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Season 12 | Episode 7

60 Words

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(Original artwork & Radiolab logo by Lucy Engelman)

This hour we pull apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law - called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -  has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the "war on terror."

In this collaboration with BuzzFeed, reporter Gregory Johnsen tells us the story of how this has come to be one of the most important, confusing, troubling sentences of the past 12 years. We go into the meetings that took place in the chaotic days just after 9/11, speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Congressman Ron Dellums about the vote on the AUMF. We hear from former White House and State Department lawyers John Bellinger & Harold Koh. We learn how this legal language unleashed Guantanamo, Navy Seal raids and drone strikes. And we speak with journalist Daniel Klaidman, legal expert Benjamin Wittes and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine about how these words came to be interpreted, and what they mean for the future of war and peace.

This episode is included in the Radiolab #smartbinge podcast playlist at wnyc.org/smartbinge

Guests:

John Bellinger, Ronald V. Dellums, Gregory Johnsen, Senator Tim Kaine, Daniel Klaidman, Harold Koh, Barbara Lee and Benjamin Wittes

Comments [102]

Chris Budesa from West Orange, NJ

One of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed by the US Congress and signed into law by the President of the USA. It should be repealed, if not our country will be at war forever. History is going to be judging our country harshly.

Jul. 17 2014 07:22 AM
MANUEL HERRERA from Tampa , Florida

Breathtaking.

Jun. 19 2014 05:58 AM
jimmy from London

Anyone know the music at 28:35 for about 15 seconds? I've heard it before, possibly through radiolab, but for the life of me, can't remember where it's from.

Jun. 16 2014 05:32 PM

To those that decry this episode for being lacking in scientific content, I urge you to consider the scientific merits of the fields of psychology, sociology, linguistics, and the use of examining data (e.g. through a review of history). This was an highly informative and incredibly thought-provoking episode; I'll be recommending it to others. Well-done, and thanks!

Jun. 01 2014 05:16 PM
Tom Lenhard

apaches- violance is always wrong- buddha-jesus - turn the other cheek

May. 31 2014 10:00 PM
M Gear

Excellent story. Now, having said that, I know it's rude to shout, but WHERE WAS THE SCIENCE?!?!? That's two in a row with no science content at all, plus a few other recent episodes with little content dealing with science. No offense, but I would start a new show and give it a new name if you want to go in an entirely different direction.

May. 30 2014 08:28 PM
Diane A from Toronto Canada

Hey guys, I just binge-listened to every season of this show over the last few weeks! Just want to say I love hearing all these interesting stories and perspectives, thanks for putting them together <3

May. 30 2014 10:05 AM
SuckahPunch from Los Angeles, CA

She was not the only one who knew.
Don't be dense, Radiolab.

There were millions of us marching on the streets, writing our congressmen, protesting the mad rush to war.
Barbara Lee is courageous. But don't misrepresent the story.
There were millions of us who saw the atrocities coming and tried to stop them.
Unfortunately, America did not listen to us.

Now we are all paying the price.

May. 27 2014 01:12 PM
Darlyne from Kampala, Uganda

As always, an interesting and informative episode. I was excited to hear you mention my home country although I do have to clarify that Uganda is in East Africa and not Central Africa as was mentioned in the show.

May. 22 2014 02:43 AM
T. Forster from Guilford, Ct.

I love Radiolab, which is why I support this show, I am always left thinking.
This particular show hit home. I was disturbed by the "you're either with us or get out of the country" mentality following the attacks. The flying of flags to show patriotism, (flags made overseas), and everybody selling cheap "collectibles" to support the cause. I say "Bravo" to Congresswoman Lee. When we were children, my father instilled in us the idea that you are only as good as your word, and to be true to your heart. Following the crowd is not a virtue, if you don't believe in the cause.
I only wish others had been as thoughtful.

May. 17 2014 07:21 AM
DW

Terrorist organizations have declared war against the United States. We will be at war whether AUMF is ended or not. The debate is how to ethically act in this asymmetric war. When do we use drone strikes? Who do we target? When do we detainee prisoners? This story did an excellent job of tracking down that these decisions are being made by a lawyer's interpretation of AUMF, which is incredibly disturbing. We are in a new kind of war that needs more definition by elected representatives. AUMF should be superseded by a set of guidelines that more thoroughly defines the United States use of force against terrorism. If AUMF is ended without any further guidance the only authority will come from the President's power to act against an "imminent threat." Having lawyers define our policy on terrorism in two words is much scarier than defining it on 60. We like news that the war is ending. We will vote for politicians who say they will end the war. The problem is they don't have the power to end the war, the terrorists will continue to fight. Congress needs to define exactly what powers the United States can use in countering terrorism.

May. 16 2014 04:48 PM
dafree whitewolfe

Wow! As a citizen of the global village - an undutchably unamerican expat who considers this planet our home - you have articulated my distress as a conscientious citizen! this show should be mandatory listening for Jon Stewart & Steven Colbert! Dank uw wel! Merci beaucoup!

