Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War

Mark Danner has written about foreign affairs and American politics for more than two decades, covering Latin America, Haiti, the Balkans and the Middle East among other stories. He was for many years a staff writer at The New Yorker and contributes frequently to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine and other publications. He teaches at the University of California and at Bard College and speaks and debates widely about America's role in the world.


'Reality Rebellion
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 06/03/21
By doubling down on Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, Republicans are making their base angrier, more radical, and more likely to turn to violence.

'Be Ready to Fight'
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 01/14/21
Trumpism is driven by cruelty and domination even as its rhetoric claims grievance and victimization.  The attack on the Capitol showed that Donald Trump's army of millions will not just melt away when he leaves office. 

The Con He Rode In On
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 10/21/20
Why do people hardly even talk about all the car plants Trump has brought to Michigan?

Moving Backward: Hypocrisy and Human Rights
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 06/01/20

The Venerable W
Telluride FilmWatch    |     Published: 09/01/17
Could the great German director Barbet Schroeder have dreamed, when he began what became his “Trilogy of Evil” more than four decades ago with a portrait of Idi Amin Dada, that he would find himself closing the series with the terrifying racist ravings of a Buddhist monk? 

What He Could Do
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 03/04/17
Behind the controversies about crowd size and alternative facts and illegal voters and Muslim bans, all the shock and alarm and political fatigue can be reduced to a dawning horrified recognition that President Trump is indeed…Donald Trump

Permanence (After Czeslaw Milosz)
Published: 01/01/17

You must remember this: A long hallway, stretching from one gallery to the farthest one at the of the building. It would have been in a national gallery or some museum suitably grand...

The Real Trump
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 12/22/16

Donald Trump offers such consummate political theater—his gargantuan narcissism makes him so mesmerizing to watch—that it is to wake abruptly from an all-enveloping dream to realize that much of what he says has no…content behind it. His assertions, framed in simple, concrete, direct language, are not policy statements so much as attitudes, the tireless ranting of the man on the barstool beside you, some of them, for example, on how America is being “ripped off” on trade, going back decades, some of them, on “the disaster” of Obamacare, notably, acquired only upon his incarnation as presidential candidate. He is a master at sharpening and giving shape to deep-rooted class resentments, an artist at shrugging into attitudes as if they were costumes, at reflecting and embodying anger.

On The Election
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 11/10/16
All American elections tend to be touted as historic, for all American culture tends toward the condition of hype. Flummoxing, then, to be confronted with a struggle for political power in which, for once, all is at stake. We have long since forfeited the words to confront it, rendering superlatives threadbare, impotent. No accident that among so many other things Donald J. Trump is the Candidate of Dead Words, spewing “fantastic” and “amazing” and “huge” in all directions, clogging the airtime broadcasters have lavished upon him with a deadening rhetoric reminiscent of the raving man hunched beside you on the bar stool.

The Magic of Donald Trump
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 05/11/16

We are told again and again: his is the most improbable political story in decades, perhaps in history.  And yet that a reality television megastar, as Trump might put it, could outpoll sixteen dimly to barely known politicians, some new faces, many also-rans, seems less than shocking. Did tens of millions ever cast their eyes on the junior senators from Florida or Tennessee or Texas, or the governor of Ohio, not the mention the ex-governors of Arkansas of Florida, or the ex-CEO of Hewlett Packard, before they chanced to mount the stage for a debate with Donald J. Trump last August, a television event that drew the unheard-of viewership of 24 million? Those 24 million tuned in to see trump. Only one man on stage gad a name as famous and by then it was in such disrepute that he had seen fit to replace it with an exclamation point on his campaign posters. 

Standing Their Ground: A View Inside a Ukrainian Revolution
Telluride FilmWatch    |     Published: 09/01/15
In November 2013, the Ukrainian government abruptly canceled plans to join the European Union, a shock for citizens who dreamed of escaping Russian domination to become part of the West. Thus began one of the most inspiring revolutions of modern times. Evgeny Afineevsky's documentary WINTER ON FIRE follows, from week one, the Ukrainian protests known as the Maidan. For three months, the Ukrainian people—800,000 at the demonstration’s heights—took to the streets to protest. The protestors stayed even as government forces turned to violence—on one day, the police killed 50 citizens—remaining until Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from office in February 2014. Mark Danner  spoke to Afineevsky about the movement’s geopolitical implications and the film’s on-the-spot portrayal of revolution, political violence and deep cultural change.

Double Blind
Telluride FilmWatch    |     Published: 09/01/15

When Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda terrorist with a $25 million bounty on his head, decided to show to the world videotapes of the planning and execution of his terror attacks, he delivered them to Michael Ware. Ware, a reporter for Time magazine and CNN, brought the grisly footage to the world’s attention, making it clear that for the U.S. any victory in Iraq was very far off.

At the 2015 Telluride Film Festival, Ware and co-director Bill Guttentag spoke with Mark Danner about the film.

State of Siege: Their Torture, and Ours
The Criterion Collection    |     Published: 05/27/15
Revolutionary times are times of revelation: they uncover and flood with light what has long been darkly buried. Implicit in the above exchange between a kidnapped Philip Michael Santore (Yves Montand) and his masked Tupamaro inquisitor, Hugo (Jacques Weber), in Costa-Gavras’s State of Siege (1972) is the unassailable conviction that politics forms the hidden skeleton of our world. Anyone who can be bothered to dig beneath the surface quickly strikes his shovel against these grim, intractable bones, the ossified determinants of who holds power and who does not. Looming invisibly over the interrogation is Costa-Gavras, supremely aware that he wields in his lens a uniquely effective kind of shovel. Indeed, this to him is what the cinema is: “a way of showing, exposing the political processes in our everyday life.”

