Remembering Jonathan Schell: 1943-2014

Letter From Ground Zero: November 8, 2001
When I began this column after September 11, I chose to name it "Letter From Ground Zero" because it seemed to me that at the heart of the new darkness that had descended upon the world was the peril of annihilation posed by weapons of mass destruction, including, above all, nuclear weapons. The weapon of mass destruction that has actually been used, of course, has been "weaponized" anthrax—delivered, however, only in minuscule amounts. The world awaits the terrorists' decision whether to follow up these retail murders with mass murder....

Letter From Ground Zero: November 21, 2001
The sudden collapse of the Taliban in most of Afghanistan is one of those events that seem to have been designed by the fates to teach policy-makers and pundits humility. The collapse came, of course, as a surprise; but it was also something more: It arrived in the teeth of almost universal opinion that it was not possible so soon.... 

Letter From Ground Zero: December 6, 2001
"It is almost impossible even now to describe what actually happened in Europe on August 4, 1914," Hannah Arendt wrote in 1950, in words that also seem to apply, with uncanny aptness, to September 11, 2001. "The days before and the days after the first world war are separated not like the end of an old and the beginning of a new period but like the day before and the day after an explosion.... [That] explosion seems to have touched off a chain reaction in which we have been caught ever since and which nobody seems to be able to stop." 

Letter From Ground Zero: December 20, 2001
At the outset of the war on terrorism, President Bush announced a doctrine: Regimes that harbor terrorists will be dealt with as severely as the terrorists themselves. Three months later, the Taliban regime that then ruled Afghanistan is gone, and Washington is scanning the horizon for other regimes to attack. The government of Iraq is the one most frequently mentioned....

Letter From Ground Zero: February 7, 2002
Long before the atomic bomb turned night into day in the desert of Alamogordo in July 1945, it was an idea in the minds of scientists, who deeply pondered the political and moral dilemma they were about to impose on the world. With few exceptions, they arrived at a basic conclusion. The great physicist Niels Bohr articulated it well when he said, "We are in a completely new situation that cannot be resolved by war." 

Letter From Ground Zero: March 14, 2002
New York, the city in which I was born and grew up and have lived all my life, and in which my children were born and have now grown up, was also the birthplace of the atomic bomb. The first practical steps toward building the bomb were taken at Columbia University, where the Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard and the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, among others, did preliminary experiments demonstrating that a chain reaction of nuclear fission could be initiated...

Letter From Ground Zero: September 5, 2002
A year that began (if we count by the new calendar whose Day One is September 11, 2001) with an attack on the United States by a terrorist group consisting mostly of Saudi Arabians headquartered in Afghanistan has ended with preparations for an attack by the United States on Iraq, a country that had no demonstrated involvement in September 11. The path from point A a year ago to point B now has been lengthy and circuitous. Along the way, a radically new conception of America's role in the world has been advanced by the Bush Administration. It has claimed nothing less than a right and a duty of the United States to assert military dominance—a Pax Americana—over the entire earth....

The Case Against War, February 13, 2003
In his poem "Fall 1961," written when the Cold War was at its zenith, Robert Lowell wrote:

All autumn, the chafe and jar
of nuclear war;
we have talked our extinction to death.

This autumn and winter, nuclear danger has returned, in a new form, accompanied by danger from the junior siblings in the mass destruction family, chemical and biological weapons....

The Will of the World, February 20, 2003
February 15, 2003, the day 10 million or so people in hundreds of cities on every continent demonstrated against war in Iraq, will go down in history as the first time that the people of the world expressed their clear and concerted will in regard to a pressing global issue. Never before—not during the Vietnam War, not during the antinuclear demonstrations of the early 1980s—had they made known their will so forcefully by all the means at their disposal. On that day, history may one day record, global democracy was born.

American Tragedy, March 20, 2003
The decision to go to war to overthrow the government of Iraq will bring unreckonable death and suffering to that country, the surrounding region and, possibly, the United States. It also marks a culmination in the rise within the United States of an immense concentration of unaccountable power that poses the greatest threat to the American constitutional system since the Watergate crisis. This transformation, in turn, threatens to push the world into a new era of rivalry, confrontation and war....

The Other Superpower, March 27, 2003
As the war began, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld promised a "campaign unlike any other in history." What he did not plan or expect, however, was that the peoples of earth—what some are calling "the other superpower"—would launch an opposing campaign destined to be even less like any other in history....


    • Katrina vanden Heuvel
    • Katrina vanden Heuvel has been the editor of The Nation magazine since 1995. She is the coeditor of Taking Back America and Voices of Glasnost, and editor of The Best of the Nation and A Just Reponse. She is a frequent commentator on MSNBC, CNN, and PBS. Her articles have appeared in the Los A...

    • Katrina vanden Heuvel's full bio »