Jason Vest

Jason Vest is a Senior Correspondent for The American Prospect and a
contributor to the Boston Phoenix and The Nation, specializing in intelligence
national security affairs. He also holds an Ochberg Fellowship with the
University of Washington's Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Recognized by
American Journalism Review in 2002 as an "Unsung Hero of Washington
Vest has previously done staff stints at the Washington Post, US News & World
and Village Voice. He covered the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war
(1999-2000), as a correspondent for The Scotsman, and was awarded a 1999 Fund
Investigative Journalism grant to examine both the war and media coverage.

Originally a reporter for alternative weeklies in Indiana, Vest has also
written for The Atlantic Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, Mother Jones,
AlterNet and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, among others. His
work for
the Prospect in 2004 has been supported by grant awards from the Foundation
for Constitutional Goverment and the Ettinger Foundation. His book on national
security during the current Bush Administration will be published by Wiley &
Sons in 2005.

Recent Articles

Ahmad Agonistes

There was a story making the rounds in foreign-policy circles last fall about an exchange between two of Ahmad Chalabi's most prominent patrons and detractors -- a juicy bit that rang true, but seemed hopelessly, tantalizingly just beyond the journalistic grasp. Ubiquitous as it had become in the halls of Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon, the standard for publication lay in the ability to get verbatim confirmation of the conversational back and forth -- something no one seemed able to satisfactorily secure. Apparently destined for the realm of apocryphal anecdotes that hacks only laugh about at the bar, the tale suddenly appeared in print via the pen of Washington Post contributor Sally Quinn on November 24, 2003, as the coda to her 6,000-word anointment of Chalabi as a bona fide Washington player: Not long after Chalabi announced in New York that he was more in agreement with France than with the United States about the timing of Iraqi sovereignty, Secretary of State Colin Powell and...

Trust Busted

Before we turn our attention to Tuesday's reactionary and indicative-of-utter-ignorance comments made on Capitol Hill by Senator James Inhofe, let's first revisit Sunday's Washington Post . Under the headline "Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy; U.S. May Be Winning Battles in Iraq But Losing the War, Some Officers Say," a number of career Army officers -- including the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Coalition Provisional Authority's first director of planning -- said that in strategic terms, the U.S. military has made a mess of things in Iraq, and perhaps fatally so. The willingness of such prominent military officials to go on record may be surprising, as was the Post 's finally reporting that the officer corps thinks Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz are a couple of dafties who've been allowed to flail about for far too long in the sandbox they call the Pentagon and need a permanent time-out. But the reality of career military people sounding the...

Waiting to Happen

When President George W. Bush asserted in his May 5 attempt to mollify the Arab and Muslim worlds that "what took place in [the Abu Ghraib] prison does not represent the America I know," Judy Greene nearly spat out a spoonful of dinner in disbelief. A veteran prison-policy analyst with the group Justice Strategies, Greene marveled at this remarkable manifestation of cognitive dissonance and denial. "I'm sitting here," she recalls, "going, 'Has he ever set foot in a prison in the state that he ran?'" The release of images and reports detailing the abuses visited on Iraqi prisoners under U.S. military control in Abu Ghraib resulted in the predictable round of outrages, spins, and denials, with figures from all sides making one common point by design or by default: None of what happened should be seen as representative of America, or of anything systematized. Indeed, the flurry of media attention tended to cast the affair as something isolated, if not aberrant -- certainly not reflective...

Meanwhile, in Africa …

An interesting case study in the Bush administration's penchant for forging bilateral alliances that are enabling some truly wretched regimes is Eritrea, a small Horn of Africa nation strategically located on the Red Sea, where some on the right would like to establish U.S. air and naval bases. Eritrea is a truly remarkable country: There's virtually no crime; its half-Christian, half-Muslim population is highly nationalistic and anti-Islamist; intrinsic to the national character is a zealous ethic of self-reliance; and, unlike most places in Africa, the infrastructure is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Indeed, with the capital city of Asmara's constantly working water and electricity, swaying palm trees, stucco villas, and Fiat taxis, you might think you were in a slightly run-down art-deco city on Italy's Mediterranean coast, not in an African capital plunked in the middle of a 7,500 foot mountain plain. But you'd also notice a lack of independent newspapers -- and a...

The Wrong Target

On February 5, 2003, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to convince the United Nations Security Council of the need for war against Iraq, in a quiet Baghdad neighborhood half a world away, Mahdi Obeidi watched Al-Jazeera intently as Powell's presentation unfolded. Once tasked with designing and building a centrifuge to enrich uranium for use in Iraq's nuclear-weapons program, Obeidi had spent most of the past decade tracking budget numbers as the state Military Industrial Commission's director of projects -- a position that put the scientist in the unique position of knowing the line-item details of every ongoing Iraqi weapons endeavor. Though the nuclear knowledge he had gained in '80s-era clandestine missions all over the world made him one of Saddam Hussein's most important scientists, this was a special status he could have done without: He and his family were under constant surveillance because of his refusal to join the Baath Party. According to selections from a soon...