May. 15 2014 01:57 PM
John Bendel from Island Heights NJ

Extraordinary piece of broadcast journalism -- or any kind of journalism. Where to I press a "like," or better yet, "highly commend" this piece?

May. 10 2014 08:48 PM
Rusty Bryant from Ocala, Florida

Love Radiolab, Love their topics.

This one legitimately made me sick to my stomach.

Not because of the production quality or the topic, but the fact that we live in a country that allows this oversight to go uncorrected for years and years and years, costing us trillions of dollars and thousands of our own lives, not to touch on the millions of other people worldwide who've been permanantly scarred by these 60 (*62?) words.

May. 06 2014 04:47 PM

We need more people like Barbara Lee. I was really upset by all the flag waving after 9/11, and I was accused of being 'unpatriotic.' Apparently, to be a true patriot in the USA, you have to agree with the ignorant masses- congresspeople included.

May. 05 2014 04:12 PM
Philadelphia_1776 from Morrisville pa

This was such a brave peace of reporting. Also can you do a full hour on astrology? Maybe do a history on it from the ancient Hawaiians, Greeks and Persians.

ILRL(I love Radiolab)!

-Jerry-

May. 05 2014 10:13 AM

I found this podcast very interesting. The president holds an extremely powerful position in declaring war which was scary at the time after the attack. I did not know that one congresswoman went against the others and voted against declaring war. She talked through the emotional state of the country and knew that you don’t make decisions when you are mourning. I thought the background music helped to convey the overall tone.

May. 04 2014 10:33 PM
Dave from Albany, NY

Not really adding to the conversation, but I think the track Joe from Alabama is looking for is on Adventureland by Glenn Kotche and is called Triple Fantasy.

May. 04 2014 09:53 PM
RyanN from Florida

The amount of power the president gains in terms of declaring war is frightening after an attack on our home land. It is very interesting that a lot of americans don't fully understand this war on terror and how it developed. I didn't have a very good grasp on what had happened because I was so young when the twin towers fell. I do remember that day though as stated in the beginning of the podcast, I was playing with toy cars with a childhood friend when my mom came into my room bawling her eyes out. Its crazy to think how much the war on terror has effected us since that day and now 13 years later it continues to effect us.

May. 04 2014 08:25 PM
Pink123

This video was very interesting. It focused on how we define disease and how it affects our society. The music they used keep with the overall tone of the segment.

May. 04 2014 10:37 AM
Pink123

This podcast was very interesting. It focused on how we define disease and how it affects our society today. The music they used keep with the overall tone of the segment.

May. 04 2014 10:34 AM

an unjust war vs unjust peace. this is a question that over laps the question how do you define disease? is the cure of an disease, a disease itself? when i ask my aunt this question she says it depends on who is making the money. commerce is a living thing. it, itself an living institute that is share in all who wants it. it promise power, pride, influence, leverage and security, war is a business. its global. and it has a history to those who keep its promise.

May. 02 2014 11:07 AM

Add me to the list of those who think the background music (from around 55:50) that ends this show is incredible. I suspect this is just a Dylan Keefe piece written specifically for this broadcast, but I would dearly love to own this if it is a commercial work. If it isn't make it one, please!

May. 02 2014 09:55 AM

Well done, Radiolab. This episode is extraordinary. Thank you for doing it.

Any way you guys could spin off a show that does this kind of investigation into issues like this, a la the way Planet Money spun off from This American Life?

This is truly powerful journalism, in my opinion. It looks at big questions and information gaps in a way few, if any, are doing out there. So much more thoughtful and engaging than so much out there. You manage to raise the bar of the debate, when so many others lower it.

I hope you win an award for this. Well deserved.

May. 02 2014 09:24 AM
Why Peace

Very good, discussion. Still my favorite podcast. Thanks again.
Best,
Marc Guttman, editor, Why Peace (www.Why-Peace.com)

May. 01 2014 11:05 PM
Jamie Bronstein from Las Cruces, NM

I wish that Barbara Lee took email from non-constituents. Unlike many who commented on this program, I was an adult when 9/11 happened, but was completely unaware until I heard this podcast that any member of the legislature had been brave enough to resist the emotional groupthink of the days after 9/11 to really think about what we were doing in response. Kudos to you, Congresswoman.

May. 01 2014 10:07 AM
Jeb Markand

You skipped the two most important words in the sentence: "he determines." Those two words mean that the President alone determines who the US is at war with, and he can't be challenged. That means the government can kill whoever it wants, as long as the President claims he "determined" that they "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

May. 01 2014 02:22 AM
Jon from Alabama

Please, please, please tell us what song was used throughout the show. I heard variations of it at 23:0 and 38:00. I couldn't figure out if it's from Adventureland and couldn't find anything from Dylan Keith online.

May. 01 2014 12:03 AM
Alex C. from Washington DC

I really wish you guys would make your material accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. Over the years I've heard so many good reviews and references to Radiolab, and I've never been able to enjoy it because it's inaccessible to me. At the least, you could post transcripts--that would also be beneficial for people who want to quote the show or reference it.

