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A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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 Tom Engelhardt ArchiveBlogview
High Crimes and Demeanors in the Age of Trump
Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet’s indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours. We were the sole superpower, Earth’s hyperpower, its... Read More
Ever since 2001, when President George W. Bush launched an endless “global war” not on al-Qaeda but on a phenomenon, or perhaps simply a feeling (“terror”) and those who could potentially induce it, America’s all-too-real conflicts have become, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon writes today, ever more metaphorical. In a sense, they have come to... Read More
You may have sensed it for a while. A significant group of American voters certainly did, since they elected a declinist president in 2016. Still, here’s the news of the month: the Pentagon has finally acknowledged it, too, as the title of a report from the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute makes clear:... Read More
Think of Donald Trump as the plutocratic id loosed in the White House. And who hasn’t noticed the results? Civil war and uproar in Washington with bodies regularly carried out of the Oval Office. There are the constant tweet assaults on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. There’s his disgruntled secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, taking... Read More
Over the years, Ann Jones has confronted some of the most daunting and depressing issues on the planet: the abuse of women, African civil wars, the disaster that is Afghanistan, and -- as reflected in her book They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- the plight of American casualties of the... Read More
When you think about it, isn’t it strange that Donald Trump doesn’t represent the historical norm, that Americans have never before elected a P.T. Barnum president (though Barnum did become the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut)? After all, as I wrote of Trump during the 2016 election campaign, “What could be more American than his two... Read More
You would barely know it, living in this country, but the essence of modern warfare is what our military tends to call “collateral damage”: the killing or wounding of civilians, not combatants. The Global War on Terror -- more than 15 years later a no-name set of conflicts still spreading across the Greater Middle East,... Read More
In May 2012, TomDispatch featured a piece by Chris Hellman and Mattea Kramer, both then analysts at the National Priorities Project, headlined “War Pay: The Nearly $1 Trillion National Security Budget.” The two of them ran through the figures for the cumulative annual budget for what we still mysteriously call “national security.” In other words,... Read More
Precision Warfare? Don’t Make Me Laugh
You remember. It was supposed to be twenty-first-century war, American-style: precise beyond imagining; smart bombs; drones capable of taking out a carefully identified and tracked human being just about anywhere on Earth; special operations raids so pinpoint-accurate that they would represent a triumph of modern military science. Everything “networked.” It was to be a glorious... Read More
If you’re looking for fairy tales that are on the grim (not Grimm) side, things that once might only have been in dystopian fiction, look no further than our present planet at our present moment. What about, for instance, that trillion-metric-ton iceberg -- yes, “trillion” is not a misprint -- that broke loose last week... Read More
I was 12. It was 1956. I lived in New York City and was a youthful history buff. (I should have kept my collection of American Heritage magazines!) Undoubtedly, I was also some kind of classic nerd. In any case, at some point during the Suez crisis of that year, I can remember going to... Read More
My childhood was a nuclear one and I’m not talking about the nuclear family. I’m thinking of those duck-and-cover moments when, with air raid sirens screaming outside, we went under our school desks, hands over head, to test out our readiness for a Cold War nuclear exchange and the coming of the end of the... Read More
Dystopian, yes. Unimaginable, no. In fact, a version of our present moment was imagined more than eight decades ago by novelist Sinclair Lewis who wrote a still readable (if now fictionally clunky) novel, It Can’t Happen Here. Its focus: the election as president of a man we might today call a right-wing “populist,” but who,... Read More
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How They Blind Us to Our Troubles
I don’t tweet, but I do have a brief message for our president: Will you please get the hell out of the way for a few minutes? You and your antics are blocking our view of the damn world and it’s a world we should be focusing on! Maybe it was the moment, more than... Read More
Every now and then something lodges in your memory and seems to haunt you forever. In my case, it was a comment Newsweek attributed to an unnamed senior British official “close to the Bush team” before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad,” he said. “Real men want to go... Read More
In America's Afghanistan, it’s all history -- the future as well as the past, what’s going to happen, as well as what’s happened in these last nearly 16 years of war. You’ve heard it all before: there were the various “surges” (though once upon a time sold as paths to victory, not simply to break... Read More
At 36% to 37% in the latest polls, Donald Trump’s approval rating is in a ditch in what should still be the “honeymoon” period of his presidency. And yet, compared to Congress (25%), he’s a maestro of popularity. In fact, there’s just one institution in American society that gets uniformly staggeringly positive votes of “confidence”... Read More
If you want a number, try 194. That’s how many countries there are on planet Earth (give or take one or two). Today, Nick Turse reports a related number that should boggle your mind: at least 137 of those countries, or 70% of them, already have something in common for 2017 and the year’s not... Read More
In an age of billionaires, whether the voters who elected him thought that he was the one who could do what was needed in the nation’s capital or were just giving the finger to Washington, the effect was, as Donald Trump might say, of “historic significance.” His golf courses, hotels, properties of every sort are... Read More
Not that anyone in a position of power seems to notice, but there’s a simple rule for American military involvement in the Greater Middle East: once the U.S. gets in, no matter the country, it never truly gets out again. Let’s start with Afghanistan. The U.S. first entered the fray there in 1979 via a... Read More
If you want to know just what kind of mental space Washington’s still-growing cult of “national security” would like to take us into, consider a recent comment by retired general and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. In late May on Fox and Friends, he claimed that “the American public would ‘never leave the... Read More
In her first interview since President Obama commuted her 35-year sentence and she was released from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Chelsea Manning explained to Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang why she leaked documents about America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We're getting all this information from all these different sources and it's just... Read More
Will Trump Set a Record for the History Books?
