Postcard — July 16, 2014, 11:59 am

The Many Faces of Boko

Against a current of extremist violence, Northern Nigeria struggles to modernise Koranic schools

Ink and pen next to an unbound Koran at a house in Kano © Caelainn Hogan

Ink and pen next to an unbound Koran at a house in Kano © Caelainn Hogan

The day before Eid al-Mawlid, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, green and white bunting dangled across a dusty street busy with goats and children in the heart of Kano city. Down a narrow lane off a textiles market, the largest in Nigeria’s restive north, I reached an Islamic school called Makarantar Mal Tadda, its awning painted yellow and green in imitation of the country’s secular public institutions.

Roughly four hundred students attend Makarantar Mal Tadda, and thirty of them, known as Almajirai, call it home. Traditionally, the Almajirai are nomadic students sent to live with religious teachers, and their sole curriculum is the recitation and memorization of the Koran. But in a bid to help Nigerians survive in what is now Africa’s largest economy, Koranic schools are slowly embracing change.

Inside Makarantar Mal Tadda, I passed the Almaijrai’s quarters, a series of small rooms stacked with worn pillows and blankets. One student sat on a low stool repairing shoes, working by the fading light coming through a single window. On the wall behind him, someone had clumsily spelled out “Maddirisa Usama Bn Ladan” (“School of Osama bin Laden”). Teachers told me they hadn’t noticed the graffiti, and the students didn’t seem interested in it either.

In a tidy classroom upstairs, the morning’s lesson was still chalked on the blackboard. Wakil Ishehu Abubakar, the sixty-five-year-old academic dean, explained to me how the Almajirai, who were previously taught only the Koran, had started learning English and Arabic. “This school is more than a hundred years old,” he said. “ Now, it is modernizing.” On the board, an Arabic word was framed by two translations, one in English, the other a phonetic transliteration in ajami, local Hausa written in Arabic script. This secular education is known in Hausa as boko, a word anyone following recent news from Nigeria has come to learn.

Over the past five years, militants from Boko Haram have killed thousands of people in an attempt to establish a pure Islamic state. In March, the group’s abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls who had dared to take a science exam in the northeastern village of Chibok sparked global outrage. Boko is widely translated in North American media as “Western education,” and Boko Haram as “Western education is forbidden,” but the word is multifaceted. In addition to secular or Western education, it can refer to the local elites who have received such schooling, or simply to Hausa written in Roman script.

Within Nigeria, traditional Islamic education, too, is frequently cast in narrow terms. The country’s estimated 9 million Almajirai are seen by the government as essentially illiterate, and President Goodluck Jonathan, an evangelical from the Christian-dominated South, has claimed that Koranic schools are recruiting grounds for Boko Haram. The United States, which funds counterterrorism initiatives in Nigeria, is equally suspicious of such links — one Nigerian academic told me he’d been sponsored to research Almajiri schools in almost every northern state. He found that the schools and terrorism were unconnected.

On the ground, the picture indeed widens. Koranic memorization is integral to the North’s educational traditions, but few people are opposed to seeing the practice combined with other forms of knowledge. A new generation of teachers believes that the discipline cultivated by memorization is a powerful aid to further learning and an important educational entry point for the country’s most marginalized children. And so, schools like Makarantar Mal Tadda are teaching “Western” subjects for the first time — striving, against the current of extremist violence from Boko Haram, to adapt to a modernizing society and the competitive economy of a country where nearly half the population is under fifteen years old and unemployment is soaring among young adults.

Such efforts have been aided rhetorically, at least, by the Nigerian government, which announced in March that it would begin taking a “soft approach” to counterterrorism. As part of this strategy, schools have been charged with becoming the nation’s “laboratories of peace.” But many in the North argue that the government is underfunding education, even as it continues to pump billions of dollars into the security sector, contributing to the disaffection of Muslim youth.

Abubakar attended one of Nigeria’s formal public schools as a child, the first of his family to do so. “My brothers would mock me,” he said, recalling how they teased him for wearing a uniform. He went on to teach at formal schools for decades, and now instructs Almajirai in English and Arabic. “Teaching them Arabic,” he said, “puts students in a better position to understand the verses of the Koran for themselves, and not to be lured by miscreants who can introduce them to a wrong ideology.”