Apr. 30 2014 03:44 PM
John Mahony from indiana

fantastic show. I'm a science geek but you guys are great storytellers so I don't mind a deviation for a subject as important as this.

Apr. 29 2014 10:26 PM
Alejandro Carrillo from México

Hi, guys!

I liked the first story a lot! Really impressive... but the others segments are not really story driven, they are just información. Just compare those with the first one.... the first one is universal, and it'll be great right now and in a 1000 years... this is the kind of story radiolab does, that's why is so good, it doesn't matter the topic, politics or science, the pieces are timeless, but the other stuff could have been done by whoever, is too local and too time fixed and not universal at all!

Apr. 29 2014 10:52 AM
Pat Jones from Mendocino

Who did the last bit of music on this show? Dylan Keith? Very haunting stuff that perfectly suited the emotional impact of the story.

Apr. 28 2014 08:14 PM
J from Colorado

This was an interesting and well edited show with an important message, but I miss the science component that makes Radiolab so special. There are other good political journalism podcasts out there, but few podcasts that delve into science for the general public like you do. There are so many scientific topics to be explored that I feel Radiolab can continue to grow and push boundaries while still addressing scientific ideas and themes. Thanks for the good show (and all of the amazing work that goes in to this podcast!), but I hope that science will come back as Radiolab's focus in the future!

I wonder if Radiolab shouldn't split off in to two shows - one that's a This American Life-style political and human interest podcast, with stories like this and the amazing Hip Hop short from a few weeks ago, and another that focuses on science?

Apr. 28 2014 03:07 PM
Alex

What is the background song about 38:00 minutes in?

I heard the Zoe Keating!

Apr. 28 2014 01:47 PM
Chris from NY

@Michelle Slater, you might be thinking of "Placebo," which you can find here: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91539-placebo/

Apr. 28 2014 09:08 AM
Joy from Hong Kong

"...then what's the difference between war and peace?"
Reminds me of something said a few years back, slightly differently but with the same meaning:
"'War is peace.'

He goes on to add a bit more, perhaps unnecessarily, as one might claim these are already included in the above three words, even if not actually stated:
"'Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.'"
- byGeorge Orwell in the once categorized-as-fiction/fantasy story "1984"

Apr. 28 2014 12:56 AM
epolaris

This was a great episode that could easily have been something pedantic and boring (Which can be said of a lot of pieces of this nature). However it wasn't. The first story was excellent and morally engaging and I liked the un-Captain America like manner in which the information was presented which to be honest is a good thing (Its easier on the ears of foreigners like me). Overall.. Good Job..
While I do miss the pieces that are typically more RadioLabby.. I simply can't fault them for wanting to expand their horizons and introduce variety.
In any case, the "Lab" in this radio station's namesake can also refer to simply an examination of a topic of interest, including but not necessarily encapsulated by science anyway.. So relax with the change resistance a bit people and work on your neuroplasticity.. (At Luminosity.com)

Sorry about you guys loosing Pat Walters. He was good..

Apr. 27 2014 05:30 PM

So pleased that Radiolab can take on a topic such as this that is so prickly to handle with a predominantly US audience. I would like to see the same courage taken on to address global warming (the elephant in the lab), which is not just sorely needed for the show's credibility but also should keep the science purists happy for a while.

Apr. 27 2014 09:00 AM
Ekim from Los Angeles

For those decrying the politics of this episode one thing should be understood; linguistics is a science. While the nature of the subject involves politics and thereby politicians, the core of the broadcast takes on the birth, evolution, and power of those 60 words. This is not their first and I hope not the last venture into the science of linguistics. I would have no idea what a Glomar Response was if it was not for RadioLab. Keep up the good work.

Apr. 27 2014 08:42 AM
Michelle Slater from New York City, USA

I am ALWAYS fascinated by this show, although I'm not here today (4/26/14) to comment on this specific one...but on the episode I just caught at NPR NYC about the 'healing' powers of SOME doctors and healers...It is one I hope will appear here soon and allow me to share it with friends. This episode is the last one I've received on my blogs dashboard. Please publish soon again.

Apr. 26 2014 07:35 PM
Marjorie from St.Paul, MN

The question brought up at the end of this episode gave me chills. "What is the difference between war and peace?" That is an excellent question to ask. It seems that the line is very blurred today. Thank you for the thought-provoking show this week. It gave me chills.

Apr. 26 2014 04:39 PM

Great job in covering a new, even more meaningful topic. More please.

Apr. 26 2014 04:31 PM
TL

I agree that evolving Radiolab will take into account that interjections from Krul+Jad in politically charged stories come across as a little too flip-glib.

Still crucial. Cue applause.

Apr. 26 2014 01:28 PM
Harmon Gale from AZ

Have any of who are insisting that "60 Words" sounds more like a This American Life episode actually listened to what This American Life sounded like in the late '90s? TAL doesn't sound like TAL anymore!

