Love City

For every story that makes it to print, there are scads that die in the reporting trenches. This is one of those stories. In 2001, I moved to Bolivia to become a Peace Corps volunteer and fell deeply in love with the country. In 2010, I returned. I wanted to visit friends and family, but, […]

Guest Post: From a place with little relief for mental wounds

Last November, I spent the hottest hours of a West African afternoon camped outside Tamba Aruna’s office. He’s a slight, soft-spoken man who listens to the sorrows of others each day. His job – mental health supervisor at the emergency clinic operated by Doctors without Borders (or MSF) in Sierra Leone – makes Aruna a […]

Was it worth it?

Ten years ago this month, the United States invaded Iraq on false pretenses. On December 15, 2011, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared the war officially over. In the March 16 issue of the medical journal the Lancet, researchers examined the war’s consequences for human health. While politicians argue about the meaning of war, one […]

I don’t know why the caged girl screams

  They called her the girl in the cage. “How about her?” the Vietnamese official asked, flipping the book to an image of a girl crouched behind bars. The thick album in front of me featured photographs and short bios of purported Agent Orange victims. There was the boy with no arms, the girl with […]

Horgan, Hayden, and the Last Word on Warfare

In 2008, I published a book about the evolutionary origins and cultural development of warfare throughout human history. John Horgan, about as distinguished a science writer as one is likely to find, graciously invited me to share my thoughts on war’s deep past and possible futures on a web video show he hosted. It was […]

The Benefits of War?

In the festive spirit of LWON’s first birthday celebration, Jessa asked me the following question: “ Squirrel it however you like — War: What is it good for?” The answer follows. What is war good for? Absolutely nothing. Listen to me–I’ll say it again: absolutely nothing. Huh. And yet … Edwin Starr had it absolutely […]

What do you get when you put a terrorist inside of a brain scanner?

It’s not the setup of a bad joke. For years, the U.S. military has likely used brain scanners to try to read the minds of suspected terrorists. Some bioethicists have argued, and I tend to agree, that using neuroimaging during interrogations is not only ineffective, but could also exacerbate the abusive treatment of prisoners of […]

An empathy gap so big, you could march an army through it

A year on and many thousands of leaked documents later, it’s easy to forget how Wikileaks first came to wide international attention. But a recent paper in Psychological Science brought the memory back to me with a sharpness and intensity out of all proportion with the grainy YouTube video at the incident’s core. The memory […]