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 BlogviewTom Engelhardt Archive

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17 Years of War (and More to Come)
We’re already two years past the crystal anniversary and eight years short of the silver one, or at least we would be, had it been a wedding -- and, after a fashion, perhaps it was. On October 7, 2001, George W. Bush launched the invasion -- “liberation” was the word often used then -- of... Read More
Here’s a strange reality of the last 17 years of the American way of war: in the spring of 2003, before the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, millions of people took to the streets, hundreds of thousands in the United States, to protest a coming war that was likely to lead to disaster. Ever since,... Read More
You want the nitty-gritty on the Bermuda Triangle of injustice that the U.S. created at the CIA’s global black sites and its detention center in Guantánamo, Cuba? Well, here’s a true story about an American National Guardsman at Gitmo who was only pretending to be a recalcitrant prisoner being “extracted” from a cell for training... Read More
The other day as I was passing through a waiting room in my gym, I suddenly saw -- well, who else in 2018? -- Donald Trump on a giant TV screen. He was trying on a specially made hardhat and preparing to address the National Electrical Contractors Association Convention. (“We are truly grateful to our... Read More
Here’s a story that’s never left my mind. Back in 2011, Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis was the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversaw the war on terror across the Greater Middle East, and he was obsessed with Iran. He cooked up a scheme to launch a strike to take out either... Read More
Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Rambo, Red Dawn, and How a Tale of American Triumphalism Was Returned to the Child’s World
[The following excerpt from Tom Engelhardt’s book The End of Victory Culture is posted with permission from the University of Massachusetts Press.] 1. “Hey, How Come They Got All the Fun?” Now that Darth Vader’s breathy techno-voice is a staple of our culture, it’s hard to remember how empty was the particular sector of space... Read More
If you were sleeping in 2010 when the Supreme Court -- you know, the perfectly reasonable one that didn’t yet have Brett Kavanaugh on it -- made political spending a form of free speech with its Citizens United case, you may not yet know that American politics is increasingly a possession of the 1%. In... Read More
One genuine joy in my life is spending time with my grandson. He’s six, like TomDispatchregular Frida Berrigan’s son Seamus, and he reminds me constantly of just how remarkable -- how clever, quick, quirky, inquisitive, and ready to absorb the world -- we human beings are. Unlike a new-born foal that, on arrival, struggles to... Read More
In July 1999, Chalmers Johnson began the prologue to Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire this way: “Instead of demobilizing after the Cold War, the United States imprudently committed itself to maintaining a global empire. This book is an account of the resentments our policies have built up and of the kinds of... Read More
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The Adolts in the Room (and No, That Is Not a Typo!)
When you think about it, the Earth is a relatively modest-sized planet -- about 25,000 milesin circumference at the Equator, with a total surface area of 197 million square miles, almost three-quarters of which is water. It’s not so hard, if you’re in a certain frame of mind (as American officials were after 1991), to... Read More
Like many in my generation, undoubtedly including Donald Trump, I went into space early (and I’m not even counting all those hours in my early teens I spent reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy or H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds by flashlight under the covers while supposedly asleep). I’m thinking of 1966 and 1967, when... Read More
It’s been quite a time for, in the phrase of the moment (which TomDispatch regular John Feffer wields particularly effectively today), “the adults in the room.” We’re talking, of course, about the very Washington insiders whom a “senior administration official” in an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times patted on the back for saving... Read More
Don’t say that Donald Trump isn’t consistent! No one was ever more so when it came to avoiding the truth! On lies and falsehoods of every sort, he’s the greatest! Outstanding! Fantastic! Tremendous! Amazing! Give him credit! He’s never wavered! Not for a moment! Not since he launched his presidential run on the coarsest of... Read More
It was the rarest of graphics in the American news media: a CNN map in which recent Saudi air strikes in Yemen were represented by little yellow explosions. Below them were the number of civilians killed (“97,” “155,” “unknown casualties”) and, below those, the names of the makers of the weapons that had done the... Read More
There’s a clear pattern to Donald Trump’s life. Put simply: he gets away with it. Yes, sometimes (but not usually) he has to pay a penalty, but generally he has a knack for leaving others holding the bag. He’s stiffed untold numbers of people (plumbers, painters, cabinet-makers, waiters, lawyers, bartenders) whom he hired to do... Read More
Honestly, what is it about Fridays, the Trump administration, and the Palestinians? Each of the last three Fridays, “at the direction of the president,” State Department officials have unveiled new cuts to U.S. aid, all aimed at Palestinian civilians (after the U.S. had already made “drastic cuts to its contribution to the U.N. agency for... Read More
Just in case you were with Donald Trump’s new Space Force last week, visiting some distant lodestar, and missed the breaking news about Bob Woodward’s new book (“Crazytown!”), that anonymous New York Times op-ed (“Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants...”), and all the excitement, the buzz,... Read More
