The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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 Nick Turse Archive

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In the muddled midst of last week’s mass killing in San Bernardino, California, a few words skittering across my Twitter feed gave me pause. “On this awful shooting: Is U.S. culture evil? Enemy of our civilization? Must all Americans apologize? Should we bar U.S. tourists as dangerous?” asked Simon Kuper, a columnist with the Financial... Read More
AFRICOM’s New Math, the U.S. Base Bonanza, and “Scarier” Times Ahead in Africa
In the shadows of what was once called the “dark continent," a scramble has come and gone. If you heard nothing about it, that was by design. But look hard enough and -- north to south, east to west -- you’ll find the fruits of that effort: a network of bases, compounds, and other sites... Read More
In an effort to attack Taliban fighters, an air strike by a U.S. plane killed dozens of civilians in Kunduz, Afghanistan. In the wake of the attack, an American general responded in unequivocal fashion. “I take this possible loss of life or injury to innocent Afghans very seriously,” he said. “I have ordered a complete... Read More
America’s Elite Forces Deploy to a Record-Shattering 147 Countries in 2015
They’re some of the best soldiers in the world: highly trained, well equipped, and experts in weapons, intelligence gathering, and battlefield medicine. They study foreign cultures and learn local languages. They’re smart, skillful, wear some very iconic headgear, and their 12-member teams are “capable of conducting the full spectrum of special operations, from building indigenous... Read More
After the United States toppled Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, L. Paul Bremer III, the top American civilian official in occupied Iraq, took a bold step. He dissolved Iraq’s military, deciding to replace Saddam’s 350,000-man army with a lightly-armed border protection force that would start with 12,000 troops and eventually peak at around 40,000... Read More
Why do I always seem to be writing about Henry Kissinger? I once listened to the man who helped prolong the Vietnam War for half a decade declare that its “tragedy” lay in the fact “that the faith of Americans in each other became destroyed in the process.” I later took to the (web)pages of... Read More
2015 Proves to Be Record-Breaking Year for the Military’s Secret Military
You can find them in dusty, sunbaked badlands, moist tropical forests, and the salty spray of third-world littorals. Standing in judgement, buffeted by the rotor wash of a helicopter or sweltering beneath the relentless desert sun, theyinstruct, yell, and cajole as skinnier men playact under their watchful eyes. In many places, more than their particular... Read More
U.S. Special Ops Missions in Africa Fail to Stem Rising Tide of Terror Groups, Coups, and Human Rights Abuses
"Africa is a challenging place today and one that, if left unattended, is likely to be the birthplace of many more challenges in the future,” Army Secretary John McHugh said recently. Since 9/11, in fact, the continent has increasingly been viewed by the Pentagon as a place of problems to be remedied by military means.... Read More
The first prime-time Republican primary debate of 2015 was an eye-opener of sorts when it came to the Middle East. After forcefully advocating for the termination of the pending nuclear deal with Iran, for example, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unleashed an almost indecipherable torrent of words. “This is not just bad with Iran,” he insisted,... Read More
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Every now and then, in the quieter days of summer, it feels good and appropriate to feature old friends no longer with us. In that spirit,TomDispatch recently offered an excerpt from Mirrors, the idiosyncratic, late-in-life masterwork of world history by Eduardo Galeano, who died this April. Today, we turn to someone... Read More
“They finally shot the nigger!” the sparrow-slight soldier whooped. Nicknamed “Georgia” for the obvious reason, that’s what he apparently ran around shouting once word of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination wound its way out into the electric-green paddy fields of South Vietnam. I was told the story more than once by a member of his... Read More
I’ve read a few official documents in my time -- minutes, memoranda, reports, briefings, you name it. They tend to be opaque and filled with acronyms, jargon, and government-speak. Often the soulless work of marginally talented bureaucrats, they can make for dreadful reading. Then, of course, there are the exceptions. “This memorandum addresses the matter... Read More
There’s an ugliness to war beyond the ugly things war does. There are scars beyond the rough, imperfectly mended flesh of the gunshot wound, beyond the flashback, the startle reflex, the nightmare. War finds peculiar and heinous ways to distort lives, and when children are involved, it can mean a lifetime spent trying to recapture... Read More
Will Americans Support Them?