"Ugh, this isn't a quirky slice-of-life audio collage! Leave the hard journalism to All Things Considered."

;)

Apr. 26 2014 03:49 AM
ct182

A "war on terror". I agree with a lot of the other comments, that statement is very vague. A "war on terror". How do we even define terror and terrorism? How do we choose who to murder and accuse of terrorism? I agree that we need to do something to keep our country safe but, I believe it should be more specific. Those 60 words gave the president the power to define "terrorism" and the perpetrators of terrorism. Its ridiculous that those 60 words give our president that power and those who signed off on it had no idea what the unforeseen consequences of the law.

Apr. 25 2014 09:19 PM
Greg from Wisconsin

Hey guys, I listened to this podcast on Monday and now on Friday, 4 days later, I still find myself playing it back in my mind and pondering over it; great work overall.

Currently I am a 25-year-old Lieutenant with almost 8 years of service in the Army, and Commander of over 70 Soldiers.

At the naïve age of 13, sitting in a Wisconsin junior high classroom as the events of 9/11 unfolded on the TV at the front of the room, I was admittedly incapable of wrapping my head around the magnitude and long-lasting effects of that day. But I do remember finding myself getting caught up in the spirit of the nation during those times; if you could have summed up the group-think of the populous in one word it would have been revenge, somebody had to pay.

I have to give Congresswoman Barbara Lee the upmost respect for facing adversity, fighting back against a wave of emotions that was sweeping the country, and making the hard decision that was right for her. Even though ultimately her vote didn't change the outcome, it is good to know that there are still politicians out there who are willing to stand up for what is morally right instead of what is popular. And I believe that even Barbara Lee also wanted some form of revenge, but only if it were on terms that she could agree upon.

Now, 12 years later, I have 18-year-old kids joining my unit that can hardly recall that infamous day. To a majority of the Soldiers that emotion of revenge is a distant memory. In a few more years, 9/11 will be nothing more than a story in the history books for these kids entering military service. As a military we continue to fight, and yet I would be willing to bet most teenagers don't even know why.

Thanks again for the thought-provoking podcast; great work, keep it up.

Apr. 25 2014 08:10 PM
Alex from edinburgh

I agree with the comments about the recent shows. It's a shame that radiolab is getting closer and closer toward social/political podcast, rather then the good old science show. I mean - it's your decision. Of course if you don't feel like covering these subjects anymore, then probably it's better that you are not producing them anymore. Still, now I do not even look for that much for another episode of Radiolab, which in the past was my totally favourite podcast.
Nevertheless, good job guys!

Apr. 25 2014 02:51 PM
C

The problem isn't that you're doing non-science shows, it's that Radiolab isn't very GOOD at political topics. The editing, which works so well for other topics, comes across as glib. Robert always says something ridiculous. There's often, as in this episode, a feeling that the whole thing lacks focus. These episodes are far outside your wheelhouse, and they've always been a littl disappointing.
There are plenty of shows already handling these topics, and doing so very well. Please consider staying with what YOU do best.

Apr. 25 2014 02:44 PM
Peter from Upstate

I am a science geek. Its OK to sprinkle in a little variety, interesting comes in many flavors. This show was well done and entertaining, well done Radiolab!

Apr. 25 2014 01:04 PM
Sara G from San Francisco, CA

Hindsight is 20/20. When the towers came down, I was 21 years old. I admit to have been swept up in the hysteria. Now in my mid-30's, I'd like to think I've evolved as a person. Despite the fact that I know I have almost entire lifetime to continue to evolve, I now believe that war was a mistake and that no war is justified.

Also of note, I am from Northern California and know of Barbara Lee. I didn't realize that this standoff was going on. Hats off to anyone for being the lone holdout and standing up from what they believe, even when it isn't popular.

Apr. 25 2014 12:26 PM
Nathan from Pittsburgh

Can we please have our show about Science back?

I'm mean, really?,... a vague law is passed and then it gets used to start military actions we didn't foresee. It sounds like a 1 minute report to me. What's the mystery? You put spooky music in the background, but I'm not fooled.

Perhaps the one semi-scientific note is that politicians and most people do not think about history, and tend to act out of fear. Come on RadioLab! You can do so much better than this. All I hear is a lot of talk about prayer and politics. Bring back the Science baby!!!

Apr. 25 2014 08:55 AM
CRobey from Florida

I've always thought the term "war on terror" was kind of vague. It was interesting to hear exactly how much power that statement gave to a single human, namely the president. It is kind of scary. I don't disagree with the fact that terrorism should be combated, but it should be done far more carefully.

Apr. 25 2014 12:29 AM
wander from Colorado

Thank You Radiolab, Thank you Buzzfeed, Thank you Barbara Lee, and Thank you Glenn Kotchke for this amazing and thought provoking piece.

Apr. 24 2014 10:00 PM
Nara from Denver

Thank you for this episode, it explains a lot of what is going. I had not heard about Barbara Lee and I am so happy you share that information. The episode is at the same time comforting and re-establish faith in democracy because one woman understood the danger in it all and can serve as an inspiration to others, and disturbing, because 13 years later still people don´t understand it: "Let us pray for divine wisdom that as we act we do not become the evil we deplore." And let us pray that the US stops fighting, because "If we are going to be fighting them, even when we are not technically at war with them, then what is the difference between war and peace?", great sentence.

Apr. 24 2014 04:59 PM
Danielle from Rochester, NY

Absolutely, one of the best radiolab pieces I've ever heard.

Interestingly, in it's About section, I found this: Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.

How is this off topic?

Apr. 24 2014 03:31 PM
BGC

Thank you for this episode. The events of 911 have always been so painfully hard for me. That amount of fear and hate that would motivate this attack is unfathomable. Yet I made myself listen to this episode and fought back tears but I loved it. Thank you for introducing me to such a brave, intelligent women. I had not heard of Barbara Lee before because I have been so discouraged by our politicians I stopped listening. Knowing someone as thoughtful and courageous as Barbara has a voice in our countries' political process is comforting and inspiring.

Apr. 24 2014 02:18 PM
southwest dude from nm

Political science is not science any more than creation science is science.

There are venues for stories like this one. As another commenter suggested, This American Life (which I also listen to). I listened to this, and kept waiting for the other shoe to drop… where was the science connection. Alas, there was none.

Apr. 24 2014 12:35 PM
Sarah James from seattle wa

I disagree that this was an off topic episode, radiolab is more than a natural science show, I would consider this and episode about political science. Understanding how wording on a document changes the course of American history is important information.

Apr. 24 2014 11:06 AM
John from South Australia from Australia

Powerful episode. I disagree completely with those criticising this episode. It was a thought provoking and informative. It is critical to be prepared to move outside of the bubble that we exist in and to challenge the premises on ways that we see things.
The courage of Barbara Lee was outstanding.

Apr. 24 2014 02:46 AM
Alexa from Los Angeles, CA

So bummed to hear yet another luke warm This American Life instead of a science-based episode. And even worse is that it advances a political agenda -- about as far from the spirit of science as can be.

Apr. 24 2014 02:16 AM
larry from freeport ny

So what words would Barbara or radio lab have preferred to use. What is to be said to let those enemies of the US "The evil we deplore" to not get away with their crimes ? She did not see the future.

Apr. 24 2014 01:42 AM
Roxanne

This episode is the perfect example of why Radiolab is my favorite podcast/radioshow. It is thought provoking, interesting, and awesome! I love that you guys tackle hard issues that have no correct answer. I will be thinking about and talking with friends about this topic for weeks. Thanks for entertaining me, inspiring me, and giving me topics for conversation!

Apr. 23 2014 11:31 PM
southwest dude from NM

While somewhat interesting, this is the worst radio lab I have heard. Why? Where is the science? It's entirely off topic---where is the science.

"Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience."

Sometimes only 2 of the three boxes might be checked, but SCIENCE had always been one of them until now.

Apr. 23 2014 07:14 PM
Maury

The discussion about whether the US government has a legal fig leaf is beside the point. The president or Congress or Supreme Court can say it's legal. So what. Is it moral? Is it right? Further, there is nothing in the 60 words that compels the president to do anything. He has permission from another branch of government that's all. Obama's decision and Bush's before him, to kill people, torture people, and detain people indefinitely shows their lack of morality even if they are not technically US scofflaws. Speaking of legal, based on the international treaty against torture that the Senate ratified, the US government is supposed to be prosecuting US citizens who practiced torture. They are *legally* bound to do that, but you don't notice Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfawitz, Rove, etc, etc getting hauled up before the Hague. Why don't you do a show about that?

Apr. 23 2014 07:07 PM
T0dd from NYC

Ok.. I have conflicting feelings about this show.

First, I liked it, though my feelings about everything after 9/11 are 'complicated', I think it brings up important points. But I think you miss a very important point--which is, has the West or the US won the war on terror? I think in some ways the answer is a spectacular 'yes' and in other ways a dramatic 'no', but...

Second, Radiolab is a show about science. There are about 30 or so political/news podcasts for every science podcast. We need more science podcasts... they will help us have less war. I'm serious. As far as news/politics? Not so much.

Each time Radiolab drifts from its basic premise, I have a small emotional reaction of sadness and mourning. Science is your "first, best" calling. The other stuff... sigh, it's fine, but...

Apr. 23 2014 04:51 PM
Jim Hill

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and am trying to find out when "60 Words" will air on KQED-FM...or if it already has aired. Just talked to station and they are not sure. Can you help?

Apr. 23 2014 04:15 PM

This is a good and valuable story. I found it interesting and informative. I just wish RadioLab could be kept for science and hours like this you could cross-produce with another show and air on their waves.

It's so rare to find a really good science show, and science is so important; meanwhile nearly every other show on public radio is open to stories about politics. It makes me feel disappointed when I see a new RadioLab in my podcast app, I get all excited, and then it turns out to be RadioLaw instead.