I offer you this guarantee: there’s an anniversary coming on October 7th that no one in this country is going to celebrate or, I suspect, even think about. Seventeen years ago, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration launched the air campaign that began the invasion of Afghanistan. It would prove... Read More
The World According to The Don(ald)
I know you won’t believe me. Not now, not when everything Donald Trump does -- any tweet, any insult at any rally -- is the news of the day, any day. But he won’t be remembered for any of the things now in our headlines. No human being, it’s true, has ever been covered the... Read More
In 2010, H.R. McMaster wasn’t the former national security advisor to you-know-who but a brigadier general and senior adviser to General David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. At that time, he came up with a striking name for America’s twenty-first-century wars in the Greater Middle East, then a mere nine... Read More
If I had to pick a single moment when I grasped that we were on a new surveillance planet, it would have been the release of the stunning revelations of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now in exile in Vladimir Putin’s Russia (and if there isn’t irony in that, please tell me... Read More
These days, demonstrations follow the president and his policies the way day follows night. There are the determined protesters who go regularly to the Clarence Dillon Public Library in Bedminster, New Jersey, while the president weekends at the Trump National Golf Club nearby. (Trump who, between 2011 and 2016, tweeted endless criticism of President Barack... Read More
In 1958, Chinese leader Mao Zedong launched an attempt at the instant industrialization of an agricultural society, including the creation of little backyard steel furnaces in its rural countryside. That vast convulsion went by the optimistic name of the Great Leap Forward. It ended up disrupting the country’s agricultural system and causing a disastrous famine... Read More
I can remember lying on my bed with a crumpled up piece of paper in my hand and throwing it at the wall while, in my mind, the announcer’s voice carried on: “It’s a long drive to right field... Furillo is going back, back, back... He leaps! He’s got it!” And I would, of course,... Read More
Or How to Fight a War of Ultimate Repetitiousness
Fair warning. Stop reading right now if you want, because I’m going to repeat myself. What choice do I have, since my subject is the Afghan War (America’s second Afghan War, no less)? I began writing about that war in October 2001, almost 17 years ago, just after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That was... Read More
When it comes to guns and Americans, here (thanks to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) are a couple of stats for you: every year an average of 17,102 children and teens and 116,255 Americans overall are shot in “murders, assaults, suicides, and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention.” And this doesn’t... Read More
It looks like TomDispatch may have a few less readers from now on. Perhaps it will surprise you, but judging by the mail I get, some members of the U.S. military do read TomDispatch -- partially to check out the range of military and ex-military critics of America’s wars that this site publishes. Or rather... Read More
Two weeks ago, another Trump business went down in flames. Caught in the whirlpool of her father’s presidency, with major department stores and other retail distributors continuing to drop her brand under pressure from consumer boycotts here and in Canada, daughter Ivanka shut down her line of clothes. This should have surprised no one. When... Read More
Here are a couple of questions for you: If, in this country, terrorism is to be fought by travel bans, if (as Donald Trump once tweeted) “we don’t want ‘em here,” then why are all the travel bans aimed at Muslims? If the most threatening terror types shouldn’t be traveling either to or in this... Read More
It’s been almost eight years since Chalmers Johnson died. He was the author of, among other works, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire and Dismantling the Empire. He was also a TomDispatch stalwart and a friend . As I watch the strange destructive dance of Donald Trump and his cohorts, I still regularly... Read More
Mine, America’s, and Humanity’s
There was a period in my later life when I used to say that, from the age of 20 to my late sixties, I was always 40 years old; I was, that is, an old young man and a young old one. Tell that to my legs now. Of course, there’s nothing faintly strange in... Read More
If you don’t happen to be part of Donald Trump’s base and you’re a member of the “fake media,” it’s a commonplace to assume that our president is a creature of impulse, a giant id with hardly rhyme, no less reason for what he does. News headlines and those of opinion columns tell the story:... Read More
September 11, 2001, was the day that "changed everything.” And indeed, in New York City and elsewhere, it was hard not to feel just that. Unfortunately, the top officials of the Bush administration took advantage of that deep sense of shock (and awe) to advance a global shock-and-awe program all their own, including the invasions... Read More
The report was devastating -- or would have been, if anyone here had noticed it. "Between 2001 and 2017," it concluded, "U.S. government efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan mostly failed." I’m thinking of “Stabilization: Lessons From the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan” put out by the office of the special inspector general... Read More
Give them credit. As TomDispatch’s Nick Turse has so vividly reported over the last decade, America’s previously “elite” Special Operations forces -- once small, specially trained units in a large military -- have now essentially become a military in their own right, all 70,000 of them (larger, in fact, than many national armed forces). And... Read More
In these years, much attention has been paid to the rise of the national security state and little indeed to what TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon calls the national (in)security state. The Trump administration and a Republican Congress have, of course, given a remarkable gift, a tax “reform” bill, to the already fabulously wealthy and are... Read More