PIBOR, South Sudan -- “I’ve never been a soldier,” I say to the wide-eyed, lanky-limbed veteran sitting across from me. “Tell me about military life. What’s it like?” He looks up as if the answer can be found in the blazing blue sky above, shoots me a sheepish grin, and then fixes his gaze on... Read More
Rambo! In my Reagan-era youth, the name was synonymous with the Vietnam War -- at least the Vietnam War reimagined, the celluloid fantasy version of it in which a tanned, glistening, muscle-bound commando busted the handcuffs of defeat and redeemed America’s honor in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Untold millions including the Gipper himself, an... Read More
Presidential Waivers, Child Soldiers, and an American-Made Army in Africa
MALAKAL, South Sudan -- I didn’t really think he was going to shoot me. There was no anger in his eyes. His finger may not have been anywhere near the trigger. He didn’t draw a bead on me. Still, he was a boy and he was holding an AK-47 and it was pointed in my... Read More
“It just started out as a simple goodbye song,” James Douglas Morrison told reporter Jerry Hopkins. “Probably just to a girl, but I could see how it could be goodbye to a kind of childhood... I think it's sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery that it could be almost anything you want it to... Read More
What U.S. Africa Command Doesn’t Want You to Know
Six people lay lifeless in the filthy brown water. It was 5:09 a.m. when their Toyota Land Cruiser plunged off a bridge in the West African country of Mali. For about two seconds, the SUV sailed through the air, pirouetting 180 degrees as it plunged 70 feet, crashing into the Niger River. Three of the... Read More
Military Missions Reach Record Levels After U.S. Inks Deal to Remain in Africa for Decades
For three days, wearing a kaleidoscope of camouflage patterns, they huddled together on a military base in Florida. They came from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, from France and Norway, from Denmark, Germany, and Canada: 13 nations in all. They came to plan a years-long “Special Operations-centric” military campaign... Read More
Suddenly he appeared, riding in the back of a truck, his arms thrust to the heavens, his fists clenched tight. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Ho Chi Minh, modern Vietnam’s founding father... and he was holding dumbbells. It was 2010, the eve of the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon -- though... Read More
Special Ops Missions Already in 105 Countries in 2015
In the dead of night, they swept in aboard V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Landing in a remote region of one of the most volatile countries on the planet, they raided a village and soon found themselves in a life-or-death firefight. It was the second time in two weeks that elite U.S. Navy SEALs had attempted... Read More
About a year ago, I hit the road for a couple of months. I went to Albany and Albuquerque, Berkeley and Boston, Chapel Hill and Chicago, Seattle and Schenectady. I wasn’t reporting. I wasn’t writing. I sure wasn’t vacationing. No, I was out on a book tour in support of the paperback edition of my... Read More
During the Israeli attacks on Gaza this past summer, U.S. officials were unusually vocal. After shelling killed four young Palestinians on a beach, for example, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called it "horrifying." "The tragic event makes clear that Israel must take every possible step to meet its standards for protecting civilians from being killed,"... Read More
A Base Camp, an Authoritarian Regime, and the Future of U.S. Blowback in Africa
Admit it. You don’t know where Chad is. You know it’s in Africa, of course. But beyond that? Maybe with a map of the continent and by some process of elimination you could come close. But you’d probably pick Sudan or maybe the Central African Republic. Here’s a tip. In the future, choose that vast,... Read More
It was July 1987 and I found myself in a cool, dark, completely packed movie theater, perched on the edge of my seat. The crowd was raucous, the mood electric. That night, I didn’t care about popcorn or soda or candy. I was still in grammar school. I had never seen an R-rated movie in... Read More
In a September address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obamaspoke forcefully about the “cycle of conflict” in the Middle East, about “violence within Muslim communities that has become the source of so much human misery.” The president was adamant: “It is time to acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror... Read More
More than a few times I’ve found myself in a crowd of Vietnam veterans, and more than a few times at least one of them was wearing a curious blue or yellow t-shirt. Once that shirt undoubtedly fit a lean physique of the late 1970s or early 1980s, but by the time I saw it... Read More
In the Face of Rising Maritime Insecurity, AFRICOM Claims Success and Obama Embraces a Strongman
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] “The Gulf of Guinea is the most insecure waterway, globally,” says Loic Moudouma. And he should know. Trained at the U.S. Naval War College, the lead maritime security expert of the... Read More
Hushed Pentagon Investigation Slaps U.S. Africa Command’s Humanitarian Activities
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania -- Movie night in Mouloud, Djibouti. Skype lessons in Ethiopia. Veterinary training assistance in Garissa, Kenya. And in this country on the east coast of Africa, work... Read More
Almost a decade ago, I spent more than a year freelancing for a major metropolitan newspaper -- one of the biggest in the country. I would, on an intermittent basis, work out of a newsroom that appeared to be in a state of constant churn. Whoever wasn’t being downsized seemed to be jumping ship or... Read More
The Limits of America’s African Experiment in Nation Building
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] Juba, South Sudan -- The soft glow of the dancing white lights is a dead giveaway. It’s Christmas in July at the U.S. Embassy compound. Behind high walls topped with fierce-looking... Read More
Is the Conflict in South Sudan the Opening Salvo in the Battle for a Continent?