‘Guantánamo Diary,’ by Mohamedou Ould Slahi
The New York Times    |     Published: 01/20/15
On or about Sept. 11, 2001, American character changed. What Americans had proudly flaunted as “our highest values” were now judged to be luxuries that in a new time of peril the country could ill afford. Justice, and its cardinal principle of innocent until proven guilty, became a risk, its indulgence a weakness. Asked recently about an innocent man who had been tortured to death in an American “black site” in Afghanistan, former Vice President Dick Cheney did not hesitate. “I’m more concerned,” he said, “with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.” In this new era in which all would be sacrificed to protect the country, torture and even murder of the innocent must be counted simply “collateral damage.”

The CIA: The Devastating Indictment
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 01/16/15
"Hugh Eakin: Nearly six years ago, you published the secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross documenting the CIA’s torture of more than a dozen “high-value” detainees. And now we have the Senate’s extensive investigation of the torture program itself. What are some of the most revealing findings of the Senate report?"

How Robert Gates Got Away With It
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 08/14/14
Early 2007: American troops are pinned down in the fourth year of a losing war in Iraq and in the fifth of an increasingly desperate one in Afghanistan, crises that still loom over the country and its foreign policy more than half a dozen years later, as Iraq, beset by a jihadist insurgency that sprang from the American invasion, splinters into pieces...

Cheney: ‘The More Ruthless the Better’
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 04/21/14
"Self-directed, restrained, disciplined, Cheney was concerned not with words but with power and what it brought. In the aftermath of September 11, the silent vice-president, serving a fledgling president who had won half a million fewer votes than his Democratic opponent, who knew little of the workings of government and less of the world, and who had just failed to prevent the most damaging attack on the homeland in the history of the United States..."

He Remade Our World
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 03/17/14
"Almost exactly a decade ago, Vice President Dick Cheney greeted President George W. Bush one morning in the Oval Office with the news that his administration was about to implode. Or not quite: Cheney let the president know that something was deeply wrong, though it would take Bush two more days of increasingly surprising revelations.."

In the Darkness of Dick Cheney
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 02/14/14
No turning back would be a good slogan for Dick Cheney. His memoirs are remarkable—and he shares this with Rumsfeld—for an almost perfect lack of second-guessing, regret, or even the mildest reconsideration. Decisions are now as they were then. If the Mission Accomplished moment in 2003 seemed at the time to be the height of American power and authority, then so it will remain—unquestioned, unaltered, uninflected by subsequent public events that show it quite clearly to have been nothing of the kind. “If I had to do it over again,” says Cheney, “I’d do it in a minute.”

Rumsfeld: Why We Live in His Ruins
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 02/06/14
On a lovely morning in May 2004, as occupied Iraq slipped deeper into a chaos of suicide bombings, improvised explosive attacks, and sectarian warfare, the American commander in Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, together with his superior, General John Abizaid of Central Command, arrived at the White House for an appointment with the president.

Donald Rumsfeld Revealed
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 01/09/14
It is a striking thought: night after night, the secretary of defense of the world’s most powerful country retires to his bed haunted not by some threatening, well-armed foe but by “a failure of imagining what might happen in the world.”

Rumsfeld's War and Its Consequences Now
The New York Review of Books    |     Published: 12/19/13
Trust brings trust, confidence builds on confidence: the young inexperienced president, days before American bombs begin falling on Afghanistan, wants a “creative” plan to invade Iraq, developed “outside the normal channels”; the old veteran defense secretary, in a rare moment of weakness, craves human comfort and understanding. And yet they’d hardly known one another, these two, before George W. Bush chose him for his secretary of defense nine months before.

Robert Silvers: Interviews
New York     |     Published: 04/10/13
As the New York Review of Books turns 50, its founding editor speaks with Review contributor Mark Danner about the poetry of Twitter, hiding the Pentagon Papers, and how his journal of ideas emerged from the flood of “little magazines” as possibly the unlikeliest success story in publishing. This interview was published in New York Magazine on April 7, 2013. Below the published interview, Danner now includes an unedited transcript of the interview in three parts.

Audio Recordings of these interviews can be found here:

Interview #1 2/8/17 

Interview #2 2/24/17 (1 of 2) 

Interview # 3 2/2/4/17 (2 of 2)

We Are All Torturers Now
The New York Times    |     Published: 01/06/05
At least since Watergate, Americans have come to take for granted a certain story line of scandal, in which revelation is followed by investigation, adjudication and expiation. Together, Congress and the courts investigate high-level wrongdoing and place it in a carefully constructed narrative, in which crimes are charted, malfeasance is explicated and punishment is apportioned as the final step in the journey back to order, justice and propriety.

Original Version: The Struggle for a Democratic Haiti
The New York Times Magazine    |     Published: 06/01/87
This is the first draft of Mark Danner's first feature article about Haiti, written in 1987 for The New York Times Magazine.

Blood Rites
Published: 08/01/19
Jonathan Schell's The Real War
Czarne Publishing House    |     Published: 03/04/17
Masacre: La guerra sucia en El Salvador
ABC    |     Published: 09/19/16
Published: 04/05/16
Warring with Words: Narrative and Metaphor in Politics
Published: 06/22/14
The Best American Magazine Writing 2012
Columbia Journalism Review    |     Published: 01/13/13

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