In its own inside-out, upside-down way, it’s almost wondrous to behold. As befits our president’s wildest dreams, it may even prove to be a record for the ages, one for the history books. He was, after all, the candidate who sensed it first. When those he was running against, like the rest of Washington’s politicians,... Read More
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt had a genuine howler the other day. On NBC’s Meet the Press, he said, “Since the fourth quarter of last year until most recently, we’ve added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs.” Try instead maybe 1,000 jobs in the... Read More
Remember when “draining the swamp” was something the Bush administration swore it was going to do in launching its Global War on Terror? Well, as we all know, that global swamp of terror only got muckier in the ensuing years. (Think al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, think ISIS.) Then, last year, that swamp left terror... Read More
Back in 2011, thinking about the implosion of the Soviet Union two decades earlier and what followed, I wrote: I had long had a feeling that, of the two superpowers of the Cold War era, one had left the stage in a rush, while the other was slowly inching its way toward the exits enwreathed... Read More
Here’s a reasonable question to ask in our unreasonable world: Does Donald Trump even know where North Korea is? The answer matters and if you wonder why I ask, just remember his comment upon landing in Israel after his visit to Saudi Arabia. “We just got back from the Middle East,” he said. In response,... Read More
In case you hadn’t noticed, as in the Middle East and Europe, we’re in a new Trumpian age in Asia. If you want to confirm that, check out the recently leaked transcript of an April 29th phone conversation between the American and Philippine presidents (published in full at the Intercept). Donald Trump launches the call... Read More
You couldn't make this up, could you? Just before President Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, a genuinely despotic land with an extreme ideology and lacking elections, Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, was swept back into office. It was an exuberant election campaign in which he trounced a hardline fundamentalist opponent, winning 57% of the... Read More
Into the Whirlwind
He’s huge. Outsized. He fills the news hole at any moment of any day. His over-tanned face glows unceasingly in living rooms across America. Never has a president been quite so big. So absolutely monstrous. Or quite so small. He’s our Little Big Man. I know, I know... he induces panic, fear, anxiety, insomnia. Shrinks... Read More
In the first paragraphs of George Orwell’s famed novel 1984, Winston Smith slips through the doors of his apartment building, “Victory Mansions,” to escape a “vile wind.” Hate week -- a concept that should seem eerily familiar in Donald Trump’s America -- was soon to arrive. “The hallway,” writes Orwell, “smelt of boiled cabbage and... Read More
As his polling figures sag, the chaos of his presidency increases exponentially, and the news turns ever grimmer (for him), President Trump faces growing opposition nationwide. As TomDispatch regular Mattea Kramer reports today, from boycotting businesses carrying his products to jamming the phone lines of his hotels, an expanding, if somewhat uncoordinated, set of anti-Trump... Read More
It's a beautiful day in May. The sun is streaming down; the birds are on their migration paths north; the first daylilies are just breaking into bloom -- and students are gathering for their graduation ceremonies on an afternoon when everything seems just right in a world where so much seems so wrong. These are... Read More
War, American-style, in the twenty-first century hasn’t exactly been a sterling success story. (How did the Brits ever manage to run that empire of theirs for so many years with such modest numbers of troops?) Take Afghanistan, for example. We now know something of Washington's latest plans for pursuing the war in that country well... Read More
What It Really Means to Be on a “Flattening” Planet
The closest I ever got to Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, was 1,720.7 miles away -- or so the Internet assures me. Although I’ve had a lifelong interest in history, I know next to nothing about Mosul’s, nor do I have more than a glancing sense of what it looks like, or more accurately what... Read More
Here’s a footnote to America’s present wars that’s worth pondering for a few moments. The U.S. Air Force is running out of ordinary bombs, smart bombs, and in some cases missiles. No kidding. The air war over Syria and Iraq that began in August 2014 and is now two-and-a-half years old has eaten through America’s... Read More