[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.] Juba, South Sudan -- Is this country the first hot battlefield in a new cold war? Is the conflict tearing this new nation apart actually a proxy fight between the world’s... Read More
A Secret African Mission and an African Mission that’s No Secret
What is Operation New Normal? It’s a question without an answer, a riddle the U.S. military refuses to solve. It’s a secret operation in Africa that no one knows anything about. Except that someone does. His name is Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee Magee. He lives and breathes Operation New Normal. But he doesn’t want... Read More
It’s rare to hear a government official speak in contrite tones; rarer still if that official represents the National Security Agency. Recently, however, Anne Neuberger, a special assistant to former NSA Director Keith Alexander, did just that. A year of revelations, courtesy of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, prepared the way. Since last June, the world... Read More
How Not to End Violence in a War-Torn Land
Is the U.S. secretly training Libyan militiamen in the Canary Islands? And if not, are they planning to? That’s what I asked a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). “I am surprised by your mentioning the Canary Islands,” he responded by email. “I have not heard this before, and wonder where you heard this.” As... Read More
U.S. Officials Talk Candidly (Just Not to Reporters) about Bases, Winning Hearts and Minds, and the “War” in Africa
What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things -- especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa. For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command’s activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the... Read More
Documents Reveal Blinding Pace of Ops in 2013, More of the Same for 2014
The numbers tell the story: 10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security cooperation activities. For years, the U.S. military has publicly insisted that its efforts in Africa are small scale. Its public affairs personnel and commanders have repeatedly claimed no more than a “light footprint” on that continent, including a remarkably modest presence when it comes... Read More
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America’s New Model for Expeditionary Warfare
Lion Forward Teams? Echo Casemate? Juniper Micron? You could be forgiven if this jumble of words looks like nonsense to you. It isn’t. It’s the language of the U.S. military’s simmering African interventions; the patois that goes with a set of missions carried out in countries most Americans couldn’t locate on a map; the argot... Read More
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The Pentagon’s Latest “Mission Accomplished” Moment
It’s 2053 -- 20 years since you needed a computer, tablet, or smart phone to go online. At least, that’s true in the developed world: you know, China, India, Brazil, and even some parts of the United States. Cybernetic eye implants allow you to see everything with a digital overlay. And once facial recognition software... Read More
Last year, Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia’s pledge to sell advanced antiaircraft weapons to Syria, noting that it would have “a profoundly negative impact on the balance of interests and the stability of the region.” And really, who could argue that pouring more weaponsinto a heavily-armed corner of the globe, roiled by conflict,... Read More
What kind of world is this? In China, an almost 1,350 square mile freshwater lake -- that’s more than four times the size of New York City -- recently dried up due to an ongoing drought. In the high Sierra of America’s West, bears have forgone hibernating as a result of (what were once, at... Read More
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America’s Secret War in 134 Countries
They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America. They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreband shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa. They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the... Read More
Unraveling the Secrets of the Military’s Secret Military
“Dude, I don’t need to play these stupid games. I know what you’re trying to do.” With that, Major Matthew Robert Bockholt hung up on me. More than a month before, I had called U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with a series of basic questions: In how many countries were U.S. Special Operations Forces deployed... Read More
Another week, another revelation about spying by the National Security Agency. This time, it was the NSA’s infiltration of online video games and virtual realms like World of Warcraft and Second Life. And it was hardly a shock. More than a decade ago, TomDispatch began reporting on the U.S. military’s collaborations with the video game... Read More
In 2010, I arrived at Harvard University with a mess of a manuscript -- 10 years' worth of research on American war crimes in Vietnam patchworked together in such a way that it was comprehensible to only one person on the planet: me. But I was lucky. I had a year to do something about... Read More
When Barack Obama took office, the sky was the limit in the Greater Middle East. After all, it seemed the U.S. had hit rock bottom. President Bush had set the region aflame with a raging debacle in Iraq, a sputtering conflict in Afghanistan, and a low-level drone war in Pakistan. The outgoing president was wildly... Read More
In the preface to his 1974 classic, The Permanent War Economy, Seymour Melman decried America’s choice of guns over butter. He wrote: The time couldn’t have looked riper for beating swords into plowshares. After more than 10 years, U.S. combat in Vietnam had ended and President Nixon had recently begun normalizing relationswith China, that Communist... Read More
The Startling Size, Scope, and Growth of U.S. Military Operations on the African Continent
They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that’s just the ABCs of the situation. Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east... Read More
About Nick Turse

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University's Center for the United States and the Cold War. A paperback edition of his book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books) was published earlier this year. His website is NickTurse.com.


PastClassics
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?