Never forget it: Donald Trump rode birtherism like a surfboard into the White House. He first played the birther card back in 2011 (“I’m starting to think that [Obama] was not born here”), and the next year cited “an extremely credible source” that Obama’s birth certificate was a “fraud.” In certain parts of this country... Read More
Opioids, Donald Trump, and War
When you think of addiction in America today, one thing comes to mind: the opioid epidemic. And it should. It’s serious. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 64,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2016 (more than died in the Vietnam War), an average of 175 people a day. In that year,... Read More
A recent study of insect life in protected nature reserves in Germany got the most modest attention in our busy Trumpian world. In the last 27 years, however, researchers found that flying insect populations there had dropped 76% seasonally and 82% in mid-summer (when insect numbers are at their peak). If you aren’t instantly struck... Read More
Who could forget it? There were the $37 screws (no need to say who was getting screwed), the $2,043 nut (McDonnell Douglas made it specially for the U.S. Navy), the $7,622 coffee pot, the $74,165 aluminum ladder, and the $640 plastic toilet seats for the Air Force. All of those examples of Pentagon waste were... Read More
On the campaign trail in 2016, Donald Trump wasn’t shy when it came to the issue of debt. As he told Norah O’Donnell of CBS This Morning at the time, “I’m the king of debt. I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I’ve made a fortune by using debt and if things... Read More
In the days before Donad Trump “caved” and issued an executive order (which he previously claimed he couldn’t do) at least theoretically ending the forced separation of parents and children at the border, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said of the policy, “This is not who we are and it... Read More
Two decades ago, when I was working as an editor at a publishing house, Chalmers Johnson, then an eminent scholar of Asia and a former CIA consultant, sent in a proposal for a book he was already calling Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. I still remember the passage from his prologue that... Read More
In the rush of Trumped-up events, history -- of the last month, week, hour -- repeatedly gets plowed (or tweeted) under. Who can remember what happened so long ago? Perhaps it’s not surprising then that, in the wave of abuse from the president and his men (including economic adviser Larry Kudlow and trade hardliner Peter... Read More
There’s no other imperial tradition like it. For two millennia, dynasty after dynasty rose and fell, spread and shrank, reaching into Southeast Asia and far out into the steppes of Eurasia, its commercial fleets -- 3,500 ships in the fourteenth century -- voyaging as far as Africa. It’s true that ours is a remarkably westernized... Read More
When you come from the South Bronx, you have the option of writing about different kinds of characters than those who so often inhabit the universe of fiction we’re used to. That was true of Beverly Gologorsky’s first novel, The Things We Do to Make It Home, which focused on the lost vets of the... Read More
American Wars and Self-Decline
Think of it as the all-American version of the human comedy: a great power that eternally knows what the world needs and offers copious advice with a tone deafness that would be humorous, if it weren’t so grim. If you look, you can find examples of this just about anywhere. Here, for instance, is a... Read More
We know her name but not, as the courageous Israeli journalist Amira Hass has pointed out, the name of the Israeli sniper who shot her down in cold blood during an unarmed demonstration at the blockaded Gazan border as she ran to aid a man struck in the head by a tear gas shell. She... Read More
Honestly, if you’re trying to grasp our strange new world, this Washington Post headline gets you at least part of the way there: "New NSC Chief of Staff Is From Group That Believes Muslims Are Plotting to Take Over U.S." No, that NSC isn’t the National Student Clearinghouse or the Norfolk Southern Corporation or the... Read More
In case you hadn’t noticed -- and it wasn’t exactly front-page news -- America’s eighth war commander in Afghanistan (and keep in mind that we’re only talking about this country’s second Afghan War), General John Nicholson, is about to be history. Sometime in the coming months, the ninth, Lieutenant General Austin “Scott” Miller, who spent... Read More
Tom Engelhardt
About Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the Tomdispatch.com website, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow. He is the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, and of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, as well as a collection of his Tomdispatch interviews, Mission Unaccomplished. Each spring he is a Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tomdispatch.com is the sideline that ate his life. Before that he worked as an editor at Pacific News Service in the early 1970s, and, these last three decades, as an editor in book publishing. For 15 years, he was Senior Editor at Pantheon Books where he edited and published award-winning works ranging from Art Spiegelman's Maus and John Dower's War Without Mercy to Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy. He is now Consulting Editor at Metropolitan Books, as well as co-founder and co-editor of Metropolitan's The American Empire Project. Many of the authors whose books he has edited and published over the years now write for Tomdispatch.com. He is married to Nancy J. Garrity, a therapist, and has two children, Maggie and Will.

His new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books), has just been published.


Personal Classics
Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century
How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You
Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower