vietnam and Korea."

The War We Couldn’t See
by Christian Caryl

Photo: US troops in Baghdad, Iraq, May 16, 2008 (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

"The war in Iraq has had a profound and divisive effect on America’s national culture and yet remains, paradoxically, absent from our collective experience. For the nation that waged it, it was the invisible war, a conflict that came into focus only intermittently, and even then, without the immediacy with which previous generations lived through conflicts in Vietnam and Korea."

The War We Couldn’t See by Christian Caryl

Photo: US troops in Baghdad, Iraq, May 16, 2008 (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Mistreatment by the government is nothing new in Ethiopia, an essentially one-party state of roughly 90 million people, in which virtually all human rights activity and independent media is banned. But what makes the latest case particularly outrageous is that the Ethiopian government may be using World Bank money—some of which comes from US taxpayers—to finance it.

Helen Epstein, Why Are We Funding Abuse in Ethiopia?

Photo: Workers at a Saudi-owned rice farm in Gambella, Ethiopia, March 22, 2012 (AFP/Getty Images)

Mistreatment by the government is nothing new in Ethiopia, an essentially one-party state of roughly 90 million people, in which virtually all human rights activity and independent media is banned. But what makes the latest case particularly outrageous is that the Ethiopian government may be using World Bank money—some of which comes from US taxpayers—to finance it.

Helen Epstein, Why Are We Funding Abuse in Ethiopia?

Photo: Workers at a Saudi-owned rice farm in Gambella, Ethiopia, March 22, 2012 (AFP/Getty Images)

Ethiopian protesters may be leading Africa’s most promising and important nonviolent human rights campaign since the anti-apartheid struggle. Yet the United States has stood by as women and men have been hideously beaten by police, hundreds have been arrested, eight people have been killed, mosques have been raided by security forces, and twenty-nine Muslim leaders, including lawyers, professors, and businessmen, remain in jail.

Obama: Failing the African Spring?
by Helen Epstein

Photo: Ethiopian Muslims protesting in Addis Ababa, October, 2012 (Awolia School Support Page)

Ethiopian protesters may be leading Africa’s most promising and important nonviolent human rights campaign since the anti-apartheid struggle. Yet the United States has stood by as women and men have been hideously beaten by police, hundreds have been arrested, eight people have been killed, mosques have been raided by security forces, and twenty-nine Muslim leaders, including lawyers, professors, and businessmen, remain in jail.

Obama: Failing the African Spring?
by Helen Epstein

Photo: Ethiopian Muslims protesting in Addis Ababa, October, 2012 (Awolia School Support Page)

Elizabeth Drew on the Republicans’ future: “As the Republicans search for a new and more electable identity they have a fundamental problem. Ever since they took their first major right turn in 1964, they have made a series of bargains in order to strengthen their ranks that have ultimately cost them broad national appeal and flexibility.”

Are the Republicans Beyond Saving?

Photo: House Speaker John Boehner, Washington, DC, January 22, 2013 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Drew on the Republicans’ future: “As the Republicans search for a new and more electable identity they have a fundamental problem. Ever since they took their first major right turn in 1964, they have made a series of bargains in order to strengthen their ranks that have ultimately cost them broad national appeal and flexibility.”

Are the Republicans Beyond Saving?

Photo: House Speaker John Boehner, Washington, DC, January 22, 2013 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Obama has nominated his adviser John O. Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan has operated behind closed doors at the White House for four years, and has been perhaps the single most important person shaping the administration’s counterterrorism policy. Before he moves to the even more secretive confines of Langley, here are twelve questions he should be asked to answer on the public record.

Twelve Questions for John Brennan by David Cole

Photo: White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, Arlington, Virginia, December 21, 2011. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

President Obama has nominated his adviser John O. Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan has operated behind closed doors at the White House for four years, and has been perhaps the single most important person shaping the administration’s counterterrorism policy. Before he moves to the even more secretive confines of Langley, here are twelve questions he should be asked to answer on the public record.

Twelve Questions for John Brennan by David Cole

Photo: White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, Arlington, Virginia, December 21, 2011. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

One measure of how complicated Egyptian politics has become is that hardly anyone was surprised by the outcome of the constitutional referendum in late December. Amid the largest anti-government protests since the 2011 revolution, and following defections from his own cabinet and supporters, President Mohamed Morsi orchestrated a 64 percent approval vote for a new constitution. It had been hastily drawn up by his political allies and subjected to withering criticism; and there was low voter turnout and widespread indications of tampering. Nonetheless, the result seemed to show that, for all the millions of Egyptians who have lost patience with the new leadership, there are many others who continue to crave stability, even if the price is another authoritarian government.
Yasmine El Rashidi, Egypt: Whose Constitution?
The strenuous debate between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner over how to stave off the $700 billion or so of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes scheduled for 2013 is obscuring a larger and far more disturbing issue: whichever way the negotiations go, the result will be slow economic growth next year at best, and possibly outright recession.
Exactly two years have passed since the self-immolation of a fruit-seller in a depressed provincial town spurred Tunisians to topple their authoritarian president. But the mood on the anniversary of that richly symbolic martyrdom is somber, even defeatist. To many Tunisians, the goals that animated the revolution no longer seem within reach.

Christopher de Bellaigue, Tunisia: ‘Did We Make the Revolution For This?’

Photo: Protesters against the UGTT labor union and the former ruling party, Tunis, December 8, 2012 (Chedly Ben Ibrahim/Demotix/Corbis)

Exactly two years have passed since the self-immolation of a fruit-seller in a depressed provincial town spurred Tunisians to topple their authoritarian president. But the mood on the anniversary of that richly symbolic martyrdom is somber, even defeatist. To many Tunisians, the goals that animated the revolution no longer seem within reach.

Christopher de Bellaigue, Tunisia: ‘Did We Make the Revolution For This?’

Photo: Protesters against the UGTT labor union and the former ruling party, Tunis, December 8, 2012 (Chedly Ben Ibrahim/Demotix/Corbis)

The horror of Newtown cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch.
Garry Wills, Our Moloch
Elizabeth Drew, Ryan Meets Reality

Going into the debate, Vice President Joe Biden needed to stop the talk of the first presidential debate and Paul Ryan needed to maintain the Republicans’ momentum. But Ryan never quite caught up with the whirling dervish at the top of the GOP ticket. Ryan staked out some positions that could bedevil Romney in the closing weeks of the campaign—on Medicare, Afghanistan, and taxes, among other things. But the most troublesome for Romney of Ryan’s departures from the script was on the inevitably consternating subject of abortion, on which Romney had just taken his umpteenth position.

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Paul Ryan during the vice-presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, October 11 (Charlie Neibergall/AP Images)

Elizabeth Drew, Ryan Meets Reality

Going into the debate, Vice President Joe Biden needed to stop the talk of the first presidential debate and Paul Ryan needed to maintain the Republicans’ momentum. But Ryan never quite caught up with the whirling dervish at the top of the GOP ticket. Ryan staked out some positions that could bedevil Romney in the closing weeks of the campaign—on Medicare, Afghanistan, and taxes, among other things. But the most troublesome for Romney of Ryan’s departures from the script was on the inevitably consternating subject of abortion, on which Romney had just taken his umpteenth position.

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Paul Ryan during the vice-presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, October 11 (Charlie Neibergall/AP Images)

Amy Knight, Russia: The New Struggle with Putin

Although they have gotten little attention in the Western press, the regional elections taking place throughout Russia on October 14 may be Vladimir Putin’s greatest test since his return to the presidency last spring. With voters in 73 of Russia’s 83 regions going to the polls less than a year after the Kremlin faced allegations of widespread fraud in parliamentary elections, the looming question for Putin is whether he can ensure a favorable outcome without overt manipulation. For the opposition, a primary concern is whether their candidates will even be on the ballot.

Photo: Evgeniya Chirikova, a mayoral candidate in the city of Khimki, being detained during a protest in Moscow, July 19, 2011

Amy Knight, Russia: The New Struggle with Putin

Although they have gotten little attention in the Western press, the regional elections taking place throughout Russia on October 14 may be Vladimir Putin’s greatest test since his return to the presidency last spring. With voters in 73 of Russia’s 83 regions going to the polls less than a year after the Kremlin faced allegations of widespread fraud in parliamentary elections, the looming question for Putin is whether he can ensure a favorable outcome without overt manipulation. For the opposition, a primary concern is whether their candidates will even be on the ballot.

Photo: Evgeniya Chirikova, a mayoral candidate in the city of Khimki, being detained during a protest in Moscow, July 19, 2011

Two long reads on the campaign from our correspondents:

At the Republican convention, Jonathan Freedland found “a brand of raw Social Darwinism, a cult of the winner that believes the success of the few renders the system legitimate, even sacred, regardless of the fate of the many who are less fortunate. ‘I’—or more accurately—‘my parents have made millions,’ the argument seemed to run, ‘so that proves the system works and is just.’ Scarcely a word was said about the plight of the many millions of Americans who have seen their wages stagnate or decline over several decades.… The Republicans seek a world in which the fittest will be free to run fastest, and as for the rest, well, the success of the strong will somehow help them too.” — The Republicans: Behind the Barricades

While at the Democratic convention, Joseph Lelyveld saw a president who “seemed to have been caught flatfooted by the gall of his opponents, unable to find plain language to do a Harry Truman and give ’em hell, irritated on occasion by the need to spell out obvious facts and knock down obvious distortions.… He needed to find a way in Charlotte, finally, to recapture ‘the narrative’: to stand on his record without sounding defensive, to offer a believable future consistent with past promises. He needed to be memorable again.” — What the Democrats Have to Show

(Drawings by John Springs)

Two long reads on the campaign from our correspondents:

At the Republican convention, Jonathan Freedland found “a brand of raw Social Darwinism, a cult of the winner that believes the success of the few renders the system legitimate, even sacred, regardless of the fate of the many who are less fortunate. ‘I’—or more accurately—‘my parents have made millions,’ the argument seemed to run, ‘so that proves the system works and is just.’ Scarcely a word was said about the plight of the many millions of Americans who have seen their wages stagnate or decline over several decades.… The Republicans seek a world in which the fittest will be free to run fastest, and as for the rest, well, the success of the strong will somehow help them too.” — The Republicans: Behind the Barricades

While at the Democratic convention, Joseph Lelyveld saw a president who “seemed to have been caught flatfooted by the gall of his opponents, unable to find plain language to do a Harry Truman and give ’em hell, irritated on occasion by the need to spell out obvious facts and knock down obvious distortions.… He needed to find a way in Charlotte, finally, to recapture ‘the narrative’: to stand on his record without sounding defensive, to offer a believable future consistent with past promises. He needed to be memorable again.” — What the Democrats Have to Show

(Drawings by John Springs)