Koranic schools traditionally run on philanthropic donations from past pupils and the community. But Abubakar points out that to properly integrate secular education into traditional schools will require money to hire teachers of core subjects like English and math — a burden the government has never shouldered.

Nigeria’s public school system was created in the South during the mid-1850s by Christian missionaries. The “Westernized” formal schools they introduced were soon being viewed by northern Muslims as an attempt at conversion. And when the British colonial regime made English the country’s official language, a whole generation in the North was made effectively illiterate overnight. The eventual result was a bifurcated education system comprising the public formal schools and the Islamic schools. The consequences have been stark: today, the literacy rate among children ages five to sixteen in much of the North is below 46 percent, and as low as 15 percent in some places, compared with over 70 percent in the South.

The push for modern education among Muslims in the North was a product of the Izala movement of the 1960s. Supporters advanced a modern vision of Islam and rallied simultaneously against the Nigerian state and the old Sufi order. They also advocated for suffrage and education for women, backed by the Koran. One of Izala’s most respected leaders was Sheikh Abubaker Gumi, a cleric based in Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna state, which lies on Kano’s southern border. Gumi published a Hausa translation of the Koran in 1980 and was branded a radical for broadcasting sermons on public radio. Opponents labeled him and his followers boko. Although Gumi saw all forms of education as sacred within Islam, an Izala splinter group that rejected modern education and government institutions went on to lay the foundations for Boko Haram.

Since 2004, basic primary education in Nigeria has been free and compulsory by law, but the underfunded public system, mired in corruption and struggling to accommodate the bulging youth population, continues to struggle. I visited a public school in the North where computer training was compulsory for students even though the building didn’t house a single computer. In some classrooms old benches were cluttered together in piles, and in one the roof had collapsed — though the school’s walls were freshly painted.

Sheikh Abubaker Gumi’s son, Dr. Ahmed Gumi, told me the biggest problem Islamist reformers face today is no longer resistance to education among Muslims, but funding. Public primary schools, though they cost nothing to attend, required families to spend money on books, uniforms, and other supplies. Though the figure might amount to less than $15 a month, it was more than many Northern families could afford. To attend Koranic schools, children needed only a wooden slate, but for those schools to offer some of the broader education promised by the public system and still cater to marginalized families, someone would have to bridge the gap in funding currently being filled by volunteers and donations. “People want education,” said Gumi. “Open a school and they will rush. Even in Maiduguri, where the Boko Haram issue is there, they still want to attend school.”

To get a sense of who still opposed secular teaching in Koranic schools, I visited Rigasa, a conservative Muslim quarter of Kaduna city. Dahiru Bauchi, a staunchly traditional Sufi cleric widely thought to be the main opponent to modernization, sat in a large room surrounded by dozens of kneeling adherents. His robust figure was swathed in embroidered robes; on his head was a white and silver turban. I was ushered to a cushioned pouf beside him, my translator and I the only women in the room. The men around Bauchi wore crisp shirts and prayer hats. They took photos of him using smartphones or tablets, and approached him to kiss the back of his hand and murmur requests for blessings.

Bauchi oversees a network of some 150 Almajiri schools. When I asked him what he thought about the introduction of Western teaching in Koranic institutions, he raised his voice to address the entire room and pressed his hands together in front of his chest. To my surprise, he announced that he believed secular and religious education could be combined. “The world is changing,” he said. “It’s like the right and left hand: the right hand is the Islamic education, the elegant hand, and the left hand does the everyday work.”

In modern Nigeria, he added, the Almajiri school system is changing for the better, but like Gumi he emphasized the need for government support. “We in the North are citizens too,” he said.

Bauchi, who comes from a family of farmers, never received a formal education, and he’d always seen secular learning as a distraction from religious scholarship. By way of explaining his seeming change of heart, he told me about his children —  fathered, he claimed, from among no fewer than sixty wives. Thanks to secular education, he said, many of them had earned university degrees and become doctors.

