The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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 Peter Van Buren Archive
Was Chelsea Manning Motivated By Moral Injury?
“My guilt will never go away,” former Marine Matthew Hoh explained to me. “There is a significant portion of me that doesn't believe it should be allowed to go away, that this pain is fair.” If America accepts the idea of fighting endless wars, it will have to accept something else as well: that the... Read More
Apologizing to My Daughter for the Last 15 Years of War
I recently sent my last kid off for her senior year of college. There are rituals to such moments, and because dad-confessions are not among them, I just carried boxes and kept quiet. But what I really wanted to say to her -- rather than see you later, call this weekend, do you need money?... Read More
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Five Ways the Newest Story in Iraq and Syria is... That There Is No New Story
One of the most popular apps these days is Snapchat. It allows the sender to set a timer for any photo dispatched via the app, so that a few seconds after the recipient opens the message, the photo is automatically deleted. The evidence of what you did at that party last night is seen and... Read More
Five Questions That Weren't Asked During the 2012 Presidential Debates and Are Unlikely to Be Asked in 2016
The nuances of foreign policy do not feature heavily in the ongoing presidential campaign. Every candidate intends to “destroy” the Islamic State; each has concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea, and China; every one of them will defend Israel; and no one wants to talk much about anything else -- except, in the... Read More
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You Can't Earn a Living on the Minimum Wage
When presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talks about income inequality, and when other candidates speak about the minimum wage and food stamps, what are they really talking about? Whether they know it or not, it’s something like this. My Working Life Then A few years ago, I wrote about my experience enmeshed in the minimum-wage economy,... Read More
Giving Advice to a Presidential Candidate Who Wants to “Do Something”
How can we stop the Islamic State? Imagine yourself shaken awake, rushed off to a strategy meeting with your presidential candidate of choice, and told: “Come up with a plan for me to do something about ISIS!” What would you say? What Hasn't Worked You'd need to start with a persuasive review of what hasn't... Read More
Why the Gulf States, the Kurds, the Turks, the Sunnis, and the Shia Won’t Fight America’s War
In the many strategies proposed to defeat the Islamic State (IS) by presidential candidates, policymakers, and media pundits alike across the American political spectrum, one common element stands out: someone else should really do it. The United States will send in planes, advisers, and special ops guys, but it would be best -- and this... Read More
What Could Possibly Go Wrong (October 2015 Edition)
What if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq in 2003? How would things be different in the Middle East today? Was Iraq, in the words of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the "worst foreign policy blunder" in American history? Let's take a big-picture tour of the Middle East and try to answer those questions. But first,... Read More
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U.S.-Iranian Relations Emerge from a 30-Year Cold War
Don't sweat the details of the July nuclear accord between the United States and Iran. What matters is that the calculus of power in the Middle East just changed in significant ways. Washington and Tehran announced their nuclear agreement on July 14th and yes, some of the details are still classified. Of course the Obama... Read More
When at First You Don’t Succeed, Fail, Fail Again
In one form or another, the U.S. has been at war with Iraq since 1990, including a sort-of invasion in 1991 and a full-scale one in 2003. During that quarter-century, Washington imposed several changes of government, spent trillions of dollars, and was involved in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. None of those... Read More
Twelve Years Later, We Know the Winner in Iraq: Iran
The U.S. is running around in circles in the Middle East, patching together coalitions here, acquiring strange bedfellows there, and in location after location trying to figure out who the enemy of its enemy actually is. The result is just what you'd expect: chaos further undermining whatever’s left of the nations whose frailty birthed the... Read More
Hollywood and War from World War II to American Sniper
In the age of the all-volunteer military and an endless stream of war zone losses and ties, it can be hard to keep Homeland enthusiasm up for perpetual war. After all, you don't get a 9/11 every year to refresh those images of the barbarians at the airport departure gates. In the meantime, Americans are... Read More
The current American war in Iraq is a struggle in search of a goal. It began in August as a humanitarian intervention, morphed into a campaign to protect Americans in-country, became a plan to defend the Kurds, followed by a full-on crusade to defeat the new Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS, aka ISIL), and then...... Read More
Four Months into Iraq War 3.0, the Cracks Are Showing -- on the Battlefield and at the Pentagon
Karl von Clausewitz, the famed Prussian military thinker, is best known for his aphorism “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But what happens to a war in the absence of coherent state policy? Actually, we now know. Washington’s Iraq War 3.0, Operation Inherent Resolve, is what happens. In its early stages,... Read More
Seven Worst-Case Scenarios in the Battle with the Islamic State
You know the joke? You describe something obviously heading for disaster -- a friend crossing Death Valley with next to no gas in his car -- and then add, “What could possibly go wrong?” Such is the Middle East today. The U.S. is again at war there, bombing freely across Iraq and Syria, advising here,... Read More
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Fighting in Iraq Until Hell Freezes Over