This is not the area where you shine, guys. You do a creditable job, you are capable producers and generally smart humans, but the hours that really sparkle are focused on science, not law or politics.

Apr. 23 2014 03:30 PM
Kathleen from Berrien Springs, Michigan

I listened to the 60 Words episode this morning as I was getting ready for work and found myself getting emotional while listening to Barbara Lee's story. I don't even consider myself an overly emotional person normally - but I have such deep admiration for what she did.

This was a really great episode as a whole. I was 14 when 9/11 took place, and I remember how suddenly the national discourse turned to terrorism. Since then, it seems that everything is terrorism, and every fear is rooted in it; that rhetoric has never gone away. The world absolutely changed that day.

Apr. 23 2014 03:18 PM
Susan

Great show!! Thank you for being actual journalists and reporting on this subject to an audience that may not necessarily consider the implications of the story. Your report exposes only the tip of the iceberg that has become our modern security state, but I find it a heartwarming start. Go Radiolab!

Apr. 23 2014 02:07 PM
Ron H. from U.S.

The show isn't about what we call science, but they've done shows on the brain and on emotions. Going to War involves that and more.
I think of a few days after the twin towers disaster and a brief "on the street" comment heard on NPR. An old woman said something like these words, "I went through World War Two, this is nothing." It was shocking to hear then, but gives me pause for thought. Her wisdom would have been better heeded instead of the fear and hatred the attacks brought.
Finally, when all the words are over what we arrive at is having to trust anyone in power to act with prudence and wisdom and do good. This is true with parents, teachers, those who lead in business, government, religion or any civic authority. May we have good judgment in the future.

Apr. 23 2014 10:42 AM

As a Canadian looking through a very diffused lens at the state of things in the States, I found this story unbelievably brilliant. My outlook on political affairs in the USA are almost always bleak (and they certainly aren't improved by the highly entertaining, and I'm sure in some respects, daftly false House of Cards), but this episode shifted the paradigm of thought that I have about the politics away from the squabbling and oneupmanship that the media has manufactured and brought it to a probably more accurate picture of a complex system in which people (who especially when selected correctly, by evidence proven track record and experience) are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

The part that I see as being the real tragedy in the States is the last bit of this episode, where they came off slightly condemning Obama for potentially loosening the affect that congress can have in ruling over imminent threats. I understand this language may seem ambiguous and could lead to a bypass of congressional oversight altogether, but if you elect a president to follow in the footsteps of Obama that has equal the amount of guts, an amazing sense of morality and the intellect that he has - your country will be in fine shape.

Please don't forget that Bush was not an intelligent man. He brought the world into unnecessary war, created mass-hysteria and fear and now takes more of an interest in folk art than he does in the Nation's doings - he just didn't care or wasn't smart enough to try to. Obama tried and came closest to creating National healthcare (and his founding footsteps will definitely lead you there), under his guidance, one of the most hateful people in the world was killed (Bin Laden) and he has done his best to correct some seriously complex language in the ever changing landscape of the world, which includes conflict, when conflict is no longer confined to a battleground or by borders.

No one else could have created such an amazingly simple, articulate and inspiring show like this. Hats off Jad and Robert... I'll follow you guys to the end of the Earth.

Apr. 23 2014 12:51 AM
Tony

I have to say guys great episode. What I love about it is that this one has left me completely torn on so many levels and I love that it stirred so much inner dialog bravo!

My anger, rage and want for revenge as a native New Yorker during the 9/11 attacks but yet my disillusionment with these wars that have set in my opinion our country down a very bleak path.

The faith that I have in our great country but also the fear that our country's leaders both elected and appointed to abuse the powers entrusted in them.

Now I know people are posting that you are a science show and to stick to that, part of me agrees but I think that as long as the show sparks the neurons of the brain and is able to bridge the gap of social/political commentary, science and thought provocation I say episodes like this are fantastic and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Apr. 22 2014 10:55 PM
Eric Campbell

I used to be excited to see a new Radiolab podcast in my queue but now I don't even get around to listening to them until days after they are released. I feel like the show has veered away from what made it so unique and interesting. Please re-focus on the awe inspiring worlds of nature and science (Krulwich Wonders has been great at this as of late), you guys were amazing dealing with those subjects.

Apr. 22 2014 06:34 PM
Ralph

I enjoyed this episode. This episode fits in with what I believe to be the agenda of the show. It is amazing how you create an atmosphere of personal thought. This show is the best.

Apr. 22 2014 06:10 PM
Ben from Israel

Excellent episode,it was very interesting

Apr. 22 2014 06:02 PM
Nichole from NYC

I admire Barbara for standing up for what she believed in. I was always taught to be the better in the situation (though in this situation it may be our own that is against us). I still believe so. And as a former soldier that served in war in recent years, I saw how pointless it all really is. There is no simple answer to guide us toward the balance in being the better person (or people) and standing up for ourselves. In any situation. But she truly saw the weight of it. If every last person on this earth thought like her, we would cease to create more problems for ourselves, and focus our energy instead, on solving the ones we all face together. Her story was truly moving.