A young Almajiri transcribes Koranic verses onto a slate in the street outside Idris Suleiman’s school in Kabala Doki, Kaduna © Caelainn Hogan

A young Almajiri transcribes Koranic verses onto a slate in the street outside Idris Suleiman’s school in Kabala Doki, Kaduna © Caelainn Hogan

Across town in the upmarket neighborhood of Kabala Doki, I met a thirty-three-year-old mallam (learned man) named Suleiman Idris, who is part of the younger generation of modernizing teachers. Idris’s own father ran a Koranic school in Kaduna, but at the age of ten Idris was sent as an Almajiri to Kano, in order to avoid any perception that he might be receiving special privileges as the son of a mallam. Idris didn’t receive any formal education until, at nineteen, he managed to gain admission to a diploma course at a community college. He went on to earn a degree in Arabic language.

With aid from the British government, Idris was spearheading the integration of secular education into the Koranic school he had inherited from his father. He was also receiving support from a statewide pilot program that provided training and remuneration for volunteer teachers to instruct students in English, math, Hausa, and sociology. But the support was coming only at the state level. “The [central] government comes and says they will help,” he said, “but the help never comes.”

As the first prayer rang out in the chill morning air, I watched Idris’s students spread mats on the street outside. Approximately fifty pupils, ages six to eighteen, sat in a long line against a wall. Instead of textbooks, Idris distributed to them pages from an unbound, handwritten Koran. Clutching their pages in one hand, the students transcribed the Arabic verses onto smooth wooden slates that they rested across their knees. The ink they used was made from fruit, the pens whittled from sticks. Like Western schoolchildren drilling multiplication tables, they repeated verses in unison, washing their slates clean once they’d committed a verse to memory.

Idris told me that in the afternoons, after lessons were finished, he and his wife would cobble together whatever food they could for the boys, but that some inevitably ventured out to the streets, brightly colored plastic bowls in hand, to beg for food. Many people in the North consider the Almajirai to be street kids, but the tradition is deeply ingrained in the region’s culture. Before a family moves into a new house, they will ask an Almajiri to bless each room by reciting from the Koran. For a new bride, an Almajiri will write out special Koranic verses on a slate, after which the ink is washed from the wood with pure water and the bride drinks it, imbibing the sacred verses in communion.

To demonstrate the progress being made at the school, Idris introduced me to Sai’d Abdulrakman, a tall and soft-spoken seventeen-year-old Idris regarded as one of his most promising students. Sai’d had arrived the year before from the village of Gidan Nasaw, a four-hour drive to the north. His father had sent him to complete his Almajiri education before he’d finished primary school, and at first he couldn’t read or write.

Sai’d Abdulrakman outside his school in Kabala Doki © Caelainn Hogan

Sai’d Abdulrakman outside his school in Kabala Doki © Caelainn Hogan

Idris began by teaching him the sounds of the Arabic alphabet, letter by letter, before moving on to the Koran. Sai’d first memorized the verses by reciting and transcribing, then learned the meanings of the words. That year, he’d committed five of the Koran’s 114 chapters to memory. Asked to translate the word “light” into Arabic, he offered two synonyms. “It can take me four or five years to memorize the Koran in full,” he said in hesitant but precise English, which he was learning in his spare time.

A week after my visit, with permission from Idris, Sai’d and I made the long trip back to Sai’d’s village in Kano. Gidan Nasaw lay more than three miles off the tarmac road from Kaduna, and for twenty minutes as we neared the village our car struggled along a barely decipherable sand track. The radio buzzed with news of a suicide bombing that had killed seventeen people some 400 miles away in Maiduguri, to the northeast in Borno State, the day before.

After passing fields of maize, potatoes, and yams, as well as a caravan of six camel traders who had traveled all the way from Niger through unmarked territory, we reached the handful of mud-brick houses where Sai’d had grown up. We were welcomed by his father, Haruna, a wiry man in an impeccable white tunic, while children crowded around us and Sai’d’s mother and another woman who had raised him tended to pots.

Sitting on a mat spread out on the ground, Haruna spoke of his own Almajiri education in Maiduguri. When he returned to the village as an adult, he told us, he managed to receive some basic education and found that Koranic study had instilled discipline. “The combining of the Boko education and Koranic learning is fantastic,” he said. “We embrace it fully.”