I wanted to offer a wry chuckle before we headed into the heavy stuff about Iraq, so I tried to start this article with a suitably ironic formulation. You know, a déjà-vu-all-over-again kinda thing. I even thought about telling you how, in 2011, I contacted a noted author to blurb my book, We Meant Well:... Read More
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Drone-Killing the Fifth Amendment
You can't get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial.... Read More
You're not in the United States. Oh sure, look around at the fog lifting over the New England countryside or the diamond deserts of Arizona, but this land isn't your land, not anymore. It’s a place controlled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and your constitutional rights do not apply on their territory. CBP... Read More
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Four Ways It No Longer Applies
Here’s a bit of history from another America: the Bill of Rights was designed to protect the people from their government. If the First Amendment’s right to speak out publicly was the people's wall of security, then the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy was its buttress. It was once thought that the government should neither... Read More
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Taking Down the First Amendment in Post-Constitutional America
America has entered its third great era: the post-constitutional one. In the first, in the colonial years, a unitary executive, the King of England, ruled without checks and balances, allowing no freedom of speech, due process, or privacy when it came to protecting his power. In the second, the principles of the Enlightenment and an... Read More
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And Eight Other Critical Questions for Americans
Last year eight Americans -- the four Waltons of Walmart fame, the two Koch brothers, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett -- made more money than 3.6 million American minimum-wage workers combined. The median pay for CEOs at America's large corporations rose to $10 million per year, while a typical chief executive now makes about 257... Read More
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An Empire in Decline (City by City, Town by Town)
As America's new economy starts to look more like the old economy of the Great Depression, the divide between rich and poor, those who have made it and those who never will, seems to grow ever starker. I know. I’ve seen it firsthand. Once upon a time, I worked as a State Department officer, helping... Read More
Sergey Yechikov / Shutterstock.com
Life in the New American Minimum-Wage Economy
There are many sides to whistleblowing. The one that most people don't know about is the very personal cost, prison aside, including the high cost of lawyers and the strain on family relations, that follows the decision to risk it all in an act of conscience. Here's a part of my own story I've not... Read More
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Rahinah Ibrahim is a slight Malaysian woman who attended Stanford University on a U.S. student visa, majoring in architecture. She was not a political person. Despite this, as part of a post-9/11 sweep directed against Muslims, she was investigated by the FBI. In 2004, while she was still in the U.S. but unbeknownst to her,... Read More
Supreme Court Edition?
The Obama administration has just opened a new front in its ongoing war on whistleblowers. It’s taking its case against one man, former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Robert MacLean, all the way to the Supreme Court. So hold on, because we’re going back down the rabbit hole with the Most Transparent Administration ever.... Read More
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How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Death at a Time
Terrorism (ter-ror-ism; see also terror) n. 1. When a foreign organization kills an American for political reasons. Justice (jus-tice) n. 1. When the United States Government uses a drone to kill an American for political reasons. How's that morning coffee treating you? Nice and warming? Mmmm. While you're savoring your cup o' joe, imagine the... Read More
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10 NSA Myths Debunked
The debate Edward Snowden envisioned when he revealed the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans has taken a bad turn. Instead of a careful examination of what the NSA does, the legality of its actions, what risks it takes for what gains, and how effective the agency has been in its stated... Read More
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Disappearing Edward Snowden
What if Edward Snowden was made to disappear? No, I’m not suggesting some future CIA rendition effort or a who-killed-Snowden conspiracy theory of a disappearance, but a more ominous kind. What if everything a whistleblower had ever exposed could simply be made to go away? What if every National Security Agency (NSA) document Snowden released,... Read More
John Kerry is a Figure of His Times (and That's Not a Good Thing)
In the 1960s, John Kerry was distinctly a man of his times. Kennedy-esque, he went from Yale to Vietnam to fight in a lost war. When popular sentiments on that war shifted, he became one of the more poignant voices raised in protest by antiwar veterans. Now, skip past his time as a congressman, lieutenant... Read More
Why Saying No to Syria Matters (and it's not about Syria)
Once again, we find ourselves at the day after 9/11, and this time America stands alone. Alone not only in our abandonment even by our closest ally, Great Britain, but in facing a crossroads no less significant than the one we woke up to on September 12, 2001. The past 12 years have not been... Read More
About Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) as a State Department Foreign Service Officer. Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog We Meant Well. His book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books) will be published this September.


PastClassics
Confederate Flag Day, State Capitol, Raleigh, N.C. -- March 3, 2007
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The evidence is clear — but often ignored