Wilbur Ross put the matter... well, mouth-wateringly. At a Milken Institute Global Conference in California, the commerce secretary recalled how President Trump was hosting a dinner for China’s president, Xi Jinping, at his Mar-a-Lago club at the moment when a bevy of Tomahawk missiles were being dispatched against an airfield in Syria. Ross described the... Read More
Our lives are, of course, our histories, which makes us all, however inadvertently, historians. Part of my own history, my other life -- not the TomDispatch one that’s consumed me for the last 14 years -- has been editing books. I have no idea how many books I’ve edited since I was in my twenties,... Read More
They are the outposts of empire. They have been or are being built in countries across the world from Indonesia to Dubai, India to Uruguay, South Korea to Qatar, the Philippines to Turkey, and in the future possibly, from Saudi Arabia to
If you’re a reader of TomDispatch, then you know something of real importance about this country that most Americans don’t. As an imperial power, there’s never been anything like the United States when it comes to garrisoning this planet. By comparison, the Romans and imperial Chinese were pikers; the Soviet Union in its prime was... Read More
From his “big, fat, beautiful wall” to his travel bans, much of Donald Trump's push to isolate America, like so much else in his program, has hit a series of ugly speed bumps. Not only won’t the Mexicans “pay” to build that much-promised wall, but even Congress is unlikely to do so, as its price... Read More
Or Why Trump’s Wars Should Seem So Familiar
MOAB sounds more like an incestuous, war-torn biblical kingdom than the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, aka “the mother of all bombs.” Still, give Donald Trump credit. Only the really, really big bombs, whether North Korean nukes or those 21,600 pounds of MOAB, truly get his attention. He wasn’t even involved in the decision to... Read More
There are the terrorists, who get attention out of all proportion to their actual clout, and then there are those with big-time clout -- I think of them as the terrarists -- who get almost no attention at all. Back in May 2013, I came up with that term and here’s how I described those... Read More
Now, we know. According to Todd Harrison, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the replacement cost for the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles recently dumped on an air base in Syria: $89 million. That not-exactly-decisive strike in Washington’s 15 years of war in the ever more chaotic Greater Middle East against... well,... Read More
Recently, historians Samuel Moyn and Stephen Wertheim wrote an interesting New York Times op-ed on why the last 15 years of failed American wars across the Greater Middle East seem to have taught our military and civilian leadership absolutely nothing. Hence, the recent 59-missile strike against a Syrian airfield -- just the latest act that... Read More
Let’s skip the obvious. Leave aside, for instance, the way Donald Trump’s decision to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian air base is but another example of what we already know: that acts of war are now the prerogative, and only the prerogative, of the president (or of military commanders whom Trump has... Read More
It has to be one of the oddities of our history: the near-obsessive level of attention that, for almost 60 years, Washington has lavished on a modest-sized, impoverished island-nation of little strategic importance 90 miles off our southern coast. I’m talking, of course, about Cuba, which the U.S. has embargoed since 1959, as it hasn’t... Read More
In 2003, not long after the American invasion, Dahr Jamail, a youthful freelance journalist from Alaska, headed to Iraq. He wasn’t then a reporter for anyone or, put another way, he was at that moment perhaps the most “unembedded” reporter on the face of the Earth. In the years to come, he would visit that... Read More
Human whats? In the Middle East and elsewhere, the Trump administration has begun to signal that human rights aren’t exactly on its agenda. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has taken the lead in this process in a round of personal diplomacy in the Middle East (with Trump’s generals not far behind). In early March, he... Read More
A Nation Made by War and a Citizenry Unmade By It
On successive days recently, I saw two museum shows that caught something of a lost American world and seemed eerily relevant in the Age of Trump. The first, “Hippie Modernism,” an exploration of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s (heavy on psychedelic posters), was appropriately enough at the Berkeley Art Museum. To my surprise,... 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