Two of Sai’d’s younger siblings, a girl and a boy, attended the public primary school, which lay far outside the village. The boy would eventually be sent away to complete his Almajiri education, too. Sai’d’s older sister, who was barely nineteen, cradled a newborn; she had never attended school. Two lanky teenagers, childhood friends of Sai’d’s who were also Almajirai, loitered nearby. In a village with no electricity, each boy was fixated on his cell phone, earphones dangling from one ear. “When [Sai’d] returns to the village with the knowledge he has gained,” said Haruna, “his education will benefit the village. If he is a doctor, if he is a vet, we will benefit.”

On the drive back to Kaduna, Sai’d told me his dream was to attend secondary school, and then university. He wanted to learn agricultural science so that he could return to the village and contribute his skills, perhaps becoming a teacher himself. “If I can find a sponsor,” he said finally, as though pinching himself awake.

Single Page
is a freelance writer from Ireland who has reported from East Africa, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.

More from Caelainn Hogan:

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August 2018

Combustion Engines

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There Will Always Be Fires

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The End of Eden

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How to Start a Nuclear War

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Combustion Engines·

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On any given day last summer, the smoke-choked skies over Missoula, Montana, swarmed with an average of twenty-eight helicopters and eighteen fixed-wing craft, a blitz waged against Lolo Peak, Rice Ridge, and ninety-six other wildfires in the Lolo National Forest. On the ground, forty or fifty twenty-person handcrews were deployed, alongside hundreds of fire engines and bulldozers. In the battle against Rice Ridge alone, the Air Force, handcrews, loggers, dozers, parachutists, flacks, forecasters, and cooks amounted to some nine hundred people.

Rice Ridge was what is known as a mega-fire, a recently coined term for blazes that cover more than 100,000 acres. The West has always known forest fires, of course, but for much of the past century, they rarely got any bigger than 10,000 acres. No more. In 1988, a 250,000-acre anomaly, Canyon Creek, burned for months, roaring across a forty-mile stretch of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness in a single night. A few decades on, that anomaly is becoming the norm. Rice Ridge, for its part, swept through 160,000 acres.

At this scale, the firefighting operation is run by an incident management team, a group of about thirty specialists drawn from a mix of state and federal agencies and trained in fields ranging from aviation to weather forecasting and accounting to public information. The management teams are ranked according to experience and ability, from type 3 (the least skilled) to type 1 (the most). The fiercest fires are assigned to type 1s. Teams take the name of their incident commander, the field general, and some of those names become recognizable, even illustrious, in the wildfire-fighting community. One such name is that of Greg Poncin, who is to fire commanders what Wyatt Earp was to federal marshals.

Smoke from the Lolo Peak fire (detail) © Laura Verhaeghe
There Will Always Be Fires·

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The pinhal interior, a wooded region of hills and narrow hollows in rural central Portugal, used to be farmland. Well into the latter half of the past century, the fields were worked by peasants from the old stone villages. Portugal was poor and isolated, and the pinhal interior particularly so; when they could, the peasants left. There is electricity and running water now, but most of the people have gone. The fields have been taken over by trees. Each year the forest encroaches farther, and each year the villages grow more lonely. There are remnants of the earlier life, though, and amid the trees the holdouts of the older generations still work a few small fields. The pinhal interior cannot yet be called wilderness, then, and that, in large part, is why it burns.

Thousands of fires burn in the region each summer, almost all of them started not by lightning or some other natural spark but by the remaining Portuguese. (The great majority of the blazes are started unintentionally, though not all.) The pinhal interior—the name means “interior pine forest,” though today there is at least as much eucalyptus as pine—stretches along a sort of climate border between the semiarid Iberian interior and the wet influence of the Atlantic; vegetation grows exceptionally well there, and in the summers fire conditions are ideal. Still, most of the burns are quickly contained, and although they have grown larger in recent years, residents have learned to pay them little mind. The creeping fire that began in the dry duff and twigs of an oak grove on June 17 of last year, in the district of Pe­drógão Grande, therefore occasioned no panic.

A local woman, Dora da Silva Co­sta, drove past the blaze in the midafternoon, by which time it had entered a stand of pines. Firefighters were on hand. “There were no people in the streets,” Costa told me. “It was just another fire.” She continued on her way. It was a Saturday, and she had brought her two young sons to visit their older cousin in Vila Facaia, the village of small farms in which she’d been raised.