Apr. 22 2014 03:44 PM
truth hurts

Wish more people took basic physics or engineering courses. Plotting the towers collapse, including wtc 7's proves beyond a doubt 9/11 was a false flag.

It scares most peopto talk about the deep state running things in the u.s. but lets not pussyfoot around the truth.

Apr. 22 2014 09:53 AM
Khauna from Atlanta

Great piece. I would also do immoral things to know the song that closes out this piece. Great sound. Anyone know???

Apr. 22 2014 09:10 AM
Joe C from upstate NY

Great show.

Without going into conspiracies, this is perhaps the closest one can get toward understanding motives and ramifications for stripping the 4th amendment and the rise of the surveillance state.

Apr. 22 2014 05:00 AM
Ysanne from Hawaii

Thank you for this well-done and articulate piece. Really shows the power of language and the potential (and inevitably) of it being manipulated.

Apr. 22 2014 04:39 AM
gruts4t from Japan

I remember being in the UK during the Iran-Contra scandal. On one news program, several British journalists enthusiastically discussed its ins and outs and the consensus was the Reagan was in deep trouble. Then via satellite an American pundit joined the debate. He was grinning from ear to ear with bemusement and said something like "You guys just don't get it. Yes, it was illegal, yes lies were told. But no one wants to get rid of Reagan. They like him" Even intelligent and liberally minded people start acting tribal at moments of high stress. Stepping back from that takes everything we have. The podcast was testimony to our slow and painful efforts to anticipate ethical problems from our emotional responses. Hume was right, the passions govern us, Reason is how we justify those passions

Apr. 22 2014 12:04 AM
Matt from Lakewood, ca

Thanks for coming at the perfect time!
I am teaching the Tonkin Gulf Resolution tomorrow and this serves as a perfect reflection of what consequences can result from ambiguous language. You guys are consistently awesome in your pursuit of answers to important questions, thanks.

Apr. 21 2014 11:01 PM
gruts4t from Japan

I have just listened to your 60 words podcast. It was my first visit to your show and I gather it was somewhat atypical in terms of subject matter. I found it fascinating, and the level of curiosity, intelligence and modesty (the "me-show" element of many podcasts can be extremely tiresome) you displayed has made me very interested in listening to future shows, whatever the topic. Thanks and well done.

Apr. 21 2014 09:35 PM
Rick

The reason we were attacked on 9/11 has more to do with the betrayal of 241 Marines (I call them all Marines in their honor]and the continuing silence as to what happened on October 23, 1983 [the Lebanon Barracks Bombing]. Iran financed this Second Pearl Harbor and the Response of the United States betrayed these brave Marines. Rather than declaring WAR against Iran the United States declared War against Grenada. Osama Bin Laden stated the Barracks Bombing was their greatest victory because it showed that the United States was a "paper tiger". But that was not the worst betrayal. Later the United States sold weapons to Iran through Israel, and took down Iraq, Iran's greatest enemy. I thought the enemy of my enemy was my friend. Not if oil interests are involved.

Apr. 21 2014 07:51 PM
Christina

Thank you Radiolab for this wonderful and informative piece.

Apr. 21 2014 03:47 PM
Nick from USA

For anyone who's complaining about a lack of a focus on science or saying Jad and Robert should stick to science, you should try navigating to the "About" page on the Radiolab site.

"Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience."

Maybe Jad and Robert can do a short for all of you who seem to be confused about the mission of the program in which they breakdown the above statement and illuminate how it doesn't mean this show is strictly about science.

Apr. 21 2014 01:45 PM
Rene from DC

Great show. Interesting.

Question: are we possibly witnessing the evoluation of war -- nation-states like the U.S., Russia, Germany, etc., cannot go to war. Our weapons and ability to kill -- the Second World War, the last global war -- might threaten survival and thus, warfare has shifted to a lower level (less death and destruction) but chronic state?

And, those who disagree with the majority cannot engage in direct warfare. For example, the way that the early Americans took on England. So the only recourse for the powerless is terrorism or guerrilla warfare, or, freedom fighters if you support their goals. The groups that attack using terrorism have a minority position -- and it is position that is, essentially, without power in the modern world.

I am thinking here as well about eco-terrorism, or the use of violence to draw attention to what we, through corporations, are doing to our planet. We don't seem to be able to stop ourselves from polluting, just as we couldn't stop ourselves from enslaving people. It required a war to end slavery. The use of violence to force change is nothing new.

Do we have a transcendatal behavior pattern -- just as individual humans respond in predictable ways -- are we seeing a shift in the way humanity is grappling with dissent, oppression, greed, the desire for power? The United States has so much firepower --it is, while I am not supporting the use of drones as I like Jad, I feel clueless, drones are a much more restrained response than what we did to Afghanastin and Iraq. Thousands and thousands of people died in those countries.

Interesting show, thanks again, and like others, I suppport your interpretation of science. Human behavior is science -- the more we understand our behavior and the more we learn to manage it more wisely, the better for the world. Humans have the ability to regulate emotions and moderate our responses to situations. Collective response, through a participatory democracy, how do we collectively make wise decisions for ourselves?