Firefighters near Pedrógão Grande (detail) © Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
The End of Eden·

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On a blistering morning in July 2017, Ghazi Luaibi rose before dawn and set out in a worn black sedan from his home in Zubair, a town of concrete low-rises in southern Iraq. He drove for a while along sandy roads strewn with plastic bags. On the horizon, he could see gas flares from the oil refineries, pillars of amber flame rising into the sky. As he approached Basra, the largest city in the province, desert scrub gave way to empty apartment blocks and rows of withered palms. Though the sun had barely risen, the temperature was already nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous year, Basra had registered one of the highest temperatures ever reliably recorded on earth: about 129 degrees, hot enough to cause birds to drop from the sky.

Ghazi, a sixty-two-year-old with stooped shoulders, an ash-gray beard, and lively brown eyes, would have preferred to stay home and wait out the heat. But he hadn’t had much of a choice. He was the president of the local council of Mandaeans, members of a gnostic religion that appeared in Mesopotamia in the early centuries ad. Today marked the beginning of their new year, and Ghazi, who was born into the Mandaean priestly class, was responsible for making sure everything went smoothly: he needed to find a tent to shield worshippers from the sun and, most importantly, a location near flowing water where they could carry out the ceremony.

Mandaean holidays are celebrated with a mass baptism, a ritual that is deeply rooted in their scripture and theology. Mandaeans follow the teachings of Yahia Yuhana, known to Christians as John the Baptist. Water is central to their religion. They believe that all life originates in the World of Light, a spiritual realm that is the starting point for a great river known as Yardana, or Jordan. Outside the World of Light lie the lifeless, stagnant waters of the World of Darkness. According to one version of the Mandaean creation myth, a demiurge named Ptahil set out to shape a new world from the World of Darkness, which became the material world we inhabit today. Once the world was complete, Ptahil sculpted Adam, the first man, from the same dark waters as the earth, but his soul came from the World of Light. In Mandaean scripture, rivers are manifestations of the World of Light, coursing from the heavenly Jordan to the earth to purify it. To be baptized is to be immersed in this divine realm.

Basra General Hospital (detail) July 2017 © Alex Potter
How to Start a Nuclear War·

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Serving as a US Air Force launch control officer for intercontinental missiles in the early Seventies, First Lieutenant Bruce Blair figured out how to start a nuclear war and kill a few hundred million people. His unit, stationed in the vast missile fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, in Montana, oversaw one of four squadrons of Minuteman II ­ICBMs, each missile topped by a W56 thermonuclear warhead with an explosive force of 1.2 megatons—eighty times that of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. In theory, the missiles could be fired only by order of the president of the United States, and required mutual cooperation by the two men on duty in each of the launch control centers, of which there were five for each squadron.

In fact, as Blair recounted to me recently, the system could be bypassed with remarkable ease. Safeguards made it difficult, though not impossible, for a two-man crew (of either captains or lieutenants, some straight out of college) in a single launch control center to fire a missile. But, said Blair, “it took only a small conspiracy”—of two people in two separate control centers—to launch the entire squadron of fifty missiles, “sixty megatons targeted at the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea.” (The scheme would first necessitate the “disabling” of the conspirators’ silo crewmates, unless, of course, they, too, were complicit in the operation.) Working in conjunction, the plotters could “jury-rig the system” to send a “vote” by turning keys in their separate launch centers. The three other launch centers might see what was happening, but they would not be able to override the two votes, and the missiles would begin their firing sequence. Even more alarmingly, Blair discovered that if one of the plotters was posted at the particular launch control center in overall command of the squadron, they could together format and transmit a “valid and authentic launch order” for general nuclear war that would immediately launch the entire US strategic nuclear missile force, including a thousand Minuteman and fifty-four Titan missiles, without the possibility of recall. As he put it, “that would get everyone’s attention, for sure.” A more pacifically inclined conspiracy, on the other hand, could effectively disarm the strategic force by formatting and transmitting messages invalidating the presidential launch codes.

When he quit the Air Force in 1974, Blair was haunted by the power that had been within his grasp, andhe resolved to do something about it. But when he started lobbying his former superiors, he was met with indifference and even active hostility. “I got in a fair scrap with the Air Force over it,” he recalled. As Blair well knew, there was supposed to be a system already in place to prevent that type of unilateral launch. The civilian leadership in the Pentagon took comfort in this, not knowing that the Strategic Air Command, which then controlled the Air Force’s nuclear weapons, had quietly neutralized it.

This reluctance to implement an obviously desirable precaution might seem extraordinary, but it is explicable in light of the dominant theme in the military’s nuclear weapons culture: the strategy known as “launch under attack.” Theoretically, the president has the option of waiting through an attack before deciding how to respond. But in practice, the system of command and control has been organized so as to leave a president facing reports of incoming missiles with little option but to launch. In the words of Lee Butler, who commanded all US nuclear forces at the end of the Cold War, the system the military designed was “structured to drive the president invariably toward a decision to launch under attack” if he or she believes there is “incontrovertible proof that warheads actually are on the way.” Ensuring that all missiles and bombers would be en route before any enemy missiles actually landed meant that most of the targets in the strategic nuclear war plan would be destroyed—thereby justifying the purchase and deployment of the massive force required to execute such a strike.

Among students of nuclear command and control, this practice of precluding all options but the desired one is known as “jamming” the president. Blair’s irksome protests threatened to slow this process. When his pleas drew rejection from inside the system, he turned to Congress. Eventually the Air Force agreed to begin using “unlock codes”—codes transmitted at the time of the launch order by higher authority without which the crews could not fire—on the weapons in 1977. (Even then, the Navy held off safeguarding its submarine-launched nuclear missiles in this way for another twenty years.)

Following this small victory, Blair continued to probe the baroque architecture of nuclear command and control, and its extreme vulnerability to lethal mishap. In the early Eighties, while working with a top-secret clearance for the Office of Technology Assessment, he prepared a detailed report on such shortcomings. The Pentagon promptly classified it as SIOP-ESI—a level higher than top secret. (SIOP stands for Single Integrated Operational Plan, the US plan for conducting a nuclear war. ESI stands for Extremely Sensitive Information.) Hidden away in the Pentagon, the report was withheld from both relevant senior civilian officials and the very congressional committees that had commissioned it in the first place.

From positions in Washington’s national security think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, Blair used his expertise and scholarly approach to gain access to knowledgeable insiders at the highest ranks, even in Moscow. On visits to the Russian capital during the halcyon years between the Cold War’s end and the renewal of tensions in the twenty-first century, he learned that the Soviet Union had actually developed a “dead hand” in ultimate control of their strategic nuclear arsenal. If sensors detected signs of an enemy nuclear attack, the USSR’s entire missile force would immediately launch with a minimum of human intervention—in effect, the doomsday weapon that ends the world in Dr. Strangelove.

Needless to say, this was a tightly held arrangement, known only to a select few in Moscow. Similarly chilling secrets, Blair continued to learn, lurked in the bowels of the US system, often unknown to the civilian leadership that supposedly directed it. In 1998, for example, on a visit to the headquarters of Strategic Command (­STRATCOM), the force controlling all US strategic nuclear weapons, at Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, he discovered that the ­­­STRATCOM targeting staff had unilaterally chosen to interpret a presidential order on nuclear targeting in such a way as to reinsert China into the ­SIOP, from which it had been removed in 1982, thereby provisionally consigning a billion Chinese to nuclear immolation. Shortly thereafter, he informed a senior White House official, whose reaction Blair recalled as “surprised” and “befuddled.”

In 2006, Blair founded Global Zero, an organization dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, with an immediate goal of ending the policy of launch under attack. By that time, the Cold War that had generated the ­SIOP and all those nuclear weapons had long since come to an end. As a result, part of the nuclear war machine had been dismantled—warhead numbers were reduced, bombers taken off alert, weapons withdrawn from Europe. But at its heart, the system continued unchanged, officially ever alert and smooth running, poised to dispatch hundreds of precisely targeted weapons, but only on receipt of an order from the commander in chief.

Bombhead, by Bruce Conner (detail) © Conner Family Trust, San Francisco, and ARS, New York City. Courtesy Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

Minimum cost of a “pleasure palace” being built for Vladimir Putin:


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Happiness Is a Worn Gun


Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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