Apr. 21 2014 08:15 AM
Mark from Russia

Yeah, stick with science. Your bias is boring and unpredictable and teaming up with Buzzfeed, who'd of thought? (Sarcasm). Well, at least now you do seem to be a full fledged NPR drone program. One less podcast to listen to.

Apr. 21 2014 06:37 AM
William from Madison, WI

Amazing work Radiolab team. I personally would like to hear more work from guys in this vein.

Apr. 20 2014 07:03 PM
Aaron Winkler

Guys,
Top notch work. I would very much like to hear a followup where you tackle the questions on the edge of the issue, as they strike at the heart of a number of topics you've touched on in other episodes as well: why are we continuing to improv this endless stream of violence? Is it really anything new? Havent all governments been part of covert wars since time immemorial? In an age of a burgeoning science of complexity, for how long will the wisdom of lawyers dominate the actions of our government. More importantly, is the law simply a cover for an underlying process of justification-by-any-means to support the arms and use-of-arms industries?
All of which is to say I'd love to hear whatever stones you turn up chasing how much of this goes back to President Eisenhower's forewarn warning against the growth of a 'military-industrial complex'.
Keep chasing whatever inspires you.

Apr. 20 2014 06:50 PM
John Liesveld from Lincoln, NE

This was an excellent, important and well-done story. I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the use of various scientific fields of study that were present in the story: the science of language, political science, legal science, military science, historical science, social science, even psychological science, and finally the science of common sense.

Once again Radiolab hits the mark! And I remind all, science is defined as a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.

More importantly, Radiolab is NOT a show a out science, it is much more profound than that: "Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience." - The show's mission statement, so-to-speak, taken right from the shows website. Any fan knows this!!

John Anxiously-awaiting-next-episode. :-)

Apr. 20 2014 03:34 PM
Anton Gurlukovich from United States

Thank you so much for doing this story!

Please don't listen to the commenters that only want science. I love science too, it's one of the reasons I listen to you guys but this is incredibly important to know. Thanks for having the courage to break the mold of what you think you can do to share something so profound and important.

Apr. 20 2014 02:13 PM
matt t from canada

what song comes in at 56:30?

Apr. 20 2014 02:09 PM
Idintify Media from Nashville, TN

To the commenters who only want to hear about science: all the archives are available through the following link. http://www.radiolab.org/series/podcasts/

To Jad and Robert (and everyone who made this story possible): Thank you for all your hard work! This is important stuff.

Apr. 20 2014 11:13 AM
K-Money

Stick to science, guys.

Apr. 20 2014 10:50 AM
cd

Barbara Lee is my representative, and I've always been proud of her. I was thrilled to hear her on Radiolab.

Apr. 20 2014 05:13 AM
nds

i disagree with the complaints about this episode being less science focused. to me they aren't doing politics. yes the bias is clear. but they are talking about the science of words and how you convince people to believe things. i'm not an american so maybe i'm not as emotionally invested. but if you take what they are doing with their argument, and put different facts in it, like imagine it as fiction, and the events are just imaginary, then you can hear that they are just talking about how strange it is how words can change things so much

Apr. 20 2014 12:04 AM
Diana from San Mateo

If I wanted to listen to This American Life, I would have given my $100 to Ira, not Jad. This isn't science. Please go back to your mission and what you guys have been doing so uniquely well for so long.

Apr. 19 2014 08:29 PM
David Judy from Usa

I agree completely. Barbara Lee is very courageous, apparently. I wish we had more like her.

Great show, Radiolab. Thanks.

Apr. 19 2014 06:39 PM
Elizabeth from USA

Barbara Lee, this woman should be an example to all. Politicians are our moral examples and representatives. For standing up, even when it was against her best interest, for what she believe in she was the epitome of all that we should want in our representative. A true rare breed.

Apr. 19 2014 07:13 AM
Desmond from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Great episode, but continues Radiolab's trend toward a focus on "human interest" stories and away from what made it so original. What ever happened to the scientific themes complimented by immersive, transportive sound editing that facilitated the loss of oneself in discussions of the nature of time, or space, or even the more philosophical topics of with morality, or choice. This is a fine episode, but it pales in comparison to the originality of what Radiolab has historically offered, and is more like something one would expect from This American Life (to trot out a tired, but nonetheless accurate criticism).

Guys, please, do again what you do so well. You were the only one's doing it, and we miss it.

Apr. 19 2014 03:20 AM
Tessa

Thank you thank you thank you!!!

The mainstream media and most government officials completely avoid these issues, which are arguably some of the most important of our time. This leads to a lack of awareness and stifles the open conversations which the population needs to be having about situations like this. I assume that there will be massive disagreements about the implications of the information contained in this story, but that's the way it should be. We need to be talking about this. Thank you Radiolab for doing your part to open a dialogue and get the ball rolling.

Much respect.

Tessa

Apr. 19 2014 02:00 AM

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